I was hiking in one of my favorite places on earth, surrounded by looming granite walls, giant towering redwoods, plush emerald-green, moss-covered boulders the size of a house, and spongy forest floor padded with pine needles as long as my forearm, but I realized my mind was somewhere else and I was missing this magical moment.
We have all, at some time or other, found ourselves day dreaming and can’t remember how we got from one place to another, whether that is to a different room in our house or a few blocks down the road we are driving. Often our thoughts are so focused on the future, preparing mentally for some scenario, or rehearsing the past, trying to fix or figure out what already happened, that we miss the present moment. But when we miss the present moment we forfeit untold treasures.
You see, when we become present we have the capacity to capture a moment in time and not only experience the glory of the living God in it and to hear His voice; but also to make it accessible in the future, to relive that glory and Presence and the experience of His Word. We form what we call a memory; we literally create a neural pathway in our brain that is tangible. These neural pathways are formed quite automatically in moments of trauma or in good and pleasant drama. We can remember the intense highs and lows of life because they are etched in our memory. We notice because they are forced in our face.
But the mundane moments can be lost in time with secret gems overlooked. They are gems because God – the One who formed the universe with His spoken word– is present in every moment, good, bad or mundane. He is accessible at each and every moment throughout history. But we have to become present in order to intentionally access Him. Otherwise, we might just pass Him by.
When we become present, we can encounter God and also form a neural pathway that creates a road for us to come back to that sacred-mundane moment in the future- a memory. I can find my way back there and relive that moment, that moment where God was in all His hidden or evident glory.
Recall a time you were very connected to God.
Relive that moment. Remember every detail and how that connection felt. Enjoy it again.
Now bring that moment present and enjoy that same connection again, not just as a memory, but as a present reality.
I don’t spend the whole time “praying” to God. I practice spending the whole time “being” with God.
It is easier to become present when you have silence, solitude, stillness, and especially beauty. These places are great training wheels. This is one reason I love to practice EPCs (Extended Personal Communion), which is a practice I learned by participating in The Journey. I enjoy finding a place of beauty and quietness away from the distractions of the world and spending extended time with God. I try to plan at least four hours because it usually takes me the first two to slow down and become present. I don’t spend the whole time “praying” to God. I practice spending the whole time “being” with God. This is harder than you might think. We are used to doing, planning, thinking, figuring out, talking, praying… all the active things. We are not as proficient with the passive things; just being, noticing, being present. So, I practice it, just like one might practice playing an instrument in order to get more competent at that.
I notice the sounds:
far away construction… busy people moving earth unaware of the faint sounds through the trees to which they are oblivious
the sound of a dry leaf scratching against a dormant branch; the sound of my own breathing, life in motion.
I notice the sights:
the red roof of a house in the valley below
a yellowed field
the resilient green of a pine surrounded by ghostly branches of tired trees waiting for spring
the rust on a fence with years of faded green
the buds on the tip of every branch– were they there all along?
I notice the smells:
the scent of dried wood
the cooling coffee in my flask
I notice my feelings externally and internally:
the chilly breeze
my quieting spirit
I notice The Presence:
He is watching: all the details, all the movements, all the complexities of this layered moment in time; watching over me.
I am capturing this moment and putting it into a timeless place, to remain or to be relived. The place where God watches. He is my Keeper. I experience it.
After these training wheels, I become more adept at noticing the mundane moments of God’s glory: the person on the cell phone in the car in front of me, the dishes in the sink, the dust on the window sill, the face of the cashier at Target, the unexpressed emotions of the man in the airport, the immensity of the granite wall towering above me as I hike through God-laden paths.
He is present in this present moment.