Week in Review and “New” Website Theme
So, this week while I anxiously awaited the final steps to the website conversion (it looks really nice, don’t cha think? I love it! Thank you Jane at Fiverr!) I realized this Sunday was supposed to be my next blog post and I had not thought about anything to write. Great! Not only didn’t I realize it was a post week, but I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit leading me to write anything.
I’m finally running again, so I decided I would use my morning running time to really seek the Holy Spirit to lead me to a topic. As of Thursday morning, I had N-O-T-H-I-N-G!
I switched music channels on my phone as I ran, just hoping for SOMETHING. Still nothing…. I switched to Fox News Radio just to hear what was happening in the world….kinda wish I hadn’t! Ugh! Still nothing.
Remember that “book” I told you I was working on? Well, I thought, “surely one of those chapters could make a great post AND help me move along with my writing!” Wrong! Not only did I not get a revelation to a post topic, but I also didn’t write. Anything and everything that could distract me did just that!
As I really, and I mean really, got still (remember that word!) and asked the Lord to give me something late Friday night, all of a sudden ideas started coming to me. I began to realize ALL the signs I had been given ALL week long, but I had not truly stood (nor sat nor laid) still all week long! Almost every one of the devotionals in this week’s Jesus Calling devotional book (Love that devo by the way! Get it here) had something to do with being still in His Presence.
Here are just last week’s excerpts from Jesus Calling:
June 25 – “I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence”
June 26 – “Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day”
June 27 – “Instead, focus your attention on Me, your constant Companion.”
June 28 – “Taste and see that I am good. This command contains an invitation to experience My living Presence.”
June 29 – “As you get out of bed in the morning, be aware of My Presence with you.” “Invite me into your thoughts by whispering My Name.”
June 30 – “I can do My best handiwork when you sit in the stillness of My Presence, focusing your entire being on Me.”
July 1 – As you spend time ‘soaking’ in My Presence, you are energized and lightened.”
July 2 – “I guide you continually, so you can relax and enjoy My Presence in the present.”
How could I miss THAT MANY signs?!?
I wasn’t paying attention, nor was I still.
Deep Work and Concentration
Then, low and behold, a book I ordered a few weeks ago arrived. It’s titled Deep Work by Cal Newport. I heard Newport talk about his ideas and the book during a recent Self-Publishing Success Summit sponsored by its founder, Chandler Bolt (just FYI, his brother is Seth Bolt of Need to Breathe!). Newport defines deep work as, “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
His session really grabbed my attention when he talked about how all of the network tools we use like email, SMS, social media, news media, infotainment sites, etc. and our easy access to them at any time, are making it harder and harder to perform deep work.
I’m just a few chapters into the book, but oh, wow! I see myself, my children, my husband, my students, friends, etc. in every word he writes. We are getting to the point we don’t necessarily have to “memorize” numbers or information in general because it’s just a click or two away. Why waste all that brain power on memorizing? Well, the same brain power needed to memorize is very similar to the brain power needed to concentrate for long periods of time, which can lead to solving complex problems and generating new ideas.
So, between all of the Jesus Calling devos I missed and then the Deep Work reading, I knew what I wanted to write about…..being still in His Presence!
Ironically, as I write this, we are in the car traveling north to Pennsylvania for the week, so I’m not really “still” right now! LOL!
Meaning of “In His Presence”
First of all, what does that even mean? Being still in His Presence? Do we have to be completely still, not moving or anything? Do we have to get in our Lotus yoga position and conjure up the Holy Spirit to join us?
Interestingly, the word “presence” comes from the Hebrew word, penae or peneme, which means “face”. So, drawing near to God’s Presence or being in His Presence, could represent an image or metaphor for putting a physical dimension to God. But, God is omnipresent, so He is everywhere, all the time, and does not have a physical body constricted to earthly dimensions as we know them.
In the beginning of human existence, God had a close and intimate presence with Adam and Eve. He walked among them in the Garden of Eden, until, well, we know what happened there……
In other Old Testament events, God’s Presence was described as only being experienced at the temple in Jerusalem and at the Tabernacle, and then, only high priests could enter the most sacred Holy of Holies to experience the “presence of the God”. At other times, it was His voice or presenting Himself in other visible forms.
In the New Testament, however, God sent Jesus, a REAL person who was both man AND God with physical dimensions. Because of this we (okay, not “us” directly, but others) could actually see and touch Him and therefore, literally be in the “presence of God”. (Desiring God.org)
Once Jesus left the physical earth, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us forever. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” (John 14:16) The Holy Spirit or Counselor (which in Greek means one who is called alongside), takes up residence in our hearts when we become believers and ask Him to be our Lord and Savior. (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 12:13) The Holy Spirit is with us like Jesus was with his disciples and believers when he walked on earth. (Gotquestions.org)
So, simply put, we are in His Presence ALL THE TIME, we just don’t acknowledge it.
What, wait a minute? He’s here, all around us, all the time, yet we don’t know this? How can that be?
I think we “know” this, yet we don’t know that we know. Ya know? Sorry….confusing!
How to Enter His Presence
So, if He’s there all the time anyway, how do WE enter into communion with Him on a daily basis?
I am reminded of the story of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt and he asked the Lord if His Presence didn’t go with them, how would people know who they were if He did not go with them.
So the Lord answered with, “My Presence will go with you. And I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
Moses asked Him to go with them. And although the people did not get to see the Lord face-to-face like Moses, they knew His Presence was there and He was going with them because Moses had asked and God responded.
