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New Ways of Pursuing the Presence of God

I love to gather with other believers and worship God.  For my whole life, this has been a huge part of how I pursue God.  I find so much comfort in connecting together with people who also want to pursue the presence of God.  Then COVID happened. The thought of turning on my TV to pursue God was foreign to me, it felt so impersonal, so far away, so lonely.  As time went on, I realized that I would have to get used to worshiping God in this manner, but wondered if I would ever feel connected to the people of God again.

Months into doing church in this manner, I began to realize something that surprised me--I am in charge of my own pursuit of God.  Now, I know this may not come as a surprise to you; but, as the responsibility of gathering together has become less and less, pursuing God has become more and more up to me.  During this time I have had to discover new, inventive ways to gather my heart to God.  Personal development has become key in this season, and making meaningful connections with people in my circle via zoom or meeting in some other space, has also been important.  

Part of this process has meant that I developed new personal routines to connect with God.  A new practice that I have begun in the mornings is centering or contemplative prayer.  Contemplative prayer isn't saying prayers, but living in consistent union with God; so everything you do is a prayer.  It's this humble writer's belief that this was what Paul was talking about when he said "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  

Friends, if I'm being honest, this has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done!  I am a talker, even in prayer; my prayers are about eighty percent of me talking. I can't tell you how many times I've been in prayer and God has told me, "Ursala, shhh!"... too many words!

The practice of centering prayer is just that, a practice.  Training our habitual minds to turn off the distractions of social media, emotion, and anger will probably take a lifetime to achieve.  There are monks (contemplative monks) that live their whole lives in this divine union with God.  I can only imagine how amazing a life with this continued posture towards God would be!  This level of discipline is not one everyone can achieve.  My current goal is to work myself up to a 20 minute morning sit.  Then, once I achieve that, I will try for an additional 20 minute evening sit.  One moment of pursuit at a time.

Sitting and resting in God has brought stillness to me in this busy, crazy world--especially during all the civil and political unrest going on right now.  Pursuing the presence of God in this manner has given me something eternal to focus on, which is so important when everything around me is changing.  If you have started out this new year with a passion for the presence of God, I encourage you to try adding the practice of contemplative prayer (centering prayer) to your daily routine.  

If you have any questions, or just want to do more research on this practice, Richard Rohr's writings and videos are very helpful.  Also, Thomas Keating's writings and videos have been helpful to me.  I know that we will gather together and pursue God again; until that time, let us hold on to these and other practices that help keep us centered in Christ.

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