Too many followers of Jesus are chronically overextended and doing more for Jesus than their inner life with him can sustain. They have too much to do in too little time and say a default yes to requests and opportunities without carefully discerning God's will. Overloaded and depleted constitute "normal" for their lives.
― Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (p. 37)
Being present is hard. Our lives are now built around activity, going faster than we can manage, and multitasking our way through life. As disciples of Jesus, we have to ask questions like:
Is the speed of my lifestyle spiritually healthy?
Is this the way Jesus designed and called me to live?
How does the pace of my lifestyle impact those around me?
Does the speed of my life reflect Kingdom living or is it more of a reflection of our culture?
In order to be present, consider taking up some of the practices below. We would encourage these practices to be done without a digital device (i.e. phone) so that you are not multitasking, but instead being fully present in the moment.
Practical Ideas for Being Present With God
Go for a walk with God
Go for a walk with the only purpose being to seek how God can be seen through His creation.
Spend time reading with the purpose of growing your affection toward God and not your knowledge of God.
Focus on musical worship
During your next car ride, turn on a worship song and listen to the lyrics while you drive. Don’t just sing because you know the words, but sit quietly and truly listen to what the words are saying.
Take communion at home
While we are blessed every weekend to take communion as a church family together, there is nothing in scripture that states we have to take it only once a week and in the walls of a church building. In fact, the early church took communion in homes. To be present with God and others, consider taking communion at home.
Set up a distraction free environment/zone somewhere in your house or apartment
Jesus talked about a “prayer closet” or a personal space we should go to in order to be alone with God (Matthew 6:6) . The goal with this space is not just privacy so you are not showing off with prayer in front of others. Rather, this sacred space is also about having a special space for focus. Whether it’s your office, a spare bedroom, your back porch, or a spot in the woods you drive to, it’s extremely beneficial to have a place to go to in order to be present with God.
Read a Psalm. Write a Psalm.
Pick a Psalm. It can be a random one. Better yet pick a Psalm that matches your emotional state. Read it a couple of times slowly soaking in each word. Then rewrite that Psalm in your own words.
Sometimes one of the best things you can do to be present is to give up food to focus on God. We have a resource here to help you begin the practice of Biblical fasting.
Many people in the church get nervous when they hear the word “meditate” because they are concerned that we are requesting something that is Eastern or Buddhist. However, there is a long standing Christian history of meditation in the early church. We also see meditation supported in the Bible itself. While Eastern meditation’s goal is to empty the mind, the goal of Christian meditation is to fill the mind with Christ and scripture through focus and stillness. It’s slowing down to be with God. Try apps like Abide or explore more about Christian meditation here.
Practical Ideas for Being Present With Others
Stack your phones in another room and watch a movie together. Do the works: popcorn, drinks, candy, etc. Be focused on what is happening in the moment.
Have a meal together at home
Pick a meal this week, turn off the TV, and don’t allow phones at the table. Find a list of conversation starters (if needed) and have dinner as a family just talking. Make sure to listen to each person and allow everyone to talk. Make eye contact when talking with others.
Daily check up
Have a 30 minute “check up” each day that is simply an emotional check in with each other. Follow the “Sashet” method: By saying “I feel _____” and answering with either- Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, or Tender. Be intentional this week by giving a loved one your time, energy and full attention.
Take a walk with a friend or loved one
There is something centering about moving your body, breathing fresh air, and taking in your surroundings without any distractions. Focus on the person/people you are with. Practice asking others intentional questions.
Play a card or board game with someone or a group of people
Shared analogue games (cards, board games, dice, etc.) help build community, take peoples’ minds off the problems of the past or future, and enable them to laugh with others.
Go out to dinner and leave your phone in the car
Food and friendship go hand-in-hand. Enjoying great flavors, looking across the table at someone eye-to-eye, and taking a break from screens can help people live in the moment.
Spend time with someone who helps you live in the moment
Follow up with a friend on something they’ve previously shared with you. Some people just bring us joy no matter what we are going through. They help us see the good, appreciate the moment, and bring out the best in us. Spend some time with these people.
Practical Ideas for Being Present With Yourself
Take time to journal. Write about what you learned during that day, what you are feeling emotionally, what things ahead you are looking at (either positively or negatively) and end with a written prayer.
Watch the sunrise or sunset
It will be tempting to take photos with your phone, but leave your device in the car or house and enjoy a sunrise or sunset. They never get old.
Find something in the moment that you can savor
Take some time to do nothing more than listen to beautiful music. Read a poem or great book. Go get your favorite dessert and eat it slowly. Soak your feet in the pool and enjoy the warmth of the sun. Wherever you are, enjoy something about that moment. Don’t worry about the guilt of the past or the problems of the future. Be present.
When we struggle to be present, often we are not breathing well. It helps to slow down and concentrate on breathing right. Here are some exercises to help you work on your breathing.
Practice or start a hobby that eliminates multitasking
Take up woodworking, crocheting, gardening, kayaking, cooking, fishing, etc. Select a hobby that you can’t multitask and keeps your hands busy (off your phone) so you can be present with God and others.
Write out a list of 20 blessings you have on this day
Gratitude is a practice that helps us be present in the moment. Write out a list of 20 great things you have or are enjoying right now that help you appreciate the moment you are in.
Phone free time
Designate a period of time to leave your phone in another room.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
Emotionally Healthy Discipleship: Moving from Shallow Christianity to Deep Transformation
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
Silence and Solitude
Prayer of Examen