Sometimes when I hear the word “discipline” used in reference to experiencing God’s presence, it revives images of failed New Year’s Eve promises or early morning gym routines that are riveted by blaring music. My thoughts are crowded with notions of striving, enduring and straining to “get God.”
In her book, Enjoying the Presence of God, Jan Johnson suggests noticing what is present, immediate, the thing that is right in front of us as a path of connecting with God. She encourages us to notice the thing that captures our attention and allows our mindfulness to draw us to God. She endorses the wondering mind and encourages pursuing it.
While sitting at my desk in an attempt to engage in this practice, my eyes fell on a watercolor from a trip I had taken with my mom and sister to Prague, in the Czech Republic. In that city we visited a well-known site, the Charles Bridge, which is lined with statues of Jesus and numerous saints. As I examined the watercolor my eye was drawn to a particular statue known as the “The Dream of Saint Lutgarde.”
The statue depicts the vision of a French nun. Saint Lutgarde is kneeling at the foot of the cross with her arms stretched up to Jesus. He is nailed to the cross but his right arm is unattached and with His hand He cradles her face.
Immediately, I felt gratitude for my mom and for the gift of the wonderful trip she had given. I thanked God she was my mother. As I learned more of Saint Lutgarde’s story I asked God to bless my mother as He had this Saint. I specifically asked that my mother would have an assurance of her faith as she aged, and the joy she had given to me as a child would return.
It has been two years since my experience of noticing the watercolor that led me to reflect on our trip, and was prompted to pray for my mom. She is now 86 years old.
God has blessed my mother in remarkable ways. She enjoys increased assurance of God’s love largely due to the teaching and guidance of a new vibrant pastor. She attends weekly counseling sessions with a compassionate Christian therapist and is processing life altering experiences from her childhood.
Jan Johnson encouraged me to verbalize what I noticed and to let my prayer follow my wondering mind.
Many spiritual practices require focused attention. Noticing what is in front of me reminds me that He is always present and waiting to speak to me. I do not need to strain to enjoy Him; I only need to be intentional, present.
In the simple practice of noticing what was in front of me, I enjoyed God’s presence and my prayers were answered.
Questions for Reflection:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Dear God, help me to notice you in what I see, feel, hear, taste and smell. Teach me that you are ever present in every moment of my life. Amen.
Recommended Resources Related to This Blog:
Enjoying the Presence of God, by Jan Johnson