by Christine Sine
In a couple of weeks I will celebrate my 72nd birthday. It is almost 60 years since I became a follower of Christ, and as I told a couple of young friends recently my faith is much stronger, more compelling and more nourishing than it has ever been. They asked me why and it has taken several days of reflecting to be able to provide a satisfactory answer. Here are the factors I believe contribute to my strong faith. This seemed such an important topic as we enter the season of Epiphany that I thought I would share my response with you.
- I never stop learning. One of the most vital aspects of my faith is my desire to keep learning from friends, colleagues and spiritual mentors. Honesty with those around me about my spiritual struggles, my highs and lows, then listening to their advice is a great way to continue growing in my faith. I also learn a lot from reading. The two most stimulating books I read last year were This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley and Sacred Earth Sacred Soul by John Phillip Newel. Both of these books stretched my understanding of God, of who God intends me to be and of how I should act in this world.
- I know God is a mystery I will never fully understand. Like many of us I began my Christian life thinking I understood everything about God, but the longer I am a Christian the more aware I am that I will only ever be able to understand a very small part of who God is and what God is doing in our world. My life must always be open to mystery. I live in the tension of knowing questions are more important than answers. It is both liberating and restful.
- My faith is an embodied faith. I ground myself in creative practices and acts of compassion and generosity that change with the seasons and the times. To be honest, as a young Christian I quickly became bored with the ways I was taught to pray and read scripture. It was very disconnected to my daily life. It was only when I worked in the refugee camps in Thailand in the mid 80s and was confronted with the horrors of war, violence and hunger that I really started to grow. My faith moved from my head to my heart and my soul as I reached out to the needy people around me and began to realize that faith is as much about who I am and how I act as it is about what I believe.
- My faith is not just rooted in scripture, it is also rooted in the earth. When I connected my faith to my gardening and recognized how God was revealed through my sowing, planting, growing and harvesting was another milestone in my faith development. In my book To Garden with God I share some of the lessons that transformed my thinking and lodged deep in my soul. Then I started creating contemplative gardens, another step into garden spirituality and further transformed and nourished me. I shared some of this in Digging Deeper The Art of Contemplative Gardening but continue to learn and to grow in this area.
- My spiritual practices are creative and change with the seasons. It was asking the question at the heart of my book The Gift of Wonder “What are the childlike characteristics that make us fit for the kingdom?” that moved me energetically into creative spiritual practices that made me feel I had entered a new world of awe and wonder. To live in awe and wonder and the creativity it inspires within us is, I am increasingly convinced is to live close to the heart of God.
So now that we are in the season of Epiphany, what are the practices that vitalize my faith?
First, on Thursday, the Eve of Epiphany, I Chalked the Door in a fun process that will continue to bless me and hopefully others as we walk through the door that was blessed by this process.
Second, I walked around the house, blessing each room I walked through. There is something very special about living in a house which one feels is blessed by the presence of God.
Third, partly inspired by Saturday’s retreat “Following the Star Into the New Year” I created a new contemplative garden over the weekend. A wonderful stimulus to further reflection and prayer.
I have also instituted a couple of new practices for the season. In the mornings I use the Pray as You Go App which provides a beautiful 10-15 minute prayer and scripture meditation. Very enriching! I also use the weekly prayers from The World in Prayer which helps me focus beyond myself to the larger world and its needs.
What are the practices that enrich you during this season?
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