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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This and That By Avis Anderson

The peace of thin places

Have you ever experienced what you might describe as a “thin place”, a moment when you felt very near to God?

Like most things in our world, faith issues have trends as well as fashion.  For the past several decades it has been in fashion to say that you are ‘Spiritual’ and not ‘Religious’ and both words are spelled with capitals.  I’ve read a little about it and I’ve decided that people are probably turning from denominationalism. No one seems to really like labels these days.  We certainly see it in politics.  This year in particular we are experiencing huge numbers of people who are listening to a certain political philosophy and are turning from “politics as usual.” In religious circles people following this path either seem to prefer a nondenominational church or their own brand of Spirituality.

Spirituality is that search for “God” in our lives.  People seem to need some sense of a Supreme Being to give their life direction and purpose. Christian Spirituality follows a pathway to a simpler lifestyle, one that clears away the clutter of the material life in which we live, those things that can separate us from God. There are Spiritual disciplines to follow such as certain styles of prayer and the encouragement of reading scripture regularly. There are practices that include fasting as well as observing times of enforced silence.  Each practice has its followers.

One branch of Spirituality that has become popular is Celtic Spirituality, which springs out of northern England and the early saints who brought Christianity to the tribes of northern Europe, to a region that is called Northumbria. The history of Christianity in these regions is very ancient and is tied in with the bitter winds that blow off the North Sea and the rugged geography of the area.

In reading some books on this type of Spirituality I ran across a phrase that I really like. One author spoke of “thin places” in our lives. His explanation of that phrase was there are times in our lives when we are closer to heaven than others. That perhaps we can almost feel the flutter of angels’ wings against our cheek.

I think a wedding service can be a ‘thin place,’ at the time when the couple have spoken their vows before God and the congregation gathered and then receive a blessing.  It is at the moment when the two become one that for a breath or two we are very close to what heaven is all about. 

Sometimes in the preparation of food I find a ‘thin’ place. All food is a gift of God’s creation and when I am using fresh ingredients, preparing a meal for friends or family or to take food to someone who is ill or a family who has experienced a death, it is then there is a thin place between the creator and the creation. 

The birth of a baby, the moment of death, an experience in nature, when we love another person — God in those ‘thin’ places is very close to us. God is in the small things in life, those moments when our eyes are opened a little wider and we really see or really hear perhaps for the first time.

The true search for spirituality is not drawing away from God, rather it is plunging ourselves deeper into all that God has given us to know and enjoy.

Avis Anderson is a retired pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Glendive. Readers can follow her online blog at www.prairienewdays.com.

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