Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival


A Room of Our Own

posted by Diana Butler Bass

My family lives in a typical 1960s house in the Washington
DC suburbs, and I work at home. 
“Typical 1960s house” equals small and no closets.  As a result, my books were taking over
and there wasn’t much space to write. 
We decided to move my job to the backyard.  Thus was born “Mom’s writing cottage,” a 150 square-foot
white clapboard house with green trim and a window box.  In recent weeks, my daughter and I
planted flowers all around making the tiny house literally bloom with
creativity–not to mention a plethora of purple pansies. 

About two weeks ago, I posted pictures of my cottage on
Facebook.  What happened next truly
surprised me–my wall and my inbox were literally flooded with comments.  “Oh, it is so cute!” wrote a good
number of my friends, “I want one, too.” 
Strangers requested copies of the building plans.  Indeed, the envy factor ran so high
that I apologized for causing so many people to break the 10th
Commandment–Thou Shalt Not Covet. 

As I read my these notes, I began to realize that they
represented a powerful spiritual impulse in our culture–to have a place, a cozy
place of retreat, to think, read, reflect, and pray.  A little place to do good work; a room to call one’s own
(many people quoted Virginia Woolf’s famous line back to me). 

The really odd thing about this is that many–if not most–of
my friends self-identify on Facebook as “liberal,” “left,” or “progressive”
when asked about their politics.  They
are activists, justice-oriented, politically engaged, non-profit do-gooders, and
most of them live in cities.  They
are busy people working to make the world a better place.  They feed hungry people; they lead
marches at city hall. Frankly, their response to the cottage reminded me a
little of the kind of thing that Thoreau might hanker for–a tiny corner of the
world where one might better encounter the spirit in order to feel the ethical
heartbeat of the universe. 

There’s a bumper sticker that says:  “If you want peace, work for justice.”  I think that is true.  New progressives, however, may want to
turn it around: “If you want justice, seek out peace.”  Historically understood, progressive
faith has always insisted that activism springs from prayer; that ethics must
be grounded in devotion.  Thus, the
way to social transformation is a way that knows when to retreat–not escape–but
retreat to connect with the God who
is justice, and whose beautiful dream of justice shapes the political
imagination. 

When I was a teenager, I read a book by Elizabeth O’Connor
called Journey Inward/Journey Outward (no
longer in print).   In it, she argued that the greatest mistake of 20th
century religion had been to sever the relationship between spirituality and
social justice.  She pled for the
inner of devotion and outer life of activism to be reunited.

With all the difficult challenges we face with international
relations, the economy, and the environment, it is a good thing to remember
that fixing the outward circumstances isn’t the entire goal.  A more complete progressive goal is to
help bring about a world in which all people might experience the profoundly
human journey of loving God and loving neighbor.  We have to pay attention to the inner life as well as the
outer one.  Journey inward.  Journey outward.

Many thanks, Facebook friends.  You reminded me that progress often involves retreat–the
right kind of quiet pause to grow deeper as we reach further.   And if you are ever in DC, come by the little house for a cup
of tea.  We’ll talk about changing
the world.  



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Gary Lee Parker

posted May 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm


Even Susi Crane realized that her brother-in-law needed a writing cottage in the summers in Elmira, NY for his retreat to write. God is a great reminder through whomever.



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Barbara Dixon

posted May 4, 2009 at 11:25 pm


I loved your little house and was just talking to my mom about it today. I also agree that people need to have a sacred place to be, even if it is just a chair. It makes your life richer to have something sacred in it.



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Su McLain

posted May 5, 2009 at 10:30 pm


Some years ago I was in a study group that used one of Elizabeth O’Connor’s books about spiritual deepening. It’s very interesting how similar Church of the Savior (where O’Connor attended) is to Covenant Community Church in Louisville. You can read about Church of the Savior at:
http://archives.allelon.org/missional_journey/?tag=church-of-the-savior
The original church has now become 9 smaller, separate churches, continuing the commitment to social justice and participatory ministry by each church member.



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Cindy Merrill

posted May 6, 2009 at 7:31 am


Does social justice exist? Former students who default on their student loans are not only denied their college transcripts, they’re not even eligible for Job training programs UNTIL they’ve paid off their loans. This helps to keep millions of social workers gainfully employed because their clients cannot find decent jobs and are therefore trapped with nowhere to turn except for welfare or a life of crime. This merciless catch 22 dooms thousands of Americans, like myself, to a marginal life, at best. The most recent job experience I had was working at Mcdonald’s over 6 months ago.
Explain how I’m supposed to pay off a $21,000 debt. With what? My husband is on SSI, ($1100 per month)almost half goes to rent, another $100 for his meds ( he’s diabetic) and we’re supposed to get by on $102 Foodstamp/Card assistance?



