By Karla M. Kincannon
One important practice necessary for a rich spiritual life is attentiveness. Attentiveness, a key component for discernment, makes it possible to decipher what God is doing in our lives. We first must listen for God and watch for God’s actions in our lives and community in order to be able to discern God’s ways.
Listening and watching are two skills critical to the creative process. I listen for inspiration and to the quiet voice within me that needs expression. I watch the world around me, observing details and subtleties that are overlooked when I am in a hurry. An art teacher once told me that I needed to slow down my eye in order to see all the details in the landscape I was drawing. The same advice applies to noticing God’s presence in the world. When we hurry through life, our experience of God is like the blurred scenery observed from the window of a speeding train. We may know God is there, but we cannot discern what the Divine is doing.
Practicing attentiveness requires that we watch for God the way we would look at a flower through a magnifying lens; every detail comes into sharp focus. Attentiveness requires that we slow down and notice.
The following exercises are designed to assist you in slowing down to see the details. Notice God’s abiding presence in your life and in the world around you.
May the Spirit guide you in your search for God and in your experience of your own creativity.
Seeing the Things of God
Take a prayerful walk and photograph evidence of God’s presence at work in the world. Where do you see God’s creativity at play? Make a written record of what you photograph. Later on, look again at the photos. Notice any elements that you didn’t intend to be there. Notice what is missing. Don’t criticize your work; simply notice. What surprises you? Often the Holy One’s message comes through to us most clearly in the surprises. In your journal, write about the experience of looking for God’s creativity at play in the world.
We are most open to the creative energies early in the morning before we get distracted by our thoughts and the pressures of the day. Once we become preoccupied with the day’s duties, the creative channels close up unless we intentionally reopen them. In my experience, when I awaken without an alarm, I am an open vessel for God’s creativity to flow through me. Many of my best insights come first thing in the morning even before I open my eyes. I have the habit of keeping a notepad by my bed in order to record the precious gem of a thought that soon evaporates when my feet touch the floor.
In order to access the Creator’s creativity within you, try this experiment. On a day when you do not need to set the alarm, before you move, stretch, think, or get out of bed, simply notice. Notice your first image, thought, or feeling. This very passive exercise trains you to receive a divine encounter. It teaches waiting with an open mind and a receptive heart.
When you awaken this way, record in your journal your first creative thoughts or images.
I love pleasant surprises. I love giving them and receiving them . . . . I think God must love surprises too, because our Creator breaks into my hectically scheduled day with a spectacular sunset or an unexpected gesture of kindness from a stranger. When we least expect it, the Divine Lover quietly shows us the power of love.
Using colorful markers, write several pages of your inner thoughts in your journal. It does not matter what you write. Simply write what you hear yourself thinking. As you write, feel free to switch colors frequently if you like. The colors can help express your interior life. You do not have to write on lined paper or even make the letters all the same size. If images come to mind, draw them in your journal. Let the form and content come from within. The trick is to listen to the inner voice.
Sometimes divine surprises happen in the writing; sometimes they happen following the writing. Sometimes there are no surprises, just a clearing of our inner thoughts. When you finish, look back over the pages. Are there any divine surprises?
Source: Adapted from Creativity and Divine Surprise: Finding the Place of Your Resurrection by Karla M. Kincannon. Copyright © 2005 by the author. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.
Photo: Copyright © Beth A. Richardson.
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