Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of Godby Margaret Feinberg
Let’s be honest: it’s far too easy to go through day-to-day life without a sense of the mystery, the marvel, or the awe of God’s presence. Have you ever felt your relationship with God isn’t as vibrant as you want it to be? Have you ever felt like God seemed far away—even in the midst of devotions, prayer, and… See more details below
Let’s be honest: it’s far too easy to go through day-to-day life without a sense of the mystery, the marvel, or the awe of God’s presence. Have you ever felt your relationship with God isn’t as vibrant as you want it to be? Have you ever felt like God seemed far away—even in the midst of devotions, prayer, and church?
You’re not alone.
We Were Created for Wonder
You were created and designed to experience wonder. Woven into the fabric of our humanity is an innate ability and desire for the wonder of God. It’s felt in the moments when you watch the sun melt behind the horizon, when you reach out to cradle a baby and smell the sweet scent of new life, when you can’t help but smile as you witness two wrinkled souls renew their vows to each other. Such moments remind us we were made for something more than deadlines and debt, carpools and coffee breaks. Yet despite such wondrous moments, we can still find ourselves going through the motions of faith.
A long time follower of Jesus or still figuring Him out
Unemployed, overly-employed, or an entrepreneur
A creator, innovator, or conformist
Grumpy, ebullient, grey-haired or bed-head
An average Joe or have-a-gym-membership-but-never-go
A superhero (of any era), supermom, superdad, super grand, super great grand, or don’t feel particularly super at all
No matter who you are or where you’ve been—if you’ve lived a life where you’ve seen it all, done it all, or feel like you’re past it all—God still longs to take your breath away.
Isaiah 29:4 records God’s desire for you: “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder.”
Do you see it?
God is busting at the seams to display His glory, power, and might in your life. And He wants to give you the greatest gift of all—Himself.
Yet why do we pass by the wonder of God unaware?
“Wonderstruck invites you to open your eyes to the delights, joys, and gifts of God all around. You can’t read this book and remain the same.”
— Bob Goff, Author of Love Does
“Margaret recenters wonder at the heart of our relationship with God with seismic results. This book shook my soul awake and made it impossible for me to continue following a God of my own design.”
— Nancy Ortberg, Author of Looking for God
“Feinberg turns exegesis into an art, delivering findings that invite the audience to touch, taste, smell, and see God’s handiwork throughout the Scriptures and in their own lives.”
- Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research
- Worthy Publishing
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Read an Excerpt
Awaken to the Nearness of God
By Margaret Feinberg
WORTHY PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2012 Margaret Feinberg, LLC
All rights reserved.
HIDDEN AMONG THE HIGHLANDS
The Wonder of Divine Expectation
Invigorated by the cool, damp morning air and kindhearted conversation, I followed the stony path up the side of the mountain, calculating the placement of each step. Looking up, I realized I had been transported somewhere otherworldly.
What began as a few pine trees transformed into an enchanted forest. Uneven from uncounted layers of fallen leaves, twigs, and trees, the ground was pacified by a thick tapestry of emerald and malachite mosses and grasses. Toadstools and wild mushrooms crouched in the shadows. Lichens defied gravity as they clung to the undersides of tree branches and then trailed onto the ground, providing woodsy wall-to-wall carpeting that created the thick silence.
Turning to my new acquaintance, Juliet, I suggested that if we weren't careful perhaps a mischievous gnome might pop out of the woods and steal our trail mix when we weren't looking. She laughed before joining in the imaginative fun. By the time we passed the next kilometer marker, we had created an entire world of hobbits, elves, and mysterious creatures that moved so fast they were invisible to the naked eye. In our fanciful world, Tolkien-inspired hobbits battled elves over the ancient border of Bogle Glen, which boasted the sweetest, tallest grass in all the land and a hollow tree that led to a mysterious lower cavern. The evil creature Ewich, named after a sign we passed on the trail, developed an appetite for grilled elf and enlisted the help of the bridge trolls to capture hobbits. The only way the elves and hobbits could survive was by signing a truce and battling Ewich and the trolls together.
