Many people have grown tired of the pat answers that the church and religion have provided regarding questions of faith and meaning in life.
A new book addressing the deepest questions of the soul, The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening, was released by Herald Press this fall. The authors, siblings Donald Clymer and Sharon Clymer Landis, offer 12 keys—or insights—for unlocking the heart for spiritual growth.
Don is a spiritual director and Spanish professor who has led cross-cultural semesters at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), in Harrisonburg, Va.; younger sister Sharon is a writer, spiritual director and retreat leader from eastern Pennsylvania.
Don and Sharon spoke about their mutual spiritual interests during a family gathering in early 2010.
Don’s experiences teaching a senior seminar at EMU dealing with suffering and loss had deeply moved him as he discovered the frequency of brokenness among students. Added to the brokenness were their questions about faith and God. “I wrote the book with them in mind, hoping that I could guide them toward a deeper commitment to God and a more ‘spacious heart,’ ” explains Don.
Impetus for Sharon came from knowing of spiritual seekers who long for emotional and spiritual intimacy with themselves, others and God. “I wrote to encourage more understanding that gaining self-knowledge is not narcissistic, but actually helps one know the ‘source’ of life and love,” Sharon says.
In The Spacious Heart, Sharon describes some of her fears of getting involved in spiritual direction: “. . . my [spiritual] director’s companioning me, and her deep listening, reflected love to me. This allowed me to heal and grow in intimate, close relationships with others and with God.” Still, she had no plans to become a spiritual director herself. “But the Spirit and my own heart kept drawing me,” she recalls. She enrolled in training at Kairos: School of Spiritual Formation, in Lancaster, Pa., in 2008, and began taking on those seeking spiritual direction in 2009.
Sharon uses many stories in the book, some from her spiritual direction practice and others from her upbringing, feeling that stories help people understand where they come from and where they want to go. “I wrote to encourage all who are disillusioned with church or old faith paradigms, who long for stories of spiritual awakening, and who aren’t able to go to a spiritual director,” notes Sharon.
Don first became involved in spiritual direction as a mentee, and then took training to be a spiritual director. He has been giving spiritual direction since 2003.
The authors hope that the book reaches a wider audience than the Mennonite church, including as a possible textbook for classes on spiritual formation.
Marva J. Dawn, who contributed the foreword for the book, praises The Spacious Heart’s emphasis on justice and other “traditional” Mennonite issues. “Several of the traits that are usually associated with Mennonites make this one of the best books on spiritual disciplines that I have ever read,” Dawn writes.
Mary Herr, who cofounded The Hermitage retreat centre in Three Rivers, Mich., with her late husband Gene, notes that there are not a lot of Mennonite-authored books on classic spiritual disciplines. “A book by Menno writers on spiritual disciplines is sheer gift,” she says, adding, “So grateful for the book.”
--Posted Nov. 19, 2014