By REV. DR. BRIAN GIGEE
Practicing God’s Presence
A long time ago, Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, was quoted saying, “Practice does not make perfect. PERFECT practice is what makes perfect.” Let’s hear it for the cheese heads! J.J. Watt might agree… because if you practice something incorrectly, over and over, a habit arises that is often insufficient and lacking in detail. It’s kind of like what Rev. Nils Dahl wrote so many decades ago about life in America and our habits of faith. In his book, “Work, Worship & Play” he suggested that our American life-style has gone askew… instead of work being work and worship being worship and play being play… he fleshed out that we “worship our work”… “work at our play” and that leaves just one thing… to “play at our worship”… And if that’s true for you… maybe it’s time to recalibrate your faith life… to get a tune-up for heart, body, mind and spirit… or as they say over in the factory corridor along the Houston Ship Channel… a “turn-around” has become necessary for more useful work to begin…
In the 1600s there was a man named Nicholas Herman. He was born into poverty and forced to join the military to survive. Having a place to live and 3 meals each day was a luxury for few. He saw war (the 30 Years War kind) and serving later as a footman for an aristocrat in Paris he saw both wealth and power politic along with the brutality of brother killing brother. This experience moved him to withdraw from daily life and he entered a monastery… a Carmelite order and took on the name of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Get it? Resurrection? Second chance? Believe it.
Faith can flow up and down… back and forth and our list of questions for God can become long and cumbersome. Truth be told, your life and my life … deep down inside is not that much different from Brother Lawrence’s… sensing what St. Augustine wrote long ago… “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you…” speaking about God … or as I have been known to say … “We will fill our hearts with anything and everything until our hearts are full of God!” So, yeah, most of us are like Brother Lawrence!
It is said that in the deep of winter, the soon-to-be-monk looked at a barren tree, stripped of leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of Summer’s abundance… Brother Lawrence grasped for the first time the extravagance of God’s grace and the unfailing sovereignty of divine providence. Like the tree, he himself was seemingly dead, but God had life waiting for him, and the turn of seasons would bring fullness. At that moment, he said, “that leafless tree flashed in upon my soul the fact of God,” and a love for God after that moment never ceased in him to burn…
Recently I pulled off my library shelf Brother Lawrence’s book, “Practicing the Presence of God” to re-read. This book is considered a “Christian classic” and if you’ve never read it… please put it on your bucket list of books to read! Its message is simple and life-nurturing. God IS present in all our circumstances… good and not so good… from the birth of your first child, to buying a new home along with the death of your favorite grandfather… God is present… sharing in the joy or joining us in the pain as there is a difference between God’s presence and God’s endorsement! And, get this… Brother Lawrence would contend we can find God’s presence, when we look, even in small moments like doing the dishes, shining shoes and raking leaves. God is present there, too!
Let your practicing be prefect. Faith matters!
Brian Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland and the lead pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Pearland. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi. Comments and questions can be sent to [email protected]