I spent last week from Tuesday on out in Joshua Tree, a couple of hours from my home in L.A., but don’t ask me what I did. I walked, snacked, read, napped, went into town to check my email, looked out the window, reflected, prayed, went to Mass, looked out the window. That doesn’t seem like much and maybe it wasn’t (though re the latter, I was thrilled to discover recently that filmmaker Robert Bresson spoke of  “the ejaculatory force of the eye”).

But my brain was so overloaded from working very intently, and my body was so overloaded from…living in a huge city and being me, and my psyche was so overloaded with Lent and the buildup to the Passion, that even so, my days and nights seemed full to bursting.

“Liminal space refers to times when we experience change and transition in our lives. (In fact, Catholic Priest Richard Rohr suggests…that all meaningful transformation happens in liminal space.) It’s often a time in our lives where the old way we have been functioning seems to no longer “fit”, but we haven’t yet discovered or figured out the new way—at least not completely. We may experience times of liminal space with regard to our job (also called our vocation, which may or may not be the same as our calling), our personal relationships, or even as we wrestle with bigger issues like our beliefs about the nature of God in general.” (from

16 Replies to “MY WEEK IN JOSHUA TREE”

  1. How about something like — "Finding God in the Ordinary"? It would tie in with your writing, without necessarily promoting it.

  2. Another suggestion is an offshoot of today's post, which spoke to my own struggles of living in liminal space: "Living and Dying in Liminal Space" or "Dying to Live in Liminal Space." For me, a 36+ year lawyer who "reverted" after 40 years wandering in the wilderness, your posts on your struggles are incredibly compelling. I wrestle constantly with the "old self" fighting like hell to survive, and it uses every dysfunctional trick I learned so well in those decades to keep from dying so that I might live in Christ. Your descriptions of how you struggle to "die" on a daily basis so that you, too, might live, must touch others, as well.

  3. How to be a bold witness in your day to day life.

  4. I was reading Rohr on liminal space last night and was surprised when I found your post. This connect may only be for me, but I'll copy the quote below as connection and affirmation.

    Also, would pictures with your talk be possible and something to consider? I enjoy your own personal photos as well as the art photos you include with your posts.

    Living on the Edge
    By Richard Rohr on 11-06-2008
    The edge of things is a liminal space. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, "a thin place" and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position…. To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider. Yes, you have learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it, or promote it. [You can] love both the inside and the outside…and know how to move between these two loves.

    Source: Radical Grace, Vol. 19, No. 2, the Center for Action and Contemplation

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    The last time I was there I was with a lifelong friend who has since passed away.

    Good post to read today–on a couple of levels.

  6. Anonymous says: Reply

    The subtitle to "Redeemed" or if you really want to stir things up: Heather King: Avoiding both the Catholic left and the Catholic right.

  7. Anonymous says: Reply

    OK, I think your post on "Avoiding Both the Catholic Left and the Catholic Right" might be a good topic for the religious educator's congress. I recently read your post on the subject for a second time and personally I think it's an important topic and you addressed it soooo well!!! Plus, I think it would be quite appropriate in the context of religious education…provided they are not either a lefty or a righty group (I know nothing about them one way or the other).

    Another idea: Something along the lines of what John Paul II used to try to get across to the world at large and to young people especially, which was "You are greater than you think you are!" His perspectives and insights on the human person were something I couldn't get enough of while he was alive and miss hearing terribly now that he is gone.

    So there you have my 2 cents for what they may or may not be worth ;-).


  8. Anonymous says: Reply

    Oh, looky there…someone else had the same idea on the topic of lefties & righties!!! "Great minds…….." I guess! 😉


  9. How about, "The Beauty of Being a Beggar"

  10. I have referred some friends to your blog specifically because of the post of "Avoiding the Left and Right". I thought it was brilliant, especially the line about following Christ not being a career move. I think about it all the time. Thank you. As a mother, an educator, a Catholic, a modern woman, I would love to hear more about your conversion – did you lose friends? Do you sometimes feel like a freak? I'm the only person I know (my age 43) that goes to Mass more than once a week. The internet seems filled with these goody two shoes Catholic mothers who sew all their childrens' clothes and celebrate liturgical feast days and such. What if you are just kind of a slacker? How do you not get so discouraged? That would interest me.

  11. I'm a Catholic retired teacher; never been to the L.A. congress, but to plenty of local ones. What I think teachers would find valuable is the practice of authenticity – how to be most truly oneself. Students get to know teachers very very well, in the classroom with them all year, and what they learn most from us has nothing to do with books. It is a very important part of a Catholic education.

