A Quaker Meeting in Camas, WA
We love to celebrate other voices here at Camas Friends Church, and relish any chance to do so. In addition to our CFC Profile, we also appreciate essays, artwork, reflections and more from our community. This week Lynette Fazio was gracious enough to share with us some of her thoughts on “presence.” We encourage you to read Lynette’s thoughts below:
Presence. Presence is a core principle for those of us at Camas Friends Church. Participation. Community.
Yet, I did not attend Camas Friends for about two months this fall. Partly, it was due to my being in Florida to visit family. But mostly it was due to my needing to reconnect with God on a very foundational and personal level.
Sometimes we attend church out of habit, routine. We sit in the same pews. We make sure to speak to the same people. We fulfill our obligations with money or serving the church in its capacity to serve the community. But are we serving God? Are we striving to live in the presence of God?
Periodically, I seem to have the need to commune with God by myself. It is not about questioning my faith. But rather, about drawing myself closer to God, closer to what God’s Will needs from me rather than what my little ego may need from others. Or from the church.
Often we attend church and listen attentively to the sermon and yet a few days later, we couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about. We couldn’t quote you the scripture it was based upon. The pastor or priest or reverend or preacher is not the embodiment of God. They are, at their best, the conduits to express God’s Will and message to us. But often we become so entrenched in our weekly routine we lose sight of what it is God is trying to impart to us. God is fundamentally within each of us, individually. It is up to each of us to establish a personal and intimate relationship with God that supersedes whatever anyone else may say. Or do.
Yet, we are so busy in our lives it appears as though this busyness becomes a matter of status, of pride. We must be extremely important the busier we are. We talk on our cell phones, we text, we socialize and conduct business virtually incessantly. When are we practicing the presence of God? When are we ever alone long enough to have a communication with God? Even with our own spiritual being?
We are not supposed to emulate others. We are directed to emulate Christ and His principles of love, forgiveness, compassion and understanding. Every minute of every day, we are exhorted to “look upon every circumstance of our lives as a particular dealing of God with our souls.” God is not just in church although we pray together in hopes that God’s grace will allow us to draw closer to Christ and his principles.
We tend to forget that God is as close to us as each breath we take. As close to us as the sun in our hair, the breeze on our face, the overwhelming sense of love we feel for those we are close to. This is all God’s grace at work. Do we take the time to acknowledge God in every detail of our lives? Do we stop long enough, just to take a deep breath and call to mind God’s presence?
Recently I saw a young woman begging for money in front of a book store. I gave her a dollar and when I ordered a cup of coffee in the store, I asked the woman if this young lady was often in front of the store. She laughed at me and said I’d been had, as she was a student and had plenty of money. So I laughed, too, and said, “Well, I guess I’m building good karma, then.” A young man behind me said, “This is just what I was thinking!”
But why didn’t I say, “I guess I am building God’s grace”? Because in my mind and heart, that was exactly what I had been thinking, karma being such an abstract concept it never entered into it. I had been thinking, “God, please bless this young woman that she should not have to beg on the streets.” God’s grace comes through us the more we quest after God’s Will in our lives. The more we can feel the touch of God’s benevolence at work in our lives, the closer we become to the principles Christ so often preached.
Sometimes, I require aloneness for me to feel closer to that path of greater understanding of God’s Will at work in my life. I need to seek silence, respite from people, pray in my own way under my own volition. When I refrain from speaking to others for a period of time, I draw closer to God’s still, silent voice within. I spend more time actively and consciously requesting for God show me the way to love, to wisdom, to gratitude for all that is currently in my life. To those virtues demonstrated by Christ Jesus that I have yet to cultivate.
Attending church, being present, can only be a call to higher levels of profound compassion when we are unselfconsciously being ourselves in church. Seeking to decipher what it is that God specifically wants us to hear. What the sermon is saying to us in particular. We owe it to ourselves to be fully present in church, from the deepest parts of ourselves, not just to show up to be able to tell ourselves we’ve fulfilled our obligation for the week and mentally check off another “to-do” item. Do we have eyes to see? Ears to hear?
I felt guilty. I soon realized the real reason I felt guilty was because I didn’t feel guilty for not attending church. Shouldn’t God be angry at me for not going to church? Isn’t it a sin? I couldn’t feel that it was.
All I felt was an immersion in God’s Will for me. A peace that surpassed my ego’s understanding as I didn’t feel I deserved it. Yet, I now know for certain that we all deserve God’s peace. God’s love. God’s understanding. God’s mercy. This is what we’re here for: to express those aspects of Christ’s principles.
We’re not here to simply show up. That is not presence. To be fully present is to feel God’s love and direction for us at any given moment. God’s grace completely embraces us at the most unexpected times. We must be fully present to acknowledge it. Be grateful for it. And to live it.
We thank Lynette for her thoughtful contribution, and encourage the rest of you to send any submissions you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org.