Practicing the Presence

Feast Day of George Herbert

Philippians 4:4-9

Dawn is brightening the sky, and suddenly the clouds glow ruby, salmon and smoky mauve. Such beauty brings me into the moment, and my heart expands, it’s corset of worry and sadness sprung abruptly open. A long, slow, life-giving breath fills my entire torso. If the rest of my family were not still asleep I think I might sing.

Today’s passage from Philippians works on me in the same way. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” No matter where I am or what is going on, this reminds me to stretch my awareness to include that Other who is always present with me. In my sorrow and my disappointment I can find resonance with the one who has both witnessed and experienced all grief, all the moments when hope has been dashed, suffering of the degree I can’t even imagine – and the resurrection of hope, and boundless love. In God’s empathetic company, I rejoice. And my heart expands.

The resplendent cloud display has drawn me into a moment of mindfulness. I sense the aches in my muscles, the pressure of my feet against the floor, the stillness of the house, the slight hum of the computer on the little table in front of me, the ringing in my ears. In the heavens salmon flares to orange and the mauve turns a toasty brown. In this moment everything is holy, all around me is a treasure.

Philippians contains a simple recipe for living all the moments of a life: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It’s a variation of the Practice of the Presence of God used by the 16th Century kitchen monk, Brother Lawrence. Bring everything into conversation with God. Fill all your instants with the awareness of that holy presence. Do not worry, because worry is the great time-eater and it accomplishes nothing. Make all your requests known, and let God be the one to determine which will be met and which express desires that are in need of transformation.

In the moments when we can be available to God’s presence, healing comes. Most obviously it comes from the Creator, who understands and loves us. But it also comes from us – from our authenticity in such instances, and from our willingness to see the sacred in everything around us. It oozes out of us, affecting countless situations we may not even know exist.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Such is the consequence of prayer without ceasing. May it be known to you this very day.

Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado

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