Exodus 33:14b "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
One of my favorite books is a small but powerful volume by an obscure monk from a bygone era. Well, actually he was obscure during his lifetime but not so obscure anymore. His book can be printed by going here:
Brother Lawrence says, "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it."
I recently attended a silent retreat at an abbey not far from my town. I've been there on several previous occasions, and the silence is like a personal gift from God each time I am there. This is true whether or not I think God speaks anything profound to my heart. But my most recent stay there started me thinking about these words of Brother Lawrence...a continual conversation with God...as a way to practice becoming more aware of God's presence.
How is it possible, in this noisy, busy word, to have a continual conversation with the Lord? And how do we know when we are experiencing God's presence? I know God is all around us--as the Psalmist David affirmed when he wrote, "Where can I flee from your Spirit?" And the Holy Spirit takes up resdence in the believer. But what is it that makes us aware? What is it that makes us think, or sometimes say, "God is here"?
I clearly recall the first time I was aware of the presence of God's Spirit even though more than fortty years have passed. I'm sure there had been other times when God's Spirit was very close and active, such as when I knelt to pray for Jesus to "come into my heart," but I hadn't been particularly aware. I hadn't "felt" anything.
On this occasion I was about ten years old and attending a Billy Graham crusade in the Los Angeles collesium. It was a lovely warm California night, and the great stadium was packed. But there was something supernatural pricking my senses. Billy gave his usual clear call to walk the aisle down to the front and to pray with him for Jesus to forgive sins and save us and make us citizens of Heaven. The choir sang, "Just As I Am"-- and a profound hush fell over the place. There were moments of stillness which the child me recognized. I leaned to my older sister and whispered, "Do you feel it? Do you feel the Holy Spirit?" She, with wide eyes, nodded wordlessly. Not knowing how to describe it, I said, in awe, "It's heavy.
Father Tim, Jan Karon's lovable fictional character in the Mitford series describes how one morning the Holy Spirit is clearly present in his little Episcopalian church. And Father Tim says, "When the Spirit comes--ah, it is glorious!" I couldn't agree more.
What makes us aware that God is, in an unusual way, present?