Be here now

Published 10:59 am Saturday, January 23, 2016

by Andrew Book

As I walked out of the house tonight to walk our dogs, the snow was already falling. My first thoughts were around the plans I have for the next few days and how this weather may mess them up. After a few moments of complaint, grumbling and wondering what the next few days will bring in terms of snow, my mind drifted to the innumerable Facebook posts I have seen over the last few days related to what may (or may not) come as part of this weather system. I’m not sure if we had a consensus from the brief survey of my Facebook friends, but there was a clear sense that this weather — and winter in general — was not welcome. Snow and cold are troublesome and generally we would be happy to set them aside for summer weather.

Of course, you can find similar — yet opposite — posts in the middle of summer when we are in the middle of a heat wave. On those days most of us are longing for something cold enough to kill the clouds of mosquitoes and looking forward to the day when we need to put a jacket on again. There is something in our nature that is constantly looking forward (or backward) to another time, another place, another season. The truism, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” holds true for most of us because the present never seems as interesting or desirable as that other place or time which grabs our minds and tears our focus away from where we are. Regardless of where our minds are drawn, the present is where we are — and the present is the only place we can truly find joy, wonder, hope or light. It is only as we truly give our attention to the wonders and joys that surround us in every season that we will be able to live life fully.

Going back to my walk this evening, once I was able to get my head back to the present, I discovered that tonight’s snowfall was very enjoyable to walk on (one girl at Courtland United Methodist Church compared Sunday’s snow to walking on applesauce. This wasn’t too different.). I simply walked for a while, enjoying the feel of snow crunching under my boots — there is a strange pleasure in walking on new fallen snow. Then, as I approached a streetlight, my eyes were drawn to the sheer beauty of the small flakes drifting gently through the light. I just stood under that streetlight and watched flakes drift by for a few moments — moments that were infinitely better spent than the time I had spent a few short minutes before bemoaning how the beauty falling from the sky might mess up my plans.

One of the core Christian beliefs about God is that God is “omnipresent” or everywhere. This means that God can meet us wherever we are, whether it is in a church building or in a snowstorm. One of the final things Jesus told his followers at the end of the Gospel of Matthew was, “I am with you always” (28:20). That promise means that any moment of life is a time where we are in God’s presence, a time when we have the opportunity to walk with Jesus, and an opportunity to grow as people of faith. That promise also means that every moment we spend focusing on what might happen in the future or what we could have done in the past is a moment where we have missed the opportunity to encounter God in the present.

For those who are familiar with the “Star Wars” series, Master Yoda considered the ability to be present in the moment to be essential for someone seeking to be a Jedi. He goes as far as considering turning Luke Skywalker away from Jedi training because Luke spent his time dreaming about being somewhere else rather than being where he was! Yoda declared, “All of his life he looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.” Yoda knew that if Luke could not be fully present in each moment there was no way he could thrive as a Jedi. In fact, there is no way we can thrive at all if all our thoughts are usually elsewhere!

Regardless of whether you are seeking God, pursuing life as a Jedi knight, or simply trying to live better today than yesterday, I hope you will work on the discipline of being present in each moment. You may be reading this column from under two feet of snow or, maybe, a few inches of rain has just washed away the snowman I built with my kids last Sunday. I don’t know what your present moment is, but I do know that God is with you in this moment. I know that there is joy, beauty and power in this moment. I pray that you will seek out what this moment has to offer you!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or