Last October, I joined my friend Eileen for a women's retreat, "Taste and See: Praying with the Five Senses" hosted by St. Ignatius Parish at the University of San Francisco. Ginny Kubitz Moyer, an award-winning writer guided us in using our senses to deepen our prayer lives and our relationship with God. In sharing personal stories, anecdotes and Scripture, Ginny demonstrated how the five senses are a powerful, biblically-based means for us to encounter God, not only as we practice our faith, but also as we participate in the “messy splendor” of daily life (taken from the retreat description). As she spoke, I wondered—as I always do—how I might incorporate the usage of our senses into prayer for athletes.
The teachings of this retreat came to my mind earlier this week as "Murph and Mac," my beloved Sports Talk Radio hosts discussed their favorite sounds in sports—a topic I have written about quite often. A short commute was made super brief as I heard their examples: the swish of the net in basketball, the cut of the ice from hockey skates, the echo from a hard hit in football, the buzzer that ends the game or the dreaded whistle from the ref who had to call the foul. I seriously thought about calling in to add to their list...and to invite them to consider the other senses. Indeed, sports offers a feast for all five.
What our eyes can see: great hops, the receiver who gets not one but two feet down all but centimeters from the sideline, the ballplayer who won't leave the referee alone (saw this at a high school game last night).
What our body feels: the first break of sweat while working out, the strain of a muscle you've worked to get stronger, the pat on your shoulder from a teammate for a job well done and the high every runner relishes in recovery.
What we taste: I often say "hunger is the best sauce," and so is a good workout. Yes, water quenches my thirst, but nothing beats the bitter taste of that fresh and first cup of coffee after my morning session. As a runner, I have been never convinced the pasta feed truly was the best pre-race meal, but it sure did taste good, in particular, that garlic bread! Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water—yummy electrolytes!
What we smell: the smell of sports may be an unwelcome thing....the stench of the boys' locker room or the back of the bus after a game or my car if I leave my golf shoes in there after a muddy round. Not good! But, I can still remember the smell of a freshly opened can of tennis balls—too bad golf balls don't have an aroma like that. What baseball player doesn't recall the smell of freshly cut grass? What rower doesn't remember the smell of brackish water on the shell?
If we teach and promote that God can be found in all things—including sports—why not invite our teams to not only see God, but hear God, taste what is holy, and feel God's presence in those places and spaces.
The beauty of this exercise is that every athlete and coach will come to see the unique ways their sport engages the senses. AND how God's Word can speak to each one of them. Therefore, listed below are a few Bible passages to guide your prayer with your sport...and the senses. Enjoy!
From the retreat packet:
Reflect on the words, repeating them to yourself slowly and letting them sink in. Be open to any ways that the words speak to you. Reflect on what God is telling you through these words and your response to them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8
And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:10
Let anyone with ears to hear listen. Mark 4:9
On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines. Isaiah 25:6
Sounds of Sports