What Does It Mean To Be In His Presence?

Psa 16:11
11 … in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

There is a book entitled “Practicing the Presence of God”. It talks about being cognisant of God every day, during every moment. For me, it helped to imagine Jesus sitting in the passenger seat when I drove, or in front of me when I was worshipping at church.

However, I wonder if imagining Him with me truly brings me into His presence, or if that phrase means something else. The reason I ask is because Psalm 16:11 says there is joy and pleasure in His presence, and as a person who has experienced depression at various times in my life, that bothers me. Since I know His Word is always true, then I should experience joy more often, but I don’t. I am supposed to be joyful even through tribulation. So how do I reconcile these opposing facts?

I venture to say that I really don’t think I get in his presence very often – I’m too busy thinking or doing to ever really REST with him. I gather that reading his Word, writing devotions, going to church and singing songs isn’t the same thing as being I in his presence. So what exactly is it? I’d like to know, so I can have some of that joy more often!

I’ve read that a person may be physically nearby to us, but until we are thinking about them, they are not present TO us. Since we know God is omnipresent, perhaps that is closer to the answer we seek. I also read that both our minds and our spirits need to be involved. Presence also implies a relationship, according to some.

But for me, an active presence of another person requires that they somehow acknowledge my presence, and also communicate with me. Maybe that is where the trouble pops up. If I am the one doing 99% of the talking, all I am really aware of is myself. I believe being silent in His presence and not always speaking or thinking may be the trick.

Think about it. We sit down wanting to be in His presence, wanting not only to pour out our hearts to Him, but even more so, wanting to hear him speak to us – about those issues and also about things we hadn’t brought up. Imagine the joy of hearing our Creator speak to us. Wouldn’t that bring us joy, for the most part?

Imagine being in a room with your best friend while you were upset about something, and they wanted to help you and make you feel better – but you didn’t realize they were there and you continued to make yourself sick over the whole thing without the benefit of their offered comfort and aid. Maybe that is what we do to ourselves when God is nearby but not acknowledged by us – we cheat ourselves out of His presence that way.

I think that possibly it revolves around acknowledging God as a Person that is present and wanting to interact and communicate with us, even if it is just to calm us with His presence. If we want more joy, we must somehow stop “thinking to death” every situation and turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, so the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Maybe we also need to lay down our erroneous expectations of how He will respond to us, so we won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t occur that way. Or maybe we need to flip life on its head and remember that Jesus is life and the rest is details.

I want to truly try to be in his presence more often. Do you? What do you think of my theory? Please share your thoughts and experiences with me.

Penny Haynes

Blocking The Voices In My Head

Sometimes we have to take drastic measures.  Sometimes we have let the enemy have such free access to our minds and our lives that we have forgotten how to block him out so we can focus and hear the voice of God.  Once, during a church service, while I was waiting for prayer, I heard the voice of someone who I know doesn’t like me nearby.  Immediately, that critical voice sprang up to say all the negative things I believed she thought of me.  I was reeling, unable to concentrate in prayer.  I didn’t know what else to do.  So I put my hands over my ears and started praying in the Spirit louder, to block out the other voice.

I was amazed at how that helped.  It made me think of a news clip that showed a young autistic girl who suddenly began typing on a computer and showing that she was intelligent and aware of everything.  She explained why she rocks and covers her ears and makes humming sounds – her system was overloaded by all of the external stimulus (sounds, lights, etc.) and so she would cover her ears and make her own sounds to drown out everything else.

God has been showing me how much access I have given the enemy to my mind, and how my attitudes and thoughts have been affected by his continual negative line of attack.  I realized that as soon as someone would say something, this cynical voice (which by now sounded like my own) would start going on and on negatively, derailing me from any positive thoughts.  I asked God how I should deal with it.  The answer was to drown it out.

Drown it out?  You mean, cover my ears and pray out loud wherever I was, with whomever I was?  I don’t think so.  The He corrected me.  No, memorize scripture, and when the critical voice starts speaking, start going over memorized scriptures.  I tried it, and guess what?  It works!

I have 2 standards I have brought back – Psalm 1 and Psalm 23.  I would ambitiously like to memorize Psalm 119, but I don’t know if that’s God’s will or my own extremism.  I also pulled out some old music I had written where I had put psalms to music, and started remembering those scriptures as well.  Just by having those scriptures available in my head, I have been able to block the voice, because I am incapable of hearing 2 things at once – I can only focus on one thing at a time. This is another reason why the enemy has had such a field day with me; I would be mesmerized by the words he would say and couldn’t focus on reason or how to come back.

Finally, my problem with talking over people would come in handy.  I just interrupted the enemy and started saying in my head Psalm 1. That wiped him out COMPLETELY. I moved on to Psalm 23.  By that time, the enemy was gone.  Wow.

