13 Ideas For Practicing the Presence of God

During Lent many of us Jesusy types look for ways to be intentional about practicing the presence of God.  There are a myriad of books, booklets, websites, podcasts and small groups dedicated to  spiritual practices meant to give our wandering minds a compass pointing us toward the Divine. Today I’d like to lift up a groovy little secular book that has frequently reminded me of my connection to the divine in, with and through all things.   How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith is an art journaling book of sorts that offers “a variety of prompts and assignments” to help the wonderer and wanderer on their journey. Smith begins by sharing how she herself began the process of putting together this little travel guide.

She says: “This book started with a list that I wrote one night when I couldn’t sleep…these ideas are an accumulation of things that I have learned from various teachers and artists over the years and have become the basis for all of my own exploration.”

I’ve read her list many times and it keeps speaking to me, prodding me, asking questions about who I am as a Christian and offers me one way of thinking about who I WANT to be as a person of faith. In this list I also see a pretty cool way of way of “doing church”.

I spoke with Keri years ago when I intended to blog my way through her book (I only got a few assignments in and …  squirrel!) and interestingly enough Keri told me that she never intended this work to be about a journey of faith – for her it seems to be wholly about art and about living fully in the world, knowing yourself and the creative potential of your life and connecting deeply with world around you. And folks, for these ears that sounds a lot like practicing the presence of God. Her little projects seem for all the world like great guideposts on this journey of stumbling along trying to hear and follow that holy radical from Galilee.

I do not see the list as a 1-13 powerpoint to perfect enlightenment but I do see in the list an invitation for a journey, a process for becoming. Each item has the potential to help me understand my walk of faith in new ways. I do not see this list as linear but cyclical, where each item can lead back to another and then another. Interdependent and interwoven.

The list calls me forward but a is also a pretty good map of my past. As a child I was always looking, looking, looking.  Wonder and delight were found in the simplest of things – like the seasonal textures of the red clay of Georgia or the endless ways to play in a pink pom-pom adorned mimosa tree.   That sense of sight has not entirely gone dark but my vision has narrowed as my bones have aged. I still look – but more and more I am looking in a straight line to what ever the next thing is. The next assignment, the next teacher conference, the next car-pool line, the next trip to the grocery store, the next filling of the dishwasher. I am aware that I need to slow down and REALLY look.

SO I am starting all over again – looking, looking and looking. Warning to myself – last time I looked this closely at my life I did in fact (#4) alter my course – and radically.  When I work though this list in a prayerful manner, I am called back to the crazy notion that God is in the dim corners of family photographs and in the bright hollering light of playgrounds, in the slumping shoulders of a tired nurse and in the shuddering frame of her patient, in baren branches of winter willows and the fragrant petals of the Magnolia in full bloom.

Once we start looking, and observing, and noticing patters, and tracing things to their origins – using all of our senses – well, how can we not notice that everything is interesting and laced with a shimmering connective tissue beyond our comprehension.  And when I am fully in touch with my own existence, in this world now, in the aging body I inhabit and how this southern gal in her mid 40′s is connected to the here and now as well as eternity I do experience a real and true sense of the presence of God. And if I really look and listen to the cacophony going on around and within me, and if I remember that God is present in every moment I have to lean into a radical faith that incorporates both indeterminacy and interdependence.

Ok, enough already, here’s the list. I encourage you to read it a few times, slowly. Think about each idea and if you hear a spiritual practice that I’ve heard.

I would really love to hear from you on this! Do any of the ideas really speak to you? Which ideas challenge you? Are any just way off the mark? Do you see what I see?  What would happen if you were to apply this list for one month of church attendance? What would happen if you skipped a month of church, dug into this book as a spiritual practice and looked for ways to practice the presence of God outside the ancient, prescribed forms of your tradition?

