January 29, 2013

Brother Lawrence

On a recommendation from a friend I recently picked up a book Called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  He was a monk who wrote this book about 300 years ago, working mainly as a cook.  This book is concise but dense with meaning, so even a small two-sentence paragraph can leave you chewing on it for a while.  I want to hit a few of them and discuss them a bit. Edit: that will come later, as this post has gotten quite long without that!

First, though, a definition.  For a long time when someone would say  "the presence of God," it would seem to me as if they were attempting to summon God and He made himself know by everybody getting a really big feeling at the same time and expressing it.  That didn't jive with me.  God is omnipresent, right?  And where two or more are gathered, He is there also, right? [Matthew 18:20]

Brother Lawrence makes it clear this is not what he means (through providing his own definition).  The "practice of the presence of God" is instead pointing our thoughts toward him in everything we do.  If we are driving, we intentionally drive in a way that glorifies Him.  If we are cooking, we consciously cook in a way that glorifies Him.  If we are at our job at the Box Office, we are selling tickets and dealing with frustrating people as patiently as possible in a way that glorifies Him.  It is a constant directing of thoughts, of phrases gratitude for every little thing, of acknowledgements that we need His help to complete any task, of inward sighs as we battle sin and simply confess to God that is our nature, thank Him for the cross and reminding us of our need of Him, and move on.  Not a faux-piety dismissal of sin, but not dwelling on it for the sake of turning back to God.

I was inspired by this as I read it, and read several of the chapters slowly, then over again.  It seemed a simple and obvious practice.  Attempting this lifestyle as a no-brainer.

It's been roughly a day.  The first twelve hours were great, but bumps in the road soon appeared.  I had to deal with some difficult people who came across my path at work, and that threw me off, especially when I was interrupted by someone who was correcting my grammar while grasping a certain style of "that-shouldn't-be-here" beverage and asking about employment.

At home later that day, my worldly side was doing well in convincing me that this constant state of worship was pretty uncool and that I totally needed to just watch a movie and not pray and read Jesus blogs and write and read the book and totally not pray or anything, you know whatever. 

I think my worldly side is a insecure teen skater kid with his hat on sideways wearing a baggy shirt.

This practice is tough, but doable. It is not the will just generating a feeling inside; as someone with a capacity for a lot of emotion I have always tried to be on guard against this kind of thing.  It is constant and conscious thoughts directed toward God; gratefulness, petition, and worship. 

More thoughts on this topic to come as I continue in the book.  Brother Lawrence doesn't seem to cite scripture at all, so I may begin a small project to add scriptural support to his work where it warrants it; there has been a spot or two where I raised an eyebrow.  Until next time.

January 25, 2013


There is a friend with whom I keep up with.  Whenever I talk with this gentleman, God moves and stirs something in my heart.

Among other things, we discussed witnessing, actively and passively; that is, speaking explicitly about Christ, and living in such a way that points toward him.  I was talking about witnessing explicitly in the workplace, and how I want to directly inject Christ into my conversations but oftentimes struggle to, how it feels forced and I don't do it.

He said "Don't try to force Christ into the conversation; relax and let Christ shine through that way."

While it's not scripture, I have found it helpful to think of witnessing in this frame of mind, instead of over-thinking it and trying to force things.  The main thing, scripturally, is not to be ashamed:

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels. [Mark 8:38]


January 15, 2013

Freakish Mental Brain Baby

Middle School & High School were not very good experience.

College was great for me, but temporary and artificial (in that it does not resemble real life).

Being halfway independent (pay most of my way, living with family) was a tough lesson but a good one.

Being completely on my own?  Yikes.

I think, in how our modern American culture works, one does not truly know oneself until you have been completely submerged in real life: living in one's own place, buying groceries, trying not to get cheated by a sly Comcast sales rep, et cetera.  Yes, a young person may know who they are in Christ, but they do not know how their personality will take shape when the pressure of this world in their entirety are applied to it.

Me, for instance.  I've always had an emotional side and an analytic side; in college my analytic side did not get much air.  I majored in theater and had friends around me constantly.  I live with them and we could hang out on a whim.  We had church and classes together.  It was wonderful, because many difficult factors of real life were not in the equation.

Then I did my hike and came home to work and look for a job.  Woah, what are these?  Bills?  I don't like 'em.  And I've got to put together a what?  A resume?  Gross.  Someone give me a job already.

It was time to let my neglected other half get some air.  He stretched his muscles and worked out some and he and Emotional Side started to get along much better.

Then I moved to Staunton and was renting a room; Analytic Side became pretty important.  Then he got promoted when I moved into The Apartment.  I described it to my brother this way: I'm now functioning one third analytic (like Dad), one third emotional (like Mom), and one third Freakish Mental Brain Baby that we won't really be able to discern the true form of til it stews for a while in this Stock Pot of Life.

I realize that was a highly unfortunate mixed metaphor.  But it's my brain, so I'm just gonna leave it there.

In other words, who I am going to be for the rest of my life is coming into focus in these next few months.  My personality won't change, per say, but I will be learning how I function in the real world.  I won't call it my "true self" as it's just the one born of this situation (that is, independence; to say it is one's "true self" to be this way would be to say that anyone who depends on someone else to function is not their "true self"; that is found in Christ), but because I don't plan on become dependent on someone else til they're changing my Depends it will be the dominant one.

January 11, 2013

Application of a Lesson

I have written previously about a lesson God has taught me through waiting tables; it is to trust in him for my provision, not the customers or my bosses.  This lesson emerged out of the collective bitterness of the occasional bad or missing tip.  My negative feelings would rise up and I would realize that they were not God-honoring, so I had to search myself and discover the source, discover what I wasn't believing about God in that moment.

I have had many chances to practice this lesson and I am still going through.  But trusting God didn't stop at bad tips.  One day two weeks ago, at a mandatory meeting, the owner of the restaurant told us he was shutting it down because it wasn't making money.  We had a week.

God be praised, my first reaction was not anger or bitterness.  I was disappointed, but not scared.  I was not looking forward to job searching again; after more than a year of that it can get tiring.  But my heart and mind were resting on the Rock of Christ; I knew that I'd be alright.

Oh, and I had just signed a one-year lease on an apartment four days previously.  And had to acquire some basic furnishings and begin grocery shopping.

Oh, and the slowest time of year for restaurants?  Right after the holidays.  As in, now.

Oh, and we put our dog back at home down shortly after.  We'd had her since I was in early middle school.

Oh, and my God?  He's my sovereign King, my almighty Lord, and my Provider.  No worries.

Frugality, and carpeting the town with my resume, but now worries.

To those who may worry, I can afford food and rent and such during this job search, and I have Family all over the place if something does happen.  Really, God's got me.