This is a continuation of "My Spiritual Practices," a blog series highlighting a variety of people through interviews about their spiritual life and practices.
I love learning from other people, and in particular, learning how they live out their faith in daily life. Each person being interviewed is sharing an intimate look at their lives. For that, I am grateful. My hope is that these interviews will offer us a snapshot of how different people experience God in their lives, and that they might inspire and guide us in our own unique spiritual journeys.
Mark Hage is a theologian, spiritual director and pastor at Vineyard Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He loves to curate ideas, exegete cultures and celebrate beauty. He is married to Inez and they deeply enjoy their daughter Lucy.
How do you connect with God? What spiritual practices and rhythms do you have?
I feel like God connects with me in many different ways. It could be through listening to some singer-songwriter as I am travelling by train, or as I am reflecting on the presence of God while staring at some random bush in our garden; I even started meditating on our 11 month old daughter. I love the way she is so honest, is not concerned about honor, and how she carries such joy and unconditional love and attention. Although I see the deep value of rhythm and ritual I still find it very hard to have consistent rhythms in my life. Chaos would probably be the most consistent thing in my week. In the midst of this I pray often and study a lot. I also always carry a few key verses and a couple of songs with me through different periods in life that keep me focussed and believing.
What daily or weekly spiritual practices are most important to you?
Although I regularly figure this out too late, one of the most important things to me daily and weekly is to find solitude and silence. It is in silence and solitude that I can straighten my thoughts and find perspective. As if I am putting down a bottle of dirty water and all the dirt sinks to the bottom. I gain clarity and peace. And it helps me to be even more attentive to God’s still small voice in the midst of the cacophony of voices in and around me.
Describe the environment that helps you best connect with God.
I’ve discovered several years ago that the monastery is the perfect place for me. I come fully alive and start to blossom in the communal rhythm, prayer and silence of an old Benedictine monastery in the south of the Netherlands. Every summer I try to go there for a week and some of the most important decisions in my life have been made in that context.
What tools or resources help you connect with God?
I engage a lot with Scripture, read a wide variety of christian and non-christian books, listen to a lot of music (I used to be a musician so music is in my blood and woven through my life), and like I mentioned before: silence and mere attention is the best tool I know right now. Everything finds its right place and crystallizes or evaporates in staring at the face of Jesus.
How have your spiritual practices changed over recent years?
I used to just read Scripture and only listen to worship music. I still value this a lot, but I’ve also become more and more aware of how God can be present in all things. I find that more and more I am surprised by God in many different ways. I’d like to try and fast again regularly, since I haven’t done that regularly anymore and I feel like fasting and in general more simplicity good be a great practice for me. The last few years I also started doing the Spiritual Exercises (twice) with a spiritual director. Spending time in Scripture meditating on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through Lectio Divina and Imaginative Prayer have been very valuable, as well as doing the Examen daily (becoming more aware of consolation and desolation in my life).
On days when your schedule changes, are you able to adapt your spiritual practices to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, I am really flexible with these things and like to improvise my way forward.
Do you practice the Sabbath or spiritual retreat? If so, what does that look like for you?
I practice the Sabbath on Saturday with my wife and daughter and on Monday together with my daughter (my wife is away studying that day). We like to hang out together, visit family or friends and enjoy each others company. I take an extra monthly day to pray and reflect on my own considering my life and our community and what God might be saying to me.
What people or relationships contribute most to your spiritual growth?
I feel very blessed with great people around me. A wonderful spiritual director. Good friends. A very encouraging mentor/friend. My wife who keeps me on track. And a great community of people that teach me what it means to love and trust.
What gets in the way of your spiritual growth?
That would be me, myself and I. I am full of all sorts of distractions, worries, fears and disordered desires.
What do you do when you get spiritually stuck?
I seek silence and prayer and in these the presence of my Father who loves me and finds joy in me. And I place myself in relationship and community with others that can carry me when I am weak.
How do you connect with God through life transitions?
I have found that my trust and ‘onbevangenheid’ (a beautiful Dutch word for careless, carefree) have been profoundly shaped and grown in these periods. There have been periods in life where I’ve felt like running on character. I just needed to stay faithful and continue to do in the darkness what I’ve been doing in the light. With or without feelings or instant fruit. Psalm 84:11 has made a profound impact on me - especially the Hebrew word tamiem (often translated as blameless), which I would translate as something like undivided attention and surrender to God.
What is one particular way you’ve experienced God recently?
Just recently I was part of the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Jakarta. I feel like God met me in so many people and stories. He was challenging me to continue to abandon fear and walk in faith and expectation. I was reminded of a prayer that an old Irish couple prayed for me years ago: you’ve been believing your doubts and doubting your beliefs, it is time you start doubting your doubts and believing your beliefs. Since that gathering I’ve started meditating and praying with 2 Timothy 1:7.
What bit of wisdom from your own spiritual journey do you want others to know?
The past couple of years I am intrigued by the concept of improvisation. I feel like improvisation could be an incredibly helpful lens through which we can get a better view on what life could be like. You could say theater improvisation has five principles: 1) always serve the bigger story 2) stay true to your character 3) don’t block but accept 4) make the other shine 5) don’t be afraid to fail. If we could start living by these principles as part of God’s ongoing story and faithfully improvise our way forward I think it would improve the way we do live in relationship to God, ourselves and others. Maybe give it a try and don’t be afraid, he has already overcome. Let’s play!
If you enjoyed this post, check out this related post:
My Spiritual Practices: An Interview With Adele Booysen
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Aloha! I'm Larissa. I help others go deeper in the faith journey with God.
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