Can you imagine a God who dances with shouts of joy, laughs when you laugh, loves to play, enjoys life, and invites us to join the fun? I couldn’t until recently. I grew up with a very serious, workaholic God. Even when my theology changed, I struggled to live into my new way of thinking. Then Jesus words Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the kingdom, began to resonate in my head.
What childlike characteristics shape us into the people God intends us to be? I posted my question on Facebook and was amazed at the response. Curiosity, imagination, playfulness, creativity, awe and wonder, compassion, love of nature, trust and many more emerged. I chose 12 and explore them in The Gift of Wonder encouraging us to develop fresh spiritual practices that engage all our senses and help us to live a new kind of spiritual life that embraces the wonder and joy that God intends for us. The chapter ends with a creative spiritual exercise based on the characteristic discussed in it. These exercises are designed as both individual and group activities and encourage us to think outside the box and enjoy the presence of the fun loving, joy filled God we follow.
Response to The Gift of Wonder
The wonder of mountains , of blue skies and seas
The wonder of prairies and trees
The wonder of childhood so joyfully free
All eclipsed by the wonder of three*
Three in a dance filled with frolic and glee
Calling to others come join in the spree
Delight in each other they’re unhindered, free
The essence of joy flowing out from the three
The rustle of leaves *sstsstsssts as wind blows through trees
Listen, the cadence of soft flowing breeze
Wistful the spirit now flirts in the lees
Of hearts young like children or bees
So rise up my soul in great joy , if you please
Join whimsical rhythm of wind in the trees
Don’t mince words or thought, simply reach for the keys
To the kingdom now present in sight, sound and breeze
*the trinity of course
*Listen to the swish of the wind over poplar leaves and the percussion
as they embrace one another”
The comment below is from a young mother involved in a Gift of Wonder study group:
My prayer time has changed so much just since starting this study of “The Gift of Wonder.” I no longer feel that I have to cram it in whenever the kids are both asleep (which is never… I almost never had prayer time ). Now I just sit at the table while M. brings me toys and R. kicks around in my lap and I pray. I no longer feel that I have to read a certain number of Bible pages or for a set time. I read some scripture, but also Mary Oliver, John O’Donahue, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and various prayer books and devotional resources… Just finished reading, praying, and coloring while Mary sat next to me eating a cupcake and watching birds on the feeder today. So in between verses of the Lord’s Prayer, “Look, a nuthatch!” “The downy woodpecker is back.” “I see five finches.” Etc. This no longer feels distracted or silly to me. It does feel prayerful, meaningful, fulfilling. I’m seeing/feeling God’s presence, even in my scattered, crazy life with little kids.”
Endorsements for Gift of Wonder
Christine Sine has always provided a consistently prophetic voice that is always edged with intelligence and grace and enfolded in an active spirituality of discipleship. This book continues in that vein. The Gift of Wonder takes the reader on a journey of discovery through the integration of goodness, beauty, and truth. A great read.
Alan Hirsch, author of numerous books on mission, discipleship, and leadership. Founder of 5Q Collective and Forge Mission Training Network.
For many, the term ‘spiritual disciplines’ conjures thoughts of monotonous practices performed alone and by rote. But not for Christine Sine. With her usually exuberant style she reimagines the spiritual practices as communal activities that restore the intense joy and unbridled enthusiasm God wants for all followers. The Gift of Wonder is indeed a gift for anyone wanting to explore more creative approaches to the spiritual disciplines. The exercises and prayers are worth the price of admission alone.
Michael Frost, author, Surprise the World, and Keep Christianity Weird.
Play, pray, plant, paint! Christine Aroney-Sine invites us to recover our childlike sense of wonder. Each page encourages us to pause, to exhale, to breathe in each moment with holy awe. Sine offers wise, practical ways to care for our souls by cultivating gardens—all around us. This is lived theology, rooted in the world, mediated through our eyes and ears, hearts and hands. I’m grateful for such respite and creative renewal.
Craig Detweiler, President, The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology
There’s a deep desire among so many people I work with as a spiritual director and pastor to connect with God in a new way, to get out of their heads and into their bodies and hearts, to lighten up and play, to experience joy and healing. Christine Sine is one of my favorite writers and practitioners because she brings things to life in simple yet profound ways; the Gift of Wonder is a wonderful mix of accessible spiritual practices, stories, and hope for those who long to experience the kingdom of God here, now. I have no doubt it will re-kindle delight and ignite our sense of wonder for all who engage with it.
Kathy Escobar, Co-Pastor of The Refuge and author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart
I trust Christine Sine to teach me about wonder because she lives with playful curiosity, discovering beauty in the unexpected and the everyday details of life— and she writes with uncommon eloquence and simplicity.
Mark Scandrette, author of Belonging and Becoming, Practicing the Way of Jesus and FREE.
As a pastor committed to the spiritual nurture and formation of my congregation, this book is a dream resource. Christine Aroney-Sine doesn’t just re-cover the by-now familiar ground of spiritual practices laid out by others, she brings to bear research, commentary, story and practical experience that make her contemporary take on these practices (and the large number of new practices she offers) applicable to a huge range of settings, learning styles and intelligences. A rare strength of what she offers is that it isn’t a soft spirituality but a robust approach that has something in it for men as well as women. Any individual, group or leader will find creative inspiration, and sustenance to flourish in this book.
Mark Pierson, pastor, worship curator, author “The Art of Curating Worship: reshaping the role of worship leader.”
“In a culture that values adult things it will stretch us to explore Jesus’ crucial observation that we can only enter the Kingdom through childlikeness. To explore that strange reality we’ll need some friends on the journey. Christine Sine is such a friend, inviting us into the kind of rich, whole person, communal engagement with God we knew as children. If you join her on this playful, messy, wonder-full adventure, you might never be the same again!”
