Eight Simple Ways to see “God in the Ordinary”

December 11, 2004

In my reflection, “God in the ordinary”, I wrote about how God is constantly trying to touch our hearts through the ordinary people and events of our lives, if we allow ourselves to hear Him. Since this is easier said than done, I put together some ideas about how we can help open ourselves up to God in the midst of our busy lives…

We’ve heard of the TV show, “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenaged Daughter”, well here are Eight Simple Ways to see “God in the Ordinary”:

1) See life through your vocation : When we recognize our state in life as a special call from God, we can begin to appreciate the supernatural meaning and value of our ordinary activities. Married couples, for example, are called to become saints by being faithful spouses and parents. This means that cutting the grass, changing diapers, paying the bills, working at the office, and all other such duties are part of their special call to holiness. For those of us in school, as another example, working hard and paying attention in class are ways of being good disciples of Christ. It helps to try to dedicate these ordinary activities to God as we begin them throughout the day.

2) Thank God! : God is constantly showering us with blessings throughout the day, and it is good to get into the habit of offering Him a small spontaneous “Thank you, Lord!” whenever we recognize such blessings in our lives or in the lives of those around us. For example, rather than grumbling when our alarm clocks go off, we can thank the Lord for the gift of a safe night’s sleep and a new day (soon followed with a big thank-you for coffee!) Meals are an especially important opportunity to offer thanks, not only at home but at restaurants and at work as well!

3) Offer up sufferings : Every day we also experience all sorts of inconveniences, frustrations, worries, sadness, and pains. Rather than simply gritting our teeth and becoming impatient or angry, we can offer these unavoidable sufferings up to the Lord with love. They have meaning because by his death and resurrection Christ redeemed even suffering itself, making it a means for us to grow in grace! We can offer these sufferings up as a prayer for our loved ones, acquaintances, and even those we don’t know!

4) Pray for strangers : This may seem odd at first, but once you get into the habit of praying for people as you encounter them throughout the day, your life will never be the same. For example, say hi to the Wal-Mart cashier who looks stressed, and offer up a silent little prayer for her and her family as she scans your items. Or on the highway, pray for the jerk that flagrantly cuts you off (he must really need the grace if he’s in that big of a hurry!) Hair stylists, Hollywood celebrities, janitors, annoying telemarketers, cover models, those in the news for good reasons or bad –through small spontaneous prayers we can grow in our appreciation that everyone we encounter are immortal souls, destined for either eternal life or eternal tragedy.

5) Don’t run from silence : If we are attentive, we find that God offers us many opportunities to have a little conversation with Him in quiet: in the shower, getting ready for the day, in the car on the way to work, going up an elevator, walking down a hall… even bathroom breaks! Do we appreciate these moments of quiet to say a few words to Jesus, or do we do our best to run away from silence (flipping on music, a cellphone, etc.)? For example, would it really be so bad to spend some of our daily driving time in silence, rather than immediately turning on the radio?

6) Sacred Images : In the craziness of daily life, it is easy to forget that this world is not the only world. This is one reason why we Catholics are so fond of images of Jesus and our heroes in the faith. Crosses, pictures, statues, and medals all serve as tangible reminders of God in the midst of our busy world. Just as we keep pictures of our family and friends to remind us of them, it is very helpful to have sacred images in those places where we spend our time, helping us to lift our hearts to God.

7) Review the day : In virtually every football movie we see the inevitable scene where the coach stays up late into the night watching and re-watching film of his team’s last game. This is the only way that he can discover and learn from the subtleties that he missed the first time around. We all need a similar examination in our spiritual lives –a daily examination of conscience. It need not be too complicated… simply take a few minutes and think about the day’s events, thank God for the many blessings he has given, and see how we can better respond to His call. Without such daily examination, it is all too easy to miss the quiet and subtle ways that the Lord has been speaking to us through our ordinary lives.

8) Private prayer: This is the most important point. How can we expect to hear God “knocking” in the midst of our hectic schedules if we fail to spend quality time with Him in silent prayer? When a husband and wife set aside meaningful time alone together, they find it much easier to express their love for each other throughout the rest of the day. In the same way, the more we spend time with Jesus, the easier it will become to unite our “ordinary” lives to his.

(My friend Victor made the good point that it might be easier to choose one or two ideas to focus on in particular over the next couple of weeks, rather than trying to start many at once…)

“The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People” 
“How to Pray” — Fr. John McCloskey
“20 Ways The Lord of the Rings is Catholic” — Stan Williams

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