JOE LAGUARDIA: Our search for God in the mundane makes life fulfilling

The Christian journey has its ups and downs, peaks and valleys. "But you can't always live on the mountaintop," fellow Christians used to tell me.That's true. How many of us face the valleys more than mountaintops? If your life is anything like mine, those mountaintop experiences are few and far between -- during a retreat at the monastery or perhaps as a result of reading a brilliantly written book.

Yet, it's in the valley that we learn how to pick up our cross and follow Christ.

Discipleship in the valley inspires us to learn how to connect to God in the midst of daily routines, schedules, and monotony.

Some call it the spirituality of the simple; others, like Brother Lawrence, call it an opportunity to be with the Lord. Lawrence, for instance, saw to it that when he was about to embark on a daily task -- say, bake bread -- he extended an invitation to Jesus to come along.

Unfortunately, many Christians flounder in the valley and disconnect from God. They drop out of church, read the Bible less, forget to pray.

In a film I watched not long ago entitled "Somewhere," Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a playboy movie actor that dabbles in the frivolities of life. He hosts parties and drives his Ferrari aimlessly around town to pass the time. Occasionally, he cares for his daughter (Elle Fanning) from a previous marriage.

Through it all, there seems to be a boring routine to the high life in which Marco chooses to live. Although there are exciting times -- he travels to Europe to receive an award for playing the lead role in a spy thriller movie -- he just exists, booze and bottle in hand, from one day to the next.

You'd think that something would happen in the film, say, tragedy strikes or someone kidnaps the daughter. No. In this melancholy film, there is no violence, intrigue, or thrilling action. In fact, at least one critic commented that "Somewhere" goes nowhere.

But isn't that life sometimes? Sure, we expect our movies, and perhaps our own lives, to have some explosions, gritty humor and senseless slapstick; but, that's not real life.

Being a fan of the director of the film, I expected the film to be more art than action, more mood-piece centered on melodic plots than hair-raising suspense thriller.

For that, I think the director's work is engaging and honest. It reflects life at its most vulnerable.

And its precisely in vulnerability -- the "nowhere" where many people spend their time -- in which we meet God intimately.

Consider the farmer who works 40 years growing corn or the couple who celebrates a 60th anniversary. There is nothing more routine than that kind of life, but that's precisely where God chooses to work.

Our attentive search for God in the mundane -- in the everyday experience -- makes life vibrant and fulfilling. Even our cubicle can have the power to conjure a worship experience in which the Holy Spirit moves us in the midst of sticky-notes, PCs, and Daytimers.

"Regarded properly," writes Barbara Brown Taylor in "An Altar in the Word," "anything can become a sacrament, by which I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual connection."

She continues, "Paying attention requires no equipment, no special clothes, no greens fees or personal trainers. You do not have to be in particularly good shape.

"All you need is a body on this earth, willing to notice where it is, trusting that even something as small as a hazelnut can become an altar in this world."

When we look around, our "somewhere" may be a long road to nowhere grand.

But, in God's larger scheme of things, we all fit -- each and every one of us -- into the cosmic narrative patchwork of God's redemptive Story that unfolds in all creation.

With a little bit of gumption and a whole lot of prayer, we start to see that the mundane isn't so mundane after all.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.