Weekly Encouragement: Seeking God

[View from North Mountain of Orkney Springs in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia]

“That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
Romans 1:12

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

At Shrine Mont this past weekend we had a getting-to-know-you activity that involved some of us trying to draw pictures from phrases and others trying to guess phrases from our pictures. This phrase happened to come to me: “Looking for God in all the wrong places.” I tried my best to draw eyes, above a traditional ‘bearded old man’ representation of God, above X-ed out signs for ‘Motel’ and ‘Bar.’ No one could guess that phrase from my drawing. But that phrase kept coming back to me throughout the weekend.

I thought about how “Looking for God in all the wrong places” might well summarize a large portion of the Bible — as humankind’s attempts to find God, and God’s attempts to instruct us where, and where not, to look for God.

I thought about how “Looking for God in all the wrong places” sounds like a variation of the song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Remember Johnny Lee and the Urban Cowboy soundtrack? It struck me that looking for God is looking for love. And, ultimately, looking for true, deep, and everlasting love is also looking for God.

I also thought about one typical reaction to spending the weekend away at Shrine Mont. Many times I’ve heard people talk about having ‘mountaintop experiences’ there. Some of us did climb up to the top of North Mountain for our literal mountaintop experience. But that phrase is usually taken figuratively, and refers to Jesus’ Transfiguration on a high mountain, before Peter and James and John, where they see his godly nature revealed as he talks with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17 and Mark 9). It has come to mean any heightened awareness of the divine. And people do often experience God more deeply in a retreat setting, where they can put behind them the many distractions of life and focus upon spiritual matters.

But is God really any closer to us up there in the mountains? Is God really more accessible when we’re on retreat? Perhaps it is just that we are more receptive to God in those times and places. What if we were to seek to be more receptive to God wherever we happen to be most days of our lives: in our homes, places of work, and where we take our leisure time? Can we, by prayerful imagination, conjure up our own ‘mountaintops’ in the mundane places of our lives? Can we, by attentive mindfulness, place ourselves in a ‘retreat’ frame of mind and heart, whenever we wish?

When our daughter Anna was very young, she was trying to learn the Lord’s Prayer. For any difficult words that she didn’t understand, she substituted familiar ones. That resulted in her praying, “Our Father, who aren’t in heaven….”  What a great reminder that God is actually everywhere. What a great reminder that, as Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

God’s Peace,

The Rev. Bill Queen
Interim Rector