Last year I heard Dr. Phil Kenneson speak at the slow church conference. His talk (which you can listen to here) was deeply impactful to me. He talked about presence and one of the most impactful things he said was, “We don’t have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence.” He didn’t say our gifts, abilities, or wise words, but simply our presence. This doesn’t just mean that we are physically in a room or shared space with someone, but instead he means present with that person being attentive and devoting time to that person. The final challenge of being present is being present is being present in the world. Continue reading
About five and a half years ago my life changed. In 2009, Lindsay and I got married. From that day forward, my life changed. My life now included Lindsay. Around a year ago, my life changed again. Our daughter, Claire, was born. When I come home from the office, I come home to my family, and this past year I have learned even more that I need to practice being present with my family. In my continuing resolution to be present, after God and myself, I need to be present to my family.
Growing up I loved to play computer and video games. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 90s when video games really because popular, but I really like to play them. Now it’s even worse because they’re on my phone. On top of video games there are so many different ways that we have come up with to occupy ourselves. We get sucked into TV, Social Media, the Internet, 24 hour sports channels, and our phones and tablets. There are limitless ways to be in the same place with someone else but not be present to them. Continue reading
The next area of presence that I am resolving to practice this year is being present to myself. I know on the surface that this sounds very selfish, but it’s really a vital step in the life of a disciple to recognize who they are, where they come from, and what’s going on inside of them.
In the last year I have been going through the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality with the other staff of Westbrook. This is really what has pressed upon me the need for presence to self. The book teaches how to look at what is going on inside you and what happened in your family to help you develop emotional health in order to be spiritually healthy. Many of us don’t take the time to analyze what is going on inside of us and why it is happening. This is what I mean by being present to myself. Being present to myself allows me to better remove the obstacles from being transformed into a more Christ-like person.
When I know myself, I know the causes of anger and frustration. I know what causes me to stumble or succeed. I know the areas where I need to be more patient. I begin to know how to overcome those obstacles that stand in the way of loving God well and loving others well. This is why I have been working and continue working to know myself better. When I ignore these things and pretend like everything is okay, I fail to love as best I can and loving well is at the heart of Christian spirituality. In fact in the Emotionally Heathy course they say that, “The essence of true Christian Spirituality is learning to love well.”
I want to challenge you to take sometime and try to figure out why you are the way you are and if you have the time read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I believe that being present to ourselves better allows to being present to others because we can remove the obstacles that get in the way of loving God and loving others well.
This year, one of the most thought provoking books I read was Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner. Presence is a powerful word. It is a very simple and profound word, and in the last year, it is word that has reshaped my thinking about how the church should minister in the the world. It started when I heard David Fitch and Chris Smith speak on how the church should be present in the neighborhood. I encountered presence again when Dr. Phil Kenneson presented at the Slow Church conference. He said that we do not have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence. Now, David Benner’s new book Presence and Encounter has added even more depth and weight to the idea of presence. Benner shows how profoundly important it is for us to practice and experience presence in our lives. He writes, “the most vital and significant moments in life are moments of encounter.”  In order to make encounter possible, we have be present and experience presence. Continue reading