Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Nicholas, who I wrote about in my last post let me take his photo. The light behind him was unbelievably beautiful. I wanted to capture our moments and the perfect light around him so badly, and I am so grateful he allowed me to to do so!

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On Being and Presence

Sometimes days really don't go as planned.

Rolling with life's punches is something to be learned and leaned into. It provides beautiful opportunities and experiences, but at the cost of control and plans, something that deeply pains my plan-loving self who lives for expectations and having some (at least perceived) sense of control over a situation.

It was one of those days.

I had lovely expectations of going home from a nice meeting in the morning to go for a bike ride or a hike, just to enjoy the spectacular "winter" weather we've been having (sorry not sorry to all the skiers and snowboarders wishing for a real Colorado winter...though I guess this is a pretty terrifying example of global warming so maybe I am sorry).

I hopped on Facebook when I got home (never do that) and saw an invitation to an event that had just been planned for later that day. It pertained to issues of social and racial justice I care deeply about and I just had a feeling I needed to go. Making myself presentable, I grabbed my camera and ran out the door.

Soon after arriving at the event downtown, organizers began walking around the park offering coffee and fruit to the homeless who routinely use the park as a place to rest their weary eyes and catch a moment of respite. I quickly joined them, wondering if I would see any friends from Network.

One of the first guys we asked requested a piece of fruit. I handed him the banana and knelt down to shake hands and exchange names.

"I'm Nicholas."

"Nice to meet you, Nicholas, I'm Katy. How's your day going?"

He started to tell me and I just did what seemed like the most natural thing in the world - sat down cross-legged on the ground and gave him my undivided attention.

I stayed there for about two hours, listening. I heard much of Nicholas' life. He told me about his various struggles and events in his life, many stories were told two or three times. I really said very little in those two hours, I sat and listened. Many times I wondered to myself, how long has it been since he had someone to just listen to him? He probably hasn't talked like this, talked about these things, for a long time.

When the sun had begun to set and my meter was about to run out, I finally tore myself away. I told Nicholas how absolutely wonderful it had been to meet him, thanked him for sharing his story with me. The banana I'd given him hours before was just a peel now, and I offered to throw it away for him.

"That would be the kindest thing you could possibly do."

The mere act of throwing away his trash for him, was the kindest thing I could do for him. That struck me deeply in a way I'm not sure I fully understand yet. Such a simple act.

There was something so unbelievably beautiful about sitting there for hours in the chilly grass with Nicholas. The dipping sun behind him framed his head in light, illuminating his hazel eyes.

There was something about just being present. Time flying by because you weren't worrying about the hours passing, but focused entirely on the moment with another human being.

How often do we do that?

The phone is always there in my back pocket, ready to be attended to the moment I feel the buzz of a text message or Facebook notification. I'm ever-aware of the time and how long I'll be here, when I'll leave, how long I'll be in the next place. My days are often planned out down to the hour, when I'll workout and how long it will take me to drive from one meeting to the next.

Yet some of the most beautiful moments are the ones where I don't know the time, because what time it is doesn't matter. What matters are the beautiful things I am seeing when I'm in nature, or the person sitting across the table from me, the moment I am in.

How much life passes by because I am worrying about what comes next, or dwelling on what has already passed.

Someone said to me recently that God is not in the past or the future, He is in the present.

That paused me. Stopped me to stay in the moment and think about this. I cannot encounter God in the past or the future, the only place I can be with God is right here, right now. Planning to be with God later today is not being with God, thinking of the times I have spent with God are not being with God.

How much God passes by because I'm thinking about if I pleased God yesterday, or if I will find time to pray tomorrow. In all that worrying and planning, I missed the God who is right here, right now, hanging out at this coffee shop with me while I write up this blog about being with Him. Whoo. Irony.

If I could put down the phone, stop filling all my time with mindless activities and stupid TV shows and movies, perhaps I could encounter the God whose greatest desire is to simply be with me.

Perhaps if I could stop being so concerned with pleasing God and all the things I am doing to "glorify Him," I could actually pause long enough to see and feel and experience and be with Him. 

But this pausing, this stepping away from the endless cycle of doing into the so simple but so difficult being requires me to believe that God is not most pleased by my actions, but most pleased by my presence.

Henri Nouwen talks about this, saying,
"I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who Is looking for me while I am doing the hiding. When I look through God's eyes at my lost self and discover God's joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting. Wouldn't it be good to increase God's joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels? Wouldn't it be wonderful to make God smile by giving God the chance to find me and love me lavishly? Questions like these raise the real issue: that of my own self-concept. Can I accept that I am worth looking for? Do I believe that there is a real desire in God to simply be with me?"
It is so hard to be present with people, to be present to our lives.

I learn this through yoga. It is virtually impossible to practice yoga without being present. The moment your mind wanders to what you'll do (or, more likely, eat) after class...you lose balance, wobbling and toppling over on the mat. You cannot fully engage in the workout if you are not mentally present to the moment you are in. And in that it ceases to be merely a workout and becomes a meditation.

Life cannot be engaged in without being fully present. Relationships with other humans and with God cannot be deep and true and formative without being there, at the table, hands open wide to receive the love.

This comes down to what we believe, what I believe.

Do I really believe that others want to be with me? Do I, am I willing to, believe that God simply desires to be with me?

Am I willing to believe this, that is even deeper of a question. For this belief ultimately is a demand to surrender all control. When I am earning the love of another, whether that is the love of God, a friend, or a significant other, I have control. I can do or not do things that will influence the relationship.

But when that person, or this God, simply loves me for nothing more then the delight they receive from loving me, I have nothing left to give. I am left in a place of simply receiving, knowing that nothing I do or fail to do will ever change or lessen the infinite love I am offered.

As I saw with Nicholas, I wasn't worried about the time, or how long until I could leave. I was truly glad to just be there with him, and hear his stories. That being, that presence, that stillness, was everything. And if I enjoyed the simply being with this poor man, how can I not believe God also loves simply being with me, an equally poor spirit?

I believe, with everything in my being, that God is always present offering His love. He is the Father running towards the son who left home and surrendering all dignity just to be able to embrace his son sooner, before the son had even said a word. The son may not have even been sorry, for all the Father knew, but all that mattered was embracing the son he loved.

God is right here, right now, sitting across the table from me in this sun-filled coffee shop. The question is if I will pause long enough to sit with Him and be loved.