Luke’s Spirituality: Attentiveness

(This is another reflection from my week at The Academy For Spiritual Formation, and is drawn once again from our morning sessions on The Spirituality of the New Testament.)

The Gospel of Luke encourages us to develop a greater attentiveness, particularly to God; in part, to recognize, cultivate, and experience the “sacrament of the present moment” (see Jeane Pierre Caussaude). In the parable of Mary and Martha, from Luke 10:38-48, Martha let her puttering around (in ministry [diakonia], no less!) cause her to miss the “one thing” needed. Luke wants us to be attentive to God.

As we went out of the session today, we were encouraged to consider and reflect upon how we might improve our attentiveness to God “in this culture which does so much to distract you and catch [or trip] you up on a treadmill of activity”(Glenn Hinson).

So – after completing copying my notes into my journal – I go outside for a stroll, where my physical senses are attentive to the creation around me:

  • I hear the sounds of rushing water, as a fire hydrant is drained and the runoff rushes across the rough, cobblestone gutters. I hear the musical sounds of the wind and birds.
  • I can taste the lingering flavor of coffee, sugar, and cream.
  • I feel the morning sunlight, warm on my skin; and then the cooling breeze as a gust of wind caresses me. I feel the firmness of wooden structures; the sturdy, rough reality of carved stone; the gentle frailty of a rose petal.
  • I smell the wondrous aroma of a plethora of flowers – many mingled together with no clear origin, the clear scent of the roses.
  • I see so much – though I likely am missing seeing so much, too: the first black squirrel I have ever seen; people walking, praying, sitting, meditating (are you more aware of, or attentive to, God?); the stone Buddha meditating in the garden; Mary and child and, no so far away, Mary at the cross beneath the same Son…

I am attentive to what is going on around me in a mental sense, as well. My rational mind is busy, cognitively buzzing away – thinking and organizing all these senses, making connections, pondering… Is it in this physical attentiveness to the physical world around me that I will know God? Or is it in this silent, inner cognition where I will become aware and attentive to the holy and divine?

Or do I need to go inside, downstairs, to the room where “east meets west,” and sit in some foreign and awkward position beside the meditating Jesus in lotus position? Do I need to clear my mind, that in the absence of mental cognition or physical stimuli – in the presence of quiet and stillness – I might, in a spiritual sense, be attentive to God?

When Jesus was in the wilderness, to be attentive to God, was he thinking? Was he remembering and reflecting on passages of Scripture – those holy words that hold such promise and power? Or was he being physically attentive to His Father’s creation around him: the howling of the dry, hot wind; the scurrying of desert creatures; the taste of sand and salt from sweat and tears? Or did Jesus clear his mind and senses, to be attentive to God in the still silence?

Perhaps awareness of – and true attentiveness to – God comes in and through the combination of all three. Perhaps this is not an instance where the answer is A or B or C, but “both/and.” Perhaps when our physical awareness (senses), our mental awareness (cognition), and our spiritual awareness (meditation/quietness), all combine together in balance or rhythm or sequence or continual looping spiral – perhaps then our awareness of, and attentiveness to, God develops and grows.

So how about you, faithful reader? Will you comment & share your thought?

How are you – or how do you want to be – “attentive” to God?
…through (aware) senses?
…through (reflective) mind?
…through (quieted) spirit?

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3 responses to “Luke’s Spirituality: Attentiveness

  1. For a long time I’ve been told (and believed) the best way to be attentive to God was by studying God’s Word. It’s the best (maybe they said only?) way to really experience and get to know God. I’ve spent a lot of time trudging through the Bible (attempting to read it cover to cover), hoping words would jump out at me and impress spiritual meaning upon me. It didn’t and reading it became a chore. I knew something was wrong. Every fiber of my being told me that reading the Bible the way I was trying to read it wasn’t right and was pushing me further and further away from a healthy relationship with Him. So I stopped and took time to re-evaluate

    I’ve read some books by the Matt, Dennis and Sheila Linn which focus on understanding scriptures in a healing way and which challenge “traditional” interpretations of scripture which can cause people to stumble. I’ve been reflecting on passages of Scripture, trying to re-read them through the lenses of grace and reconciliation.

    I’ve also been practicing Christian yoga (Yahweh Yoga in Chandler) which uses movement, along with prayer and scripture to increase attentive to God. It uses all three of the methods you listed- the physical part of Christian yoga (I think) is a way to worship through movement. Feeling the way my body moves and stretches and works fills me with awe and wonder at the way God is present in me. The scripture readings of each class give me something to focus on and to ponder while working out. One of the things stressed in Christian yoga is to be still and listen to God and to quiet the mind and allow Him to speak. I think that fits method #3 pretty well too.

    (unfortunately I found out Thursday night that the owners are going on an extended vacation to re-evaluate the ministry and to explore new possibilities in another area. It’s all up in the air at this point)

  2. Katy – although I do believe that Scripture is a good way to be attentive to God, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the only way. I do understand that Wesley shared that the most common means for people to come to faith was through the hearing of the word – whether it was Scripture being read or preached upon. But there are so many ways we can be attentive to God!

    I like the idea of Yahweh Yoga. I’ve been with other Christians who use forms of Tai Chi (I wonder, can you drink Chai Tea while doing Tai Chi?), Qi Gong, and other forms of eastern exercise/meditation to be aware of God. (In fact, at the Catholic retreat center I just returned from there is a statute of Jesus in the lotus position in a meditation room!) I believe there’s even a group that meets at Gilbert United Methodist Church that does a form of prayer / tai chi…

    Thanks for the comments! It makes me glad to know there are some folks interested in reading what I might have to write.

  3. I def don’t believe it’s the only way. The Wesleyan Quad is one of my favorite parts of the UMC.

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