Forest Lake Talks

Transformed by . . . . . . Presence

October 19, 2018

Last Sunday, the focus of my sermon was on “Presence”. I spoke of two types of presence.  Psychological Presence is choosing to be present – body, mind and heart – to those who matter to us and to the events that are actually happening in front of us.  But Christian or Spiritual Presence means choosing to be present – body, mind and heart – to God.  And, in my own experience, the most important discipline in this practice is quiet and contemplation.

If growth in faith means that we are able to move from “God do my will” to “God’s Will be done”, then we need to spend time and energy attending to what God is doing, saying and teaching.  We must change our point of view so that we see as God sees.  That is a very difficult practice that takes a lifetime of diligent prayer and contemplation.  But it is not hard to begin.  If you’d like to begin, choose first to be present to your current reality and to the people who are important to you.  I suggest some of the following:

  • Don’t touch your phone, watch TV or read while eating a meal with another person
  • Spend 5 minutes each day asking and really listening how someone is feeling.
  • Learn how to practice the skill of active listening (our Stephen Ministers can teach this)

Then, if you’d like to experiment with Christian Presence, I suggest you begin with some of these:

  • Recommit to come to worship more regularly, and when you come, actually participate rather than being present with your body but allowing your mind to wander.
  • Stop before you eat to pray to God and think about what you say. If that gets to be a habit then add prayers before you get up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.
  • Get up in time to spend a few minutes sitting quietly and work on giving your anxiety and to do lists to God (imagine giving them into God’s hands) and wait for God to show up (I don’t mean in fireworks, though that may happen, but see if you can sense God’s presence). Start with five minutes and work towards 20 minutes a day.
  • Drop by church during the week and sit in the quiet and beauty of our sanctuary and see what happens.
  • When you are in the car by yourself, don’t turn on the radio or listen to music for a period of time. See if you can see God at work or pray for those in the cars around you.

One of my favorite writers is Carlo Carretto. In his book The God Who Comes he wrote:

“When there is a crisis in the church, it is always here:  a crisis of contemplation.  The church wants to feel able to explain about her spouse even when she has lost sight of him; even when, although she has not been divorced, she no longer knows his embrace, because curiosity has gotten the better of her and she has gone searching for other people and other things.”

You are invited to know God, to love God, to be present to God.  Choose to be present.


Ellen Fowler Skidmore

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