Hi, I don’t know about you, but I have been trying to appreciate things much more recently – to slow down and notice things more, and enjoy things more, things like nature, food and company. Unfortunately, so often things pass me by, and I don’t enjoy them how they are made to be enjoyed or can be enjoyed. But during lockdown and recently, I have often walked my baby daughter around our nearest park every morning. Slowly, I started taking it all in more, noticing the leaves on the trees, the birds singing and the sun or rain on my face.
As I walked, often many anxious and ruminating thoughts came into my head. What will happen? What will happen with my health, of those that I love, or those in this country or around the world? What will happen with work? Money? Will I be able to get enough toilet roll for my family? Or enough bread flour to join the bread baking craze?
However, as I noticed and enjoyed the beauty and slowed down, I felt that somebody was with me, that somebody was holding me and steadying me. That somebody I believe with all my heart is God. Now, the issues didn’t instantly go away, and challenges remain great, but I sensed, as I sense now, that I do not face them alone. As I turned my thoughts to God, noticed the beauty around me and thanked Him for all He has done for me I realised He is there with me. I also noticed this deep soul filling, mind filling, satisfying, pleasure that came to me.
The pleasure I felt and feel when in His presence made me look to my daughter who is so amazing and engaged in so much. She is especially amazed and finds joy when it comes to food, though she still does like to throw it on the floor quite frequently! When my wife and I give her food, she gets so excited and is hungry to try the next food. I can’t stop thinking that the enjoyment of His presence is like when my daughter enjoys her food, or she finds something she is really interested and fascinated in. It is so good, and satisfying, and she really embraces it, and tastes it. My daughter teaches me lots, but she is definitely teaching me about how I need to be more engaged, hungry and excited about what God has given me, especially His exquisite presence and that He is very near to me.
It makes me think of the beautiful psalm in Bible which says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” Psalm 34:8.
God invites us to taste how good He is, to taste how much He loves us and taste how much He cares for us. He invites us to the dinner table to taste and see and enjoy Him. That He is better and finer than the finest things that we can taste in this life.
I believe part of that is being in His presence as much as possible. Not seeking to be in His presence in a legalistic way – but because we want to – and because it is best for us. I know being in His presence helps me so much to dissipate my negative thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns, it also gives peace in my fears, calms my anxieties, gives me joy instead of my unfulfilling desires and fills me with contentment.
I have been reading a couple of great books about this beautiful thing of calling to mind God. One is by Brother Lawrence who was a 17th century monk who spent the majority of his life in the kitchen of a monastery in Paris, ‘Practicing the Presence of God’, which is also the name of his wonderful book. He said this, “He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
So, GOD is never far away and is in all things. There is beauty in doing the ordinary, and beauty in doing the mundane with God. We can encounter God in all things, even whilst washing dishes, or seeing a beautiful view. As I heard said recently in a podcast, “we must obliterate any and all divide between the sacred and our everyday tasks”. I know I for one don’t want to miss out on all of the incredible moments I can have in the presence of God anymore. As when I, and when we, simply acknowledge him and turn our thoughts and affection towards Him – the joy and peace is indescribable.