Thin Places

As I was reading this morning, I came across this statement in James K. A. Smith’s, You Are What You Love

“We might say the sacramental power of Christian worship “enchants” our everyday lives, reminding us that the world we inhabit is not flattened “nature” but rather a creation charged with the presence and power of the living Spirit… Creation is always more than we see.  What might appear “natural” is suffused with God’s grandeur.  It is in worship that we learn to inhabit the world in this way, as an environment charged by the presence and activity of God.”

Worship “enchants” our everyday lives… I like that.

Reading that reminded me of an ancient Celtic belief that heaven and earth are only about three feet apart.  Thus, heaven is always within reach – always, everywhere.  But, there are also times and places where the separation is much thinner.  Celts called those “thin places.”

Could we also call them “enchanted places?”

Though I know, theologically, that God is always with me, those thin, enchanted spaces and moments, reveal God’s presence more intimately, more obviously, more clearly.  I find rest and peace there.  Some of my thin spaces include…

My back porch, especially on those rare cool mornings, surrounded by my bonsai trees, some in bloom.


In deep conversation, over cups of coffee, with intimate friends (you know who you are).

An ancient church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, early in the morning, when the Mayan incense is rolling in from the front doors.


On top of Volcan Pacaya, in Guatemala, with beloved friends, as the lava flowed a few feet away, and we shared in Holy Communion.


On top of Mount Nebo, in Jordan.

Riding my motorcycle on canopy roads or along the coast.

Laying side-by-side with my wife, holding hands, completely relaxed in each others’ presence.

Duke Chapel, where I went to seminary.


Holding someone in my arms as they weep.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, where I have gone for many, many silent retreats.


The birth of my children.

Standing in the surf, at sunset, baptizing students when I was a campus minister.


The sanctuary at First United Methodist Church of Orlando, where I discovered a spiritual home for the first time – where I was married, heard my call to ministry, preached my first sermons, and performed my first wedding.


Fall Creek Falls, where I went to camp as a teen, and played and worshipped at the base of the falls.


Corpse pose, after a good hour of yoga.

Time on the beach, early in the morning, listening to Bob Marley.

Occasionally, while I’m preaching.


Sometimes, when I cry.

Sometimes, when I write.

And, oddly, a few unspeakable moments of unbearable tragedy, when I was called upon to be a pastoral presence.

As Smith writes, these, and others, have been thin, enchanted places, “charged by the presence and activity of God.”

It was good to be reminded of those places this morning.  It was good to be reminded that those places exist.  It was good to be reminded that I need those places.

So, this morning, I took my cup of coffee, and walked out to my porch.  I walked from bonsai tree to bonsai tree, to look at each blossom and to look for new growth.  I enjoyed the moment.  And, I felt God’s enchanting presence.  And, it was good.

Where are your thin places?

2 thoughts on “Thin Places

  1. I don’t know if one of those unspeakable, unbearable tragedies was my brother’s death, but I kept thinking how thankful I was that you were there in that crappy, stuffy room in the hospital where nothing good comes out. You brought a sense of calm in a devastating place. You said few words because there was not much to be said. But we knew you were there in that thin place where God was giving us each breath because if left up to our own abilities I’m not sure my family and I would have been able to continue breathing. There remains a thin, Enchanted place around my grief. When I am desperate to understand, God gives me a verse of faith. When I am missing my brother, He sends a tangible reminder that I know is just for me. When I need a good cry, He sends a text from a friend or a call from my parents. While I’m still struggling and sad often, I’m not alone and the special, sacred moments and places from God let me know that.


  2. Thanks for this Dawn. Gathering around Paul, as everyone said their goodbyes, was definitely terrible, tragic, and sacred space for me. It was the last place any of us wanted to be. And, I was overwhelmed by the holiness of that moment, and the privilege of standing there with you.


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