Practicing Presence

Practicing Presence

Apr 24
Practicing Presence

My wife loves candles and scents.  Our home is usually fragrant, filled with smells that she enjoys.  Sadly, I barely notice them most of the time.  Kim will ask me what I think of a particular smell and I often cannot tell her.  I have to concentrate and focus in order to notice it.  However, scents seem to be a natural part of Kim’s world.  She smells things and they make an impact on her.  Certain scents remind her of certain people or places, and sometimes even certain times in her life.

For me, on the other hand, I hardly ever notice smells of any kind.  For me to notice, they usually have to be pretty powerful.  While I’m often surrounded by the pleasant scents that Kim has scattered throughout our home, I rarely ever notice them.  The very air I breathe is probably infused with a fragrance carefully selected by my bride and yet it has little impact on me.

I think that life in Christ is the same way for many people.  God is everywhere at all times.  There is never a time when we are not surrounded and filled by Him.  He has said that we are His temple, His very dwelling place.  Yet for many who follow Him, He seems as unobtrusive as I find most fragrances.  Despite being completely enveloped by Him, they are unable to sense His presence.

As I write this post, I’ve lit a candle that she picked out for me and placed in my office.  The sweet aroma reminds me of her and her love for me.  Even though she’s away from home tonight, the light and scent from the candle remind me of her.

How much effort do we put into opening ourselves to God’s presence?  Do we take time to note the things that draw us nearer to Him?  Do we pay special attention to the things that make us feel closest to Him or remind us of Him?  Sometimes it seems that we’re almost ashamed to say that God is present, that we’re embarrassed to say that we saw Him or that we noticed Him.  Evidence of God surrounds us constantly and yet it seems that even many believers are unable to see Him or recognize His obvious presence.

I believe we need to practice living in His presence.  To note those things that help us make note of Him, that make us more aware of Him, and then surround ourselves with those.  Or even just make an attempt to recognize and acknowledge His presence.

In November of 2011, Kim and I took a trip to Disneyland.  The number 11 has been special for us.  It’s one of the ways in which I recognize God’s presence.  It serves as an indicator for me.  When I see the number 11, I always think of God.  I don’t know why, but I do.  So on 11/11/11, we wanted to go someplace special.  And because 11 is something that makes me aware of God, we did something we had never done before during our entire lives…

We invited God to come with us.

The first thing we did before leaving home for our vacation was to pray to Him.  We asked Him to come with us, to be part of our vacation.  To be PRESENT.  Naturally, He has always been present.  He has been on every vacation we ever took — we just failed to notice Him.  We failed to give Him any attention or recognition.  We failed to open ourselves to His presence.  This was the first time in our lives when we asked Him to be present, to be in every moment, to be a participant in everything we did.

I am still in awe as to how powerfully we experienced His presence during that trip.

It seemed that we had no sooner completed our prayer to Him that we began to see Him everywhere.  Our driver, Jose, who picked us up at our hotel and dropped us off at the Magic Kingdom gave us 4 “Fast Pass” tickets that were good for any ride at any time.  He said that the last family he picked up had given them to him and asked him to give them to someone else.  We immediately thanked God.

When we finally got through the line to get tickets, I told the lady that I had an odd question.  We had been at Disney 11 years ago and had bought 5 day passes, but only used 4 of the days.  Someone had told us that we could still use the extra day.  I had kept the tickets in my wallet for 11 years.  I’m sure I looked and sounded sheepish as I related the story and asked if what I had heard was true.  She asked to check the tickets, which had the year 2000 clearly stamped on them.  She ran them through the computer and said, “Yes, they both have one day left on them.”  Kim and I both immediately got our phones out and posted to Facebook, “God just bought our tickets to Disneyland!!”

I could go on and on about all the incredible ways in which we experienced God’s presence on that trip, but I’m getting self conscious.  I do want to say this, though — I hope that all of my bragging is for His glory.  I want God to get all the credit for His magnificence and for opening us up to His beautiful presence that week.

However, I want to mention one more moment.  My favorite one.  We were coming back from Tom Sawyer Island, when we noticed a skywriter — a plane writing words in the sky.  Tears began to fill my eyes as I read the giant letters in the sky.  It said, “Jesus loves you.”  It was written across the entire sky for everyone to read.  As soon as the boat docked, Kim and sprinted to where we could get a clear view of the whole thing.  I tried to take a picture of it with my phone, but it was too big — I couldn’t get the whole thing in a single picture, which I think is a beautiful metaphor.

Since then, we’ve tried to practice living in His presence more.  Many times I’ve invited God to come to work with me.  I know that my invitation does nothing more than open myself up to Him, to recognizing and living in His presence.  Sadly, I still invite Him very rarely.  My beautiful fragrance, my amazing God who makes life so much better and sweeter, and I still open myself to Him so very rarely.  I know that He constantly surrounds me, that I am always in His presence, and yet I rarely ever recognize His Majesty.

I still live far too much of my life as if He were no more than one of my wife’s candles.  Something of which I’m aware, but I only notice when I make a deliberate effort to do so.  Like lighting this candle to remind me of Kim tonight (and consciously savoring the smell of lavender that she picked out), I want to make more effort to open myself to God’s presence.  To see Him more.  To hear Him more.  I have gotten a taste of how much more rich and vibrant life is when I’m open to Him.  While I say I hunger and thirst for more, I find myself failing to even open the door to the Bread of Life or to take a sip from the Fountain of Living Water.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants after you, oh God.  My soul thirst for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’  These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life.  I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’  Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  Psalm 42

2 comments

  1. Kim

    When I came home, the first thing I said to Chris was, “Did you notice a smell in the dining room? It is a good smell, but I can’t figure out where it is coming from.” Chris just smiled real big and said, “You have to read my post.” Now I understand. Great post.

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