This third post in the series Reimagining Everyday Spirituality looks at our interaction with God’s world. When I first started doing spiritual workshops and retreats I would always ask the question What makes you feel close to God. The thing that fascinated me was how many people shared things that were not in any way connected to church or our usual idea of spiritual practices. And many of the ideas people shared related to their interactions with God’s world – walking in nature, playing with kids, running through the neighbourhood, gardening with friends. I hosted a series What is a Spiritual Practice, on this several years ago which I still like to revisit as there are so many rich suggestions of how to encounter God in our everyday activities.
Much of what makes us feel close to God is our interactions with God’s world. Celtic Christians who thrived in the 3rd to 5th century believed that every encounter and every experience entered into where opportunities to either represent God or to learn about God. I wonder how it would change our way of looking at the world if we had that perspective.
Dwight Friesen, one of the founders of Parish Collective which organizes the Inhabit Conference once told me that he loves to work from the bus stop to the Seattle School where he walks. At one point he stops to pray. He looks back the way he has come and prays for his family. He looks forward to his glimpse of the school and prays for the day ahead and then he looks out over the Puget Sound towards Asia and prays for the world. I love that way of viewing the world so that his spiritual observances are engaging every aspect of who he is and what God has created.
There are many ways in which we can allow our interactions with God’s world to shape our spiritual practices. Brandon Rhodes, who is part of the Springwater community in Portland Oregon did something intriguing during Holy week a few years ago. He planned daily activities that focused on the liturgical season but took it out into the neighbourhood looking for God-sightings and kingdom sightings.
Tailoring our gospel imagination around our neighborhood will include “Sunday morning” activities which focus our hopes and laments on our own blocks. That’s where we at Springwater have found vitality in practicing an open time of “God-sighting’s” and “kingdom-sightings,” where we can point out where we saw Jesus Christ at work in one another and our neighborhood. Sometimes that’s as tiny as gratitude for a housemate doing more chores than usual, as staggering as a neighbor turning from addiction, as mystical as springtime birdsongs chirping God’s praise, and as concrete as a new crosswalk making it safer for kids to get to school. (read the entire article here).
I think that all of us need to explore our neighbourhoods and in fact our whole world looking for God sightings and kingdom sightings. Stopping to talk to homeless people, shop assistants, shoppers and passersby will give us very different viewpoints on our neighbourhoods and on our faith. Looking for God and for the places in which the kingdom is already being revealed is an exciting way to express and explore our spirituality. It is one of the most enriching and refreshing spiritual practices I know. As I have mentioned in previous posts it helps us to ask the right questions. Not Why does God let this happen? but Where is God in the midst of this?
This type of attentiveness to God needs to be at the heart of our faith. God is not just in our churches