Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Receptivity and offering: My presence

Lynne Baab • Wednesday April 27 2022

Receptivity and offering: My presence

“God, I am here. You are here. Amen.” Episcopal minister Debie Thomas describes a period in her life when those were the only words she could pray.

She writes, “I couldn’t say ‘thank you’ and mean it. I couldn’t say ‘help,’ because I was tired of asking for help. I didn’t feel capable of awe or reverence. The only honest prayer I could make was a prayer of bare-bones presence, mine and God’s.”

In an article in Christian Century, Rev. Thomas describes her journey from a place of discouragement and numbness to an experience of God’s goodness in each present moment. For her, that journey of healing happened through her preparation to lead a retreat on Benedictine spirituality, and the Benedictine vow of stability spoke to her. One of three vows Benedictine monks and sisters affirm, its roots lie in St. Benedict’s belief that God is present – and we can find and experience that presence – in the place that we are right now.

Perhaps you will find richness in exploring this vow, and I have and as Debie Thomas did. Perhaps you will find it encouraging and validating to read that someone who is a minister and who writes a column for a major Christian magazine went through a period when the only words she could pray were a stark and simple prayer. Thomas describes what that simple prayer meant to her: “When I prayed, ‘God, you are here,’ I was praying my bewilderment, my doubt, my almost-shattered hope. Are you here? How can you possibly be here?”

Perhaps you will enjoy a nudge today to settle into this moment. Rev. Thomas writes, “God is where the ordinary is. God inhabits the mundane, the imperfect, the broken, the boring. God is no less present in our waiting rooms, traffic stops, board meetings, and toddler bedtime rituals than in a jaw-dropping cathedral or the ocean at sunset.” 

Rev. Thomas describes the way that both halves of her prayer became illuminated for her. “I am here” encourages her to notice the specifics of her life, especially the challenges faced by people she loves. “You are here” encourages her to receive with gratitude the glimpses of God’s presence that she notices in so many small events of daily life, including laughter, kind acts, and communal worship. One of those significant events of daily life that she cites is the moment when she experienced the “subtle shift in perspective that comes when we decide that ‘here’ is holy. . . . Because God is here, I can try to be here, too.”

Thomas’s description of the way her prayer narrowed in a stressful time reminds me of the almost year-long period when the only part of the Bible I could read, and the only prayer I could offer to God, was Psalm 90. I wrote a blog post about that time, using the language of seasons to describe those periods that seem like the stillness and lifelessness of winter. Spring does come.

Debie Thomas’s prayer encourages us to offer to God our presence. “I am here,” we tell God, “and because you are here, too, I am watching for you, paying attention to where your Holy Spirit might be working.” We offer our presence to God, and we watch for the ways God responds by drawing near in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Next week: Tears. Illustration by Dave Baab: a puppy and a cat in my lap. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Some blog posts I've written about Benedictine spirituality:

Next post »« Previous post