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Posts Tagged ‘being in the present moment’

IMG_20180710_143310824I glance up from my desk and notice a rather impressive visitor sitting on our balcony railing about a metre from my study window—a kookaburra, looking as if it owns everything within view! I move to take its photo through the glass and it turns its head slightly, as if to say, ‘I know you’re there, but I also know I’m safe from you out here!’ Some smaller, noisy birds do not like that larger, alert presence nearby and try to frighten it away by squawking loudly and bombarding it. Yet it remains immovable, save for a slight shuffle along the railing and a few sharp turns of its head. Its eyes are on a nearby prize—perhaps something for dinner that those other birds also want?

As I watch, I marvel at how still that kookaburra seems to be. No doubt it is extremely alert to what is happening around it—and that soon become obvious, when it suddenly flies down to ground level, then plucks a poor, unsuspecting worm from the soft soil. In a few moments, that worm is no more. All that stillness and watchfulness on the part of the kookaburra have paid off—it has found its dinner.

At that point, I begin to suspect God has an important lesson to teach me about being still. I might be physically still, as I sit gazing at that kookaburra—but I am not mentally still. Even as I watch, my mind is darting this way and that. I wonder whether what I am writing makes sense or will amount to anything in the end. And I am not still deep inside me either. Instead, I feel somewhat stressed—I am worried about someone I care about who is facing many difficulties and also about an upcoming speaking engagement, not to mention my writing project. I am aware God knows about all these issues—yet I am struggling to stay in that place of stillness and peace with God and of complete trust that God has it all in hand.

I move my hands off my keyboard and lay them in my lap. I breathe deeply, letting my body relax. I picture God’s loving arms holding me close and sink back into them, sensing God’s Spirit both in me and around me. I still my mind and my heart, knowing it is enough to be in this present moment with God. Then I hear again some words read out at church only days earlier:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea … “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:1, 10

In the stillness too, a gentle voice reminds me I am in a daily battle with an age-old enemy and need to remain so very vigilant.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Yes, I need to be alert and watchful like that kookaburra—yet also deeply still, so aware my loving, almighty God is with me at all times, don’t you agree?

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Now it’s not that I’m old or anything. In fact, I don’t feel that way at all. I have too many ideas in my head to risk getting old quite yet. But now and then, I do notice I have a little difficulty remembering people’s names—sometimes even the names of the characters in my own novels! It can be embarrassing when someone tells me enthusiastically how much they loved Steve or Susan or Alexander in one of my novels. I try my best on these occasions not to look blank and ask ‘Who?’ But the truth is, I may well have created another whole set or two of characters since then, so I’m bound to get mixed up at times.

So when I saw the term ‘recollection’ in a book I had begun reading, ‘Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer’ by Richard Foster (IVP 2011), I was immediately interested. I have read quite a bit about prayer and soon noticed that Foster quoted from several other authors I enjoyed, such as Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Thomas Merton and others. Yet I could not remember having come across this term ‘recollection’ before this. Could it refer to thinking back over our lives and remembering all the ways God had rescued us and blessed us, I wondered? That was bound to be it.

But then I read on. Recollection, according to Foster, ‘involves a re-collecting of ourselves until we are unified or whole. The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we have become truly present where we are.’ Now I know, and Foster warns, that this is not an easy thing to do. But what a wonderful, healing practice to try! In our busy lives, it is so easy for us to become fragmented and scattered, with our energies dissipating this way and that, so that we almost lose our real selves in it all. As for me, I know I’m very good at skipping ahead in my mind to things coming up in the future, wondering how I will do this or that. And I’m also very good at mulling over the past, remembering the hurts or the failures or the difficult times. But the present? Well, sometimes I need to be reminded of that.

So right now, I am endeavouring to practise this ancient discipline more often in my life. Each morning, I try to take time to quieten my mind and heart, identifying and putting gently aside those things that want to force their way into my mind or those thoughts that threaten to overwhelm me. In short, I collect—or allow God to collect—those parts of me that have been so scattered and focus on the simple truth that here I am, Jo-Anne, created and loved by God. That’s all that matters at this point. Consciously, I recognise God’s presence around me, watching over me and caring for me. And I sit for a while, allowing my spirit to cease its striving and to be at rest and at peace. Then, when I am still, my focus turns to God. And just as God declares in Psalm 46:10, I know it is time to praise him and lift him up.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Is it time for you to try some re-collecting in your life too?

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