I am a man with a busy mind, a do-er who is task-oriented. Those traits complicate my interactions with other people and I constantly coach myself, with varying amounts of success, to be ‘present.’ The best relationships exist when both people are paying attention, fully engaged.
For most of our marriage, Bev and I were people with full schedules and busy lives; partners in parenting, building a home, sharing ministry responsibilities. I learned a whole new dimension to marriage 8 years ago when she was diagnosed with advanced cancer that was likely to lead to her death. The next 20 months we grew closer than we had ever been, intentionally fully present to one another. In her last months of life, she wanted me around all the time, not to do anything for her but to be there – my presence reassuring her.
Let me ask you an important question about your Christianity – do you live ‘in the Presence’ of God? More than what we do for Him, what we give to Him, God desires to know us. Our Christian experience is first who we are rather than what we do.
The Gospel of Luke tells a story about two sisters who were Jesus’ friends. He visited their home one day and Martha was busy getting a meal prepared. Mary sat talking with Jesus, soaking up His Presence. Martha’s frustration boiled over and she said “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” (Luke 10:40) Jesus’ reply to her was a gentle rebuke. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:41-42) He was not devaluing Martha’s service but rathe reminding her that relationship takes priority.
Paul teaches us to “pray continually!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) That directive is about ‘being present’ to God’s Spirit, about keeping our heart and mind open to Him, aware of His love. In a world that is full of noise, with chirping smartphones, blaring TV’s, and days that grow long His voice can be lost in the cacophony of busy-ness. Even our so-called ‘worship’ gatherings in our churches are often a whirl of song, words, and graphic displays that allow little time for knowing God’s ‘small voice’ that we hear only when we are present to Him.
The wisdom of the Spirit speaks to us inviting us to a new way of living that is marked by a transcendent peace. “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. ” (Philippians 4:6-7, The Message) Life is so much richer, so much better when we learn to live centered in His Presence.
God’s Presence is available to you, dear friend. He is not just a Friend to pastors. (Joke there!) But, knowing His Presence requires intentionality and we learn to ‘practice the Presence of God’ in the words of Brother Lawrence. Forget elaborate prayer techniques! Reject the idea that you must go somewhere or be someone else to know God richly. Just learn to reject the nonsense thoughts that clutter your mind. Invite the Holy Spirit to draw you into His Presence. Be responsive – delighting in the little moments, the simply laughter, the quiet tears, the beauty and the brokenness is that ordinary life.
He is there, in it all! One author observes that “When we walk in the presence of God, the busiest moment of the day is no different from the quiet of a prayer altar. Even in the midst of noise and clutter, while people’s voices are coming at you from all directions, asking for your help with many different things, you can possess God with the same serenity as if you were on your knees in church.”
Jesus’ words are packed with promise. Meditate prayerfully on them and let this Holy Week conclude with knowing His Presence near. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” (John 15:5-9, NLT)
(Video of this blog at this link)
Holy Spirit (a song of adoration and invitation)
There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
No thing can compare You’re our living hope
I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
In Your Presence Lord
Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord
Your Presence Lord Your Presence Lord
Oh God how we love Your Presence Lord
Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness
Bryan Torwalt | Katie Torwalt © 2011 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Jesus Culture Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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