An author's pragmatic approach to involving God in everyday routines incorporates twelve specific yet easy suggestions designed to help readers see the rich spirituality in daily life. Reprint.
There is an undeniable hunger for spiritual nourishment and direction, but many of us don't have time for extensive, time-consuming exercises. In Awake My Soul, Timothy Jones offers an accessible spirituality that real people can incorporate into each busy day.
Beginning with the premise that you don't have to be a saint to be spiritually alive, Jones focuses our attention on twelve ways to find new meaning in everyday experiences. These suggestions are reminders of what we have forgotten along life's road--that God is within reach, and that we must keep our eyes and ears open to find grace and joy in the simplest things of daily life. Jones shows us how turning our thoughts to God can transform daily pressures into spiritual enrichment. Because his approach grows out of routines that are familiar to us all, it doesn't seem so overwhelming to make a long-term commitment to what promises to be the most rewarding contribution we will ever make to our spiritual well-being.
"Jones's gentle, reflective prose draws readers' attention to God's presence in the midst of ordinary, daily life... Readers will savor each chapter, perhaps being drawn to Jones's other writings also. This book's message is significant, timely, and needed."
"Readers who enjoy the work of Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster will welcome Jones's thoughtful and gentle writing style."
Timothy Jones is an author, editor, and speaker specializing in the spiritual life. He was the managing editor for Ballantine's former Christian division, Moorings, and prior to that was an editor for Christianity Today magazine for six years, and a pastor for almost eight years. Among his books are A Place for God, The Art of Prayer, Celebration of Angels, and The Next American Spirituality (coauthored with George Gallup, Jr.). A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity), Jones, his wife, and their three children live near Nashville.
You Don't Have to Be a Saint
You turn us toward yourself through wondrous means. AUGUSTINE
One day, years ago, something simple and quiet nudged me awake.
I was hitting my teens, coping with the normal energies and anxieties of adolescence. Momentous events unfolded around me--assassinations, campus sit-ins, a draft that threatened to send my brother to Vietnam. But like nearly everyone else in my Southern California suburb in 1968, I lived an ordinary life. I thought mostly about everyday matters--friends, parents, life at Columbus Junior High.
But late one October afternoon as I walked home from school, the God of all things made his presence vividly felt. It was simple, really. I had been noticing how clearly I could see the craggy hills in the distance after an autumn wind swept the valley clean of smog. A yellowing sun cast long shadows on the sidewalk. The breezy coolness felt good on my cheeks. And I sensed with sudden elation that God was there. As I say, this was no complicated encounter; the clouds did not form themselves into a sky-written
message from the Great Beyond. I don't think I told anyone. But the childhood God I had lobbed prayers to, the being I had vaguely reverenced on Sundays, somehow became a compelling Presence. I knew deep in my soul, perhaps for the first time, that God was.
I couldn't foresee it then, but that encounter began to effect a change that would take years to fathom. Life went on in normal ways. I grew into an adult, moved East to attend grad school, met my future wife, fell out and reconciled with my parents, fathered children, changed careers more than
once. But I found myself wondering about staying aware. How could I not lose
track of the goodness that touched me that afternoon? Through the years, through the joys and things I cannot understand, I have tried to keep my eyes wide open. I have tried to listen to my soul's stirrings, those impulses I may brush past on a busy day.
For while I believe that there is no place where God is not, I sometimes overlook the Presence. Distractions and drowsy eyes keep me from seeing. It's right there, "under our noses," I once heard someone say. We live in a "God-bathed world," philosopher and writer Dallas Willard suggests.1 But then I forget how spiritually rich even ordinary moments are, how precious the people with whom I rub shoulders. Only every now and then do most of us really see and hear with our souls. But at least some of the time we can stand before everyday wonders and not be preoccupied, not be so emotionally tired we forget to look. We can learn to heed our soul's best intuitions.
These daily awakenings arrive in great variety. "There are many kinds of awakening that God effects in the soul," wrote poet and priest John of the Cross centuries ago, "so many that we would never finish explaining them all."2 They may come with palpable intensity while others may overtake us gently. I remember insights that came with the weight of a conversion, others as a bare touch. Awareness of God can come suddenly or gradually. Something tries to catch our attention, invites us to "look this way." And we want to respond. We want to stay awake.
Some years ago I saw the movie Awakenings (based loosely on the book by that title). The main character, played by Robert De Niro, suffers from a disorder that robs him of virtually all consciousness. He is left catatonic, almost comatose. He walks, he opens his eyes, he sees,
but only in the vaguest way. Then a drug is found that helps De Niro awaken.
Once again he notices people, especially his mother and an attractive young woman who frequents the hospital to visit her father. Now, when he opens his
eyes, his whole self sees. He and his fellow patients rediscover dancing, talking, romancing. The ward rollicks with people given back their lives.
But the drug soon has intolerable side effects. The awakening doesn't last. De Niro descends again into the world of half-living, what looks to the outsider as being alive but asleep. It makes for a poignant ending.
When it comes to waking up spiritually, however, another way is possible. Our quiet experiences and "Aha!" moments lead somewhere. They need
not be like a list of New Year's resolutions that sits in the bottom of a desk drawer, forgotten. In my experience, encountering God is an ongoing, unfolding way of life. What I describe in this book grows out of conversations with dozens of friends and even strangers, seeing up close how they tried, or failed and tried again. I write having ransacked the writings and stories of great souls through the centuries. I found that nothing less than a picture of a yawning soul shaking off sleep--again and again--captures the power of what can happen.
This is the promise of that October afternoon years ago in California when I felt overtaken by the sudden awareness of a Presence. This is the promise of your own life's ordinary and not-so-ordinary moments. In a kitchen, on the subway, sharing coffee with a neighbor, reading the paper on
the backyard deck, it's possible not to miss God. Possible not to sleep through his appearing. Possible to live, because of that, with a God-graced awareness of others.
Let Waking Up Happen Naturally, Gently
I remember one predawn Christmas morning when I was eleven. I had spent months fashioning homemade drums out of kitchen pans, stretching
brown paper over the rims, holding the paper fast with rubber bands. My cymbals were pan lids. My drumsticks, chopsticks. I made primitive rhythm and my "drums" were inadequate. But this Christmas I expected my first real instrument--a snare drum. At dawn I sneaked out to our living room, long before anyone else was awake, and there it was. I touched its taut, sandpapery drum
head, admired its chrome, felt the smooth hickory drumsticks, but only briefly, so as not to be caught snooping. I went back to bed, happy. Later, when the family called me out, shielding the drum with a blanket, then dropping it with a flourish to reveal the longed-for gift, I feigned surprise. But I had been
long awake, watching. Natural curiosity and anticipation would not let me stay sleeping.
Something similar happens to our souls, our spirits--whatever you name that part of us that senses and responds to the Divine. "The simple desire for God is already the beginning of faith," I once read. Even in our souls' longing and wanting we are already beginning to wake up. No equipment is required save a seeking heart. "There is that near you," wrote an old Quaker
seeker, "that will guide you. Wait for it, and be sure to keep to it." No matter if you feel out of practice.
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