Personal Spirituality Remodel: Paint Swabs

Part 3 of 5 :: Paint Swabs

Driving south on the viaduct through Seattle is a breathless experience. Since moving to the Seattle core I find it a treat to travel on the aging and very unsafe roadway. Both day travel and night travel offer beautiful scenery. The trick is to keep your eyes on the road. On the west you see the Puget Sound, ferry boats in the distance, and on clear days Bainbridge is visible while the Olympic mountains reveal their majesty in the background. On the east the downtown core dominates the picture. In the evening the core’s lights brighten the sky and the ferris wheel separates the water and land with twinkling lights of boats and land afar. Beautiful!

Seattle Ferry Photo by rex libris on Flickr.

My second time with Pat focused on more sharing about myself. Pat narrowed to probing questions that revealed the state of my core spirituality. I shared about my aversion to spiritual disciplines and my struggle with the concept that God only shows up during the popular mature Christian time labeled as coffee and prayer time with Jesus that might last for endless hours in the morning. I shared how I just can’t get into a rhythm of disciplined time with God where I pray and listen for God to speak. It just doesn’t happen. My mind races to the next unrelated topic and forgets I was supposed to be “spending quality time” with God in the first place. During our conversation I was able to unpack and better understand the relationship to my childhood based on parents saying “because I said so” as the reason to do things. This is how I imagine what a relationship with God must be like. I am supposed to pray because I was told to. My rebellion was birthed out of an aversion to do things because someone told me to. I was tired of being told I had to pray or read the Bible because that was what I was supposed to do. No longer, since moving out of my parents’ house, was that good enough. I needed transformation. Pat, by unpacking more of my spiritual life history, was able to give me some different paint swabs to try. It wouldn’t just be best to repaint a wall without trying it on for size. As Billy Crystal’s character in What About Bob? reminds us; it is all about baby steps.

Pat asked, “what is beautiful? Where do you see God in the beauty?” He encouraged me to look at the small things in my life and the surrounding world I encounter. I was also relieved, finally Pat was telling me what I needed to do to better experience God. He finally was working for his payment! Initially I was really excited  My technology wired brain was ready to dive in with my Evernote app on my iPhone to take pictures of beautiful things. As the two weeks quickly passed by I was discouraged with my one and only picture. Just a picture of a gin and tonic in a canning jar. The rest of my digital notebook was empty and I, once again, failed a spiritual practice. I felt defeated. I asked myself again and again, “why can’t I ever encounter God!” Driving to the SODO Starbucks my mind replayed this mantra of failure. Until, returning to the opening image of the beauty surrounding the viaduct, I realized that God’s beauty surrounds me in everything I look at and not just the physical, but also in the relational. Not just in the Christian, but also in all creation. In Bible 2 with Dr. Spina we are reminded that all creation was created as good. God called all creation good! Often we forget this truth. Not only is all creation good, but especially humans who are made in the image of God. At that moment of realization I was able to see the beauty of God in my past two weeks with encounters with some friends.

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What Pat was trying to do was try different paint swabs with me. He wanted to try a small spiritual practice and see how I responded. Naturally, I went to a task list and failed. I tried to contain God in the Evernote app and the lens of my iPhone. I was only going to notice the presence of God’s beauty in the everyday life that could be captured. The point was not for me “to do” something, but to try a radically different way of thinking about the presence of God in the world and how my relationship to other and God changes. In short, there was some confrontations with some friends and I decided to respond with loving grace and understanding. I labeled it the “Doc Response” after our loving golden retriever, Doc. Doc immediately drops to the floor and rolls over, offering the ultimate example of submission as a friendly, gracious, and docile creation of God whenever he meets someone or wants something or things another dog or human is upset. With my friends I decided to do the same thing. I “rolled over” as Doc does and responded with grace and love. Little did I know the profound impact this response would have. The friends were even more gracious back and some built-up tension immediately dissipated. The culmination of the encounters ended with me fixing some things for them and planning a future outing together. It wasn’t that the relationship was bad before, but there just wasn’t much depth and level of understanding. The “Doc Response” enabled a change of heart within me which allowed me to respond more as Christ would…wait…what? Take a picture! Hurry! Launch that Evernote app and capture this! How? That was just the point. Pat gave me an out of this world paint color to test out and it wasn’t until I saw Seattle and the surrounding water and mountains before it “clicked” (no pun intended!). This was God’s interaction, presence  and involvement in creation. In creation! In relationship!IMG_0068_2

God is in the small things. God is in the seemingly mundane. God does interact with us in all of creation whether or not it is Christian.

Busting in to the Starbucks I quickly ordered my drink and sadly shared how empty my Evernote app was, but how full my heart was with a deep realization of seeing God in the everything. And most of, allowing God to work in the “unChristian” moments.

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