Monday, November 23, 2020

Collecting Tools for Your Spiritual Toolbox -- Pleasure


"This curious world we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than to be used."  -- Henry David Thoreau

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou has created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created. -- Revelation 4:11

In his book, What Are People For?, Wendle Berry talks about two kinds of pleasure.  There is the kind of pleasure that comes with a cost, often a hidden cost.  The pleasure of using fossil fuels, for instance, come with costs to human health, climate change, and pollution. Or, the pleasure of a nice new shirt or dress can come at the cost of child slave labor in a developing country.

But there are pleasures that God has provided to us that have no cost.  In fact, not only is there no cost to them but they are God's pleasure, and God's pleasures will inherently be restorative and healing to our being. Pleasures such as we take in when in the presence of natural grandeur, or the nearness of a loved one, or even as I saw in the show The Wonderful World of Jeff Goldblum - the joy and memory of our first ice cream (though there might be a cost of a wider middle if we eat too much!)  

I think the interesting part of this "no-cost" kind of pleasure is that it is always entwined in the interaction or two-way reception of a pleasure God created for Godself but also for us to revel in and receive pleasure in as well. I never tire of being captured by the beauty of fall colors, or of Mt. Rainier, the cuteness of a new baby family member, or the deep meditative moments where I once again find the touchstone to my own sacred worth with which God branded me when I was claimed as one of God's own children.

Using the Tool of Pleasure

Wendel Berry equates the no-cost pleasure to "affection."  When we experience affection we're near to God. To use the tool of pleasure for our spiritual sustenance is oftentimes a matter of simply shifting our attitudinal awareness to bring a nearby God pleasure into our own sensual focus.  Here are a few suggestions.

1, Travel to a nearby lake or scenic spot and bear witness to the majesty God brought to bear making that spot in the universe at which you are now partaking. 

2. Go out on a clear night, look up, and acquaint yourself with the basic layout of the night sky.  Is the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn out? (All are visible with a naked eye even in the light polluted city at different times of the year.)  How far out in space does God's pleasure stretch and can you stretch your imagination beyond your sight to meet God who is wanting to share that glory with you?  Pull up some pictures on the internet from the Hubble Telescope ( to help your imagination out. 

3. Pull out some pictures of your family and reconnect with the memories of the loving times you've had.  Or call up a sibling and say, "I was looking through pictures and do you remember...."  Relive the moments together and know that wherever love is God is there basking in it too.

4. Buy something or make something you really like to eat/drink, but shift your awareness from the simple joy of how it tastes to being mindful of all the hands and labor that went into getting those ingredients or that product to you.  We are profoundly and deeply interconnected with so many other people.  Just in a cup of coffee we are sharing in the lives of growers and harvesters and shippers and roasters and marketers and retailers and servers.  Feel the supreme value and intentionality that God intended for us to be bound together in all these ways. The joy God feels when a plan like that comes together. 

.Mindfulness is an art that grows with practice.  Paying attention to the true wonder and amazing details that we often skip right past because we're too busy, too rushed, too zoned in on dealing with the next potential issue to notice God's pleasure is often as near as one of your senses. You just have to take notice.


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