Practicing the Presence, part 1

People say January is the slowest month in the life of the church. If this is so, August is the fastest. It’s funny, because you’d think it would be Holy Week, or Christmastime, but really, for people who work with children and youth, it’s August.

People are still going on last-minute vacations, trying to get as much time as possible at their favorite places before school starts. Teachers are not only preparing for their own re-entry to the classroom, but also beginning to tweak their kids’ schedules to get them ready for school and everything that starts back in the fall. The weather is great, so people aren’t checking emails or facebook; they’re out back-to-school shopping and stocking up on vitamin D before being trapped inside for nine months.


Meanwhile, things in the Church are transitioning for the new semester to begin. End-of summer celebrations, Promotion Sundays, Blessing of the Backpacks, Kick-offs for fall…not to mention late-summer youth retreats, mission trips, or Vacation Bible Schools.

It’s a crazy time.

It hit me this year, more than last, as I’m in a new position. Trying to rally a team together to evaluate current ministries and brainstorm for the next year is like dancing in a room of a hundred people each dancing to a different type of music. It’s beautiful and chaotic, and somewhat surreal, as I watch everyone buzzing around. Times like these remind me that people have a life outside the Church.

And that’s okay.

Yeah, not only is it okay, it’s good.

In meeting all kinds of new people over the past few weeks, some begin the conversation with an apology for their absence, followed up with legitimate reasons for not being present at Church; spending time with family, taking care of loved ones, teens getting new jobs, relaxing at the pool, etc.

Friends, hear this: do NOT feel guilty for taking care of your self, for taking care of your family, for choosing to spend time in places other than church. Because, guess what? God is with you wherever you are.

God is at the beach, God is at the pool, God is in the mountains. God is with your aging parent who so very much appreciates your care, even if they can’t or aren’t verbalizing it in ways you need to hear. God is with your children wrestling on the floor, making messes, taking naps,. God is with your teenager, staying up late watching Netflix and sleeping late and eating all the food in the cabinets. God is in the car with you traveling to all the places you’re going. God is at your desk at work, giving you strength to deal with coworkers and job stressors.

Instead of feeling guilty for not being at church, I invite you to practice the presence of God wherever you are. Look around – how do you see God at work around you? How are you experiencing the Risen Christ each day? Open your eyes, be on the lookout, take note. Tell someone about it.

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