Exploring faith through the senses

As Christians, we tend to spend much of our time in our heads or “in the Word.” But that means we’re not experiencing all of God’s goodness, according to the authors of Awaken Your Senses.

In the book, they invite readers to engage faith through tasting, seeing, touching, hearing and smelling, through “spiritual practices that engage your whole person: both sides of your brain, all five senses and your body.”

Bible studies, sermons and books are all ways to engage the left side of the brain—the logical, concrete center of our thinking, the authors say, but “experiencing” is handled by the right brain, and that is accessed through the senses.  “We need to awaken both sides of our brain in order to experience God,” the authors write.

So how does one engage in “smelly spirituality,” for example? The early church understood scent as an avenue for experiencing God, and today, scent remains part of Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican worship traditions. As a spiritual exercise, the authors encourage readers to recall scents associated with happy memories of a particular person or place: a mother’s cologne, a father’s pipe tobacco, the honeysuckle behind a vacation cabin, the flowers in a wedding bouquet.  Given the unpleasant smells of hospitals and bedsides, Ms. Booram proposes introducing a different fragrance in those settings: “the perfume of anointing oil and healing prayer.”

With Scripture references, historic background and concrete suggestions, the authors invite readers to get out of their heads and into a faith that engages both bodies and souls: “Step out with eyes wide open, ears attuned, smelling the air around you, mouth watering for a fresh taste and skin sensitized to feel the wonder of God in each no-longer ordinary day.”

Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God

J. Brent Bill and Beth A. Booram; InterVarsity Press, 2011; Paperback, 208 pages 




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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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