Finding God in the ordinary

/ 12 April 2019

Another piece from The Concord (Luther’s student newspaper), that I wrote in 2014:

I’ve been teaching and learning here at Luther for long enough that I want to start by noting that I think about the “spirituality of practice” more than “spiritual practices.” That is, I’m always feeling/thinking/reflecting/acting my way into responding freely to God’s overwhelmingly generous and gracious love in Christ Jesus, rather than “doing something” that somehow magically “compels God.”

What then are some of my favorite postures for living in this kind of awareness of God?

Here are three: one ancient, and two very contemporary.

The examen

An ancient stance comes from Ignatius of Loyola, who helped us to learn the “examen.” This is a simple process I run through at the end the day:

  1. Quiet your mind, gentle your heart, let yourself sink into awareness of God’s presence. One of my favorite ways to do this is an old prayer from Psalm 46. Breathe deeply, and then say these words on an in breath and an out breath: “Be still and know that I am God, Be still and know that I am, Be still and know, Be still, Be.”
  2. Reflect upon the day which has just passed through a lens of gratitude. Here I often find myself thinking about moments of beauty or joy – a glance at a beautiful flower, listening to a new U2 song, hugging a friend, and so on.
  3. Reflect upon the day which has just passed through a lens of sorrow. Here I often think about parts of my day when I failed to be fully present, or acted in ways for which I seek forgiveness.
  4. Whatever comes to mind, let yourself linger in awareness of God’s presence in both consolation and in desolation.
  5. Look towards tomorrow with awareness that God IS.

You can find more information about this practice online.

On the other end of the day, in the early morning, I begin by glancing at Facebook. I give myself a short space of time – 5 minutes, say – for listening in Facebook. What do I mean by “listening” to what is clearly a visual stream? I listen for moments of joy, moments of sorrow, moments when God’s presence may need to be named, or moments when a simple click on “like” reminds someone that they are not alone.

My goal here is not to speak, but to listen, and to listen with awareness of God’s presence. Because my mornings are pretty scripted (with three people in my house and one shower, we are pretty clear on who needs to use it and when), I cannot get lost in Facebook. My family members ground me, prevent me from losing myself in this space. But at the same time this morning prayer is a reminder that the Holy Spirit binds me into a deep relationality which goes far beyond my immediate family, a relationality which is at once widely global and clearly particular, and which extends far beyond the human into all of Creation.

Computer log in

For years now another practice I have engaged in has to do with my computer login. I have to change it frequently (passwords being what they are), but I try to construct logins that have some kind of connection to a biblical passage I’m sitting with, or a prayer I want to cherish. What this means is that every time I open up my computer and log in, I bring to consciousness my relationship with God.