by Christine Sine
Last week I did a retreat with Springwater community in Portland. It was a great opportunity for me to preview some of the ideas I talk about in The Gift of Wonder. I experimented with new concepts and ideas, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. They were very direct with me, more what I expect from an Australian then an American audience. I loved it. I learned a lot from the experience and appreciate their willingness to help me shape what I do and how I present my material. Here three important lessons I learned.
Adapting to a Specific Audience Matters.
I began the retreat by doing my own special awe and wonder walk around the property, capturing this beautiful sunset on the way.
The process itself began with sharing some of the childlike characteristics that I talk about in my book – playfulness, awe and wonder, curiosity, love of nature, acceptance of difference, and nostalgia to name a few. However it was only when I started to relate these to their specific community and how it interacts with the neighborhood that they really came alive.
Does your God laugh and play and have fun? How do you play together as a community and express that in your neighborhood? Where do you experience awe and wonder in your community and your neighborhood? were questions that particularly engaged their imaginations.
For most of us, awe and wonder conjures up images of spectacular mountain views and breathtaking waterfalls. I shared with them that Father Greg Boyle, in Barking to the Choir, suggests it isn’t just nature that gives us this sense of awe. We can embrace the marginalized with a sense of awe too. He comments beautifully: “Awe softens us for the thunder glance of God, then enables us to glance at others in just the same way.”
Seeing the awe and wonder of God revealed through the marginalized and the disadvantaged can be a breathtaking experience. It is something all of us need to reflect on.
I suggested to Springwater community that they do an awe and wonder walk around their neighborhood, which is one of the poorest areas of Portland, sharing what gives them a sense of awe in their neighbors. Perhaps you would like to do the same around your neighborhood. I think it will open your eyes to aspects of your community you have never noticed before. You might like to combine it with a prayer walk.
Interactive Presentations Work Well
Lecture style presentations don’t work well these days. Audiences love interactive opportunities like the coloring templates Shelby Selvidge created for me a couple of years ago. Activities like these help people focus. Some colored, some drew creative designs, others used them as background material for contemplation. It de-stresses people, stirs imagination and opens all of us to new ideas and concepts. It provided an environment in which we could all learn from each other even when we disagreed.
All creative arts like this help us draw close to God and stir new revelations for us. When was the last time you engaged in a creative act that sharpened your focus and drew you into the divine presence? Perhaps you would like to try something like Lilly Lewin’s Paint Your Prayers this week to help move you in this direction.
Part of what this community helped me realize is that language matters. Not only do I need to adapt my Australianisms, but my ageisms for current audiences. Words that held traction in the 90s like “color-blindness” don’t necessarily communicate today. Being sensitive to my audience in this way is important. It can also be fun as it provoked us to joke back and forwards and brainstorm about appropriate language. I think we all learned something new.
When was the last time you stopped to consider the appropriateness of the language you use and how it impacts the people you talk to? Perhaps it is appropriate language for God that you need or for the people you are talking about.
We All Contribute to Community
The last exercise we participated in was drawing our hand prints on a large sheet of cardboard and writing on them what we felt each person contributed to community. We had the children participate too. Each member of the community was then invited to go around and write on someone else’s handprint what they thought this person contributed. It was a fun and inspiring exercise.
When was the last time you shared with your family, friends or community what you felt they contributed to your life? We all need affirmation and encouragement and this is a great way to offer it. Consider doing this exercise with those you love and live with.