Forming faith rituals
For me, autumn is particularly spectacular this year. The horse chestnuts seemed to go brown overnight a few weeks ago, but nothing else had happened. Then suddenly, I woke up to find trees which were green yesterday are now a brilliant, bold yellow.
Others look like they have been dipped in God’s massive paint pot, their tops a different colour from the leaves underneath. All the different types of maple are doing their bold, scarlet thing and, on sunny days, I am just without words for how beautiful the world is.
It is like God created autumn as a way of calling me back into a child-like awe and wonder, back to a time when a walk was peppered with pauses where I marvelled at something simple but beautiful in nature.
As part of workshops I run on doing faith at home, I often ask the adults present how and where they best connect with God. The answers are always really varied, with many people enjoying sitting alone in prayers and many others enjoying being out in nature (often with a dog).
Others love to dance or sing or meet with others or serve those in need. I make time to hear everyone’s response so we can hear all the different ways people connect with God. For me, nature and being outside is a way I’m currently finding really helpful. We don’t have a dog, so I just have to walk myself!
Draw your eyes to God
What I’m discovering this autumn is that the beauty of the trees draws me into wonder and worship in the same way that a cathedral does. Especially on a sunny day, the delight in my heart when I see those reds and yellows and greens against the blue sky is a spiritual experience and causes my heart to lurch into God’s presence.
It reminds me of this passage in Exodus:
“Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” Exodus 3:1-2.
I wonder how familiar he was with that bush. Was it one he’d seen before, or a kind that he’s seen many of before? But this time, his attention was drawn to it, and through it to God.
How often do I wander around with my eyes metaphorically closed? I believe in a God who is everywhere, but how often am I oblivious to God’s presence and activity?
I find that autumn trees help me to open my eyes, to become a bit more like a child and notice what’s around me, both physically and spiritually.
Don’t just look
The story in Exodus continues…
“So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.’” Exodus 3:3.
Moses didn’t just look. He stopped what he was doing to investigate.
As an adult, I am often on a schedule. I am too busy doing things to pause and attend to what really matters. Actually, I’m not too busy, but I think I am. It’s just a matter of priorities.
Like noticing things, children are also good at stopping to look properly. When they see something interesting (a bug on the road), they stop and investigate (making our walk a slow one!).
God is often found in the things that aren’t on my to-do list, such as the parent at the gate who wants to chat. This autumn I want to get better at stopping, at turning away from my agenda to engage with what might be God’s.
Listen for God’s voice
“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’
“And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’
“‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals for the place you are standing is holy ground.’” Exodus 3:4-5.
When God saw that Moses had turned away to look, God called to him. Wow. This is what I want in my life – to hear God speak to me, to be connected with him during my whole day.
This autumn I want to let the ‘firey trees’ be my reminder to look, stop and acknowledge God’s presence with me: to look for his agenda, to listen for his voice.
Why not have a go at some autumn-focused ways to help you and your family notice and draw closer to God? Here’s my visual Bible meditation on these verses.