Our bloggers are looking at ordinary encounters from all sides this week, seeing the spiritual layer of things beneath our everyday encounters with people and God.
Deb Mechler is reflecting on the power of spiritual direction to shape our view of the world. Recently certified as a spiritual director herself, she notes the ways that a spiritual director can help us navigate our inner world. “The inner landscape is vast and multiform. There are dangers and delights. Signposts and dumping grounds. Glorious sunrises and sunsets. Dark places. Paths that lead to discovery, and those that take us back. Memorials for pause and grief. If I’m not care-ful, I pass by memorials and sunsets and weedy beauties unaware. I need help to see what is there, all that is waiting to teach me about itself.”
“What’s around the bend?” wonders Kathy Manis Findley, thinking about the future. “The pathway before me can frighten, even while I strain to see as far as I can into what lies ahead. The bend is sharp most times, and the angle hides my view. As I age, fear on the journey looms large, for I am completely aware of the dangers I might encounter around the first bend, and the next, and all the bends that are ahead of me. And yet, I am constantly graced with flashes of hope and faith whispering that what is ahead of me could be even better than what I have left behind.”
Watching the movement of crowds is a mental habit for Kathy Randall, who can predict how group[s of people will move or get stuck. Watching the group at a conference or a baseball game teaches lessons about leadership, she shares. “When I watch crowds, it is always a dynamic observation. I know how to interpret these people in each individual place, and each group can move slightly differently depending on whether they are hungry, scared, joyful, tired, friendly, cautious, or anxious. Interpreting on the move can have advantages, but it also means that sometimes I leave people behind. I’m learning how not to leave people behind, but instead lead those with me so that we all get to the same place at the same time, together.”
Is she meeting angels or con artists? BN Zoot struggling to tell which, as she meets people like the man who begins, “Excuse me Miss, I wouldn’t ask, but I left my wallet at home. My tank’s on empty and I just gotta get to my job.” She says, “He was an inch or so shorter than me, wiry, dressed in a clean gardener’s uniform, wearing a cap and a worried expression. Much as he had two weeks before, when he’d been lost in my town, his wallet left at home, and in need of gas to get to a job. “Dude, you know I would except you got me two weeks ago with pretty much the same story.” He blinked and said, a bit reflexively, “No!” but as I nodded at him with a rueful smile, he suddenly said, “Well God bless you!” and was off. He’d blessed me the last time, too, and hugged me. He smelled nice, but not angelic.”
Looking into our everyday activities, Bonnie Jacobs sees prayers. “Prayer is NOT “expecting things from God” or “asking God to do things” that we should do ourselves, as so many seem to think. If prayer is the orientation of our whole body, mind, and spirit leaning toward God-ness in silent attention, as Merton says, then it’s also these things: Have you ever cooed “Oooooooh” as you hugged a baby to your chest? It follows that when you hug anyone, that’s a prayer. When you forgive someone, that’s a prayer. When you cook something to nourish family and friends, that’s a prayer.”
What are you noticing in your own life, as you stop and look carefully? What hidden graces are being revealed? We would love to hear your wisdom, too, in the comments section below.
Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.