We can’t often go away with God for a quiet spiritual retreat in a cabin.
But we can still experience the presence of God in our everyday lives. Simply Open walks us through it.
Author Greg Paul gives these four steps to open up to God, to ourselves, and to others:
He doesn’t lay out an elaborate, detailed plan to follow, but rather an intention:
“Here’s the truly wonderful thing: we don’t have to worry about making any of this happen. We need only the desire to become more open and enough intention to express this desire in the simplest of prayers—Open my eyes!—throughout the course of any normal day. The rest we can entrust to God.”
He suggests we use seven practical avenues for this journey: our five senses plus mind and heart. And this is the outline prayer we can offer for each avenue.
A Prayer for Openness
Lord, open me to release (what I have seen, what I have heard, …), that I may receive (so see you, so hear you, …), become (see myself through your eyes, become a listener, …), and do (truly see others, truly hear others, …).
Each chapter gives us examples and suggestions for being more open to God, using this prayer as a guideline for releasing, receiving, becoming, and doing. It’s simple, yet effective.
Some snippets from each section . . .
1. SEEING (Open my eyes)
“Here is a way that I may actively choose to see God: by gazing unflinchingly at—by beholding—those in my world from whom others hide their faces.”
2. HEARING (Open my ears)
The author notes that the Bible is, of course, the most reliable source for hearing the voice of God. But because there are thousands of books already written on that, he focuses here on the contemplative practice of hearing God.
“Truly hearing the voice of God is never an exclusively individual matter. Our Western culture has elevated individualism almost to the status of a religion, often asserting the rights of the individual over the welfare of the community. But God, the Triune God, is the original community; he never acts only for the individual. Listening to God always leads to listening to others.”
3. INHALING (Open my nostrils)
Surely we’ve all had these kinds of encounters that Greg Paul shares about a casual (but holy) encounter he had with his friend Sue.
“We had only a few moments to speak, and neither of us said anything even remotely profound. And yet, I walked away feeling that the Holy Spirit had breathed on me. Sue would laugh and shake her head at that. I would dearly love to be that kind of presence in the lives of others.”
4. TASTING (Open my mouth)
“Perhaps instead we should be worshipping by sharing our food with people who are hungry. Perhaps we should be using our mouths to speak up for those who are oppressed and finding ways of helping them speak for themselves. Perhaps we should be speaking words of blessing and affirmation to people whose lives are messed up—we won’t have to look far to find them! We could open our mouths to welcome in the ones who are always left out, calling them brothers and sisters. This would be a generous openness!”
5. TOUCHING (Open my hands)
“Consider four general aspects of our lives where we need to open our hands and release our grip: our certainties, agendas, accomplishments, and possessions. . . .
When we cling to our certainties, we are closed to the gifts others may hand us—new perspectives, approaches, abilities, modes of doing or being. . . .
We are driven by our addiction to more and have lost our capacity to be joyfully content with enough. As long as those of us who already have more than we need continue to demand still more, those who do not have enough will never have what they need.”
6. UNDERSTANDING (Open my mind)
“Here’s the curious thing: the more I have come to know God experientially—the way Paul spoke of knowing the power of resurrection—the less I’m sure I really understand about God factually. To put it another way, the more I loosen my grip on my restrictive understanding about God, the bigger, fuller, wilder, more loving and gracious he seems to become. There is tremendous freedom in this. The more we open our minds, the more he fills them up. It’s like cleaning the junk out of a disused room so that it can become a space for living.”
7. LOVING (Open my heart)
“More than any other thing we do, loving defines us as being human. The act of loving deepens and strengthens our humanity; it does so because it deepens and strengthens our likeness to God. The capacity to love is the seed of the Divine within us.”
It’s not a straight line, this movement along these seven paths to open to God. As we cycle through releasing, receiving, becoming, and doing, we may meander a bit.
But if we remain open to the Lord’s leading, we can trust that God will “provide a path deeper into the great mystery” of who he is and who we are in him.
“We cannot contain; we can only be open.”
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Here’s a short (relaxing!) video about the book. [Click here if you can’t see it.]
Thanks to Thomas Nelson for my review copy of this book.
- Books I’m reading – February 2015
- On the blog – February 2015