64. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

1209619 This is the Blackstone Audio version of one of my Top 10 favorite spiritual books. I think everyone should read it. On audio, it is only an hour, and I did it while taking a shower one day and then a walk another. It has so many gems in it, it will be a book you come back to over and over again. 

Each month the Renovaré Institute for Christian Formation gives us a "Praxis (practice)" Exercise. It helps us put into practice what we are learning in the Institute, but it is a lovely practice. I am going to give you the poem they gave us in the actual assignment, and then my essay follows.

On the first page of Knowing Christ Today, Dallas Willard has placed the title THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and included the following poem from Francis Thompson:

This is about finding God in everyday life. Francis Thompson wrote this while a homeless drug addict in London. Meditate on this. What do you think?

In No Strange Land by Francis Thompson

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
’Tis ye, ’tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

The Thames on Our Trip to London 2016

My essay on my experience of the assignment:

"'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces, 
That miss the many-splendored thing."

These lines intrigued me. I have long believed that God is constantly trying to capture our attention, and it is because we are "estranged" that we miss "the many-splendored thing" He is trying to reveal to us. 

Ever since I read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence in my 20's, and I was crying while walking back on a cold, winter's evening at twilight from a basketball game in which some silly boy-man made some snarky comment, and I became undone. The moment will always be etched in my mind because it was a turning point to everything. It began the quest I have been on for almost 40 years and will, Lord willing, be on for the rest of my life. 

In that twilight moment, I asked God, "Why do You feel so far away in this devastation when you felt so close this morning in my time of morning prayer? Where are you right now? Can I please have an awareness of You 24/7/365 like Brother Lawrence even in these kinds of times where people are unkind or life is difficult? Is that even possible when I am not a monk? How do I experience You all the time?" 

Testing and trials came my way throughout my 20's: father almost dying twice only to die on the third time due to pancreatic cancer and suffering a breakdown were two of the major things. God was constantly trying to reveal Himself to me in those moments, and I got glimpses of glory at what might seem like the worst of times. For instance, He spoke to me about where to go after my breakdown that led me to freedom from memories that had enslaved me (and led me to my husband). He also made His manifest presence so real to me in the midst of my dad's death. They were profound glimpses into that "living in moment by moment fellowship" with Him. I find it interesting that Thompson wrote this poem when he was a homeless opium addict. God wants to meet us even in our darkest hours. 

I read excerpts of Letters by a Modern Mystic & The Game with Minutes by Laubach in my 30's. Here was a man who was not a monk and even reached out to Muslims! This encouraged me even more. Then, my ministry boss started having us do The Game with Minutes with each and every group we trained. Now, I had buddies in the quest to experience God in the minutes of my day. (By the way, this is always one of the highlights for our trainees. It is a really fun thing to do together.) 

So, here I am in Renovaré, and days before this assignment, He reminded me of that twilight prayer so long ago. I love the accountability of it all! Thank you Renovaré for this assignment.  

So here are some times when the traffic on Jacob's ladder "pitched betwixt" heaven and where I live more recently:

1) Meditating on Psalm 23 in my living room (yep, I am still in it even though it is November because our ministry team is meditating on it this week), He led me to look at the sunrise through my window and really notice the beautiful world of my backyard, and I asked Alexa to play Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." while I watch God's creation in awe. WOW! What a perfect song for this God moment. 

2) At mid-day, I shared "What a Wonderful World" with my three marvelous men as we drove back from church. I played it, and God put on a show of light peaking out from behind rain clouds glistening through fall leaves. There was a holy hush in our car. We all sensed the glorious presence even though not a word was spoken.

3) With a busy day ahead of me, I struggled to chose between the funeral of my friend's father and my bimonthly beautiful Kingdom Community prayer and storytelling time with four ladies, and God whispered, "I want you to go to both." When I protested that this would be too much, He said, "I will work it out and give you a show of my beauty and Psalm 23. I will show you when you are to leave to go to the next engagement." 

I knew the ride would be lovely. I have driven this back road to Salem before, but the GPS (God's Positioning System) took me on another road that I had never been down, and OH MY. The trees enfolded over the top of the road, and I was in a corridor of color, awash in green, red, yellow, and orange with the sun glistening through the leaves wet from an earlier rain. It was narrow and winding but so worth the trip! 

Then, the funeral. What a celebration of a life well-lived! I have never been to a Catholic service, but when the Cantor sang the verses of Psalm 23, and we all sang responsively . . . 

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears,

from death into life.

over and over again, I almost stood up and said, "God is most definitely shining traffic on Jacob's ladder from heaven to this Catholic sanctuary right now people!" But I contained myself. 

Then on top of it all, my very Catholic college friend, Sharon, knew exactly what to do when, I just followed her, and I grinned ear to ear through the whole service. God was there! When we held hands as a congregation and said the Lord's Prayer together, I was in raptures!

Then, the Eucharist started, and since I am not Catholic and cannot partake, I said my adieu to Sharon who said it was fine to leave early.

Leaving over the same road I had before I experienced more of God's presence because the light had shifted on the road to make it like a new place to behold.

And guess what, I made it RIGHT ON TIME to a glorious lunch, prayer, and telling of the story of David with my Kingdom Community Buddies! Heaven always shine with these ladies, and I am so grateful that I have a community like this.

4) As I submitted my academic assignment earlier this morning, S, from Afghanistan came online. I had talked to her the day before, and she poured her heart out. Life is hard for this divorced mom of three boy, and I promised to pray. This morning, she shared how God had given her hope about some of the things she had shared the day before. We spent a good amount of time telling each other what we were thankful for. Then, I sent her a story I recorded on Creation, and we talked a little bit about it. I think the point I am trying to make is that I could have been goal-oriented about getting my academic assignment in and missed out on the blessings of hearing this woman's thankful heart for what God had done. 

5) As I typed this, my best friend texted me to say that her mother had only a couple more days to live. I could text back, but I called her instead, and there was a meeting of our hearts in love. God was there in the grief of my friend. We have walked together in Jesus since we were both 19 years old. I think making an effort to be more aware of God's presence makes you so very thankful for everything you have. 

6) I have been doing the Examen with my husband when he is home from his job in another city, and it has been such a time of shining the traffic of Jacob's ladder pitched between heaven and our living room. God is there as we share where we saw Him in our day, and how we can love others more on the next.

7) One last one, and I will stop! I also experienced God as I looked at one of my favorite paintings on Jacob's ladder by Marc Chagall. It also brought a sweet memory of an experience of God when I was at the Art Institute of Chicago and looked at Chagall's American Windows. I sat down as I gazed at it and wept. Art is so beautiful and shines the traffic for me!


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