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Sparks of the Divine

Sparks of the Divine: Finding Inspiration in Our Everyday World
by Drew Leder
Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2004
251 pages
Reviewed by Pam Breau

Sparks of the Divine is a collection of reflections connecting the holy to everyday experience, things and places. Drew Leder, medical doctor, philosopher, professor, author, and retreat leader, has an extraordinary awareness of the sacred in the very ordinary. He shares his imaginative perceptions in short essays gleaned from his own life in language that is relaxed and inviting. Profound spiritual lessons are offered from the so-called secular world without resorting to preaching or teaching. Inspiration is found by noticing what is already present when viewed through the lens of the third eye: “The most ordinary of things can radiate lessons and beauties. The very distinction between the secular and sacred dissolves.” Reflections are interspersed with modern and ancient spiritual truths gleaned from many faith traditions. Quotes from sacred scriptures, mystics, poets, prophets, artists, scientists and contemporary authors infuse his reflections with universal appeal. In reading the book, I was unable to define Leder’s spirituality, except to appreciate his profound sense of the holy in much of life.

The art of becoming a “spark hunter” is extended as an invitation. We are invited to our own “path of the slow motion mystic” by “the bit-by-bit uncovering of holy sparks, now and then, here and there, as we are blessed to find them by the roadside.” This is a book that should not be rushed but read slowly and savored. It became an oasis of awareness for me during the busy Advent and Christmas seasons, a daily reminder to slow down and notice what was going on around me.

Leder’s formatting allows the book to be incorporated into a regular spiritual practice without becoming overwhelming. Each short essay is followed by a question or a suggestion to ponder throughout the day and assist the reader in personalizing the meaning. The book includes fifteen guided meditations inviting the reader to deepen a particular prayer experience. These he calls shape shifts as “they are meant to assist you in shifting—bodily, mentally, spiritually—into the heart of another being.” The book is divided into five sections, grouping essays by topic: The Natural World; Object Lessons; Stillness and Motion; Human Being; and The Universe, Our Home. A second grouping of the same essays based on spiritual themes follows the introduction. Examples are: Dealing with Dark Times and Images of the Spiritual Journey. This second index will be most helpful to those desiring to use the book in spiritual direction, as a resource for retreat leadership, or for their own spiritual practice.

Although the book is not targeted for spiritual directors, it speaks profoundly about non-dualistic spiritual awareness. As a spiritual director I would recommend this book to any directee seeking to uncover the sacred in more aspects of life and to diminish the perception of separation between the sacred and the secular. It has been a valuable reminder to me of how I allow the busyness of life to become a source of distraction rather than a divine spark, and how I “view my day through the glaze of familiar tasks and objects.” In his epilogue Leder provides tips for spark hunters who believe “God is hidden everywhere if we but know how to look” and wish to develop the spiritual art of “unearthing sacred sparks.” Would I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly! It is one I will continue to access for my own spiritual journey and in companioning others who desire to discover their own path of the slow motion mystic.

Pam Breau is a spiritual director and poet from Fredericton, New Burnswick, Canada, who is actively involved in lay ministry in her area. She is currently working on a collection of poetry related to the spiritual journey.

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