One of our beloved writers here on the V3 blog, Christine Sine explores creative practices for delighting in God in her new book The Gift of Wonder.
Christine took some time with us to share more about her book and how it can be a resource for church planters and practioners.
What is the central message of the book?
Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the kingdom – these words of Jesus’ riveted my attention a couple of years ago. I asked my Facebook friends what childlike characteristics they thought we needed and was amazed at the response – playfulness, awe and wonder, imagination, love of nature and many more. Yet we live in a world of play deprivation, awe and wonder depletion, nature deficit disorder, compassion fatigue and I believe God deprivation as a result.
In The Gift of Wonder I explore 12 childlike characteristics that I think we need to recover our spiritual health.
Why do you sense our cultural moment needs the message of this book?
We live in a culture of high stress and anxiety. Our relationship to God and our approaches to discipleship often seem to add to this stress. We often believe God as an authoritarian figure with lots of rules and regulations that add to our load and always leave us feeling we can never measure up. Our discipleship approaches often provide head knowledge but little heart commitment. Many are leaving the church and Christian faith I suspect partly because they do not feel they measure up to this very demanding God.
Unfortunately we know little of the God who loves to laugh, play and enjoy life, yet this is the God that we desperately need to become acquainted with. This is the God who invites us to relax and be drawn into intimacy as we play together, dig in the dirt and use our imaginations to create new forms of spiritual expression. This is the God who offers us freedom and enjoyment in life without stress or unmanageable burdens.
What books or authors have most influenced you and your writing?
The Swiss theologian Hans Urs Von Balthazar and especially his book Unless You Become Like This Child, was very influential in shaping this book. I have also drawn frequently from Christine Valters Paintner who opened my eyes to new forms of spiritual practice like Lectio Divina and photography. As well as that the Godly Play website and the resources that this curriculum – supposedly for kids – offers, have been a huge gift to me.
In what ways do live into this message in your local context?
When I was researching the impact that a daily dose of awe and wonder has on our lives, my husband Tom and I started calling our daily walks awe and wonder walks. As we walked around our local lake or through the neighborhood, we would point out to each other the sites – everything from light shimmering on the lake, to murals on the walls, that gave us a sense of awe. It was life transforming. My own spiritual disciplines have been enriched by practices such as painting on rocks, creating contemplative gardens and the writing of poetry. These all provide me with a more playful approach to my faith that has helped me to relax and enjoy God in fresh ways.
How does the message of your book impact discipleship?
The Gift of Wonder is designed to be used in discipleship and spiritual formation courses. Each chapter contains a variety of examples of how groups have already adopted the principles in their lives and churches. The chapters end with spiritual exercises that can form the basis for spiritual retreats and curricula. A number of groups are already using the material in this way as well as a resource for small groups and for spiritual retreats.
How might church planters integrate some of what you have written in this book?
The Gift of Wonder has a lot of potential for use by church planters in discipleship classes within the church to enable congregations to develop a deep and enriching faith.
It is also full of examples drawn from church planters who have engaged their neighborhoods through playful and imaginative ways. The book gives lots of suggestions on how to engage the neighborhood as members both explore and interact with people they meet and want to invite into their churches.
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