So I don’t know if the strategy will work for you as it has worked for me, but as we all know, negativity is what pulls us away from the hope that we have found in God.  Negativity about ourself and others isolates us from God and from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and then allows Satan to do his best to convince us that God ISN’T good, as He has previously shown He is, and CAN’T be trusted.   Do whatever you can to block those negative, critical and cynical statements in your head as if your life depends on it, because it very well may. Memorize a scripture and try it.

Penny Haynes


Believing That God Is REALLY In Control

The difference between peace and panic is believing that God is REALLY and practically IN CONTROL. I’ve been a human study in this matter for the past 3 months, and I am happy to tell you, that you CAN move from panic to peace when you REALLY trust God for your situation.

In my example, I was working for a client that drove me crazy – ran up my blood pressure and made me miserable. Then some things went wrong for him that he decided was my fault, and therefore stiffed me for 2 weeks pay. Needless to say, we parted ways, but as my main client, that left me with almost no income.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know my history of panic when my money disappears.

However, since this client relationship had caused my blood pressure to shoot dangerously high, I decided to schedule my annual doctor and OBGYN check-ups (since that’s basically the only thing my major medical insurance covers).  During my family physician visit, my doctor bluntly told me I had a “huge mass” in my uterus.  Luckily, I like blunt doctors who don’t candy coat anything.  [And funnily enough, I was sort of happy to hear this, because I had lost 35 pounds but my stomach still wouldn’t get any smaller.  This at least explained it, and helped me not feel like my diet and exercise was fruitless.]

My blood work showed slightly high cholesterol, slightly high blood pressure, slightly low thyroid, and slightly elevated cancer screening, too. So he advised me to see my OGBYN asap, which I did.  To make a long story short, I have 7 fibroids, the largest of which is the size of a grapefruit.  The mass is so large that they couldn’t even do an internal sonogram, because the fibroids filled my entire uterus and the probe couldn’t see anything!

The verdict?  Total hysterectomy. My first thought was, “How much is this going to cost?” My deductible is $5,200 personally, and I have no income, AND my husband is scheduled to be laid off right at the time of my surgery.  We won’t have enough money coming in to even pay our normal bills, much less pay for surgery costs.

My second thought was, “Great. I can’t even look for a job, because my recovery time will be 6 weeks from my surgery.  There is NO WAY for me to make ANY INCOME AT ALL during this time period.”  All in all, from the time my client stiffed me to the time I will finish my recovery period, it will be THREE MONTHS of NO INCOME.

THAT’S when I started hyperventilating. That’s when the overwhelming panic set in.  Obviously, there was absolutely nothing I could do about my lost income, or my husband’s impending lost income, or the upcoming additional bills we were about to incur.  So what could I possibly do?

Eating at me was being cheated by my former client – I wanted to go online and take down everything I had done for him over that unpaid 2 week period.  But God clearly told me to LEAVE IT ALONE.  He said NOT TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, that He would take care of it. That money was supposed to cover taxes, house insurance, etc., and without it my bank account balance dropped horribly.

I started trying to spend time on my front porch to find a little peace and quiet, externally as well as internally. I read my devotion every morning and tried to pray and let go of what my client had done to me. During one of those mornings, I clearly heard God tell me that THIS three months was to be my vacation – my time off – and that I should enjoy it while I could, because when it was over, I was going to be extremely busy.  I thought, “OK, this sounds nice, but what about my bills, my business, etc.?”

Still, I decided I would take God at His word, NOT worry about the things I had absolutely no control over, and enjoy this time off. I started relaxing and not feeling guilty for enjoying this break.

The hospital bill was going to be $7353. We don’t have that, and couldn’t pay loan payments on that amount right now, either. I asked the hospital if they had financial aid, and they gave me someone’s phone number to call. She sent me a form to fill out and instructions, and since my surgery was in 3 weeks, I could send my info directly to the person in charge, because normally the approval process took 4 – 6 weeks.

I figured it was a long shot, but worth the try. My husband hadn’t been laid off yet, and we don’t have a mortage payment. I knew there were probably other people in much more dire straights than my husband and I.  Maybe they would give us a payment plan?

In one day we had an answer. They would write off my surgery bill ONE HUNDRED PERCENT!!!! I was stunned, shocked, and couldn’t believe it (neither did my husband). When I called back to confirm the message that had been left on my phone because it sounded too good to be true, the woman laughed and said it definitely was true.

GOD had allowed the perfect storm to brew – have my husband lose his job right when I have my surgery, and cut off my income from my client at just the right time – so I would be approved for 100% of financial aid.  He had made good on His promise to take care of everything – and of course, in a way that I NEVER would have guessed in a million years!

However, God does still want us involved WHEN HE DIRECTS IT. He directed me to contact via email my previous clients and let them know what my present skill set was, and ask if they or someone they knew needed any of my services.  I only got to the B’s before I received several responses of people who forwarded my information, offered to interview and promote me, and also one person in particular wanted to partner with me to do all of her clients’ web sites and audio and video – in July (which is when my convalescence ends).  Once again, God’s perfect timing.

