The Wonder of God
Is everything random?
Last night we had two monumental things occur: dinner together at the table, and a guest.
We’ve been nourishing ourselves with deli leftovers for most of this year so to cook at home feels like holiday-level specialness, even if it was only taco salad. I made it. We ate it together. And there was guacamole.
Our guest was a new friend whom I’ve only met once before, so we had all the getting-to-know-you questions over our shared meal.
I had been gone all day and our home was strewn with books and messes when he arrived with Tim. Three new books have come in the mail this week because I’m too busy to read but not too busy to spend money on books I can’t read, apparently. I have goals, and in order to potentially meet those goals, I must leave books all around.
I made apologies for the mess and our guest informed me he had probably 10 books out in his van currently, having just made a cross country trip with his dog.
We will be friends, I thought.
When he asked what books I was currently reading, the first I mentioned was Celebrating the Third Places. It’s a book about gathering places that are not homes (first places) or work (second places), but public meeting places like churches, cafes, libraries, bars, etc. It’s one of the books that arrived this week. I bought it after hearing the term “third place” in a newsletter a few weeks ago, and then seeing the term pop up in several other places. I had never heard the term before but it perfectly describes the goals we have for the Chalet Deli + Market. It’s a Third Place, in a community that intensely needs somewhere to go.
“Have you ever heard the term Third Place?” I asked him.
Serendipitously or coincidentallyor by the very hand of God, he had just watched a video a friend sent him that was all about Third Places. He showed us the video and the narrator mentioned the author of the book I had just bought, and my mind exploded a little.
I should be used to this, though. This phenomenon of a new term or idea popping up repeatedly, in different places and contexts, happens to me all the time when I am paying attention. I’ve written about one instance of it here and I have an Evernote notebook titled Reflections on the right use of attention with a view to the wonder of God—you’ll have to read the essay I linked to understand that title. In that notebook I document the concepts and ideas that pop up again and again for me.
Just two examples:
I received the results of a personality test that repeatedly used the word compulsive. I was not thrilled about it. The next morning I read Galatians 5:16-18 in the Message and there it was again. Compulsions. Later that morning I read a prayer someone had written that requested God to “receive my compulsiveness”. Whatever.
Sometimes it’s just a word or person I’ve never heard of, like somnambulist. I read it first in Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. Due to years of latin study, I parsed it out to mean “someone who sleep-walks”. The next day (the next day!) I read a Chesterton essay with the same word in it.
And now the Third Place. It’s been maybe three weeks since I first heard the term from two different writers. Now I have a guest (a rare commodity in our new life) who is recently familiar with it.
But wait…there’s more.
I scrolled through IG before bed last night (last night!) because I do not always do what I know is right, and an artsy person I follow shared a photo from another artist whom I do not follow. I looked through her beautiful posts and read a few of them before coming to one from August. I glanced at it, then clicked on it, then enlarged it so my old eyes could read the words in the photo. …we should have more coffeehouses, more cafes, more “third places”.
All this is exciting to me because it means I’m getting my self back. Even with work the way it is, even with life and seasons, with fatigue, I am making connections in my life again. I am paying attention. I’m surrounding myself with the potential of words and ideas and all I need is to carve a little space, a little time; keep collecting; keep processing.
That’s what this place is. It can be a kind of Third Place, I hope. This new public space where I am writing is a place I can invite you into, much like my blog is/was, and we can process and share. We can connect. Life is threaded together with our attention and God’s goodness, and it’s always better when it’s shared.
Last night we had three monumental things occur: dinner together at the table, a guest, and another thread of connection woven in to the tapestry of life.
If I am attentive to the world I am paid back tenfold—Christ plays in ten thousand places, as Hopkins says, and the world is bursting with His presence.
~Tresta Payne, from “Attention, Please”
This is called “frequency bias”, “frequency illusion”, or the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon by scientists, but c’mon. (HT to my daughter Shelby for finding the terminology, after our discussion about this kind of thing also happening to her. Ain’t life grand?!)
My theory (from experience) is that it’s often the Holy Spirit bringing something to my attention...and because I’m often not paying attention, He graciously uses repetition. Recently he did this with the word “curiosity”
Thank you for prompting me to step into substack. So glad you are finding spaces to write.
I’m here for it. And YES to third spaces, for intentionality, for connection, for meaning .