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The Soulmaking Room

Dee Dee Risher • April 2016

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The Soulmaking Room by Dee Dee Risher explores how the mixed experiences of our lives—especially painful, difficult, and challenging times—can make us more authentic and grounded. It weaves together powerful personal stories with a deep consciousness of social justice. The Soulmaking Room has as its seed a little-known story in scripture about Elisha the prophet and a woman in Shunem who built a holy room for him. It's not a story of power or victory. From the underside, it is a story about mistakes, unrealized large dreams, loss, and reshaping. Risher, a longtime worker for social justice, believes that these elements are inevitable companions in life—but our spiritual traditions do a lousy job of helping us learn from them. These, she argues, are the experiences that make us authentic, real people. When Risher began talking about the scripture story and these struggles, she was shocked at how many people resonated. Why this deep-felt chord? Risher believes people are struggling with shifts in human relationships brought about by technology and the pace of change. They see the chaos—race and income polarization, materialism, environmental destruction—and want models to live by, visions that are neither Amish nor hyper-postmodern. People are yearning for an authenticity that can chase away cynicism. They want to know a God who walks with them in the darkness, in struggle and in deep failure, and in violent, warring times. This is precisely what this book offers, in language that, while rooted in the Christian tradition, speaks to readers of many spiritual bents. The Soulmaking Room asks powerful questions: • What does it mean to build a holy room in our lives? • How honestly do we confront our inevitable losses and deep griefs? • As we work to transform our world, how do we grapple with failure? • What openings can radical hospitality create in our lives? Vividly and wisely written, this is a book for all spiritual seekers: activists, contemplatives, justice workers, and those in the midst of their spiritual journey.


Dee Dee Risher is associate communications director for Project HOME, a nonprofit working to end homelessness in Philadelphia. Risher has published over 200 articles in such magazines as Sojourners, Progressive Christian, The Utne Reader, and Grid magazine and blogs for The Huffington Post, Theological Curves, and other venues. Risher is a longtime resident of Philadelphia’s southwest Germantown neighborhood, a poor and working-class community, where she helped launch a faith-based, intentional cooperative housing community.

ISBN: 978-0-8358-1525-3

Kindle ISBN: 978-0-8358-1534-5

EPub ISBN: 978-0-8358-1526-0

Imprint: Upper Room

Pub Date: 20160401

Trim Size: 6 in (w) x 9 in (h) x 0.448 in (d)

Page Count: 210

BISAC Categories: RELIGION / Christian Living / Spiritual Growth

BISAC1: REL012120

BISAC2: REL012110

BISAC3: REL012000

Praise for The Soulmaking Room Few books on spiritual issues cover as much ground and offer the brilliant insights that are essential for the strengthening of our faith as The Soulmaking Room. A marvelous read, it urges us to be contemplative believers. Risher offers us radically new ways to think about justice, about what it means to love, about making a life centered on service. —bell hooks, Author of Ain’t I a Woman, educator, activist Dee Dee Risher’s inaugural book is beautiful, personal, and filled with spiritually grounded wisdom. She draws from her story to share how the difficult passages in our lives—the failures and losses—shape us into our best and most truthful selves. —Shane Claiborne, Author, social activist, founding member of The Simple Way What do you get when you cross an Anabaptist, a Pentecostal, and a mainline Protestant? The answer to that question is reason enough to read this book. Then add powerful meditations on failure, midlife, and building a woodshed out of the lumber of youthful dreams, and you have a book that warrants a term like treasure. I have long been a fan of Dee Dee Risher’s work as an editor, first at The Other Side and then at Conspire, but now in The Soulmaking Room, her own voice as a writer is being offered to the world—a gift and treasure indeed. This is truly beautiful writing and rich wisdom. —Brian McLaren, Author and theologian The bargain God offers the soul is simple but demanding: The price of enlightenment is that you are thus obligated to pass it on! Dee Dee Risher does that quite well—and she does it again here. —Richard Rohr, Author of Falling Upward and other books; founder of Center for Contemplation and Action Once in a great while, you come across a book that authentically reflects the very personal journey of its author, yet also offers profound insights to a wide variety of readers. Dee Dee Risher has accomplished this feat with lyricism, grace, deep pathos, and unexpected joy. The humble wisdom Dee Dee offers in this book is something I would recommend to anyone who seeks to live more authentically and intentionally in our wonderful, mysterious, broken world so loved by God. —Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author of The UnCommon Good and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine Dee Dee Risher has spent her life engaged in the struggle for justice—as a poet, a singer, an editor, a mother, a friend. Deeply rooted in the biblical narrative, she has honed her craft of weaving together critical issues of race, class, oppression, the struggle to remain faithful, rich and personal stories from her life with her husband and two children, the great story of faith, and life in all its beauty and tragedy. Dee Dee has created a work of art to help us see more clearly the path toward integrity. —Murphy Davis, Author, pastor, activist, founder of The Open Door I consider Dee Dee Risher one of our radical discipleship movement’s most trustworthy, thoughtful, and compassionate spirits. Her journalism, prose,and poetry bear an authenticity and transparency that honors the dignity beneath our blemishes and finds faith amidst struggle. I commend her as an emerging elder helping us to embrace both Word and world. —Ched Myers, Theologian, author of Binding the Strong Man and other books, founder of Bartimaeus Institute Dee Dee Risher brings to this book her usual combination of courage and eloquence. She moves back and forth between the witness of scripture and the truth she finds in her own life. The outcome of such interpretive work is that she can readily identify her life purpose and a force much larger than her own, the sort of thing that comes under the heading of “providence.” Readers are invited by her book to reflect on their own lives in light of scripture. Her book is a welcome opportunity for thinking and praying again. —Walter Brueggemann, Theologian, author of The Prophetic Imagination and other books, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary The things Dee Dee Risher said about gratitude—and said so well—brought my spirit back into focus. This is the kind of wisdom that we lose and have to rediscover at many points in life’s journey. We can all be grateful for her faithful witness. —David Janzen, Author and elder of Reba Place Fellowship Dee Dee’s book is cathartic for me: so honest, so refreshing, so helpful to have her articulate many of my experiences. It is incredibly well written—poetic and moving. I am astounded that she knows my interior life and doubts so well! She succeeded in something I didn’t think was possible: capturing the intimate and honest feel of a letter to me, about me. —Elizabeth Killough, Director, Untours Foundation In The Soulmaking Room, Risher writes beautifully, and her content is wise and profound. I am deeply grateful for her extended reflections on the story of the Shunammite woman, with its wonderful shamanic qualities. —Robert Ellsberg, Author and publisher, Orbis Books