A Call to Liminal Space



Ours is a dog-neighbourhood. We have two, our neighbour has one, as do the people behind him and the ones beside them.

So, I was surprised to see a black cat on our back fence last week. I was sipping coffee and reading a book when its movement caught my attention.

The image of it stalking the length of our fence before dropping into the yard behind us has stayed with me. I can’t help but admire its audacity.

Advent invites us to live in liminal space, in between a future promise and the current reality. Richard Rohr asserts that ‘we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality (because) all transformation takes place here.’

The black cat on our fence was inhabiting liminal space. She knew the dangers, but did not let fear divert her. As she walked, she was paying attention, using her finely attuned senses to guide her. And she kept on-track, navigating her way along our fence towards whatever hope or promise lured her through dog-land.

It isn’t easy to live in liminal space and there is much to divert our intention to do so, especially in these weeks before Christmas, but Advent calls us 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’ (Richard Rohr).

This is the space into which God comes.

Living the Questions


The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet, counselled:

‘Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves … Don’t search for the answers, which cannot be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.’

This piece of advice contains Advent themes: patience, waiting on answers by living the questions and hope for future resolution.

I don’t generally listen to talk-back radio, but yesterday, in only five minutes of a discussion about men and women sharing household labour, I heard a man live into his answer.

He rang in to say that he couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t always react well to his attempts to help her around the house. The guest speaker replied that perhaps he could re-frame his approach: rather than offering to help, he could ask his wife what he could do to share the work.

But, he replied, he was more than willing to help, why did she not understand that. The guest speaker tried again. By offering to help, he was implying that the work was hers and perhaps, she was failing in it. They lived together, the household was theirs, by offering to share the work he would be saying he understood that.

He started to speak again, but then paused, and in that moment of silence the listening audience heard the penny drop. His next words told us that he could see the distinction.

It was an Advent moment, for both of us. Clearly, his question troubled him, he had been living it and yesterday, on public radio, he lived into the answer. And the answer surprised him, not something he could do, but a different way to think about it. A way to re-frame the question.

As for me, I witnessed the coming of light into darkness. I heard the birth of understanding and insight, made all the more wondrous because I did hear it rather than see it.

Have patience … love the questions … live everything.

An Advent call.

A Time to De-Clutter


Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

Advent is a time of preparation and way-clearing. It is a time to de-clutter. This is a tough call when everything around us calls us to come, to buy, to add more.

I suffer from piles: I let things and stuff pile up around me. The desk where I write is frequently covered with books and papers, lists and notes. My sewing cabinet is always open and littered with patterns and fabrics, pins and threads. The coffee table beside my chair in the living room is piled high with books and journals and things to which I need/should/must pay attention.

I know that this external clutter has a flow-on effect internally. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the higher the piles, the more likely I am to miss the exit off the freeway (which I did twice last week).

So, in preparation for Advent, I’ve cleared out my study. As I type this, the window in front of me is clean, I can see the desktop, only my sewing machine sits on the sewing cabinet, and a candle is burning. I still have a busy week ahead, but this external order calms me.

It helps to prepare the way.

Advent Dawns


Advent: noun, a coming into place, view, or being; arrival
Macquarie Dictionary

When God comes
comes again:
maybe an Indian this time
or a Bantu (what do I know?)

When God comes
comes again:
maybe a woman this time
or even a woman-and-man
a couple.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe in the many
the new society
where justice dwells.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe the city of God
the land of the goddess of
reconciliation between
people and nature.

When God comes
comes again:
from one end of the earth
to the other.

This Kurt Marti poem in Flowing Streams: an Anthology of Anthologies seems a good place to start as another Advent season dawns.

It invites us to notice God in the unexpected and the unlikely, in the spaces between what we long for and what is.

Advent calls us to wake up, to be present and to clear a pathway for the coming of God.

Twice this week, I drove past the freeway exit that takes me home. Yes, I hear the call to pay attention!

Advent calls us to mindfulness.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe …