Have you ever gone on a God Hunt? A God Hunt begins when you teach yourself to look for God’s hand at work in the everyday occurrences of your life. Here’s one of my personal God Hunt Sightings:
David and I realize we can no longer endure the long air trips to foreign countries—14 hours, even eight to nine hours in crowded seats are not my idea of a healthy venture. At least in a long car ride, you can stop, walk around a bit, bend, stretch and use a decent-sized bathroom (one that doesn’t bounce). Trains are becoming more and more attractive; at least the European rail system is attractive. You can walk down an aisle, go to a dining car; in airplanes there is generally a beverage cart in the way if you try to move.
So we take a one- or two-night layover in whatever country the airline carrier we’ve booked the cheapest tickets from is stopping. This April trip to Africa, British Air stopped in London, of course.
I hunted on the Internet for a place we could stay and found an intriguing hotel with good customer comments in Richmond-on-Thames, a borough of London city proper but south of the city centre on the river. The selling point was that it was a 10-minute drive from Heathrow (actually more like 35).
I loved Richmond-on-Thames! We stayed one night to recover from that awful push to get ready to go and the eight-hour flight; then we stayed another night so we would have a day to roam and explore, take a nap and be refreshed to finish our jaunt on down to Nairobi.
The village-like feel of the neighborhood of Richmond-on-Thames felt quintessentially English—stone houses and manors and parks. Wonderful little restaurants and bookstores. The children were on holiday and jammed the narrow streets with school friends or with their parents. I noticed that Kew Botanical Gardens was not far away and made a mental note to stay here on the next layover with time enough to explore at that marvel—a place I’ve always wanted to visit.
The ladies in the bookstore gave me directions to Deer Park but also kindly informed me that “there are no deer there.” If I wanted to find deer I would have to go to Richmond Park. David and I had a lovely chat with the owner of the restaurant where “fresh mint hot tea” was served with our lunch. We invited her to stay with us with the promise of the Mains Tour of Chicago; she sent out desserts “compliments of the management.” Standing on an abutment with another green sward rolling down toward the Thames, a sign informed me that the footpath along the river I could just see with my naked eye led to Hampton Court, a home of Henry VIII expediently deeded to him by Wolsley, Archbishop of York, Cardinal in the Catholic Church and Almoner to the King.
Another place to explore if we came back some day.
David took a nap, but I decided I’d explore Richmond Park, which was right across the roundabout outside the front door of our hotel (hence its name, Richmond Gate Hotel). About four in the afternoon of that April day, I found myself in this 3000-acre park, walked in as far as I dared since the light was going and it felt like it might rain; there I glimpsed a stunning view of Central London to the north. Sure enough, there were deer in Richmond Park—herds of them, actually.
The whole time we were in Richmond-on-Thames, I felt as though we were at home; “Oh, if we ever layover here in London again, let’s stay here again,” I said to David as we were having breakfast in the hotel conservatory before leaving again for Heathrow.
Richmond Park felt like a fictional place I had written into my three books that make up the Kingdom Tales trilogy—Great Park, where an ideal community of love and mercy and forgiveness has been created. I told my friends in Africa about our layover. I told my family when we got home. I told my colleagues at Mainstay Ministries.
When my sister and I had lunch together one day after the Africa journey (she also had received my glowing reports on Richmond Park), Valerie caught me up on her visit to our brother, Craig Burton, in Des Moines, Iowa. “Oh, by the way,” she said. “Craig said that James Burton (an ancestor who immigrated to the States in the 1650s with his brothers and eventually bought a plantation in Virginia) once owned land in Richmond.”
How is it that we can feel at home in places that we have never been, like we’ve come back? How is it that we write about locations we have never seen, then discover a precedent for our fiction?
I love this explanation from the writing of Willa Cather, who had taken an abbreviated version of the Grand Tour of Europe and was able to underwrite some expenses by sending travel essays back to the Nebraska State Journal. This one is about a little town in the French countryside:
Out of every wandering in which people and places come and go in long successions, there is always one place remembered above the rest because the external or internal conditions were such that they most nearly always produced happiness. I am sure that for me that one place will always be Lavandou. Nothing else in England or France has given anything like this sense of immeasurable possession and immeasurable content. I am sure I do not know why a wretched little fishing village, with nothing but green pines and a sky of porcelain, should mean more than a dozen places I have wanted to see all my life. No books have ever been written about Lavandou, no music or pictures ever came from here, but I know well enough that I shall yearn for it long after I have forgotten London and Paris. One cannot divine or forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame.
The adage is true: Sometimes you have to leave home to find home again.
I spy God!
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.