 

Keri Smith

 

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

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  • http://www.Yeshua21.com/ Wayne

    Thomas Kelly’s, “Testament of Devotion” is another excellent book on this topic. He writes:

    “The Now is no mere nodal point between the past and the future. It is the seat and region of the Divine Presence itself…. The Now contains all that is needed for the absolute satisfaction of our deepest cravings…. In the Now we are at home at last.”

    Much of this book is available online:
    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/now-is-the-accepted-time/

  • Elvenfoot

    There is nothing wrong with this list in itself, but it seems to be divorced from a theological foundation, almost self-serving, rather than God-focused. Though maybe I am misunderstanding, I’m not sure. And using it as “church”? No, I don’t think that works; it can’t possibly replace the Eucharist, sound teaching, and gathering together in fellowship and prayer.

    The other problem is that this list can apply to even those who have no interest or belief in God, so something key is missing. I think that Brother Lawrence’s “Practice of the Presence of God” (book title) is a little more along the lines of what a Christian should really aim for; if anyone here hasn’t read it, it would be worth your while. That’s not to say to ignore the things on this list. They remind me of St. Francis of Assisi (my favorite saint) in some ways. Perhaps follow Lawrence’s and/or Francis’s paths to practicing God’s constant presence, but use this list as a practical guide for entering into their path.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Friend,

      I’m afraid you do greatly misunderstand.

      As I said in the post, this list is entirely secular. The author never intended this to be a spiritual/theological prescriptive. But I, through my lens that sees the Holy, sees God, everywhere – in both humanly labeled holy and secular – I can see in this list a lovely set of ideas that, with God on our mind, can point us to new ways of seeing God in everything and everyone around us. As one who believes Christ who claims the Kingdom is here, is within us – so too can I see holy things as mundane as an art journal or a rap song. It is all in how we are oriented in the world, and my compass is perpetually pointing toward God.

      I do connect this to the ways of brother Lawrence, which is why I mentioned him here. Sometimes I find it helpful to use language of today that is not be foreign to the ears and eyes as a way of articulating and experiencing I our journey of faith. And that is why this book speaks to me because is uses language of being an explorer. Certainly on this journey of life and faith we are called to be explorers of God’s good creation.

      This list can help people slow down and pay attention – experience life apart from TV and Facebook. And maybe, just maybe they will begin to perceive that divine spark that ties us all together.

      As for church, you take me too literally. I in no way mean, or said, that this should replace Eucharist. I was thinking on a different level and how we think about, talk about and create church.

      For example –

      Always be looking & everything is interesting – look for the power and beauty in worship. Don’t go about it in rote ways. Look for the small things that seem inconsequential and wonder about their meaning. Tis also asks those of us who plan and create worship experiences to think carefully about every moment of worship. Notice patterns and make connections.

      Incorporate indeterminacy – this is maybe the most holy of the list – to acknowledge that we really do not know, that life often makes no sense and to be at peace with that. And to make space in our hearts and minds for change and organic eruptions of grace, right in worship!

      These are but a few examples so I hope it will help you see where I was coming from.

  • James Jarvis

    I think this Ted talk is amazing http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html. There are no explicit references to religion but it seems to me that she what she says has some brilliant things to say about community and trust. An aside, mimosas grow on trees, I’m moving to Georgia.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight Kimberly

      Ooo, thanks, I will check it out. Love me some TED talks! If only they were the drinkin’ kind :)

  • http://gravatar.com/charlyhors Charles

    I like the list. A lot of it comes down to “being here now”, being fully engaged in the moment vs being bored or engaging in your inner dialogue. A walking meditation.

  • http://wordofblessing.wordpress.com dkzody

    Reminds me of “The Artist’s Way.”

  • mike h

    I do see what you’re talking about. However, it might be more accurate to say that these help folks practice their own presence in God’s world.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight Kimberly

      Mike,

      I sorta understand where you are coming from but I don’t see this quite the same way (obviously) – as we understand that God is everywhere at all times and permeates all of creation – as we learn to be more present to the world God created AND to see the divine spark in all and all – we become more attuned to God’s persistent presence in our lives.


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