Boyle’s refrain - 'Now Here This' - is something of a paraphrase of Brother Lawrence, the 17th Century Carmelite monk whose teachings and letters got compiled into a thin but powerful little tome entitled The Practice of the Presence of God. In that book Brother Lawrence challenges believers to be present in the moment as well, most specifically to God who might be standing right in front of them whether they are experiencing the wonder and beauty of a rainbow in the sky or whether they are doing something far more mundane like peeling potatoes or washing dishes. Now Here This is what Brother Lawrence seemed to be suggesting as well.
This refrain came to mind this time last year when the Lenten season was about to begin. I was on the phone with a friend and colleague whom I mentor. She and her husband had just had their first baby and life, understandably, was a bit overwhelming. And when, in the course of our conversation, we began to discuss Lent and what our spiritual practices might be during this holy season, my friend began to cry. The more we talked, the more it became clear that what my friend really needed to do during the season of Lent was absolutely nothing! She didn't need to add one thing to her already overloaded life and schedule - not more prayer, fasting, or spiritual reading. No, what my friend needed to do was simply be. What she needed to do was practice the presence of God whether she was changing her baby's diaper, making a quick dinner, running endless errands or preparing her weekly sermon. 'Now Here This' I encouraged my friend to say, indeed pray, in the Lenten weeks to come.
Before my friend and I ended our conversation that morning, I pulled a favorite book off my shelf, Pastor John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, and read this ministry anecdote to her:
A mother is our small group suggested that it was easier for her to 'work on her spiritual life' before she became a mom. As we talked, it became clear what she meant. To her, reading the Bible and praying were the only two activities that counted spiritually. As a mother she felt that 'time alone' was an oxymoron.
In this the church had failed her. She had never been taught to see that caring for two young children, offered daily with expressions of gratitude and prayers for help and patient acceptance of trials, might become a kind of school for transformation into powerful servanthood beyond anything she had ever known. Somehow having a 'quiet time' counted toward spiritual devotion and caring for two children did not... But as a mother she had new opportunities for growth she did not have back then. (pp. 58-59)
Ortberg concludes with this: Our season of life - whatever it is - is no barrier to having Christ formed in us.
Maybe these are words you need to hear too, busy and exhausted Pastor. During this Lenten season we are called to consider what we might need to subtract from our lives and schedules (distractions, addictions, and bad spiritual habits) and also what we might need to add (prayer, fasting, giving). But perhaps this Lenten season, like my dear colleague and friend above, you just need to do nothing at all but practice the presence of God. Maybe you need to nothing at all besides be alert and attentive to those moments when God might show up and change you during these next 40 days - whether it is preaching a sermon, peeling potatoes or changing a diaper. Maybe, like my friend, your prayer also needs to be: 'Now Here This.'
Rev. Dana Preusch serves as the Director for the Nazarene Theological Seminary Center for Pastoral Leadership. She holds a Master of Theology from Duke University and Master of Divinity from Nazarene Theological Seminary. Dana served in local church ministry in Kansas, North Carolina and Tennessee for a total of 17 years before joining the Center for Pastoral Leadership in 2014.