    From reading your writing, it seems that you have spent time struggling to know yourself and to live in a way that is true to who you are. Giving your insights on this topic would be a great contribution to Catholic educators, it seems to me. I would have put great value on it.

  12. Anonymous says: Reply

    Yes, speak along the lines in regards to your post about 'avoding the left & the right'. I also shared that post on my own FB because I thought it was so powerful. Considering how polarized this country is right now I think it would be a great topic!

  13. I LOVE you people! This is so so helpful, on any number of levels. First of all, welcome aboard Kevin (I am ALL about battling with dysfunction) and anyone else new. I laughed out loud at the comment about the internet being filled with Catholic moms who sew their children's clothes (if I were a mother, I'm sure I'd be giving tips on how to refrain from selling your children into slavery. And I will write someday soon more on what my conversion actually looks like vis-a-vis my friends and family).

    I want to acknowledge my friend Ron who wrote separately to suggest "A Man with a Good Car Don't Need No Justification" (from Flannery O'Connor), i.e. as long as we're relying on outside stuff, we won't search for anything higher.

    "The Beauty of Being a Beggar," "Living and Dying in Liminal Space" (and the Rohr quote; this is a huge subject I will have to explore further), "Finding God in the Ordinary"…all great, and what's interesting is that in a way all the suggestions converge, perhaps, in the notion of authenticity, which to me very much ties in with avoiding both the right and the left as a means of identifying myself (there's liminal space again). The idea is not to set ourselves apart–on the contrary, the idea is to participate ever more fully. But you can only do that after, in my experience, a long, very lonely journey.

    One of the reasons politics leaves me cold is that I am simply not in general attracted by people who identify themselves primarily with their stance on a particular political issue. As soon as we identify ourselves with the issue rather than why and HOW we live out our convictions on the "issue," a kind of deadness seems to arise at the middle. We're attracted by joy; we're attracted by vitality. Which brings me around to one of the points where all these suggestions converge, and that is joy, which is perhaps another word for authenticity. I don't mean some kind of hee-haw raucous everything is coming up roses, nor by the pious I have said the rosary every day of my life and am therefore saved type of thing, but the joy that comes from consenting to bear the paradox, from staying the course, from being on to our very deep brokenness and discovering at last that that is exactly where we find Christ.

    One of the paradoxes is that we have chosen the hardest course there is and yet it is also in a sense the easiest–"easy" because once you give up trying to serve both God and mammon (not that I have, but even the smallest movement in that direction is a shift that we can observe and feel), you free up a huge amount of energy that was spent trying to juggle/balance/resolve the conflict.

    My friend Christine suggested from her current perch in Zermatt, Switzerland "The real deal vs the religious or spiritual wannabes and how to recognize them. Is there an objective criteria or is it purely subjective? I don't even know. But I do know that there's a lot of Spirituality Lite out there and a lot of people fall for it
    or get confused by it." I think this would be a good way to frame the question for educators. So I'm thinking “Burning with Love: Real Grace versus Cheap Grace” with my major points being:

    Real grace costs.
    Real grace manifests in acts that are anonymous and hidden.
    Real grace never returns violence with violence.
    Real grace carries with it the "duty of delight." (from John Ruskin, and the title of Dorothy Day's collected journals).

    I figure I could work in the whole liminal space/Christ-transcends-politics idea. Of course, they may not even want me–but either way, I now have material for a whole bunch more posts…and I am so stoked to know more of what folks are thinking about/concerned with…

    So Pax et bonum, and deepest thanks…

  14. Mary! Good to hear from you again…the wildflowers are just starting to bloom in Joshua Tree…

  15. Heather — whenever I read your writing, even though we have absolutely nothing in common except for being a part of the Roman Catholic Church, I always think 'The Life You Save May Be Your Own' — because as you write and share — gutty gutty viscereal (sp?) stuff — you are indeed plunging into the salvation depths, and coming out, sputtering/gasping and alive again. I always recommend you to my RCIA 'students.'

    I'll pray that you have that monastic "week before" and "week after" you'll need to expend such energy as Congress requires. Can't wait to sit in on your talk. Hmm, but I hope it's on the Friday of Congress — that's when my daughters and I slip off to Disneyland for the day. Our little 'girl' tradition.

  16. Oh come, Stefanie, we must have at least ONE other thing in common!…many thanks for your prayers, and I am honored to know you are recommending me to your RCIA flock…all my best to them, and you…

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