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On social media, I have noticed a hashtag that pops up in my news feed pretty regularly.

It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, as a general rule our lives are frantic and rushed, in part because we have children (i.e. basketball, soccer, gymnastics, piano, choir, homework… want me to keep going?), work, spouses, and a thousand other things happening all around us. Even the retired people I know are exhausted. We run at a rapid pace and as far as I can tell, very rarely have moments of quiet. I completely understand why people are desperate for time to slow down. I know that I certainly could use a little more slowness in my life. So, earlier this week while I was listening to a conversation between the novelist, Marilynne Robinson and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, I was particularly moved by one section in their dialogue. I can’t be sure, but I think it can help us with the time problem we all struggle with these days. Williams was asked about how to affirm the ordinary everyday experience of life. Here was his response,

“Sometimes we want the immediate sense of glamor, gratification, or drama. We can’t understand that the prosaic, the everyday, always accumulates toward glory, because we want the glory now, we want the fix. I think of Augustine in the Confessions saying, in effect, “The problem isn’t that God’s not here. The problem is that I’m not here.” I’m everywhere but here in this moment, in this particular prosaic, ordinary, physical environment. Part of the function of really effective art is to slow us down and bring us to that particularity.”

Take a moment and go reread that quote. Williams is quintessentially British, so he has a way with language that Americans should appreciate. The entire conversation is worth your listen, but there is one sentence in his response that really grabbed me, and it was his summation of Augustine’s Confessions.

“The problem isn’t that God’s not here. The problem is that I’m not here.”

If you are anything like me, that quote hits a little too close to home. Way too often, I find that I struggle to be present in the place and time where I am. Do you know what I mean? We are running at a breakneck pace because we are busy being successful. We put our kids in a thousand programs, assuming that if they miss out on a sport or an extracurricular then their lives will be less wonderful than their friends at school. We are constantly chasing the “fix”, and it robs us of the ability to be present, to be “here”.

How often have you been in a room filled with actual, flesh and blood human beings but you were glued to your cell phone looking at Instagram? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who cannot help but look around the room, scanning for the new people who have arrived in the building? They give a little effort to acknowledge your conversation, but you know that they aren’t really listening to you. Maybe a little closer to home, how regularly do you sit at the breakfast table with the people you love and never give your complete focus because your mind has already gotten ahead to the thousand things you have on your plate? The fact is, we live in a culture of frantic movement. Our phones are always buzzing, our devices are always connected, and we are always on! But there are costs to living our lives this way, and the cost of that motion means that far too often we aren’t present. While we are in the room physically, our minds are in a thousand other places. I am convinced that life would be exponentially better if we would just be present, in the moment where we are focused only on the thing, task, or person that is in front of us. Time might just slow down and allow us to live in each moment, seeing the wonder and joy all around you.

I want to suggest that you take a deep look at the way you go throughout your day. How often are you present “in this particular prosaic, ordinary, physical environment”? In conversation with other people, do you listen or simply wait for an opportunity to talk? When you are sitting alone with a few brief minutes of silence, do you immediately grab your phone or can you just sit and take it all in? Can you imagine what might happen if you could cut out the noise and just be?

Not only will you see your present space in a new light, what Williams is really suggesting is that in those moments, we encounter God. It’s crazy right, God has been there the entire time, at the soccer game, the breakfast table, and everywhere in between. God is waiting for you in the worship service on Sunday and on Wednesday while you pull weeds in the yard. As Williams says, “the prosaic, the everyday, always accumulates toward glory”. When we are present in the moment, time does slow down, so that we can see each other and so that we can see God.

As we enter into the Holiday Season, schedules get busy and time can become incredibly rushed. It is so easy to go through the motions and never stop to be present. My hope for you is that wherever you are, you might be “here”.

Grace and Peace,


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