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A Season of Presence

15 Apr Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on A Season of Presence
A Season of Presence
 

An Environment for Presence

A new season is upon us in Pennsylvania. Spring has sprung, life is reemerging after an especially harsh winter, and if you’re anything like most people, you’ve probably eager to get outside and breath it all in (unless you have allergies). In our family, one of the highlights of spring is preparing our back yard for the summer – prepping the pool, sweeping the deck, mulching the gardens. In a few months, the yard will be teeming with life – pool parties, lunches in the shade, and late night conversations around the fire pit.

presentpool

As I anticipate this new season, I find myself reflecting on what was and is important for the Rhoads’ family and more importantly, my own formation.  The past few months have brought many good times and memorable moments with family members and friends.  This summer we hope will bring more of the same. Through it all, a theme emerged throughout our time with people, over and over I heard dear friends communicate how good it was too slow, share a meal, maybe a game and just simply be present with each other.

None stood out to me more, then an evening I spent with my parents, more specifically my dad.  Over the past 8 years my dad has struggled with health issues ranging from heart attacks, a stroke and most recently, cancer.  Our time together was simple, sharing of a meal, reminiscing over stories from the past (primarily dumb decisions I made as a teenager), playing a card game and ending the night with a deep hug accompanied with the statement, “I love you!”  I was reminded throughout our time, that one of the most important principles in God forming us is practicing the presence of others.

Yet, this is often easier said then done.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in her book  Invitations from God writes:

“Everyone hopes for someone to see and invest some attention and time in them.  Everyone wants someone to practice their presence.  Yet how easy it is to not really see living, breathing human beings.  I can get so caught up in my own agenda and thoughts  that I am virtually blind.  I look right through people I pass on the street.  If someone yells my name, I might see and remember there is a world outside my own head.  Then I might stop and lime (to be present with another for a significant amount of time) with them, but often I am too preoccupied to stop and imagine that anyone else might be as real and important as I am.  Seeing takes all of me, and its takes practice.”

presentfirepit

The following are a few keys which have emerged to me in reflecting on my time with others over the past few weeks.

3 Things Required for Presence

Awareness

How do you spend time with those around you?  Are you aware of their individual desires, emotions and needs more than your own?  Living in a fast-paced, digital world it is often easy to gloss over others in the quest to produce more, check off one more task or even fulfill your own needs prior to attending those around you.  In the desire to become aware, noticing will be key.  Notice your reaction when another asks for time from you.  Notice who you give time to, and those you do not.  Is there a healthy reason for doing so?  Noticing and subsequently becoming aware opens the door to being present with others.  In a sense, we are summoning the opportunity for people to really matter.

Slowing and Time

Being present with another requires the combination of slowing and giving time.  A few nights ago we shared an amazing meal with dear friends at a downtown Lancaster restaurant named Aussie and the Fox.  Now, if you haven’t eaten at Aussie and the Fox yet, you definitely need to.  However, the one thing you need to know is you want to provide plenty of time to savor your food.  It is amazing!  Actually, their food is the type that makes you chew slower allowing for an experience.  If you hurry through a meal at Aussie and the Fox, you simply miss a deeper experience.  Savoring flavors and savoring time with others is as important to do in the moment as it is after the fact. Being with others in the moment takes intentionality.

presentfood

Dropping Your Agenda

Accepting an invitation to be present with another often means dropping our own agenda.  For most reading this post, you have demanding positions and well scheduled calendars.  Random individuals showing up unannounced don’t always fit well in the overall plan for what one may consider important for the day.  Becoming aware and noticing others, will almost always mean dropping our preconceived agendas.  If we’ve become too busy to notice or be present for others, more than likely we are not caring for those around us well.

While being with my dad the other week, I was reminded of this quote by O. A. Battista:

“The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how much they love them while they’re still alive.”

What a great reminder, as we begin this new season to practice being present with God, our spouses, our children and the people we have been called to shepherd.  Remember, we’re not just program coordinators but rather leaders who actively participate in demonstrating the nature of God in how we value our neighbors through being present with them in everyday life.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.