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Your Name

posted May 15, 2009 at 4:11 am


Yes, maybe all this was made up to get a medical intervention for me. Maybe I’m in rehab, not prison. I don’t mind being here. I am happy here. Is that where I;m suppose to stay???
I don’t know. My lease is up this month,and I have to move or stay. Where will I be safe? I can move to another apt. That’s not a problem. I need some advice, or I have to make that decision just on my own. I am being played like a fiddle.



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Glenda the good witch

posted May 15, 2009 at 4:15 am


BTW I would attend one of many churches if I could go with someone
I cared about to get started. Another set of eyes and ears, and an arm to hold on to……..



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Your Name

posted May 15, 2009 at 1:31 pm


I AM STILL THANKFUL THAT I HAVE A SMALL ROOM LIKE I HAVE HERE IN THIS PLACE.THIS IS NOT MY PERMANENT PLACE,KNOWING THAT I HAVE A LOVING
FAMILY BACK HOME WAITING FOR ME,I DON’T WANT TO INDULGE MYSELF IN
COMPARING WHAT I HAVE HERE AND THERE IN MY HOMETOWN.MY LIFE HERE
IS PROBABLY GOD’S WAY OF SHOWING HOW HE BLESSED ME AND HOW MUCH LOVE
IS WAITING FOR ME BACK HOME AND WITH THIS GRATEFULNESS,I AM MADE
SELF SUFFICIENT TO ANY PLACE I WILL BE IN THE FUTURE.LIFE IS NOT ALL
ABOUT JUST ENJOYING,IT IS ALSO ABOUT ACCOMPLISHING IN ORDER TO ENJOY,
AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE,I HAVE NOT ACCOMPLISHED MORE THAN I HAVE
RIGHT NOW,I AM STILL ON ROAD WHERE I NEED TO LOOK FAR AND THEN WALK
TO GET TO THE PLACE WHERE YOUR SIGHT CAN REACH.IN WALKING AHEAD,WE NEED STRENGHT FROM GOD TO PROVIDE THAT AND I FERVENTLY PRAYING TO
LIGHT MY WAY TO HAVE A BETTER PLACE,THAT I SHALL TRANSFORM MY SMALL
PLACE TO A PLACE OF MY ACHIEVEMENTS.IT WILL BE REWARDING AT THE END
WHEN ALL WE HAVE WORKED HARD FOR,BY OUR FAITH,HOPE AND LOVE FOR OUR
WELL BEING,WE WILL GET THERE.



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Your Name

posted May 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm


I”m a type of person that gives people the benefit of the doubt. I was once in prison, bondage in my mind, caught up in the world, until I found peace and joy in the “Lord”. Its still hard, but I find my serenity in reading the “Bible”, and praying. I go to the park, but it doesn’t give me the peace I need, the “Word of God”, does. I’ve bee where I needed to be, but being “free”, and full of “peace” that gives me the best joy in my life. I have been blessed to go back to school, to accomplish my goal as being a “Behavorial Counselor”, and I enjoy it. School is a lot of work, but that’s what it is about, the effort, determination, and my will to fulfill my goal, I couldn’t have done it, if it wasn’t for the blessing of “God”, and “His” grace.I love talking and helping people, it makes me, be a better person. That’s what this world needs, is love, and more compassion.



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 3:14 am


THE 8 BEATITUDES GIVEN BY GOD DEFINES A PERSON MOLDED BY GOD IN HIS LIKENESS.LET US BE A BLESSING TO EVERYONE AND THANK GOD THAT IN BLESSING OTHERS,WE ARE BRINGING CHRIST TO THEM SO THAT THEY MAY SEE
IN US THE VERY REALITY THAT CHRIST LIVES.



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 6:59 am


Life is what you make of it he only guides you, last june I lost my two brothers one 38,and myolder brother that was like a dad to me my whole life was only 45. Truly in my heart I do not now were I would be mentley with the the lord being my main focus. I just thank him everyday manytimes how grateful i am of his love and for blessing me with three wonderful sons.Part of my therapy this past year was to forfill my life dream and that was to go back to school and become a Occupational Therapist.I started up taking classes in januray for leadership and had two amazing classes of dyinamics and them classes were like free counseling ever night.They were very powerful.In september I will start the Occupational therapy classes. I am just tring to say that you do not have to wait for the eye opener to make dreams come true. Just remember you only live once and life can be short. So pray hard and think smart.