So, we first have to ask Him to make Himself known to us when we are ready to commune with Him.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. ~Psalm 145:18~
It’s one thing to ask, but if we’re not ready to hear from Him, it won’t matter. Remember how I said I had asked all week long for Him to show me what I should write about, yet I heard nothing? I wasn’t ready.
I think many times we pray or we cry out to God for an answer and we expect to have an answer then and there. And sometimes we do, but many times it comes in subtle nudges, suggestions, images, readings, promptings from others, etc. There is no thundering, “You should do this”, sayeth the Lord. Nah! That has NEVER happened to me. You?
BUT, if we’re READY to hear from Him, if we’re AWARE of ways He may reveal Himself, then we will be in His Presence and can receive whatever He wishes to tell us.
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” ~2 Chronicles 7:14~
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. ~Jeremiah 33:3~
I debated about putting “be still” as number one. But, I don’t think most of us get still until we get frustrated and think He’s not speaking with us. We usually start out asking, go on about our business, thinking He will send us a sign, and then we miss it. Or, if you’re like me, you miss several signs!
But, I do believe if we ask, we’re ready to receive His message, in whatever form it may be, and we’re still, we will hear from Him. If we’re able to spend time, not just a quick prayer, seeking His Presence, then He will show up. He’s already there, He’s just waiting on us to ask Him in! We have to learn how to do some of that “deep work” in order to achieve this.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~Revelation 3:20~
1-Get Rid of Distractions
Skimming Newport’s book, he gives four rules for doing deep work, with several disciplines to help us follow them. Even without reading the entire book, I can tell you one of his rules is to get off social media. Don’t hate the messenger!
If you’re like me, you don’t mean to go down the rabbit hole of Facebook or Instagram, or whatever your vice of choice may be, but you do. We all do. I honestly can’t totally get off social media or I would just have to go back to doing what I was doing before I started this blog. What was I doing, by the way? Hard to remember. LOL!
I think his point, as is mine, is to get rid of distractions. If you have notifications constantly popping up on your computer screen or phone, undo that setting and move along. Even if you don’t go click on that email or that FB comment, your brain switches from what it was doing (possibly deep work or entering into God’s Presence) to look over and see whose posting some nonsense.
I know this one’s easier said than done, but give it a try and see how much you get done when you’re not constantly distracted. Being in a state of focus will help us really seek God’s Presence. He doesn’t want “part” of our attention, He wants it ALL!
**If social media isn’t your distraction, send the phone to voicemail for an hour, find a place to sit away from home and family duties for a little while, or use the time you commute to work to put on headphones (playing music or not) and slip into a world free of distractions.
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. ~Mark 12:30~
2-Get Comfortable with Silence
Yikes! This is the one that really hurts me! I think I HAVE to have music playing or the TV on, just some sort of noise to keep me sane, but I bet I could survive without some of it.
Because we are programed to constantly be doing something, we don’t know what silence is anymore. But, if we can’t be still and silent for even a little while, in order to hear from the Lord, then we’ve got bigger problems!
One suggestion for being still in silence, is to build your time. So, if you’re like me and you can’t stand for there to be silence for any length of time, you may have to start small (like 5-10 minutes) and build up from there. Your schedule will determine the length of time you can spend.
During these times of silence, especially as the time grows longer, Cal Newport offers examples of famous people who used periods free of distraction and silence to create some of the most important works the world has ever known. Carl Jung worked in a brick tower, with no electricity, when he was challenging Sigmund Freud’s ideas of psychology to develop his theories of analytical psychology. Mark Twain wrote much of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in a shed on property where he was staying one summer, isolating himself from others and the main house. Silence CAN BE PRODUCTIVE.
Times of silence not only allow us to be productive, but they open our minds and hearts to hear what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us. When we invite the Presence of the Holy Spirit into our minds and we are still, we are more likely to experience His goodness. Please know I’m not saying if you sit still for an hour you are guaranteed to hear from the Lord. No, that is NOT what I’m saying! But, I am saying if we learn to make time to free ourselves of distractions and meditate in silence we may hear things we were previously missing.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23
3-Posture of Receiving
I’ve shared before that this blog was birthed out of my personal encounter with the Presence of the Lord when He urged me to donate a kidney to a complete stranger. I was in the middle of prayer, by myself, and it was quiet (probably not silent, but very quiet). Although I didn’t expect Him to tell ME to be the one to donate a kidney, I was in a posture of receiving and therefore able to hear what He was sharing with me.
Obviously, I don’t have those eureka moments every time I pray. I often miss it! BUT, that experience, and many others that happened in 2014, led me to be aware of how He can speak to me and to recognize the posture I should assume in order to be in His Presence.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ~John 1:10-13~
Okay, so I’ve shared with you the importance of concentrated, silent time in order to encounter the Presence of the Lord. So what? Now what?
You may say, “Okay, that’s good to know, but what am I going to do with that now?” Glad you asked!
I will be on vacation with the family-in-laws this week, but I’m challenging myself, and you, to find a few moments of COMPLETE SILENCE. (You do not know how horrible that sounds to me! This truly will be a challenge!)
Complete silence means no music, no computers, or phones, N-O-T-H-I-N-G that might distract you. And then seek Him with everything you’ve got. See if He reveals Himself to you then or throughout the day/week. Hopefully you won’t miss as many signs as I did!
I promise to give a truthful report in the next post and/or on the Facebook page. PROMISE! I would love to hear from you and your experiences as well. Please share in the comments below or sign up to receive weekly devotionals and bi-weekly posts straight to your email.
Until next time, here’s wishing you distraction free, silence in His Holy Presence! AND, have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!