When I Consider the Heavens {Book Club}

When I Consider the Heavens

We are joining Chase Falson again this week in his pilgrimage as we read Chapters 4-6 of Chasing Francis. Here we travel along with Chase and his uncle to the town of Asissi and meet three friars who become an important part of Chase’s journey. Each of these men impart wisdom and experience to Chase, and we also get to learn more about the life of Saint Francis.

In Chapter 5, these men all go on a picnic before Chase has an opportunity to spend the night in a cave the way that Francis did. The discussion centers around the way that Francis connected with God through nature, the way he cared for animals and plants- not worshipping the creation itself but rather the Creator through His creation.

Many people have a story of meeting God in special ways through nature, and it is often where they go to spend time with Him. I’m generally not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the outdoors and long walks make excellent prayer times. But I often wondered why I didn’t seem to have the same experiences that others did connecting with God through nature.

A couple of years ago I went through a leadership training course and we took a survey from the book What’s Your God Language? Connecting with God Through Your Unique Spiritual Temperament by Dr. Myra Perrine. In the book, Perrine discusses nine ways we relate to God uniquely as we connect with Him, love Him and know Him.

Just to give you quick run-down, the nine temperaments she lists are: the Activist (loving God through confrontation with evil), the Ascetic (loving God through solitude and simplicity), the Caregiver (loving God through serving others), the Contemplative (loving God through adoration), the Enthusiast (loving God through mystery and celebration), the Intellectual (loving God through the mind), the Naturalist (loving God through experiencing Him outdoors), the Sensate (loving God through the senses), and the Traditionalist (loving God through ritual and symbol).

When we took the test for the training, we received back a list of the temperaments in order of how they most applied, so it wasn’t that we had to just choose one. We relate to God through a variety different ways, but perhaps one is stronger for each of us because of the unique way that God has created us.

My top temperament is Sensate- relating to God through the senses. When I first saw this result I was a bit confused. I don’t come from a background where senses are used in services. We don’t light candles or use incense, touch beads or take Communion every Sunday.

But then I got to thinking about some of those spiritually impactful moments, those times when God moved so strongly in my heart. I thought of a small cathedral next to the Pantheon in Rome, the beauty of singing “How Great Thou Art” in three different languages in a tiny tin-roof church in Ecuador, or the way I was moved by the unique granduer of the architecture in Prague. I thought of watching a teammate share her love of dance while we worshipped as an organization, how when I get the unique opportunity to hear bells before church, this stirs my heart to worship.

I don’t know if Francis would have had the spiritual temperament of Naturalist, or what Chase’s might be. After Chase’s experience in church, Peter told him that “God snuck up on you through architecture” and He often does the same for me.

Were there other ways you saw the characters in our story so far connecting with God? What do you think about the idea of a “God language”, a unique way you know and love God? What else has stuck out to you in this section?

Just because, here are a couple of my favorite quotes from this section. I love the friars and their words of wisdom.

Thomas: “Tell your story with all of its shadows and fog, so people can understand their own. They want a leader who’s authentic, someone trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life. They need you, not Moses”.

Thomas again: “Sometime prayers are wet”.

Do you have a favorite friar quote so far?

Join us for the rest of Chasing Francis! Here’s the schedule:

January 21: Chapters 7-9

January 28: Chapters 10-12, Epilogue                          

What’s Coming Up:

In February we’ll be reading Rachel Pieh Jones’ book Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa! Grab your copy today.

Photo by Daniel Genser on Unsplash

5 Comments

  1. Rachel Kahindi January 14, 2020

    Brother Thomas is great. I jotted down 2 quotes of his:
    “All ministry begins at the ragged edges of our own pain.”
    and, on Franciscanism: “It’s to live dangerously open, revealing all that we genuinely are, and receiving all the pain and sorrow the world will give back in return. It’s to be real because we know the Real. Maybe living the unprotected life is what it means to be a Christian?”

    I love the natural world. My other reading lately has focused a lot on it, too. For homeschooling, I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s volumes on home school, and she put a big emphasis on nature, which means that my kids and I are also reading about and exploring nature constantly. I also just read (after Amy Young put it on her top 10 books of last year) Birding Without Borders, which was fascinating. The author spent a year traveling all the way around the world with a goal to see half of the species of birds in the world in that one year. He said something to the effect that birdwatching takes place in the real world. I already returned the book to the library, but I wish I had written down that quote… Whatever it was, it meshed in my mind that the “being real” part of Franciscanism that Brother Thomas talked about goes along with Francis’s focus on nature.

    My sons are both currently memorizing poems that go with the theme of nature in this section:

    All Things Bright and Beautiful
    Ebenezer Cobham Brewer

    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful:
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each little flower that opens,
    Each little bird that sings,
    He made their glowing colors,
    He made their tiny wings.
    The purple-headed mountains,
    The river running by,
    The sunset and the morning
    That brightens up the sky.

    The cold wind in the winter,
    The pleasant summer sun,
    The ripe fruits in the garden,
    He made them every one.
    The tall trees in the greenwood,
    The meadows where we play,
    The rushes by the water,
    To gather every day.

