Anna brought a book written by Mike Mason, “Practicing the Presence of People”. An insightful book that presents principles of precisely what I want to do this week with Anna. I learned that practicing the presence of someone isn’t about self, but about the person in the encounter. It is giving one’s self to another by focusing on them in a positive way, being sensitive to them as an individual person.
Saturday, when Anna’s brother, Tim, called, the conversation flowed. Suddenly there was a break. Then Tim said, “I shouldn’t be reading email.” Anna answered, “Oh, and I am still working on cake php programming.” It was by chance I wasn’t sitting at my computer, or I would be multi-tasking as well. That was not ‘practicing the presence’. We laughed and continued our visit.
Is this why so many relationships are not many-splendored but many-splintered? Attention and time is required. Focused concentration is required to be successful without continuous distractions. During that simpler era of the 30’s and 40’s, we had fewer distractions for the eyes and ears to take in. We created our own music or listened to music on a phonograph, changing the record for each song. The Radio was just coming into it’s own. At night we listened to Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy and for a chilling time – The Shadow Knows.
Now our eyes and our ears are filled with music and pictures full time through the wonders of electronic world – ipad, ipod, iphone (or is it the me-pad, me-pod and me-phone) computers, HD televisions and video games. These become the only world, the baby sitter, or connection with others simply through the 52 inch Flat Screen. Creating a relationship with another person is crippled because or our addiction to filling our minds with choices others make.
One of the chapters in the book intrigued me. It revealed that “Intercessory Prayer is a primary means of practicing the presence of people…..without love for a person, we cannot pray for him….” Mike Mason continues, “We need to love people first, intentionally, and only then will we know how to pray for them.”
Thus, practicing the presence of people becomes a primary focus and a part of our lives. One friend of mine so exemplifies the ‘practicing the presence of people’, that being in her presence is exhilarating. Why? The descriptions that come to my mind are acceptance, intentional and unconditional love, encouragement, a total ‘being present’ and honor. I always leave filled with love, feeling treasured and a worthwhile person no matter my faults and inconsistencies. There is no condemnation, no scolding, no correction – just love and acceptance.
As I consider her example, I realize what ‘practicing the presence of people’ truly is. Where did this idea come from? Mike Mason writes about Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived around 1610 in Herimenil Lorraine, a Duchy of France. At mid-life he entered a monastery in Paris. He learned that to practice the presence of God, we walk before God simply -- in faith, with humility and with love. We will engage in a continual, silent and affectionate conversation with Our Father. Out of love for Him, we strive to do nothing and think nothing that may displease God. (http://www.practicegodspresence.com/) "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 The word ‘delight’ describes practicing the presence of God as well as people.
In this life we cannot live by distractions alone lessening our thinking about eternal matters. We must have an anchor to hold on to. What do I remember as a child that is steadfast and sure? I remember the prayers and the lives of my great grandparents, my grandparents and my parents. My thoughts go back to the faith that each one professed in Jesus Christ. They practiced the presence of Jesus Christ in their walk with Him. No matter how little or how much they had of material goods, they gave thanks and praise to our Lord.
Their heartaches were borne with thanksgiving for they knew that God was refining their hearts to live for an eternity. They listened, they looked, they embraced suffering, they lived in the moment…each moment. It is a daily choice to let God be God, and people be people. For practicing the presence of each person we meet becomes a sweet challenge of faith, humility and love.
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 18:12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
Psalm 21:6 Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Psalm 89:15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
Psalm 114:7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
Psalm 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
Proverbs 8:30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
1 Thessalonians 3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
Jude 1:24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—