At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.
-Yann Martel, “The Life of Pi”
This is a weekend for reflection that leads to moments of wonder. It is a weekend that can/should lead to big thinking and to thoughts that span the universe. This is 4th of July weekend in the United State (I know the actual day is Tuesday, but many people will enjoy a loooong weekend, including Monday and Tuesday as holidays off work). This is the weekend we celebrate our nation, its birth in the Revolution from rule by the King of England, and the ideals of freedom and equality for which this nation stands.
In the United Church of Christ, this is also General Synod weekend. General Synod is the national gathering of delegates and representatives from all across the United Church of Christ, from Maine to Hawaii and Seattle to Miami. It takes place every two years and this year is taking place from June 30 – July 4, in Baltimore, Maryland. Every plenary and worship gathering of the event is being live-streamed on the UCC website. I encourage you to go to synod.uccpages.org and partake of some of the video.
Last week I discussed the importance of Sabbath rest for our spiritual lives. It is Sabbath rest that can help lead us into more moments of wonder. It is Sabbath rest that can help expand our thinking to entertain thoughts that span the universe.
One father learned how to better entertain such thoughts from his three-year-old daughter. Douglas Burton-Christie, an author and scholar in Christian Spirituality, developed what became for him a spiritual practice, out of a desire to learn more about how his daughter Julia spent her days when she was three. The practice involved the use of the question “what did you notice today?” By asking her that question each evening he learned a lot about what she noticed and how she viewed the world.
One day she told me about looking up from the playground and seeing a flock of white birds flying overhead, sharp against the blue sky. Another day it was the sting on her face of sand tossed by a rambunctious playmate that impressed her and remained with her until we met that evening. … Piece by piece, I learned about her world.
He discovered that he also learned more about his own world. After all, the game included both of them and she would always, sometimes before he did, ask about what he noticed that day. As a result he found himself becoming more observant, more aware of what was going on in the world around him. And just as he does for her, she listens attentively to what he shares. She is not bored.
I offer his experience as a possible Sabbath rest practice to explore this summer. Find a partner (if you don’t have a child handy to play this game, perhaps your spouse or a good friend would play with you) and play the game of asking each other, “What did you notice today?” I imagine this may help you to discover more moments of wonder, whether your own or those prompted by the sharing of your partner. And moments of wonder will always help to expand your thinking..
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida