Each January I ask the Lord for a new spiritual focus for the year. I pray the theme will permeate my life as the months go by. Here are recent themes… A Slave of Christ (2013), Better to Give Than to Get (2014), Keep in Step with the Spirit (2015), Listen and Love (2016), Join the Dance Procession (2017), Make Disciples (2018), Looking Up (2019), Blessed to Bless (2020).
Here is my 2021 theme and the story behind it:
Candy sent this email to the group of us that began this year with prayer and fasting. I am beginning the year with praise. In the now classic book Destined for the Throne by Paul Billheimer this paragraph stuck with me, and I have been reciting this verse many times a day. He actually says that there is more in the Bible about praise than there is about prayer. I had not realized that.
“To be most effective, praise must be massive, continuous, a fixed habit, a full-time occupation, a diligently pursued vocation, a total way of life. This principle is emphasized in Ps 57:7: My heart is fixed, O God my heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise. My heart is FIXED. This kind of praise depends on something more than temporary euphoria. We are told that at the very moment of the writing of this psalm, David was a fugitive from the wrath of Saul. His praise was built on principle, not impulse. It was based upon something more than fluctuating circumstances or ephemeral emotional states. It was praise that had penetrated and permeated the warp and woof of his being. It was praise that had become a full time occupation reflecting the pattern of continuous, unceasing praise in the celestial sphere.”
This. struck. me. While I am very disciplined about a devotional time every morning, I am often unaware of God’s presence. I begin with a devotional reading followed by Scripture and then a theology text. After that I pray for people. I have recorded a series of 30–60 second prayers that I listen to with my AirPods and pray through them. But I realized – I don’t dwell in his presence. And that is the most important thing (“Martha, Martha … one thing is needful …”). So I have become diligent about being in his presence before I ask him for anything. It takes time to be quiet and centered – to sense His presence. But I have become more aware of the relationship I have with the Triune Supreme Being. It gives me great joy and I know it gives joy to his heart. So my theme for 2021 is: practicing the presence of God.
March 4, 2021 Postscript: I started reading the book The Sacrament of the Present Moment a few days ago. I am already benefiting from the insights of Father Jean-Pierre Caussade from the early 18th century. In the introduction, Richard Foster says this is a companion volume to Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God. Here are some ideas that have struck me so far:
“God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment.”
“There remains one single duty. It is to keep one’s eyes fixed on the master one has chosen and to be constantly listening so as to understand and hear and immediately obey his will.”
“Precious moment, how small in the eyes of my head and how great and those of my heart, the means whereby I received small things from the father who reigns in heaven! Everything that falls from there is very excellent, everything bears the mark of its maker.”
Foster remarks, “Even time itself is a holy sacrament, for ‘time is but the history of divine action.’”
March 15, 2021 Postscript: I audio recorded 104 seconds of insights from “Sacrament of the Present Moment” here.
This article is submitted by Clyde Taber of Visual Story Network. Visual Story Network is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.