    He gave us eyes to see them,
    And lips that we might tell
    How great is God Almighty,
    Who has made all things well.

    Nature’s Creed
    Unknown

    I believe in the brook as it wanders
    From hillside into glade;
    I believe in the breeze as it whispers
    When evening’s shadows fade.
    I believe in the roar of the river
    As it dashes from high cascade;
    I believe in the cry of the tempest
    ‘Mid the thunder’s cannonade.
    I believe in the light of shining stars,
    I believe in the sun and the moon;
    I believe in the fl ash of lightning,
    I believe in the night-bird’s croon.
    I believe in the faith of the flowers,
    I believe in the rock and sod,
    For in all of these appeareth clear
    The handiwork of God.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 16, 2020

      So much good stuff here, Rachel! I love those poems, and love that you and your kids are exploring so much about nature right now! Whenever I read about the way something works, like our brains, or the ocean currents, or electricity, I ponder how really small I am and how big God is. I think that is part of what nature does for me. I was just reading at the end of Job where God sort of puts Job in his place. Do you know where the storehouses for the rain are? Can you catch a Leviathan? Do you know the extent of the earth? (paraphrasing a few of God’s questions) Praising God through nature reminds me of His power and how much I need Him, and how little I know. 🙂

  2. Grace L January 17, 2020

    I have loved this book so much and I couldn’t stop reading it. I finished it last week and then have gone back and been rereading chapters 4-6. When the friars finally hijack Chase and get him into a church on Sunday morning, I was amused and fascinated at the same time. I really liked the conversation that Chase had with Peter about the liturgy and the Eucharist. I grew up with a mildly liturgical church experience, if you can call it that, a Congregational church back in the 50’s and 60’s. After being far from God for many years, my first foray back into a church was a Quaker Meeting. After becoming a Christian, I went to a Baptist church, a very small church in rural Maine. Coinciding my time with the Baptist church, I was involved with a charismatic community mostly made up of born-again Catholics. Somewhere in there I moved and was looking for a new church and a friend brought me to an Episcopal church, also somewhat charismatic. In terms of denominations, I think I am like a beloved street mutt.

    I loved this grace-filled Episcopal church but struggled with the liturgy and having to follow along in the book to know what to say, as well as not being sure when to sit and when to stand or when to kneel. I could identify with many of Chase’s concerns. I loved that church and was very much at home there because it was pretty “low” church. But when I started to go out to speak at other Episcopal churches in preparation for our overseas work, I was pretty intimidated by some of the “high” church scenarios I found myself in. I was afraid that they would see me as a fake, just like Chase was concerned about.

    As Peter shared with Chase about the impact of the church being able to invite you into “another reality – the kingdom of God. Think of what happened to your senses when you came in those doors. Stained-glass windows, frescoes and paintings, dimmed lights, flickering candles, the smell of incense, vaults and arches pulling your spirit upward, angels soaring on the ceilings. God snuck up on you through the architecture…” I have only occasionally experienced something like this upon entering a church. The main time that comes to mind was walking into a Greek Orthodox church in Athens in the middle of the week. I was just a tentative seeker at the time which is what drew me into that church, but once I got into the middle and stood under the rounded dome, I started to weep. I can see now that the architecture snuck up on me and God was reaching down for me. It did lead me to start going to church after I returned from Greece that time!

    Fast forward many years during which I have visited many different churches as part of our work here in China: Baptist, non-denominational, Episcopal, Anglican. I have come to appreciate the specialness of each part of the body of Christ as they come together to worship God. My husband and I live in a remote part of China where the only church we have is what happens in our living room. We sometimes use the Book of Common Prayer but more often we have a semi-liturgical service in our living room. In reading Peter’s description of the liturgy, I was able to see more value in what the liturgical churches participate in.

    “The word liturgy literally means ‘work of the people.’ It’s an ancient text that helps us reenact the redemption drama. What we’re reciting is a compressed version of the redemption story. At the end of it, we can’t help but be moved to cry out with all the angels and archangels, ‘Thanks be to God!’ and give our lives to the God who gave His life for us.”

    I know this is quite long, but I want to share the impact this book is having on me and helping me to better understand the way the various church experiences have impacted me over the years. The book only gets better as we learn more and more about the depth of the Franciscan movement in Italy and around the world. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time! Thanks be to God!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 17, 2020

      Grace, your comment makes me so happy! I love that you shared your story with us and the really special ways this book is drawing out parts of that story. I agree, I think the variety of ways that we meet with God forms a beautiful tapestry that glorifies God. Not having grown up in a more liturgical church, I’ve found great comfort when I’ve attended churches with a traditional liturgy. I think celebrating the diversity (instead of a reaction of fear or defensiveness) is important. I’m so glad you are enjoying this book and I am learning so much from your insights!!

    2. Michele January 19, 2020

      Thanks for sharing your story! I’ve also been part of various denominations over the years and see so much value in all of them, and I’ve learned from writers from all over the board and appreciate them all so much. I love your story about God snaking up on you in the architecture and I just love that concept. There’s so much to chew on in this book!

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