Why Practicing the Presence of God Changes Everything

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“I am with you always,” He promised.

 

And I listen, because those were his last words. They were the last sounds of his voice reverberating on the rocks of our earth before he ascended. And last words have intentional power. They are last on purpose…for emphasis, for weight.  

 

But I am a faith-less one and the words are now faint millennia later and the collective we, we have forgotten how to walk enveloped in God-nearness. We doubt that when He promised He was EverPresent, He meant just that. We rationalize that truth is just a platitude meant for sympathy cards.

 

We have forgotten how to hold firm to His Presence…and so we walk our neighborhoods, into the consultation at the doctor’s office, or into the intimidation of that full room alone. Could it be that sometimes we even walk hiding from The Presence? A little distance to Holy just feels a whole lot more comfortable.

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But wouldn’t the truth of God’s abiding Presence transform the very shimmer of the oxygen we breathe? If we knew the Prince of Peace, our Abba, the Lover of our souls was HERE in our now, how would that transform our present?

 

Where in our lives are we murky needing Light the most? He is here.  

Floundering for wisdom? He is here.

Grieving? The Comforter is here.

In desperate need of hope? He is here.  

With awe, we acknowledge that God chooses to bring all the fullness of His character into our ordinary here. He is here at our Monday dinners, our Saturdays spent on the side-lines of a soccer game, and in the strangle of addiction.

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God is present in the empty echo of loneliness, the swirl of tightening anxiety, the mix of the mundane and the glorious everyday. God’s Presence is not reserved for the Sunday service, left at the altar when we walk out the back door. God wants to infuse our laundry day, our right-angled cubicle desk job, the twisted questions, the late-night fears, the Christmas morning delights, as well as the everyday dishes at the kitchen sink…with His Presence.  

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He’s just waiting to be welcomed in, to be invited, to have the door swung wide open with this simple prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

 

This could change everything:

We weather our storms alone while we walk beside the One the seas obey.

We wander aimlessly, lonely, accompanied by He who is our eternal home.

We limp through life, buried by shame, while all along we shuffle next to the Savior who died to carry the heavy burden.

We feel about in the dark, though the Light of the World, the Resurrected One is present with His piercing brightness.

 

There is a heavy fog between the truth and our living within it.  

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We live our everydays heavy with spiritual amnesia. We choose the lie of self-reliance that keeps us from leaning into Kingdom living.   God’s nearness remains elusive at best. In John 1, we get introduced to Jesus through The Message translation this way: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved right into the neighborhood.” According to Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always,” Jesus never left the neighborhood.

 

David, the prophet king, encourages us to start a disciplined practice:

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken,” (Psalms 16:8).  

 

And this is the question: What would it mean for us to set the Lord always before us?

 

What if we made this extremely simple? Jesus used simple metaphors to teach truth: A lamp on a hill, a pearl of great price, a farmer scattering seed.  What if in our desire to remember the truth of God’s all-pervasive PRESENCE, we use simple metaphors of our own: a lit candle, a listening shell, the smell of cedar, a simple wooden cross around our neck or in our pocket. 

 

What might you use as a tangible witness?

Ask yourself this question: “Where have I felt the Presence of God most intimately?” 

 

  1. Meandering through the tall cedars and ferns of the hike to the mountain lake? Bring home a bowl of pinecones and sprinkle them with cedar oils. Every time you walk past, say thank you to He who is present. “You are here.”
  2. A collection of shells and rocks from your favorite beach sprinkled throughout your home. They are silent ebenezer rocks that the same God who met you there with your toes in the sand will meet you here.

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Or you can borrow mine. Last December I brought a simple white prayer candle home, only a $1 at the dollar store from the Dollar Tree down the road. I lit the candle on the island of my kitchen. As I walked around it all day, a simple Copernican revolution began to occur in my heart.

  • One glance as I walked by to fill a glass with milk for a little and I remembered, “You are here.”
  • Another glance as I began dinner, starting to be overwhelmed by the next day’s agenda, I remembered, “You are here.”
  • A phone call and that heaviness, another broken marriage, and my eyes glanced over at the candle. Oh, yes, You are here. The darkness will not swallow us.

 

This simple practice led me to quick prayers and long deep breaths, “You are here. I don’t need to be the answer, I just need to invite He who is the answer into every individual moment.”

Come Jesus,

Come Wisdom,

Come Redeemer,

Come Healer,

Come into my HERE.

He is always present, my simple “come” becomes an opening of the door to the knocking Christ: a simple invitation.

 

The Answer

 

Friends, what would it mean for you to set the Lord always before you?

Photos 1, 3, and 5 from Deathtothestockphotos.com

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6 Comments

  1. Summer! You must keep this and use it forever….
    for your book, for speaking, for teaching. The phrase
    I love best? “We shuffle alongside Jesus” (or was it
    quite like that?). I love the word shuffle, and the
    immediate picture I have of me and others not even
    animated enough to lift our heads and our feet above
    ground level. I don’t know if you want me/us (your
    group) to make comments. Don’t want to make more
    work for you. Please don’t feel you need to respond.
    I just wanted to rave about this piece/article/whatever
    it is called these days. It sounds the alarm and shakes
    up the sediment in our souls. It calls us upward and forward and lifts a banner high and shows us clearly
    who our leader is and where He can take us. Thank you!

  2. A beautiful reminder about His all-pervasive Presence, Summer+! I especially appreciate: “[W]hat if in our desire to remember the truth of God’s all-pervasive PRESENCE, we use simple metaphors of our own: a lit candle, a listening shell, the smell of cedar, a simple wooden cross around our neck or in our pocket.” I used to do this more than I am currently and I will seek to make it a greater thrust in my worship life. Please pray for Jody+ and me (and all participants) at the Network Meeting for Bishop Search tomorrow in Flint from 10-4. (I was asked to go with Jody+ for prayer support for the clergy and I am very humbled.) Keep up the good work, Summer+!

    1. Merlena, I am extremely inspired by LeAnne Payne, as you know, and she believed that this concept undergirded all ministry, all listening to God, all healing. I remember reading The Healing Presence in college and being stunned by the chapter on practicing the Presence. Can this really be a possibility? I began the search.

      Praying for your new bishop search! Love you all. Summer

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