There’s an old story about an American serviceman who witnessed a Shinto worshipper distributing rice over his ancestor’s grave during the U.S. occupation of post-World War II Japan.
The soldier asked the Shinto, “When do you think your ancestor will come up and eat that rice?”
The Shinto politely replied, “About the same time that your ancestors come up and smell your flowers.”
The Shinto found what I’d call a “God Spot” near his ancestor’s grave. While the Shinto’s reply may have seemed impertinent, he was simply reminding the soldier that all cultures have their God Spots in which the presence of the holy is revealed.
What is a God Spot?
Some have suggested that it’s an elusive spot in your brain that makes you believe in God.
My friend Tamara Chin describes it differently. She describes it as a physical place where you feel God’s presence. Sometimes it’s a field, a mountain, a space in your home, or place of worship. Mostly, it’s a place where you find a moment of peace and presence outside yourself.
As I visited the home of reader David Jackson in Cape Coral this past week, he introduced me to a God Spot on his back porch where he sat alone reading his book of prayer. Incense burned from an ashtray while he occasionally noted the wildlife parading across a beautifully manicured golf course.
He was doing his daily prayers, but this day brought him to a special God Spot. He was praying a sequence of prayers in remembrance of a religious brother who died.
The incense was made at the monastery where his religious brother had served. By burning this particular incense, David was able to bring himself to a God Spot that would honor God as well honor his friend’s memory.
My most regular God Spot source is portable. It’s my MP3 player that plays my hymns.
A minister who listens to hymns might sound cliche, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact I’m an ordained minister. I think it has to do with the ability of the hymns to bring me to my God Spot, a place where I first encountered God.
I was a small child in a hymn-singing storefront church where my father preached. My father taught me through his preaching, but it was my mother who infused me with favoritism for faith through her music.
As a child of 5 or 6, I often placed my head on my mother’s lap as she sang. From her lap, I could feel the words and notes pass through her diaphragm and erupt with an operatic tone. As she sang songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well With My Soul,” a peace would pass through my body that told me life had a purpose.
My friend Tamara says, “God Spots are these tiny geographic spaces, yet they span across time, allowing a person to re-enter that moment anytime, anywhere, just by thinking about it again.”
My mother lives 500 miles from me now. We’re not as close as we’d like to be, but the hymns span the time and space and bring me back to where I first met God, on my mother’s lap.
So whether it’s through hymns, incense, flowers or food, do as my friend Tamara suggests: “Find your God Spot and go there often.”