Gary Turk – writer, filmmaker and award-winning producer – watched his cultural capital soar through the roof with the global success of Look Up. Look Up is a spoken word narrative, set to film, that exposes the shortcomings of a society addicted to technology. One of my favorite lyrics in the poem/song speaks to the longing for connection we desire and the lack of intimacy we experience; describing the outcome of generation raised in our techno-zombie age:
“We’re surrounded by children, who since they were born,
watch us living like robots, and think it’s the norm.”
Surrounded by children indeed! Look Up has as much to say to the church and as it does about the culture at large.
The shortcoming and sin he identifies are also the lurking nemesis behind my fourth desire of 2016: the desire to lean into the full, vital and vibrant reality of life in His Spirit, now!
Indeed, my difficulty to connect with God in a relevant, life-giving moment by moment way may be more closely linked to the habits I enjoy rather than the desires I express. Exploring this divergence between the habits I practice and the desires I express has caused me to consider to a biting question:
What is preventing me from leaning into the vibrant an life-giving presence of the God who is in my midst?
I think I may have stumbled upon a few answers.
The first reason I often fail to experience the life-giving presence of God in my midst is that I don’t – fundamentally – believe that God offers life in His spirit now! While I do believe that God offers me eternal life (hope for tomorrow) I sometimes live as if that’s a reality to experience tomorrow rather than a joy to be explore today. I think this plagues many of us. In his seminal work, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard helps me move past this false notion when he says,
The reality of God’s rule, and all of the instrumentalist it involves, is present in action and available with and through the person of Jesus. That is Jesus’ gospel. New Testament passages make plain that this kingdom is not something to be “accepted” now and enjoyed later, but something to be entered now (Matt. 5: 20; 18: 3; John 3: 3, 5). It is something that already has flesh-and-blood citizens (John 18: 36; Phil. 3: 20) who have been transformed into it (Col. 1: 13) and are fellow workers in it (Col. 4: 11).†
A second reason I often fail to experience the life-giving presence of God in my midst is that I don’t orient my day toward Him. I wake up focused on myself and my needs. I move into my day establishing my calendar and keeping my commitments. Even my devotional times can be more about me and ‘checking all the boxes’ than about God’s presence and my desire to be with Him and open to Him as I move into the day ahead!
After a day full of me, myself and I, I often drag myself into bed wondering why I responded so negatively or lived so hurriedly in the midst of many moments and opportunities to experience the grace and goodness of God in my midst. Indeed, I often mutter the words, ‘God where were you today?’ In moments like this, I find the words of Albert Day to remind me that it’s not God who is absent to me. It is, rather, I who have become absent to God.
“If we are not aware of him, it is not because he is not with us. It is, in part, because our consciousness is so under the sway of other interests that it cannot turn to him with the loving attention which might soon discern Him…What makes life splendid is the constant awareness of God. What transforms the spirit into His likeness is intimate fellowship with him. We are saved–from our pettiness and earthiness and selfishness and sin–by conscious communion with his greatness and love and holiness.”
What makes life splendid is a constant awareness of God!
YES! “Awareness” is the heart of Personal Desire Number Four in 2016: That I would Lean into the full, vital and vibrant reality of life in His Spirit, now!
Here are a few habits I am trying to develop that will – I believe – assist me in fulfilling my desire. Maybe you have one or two yourselves. If not, just begin with the question I posed earlier: What is preventing me from leaning into the vibrant and life-giving presence of he God who is in my midst?
Habits That Open Me To The Vital and Life-Giving Presence of God in My Midst
- Schedule in pauses throughout my day – particularly when I am at my busiest! I am trying to insert ‘windows of clarity and clear consciousness’ on a regular basis. Simply put this means that I pause, reflect and pray for about five minutes before and after meeting or appointments I have. I find that, when I practice this habit, I bring my full self to the moment and lean into the life-giving presence of God in my midst. When speaking of busyness, particularly in the ministry, Eugene Peterson once said, “But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife, or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.”
- Turn off my technology twenty – four hours each week! Turning off my personal technology is a form of “Sabbath keeping” that restores to my soul. I turn my phone off and stay away from screens, bings and rings for one day a week. This practice alone helps me rest. It provides much-needed space for soul care and restoration. I also find that I am more present with my family when my technology is off and away from me! I miss some important phone calls, text messages, and emails. I find that people understand and are encouraged when I get back with them and explain why I haven’t responded to them in their time of need!
- Practice Silence and Solitude Weekly and Monthly. I try to get away once a month and spend a portion of the day (usually about 6 hours) in the Word. I usually go to the beach or find a place where I can be undisturbed and sit in the silence of God’s grace and goodness. I also try to practice silence in the daily and weekly routines of my life. I often begin the day in silence and solitude as I seek Him in His Word. Many times I will turn off the radio in my car and just listen. There are multiple ways to practice “as I go” silence and solitude. Most of them are relatively easy and pain-free. Every time I practice “bite-sized silence and solitude,” I find I am more able to engage in the living presence of the God who is in my midst
What are your desires this year?
What is preventing you from experiencing them on a consistent basis?
Disrupting to Renew!
†Willard, Dallas (2009-02-06). The Divine Conspiracy (p. 28). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.