A few months back, I was privileged to do an interview with pastor and author Adele Calhoun. My conversation with her was so personally encouraging, and one thing she said really stuck with me: “Consider the biblical story itself and the wide variety of ways people experienced God and got to know God: Abram heard God’s voice, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, Moses saw a burning bush, Balaam heard God speak through a donkey, Samson felt God’s strength, Elijah heard God in a whisper on a mountain, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, Daniel had dreams, Mary talked with an angel, and on and on. The Bible itself is a catalogue of people’s diverse and unique experiences with God.”
Clearly, Bible study is a critical way to come to know and understand God and who God is. This is the starting place. We also connect with God emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually in practices like prayer and worship. These are the “essential vitamins,” per se, of the Christian life.
But there are also some ways we can connect with God or experience God’s presence that surprise us. For example, we can connect with God through creative expression—art, poetry, music, and even casual doodling can be intentionally transformed into a Christ-centered experience as we ponder the beauty of God’s world or mull over truths in awareness of God’s presence with us.
We can also connect with God through interactions with others (as I wrote a bit about last week). In real, authentic, and open conversations, we can hear God speak to us through his people . . . if our souls are listening. God can connect to us via the words of our spiritual friends, and also (often surprisingly) through the words of people we may not even like.
We can connect with God through time in nature as we see his beauty and quiet our souls to sense his presence.
We can even connect with God through things like exercise, savoring a bite of delicious food, reading a soul-moving book, or smooching our hubby.
Obviously, some of these are not “equal” to the importance of Bible study or the other “essential vitamins”! But I do think that as we foster a habit of practicing God’s presence, we come to discover that God is speaking to us in many ways: communicating Love, shining Beauty, transmitting Truth. The Holy Spirit is with us, within us, leading and guiding us. As we begin to savor life and soul-listen, we discover the surprising and constant Presence that is always there.
This isn’t a mystical thing – I’m talking about God’s presence for all of us, in normal everyday life. No shimmering lights, overwhelming emotions, or audible words from God are involved – at least not for me! But in a growing awareness, God surprises me. He is there, in beautiful moments and frustrating ones. His love is constant, when I’m paying attention and when I’m not.
Have you been surprised by God’s presence? How do you best “connect” with God in addition to traditional practices like prayer and Bible study?