God in the Ordinary

God in the Ordinary


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
                                                              -- Mary Oliver
Now that the weather is warm enough to be outside I have returned to one of my most favorite forms of prayer.  I go for a long walk and as I leave home I say, "Lord, show me what you want me to see."  And then I walk and pay attention.  Maybe I see something in the sky, or in the field near the path, or on the river.  Nearly every time I discover something extraordinary in the ordinary world.

The first disciples found that in the weeks following the day of resurrection, they were discovering a new way of finding Christ among them.  Their vision needed to be corrected so that  he began to be noticed among them in all the most unlikely places.  They started off, somewhat like Thomas, declaring "I will believe when I see it."  Before long, however, they realized that some things can't be seen until they are believed.  God's presence in our world is hidden within the many seemingly ordinary things which make up our day.

One of the early Church Fathers described this more beautifully than I can so I'll leave you with his remarks from a sermon:

-- from Gregory the Great:
"Those things which are full of marvels for an investigation deeper than we can reach have become cheap from custom in the eyes of men . . . if a dead man is raised to life, all men spring up in astonishment. Yet everyday one that had no being is born, and no man wonders, though it is plain to all, without doubt, that it is a greater thing for that to be created which was without being than for that which had being to be restored. Because the dry rod Aaron budded, all men were in astonishment; yet every day a tree is produced from the dry earth, . . .and no man wonders . . . Five thousand men we filled with five loaves; . . . yet every day the grains of seed that are sown are multiplied in a fullness of ears, and no man wonders. All wondered to see water once turned into wine, yet everyday the earth’s moisture, being drawn into the root of the vine, is turned by the grape into wine, and no man wonders. Full of wonder then are all the things which men never think to wonder at, because . . . they are by habit become dull to the consideration of them." GREGORY THE GREAT (c. 540--604)

In these weeks when our schedules have become simpler and slower because we need to maintain some social distancing, it is a fine time to wake up and start paying attention as Mary Oliver suggests, to see the miracles all around us which Gregory points out.  That will be my prayer practice this week and I invite you to join me in saying, "God, show me what you want me to see."

PS - the photo at the top of this devotion was taken by me in 2008 on a hike up the Schilthorn, a 10,000 ft summit in Europe, in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. It overlooks the valley of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland, and is the highest mountain in the range.  I had hiked for two hours in darkness (using a flashlight) and then another 3 hours in early morning.  I was well above the tree line where there was almost nothing but rock and rubble, when I stumbled upon this little blue gem.

Paul Lang