Thick with Divine Possibilities
by Kristyn Komarnicki
I can set a little altar, in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is … Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish–separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.
Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
I love this description of God's presence in the world. It's so obvious, and yet we are so often oblivious to it. But a slew of new books are dedicated to helping us remember to look for, expect, and delight in earth's divine possibilities, to crack our shins on beauty and truth wherever it is found.
In Framing Faith, photojournalist Matt Knisely focuses his camera and his sharp eye on the ordinary faces, places, and objects that might easily go unnoticed. He invites us to slow down, like Jesus did, and take time to discern the meanings and stories that lie within everyday encounters.
"If we are living unintentional lives, not focused on the right things, the picture will be very different than what was intended," writes Knisely. We lose sight of what's important. In many cases we are distracted, putting ourselves in autopilot mode and trying to juggle mundane activities along with important activities, such as our relationships with the people around us and, more importantly, our relationship with God. The gift of love is everywhere, but when we are viewing life through the wrong lens, we don't pay attention to its awesome presence."
Lauren Winner likewise encourages us to make God-sightings a daily occurrence. In her latest book, Wearing God, she explores the spiritual metaphors that surround us in such mundane things as clothing ("When I was baptized, I was clothed in Christ, and the God who is clothing is the God who wants to shape me more and more into the image of God."); smells ("The biblical portrait of God as one who smells … is a ritual shorthand for God's intimate and close connection with us."); and bread ("If God is chocolate tea bread, God is not only provision—God is also about delight … bread, like the One how made the hands that made the bread, contains broth enjoyment and necessity, sustenance and pleasure.").
Read a review of the book from our friends Hearts and Minds here.
Paul Asay thinks God talks just as much as in the Old Testament times, but that these days God talks through pop culture.
"We're so preoccupied with our entertainment-saturated world that it can be difficult to hear prophets should they come to call. God still wants to speak with us, but for us to hear, he has to speak to us where we're at—which is in movie theaters, in front of our televisions, on our smartphones, and playing video games. God, I think, is working through all these mediums and more." Asay's Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet helps Christians discern God's messages through film, music, television, and technology.
In Simply Open: A Guide to Experiencing God in the Everyday, Greg Paul encourages us to engage God with all of our senses as well as our hearts and minds. The book illustrates how a contemplative prayer practice centered on the senses can turn an ordinary day into a deepening spiritual journey.
"If our senses are the means by which our inner selves perceive the realities that surround us," writes Paul, "they are also passages through which the Divine may enter our minds and hearts and take up residence. This Visitor, who longs to abide, is unfailingly gracious, and he will not trespass where he is uninvited. The wider we open the doors, the more deeply he abides."
Zondervan has a pretty nifty little series of short books called Ordinary Theology. The first four have been released—on surgery, public life, sex, and urban life—and more are promised. Penned by professors from Wheaton College, the books ask what God has to do with medical crises, politics, what we do with our bodies, and how the kingdom of God might flourish in cities. They explore the intersection of our theological worldview and the demands we deal with every day—relationships, traffic, inequality, health, civic duties—and ask questions that push us toward deeper growth and integration.
I hope you enjoy delving into some of these books, as I have. Today, may you stop long enough to take in the world around you and ask God to reveal the divine possibilities—revelations, questions, possibilities—that are there for your consideration, edification, and delight. Happy shin cracking!
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:15-20
Kristyn Komarnicki is ESA's director of communications.