01 May 2007


We've just returned from five days in Italy, three of them in Venice, where we met our friends from the US. Although we won't suffer jet-lag as they will, I have experienced a numbness of mind and spirit since our return. I've mulled over a few things during the trip and after. An elder in a church once asked, "Does God go on vacation with you?" Interesting question, but I'm afraid that answer is "sometimes, but I make him sit in the back seat."

The metaphor for this is St. Mark's Basilico in Venice. It is a very beautiful structure, plenty of jewels and inlaid gold leaf on the ceiling and arches, but in the end it is a structure made by human hands. Not that there isn't a lot of activity in the building, and it does inspire awe, but in the end, when you walk out of the building, you file the experience away and move down the line to the
Ducale or the Arsenale.

My spirituality is like that at times. Well, let's be honest, plenty of times. I put together something that looks very pretty and awe inspiring, and others might even be impressed by it, but after all is said and done, it is an exterior structure that is mostly for show and tell. Inside, I get spiritually lazy and sloppy, kind of like forgetting to sweep up the trash and garbage left on the piazza by those who visit St. Mark's.
So, now I need to think about how to dismantle this Basilico that I've constructed for my inward, spiritual life, and let what is on the outside look like what's on the inside. So, God, have you ever driven in Italy?

The other thing that I've been thinking through is what my friend from the US said this weekend. He asked what life was like since we've arrived in Grenoble. I pontificated about some of the things that had happened, but my wife said that each day she asks God, "well, you brought us here, now show us why we are here, what's our purpose for being here?" Very profound. He made the suggestion that we need to be aware of our God sightings, and to keep track of them, maybe do a journal (or blog?).
So, I'm thinking about sightings. God sightings, that is.

Monday, as I sloughed off the numbness of the drive through Italy, I wondered how I would know a sighting when it happened. While I was doing this, a friend called me to ask me a question that he's asked me before.

"What spiritual gifts do you think I have," he asked.

Questions like this always throw me, not because they are so simple, but because of how profound they are. I can never easily answer a question like this because I can't just say, "you have the gift of helps, leadership, patience, prophecy," and so on. This process quantifies the Spirit, and rationalizes the Spirit's activities into a process or system that allows us to understand and predict the results. (I refer the reader to the musings below that go into this idea more fully.)
To put it short, I couldn't answer his question, so I do what I always do, I made an appointment to have lunch with him on Wednesday, where we will take up the topic.

As I lay in bed last night, it suddenly occurred to me that I had a God sighting. I had just seen God stirring up my friend's life, and it was pushing him out of the box he was in. My friend and I have spent time almost every week praying about the church, leadership, and each other. I've watched God put his hand on his life, and how he is reordering his spiritual life. I can't take credit for it, I've only been one of the people that God has brought across his path to move him further along the pipeline, so to speak.

So, this is my first topic about a "God sighting." When Peter showed up at the door after the angel released him from prison, he had the door slammed in his face because the church was busy praying for Peter in prison. Sometimes we miss the obvious.
I'm not sure how I want to do a God-sighting journal. I could bore everyone and put everything on a blog, but I'm not sure I want to do that. However, I am flexible enough to put some of them there.

As for this conversation with my friend, I thought about it throughout the remainder of the day, and tried to get my mind around it. Giving him a Spiritual Gifts Inventory is meaningless, because it does exactly what I mentioned above, it tries to turn the results of the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives into quantifiable things, instead of evidence that the Spirit is at work in us. The Spirit reproduces the life of Christ (the fruit of the Spirit) and the ministry of Christ (the gifts of the Spirit) in our lives.

When we turn these manifestings into something objective, we are making it into something we can control and predict.
If a thunder storm comes through Grenoble, I can record wind speed, temperature, air pressure, rainfall and all that. But each of these items are not the storm, they are only effects of the storm that we can observe. The outworking of the Spirit is much the same. The so-called gifts of the Spirit are observations of the impact that the Spirit has through us. They aren't badges and medals that we collect to show what good Christian scouts we are.

Enough of that, I think. I need to work through all this and try to come up with a path to follow. It is so much easier when I do the driving my self.

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1 comment:

  1. I am eager to hear more about your God sightings. I keep running into Him in places He's not supposed to be.