Howard Carter is a Presbyterian minister and church planter in Auckland New Zealand. In this blog he reflects on God, life, the scriptures, family, Church and church planting, film and media and other stuff. Join him as he reflects on the Journey.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Notice five new things- a spiritual discipline for getting in the moment and encountering God in the here and now
I have really enjoyed exploring/ rediscovering the spiritual disciplines that James Bryan Smith sets out in his book The Good and Beautiful God. Reading the book and putting them into practise has really helped my relationship with God to grow. One of the disciplines he suggests is just taking sometime to connect with creation and through that encounter the creator. o recently I've been taking some time out with a cup of coffee outside Maclaurin chapel at Auckland University where I work. While the chapel is in the middle of the Auckland City and close to the heart of the busy University campus it's location close to old government house means that it is surrounded by the most amazing lawns and specimen trees. Not the rugged wilderness and native bush of the Waitakere rangers to the west of Auckland where I grew up or the diverse and beautiful coastline of my Island home, but a real oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of urban life.
But as I sit with a freshly brewed cup of coffee (which maybe be part of the problem) I find my mind will simply not turn off. Appointments, deadlines, services sermons, pastoral matters, family matters financial pressures, dreams both God given and idol day dreams simply pour in as I don't focus on stuff that needs to get done and stops my being able to simply stop and be in the moment, pray, meditate, even simply enjoy what God has made.
In his Book James Smith tells the story of meeting with his son in their favourite cafe and his son being distracted with txting and all sorts of other distractions and suggesting to get in the moment he simply notice five things that he hadn't noticed before. As I mentioned in my post 'Hearing God speak in the storm revisited ( http://howard-carter.blogspot.com/2010/10/hearing-god-speak-in-storm-revisited.html) I have found myself encountering God as I notice new things.
It's full on spring in New Zealand and as I looked up I saw that the amazing old oak tree right outside the chapel that a few weeks ago was barren, simply a stark outline of criss-crossed branches, against the dull grey sky was now alive with green leaves. An amazing almost fluorescent green, that would make even a highlighter pen or those day glow shorts runners often wear seem pale because of their vibrancy. It was hard to feel down and tired as I looked at them. I could see the possibilities of the trees of the field clapping their hands for joy that Isaiah 55 talks about, and w used to sing about in a cheesy 1980's chorus. These leaves were a sign of new life.
yet at the same time I became aware of the dead leaves still under the tree, the ones that had stubbornly held on to their branches till the last of the winter storms. and in this mulch I heard a rustling and saw sparrows pushing up a shower of leaves as they searched for bugs and beetles. Consider the birds they don't plant or reap but their heavenly father feeds them, came to mind. I could go on and talk about noticing pollen all over the place and an elderly couple still walking hand in hand down the walkway. But I found myself being in the moment and aware of what was round me and in the midst of that both the presence of God and connections to his word and his goodness.
Maybe I shouldn't have but my coffee break lasted over 30 minutes and I found instead of the tiredness and weigheddownness (if there is such a word) I had been experiencing all day be lifted. I was able to finish my preparations for 'Worship On Wednesday' with a joy and expectation and with renewed energy.
Alongside trying to be disciplined in bible reading (I'm reading through the bible in a year again) and praying more I am enjoying simply doing such simple exercises and finding them like a window of grace to b aware of God's presence and voice. God is with us and present maybe we simply need to be more aware and notice.
Howard Carter is a Presbyterian Minister in his early fifties. He is the minister at St Peter's Presbyterian Church Ellerslie Mt Wellington. A congregaion that is wanting to face the challange of being Christ's body in a twenty first century, multi-cultural, multi-generational, suburban environment. "it's challanging", says Howard, "I feel totally inadiquate, but rely on Jesus, who is able to be strong in my weakness".
Yes he's married to Kris and has four children. So he'sboth blessed and busy.
Howard posts the messages he preaches on Sundays (the long posts with heaps of images), the occasional reflection, prayers he writes for services (when he's in a liturgical mood) and movie review.