So what are my lessons learned?

  1. When God says He is going to take care of it, He means it.
  2. If I try to figure out how God is going to take care of it, I will not be able to do it, so don’t bother trying.
  3. If I expect God to fix it in any particular way, I will most likely be unnecessarily disappointed – because He hadn’t promised to fix it in a particular way.
  4. If I try somehow putting my little fingers in the mix, I can mess up what He is trying to do, and make it take longer to fix.
  5. I have to listen to and obey Him to find out what, if any, part I am to play in this mess.
  6. I can enjoy peace and tranquility and joy even when everything appears to be going wrong – and I mean like “vacation-style” enjoyment, like I’ve been rewarded enjoyment.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with God proving He was in control. It would really encourage others to know what He has done for you in the past – so they know it can happen to them now and in the future.

Penny Haynes

One Step At A Time

In my quest to overcome my continuous stream of unnerving, underlying fears, I have come to learn some helpful tips

  1. First, if I stop and re-set myself to a peaceful state before I officially start my day, I have a standard, a benchmark, with which I can check my physical and emotional states throughout that day.  I found out this morning that, even in the midst of my nervous state, by sitting in God’s presence and doing nothing, I was able to achieve a heavy peace that is lasting even as I write this.  It is definitely the peace that passes all understanding that is guarding my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
  2. Secondly, if I only think about today’s comings and goings, I will have much fewer things to be fearful about.  I missed my devotion yesterday, and I realized how much I missed when I did.  The devotion for both yesterday and today are about fear, and God being not only with us, but He goes ahead of us to prepare the way for us.  I could have used that information yesterday.  If I had only listened and obeyed God’s command to me to start out my day by reading His Word and spending quiet time in His presence, I wouldn’t have needlessly suffered with fear. 
  3. Thirdly, there is no one-time fix for my condition; I have developed, among other things, an addiction to fearful thoughts, and I will spend the rest of my life dealing with that addiction, along with my addiction to pleasure and food.  I can’t “cruise” for any length of time and think my flesh will somehow be redeemed and want to do good things that benefit me.  That will never happen – I have to be on my guard every day..

That can mean only one thing:  just like any other addict, I have to learn to take life one step at a time, one day at a time.  I can’t store up my peace, or my moments of self-control and obedience, and then bring them out at will to cover tomorrow’s moments of weakness.  Just like manna, which spoils if you try to gather and store up more than you can eat for that one day, we have to get our daily bread, our daily sustenance, our daily source of survival, from God every day.

It all really boils down to hearing and obeying. The Hebrew word is “shema”, which means not just listening for, but hearing and obeying God’s voice.  Judaism has “The Shema”, which “is an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. The obligation to recite the Shema is separate from the obligation to pray and a Jew is obligated to say Shema in the morning and at night (Deuteronomy 6:7).”   From http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html

The same source explains: “When a person is praying alone, he begins the Shema with the phrase “God, Faithful King” (El melekh ne’eman) to bring the number of words in the Shema up to 248, the number of parts in the human body. This indicates that the worshiper dedicates his or her whole body to serving God.”  I find that interesting that Jews are called to dedicate themselves, every morning and every evening, to serving God with their entire being.   I also find it wonderful that by adding “God, Faithful King”, the person is reminding themselves that God is not only a faithful God, but also King over ALL THINGS.

I have been wrong to seek out a “one-time” fix for my issues.  There is none. Yes, I believe in deliverance from addiction – I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  But our old mindsets can trip us up, and Satanic distractions and disruptions are always just a breath away.

L.B. Cowman, in Streams in the Desert, wrote:

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for my way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorry,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

There was also a poem by J. Danson Smith printed in the devotional book (these are the first three verses, and I’ve bolded the phrases that sound like my own fearful thoughts):

Dark is the sky! and veiled the unknown morrow!
Dark is life’s way, for night is not yet o’er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know and trust, HE GOES BEFORE.

Dangers are near! and fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His – He knows the way I’m taking,
More blessed even still – HE GOES BEFORE.

Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me,
Doubts that life’s best – life’s choicest things are o’er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.

So I have to start all over (thank God for a million chances to do that), and pray for God’s grace:

  • to live day by day,
  • to meet with him before I start trying to accomplish anything for myself to obtain His peace,
  • to recognize when I have moved out of that peace and into mistrust and fear,
  • to listen for his voice and OBEY what He says at that moment,
  • and to only think about what is necessary to accomplish what God has set before me for that day.

How do you make sure you stay in God’s will every day? How do you know when you’ve somehow slid out of His good and perfect will?  What is He speaking to you TODAY, and are you OBEYING His word?  May God give us the grace to be all that He intends for us, without putting added expectations and pressure on ourselves that does not come from Him.

Penny Haynes