The Practice of Presence
For in Him we live and move and have our being.[i]
The Practice of Presence
by Teresa Yerkes
We experience the Presence of God when we turn our attention to God. He is everywhere! The only way to miss Him is to hide from Him or forget to bring Him along. There are any number of ways to experience his presence, including: praying, reading your Bible, singing, and journaling, to name a few. This is a very short list. You can find Him in any activity you are doing, as long as you are choosing to allow Him to join you. Most of us feel comfortable and understand His desire to meet with us in the outward circumstances of our daily life. But for some of us, we find it more difficult to understand that He is also interested in participating in our inner life. This chapter is devoted to His presence within us. We know He resides there because Jesus told us, “Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”[ii]
Paul in his letter to the Church in Corinth was aware of this truth when he posed this question, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”[iii] And we find Jesus comforting the disciples before He ascended into heaven saying, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[iv] One last scripture I will share, one where Paul affirms His presence within us, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”[v] These scriptures also show us another amazing truth, not just God, but Christ and the Holy Spirit are within us too. What treasures we possess!
So, if the Holy Three live within us, why are we not like them? It seems we should have our act together a little more than we do. I remember reading Galatians, Chapter 5, wanting so much to understand how in the world to walk by the Spirit. Let’s read it together:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.[vi]
So, there it is in verse 16, “walk by the Spirit.” The King James version translates this as “walk in the Spirit.” Frankly, the translation didn’t matter, I was unable to do either. I read several books to try to figure it out, but they didn’t help, or I wasn’t able to understand what I was supposed to do. Either way I was not doing it and found myself repeating patterns that were no longer serving my best interests. As I shared earlier, there was a list of poor lifestyle choices I was involved in, like smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise…do I have to say more? It’s enough to say, there was a lot of house cleaning to be done.
There is also the teaching from Jesus, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”[vii] Sounds like a lovely place to be, abiding in Christ. But how is it possible? How can I sense myself abiding in Christ throughout the day? Occasionally, I would sense Him with me, but abiding sounds like we are to be so close all the time.
For many years, the ability to walk in the Spirit and abide in Christ were out of reach for me. It wasn’t until I started practicing Christian meditation that it dawned on me to walk in the Spirit and to abide in Christ was directly related to how I was living out my life. Up until then, I was living my life through thoughts. So, some of my thoughts were not based on truth and this led to many errors in judgment. My focus was based primarily on what information my mind was feeding me through the day. Relying on my thoughts attached to misaligned emotions was not a stable way to run my life.
Christian meditation, on the other hand, changes the focus away from your thoughts onto the Center of your being—the Kingdom of God. When we are consistently living from our Source, we are more grounded and more likely to make good decisions. Spending time in the Kingdom stabilizes our emotions, quiets us to hear from God and opens us to so many possibilities that we couldn’t imagine for ourselves. As I emphasized earlier, the challenge is we have been oriented our entire lives to live only from our thoughts. We have allowed them to rule us. So, it will take some time before we are able to manage our lives from the Center of our being. I noticed this for myself as I continued to meditate. I noticed I was living more from my Center and this new focus had a positive influence on my thoughts and behaviors.
Once I was armed with this knowledge, it all started to make sense to me. If I want to walk in the Spirit, I need to spend time where the Spirit is—in the center of my being.
An excerpt in Teresa Yerkes’ book, Christian Meditation: The Practice of Christian Meditation
[i] Acts 17:28a
[ii] Luke 17:21 KJV
[iii] 1 Corinthians 3:16
[iv] Matthew 28:20
[v] Col. 3:11 NIV
[vi] Gal 5:13-18
[vii] John 15:4