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09 October 2018

God-mindfulness. ’Cause he’s always here.

’Cause it might help to constantly remind yourself God is here.

SHE. [only just noticing me] “When’d you get back?”
ME. [confused] “I didn’t go anywhere.”
SHE. “I thought you left for work.”
ME. “Nope. It’s my day off.”
SHE. “Well good; I have some chores for you to get done.”

Yep, that’s how my days off tend to go.

And y’know, that’s how our relationships with God tend to go. At some point we learned he’s omnipresent—he’s everywhere at once, in all of space and time—but that’s a bit of data we filed in the back of our minds, and the rest of the time it’s more like “Out of sight, out of mind.” If we don’t see God, or don’t feel God, we presume he’s not around—even though we still have that omnipresence idea rattling around our brains somewhere.

When we talk about God’s “presence,” we usually mean when we notice he’s here. Again, God hasn’t gone anywhere. But something made us aware—more aware than usual—he’s in the room. He did something, like empowered a miracle or gave a prophecy. We felt something, like joy, or like feel peace, and realize God’s behind it. Or the church’s sound guy finally turned on the subwoofers.

More commonly, we pay attention to God’s presence because somebody simply reminded us he’s here. Like me, right now, with this article. Now you’re remembering God’s here, and paying a little more attention to his presence, aren’t ya? We’re imagining his presence—we know he’s here somehow, but we don’t know how, so our brains are filling in the blanks.

I bring this up because typical Christian behavior is to not notice God’s presence till something triggers us. We’re reacting to the knowledge of God’s presence: “Oh yeah, God’s around.” We briefly stop taking his ubiquity for granted.

But it passes, and we go right back to forgetting he’s here.

Well what if we didn’t go back to that?

Seriously. Because a lot of Christians try, and succeed, in constantly reminding themselves God is here. In constantly acting like God is here. In pretty much talking with him all the time, ’cause he is here all the time; it feels kinda rude to ignore him. (No, it’s not how we pray without ceasing, though some Christians done this for this reason.) Historically it’s been called “the practice of the presence of God,” after Brother Lawrence’s book, but I swiped one of my pagan friends’ words and call it God-mindfulness.

“Organic experiences” are sloppy religion.

I’ve actually heard Christians object to the practice of God-mindfulness. ’Cause the way they imagine God’s presence is it comes and goes. Sometimes he’s here; sometimes he’s not.

What, don’t they believe in God’s omnipresence? They do… and they don‘t. They believe God is everywhere, but his presence has a particular fixed point. Dt 15.20 One we can leave Ge 4.16 or try to hide from; Ge 3.8 one which can go with us, or not. Ex 33.14-15 God’s panéh (literally “face,” but bibles tend to go with “presence”) goes this way or that, depending on where he wants to focus his attention.

So, they figure, God’s not gonna continually focus his attention on them. He’ll show up when we call; Jesus told us to ask and we’ll receive. Mt 7.7 But the rest of the time he’s busy elsewhere. It’s like we’re kids, Dad’s at work, and he always has his phone on him in case we need him, but he’s not gonna be on the phone all day.

Yeah, I said they do and they don’t, but it sounds an awful lot like they don’t, huh?

Anyway their thinking is God’s presence comes and goes, depending on God’s will. Just like the wind blowing every which way, as Jesus described it to Nicodemus. Jn 3.8 God’s presence shows up a lot in our lives, but it’s not around all the time. So we gotta watch out for it. Pay attention, lest it show up and we miss it. Pay attention to it when it’s here. But don’t expect God’s presence to be around all the time; don’t demand God’s presence all day long; don’t call upon God unnecessarily. Just let things happen naturally. Organically.

This is really bad advice, and explains why such people aren’t growing in Christian maturity as fast as they could be. When we’re not intentional about our spiritual growth, we don’t grow. When we just sit around waiting for stuff to happen—even intently waiting!—instead of asking and seeking and knocking, we’re gonna grow in fits and starts. And those small gains are gonna be undone by the stretches of time we’re not growing. That’s why we see Christians who are constantly backsliding. That’s why we do that too, and remain immature, sucky Christians. Get off your behind and get intentional about your relationship with God!

You’re gonna wait around for God’s presence to show up? Then you’re not following Asaph’s advice:

1 Chronicles 16.11 KWL = Psalm 105.4 KWL
Pursue the LORD and his strength! Strive for his face constantly!

Why would you ever want God to leave? Why would you ever wanna leave him? (Well, sin. But don’t do that.)

Settling for “let God’s presence happen organically” is what people advise when they don’t really know God: He wants that level of relationship with us. He wants to interact with us all day long. His presence isn’t limited to only one point in space and time; omnipresence literally means his presence is everywhere.

Psalm 139.7-12 KWL
7 How can I leave your Spirit? How can I run away from your face?
8 You’re there if I climb to the skies, or rest in the grave: Look, it’s you!
9 I wear the dawn’s wings. I pitch a tent on the far side of the sea—
10 yet even there your hand guides me. Your right hand holds me.
11 I can say, “Yes, darkness surrounds me; night is ‘light’ around me”—
12 yet even darkness isn’t dark to you. Night shines like day. Darkness, light; doesn’t matter.

There’s nowhere God can’t find us, as Jonah found out the hard way. He’s never so busy helping others, he can’t interact with us as well. We aren’t wasting his time by involving him, chatting with him, or hanging out with him. (We are wasting his time when we’re being fake with him, but that’s a different discussion.)

If you wanna spend all day in God’s presence, that’s precisely what he wants too. So our minds need to become continually aware he’s here. We need to be mindful of God all day long, 18 hours a day. (No, not 24. You gotta sleep.)

Continual reminders.

The best way to start being God-mindful is to start with reminders that God is everywhere you are.

How do you do that? Simple. Make signs which say, “God is here, right now,” and put them where you’ll see them. In every room you spend time in. On your computer screen; on your phone screen; on or near any screen you stare at. Put them everywhere. Sticky notes are fine.

When you see your signs, wake up to the fact God is here, right now. And say hi to him.

Are you not in a room where your signs are all around? I know Christians who are in the habit of praying the Jesus Prayer whenever they feel they need to focus on God. Usually they do it for meditation, but you can do it for mindfulness: When you say it, remember God’s here. ’Cause he is!

And of course the reason certain people wear Christian jewelry, like rings and crosses, isn’t to subtly (or far-from-subtly) inform everyone they’re Christian; it’s to remind themselves who they are, who they follow—and in some cases, are deliberate reminders God is here. Wear something that reminds you God is here. When it doesn’t have that effect anymore, ’cause you’ve grown used to it, wear something else, or wear it somewhere else. Whatever helps jog your memory.

Wanna pray? Go ahead and pray. Thank him for all things, big and little. Ask him for anything which pops into your head: Needs, wishes, ideas, advice, help for yourself, help for others. Ask him for more fruit of the Spirit. When things are bugging you, go ahead and vent to him, and ask him to take away your bad mood. He’s here; y’may as well talk with him.

It takes a while to get in the habit of continually recognizing God is here. Don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t happen right away. Just keep plugging away at it. Practice makes better.

Plus God helps. Because once you’re constantly (or at least frequently) mindful of the fact he’s here, you’re gonna see him do stuff more often. Not because he’s gonna do more than he usually does: You’re finally gonna notice what he’s always been doing. It might surprise you to find out just how active God’s been around you. Surprises lots of Christians.