Without the steady ascent of the trail, which forced me to focus my limited energies on breathing and finding steady footholds on slippery rock, I would have dreamed about this imaginary world for hours, developing an entire universe of characters and conflicts, battles and beautiful moments.
The otherworldliness of the forest was only one of the many wonders that lined our eighty-kilometer journey of the Highland Way, a historic region of Scotland that boasts thick woods, rolling hills, sparse moorlands, and countless lochs, or lakes, spreading through the countryside.
Nearly a year before, Summit Leaders founder Joel Malm had contacted me about hosting a spiritual leadership expedition. The unique nonprofit provides people with an opportunity to step out of their normal routines and gain a fresh perspective on life. Rather than attend a conference where they become part of the crowd, those who came on the expedition would have a different experience. We would host a smaller group, enjoy face-to-face conversation, and share the pains and joys of a long hike.
On our initial phone call, Joel supplied behind-the-scenes details of his recent adventure on the Inca Trail ascending Machu Picchu. The trip included rafting, paragliding, and camping. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the group gathered around the fire for a time of spiritual reflection.
While intrigued by the opportunity, I couldn't keep the reticence out of my voice as we chatted.
"What would your dream expedition look like?" he asked.
Having grown up in Colorado, I was well versed in sleeping in tents and river bathing, but my dream expedition would be, well, more posh. Each day's hike would be challenging but not to the point of exhaustion. We'd carry daypacks chock-full of water, sandwiches, and a blend of sweet-and-salty snacks. Someone else would take care of our luggage. At night we'd skip sleeping bags and nestle into a cozy bed and breakfast. The majority of meals would come from a menu, and most important, we'd enjoy lots of chocolate and other treats.
"Yeah," he said, drinking in all I had shared. "I'm not sure about the treats or chocolate, but I think the place you want to go is the Highlands of Scotland."
I didn't know much about the Scottish Highlands and had never dreamed of leading a spiritual pilgrimage overseas, but as Joel described the expedition along the historic route, my imagination sparkled at the possibility. Further details poured in over the following weeks. I found myself saying yes to Joel without any tangible idea of what I was saying yes to.
And then we were there, standing in the Edinburgh airport introducing ourselves to one another—seven women along with two men who served as our support team. Our task: hike eighty kilometers (fifty miles) of the Highland Way, which ended in Fort William at the foot of Great Britain's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.
The drive to our first night's lodging, located near the trail-head, hinted at the diverse beauty we'd encounter. Stout forests. Quiet glens. Austere rock summits. Sapphire lakes too numerous to count. The inn where we stayed that night brought comfort to our hungry stomachs and travel-weary bodies. When Joel handed me the key to my room, I had no idea what to expect but was delighted to discover a small room, immaculate, with a single twin-sized bed and private bathroom.
I rested my luggage on the grey floor and tried to factor in the time change as I calculated how long until dinner. Forty-five minutes. Just enough time to prepare for the evening devotion that followed the meal. One last time I prayerfully considered what to share and reflected on the work God had been doing in my life.
Several years earlier I had been in a place in my spiritual journey where God seemed nonexistent. I was still carving out time to connect with God each day. Reading Scripture. Praying. Solitude. Though I emptied my bag of spiritual discipline tricks, nothing seemed to change. I arrived at church empty and left unsatisfied. I read from Psalms. Proverbs. Obadiah. The Gospels. Even Leviticus. Nothing connected. Worship was meh. Conversations felt flat.
Where do I go, God? What do I do? All I heard was crushing silence, the kind that's empty and full, quiet and deafening all at the same time.
Weeks rolled into months. Though discouraged, I refused to stop pursuing God. One morning, the thought struck me: maybe it's time to go back to the beginning.
Plodding through the first fifty chapters of the Bible, I began catching glimpses of the wonders of God I had never seen before—mysteries of creation, promises of redemption, the depths of God's love for humankind. Like the first drops of blue ink spilled into a carafe of water, the beauty infused my mind and heart.
