Tuesday, 17 November 2009

God in the Precinct 2

Prompted by a post over at revmusings to reflect on my recent offering on hearing God in the noise of the urban. Here's what I saw in the looking glass:

I'm not agin revmusing's suggestion that attending to God in silence helps to discern the divine tones amidst the noise of life. However, I reckon the key is being intentional, deliberately attending to what God may be saying in any given situation - wherever.

I'm developing one or two thoughts on what a noisy urban retreat might look like. I fancy the idea of taking The Bible into the melee and reading it in all manner of different places to see how that affects what we notice (in the word and in the world). So, for instance chewing over a psalm on the top deck of a bus or running through Mark in the market place or Timothy on the train station concourse. Then there's the idea of spending half-time next time I'm at Old Trafford praying rather than queuing for a pie. (Hang on, make that praying while queuing for a pie). Or what about sitting on a bench in the precinct meditating on the shop window ddisplays?

I reckon these are all worthwhile practices for each of us to pursue. I wonder though if it's worth organising a communal retreat along these signs (in Manchester, obviously) so that we can gather after our reading/praying/meditating and share what we've heard. Would there be any takers?


revmusings said...

I love your idea of intentional listening in the market place both as in individual act and as a group. Sadly, I am heading south so Manchester is not possible for me but it is an idea I will take with me.

However, there is still something else that I need to explore: You= said in his first post that 'God nudges you when you are still and empty-handed not while you are dashing about with an M and S shopping bag in one mit and a Gourmet Waffle in the other.' There seems less intentionality about this encounter than what you are suggesting and surely that is the point.

It seems to me, you heard God when you weren't 'intentionally' listening - 'I must confess to being surprised'. I confess that when my spiritual discipline becomes lax my ability to hear God diminshes. However, when I am disciplined, which for me means jounrnally, practicing Examen, then I see where God has spoken to meduring the day and I missed it and if I continue the discipline then my ability to hear God at the time in the midst of whatever increases which, of course, is better for all concerned as I deal with situations better, I learn more quickly and deeply. This is my personal journey and struggle - how do do other people come to this I wonder?

How do we encourage ourselves and those in our churches to be able to listen to God at all times even in the midst of business so that 'intentionality' becomes unconsciously second nature (as well as consciously as you rightly suggests), running in the background at all times - a third ear that is atuned to the Spirit even when two ears are focused on the matter at hand? (this response is also posted on my site)

Glen Marshall said...

Heading South is hardly ever a good idea. Look what happened to Jesus.

The chain of thought in my original post (or at least in my head as I wrote it) was 1) I heard God unbidden while doing other stuff 2) this happened to me (more than once) in busy urban settings 3) why then does our retreating have to be in a pastoral setting 4) perhaps we should find constructive ways of learning how to retreat in noisy urban place. 5) maybe this would help is to hear God more clearly in the routine of life - wherever that is.

I agree that generally speaking hearing God when we are not listening out for God does tend to happen more when we are attending to the kind of spiritual disciplines you mention. However, there are times when God graciously screams at us to get our attention when we haven't been keeping up our spiritual ear training.

How do we encourage ourselves and other people? There's the rub, nothing smart to suggest, only teaching, modeling and using our imagination.

andy amoss said...

This idea of an urban spirituality has been raised to me in several guises over just this past week. So much so i think there just might be something in it. I'd certainly be interested in exploring this more formally and deliberately than the manner by which i normally encounter and process it.

This poem was picked up off a link from Sean's blog to Geoff Colmer's. The poem is by Martin Wroe and called Noise.

They say you're available
on certain conditions.
Quiet ones.
That if I can find an air of tranquility
it carries that still small voice.

But I don't do quiet,
I am not tranquil except when I am asleep
and then I am not available
as far as I know.

what's the chance of a still big voice
in the noise,
of hearing you in the roaring traffic,
the screaming meal-time,
the crowded train,
the supermarket queue,
the smoky, throbbing bar?

I know that time you weren't
in the fire,
the storm.
But everyone's different.
Maybe Elijah was better at quiet.

You're usually quiet.
I'm usually wired.
If I try for your silence,
perhaps you could try for my noise.

Your place or mine?
I know they say you're in
the country,
but maybe we could meet in town.

revmusings said...

I agree - I am thankful too that God is gracious and uses a mega phone to stop me in my tracks! I am just sad that God needs to do that because I don't listen 24/7!

God loves the people in the South as well! Especially as they pronounce their vowels correctly and have dinner in the evenings not at lunchtime.

Kelly A said...

God has only really spoken to me once and it was in the food hall of Meadow Hall a couple of Saturdays before Christmas - He had to shout to be heard over the din.

ashley@chapela.org.uk said...

Mmmm. In September, waiting for a train at East Croydon Station to get to Spurgeons, I was still wrestling with the passage I had to 'preach' to the rest of the class. Then it dawned on me that walking the length of the platform in the melee of rush hour was the perfect context to ready Ecclesiates 1:1-11. If only I were more brave, or had been on Glen's mission studies course........