Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Jon (at Stuff Christians Like) in his recent post on “Asking God Geography Questions” reflected on our tendency to ask God questions such as “Where I should go?”, “What should I do?”, and “Who should I be with?” and concluded that God’s answer to all these questions would be “In My Presence.” Which reminded me of a chapter in Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, An Altar in the World, where she reflects on the spiritual discipline of getting lost. One of the values of getting lost, according to Taylor, is that you must become aware of where you are.

I am convinced that this is normal human behavior, which means that something extra is needed to override it. Why override it? Because once you leave the cow path, the unpredictable territory is full of life. True, you can’t always see where you are putting your feet . This means you can no longer afford to stay unconscious. You can no longer count on the beat-down red dirt path making all of your decisions for you. Leaving it, you agree to make your own choices for a spell. You agree to become aware of each step you take, tuning all of your senses to exactly where you are and exactly what you are doing.”

And when we become aware of exactly where we are, we discover that we are in God’s presence—here and now.

I’ve never been good at standing in the place where I am and I’m especially not good at being lost. Carmen, my GPS (as in “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?”) is my best friend. She tells me where to go—and even though I argue with her from time to time and even override her instructions on occasion—she is pretty faithful to ensure that I get where I believe I am supposed to go. But even at that she has taken me some interesting places—because even Carmen doesn’t give me the big picture. She leads a step at a time. And quite honestly, I don’t like that either.

Give me a map. Show me exactly where I am going. Show me each clean bathroom, each Starbucks, each McDonnell’s drive thru, and each gas station. Don’t worry telling me about the beautiful scenic overlooks or the field with deer that might surprise me because I am on a mission—most the time I’m even on a mission from God—and I don’t have time for all of that.

Yep, I’m not good at standing where I am.

The problem with constant movement—even movement toward something—is that you so easily forget the reality that even when you are moving toward the place that God is calling you that God is still present with you now. God is not to be found over there. God is here. God tabernacles with us. So that even when God is leading us forward by pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, God still dwells in our midst.
So today, I am hearing the word of God from the band REM, “Stand in the place where you live. Think about it. Wonder why you haven’t before.”

Those of us at New Life are on a journey. We are in the midst of visioning process followed immediately with a stewardship emphasis. The theme for our visioning process is “Journey toward the Promised Land” and right now we are trying to discern what God’s Promised Land is for New Life and how we get there. So, I confess, I’ve already jumped ahead and tried to determine where God is leading us and what it will mean for the congregation as a whole and for me as their pastor.

On a personal note, I’ve moved my youngest son into his college dorm and am well aware that in a year I will move my youngest into one. I wonder what is ahead for me as a mother of grown children who don’t live at home. Will I become old? Will I no longer get pop references? Will I suddenly prefer reruns of SNL to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show? What will life be like with an empty nest?

Last year at this time, I was looking back. This year I find myself looking forward.

But today, I hear God telling me to slow down a bit and focus on where we are—where I am—to find God in our midst and to wait for the next direction and who knows where that will take us. So maybe instead of rushing into God’s presence in the future, I can feel God’s presence here and now.

As Joshua and Caleb told the Israelites as they stood at the edge of the Promised Land, “the Lord is with us, do not fear . . .”

As REM reminds me

Stand Where You Are!

Image: The Dancing Life by Bernard Ndichu Njuguna

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