Learning to Live: Present

A lesson for my life for several years has been - learning to live: present.  Personally, it seems so easy to vacillate between the past and the future, but to stay firmly in the present, that is hard.  Our culture  easily embeds us in this swinging pendulum: Facebook asks us to continually share what just happened in the past (and often to highlight only the good of those moments).  Our smartphones alert us to what is to come.  We have calendars full of events a year in the future.  We can set reminders that alert us to what will happen in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 5 minutes and more.  Even with all these reminders, I often find myself walking around with the feeling that I am forgetting something, something important.

But I often find that I haven't forgotten anything, except, perhaps to enjoy the present moment.  Perhaps, enjoying the present moment is an element of childlike faith? Why? Because it is something I see my children do all the time.  They do not worry about the past nor the future.  They play, they laugh, they enjoy, they get annoyed, they shake it off and play and laugh again.

Because being present is no longer natural for me, I've had to become intentional about pursuing it.  Here are some things that have helped me over the years to realign myself to the present:

  • Understanding more about God: Through the years, I've had to learn to let go of the neurotic feeling that God was standing somewhere beyond me, tapping His foot waiting for me to get there, so that when (if) I arrived we could move forward together.  For many years, the voices  that surrounded me, held out a carrot saying that tomorrow was better with God. Tomorrow I would be holier, tomorrow I would be more peaceful, tomorrow there would be more joy.  Well, I suppose, I am more peaceful, holier and joyful than I used to be but it didn't happen by continually chasing tomorrow.  It happened when I woke up to the fact that He is with me TODAY, no matter where TODAY places me.  It happened when I realized that He is in charge of His Kingdom (not I) and that He has invited me to be a collaborator with Him in the Kingdom.
  • Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
  • The people walking in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    on those living in the land of deep darkness
        a light has dawned.
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given,
        and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
        Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Of the greatness of his government and peace
        there will be no end.
    He will reign on David’s throne
        and over his kingdom,
    establishing and upholding it
        with justice and righteousness
        from that time on and forever.
    The zeal of the Lord Almighty
        will accomplish this.
  • Henri Nouwen, "Wherever I am, at home, in a hotel, in a train, plane, airport, I would not feel irritated, restless, and desirous of being somewhere else or doing something else.  I would know that here and now is what counts and is important because it is God himself who wants me in this time and place. (Monk Habits for Everyday Life by Dennis Okholm from chapter 8: Staying Put to Get Somewhere)"
  •  C.S. Lewis: The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them for eternity.  He therefore wants them to attend chiefly to two things - to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the present.  For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.  Our business, as demons is to get them away from the eternal and the present.

    It's far better to make them live in the future, all their passions point in that direction.  The thought about the future inflames hope and fear.  It is also unknown to them so that making them think about it will make them think of unrealities.  In a word, the future is of all things the least like eternity.  It is the most completely temporal part of time - for the past is froze and no longer flows and the present is all lit up with eternal rays.  Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future.  Gratitude looks to the past, love to the present, fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead. (Screwtape Letters Letter 15)

    Years ago I heard a sermon by Erwin McManus where he said something to the effect of, "If you need a vacation to enjoy your life, then you need a new life."  This really struck me at the time, because I felt like I was in survival mode and that vacations, those one week, once a year things, was what I was surviving to live to make it to.  In those obscure places, existed the ability to live in joy and freedom.  His words awakened me to the fact that this wasn't what I needed to live for because God had indeed offered me life for today, in fact it was sufficient for every day.

    So years later, I think it is working:

     Common, everyday life is holy.
    I find myself wondering where my phone is and realizing that I haven't touched it in over 3 hours.  I find myself holding my kids, smelling their hair, looking at them in the eyes, laughing genuinely with them. 

      Living present, enjoying the gift of today.
    I find myself finding joy in the small, monotonous everyday tasks of folding laundry, vacuuming, sweeping; not wishing those tasks away or seeing them as an inconvenience.  I find myself enjoying work, recognizing that it is a holy task that allows me to partner with God in everyday life. 

      Because, this IS the day that the Lord has made.
    I also find myself giving myself grace to be human: to be crabby, impatient, frustrated, grumpy - inviting God to lead me through the dark places that still exist within me.

    So let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    In Christ,

Advent: HOPE

This week's Advent theme is HOPE.  

In light of this week's tragic news events the lessons I've been learning this week on this topic sit very relevant in my heart, mind and soul.

What does hope mean, in a world of darkness?

What is the purpose of the body of Christ in this age?

Should fear, rule and reign over our hearts?

My reflections on those questions are being answered for me by these thoughts:

  • There is nothing new under the sun. 
  • Christian Hope is not wishful thinking.
  • Christ's Kingdom is not of this world. 
  • We are representatives of His Kingdom here on earth.
 There is nothing new under the Sun
I've been reading, Seeking God, by Esther de Waal this week.  She was discussing how the Rule of St. Benedict was established during the age of the barbarians.  Barbarians from the north were raiding and destroying the known civilized world.  As I reflected on it, I recognized that terrorism is nothing new to the human story.  But neither is the seeking of God, by His people.

Christian Hope is Not Wishful Thinking
Our Lectionary readings at church this week covered the idea of Christ's Coming the second time:

Luke 21:25-36
 25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

My pastor reminded us that in the midst of the chaos of this world, we can lift up our heads in hope and confidence, because we do know the ending of this story.  REDEMPTION is what God is up to in this world.

Christ's Kingdom is NOT of this world 
This week, too, I reflected upon Christ before Pilate, answering the question - are you the King of the Jews?

Jesus' response, was that His Kingdom was not of this world.  Jesus was very much in the world and His life was definitely affected by the world, however, He was keenly aware that His story was not written by the world.

We are representatives of His Kingdom here on earth 
All these truths brought me back to the question, then what is our place in this world? Do we need to be given to fear? Because if you spend five minutes watching the news that is where you can easily be led.

Personally, this Advent season is leading me to a new reflection: of Christ returning as King.  I've never experienced Christmas reflecting on this, I've only reflected on it through the eyes of the first Christmas.  However, there is a sweetness to this season, reflecting on the fact that He will return again as King.

In light of all of this: 
Because there is nothing new under the sun, I am aware that terror exists in our world, but I also am aware that Christ is fully confident in the role of His Bride, the Church.  We have been invited to place our Hope (confidence) in Him and what He is up to in our lives.  We've also been invited to fully live in this world and have our lives fully affected by this world, but to also be confident that we are part of another Kingdom.  Finally, we've been invited to walk out His Kingdom, here on earth, in the midst of darkness.  To be the LIGHT in a dark world.

May we LOVE our enemies.
May we pray for those who PERSECUTE us and others.
May we LOVE our families and our children.
May we SERVE our neighbors.

Lastly, I feel this Psalm provides a fitting direction to direct our hearts, souls and minds in this season:
 Psalm 24
 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.
 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.[a]
They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b][c]
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

May we lift up our heads, our King is coming.  May His GLORY be reflected in our lives, even today.

Advent: Hope

In Christ,

Daily Prayer

Disqus for For His Glory Alone


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...