be present

Country Music, Theology and Life

Some day, I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin’ – like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what you’d do with it. Live Like You Were Dying (by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman)

As a late blooming convert to American Country Music I have come to appreciate the occasional undercurrents of theology woven into the fabric of its lyrics. One of the credos I have noticed that often surfaces is the belief in the value of slowing down and enjoying the simpler things of life.

In contrast to that, I don’t know if I ever recall hearing so many people comment on how fast the summer is racing by. Having already crossed the midpoint of July and now finding ourselves striding into the second half of summer has a way of awakening our sensibilities to the fleeting nature of life.

I was driving in the car several days ago thinking about this very thing and happened to have my radio dial tuned to a country station. Two songs came on in quick succession that really caught my attention. The central theme of each song’s lyrics was about the virtue of trying to slow down the pace of life.

First I heard Toby Keith singing a song entitled “My List.” In the song we learn he’s put his “to do list” for the day “under an old brass paperweight” because it’s time to “start livin’ – that’s the next thing on my list.” He explains “Cuttin’ the grass just had to wait, ‘cause I’ve got more important things, like pushin’ my kid on the backyard swing.” You get the gist of the song. “Go for a walk, say a little prayer, take a deep breath of the mountain air. Put on my glove, play some catch, it’s time I make time for that.” Amen, preach it brother! It’s a new millennium version of the 1970’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” song except this time the old man gets it right before it’s too late.

Next I heard Trace Atkins come on singing the ballad “You’re Gonna Miss This.” The song’s point of view is that of an older parent trying to give the same “slow down and enjoy life” advice to a grown daughter. Her problem, like so many of us, is that she is so busy planning and living for the future that she is not enjoying the present. First she’s a teenager wanting to get out on her own. Then she’s a bride living in a small apartment and wanting children and a house. Then five years later she’s a mother with two crying, screaming kids, a broken water heater, barking dog and the phones ringing. At each juncture Trace croons “Baby, just slow down. Cuz you’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.”

And then, as a final theological caveat, Trace leaves her with a Romans 8:28 perspective. “These are the good times, so take a good look around, you may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.” Yes, Virginia, there is a God! And He causes “all things do work together for good” so enjoy the season you are in now!

That’s good preachin’ if I ever heard it, Country Gospel if you will, delivered with both love and truth. It touches the heart and puts just enough of a sappy smile on your face that when the truth socks you in the mouth it doesn’t cut your lip.

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8 Ways to Be Present

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Be Present! What does it mean? There are different ways to be present. Being physically present and accounted for is obviously important. Just ask a child about that regarding their parents or ask a supervisor about that regarding their subordinate. But everyone knows, especially children and bosses, that truly being present entails much more than that. Being present also means to be focused and engaged in the person and/or task at hand. Being present requires a focused engagement of every aspect of our being including the physical, mental, emotional and even the spiritual.

We live in a world that militates against that. We are bombarded 24/7 with distractions and demands for our presence, primarily through media, social networking websites, and e communication. We delude ourselves into thinking that with the sophistication of technology we can now be omni-present because we can multitask. But the stark reality is that a person cannot multitask and be fully present at the same time! It is a conceit to think that way and may actually border on idolatry because we make ourselves to be like God, who alone is omnipresent. How ridiculous it is when you stop to think about it.

So having established that, here is my take on what it means to be present from a Biblical perspective. The verse “Be still and know that I am God” says it like no other. The Hebrew word for “be still” literally means to “cease” or “cease striving”. It means to push the pause button on and forsake everything else in our lives to focus on Him.

To be present means to first and foremost ask God to be present in our lives and to focus on His presence. To fully be present in any situation or relationship we must begin there.

With that as a foundation for our understanding of what it means to “be present” I want to share with you what I am calling the 8 BE PRESENT Attitudes. I have discovered these from a study of the Scriptures and they provide eight simple ways to improve our ability to truly be present in any and every circumstance. In fact in six out of eight, the scripture used as an illustration literally tells us that these respective attitudes are to be done at all times and in every circumstance.

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