Finishing Genesis, I felt compelled to return to the beginning. I read and reread, weaving in commentaries from the likes of Walter Brueggemann, Bruce Waltke, and Nahum Sarna. The more I explored Genesis, the more I felt I was on a morning hike, looking around to see a moss-carpeted forest, wholly present and fully captivated by the mystery and marvel of it all.
That morning became an eighteen-month-long, personal in-depth look at the book of the Bible whose name is drawn from the first word of Scripture, in Hebrew, beresheet, meaning "in the beginning." Genesis, I discovered, is more than the story of our origins, where we began, the formation of our cosmos and humanity. The first book is also the story of various barriers that we keep running into, in our relationship with God, each other, and creation, as well as God's loving decision to tear down those walls, redeem a mad world, and draw us closer to himself.
* * *
Strewn across the white comforter on the Scottish hotel bed, I breezed through the first few chapters of Genesis and sensed the sacred echo "It is good" with regard to my plan of sharing from these passages over the upcoming week.
Realizing I was a few minutes late for dinner, I rushed down to the restaurant where the group gathered around a series of small tables pushed up against each other. We were the only ones in the hotel's dining hall, and when a perky young waitress appeared, she greeted us with unintelligible words that sounded like an encrypted form of English. One of the team members, Katie, interpreted: the chef was running late.
Throughout the evening I only understood every third word the waitress spoke and resorted to nodding and smiling through the other two. I managed to navigate the menu with help from the team. The less adventurous among us, ahem, skipped the Scottish standards of haggis and blood sausage for more familiar fare like salad, steak, salmon, and a selection of potatoes cooked a hundred different ways.
Our bellies full, we searched for the quietest room we could find. One of the team members urged us into a vacant card room attached to the hotel lobby. Because the room held only a single brown leather couch and two red leather chairs, we pulled in extra seating from the lobby so we could gather around a narrow glass table.
After explaining my personal journey through Genesis, we took turns reading portions of the first chapter of the Bible. Then we discussed the theological facets the words reveal about our God—a God in whom all things are made and held together, a God who creates goodness and celebrates it at every turn, a God of profound order who triumphs over chaos, a God of boundless generosity and unfathomable power. As we examined the passage, I sensed the familiar scripture awaken something deep inside me.
I asked everyone to share personal hopes, dreams, and desires for the trip as a springboard for a time of prayer. I listened intently. In secret I hoped someone would give words to the thoughts somersaulting through my mind, but no one did.
Then my turn came. "My hope ... my prayer," I stammered.
I felt the iron weight of the pause as I grasped for the perfect way to express what I desired from God. I took a deep breath and plunged.
"This sounds strange," I apologized, "but I'm praying for pixie dust."
I might as well have vacuumed all the air out of the room. While a few stared uncomfortably at me, more than a dozen eyes darted back and forth in an almost unanimous expression: what have we gotten ourselves into?
I kept talking. "More than anything, what I long for is our God, the One who bedazzled the heavens and razzle-dazzled the earth, to meet us in such a way during our time in Scotland that we find ourselves awestruck by his goodness and generosity, his provision and presence. I'm praying for pixie dust. I want to leave here with a sense of wonderment as we encounter and experience things only God can do."
One by one the members of the team exhaled, a welcome sign they were extending grace to me. A few even smiled.
Louie, a pastor whose short grey hair and mustache framed twinkling youthful eyes, broke the silence. "Margaret, I think what you're asking for is something me and my boys pray for often. You're asking for the favor of God. We pray for God's favor both in good times and bad—that we'd sense the reality that we're one of God's children, one of God's favorites, and wait expectantly for what God will do."
With those words, Louie became one of my favorite members of the team. In closing our devotional time together, we prayed with boldness for pixie dust.
When I returned to my room that night, I tucked myself into bed. The European down comforter left me feeling warm, snug, and enveloped by a thousand feathers. God had reawakened a sense of divine expectation. Though God had been at work in my life in countless ways—revealing so many wonders—I realized that deep down inside I still backed away from living each day with holy anticipation.
