I’m reading a book entitled God Is No Laughing Matter by Julie Cameron. The title is misleading, because very early in the book Cameron says that she thinks God has a “pretty good sense of humor.” She cites two proofs: octopuses and those baboons with rainbow colored fannies.
But if God is very serious to you, Cameron suggests you explore why. She gives several exercises to explore your concept of God. I did a few of these while I was on retreat last month and found them very worthwhile. Even fun.
First, Cameron suggests we answer this question: What was your childhood religion like—(if you had any)? You can break that down by describing the “spiritual atmosphere” in your house… Or answering: What did you learn about God from your mother? What did you learn about God from your father? Then she suggests you describe your childhood God using ten adjectives. And finally, write a letter to your childhood God.
Let me share a few memories of my childhood religion. Mass every Sunday… the painting of the Last Supper in our dining room… crucifix in every bedroom… After a visit to our grandparents, as we pulled into our driveway, Mom would say, “And we thank the good Lord for a wonderful day and a safe journey”… A “Kitchen Prayer” was tacked between the two windows above the kitchen sink… Ashes on Ash Wednesday. We came late to our public school on that day, but we were excused. All day the other kids asked us about our ashes. They seemed envious. I was proud… Catechism classes… Hearing about the three children at Fatima and wondering if Mary was going to show up as we four kids had to pick strawberries… Being in the forty Hours Procession… Mom was in charge of Bingo at our Church bazaar, so we worked there and had a lot of fun… I remember a few times going out into the field by myself, sitting in the tall grass, and just thinking about God…
I hope the previous paragraph jump starts your own reflection on your childhood religion.
Next, Cameron suggests to reflect on your current concept of God. How is it different and/or like your childhood concept of God? Describe your ideal God using at least ten adjectives—maybe more. And finally, set aside a half hour. Take yourself out of the house if possible—even if it means sitting on your back porch. Do something “small and festive.” Sing along to a favorite song… Dance… Go for a walk… Drive to a favorite place… Get a cup of coffee and a donut in a drive-thru… Be alert to everything around you while doing this. Then ask: Did I encounter God in any form?
When I lead retreats, I sometimes pass out a sheet with peoples’ concepts of God. I’ll close this post with a few of those:
+ “We stand in a world completely penetrated by the Living God, the abiding Source and Sum of Reality.” (Evelyn Underhill)
+ “God is greening power.” (Hildegard of Bingen)
+ “God is bread…water… a harbor. God is a father, mother, my sister, my brother, my leader, my guide, my comforter, my friend… God’s my all in all, my everything.” (Thea Bowman)
+ “God is mercy within mercy within mercy.” (Thomas Merton)
+ “God is sheer, exuberant, relational aliveness.” (Elizabeth Johnson)
PS: I wish a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you on the 17th! And I wish all of you a very Happy Feast of St. Joseph on the 19th! And thank you for your prayers for this week’s retreat for the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, OH!
Our video is called “Gratitude” by Louie Schwartzberg with Brother David Steindl-Rast, the author and narrator of the words. I chose this video because I have always believed that when we are grateful, we are very close to God.
I am grateful for having you as one of my readers!