Mandy Smith, pastor and author of “Making a Mess and Meeting God” and “The Vulnerable Pastor”
Jesus talks about childlike trust in God. The Apostle Paul writes about compassion and thankfulness. These themes play a big role in Christine Sine’s new book. Using stories from the Bible, creative exercises, reflection questions, and her own beautiful poems, Sine addresses the question of how we can bring joy to God and how we can live out the Christian faith as a journey of discovery. The topics of her book – awe, play, curiosity, creativity, imagination, adventure, and wonder – bring balm to the soul in this age of fear and polarization. She guides us on pathways to experience God’s generous gifts and to grow in contentment and peace in Christ.
Lynne M. Baab, PhD, author of Sabbath Keeping and Nurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-first Century
Spiritual practice is designed to awaken us to God’s presence, but it need not be boring. Sine has produced a brave work here, inviting spiritual seekers to become like children—playful, curious, and trusting. With Sine’s guidance and support you will discover the God who delights in you and unlock a wellspring of joy.
Phileena Heuertz, Founding Partner Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism. Author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation
Refreshing and helpful, The Gift of Wonder, soothed my oft weary spirit. In our polarized, driven, and consumer-obsessed culture, this book is an invitation into God’s creative freedom. Sine not only encourages us to wonder again like a little child, she also gives practical ways to experience God’s delight. From the childlike characteristic of playfulness to trust, Sine leads us into a rare and grace-filled space of choosing joy.
Dr. MaryKate Morse, author and Professor of Leadership & Spiritual Formation Portland Seminary
“Friends, Christine Sine’s The Gift of Wonder is a book of wisdom and delight!
It is truly an extraordinary, life-changing book because it is a book overflowing with Life!
Repeatedly while reading I found myself grinning and laughing from sheer joy.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder…”
Gratefulness in the form of paying attention, adoring the work of God in the world, and reveling in the mystery of our own life and our lives woven together pervades Christine’s The Gift of Wonder.
From philosophical and theological reflection to practical application, Christine shares how to see anew through appreciating God’s goodness infused all about us. She gives full permission to play – to delight in the Lord’s delight of each of us!
Read this and then live it; it’s that good.”
Clint Baldwin, CEO Word Made Flesh
Christine Aroney-Sine opens up wonder for us, firstly in the title itself, by returning us to wonder as it is, a gift. She invites us to child-like questioning, creative activations, and provocative inspiration in such a way that we come away, changed.
Life with its constant busy pace can lose some of the flavour of wonder and we need this challenge to return, to explore, to discover.
Christine uses her own life stories, together with the woven stories of others and applications that are easy and practical, to flesh out each aspect of wonder. Her crafted prayers are spring boards into contemplation, and you cannot come away without a sense of transforming spiritual renewal.
Whether done together with a group, your family, or alone, this book will call forth wonder inside of you, in a playful adventurous way.
Jenneth Graser, Author of Catching the Light
Dr Christine Aroney-Sine originally brought, to my attention, the verses from Isaiah that became the foundation for Mercy Ships following the 2,000 year old model of Jesus. She put in countless hours of selfless labor, updating our first hospital for surgery. She also led the team that recruited Dr Gary Parker for a short term Medical outreach that became a lifelong calling as a surgeon for the poor. I am sure that The Gift of Wonder will also guide others towards the word of God and draw them closer to God’s calling for them.
Don Stephens – President Mercy Ships.
Christine Sine’s wonderful new offering, ‘The Gift of Wonder’ is a very special read. Uplifting and informative, inspiring and encouraging, this book has you engrossed from the start, and hungry for more. In it we discover a God who delights in us, who finds joy in our joy, and is always beckoning us back to a child-like faith, and revealing to us the keys to the kingdom.
As well as reminding us of the God who is the source of our joy, and who finds delight in us, Christine give us a wealth of creative and imaginative ideas and tools for living out our new insights, to help turn our days into records of praise, and gratitude. Christine also reminds us of the places and relationships in which we find God, and how through compassion and hospitality we might image the God we discover in contemplation, and in community.
This wonderful treasure trove can be enjoyed individually, as well as in a group and can be returned to again and again, as each time we draw a myriad of insights and benefits from its wealth of wisdom.
Ana Lisa de Jong, Living Tree Poetry. Author of ‘The Poetry for the Soul’ Series,
and new releases ‘Heart Psalms’ and ‘Thrice Blessed’
“The Gift of Wonder is a joyful and profoundly serious invitation to get dirty and play with the Creator. This book makes me want to get outside, take out some art supplies, become curious, and experience divine delight! If you are craving a fresh approach to connecting with God, this book will ignite your imagination and inspire you to explore new life giving practices.”
The poet Mary Oliver famously gave these instructions for life: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” The Gift of Wonder is a guidebook for the attentive and astonished life. Take its message to heart and your eyes will be opened, like Elisha’s servant, to see the horses on the hills. You will be more alive to God’s abundant love, joy, provision, and even playfulness. Christine Aroney-Sine has been an inspiration and mentor for me on my own journey toward a more embodied, holistic, and creative life of faith; she is also a tremendous writer. The words that kept ringing in my ears as I read this book: “The Gift of Wonder is a wonderful gift.”
Once, after baptizing some young children, I invited them to splash in the baptismal font and even splash the congregation a bit too. I could see a lot of uptight “adults” all around. While I prayed that wonderful prayer after baptism, which ends, “Sustain them O Lord in your Holy Spirit, Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, (as I said these words I pointed to the children splashing in the water) AND THEJOY AND WONDER IN ALL YOUR WORKS. AMEN.” In The Gift of Wonder, Christine Aroney-Sine is pointing to those splashing in the water, inviting us to do more of the same, in order to be more of what God intends for us to be”.