Praying for pixie dust was an invitation for God to lavish our team with his loving-kindness, and for each of us to walk more upright, eyes attentive to what God might do next. You can't pray for pixie dust and maintain a dour demeanor or dreary disposition. The Mary Poppins of all prayers, asking for pixie dust is hard to do without a frolicsome smile on your face, a playful cheer in your spirit, a holy anticipation of how God may answer.
Now, praying for pixie dust is not magic whereby if you say the right words—"abracadabra," "suoicodilaipxecitsiligarfilacrepus," or "a la peanut butter sandwiches"—something marvelous happens. That's wishful thinking. A prayer marked by faith is never about what happens on our terms or time lines, but God's. Faith-stained prayer brings us to a place of trust and hope. Praying for pixie dust is a childlike expression of trust and hope—trusting in both God's wisdom and winsomeness, finding hope in God's mercy and mirth.
* * *
I often think of Jesus surrounded by eager dads and moms, men and women the disciples dismiss as pushy parents. The Gospel of Mark, an account of the life of Jesus known for its brevity, pauses to highlight the important details of the scene.
Surrounded by an informal congregation, Jesus teaches on the mystery of marriage, reminding listeners of their holy commitment, not just before humans but before God. The crowd responds en masse, but it's easy to miss. Moms and dads elbow their way to the front of the crowd, hoping Jesus will rest his hands on their children and pray for them. The parents respond to Jesus by placing the fruit of their marriages, their most valuable possessions, and their entire futures, in the hands of the Son of God.
The disciples don't recognize the preciousness of the parents' response and issue a sharp-tongued reprimand. Jesus is peeved. The Son of God calls the people to repentance, and they respond but not in the way the disciples anticipate. Jesus defends the children, and their parents too, when he tells the disciples to leave the children alone and let them come to him.
The Gospel of Mark records Jesus picking up kids. I imagine Jesus whispering the love of God in their ears. As he prays, some of the children probably tug on his beard; others poke at his cheeks. A few remain skeptical of the stranger and keep their eyes on Mommy at all times. Jesus gives the kids huge bear hugs and twirls the most rambunctious in the air before returning them to their parents. At least, that's how I imagine this scene when I read, "And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them."
Against a backdrop of hugs and laughter, Jesus makes a startling declaration: The kingdom of God belongs to those who maintain childlike receptivity. Those who refuse to receive the kingdom of God like a child will miss it entirely.
I don't think the disciples intentionally discriminated against the little ones; they may have meant well in trying to protect Jesus from being overrun. After all, if Jesus swung one child in his arms, all the kids would want a turn.
Standing in stark contrast to the eagerness and exuberance of the children is the disciples' curt response. Modern management buzzwords can be used to describe their reasoning. They're leveraging Jesus' time, streamlining the day's activities, creating a win-win for the rabbi and the multitude, maintaining the ministry's best practices. But Jesus knows something far more valuable is at stake than spiritual productivity or return on investment.
With their heads down, eyes straining for the next step, the disciples lost sight of the wonderment that Jesus came for all of humanity: the bourgeoisie and the peasant, the grumpy and the ebullient, the grey-haired and the bedheads. Despite the miles and meals they shared, those closest to Jesus had lost their childlike receptivity, their ability to recognize that both God's response to us and our response to God is seldom what we anticipate.
The story stands as a potent reminder of the importance of humility and trust, as well as a personal wake-up call that all too often I'm far more like the disciples than the children. I fail to enter into God's kingdom. Distracted by efficiency and effectiveness, I lose out on what the children enjoyed that day—simply being with Jesus, delighting in his presence, and humbly asking him to pray for me.
Maybe the best place to rediscover the kingdom of God is bouncing on Jesus' knee.
For me, praying for pixie dust was an expression of childlike receptivity. More than anything, I wanted Jesus to catch me up in his arms and twirl me in the air.
Excerpted from Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg. Copyright © 2012 Margaret Feinberg, LLC. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
A popular speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Catalyst and Thrive, Margaret Feinberg was recently named one of the “30 Voices” who will help lead the church in the next decade, according to Christian Retailing. Her books have received national media coverage from CNN, the Associated Press, and USA Today. Margaret currently lives in Morrison, Colorado, with her husband and her superpup, Hershey
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