The Art of God-Watching

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — Many years ago, I gave a talk called “the Art of God-Watching.” It’s the craft of seeing God’s fingerprints on everyday life. It takes some training, but once we have some competence, we can start to see burning bushes even along concrete, gum-stuck city sidewalks. Yes, each moment then can be a heart’s cry, lifting up over the car horns and carbon monoxide and soaring up to the heavens. Each day could be filled with Mozart-like inspiration.

Yesterday, a friend of mine said that she wanted to be inspired by her boyfriend. I want to be inspired too — not by her boyfriend though. (Just wanted to be clear.) I want to be inspired by life — “in-breathed” as the Latin etymology suggests. But she wasn’t. And I’m not either. Yet we’re both in need of a deep, living breath.

Inspiration, unfortunately, is too often like dry sand through fingers. Sure, more effort means I can keep it in my hands longer, but at some point, the sand spills out between my fingers and I need to grab a new, fresh mound. So I’m tempted to write inspiration off completely, understanding the need for perspiration. But that 1% of inspiration still fuels the other 99%. So bring the bucket and a pail of water — let’s build sand castles. Perhaps it’ll stick.

Today, I need to recapture the Art of God-Watching, allowing divine moments a chance to walk up to me, reach underneath my rib cage and seize me up hard by the spleen. Perhaps it’s the rustle of an elm in the summer breeze, or the slight chill of an air conditioner on a scorching day, or the whisper of a love who still thinks about me from across the oceans — but in it all we can thank God for the little delights that circle around us. We just need to take the time to see it, to marvel and be thankful.

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  1. A month ago, I was vacationing in San Francisco and had a God-Watching moment. Walking towards the lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore an hour north of San Fran, I happened to look to my right and was left utterly speechless by the vastness of the shoreline extending to the horizon. Ten miles of shoreline beaches and oceancliffs as far as the eye could see. It was absolutely breathtaking and inspiring. My heart ached and marveled at the same time because of God’s handiwork. ”

    O Lord my God…when I in awesome wonder…”

    And yet…I find that my heart oscillates between inspired and restless, ever yearning for “artistic sublimation.” (I first heard you use that phrase to describe my enneagram characteristic back when we both lived in Cambridge…I’ve finally gotten around to ordering that book, since you recommend it on your blogsite.)

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