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noreen

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:07 am


A room all my own–Now I have a apartment all my own thank God. It is a place where I can do anything I want. I can go into that place lock the door and do not have to worry about anything (as long as my rent is paid). It is a place of solitute if I want it that way. I am 63 and it took until I was 59 to get this PEACE. I don’t have to obey ALL the rules of living in someone else’s house!! When I came up from Fla., I was living in a abuse shelter. My daughter sent a bus ticket to come home and I spent a few months living with her, her husband, and 2 grandchildren. That house was full of rules and most of the time things I would do didn’t suit. Then after finding a job and buying a car I found this place.



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Terry Grahl

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:09 am


Hello Diana,
You are a woman speaking right to my heart. My organization is all about turning shelters for women and children into sacred havens. Great story! Great Spirit!
Many Blessings,
Terry Grahl
http://www.EnchantedMakeovers.org



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noreen

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:26 am


Life is what you make it? What crap! Maybe if you have a lot of money and you are your boss! For years I tried to live by that saying even having people tell me that. It’s not true. You can be the best person in the world and if someone or something doesn’t want you to succeed you won’t.



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Virginia

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:32 am


I agree that everyone needs a retreat from other disturbances. The discription you have given has made it seem so sereal, peaceful. I need to have a little of a realese like that only in a differant situation. Please tell me if anyone thinks I am out of my mind or any response is better thatn the one my daughter has voice to my son! Anyway, I am 69 years old and have had five children. Three boys and two girls. Lost my youngest when he was 23 years old to a massive heart attack. The rest are all grown now and doing well(well making a living). They all have know I love all of them. God is and has been a big part of my life and will till he takes me home. My problem is with my youngest daughter. She has been a self absorbed person all her life, that isn’t bad I guees until it reflects on me and my life. I now feel she has over or is trying to. I have disowned her. She says or tells my son that I need my meds changed. Am I wrong?



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Sue LeDonne

posted May 16, 2009 at 10:00 am


Hello and thanks for that heart warming letter.
I too would like to write and have always listed my thoughts here
and there. I would like to compile them so I could help others
during periods of restlessness or unhappiness.
I would like to make a corner for myself. I do not have the advantage
of a yard, as I live in a condo.
No cupboard is available. A room in which I am writing now is the
only spot.
Any suggestions?
Thanks again!



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 10:57 am


Sue,
I just moved out of an apartrment. When I lived there I placed my computer next to my bookshelf, since I always find books comforting and I surrounded my desk with pictures and art that inspires me. I think that’s all you can do in a small space: find a corner and make it your own.



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm


On May 1st I moved into my first space “just for me”. I’m turning 52 in a few months and this is the first time I have had the opportunity to “do me”. Here there is such an atmosphere of love and joy that “passeth all understanding”. Its a small 1 brm apartment just 5mins away from where I cared for Mom before she went from labor to reward less then a year ago. My girls are grown and my beautiful grandson turns 4 in just 2 months. They are overjoyed for my peace. Been married, divorced, single mom and grandma, caregiver and missionary. You see I’ve own the home, large backyard, picket fence and all and now I’m starting over, over 50 repositioning to the greater purpose. May these words bless you as they have blessed me during this transition: God is on my side, For the blood is applied, Every need shall be supplied, Nothing shall be denied, So I enter into rest, I KNOW I’m blessed, I have passed the test, and I shall get God’s BEST!
Be Ye Edified
Joyously Justified
Jeanette



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Sue

posted May 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm


Diana, thanks for sharing your experience. It takes courage to write- it’s like being naked in front of the world, never knowing how others will react. I appreciate your sharing. At times, I have also longed for a place of my own to write and meditate. Especially when my children were young and their needs were constant and all encompassing due to illness. At times I gave thanks just for a minute, yes a literal minute where I could go into the bathroom with the door closed to breathe and pray for sanity and strength. Years have passed and now I have all the room I want as I am living alone and have found joy in the memories of the gift of gratitude for those moments and spots that I made my own along the journey.
Most important of all, I feel each woman must make a space of beauty and love within herself before she can create beauty and justice elsewhere. I spent decades volunteering for social justice and my children’s issues but put myself last. I am continually learning the important lesson of loving myself well enough to treat myself as kindly as I have treated others through the years. In so doing, I believe I have built a quiet centered spot that is with me wherever I am. That internal space was for me the starting point of having the courage to begin writing poetry and prose.
I hope that every woman out there who longs for a quiet space will realize that she can have it by looking within herself, breathing deeply in gratitude for the day and then looking around her surroundings with renewed purpose. Peace and Blessing to all,



