Sunday, August 13, 2006

Finding God in All Things

Have you ever gone through a time when so many things were conspiring together in your life that you couldn't help think that God was certainly trying to teach you something? You must have. I can't be the only one this happens to.

My recent lesson started, near as I can tell, when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence. I thought I was done with it, but it keeps coming back around and tying in with other things. There was a lot in the book that seemed to really apply to my work as a computer programmer (have I mentioned that that's what I do for a living?). The idea of quality and peace of mind as keys to effective work intrigues me. It also came in handy with a landscaping project I did during when I got back from the road trip.

Then I read Listening for the Heartbeat of God. This may seem strange, but I frequently think God speaks to me through my choice of books, particularly the choice of when I read them. And I didn't notice it until later, but the ideas in Listening about seeing God in creation and more particularly about seeing God in secular things and not just in the "religious" tied into a developing thread.

Then, to set myself right before going back to work after sabbatical, I wanted to take a two day retreat at Mount Angel Abbey. But I procrastinated reserving a room and by the time I did, they only had space available for the first day, so I planned to spend a day at a campsite, also too late to reserve. Here I saw the connection with Listening.

I love Mount Angel Abbey. It's a holy place and very nearly the most serene place I've ever been, but when I got there, I found it crawling with construction equipment. They're having the road taken out. At first my heart sunk, but I decided I'd have to live with it. I'd have to have my time with God in the midst of noisy construction equipment. To my surprise, it worked. I found peace.

The next day, I visited the retreat house bookstore and picked up a copy of Joan Chittister's Wisdom Distilled from the Daily (because I was going back to work, not because I had spotted the theme).

As I left the abbey, a number of things conspired to ruin my day. The campground I wanted to stay at was full. I hit slow traffic, road construction, another full campground, highway exits with no return. Within the space of four hours any peace I had found was completely gone and I had been transformed into a raving lunatic beating my steering wheel and screaming to express my anger It wasn't a pretty sight.

Eventually, I found a campground with space available at Viento State Park. I pitched my tent and took the short walk down to the Columbia River where I was greeted with a beautiful view, and I wasn't there two minutes before I saw a fish dive into the water and come back up with a fish. Anyone who has read Homer knows this was some kind of omen, but I'm not skilled at interpreting such things.

Anyway, Viento was great and I quickly regained my lost peace and began to see what God had been teaching me. The events of the day had been, I think, a chance to test my ability to find God in the daily -- a test that I failed miserably.

As I walked along the river, I found a tree whose roots had been worn away by the waves. I knew from my recent landscaping project that trees with their roots cut too close to the trunk tend to fall over, but this one had a trick. It must have had deep roots.

Another tree nearby hadn't learned the same trick and fell.

An interesting thing about these waves is that they are created entirely by the wind. They move in a direction opposite the flow of the river.

As I was walking back from the river, I got a second chance at the test. A train was stopped on the tracks where I needed to cross. I accepted this and walked up to the crossing to wait. An engineer there let me climb across the train to the other side. But the train wasn't going anywhere and because it was on the crossing the bells were ringing. It stayed there for over an hour. And during that entire time I was able to pray and it didn't drive me nuts. I don't expect to be able to do that sort of thing all the time, but I think I learned something.


David said...

Funny...just yesterday my mother-in-law gave me a coy of "Listening for the Heartbeat of God" and I was wondering if I will ever find a few quiet moments to read it. Now I feel compelled.

Mata H said...

Isn't it grand the way God sneaks up on us? When I am deluged with images similar to the deluge that you described, I usually start laughing because it is somtimes so hard to get my attention that God has to practically hit me over the head with a cast iron skillet to get my attention. At times like that I know the message must be VERY important or God wouldn't have to spell it out in so many ways for me.

Andy said...

Yes, hitting me over the head with the lesson is pretty much precisely how it felt.

LutherPunk said...

When I was contemplating seminary, and had not really announced that to anyone, my pastor at the time invited me to deliver the homily one Sunday. Talk about a smack over the head.

I don't think it is so strange that God would speak to you through your choice of your books. It would make sense, in fact, given that you seem to be something of a bibliophile.

Then again, one of things that i appreciate about the Celtic Christian tradition is the notion of God's utter proximity to us. God is always lurking waiting to show us something, if we would just open our eyes. I sometimes wonder how many lessons we miss...

Andy said...

The only reason I think it might seem strange that God speaks to me through my choice of books is that it seems to me like I'm making that choice on my own. On the other hand, I have frequently noticed God speaking to me through things that I say or write.

Was it Augustine who said, "God is in me deeper than I am in myself?"