April 2009...oh, to be present...

My Story of God’s movement toward Presence (both obvious and miraculous) in a beautiful 14 period of time back in April of 2009. I thought it would be good to rehearse this nearly a year later. Sometimes I forget what God has done so quickly and I don't want to be that way. This is a collection of stories that were orchestrated by God for my personal sanctification and for the spiritual renewal of my heart. I will not forget the visceral sense of his presence during this season of closeness...

Exodus 33

12 Moses said to the LORD, "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

15 Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

17 And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."

18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

19 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

21 Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."

It all started at the Catalyst conference two weeks ago…

We were sitting out behind our hotel, and I was telling Jim Nora about a time when I saw a humming bird in the woods one day when I was praying and felt like God caused that to show me his presence. The next morning we were eating breakfast outdoors in California and a humming bird started drinking little droplets of water from a nearby fountain in the exact way the humming bird did when I was in the woods...Jim and I just smiled and shook our heads.

Going to the bookstore at the church that morning I found John Eldredge’s new book “Fathered by God”. I had just purchased tickets a couple days before to go to his conference in Troy. The reason why this happening is important is that nearly nine years prior to this day I was at another conference when I happened upon his book "Wild at Heart" that proved to be the beginning of a season of transformation and revival in my life. It was like God was saying, "Get ready, I'm here again and I'm about to bring another awakening."

When I was with Jim the night before talking about stories from our past and memorable moments in our narrative, I told him the Pez candy story that I shared two weeks earlier in a blog as my earliest memory and at the conference when we arrived, Chic Fillet was catering lunch and was handing out Pez candy dispensers as a promotion. I always find it ironic that something that I hadn't thought about for 30 years pops up in a blog, emerges in a conversation randomly, and then surfaces in a seemingly impossible way days later in this Chic Fillet promotion. God moves in nuanced ways that are almost imperceptible.

During an intermission in the conference, I went into the lobby where they had Apple computers set up for people to check the internet if they wanted to. As I was checking my email, a guy with some sort of speech impediment started talking to me. I couldn't understand anything he was saying with my human ears. I whispered a prayer to God, "God give me the gift of tongues, so that I can hear what this young man is saying to me and respond with encouragement." I couldn’t understand him at all and all at once God opened the ears of my heart and I could make out what he was saying. I felt like God gave the gift of interpretation to me and I was able to encourage this young man that most people couldn't understand. It was powerful.


In the plane when the announcer said, “Take the oxygen mask and put it on yourself first, then on your neighbor.” I needed that. I sensed God say that to me as I returned to my ministry. "Don't forget to fuel your own heart, Jason. Then give the nourishment to others."


On the Saturday I returned home from the conference, one thing that Erwin McManus said in his first session on Wed. was echoing in my head, “You can’t fake presence.” I sensed God wanted to be present like never before.

Adsum (latin) - Here! present! I’m alive!

Sunday morning after going to Disney the next week I felt drawn to a new “presence”, seeing the same things but completely differently.

In church that next weekend I remember grabbing the lady in the 9:30am service who’s husband died and asking her how she was doing. Then my mouth moving outside my control and saying, “Do you have any friends?” (which didn't seem to fit the conversation at all) To which she responded “no” with tears. Hugging her and whispering in her ear and then saying, again without my actually doing it, “I will find you a friend this week.”

I remember the very next service at 11:15am grabbing another lady the very next service and telling her about the situation and asking her to call her and reach out to her. How powerful to feel God use this “power of presence” to bring about actual happenings.

On Monday morning I awoke to an email called, “A place to see…” where a friend took satellite pictures of my childhood home on 45 W. Van Buren St. based on an blog I wrote a couple weeks earlier called, “the Blizzard of ‘77”. It just felt like I understood afresh how powerful being present in someone’s life is.

Another email came moments later from a friend who signed off with the statement…”With fierce affection.” This is exactly what I was feeling that morning and just happened to be the phrase in the book "Fathered by God" that so deeply struck me the week before. It was a confirmation that God was speaking that phrase to me through that book I was reading in the plane ride home from California.

When the staff was sharing on Monday at the staff retreat, I felt like their voices as they shared were EQ’d with reverb…it was powerful…like I could here them, but also feel them at the same time.

I remember leaving work and going to Meier to pick up vegetable oil and feeling God telling me to smile while I was in the store the whole time. (this seemed really strange)

It was like I had a power over people. They were forced to say hi to me and nearly everyone with whom I made eye contact with was either moved to smile or looked as if they were going to stop to talk to me. It was powerful.

Tuesday morning I woke up and had breakfast with Brad Riemer who doesn’t know Christ. As I walked out the front door I felt God tell me to get my Bible. I don’t usually take my Bible to morning meetings, especially if it’s with a seeker, but there was this maroon bible that had laid at the top of the stairs for about the last two weeks that was new, didn’t have a name in it and had come out of nowhere. I went upstairs to grab it just in case. When I got there to talk to him (I shouldn’t have woken up because I set my alarm incorrectly, but something woke me up miraculously on time), we talked for about an hour or so and he finally said that he felt he was changing. I felt God telling me to ask him if he wanted to meet every other week to simply read the Bible together and talk about it. He looked at me and said, “I was hoping you would ask me that.” But then he paused and said, “The only problem is that I don’t have a Bible.”