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 6:18 pm


What a wealth of comments and reflection. Although some may have a negative response, every one of us is looking for a change or we wouldn’t be reading articles here on Beliefnet. Starting small is often the key as anyone has the means to move a chair from the kitchen table to face a favorite picture on the wall representing a fond memory or interest or inspiration, gradually allowing the outside to fade away as we gently, lovingly take a few moments for ourselves travelling inward. Whether you call it rest, reflection, meditation, ‘me time’or whatever–it works. Only the outside world and our inner critic can convince us that a peaceful moment on a park bench, or lying in bed for a few moments before arising, pausing to look out the window before moving on to tasks at hand, taking a nap or luxuriating in a bath are not true moments of retreat. It is an unfortunate perception that a dozen expensive long stemmed roses are more wonderful and precious than a lone dandelion in a soda can expressing the magnificence of nature. Only our busy minds can be convinced that nything of worth or substance looks exactly like something from Architectural Digest or the Neiman Marcus catalog. Our beloved minds, whirling and spinning, grasping for drama and action, are so grateful to be lovingly quelled with a beautiful moment of priceless respite with a kind and loving focus offered.



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm


Great article and so blessed by the great comments. I am encouraged to make myself a priority for a change!
I’ve taken care of everybody and everything and I’m ready to renew and charge up for the next step/stage in my life. A quiet prayer place sounds like an addition to the spare room I’m going to make!



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Chepi DiCalogero

posted May 16, 2009 at 11:01 pm


To Diana and all the beautiful women who wrote comments. I am 61, still married, my children grown, one with daughters of her own, and my son depressed after a failed marriage. I just started to get a space for myself-it still isn’t quite mine entirely, a crib stands in the corner for when my granddaughters visit, though infrequently. I went from my father’s house to my husband’s house and never had a room to myself. This is strangest feeling. I put up my college diploma in this small room and wondered who that person was but the degree says she accomplished something and then with chills I realize she was me. after 40 years of having received it. The other rooms in my home are the “House Beautiful” kind of stuff; this little room is all hand me downs or Craiglist; When does a space become one’s own room? When does one be able to take a deep breath and breathe. Dear Holy Spirit breathe on me and let me fly so I can finally rest.



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Paula

posted May 18, 2009 at 1:49 am


Hello Ms Diana Bass I was blessed by the write up on today. The words of wisdom on how to get peace and how to get wisdom. I love to read and for some apparent reason I read one of the last comments and truely was blessed Ms Jeanette had some encouraging word that ministered to just what I am dealing with. I thank you for being here at the right I love to read your write ups Ms Bass and got blessed by one of the comments. Isn’t GOD good and HE knows just what we need. BE BLESSED ! ! !



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Your Name

posted May 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm


Thanks for the writting. I recently have been wrestling whith GOD about returning to the ministry. It made me realize that I was thinking on an outward basis. That I was not listening to my inner self given me by the HOLY SPIRIT. I was not taking care of my inner self. The quiet place for me is not a physical place , but more of an inner place. This is the revelation I was looking for to understand what I was doing. This has helped me to understand what I must do to achive my inner peace again. I know now the decision I should make should come from within not the material outside. The journey may be hard and long but the end result will be inner peace and a loving relationship with my savior JESUS the CHRIST. WWJD MATTHEW 7:7



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AL

posted May 20, 2009 at 1:54 am


So why don’t we get to see a picture of the writing cottage?
AL



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Urszula

posted May 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm


Dear Diana
What a lovely picture you painted of the little cottage where you can now retreat to do whatever work is needed.
Yet, what caught me more was the question it evoked inme: Could it be that the human is a unique retreat for the spirit of Creation? Placed in an ecology of the sacred earth, a Great Mother, where everything is provided for, in trust, for that spirit to evolve it’s intelligence; express it’s sentiment through the vine of its life to all life and thereby give back to the Creator its development which it may not accomplish without the divine human form?
In encouragement of your constancy in seeking for the truth of life.
All the best. U



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Your Name

posted May 22, 2009 at 11:40 am


Hello Diana,
I just kind of stumbled on this site and was in agreement about what was said about a place to rest/meditate/relax/pray. There’s a lot out in the world to be caught up in. Some good,bad, etc. There is a time throughout the day when I need to be in my ‘place’, far from the hassles and dialogue of the day. I don’t know if i’m going to hear from this site again or not but found it interesting.
Always,
Kimbal



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John Gillcu

posted September 3, 2009 at 1:07 am


We “rilly, rilly” would like to see a picture. Please.



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John Gill

posted September 3, 2009 at 1:13 am


Please show us a picture.



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