If you’ve spent any time with me at all, you likely know one of the questions that I will ask at some point. The question is some variation of, “Where have you experienced God’s presence?”
The simplicity of the question can stun people to silence.
When I first started asking the question, I thought the silence I received was my failure to communicate. Then I learned the truth.
To answer the question, you have to be paying attention to where God is at work in your life. In nearly a decade of asking questions about God’s presence, one thing has become clear: most of us are beginners on this journey.
Before you reply, “I was raised in the church. I’m not a beginner!” Let me explain.
Attending church activities your entire life makes you a church participant. Following Jesus makes you a disciple. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about following Jesus, the second we think we’ve figured it out, we need to return to our beginner status.
Will you do a little experiment with me?
Think about the last week of your life. Where have you experienced God’s presence? Here are a few examples from my own life from the past ten days.
A Birthday Buddy!
A message came across Facebook from my oldest niece with a picture of her and her daughter. We call her baby Z. She’s not really a baby any longer, but sometimes nicknames stick around past your first birthday. Her personality is coming to life and her ability to mimic her Mom is priceless. The picture was of both of them making a silly face.
But it was the next picture that brought a tear to my eye – Baby Z is going to be a big sister – and the new baby is due right around my birthday.
I have a birthday buddy coming my way!
You see, I shared my birthday with my next-door neighbor growing up. I can’t explain how special it was to share a birthday with someone. No one else I knew as a kid had such a special gift in their life year after year.
From making birthday cards to receiving cards from Mrs. Lorraine, we had something special we shared – just the two of us. I moved out of my parent’s home and within a few years, she died from complications of lung cancer. That was almost 20 years ago.
Regardless of the date of Baby Z’s (version 2.0) birth, I’m going to have a birthday buddy again!
New life is springing forth in our family. So much so, that I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all of us any longer. How could I not see God at work?
The kindness of strangers
I went to Ikea over the weekend to buy a small drawer unit for my desk. Free advice: don’t go to Ikea the weekend before college starts for many students.
“Can I help you?” I heard a woman’s voice ask from behind me.
I was loading the 70+ lb box into my car. To be honest, it was way heavier than I imagined.
“Sure. That would be great. Thank you.”
I was grateful for the extra set of hands to get the awkward size large box into the crowded trunk of my car. While it crossed my mind, I stopped short of asking her if she wanted to ride to my house and unload it, too – after all, it wasn’t that far away.
But she made a better offer. “I’ll take your cart, I’m heading into the store,” she said.
“Thank you! Have a great day,” I responded.
Perhaps I looked like I was struggling. Or maybe she had been in a similar situation. Whatever the reason for her kindness, I gave God thanks for the kindness of a stranger in an Ikea parking lot.
Painting a Dragonfly
Let me be clear. I’m not a painter.
I own watercolors, a paintbrush, and have a few good teachers.
Painting with watercolors has become a mindless activity to enjoy. Some call those activities hobbies. I don’t even know that I’d call this a hobby. But, I digress. To be honest, I enjoy it because it’s unrelated to anything else in my life. Until I painted a dragonfly last week.
As I listened to the conversation unfolding about “transparent wings with veins as unique as our fingerprints” I couldn’t help but pause.
God, your creation is pretty amazing. Darn it, even something that isn’t supposed to be connected to anything else in my life is suddenly connected to faith.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
I received a package in the mail from my parents. I thought I knew what was in the box until my Mom asked me this question via a text message the day after it arrived, “Did the cookies arrive ok?”
I didn’t open the box.
Shh – that’s our little secret.
I read the text message in a bit of a panic, hurried to open the box, stumbling the whole way. “How much packing tape did you have to put on that box anyway, Mom?” I muttered out loud.
Ahhh – homemade chocolate chip cookies were waiting for me in addition to the items I expected. I opened the container, took one bite of a soft chocolate chip cookie and sent Mom a message back, “They’re great! They arrived in one piece! Wouldn’t even know they were shipped. Thank you!”
Sometimes surprises remind us of God’s presence. My Mom makes some pretty amazing chocolate chip cookies. But, what if I hadn’t opened the box until I needed the items I expected? They wouldn’t have tasted nearly as good. Nor would I have enjoyed them as much.
You see, Mom knows just a little bit of chocolate goodness goes a long way. She celebrates others by the way she cares for them. And this time, for me, it came in the form of chocolate chip cookies.
Celebrating God’s Presence
Did I deserve those cookies? No probably not. I didn’t even open the box. Sigh. But the cookies were there, waiting for me to enjoy.
A little bit of chocolate goodness from Mom’s kitchen right to my stomach! Not only was it love sent in the form of cookies, but it was also as if Mom was standing in my kitchen saying, “I’ve got something here just for you.”
That’s the heart of celebrating God’s presence.
You see, when we’re looking for Jesus in the midst of our every day, ordinary life, we encounter Jesus at every turn – even on Facebook, in paintbrushes, chocolate chip cookies, and yes, in the kindness of strangers.
For the past two weeks on LeaderCast, Tim and I share about celebrating God’s presence. In Episode 080, Tim and I talk about how to celebrate God even when it’s difficult. In Episode 081 we continue our conversation about celebrating God’s presence.
Where have you experienced God’s presence in the past week? Let us know in the comments below.
Hope your week is filled to overflowing with God’s presence – and maybe a chocolate chip cookie!