Awake My Soul: Practical Spirituality for Busy People,by Timothy Jones, Doubleday, 235 pp., $19.95

Christianity Today associate editor Timothy Jones's latest book is about discovering God in the everyday events of our lives. We don't have to be saints to be spiritually vibrant, Jones suggests, and in a pragmatic, story-filled approach, he shows 12 ways to discover God's workaday presence. A condensed excerpt from chapter two, "God Within Reach":

Not long ago I took [my daughter] Bekah, six at the time, to audition for a production of The Wizard of Oz. All along she just assumed she would get a part; she wanted to be a munchkin, and the thought that she might not seemed never to occur to her. I encouraged her, but didn't say anything about her chances.

But then I had no idea that 250 children would show up for the 50 available parts. In a huge gymnasium, the two directors had the children line themselves around the four edges of the cavernous building, the tallest on one end trailing down to the shortest on the other end. The directors went through the line, having each child say his or her name and age. They did it again, this time urging, "Say your name loud. Say it with animation." The boisterous, enthusiastic kids were told to sit down, marking them in a kind of first cut. I watched as they finally got to Bekah. I was at the opposite end, but my heart sank when I could not hear her. She was too quiet, too restrained.

The directors gave the kids other chances, other quick assignments. But I could never hear Bekah. I knew she was not standing out. It was the expressive, outgoing kids who were getting the parts.

Finally the long two hours came to a close with the kids all gathered in a knot around the directors. The names of the chosen 50 were read off a list. I knew already Bekah hadn't made it. She didn't know it till she heard the last name read.

Bekah threaded her way to me, cheeks flushed. She hugged me hard as we prepared to walk out. "I'm proud of you," I said. "I am so impressed that you auditioned." Then I said, quietly, "I'm sorry you didn't get a part."

That broke Bekah's tear floodgates. She grabbed at me and sobbed. I picked her up and she buried her face in my shoulder.

The next morning, I overheard Bekah talking with her mother. "The kids who got parts didn't behave right," she said. "I was good. I was quiet like I was supposed to be. And I didn't get a part!" She had equated goodness with restraint. She was trying hard, but in the wrong way. She thought the directors wanted reserve, stiff attention, frozen alertness. That was "good." But Bekah didn't understand: The directors wanted energy, emotion, loudness. They wanted kids who could be themselves with abandon.

Many people, I suspect, feel that way around God. As if they can't relax and simply receive God's wondrous grace. We end up rigid, tight. And we miss an opportunity to be ourselves, to awaken, as we are, to the grace-filled kindness of God.

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