At first I was telling him the kind of Bible to get, NIV with study notes, and it hit me, this was the exact Bible that I brought that was Brand New with no name in it that came out of nowhere. I looked down on the seat, pick it up and gave it to him. We hugged, he left…I felt like God set this whole thing up.

Laster that day, I had a powerful programming meeting with my crew and shared some of what I was experiencing. They shared similar things in their hearts. During the time, we ate McDonalds hot fudge sundaes. (wow…Hot Fudge Sunday!! Cool idea!) My daughter came in to the middle of the meeting and with a unique face and beaming heart shared her progress report card…4 A’s and 2 B’s. This was a miracle compared to the last report card. We hugged and kissed.

I woke on Wednesday morning and went to McDonalds to meet with a friend. When I got there I walked up to the counter to order my coffee and a woman who is there all the time took my order. She never talks, she is obviously shy and broken and insecure. This morning she asked me a question about who I meet with and why. I told her and without even a transition she said, “I just met my daughter yesterday for the first time in 18 years.” Out of nowhere. She looked at my face and just went there. You tell me presence can’t be felt. It was beautiful conversation.

I spent some time on my Thursday doing some writing, and then met my wife and Taylor at Wendy’s. I was going to take Tay and go home, but I felt something stirring me to go to Barnes and Noble to see a book that God wanted me to read.

We left and went over there and I browsed around and couldn’t find anything when suddenly a book, “Blue Like Jazz” special edition jumped out at me.

It had a colorful announcement at the top of the book alerting everyone to the new book coming out in the fall and saying that excerpts of that book were in the back of this special edition. I knew I had to read those excerpts. It was perfect for what I needed and knew it was exactly what God brought me there to see.


Today, on my way to the library, about 20 minutes ago, I was driving down the road (Lincoln Lake) to drop of my daughter and her friends at the church. As I was driving thinking about what God was going to show me next, I saw a woman from a distance walking on the sidewalk with her children. She was Hispanic and her children seemed to be a blend of "this, that and the other" nationality. The color of her shirt even from a distance made my eyes adjust and focus in for some reason. It was a color that was very familiar to me. The closer I got, the more I became aware of why the shirt drew my eyes with such a vacuum-like attraction. It was the "Rooted" shirt from our men's retreat last year. I didn't know this woman, nor did I recognize any of the children walking along her side. But the shirt--which was drastically oversized--was something that was as familiar as the back of my own hand.

This morning I met with someone who had their Bible opened to the gospels and one verse that was underlined was the one that said "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I didn't come to call the righteous, but the sinners."

Something about this verse lodged in my spirit and came up like accidental puke when you're burping and you get a little more than you bargained for. I swallowed it back down, but the taste of that verse mixed with that women wearing that shirt spoke into my soul. Jesus whispered to me, "She is who I am talking about. I am in her life. I am all over this community. I want you to get busy looking for sinners to be friends with. Looking for sinners to love. Looking for sinners to breathe hope and life and joy into. I didn't come for the clean, calm and collected...I came for the trash, the tramps, the terrors. She is wearing that shirt because I wanted you to see her today. I wanted you to see who I'm hanging out with today." And with that he slipped away into my rear view mirror and faded from view along with the little family waddling toward main street.

Saturday morning...

I woke up, went to church and worked through some programming stuff for Mother’s Day. While I was working, a woman came into the church and we started talking. She was wearing a “Lowell” shirt and as we were talking, it was like my eyes were opened and I saw two words “Low” and “Well”.

I sensed God saying, “There are many Low people right now in this town, but I want you to help me get them well. That’s why I’ve come. To move people from Low to Well.” This is Lowell right now.

I shook my head and went back up to the tech booth finishing what I started. There was this guy in the tech booth that got divorced a couple years ago and I don’t know why, but I sensed that I should ask him if there were any women out there catching his eye. I felt for about a minute I should say something, but it felt foolish. I overcame the absurdity of the question and just asked it to him. He looked at me and said, “Why do you ask?” I could tell by how he answered that something had happened recently. I said that I just felt like it. He then shared how he went on his first date that week and asked me, “Do you want the long story or the short story.” I said without hesitation, “The long one of course!” ha. I couldn’t believe that God would even put something like this on my heart, but this guy wouldn’t have talked to anyone about it had God not brought it to my mind.

On Sunday...

