Tag Archive: Processing


The Presence was Palpable

I was reading an essay written by someone who I had never heard of before this morning.  It was interesting as they were describing an event where tons and tons of people were gathering.  Depending upon the type of event, they recalled how they viewed the people differently when in close proximity to others.  The author, Shelly Miller did a great job of recognising and admitting how easy we colour others in our own minds depending on the situation.  It’s a good read for all of us.  During this observation and reflection, the author used this phrase to describe 6,000+ people coming together for a Christian leadership conference…

“God’s presence was palpable.”

Now, I have had this experience before.  There seems to be an almost electric feeling when you get a bunch of people together for certain events.  When I have attended the Urbana Missions Conference in the past, even the concept of having 20,000+ people that follow God coming together gives me goose bumps.  The actual experience is ever so much more powerful.  In such an environment, it is easy to say what Mrs. Miller wrote.  It is a visceral connection with the presence of an invisible God.

I enjoyed her writing and reflected upon the lessons there, but I was left with a question that had nothing to do with her piece at all.  Why is it that aside from those “big” experiences do we tend not to express a meeting with God in the same way?  Is it that without the throng of people,  we cannot sense God’s presence in a tangible way?  Is it that the meeting is actually different when we spend time alone in prayer or with a bible study group?  Are we more aware of God when many people are gathered together?  Or more subtly, is it that we don’t expect a “palpable” experience with God unless we’re essentially drowning in one?

I’m not saying that no one has ever described a more solitary experience with God as palpable.  However, I think it does show how we are wired to assume that a great cacophony represents more of a “God-experience” than a subtle or silent one.  Yet, in the Bible the one reference to an experience with God that I have always adhered to is in 1 Kings 19.

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”  —- 1 Kings 19:11-13

In the midst of craziness, God wasn’t found in the loud noises or the thunderous happenstance… He was found in the subtlety of a whisper.

Too often today, we as Christians feel like we need the mountaintop experience to remind us that God is real.  That is our fallen and self-indulgent state of heart

So, I am left with hard questions.  Do we only have significant connections with God in the wake of emotional or sensory overload?  Why is it that we aren’t overwhelmed with God’s presence like so many instances in the Bible when a personal connection is made between God and a person?  What is wrong with our hearts that we interpret reality in a way that keeps us from being in awe of having a relationship with Him?  I personally feel convicted about the ways that I do not acknowledge that Christ is in our everyday reality.  I also recognise that I need to strive to be in awe of His presence at all times.  That God would choose to involve Himself in my life needs to be that dramatic to my soul.  Imagine if we lived our lives in that way… that God’s presence was palpable every second of every day.  Oh how things would be different.

Selah

Fresh on the heels of the scenario I recently wrote about, here is the next installment of my observations and struggles to figure out what is right.  The following is probably too simple and idealistic and not exacting enough for debate, but I’m fleshing out my reactions in the light of the verse below:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”–Matthew 5:9

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Now the problem with the previous exploration is that I want to extrapolate it.  Perhaps it isn’t something that can be expanded to society at large or to a global scale.  Our country often finds itself in situations similar to that.  However, our country is invested in keeping conflict going rather than resolving it.  In our history, we have entered into conflict around the world, and basically become the onlooker in the above situation.  In our haste, we have jumped in and protected one side of a conflict without flinching and then found ourselves protecting that side forever afterwards.  Other times, we have reacted to such a situation and provided one side the ability to overwhelm the other.  In the aftermath of seeing the outcomes of both methods, we sometimes have a reactionary response.  We then provide aid and help to both sides of the conflict.

That happens so easily because conflict between peoples or nations rarely occurs in short durations of time.  Years and years can pass.  So as a benevolent nation, when we step to assist one side of a conflict we observe the horror that conflict brings.  So, we step in and provide aid to the other side of the conflict.  Medical supplies, food, infrastructure, trade, and even weaponry are things that we’ve provided to both sides of a conflict.  In fact, it’s rare nowadays that there isn’t some assistance to both sides of an international conflict that we’re not involved in reaching out to help.  That is because if we make sure that two sides of a conflict cannot wipe the other off the face of the earth then they eventually will find peace, right?

That reality sounds like a caring and compassionate extension of our character.  It really appears to be a positive philosophy.

Now let’s look at the scenario that I used earlier.  Two people beating on each other.  If we provide support on one side to equal the fight, the one that was “winning” earlier might seek out assistance from elsewhere.  (this happens)  Then the conflict gets worse because they come back with better weapons, more people, better tactical advantage, etc.  So we then have to jack up our support to either match again (so it will be a standoff), or to keep the other side from getting more support we have to over-support our ally.  Essentially we would provide a superior advantage to our ally to discourage them from ratcheting up their abilities.

What would you do if you all of a sudden had a superior position against someone who was previously beating you silly?  Many of us would try to get revenge.  As conflict escalates, more hurt and pain gets inflicted until it spirals out of control.  Dispute leads to conflict leads to confrontation leads to war.  Eventually, things will just get very ugly.

Now watching this as someone who is now involved and now responsible for giving the tools for revenge it hurts.  What do we do now?  If we are truly not wanting this to continue, we must get involved again, right?  Do we help the other side even the balance of power?  The USA has been doing basically that very thing for the better part of the last 100 years.  Most of the time, we unify against a grave injustice.  Other times, we’ve been working on both sides of situations and conflicts.

That statement makes me feel ill in reflection.  It basically means that we’ve basically watched the two people beat each other up, and provided arms and assistance to both sides for long periods of time.  Whatever our intentions that got us into the conflict, the longer we allow the conflicts to continue, the more pain, bloodshed, pain, and anguish happen to people.

I have a question echoing in my ears as I think about this.  How long will the people involved in the conflicts go until they realise that the real enemy in the situation is us?  Because it occurs to me that if we provide military assistance to both sides, medical assistance to both sides, monetary support to both sides… we are on the side of the CONFLICT itself!

I view what happened to us on 9/11 through that mentality.  Eventually people resented our involvement in their conflicts for so long that they were angrier at us than the nations and peoples they’ve been at war with for centuries.

To truly be a peacemaker, we have to end the conflict.  Pacifists have the mentality that all conflict that ends in war is unjust.  They believe war is not an answer.  I agree with starting a war, but ending one… that’s another question.  How do you help someone end their war?  How do we watch others’ conflicts and see the horrors that naturally come from them without being moved to action?  The answers don’t really come easy.

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