Paying Attention To Wonder In The World
Years ago, I had the opportunity to learn some transformative lessons from Rob Bell, one of the most effective preachers/communicators of this generation.
I had the good fortune of spending several days with Rob in a small group setting taking in all the wisdom that he had to offer when it came to effective communication, and sermon planning.
We had just listened to him talk about how he'd rescued a plastic frisbee from being run over in the middle of a busy Chicago street, and how he felt that for some reason it was important for him to save some of the pieces because there was something about it that he felt he might use one day.
At one point, someone asked Rob "How do you know when something like that is special?" I remember him pausing for a second and then sharing with us that it was simply a feeling that he would get when he saw things in the world that struck him as holy, beautiful and wonderful.
And then he told us that the most important thing was to have your eyes open all of the time and expect to see wonderful things. He didn't use those exact words, but that's close enough.
Christians struggle to do this, I've learned. I know that it is a constant effort for me, but if we don't learn how to practice awareness, there are dire consequences. Richard Rohr recently spoke to this when he wrote:
Without a sense of the sacredness of the world--of every tiny bit of life and death--we struggle to see God in our own reality, let alone respect reality, protect it, or love it.This idea has really transformed the way I walk around in the world. I'm forever using my iPhone to take photos of all of the strange and wonderful things that I encounter.
I've learned to pay more attention to the wonder and beauty in the world around me, constantly looking for the Divine in ordinary things and out-of-the-way places.
Like the time I was struck by a bouquet of plastic flowers stuck in the ground in a parking lot. Or the photo I took of someone's nondescript piece of graffiti on a brick warehouse in Pittsburgh--a simple sketch of one word: Shine.
One of my favorite lines from the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning goes like this:
Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes--the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Imagine what it would be like if those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus would make awareness of God at work in the world a part of our lives. Imagine how we would move more easily and peacefully.
May it be so for you and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.