Brian Kueick told me that the story of the Hummingbird that I told him on Saturday morning happened to him right when he got home. He was working on his car and a hummingbird flew right up to his face and scared him to death. He knew immediately that is was associated to what I just told him only hours earlier. He told me on Sunday with a crazy look of “can you believe that?” all over his face. (this ties into something else that happened on Monday with Gene Beerens…I was telling the story of the hummingbird to the staff…the first encounter, the time in California, the Brian story from Saturday and Gene smiled and said, ‘you aren’t going to believe this, but last week I was outside and a hummingbird flew up to my face and just stared at me for a moment spooking me.” We all sat their blown away. Could this really be happening?

On Sunday we went out for dinner to the Olive Garden and when we got there we were sitting next to a family who had been waiting a while.

When their names were called, they made a comment of some sort and we laughed. There was some sort of connection as the walked to their table and we stayed their waiting to be called. When we finally got called, we had a table next to them and as we were getting the girls situated, we made eye contact, made a joke and I gave him a high five. There was something about this high five that was freeing to me, something so natural and inviting. Why isn’t there this connection to strangers within humanity more?

As sit down, the bill from the party before us was on the table and Heidi inadvertently looked at the tip and saw that it was about a 4 percent tip. We saw the waitress who was very nice and when I saw her pick up the bill, she looked at it, dropped her eyes and her head and headed to the register to punch it in. Immediately I felt like God said, “you need to pay the rest of her tip.” So I told our waitress that we would be taking care of the rest of the tip for her and she went and told her. She then stopped at our table thanking us and it was so cool to see how little things can bring such blessing to someone’s life.

I don’t know if I said this before, but three weeks ago, I found out John Eldredge was speaking over outside Detroit and so I got online, and without consulting me wife or my schedule, I bought two tickets. It was a conference called, “A night for men and the women who love them.” I like that title. I knew I needed to be there three weeks ago and when the night finally came. I couldn’t believe how it was weaving together with my story the last three weeks. Not to mention that I had purchased his new book on that same morning I saw the hummingbird, got the Pex candy dispenser, and talked to that kid in the lobby interpreting his speech with the gift of God helping me understand. We went to this conference and I felt God speaking into my heart the whole night. What an affirmation of the story of God and the story of my whole life and how God had moved in me from my childhood to today. We left the conference and stopped at Starbucks on the way home.

On the counter, there was a little brochure with the title on the top. “Now – Here” I sensed that God was reaffirming the power of being present in the present. I took the brochure and headed to the car to drive home.

This morning I woke up and met with Brad Raimer, the guy who I gave the bible to last week. I told him about how God showed me everything that happened last week and he was blown away. I told him that God has spoken to me that he didn’t know Him very way, but that he wanted to and that I was supposed to help him. God was clear that He’d been working with him for quite sometime and that I wouldn’t have to work hard, cause he did all the hard work already. Brad thought this was amazing cause he said it was spot on! We talked about how God has been stirring him for the last couple months and how he had talked to his wife about how he wished he could meet with me and talk about life and God. Bingo!

As we were leaving, we walked out the door and I sensed that I needed to go back in and ask the owner’s wife of Keiser’s how she was doing. I don’t even know their names, but I went back in and said, “Hey, how are you doing?” She said, “Good.” I said, “Really? Are you really doing Good?” (I was nervous to press in like this but I felt I needed to) She then said, “It was a rough morning. My husband just went to get tested to see if there was still cancer in his body after two months of chemotherapy. They had to wake up really early that morning and she said they were very tired. I knew God knew that this had happened and wanted me to come into their fatigue. I told her that I would be praying “hardcore” for her. (I don’t know what I said hardcore, I just did). She smiled and as I left I was just amazed how God knows what everyone’s going through and wants us to know too so that we can join them with his love.

And the story continues…

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Pre-sent – this is missional…to be sent in a pre- sort of way.

In an email to some brothers…I penned it this way…

It's funny...I was thinking about the word present and I saw this yesterday...


This is what it's like to be present...you feel like you're sent, living on mission, living with intended and intentional purpose before you get in the moment so that when you arrive in the moment, you already knew you would be there and prepared yourself so that when you were, you were fully, not partially there. Not mostly. Fully.

Pre-sent people live in each moment as if God sent them to it before they got there. They visualize the moment they are in as an ordained slice of time, predestined, orchestrated, choreographed. They don't show up absent or distant or vacant. They are there, completely and holistically there. Rather, they are here. Always here, always now...yet knowing ahead of time that the moment would come then and there. Strange, paradox, but this is the paradox of the PRESENT, the "PRE-SENT".

Being Present is feeling Pre-Sent by God so that you, with deliberate passion, Present yourself to the Moment as a Present, a gift.

And this stillness is essential to living for God. Because you can’t live for God until you learn to live with God in the moment. Listen to the importance of presence…

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (present)"
 - Exodus 14:14

"Be still (present), and know that I am God" - (Psalm 46:10)

And I will, Lord. Today I will. Thanks for the reminder of this season of my life today. I needed that.


Leslie said…
This was refreshing to read. I remember when you were in the middle of this exciting season of closeness. Thanks for the reminder to look for the small things, to follow stirrings, and to be present. What a powerful experience.

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