by Christine Sine
Has it ever occurred to you to transform your favourite pastime into a spiritual practice? Many years ago when I was a fledgeling writer, I asked Phillip Yancey for advice on my writing. “Write to your passion”, he advised. His suggestion has never led me astray. I would give the same advice about spiritual practices: “Pray from your passion”.
Whatever you are passionate about, be it gardening or knitting, or composing music, you can, and I might add, should, transform it into a spiritual practice. And by that I don’t mean pray about what you are most deeply concerned about, I mean shape those things you are most passionate about into a practice for contemplative or devotional prayer. That doesn’t mean that every time you indulge in that activity you feel obliged to pray, but it does mean you can use that passion as a doorway into closer relationship with God.
Over the years, I have transformed many daily activities into spiritual practices. Everything from walking in the rain to knitting has stirred my creative juices and encouraged me to craft new prayer practices. However, as a passionate gardener, nothing stirs me to pray quite as much as the garden does. Even an indoor plant with colourful patterned leaves or beautiful, delicate flowers can become the focus for my prayers. These activities often help me design templates for my prayers that has no proscribed boundaries and have the beauty of being both fluid and flexible. I have the freedom to continue modifying my practice to meet the needs of the moment. Today I might wander around the garden to pray. Tomorrow I might sit at my desk absorbed by the contemplative garden beside me.
All this helps keep my mind active, listening and learning. It encourages me to always be on the lookout for something new that God might want to point out. I am invited into a deeper relationship with my creator God who also has no boundaries or limits.
So today, I would encourage you, too, to think outside the box. Don’t settle for same old prayers and methods of prayer, design something that responds to your special needs for this season.
What is one thing you are passionate about, an activity you engage in frequently, that you would like to reshape into a spiritual practice? What about that activity inspires you and draws you towards God? Does it give you joy, bring peace or make you feel refreshed?
Close your eyes and imagine yourself engaging in that activity with eyes turned towards God. If this is a stationary activity do you own religious symbols like crosses, icons or labyrinths that could be incorporated into your new practice to help you focus? Do you have books or music you would like to use as part of your practice? Do you want to add candles or lights? Perhaps you would like to create a table centrepiece like Lilly Lewin suggests as part of her Holy Week practice. Or like me, you might like to create a meditation garden with plants and words that help you focus.
The sky is the limit where spiritual practices are concerned, but if you are designing a practice you hope to use for a season don’t rush the process. Here are a few tools that might help.
- Going on retreat – My husband Tom and I have just returned from our regular quarterly retreat. This set aside time for reflection and renewal is a great time to get creative and plan to refresh your spiritual life by developing a new practice.
- Consult a soul friend – “an intimate bond where two people opened their hearts to one another, sharing their doubts and fears, their struggles and successes, encouraging one another on the journey.” I am privileged to have several good friends who provide soul friendship for me, some of whom have done so for decades. It is part of what has given my faith resilience through the tough times I have passed through. They are always great go to people for advice when I suspect the ideas bubbling up inside me are meant to be shaped into a new practice.
- Have some fun – It is only in the last few years, and particularly as I worked on The Gift of Wonder, that I came to believe in a God who loves fun, laughs frequently and delights in me and whom I am created to be. According to play expert Dr Stuart Brown, “nothing lights up the brain like play”. He believes that play might be God’s greatest gift to humankind. Nurturing my relationship with this fun loving God through the creation of fun out of the box practices has refreshed my soul and given me permission to enjoy life in every season.
These out of the box practices continue to inspire me and draw me closer to God. I hope they will do the same for you.