Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Thin Places in Your Life

I have been thinking about “Thin Places” for a while.  The idea of a Thin Place is one that first came to my awareness some years ago when I was first introduced to Celtic Spirituality.  One definition of Thin Places that I found on the internet is, “A place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.” 
I was reintroduced to the concept recently when I attended a workshop held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London Ontario in May.  The idea of thin places was central to one of the presentations given by Rt. Rev. Barry Clarke who is the retired Bishop of Montreal and currently the interim Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  In the workshop he was leading he asked the participants where their thin places are.  My response was “on the beach near our cottage in Prince Edward Island.  Actually that was not completely true.  There are many places here in P.E.I., including the beach (appropriately named Back Beach), that are my thin places. 
Although it is part of Celtic Spirituality, it is a part of anyone’s Spirituality whether it is formally Celtic or not.  My Thin Places include the Apple Farm Community where I go for retreats.  Apple Farm, in Three Rivers Michigan is a community founded by Helen Luke who wrote wonderful essays exploring biblical and classical themes and reveals deep spiritual wisdom contained in them. Her magnum opus is Dark Wood to White Rose which explores the wisdom in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Helen chose the location of Apple Farm as it was for her a Thin Place as it has become for me. 
For a place to be a Thin Place does not mean that it is paradise and that life will not intrude when you are there.  Since arriving at our cottage at the beginning of June, life has intruded in different way.  The weather has been less than perfect with only a few days that would be considered a ‘beach day’. Lorna is particularly frustrated that her gardens are not doing much with the cool weather.  We have also had a few mishaps such as having to replace the glass in the door of the wood stove and I have had to deal with squirrels invading by Bunkie which is my thin place within a larger thin place where I can retreat to do much of my writing.   It is my small corner as the children’s hymn says:
Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.
The idea of a Thin Place is more than just a sense of being closer to God than usual—although that is very valuable.  It is a place where we can begin to question our perception of the world.  We can begin to see that there is more to life than our small corners where we believe we are safe and comfortable.  We can begin to question our assumptions of how the world is ordered, our understanding of God’s will, and even our understanding of God.  Richard Rohr addressed this in a recent Daily Meditation:
We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy—"the way things are." Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence.
To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of "business as usual" and remain patiently on the "threshold" (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown… There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That's a good space where genuine newness can begin. 

Do you have a Thin Place?  I would be interested in hearing what yours is.  Blessings.

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