Practicing the presence of God requires us to stay in the moment and to be aware of our presence in the world. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the moment.”—Coptic Gospel of Thomas #3
Don't we often just function without being aware of ourselves, our surroundings, the people around us and even less of God?
Let’s take a moment right now and relax… Rest in your breathing and become aware of your body…Where are you sitting right now?… While you are breathing gently, be aware of God’s breathing within your breathing… “I'll breathe my life into you and you'll live.”—Ezekiel 37:14(MSG)… Receive the Breath of God right now and surrender into it… All is well and all shall be well…
Most of us have become used to a life cut up into different sections: this is work, this is free time, this is time with my husband or wife and children, this is housework and this is time for me and this is time for God. And more often than not, it's in this order!
We perceive some of our time as fun but most of our time as work, including our jobs, errands and chores. How many of us work in order to be able to pay the rent and groceries and not because we enjoy what we do? An attitude many of us have adopted is that we “need to get things done” to be able to enjoy life in the future or we just have “to get through this” and then we will live a happy life.
I was certainly guilty of living this way before I had an epiphany a few summers ago. I was jolted into the present moment by the beauty of nature and finally understood what it meant to enjoy every moment in life.
I was on my last days of vacation at our cottage in Canada when I discovered that I needed to repair the boathouse roof. I had been looking forward to enjoying my last days canoeing on the lake, relaxing, and having fun before I had to go back to my busy life in Florida. I certainly did not want to spend my last days working, but the repair needed to be done before the winter. On this particular morning, I got hammer, nails and shingles and went up on the roof. I was resentful and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I don’t remember what made me look up from my work, but I was stunned by the beauty I saw. The lake glistened in the sun and a beautiful cool breeze made the water look like a million diamonds were dancing on it. Time stood still!
I realized that it did not matter whether I was canoeing or repairing the roof; I was still on the lake, enjoying the beauty of it, getting exercise and experiencing God’s presence in my life. I was grateful beyond measure for this moment of clarity and conversion. I realized by the grace of God that I had created my own divided reality and I suddenly had “eyes to see” (Mark 8:18 NIV), thereby experiencing what Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the sixteenth century, had said so many years ago: “He will come in His own time, and when you least expect it.” (Tony Jones. Practicing the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence. Brewster:Paraclete Press, 2007, 22.)
I certainly did not expect God on the boathouse roof. I was jolted into the presence of God by the beauty I saw when I looked up. The lake had always been there, the sun had been shining for hours and the breeze had been blowing for a while. It had all been there, but I had been too wrapped up in negative thoughts and feelings. God was present and I was absent!
Margaret Guenther, a spiritual director and former director of the Center for Christian Spirituality at General Theological Seminary in New York, writes, “We hear God speak, predictably in sacred settings, but also in wildly unlikely places and circumstances: the subway, the shower and the messy garage. After all, the Holy Spirit is blowing over us all the time... It is all a matter of paying attention.”(Margaret Guenther. My Soul in Silence Waits. Meditations on Psalm 62. Boston: Cowley, 2000, 119.)
The Holy Spirit literally blew over me, and repairing the boathouse roof became a prayer. When we live in the presence of God, we do not need to divide our life into “work and play” or “good and bad.” Our life is our life no matter what happens. We will be able to accept every facet of our lives as meaningful and as an opportunity to grow, if we stay in the present moment—the only moment we are living!
Do you recall a moment like that? Give yourself permission to sit quietly for just a minute or two and recall a moment where you felt connected with God, yourself and life on a deep level.
Where were you? How did you feel? What did you see? What did you smell? What did you hear?
We can have countless moments like this if we just stop from “automatic pilot living” and become aware of our breath and God’s breathing within our breath!
The following prayer will help us to come into the present moment and really live:
Breathe, Listen, Watch
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”—Genesis 28:16 (NIV)
None of us wants to feel the way Jacob felt, but like Jacob, we often are not aware of God’s presence. Our thoughts dwell in the past and the future instead of in the present moment. Staying present is one of the most difficult things for us adults to do. Let’s tap into this knowledge and become present again.
Notice that there is a power other than your thoughts that can change your awareness from your thoughts to your senses. This is your physical connection to God within you. Whenever you feel disconnected from your life and God, turn to this prayer with an attitude of worship and the assurance that God is right here with you. If you stay present using your senses, you will always be connected to your life and God’s life within you and all around you.
“Yes. I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.”—Genesis 28:15 (MSG)
• Breathe gently and simply observe your breathing… No need to control your breath… Breathe in God’s presence and breath...
• When your mind strays, listen to what you hear… Simply listen without attaching a meaning to the sound…
• When your mind wanders again, guide your awareness to your surroundings… Simply watch...
• Alternate between observing your breathing, listening, and being aware of your surroundings when your thoughts take you away from the present moment… Pray this way until you are present and calm...
• Can you feel the power within that guides your awareness? How does it feel?
• When you pray this way during the day, you will become present to God’s guidance and promise in your life.
Prayer: I am aware of God’s presence. Amen.