By Joy West
With a crunchy and creamy bite of a pastel de nata (custard tart) dusted with cinnamon lingering on my tastebuds, I take a sip of my hot meia-de-leite (coffee with milk). My surroundings of the coffee shop are noisy but joyful as I focus on a deep conversation with someone I deeply care for.
Then it happens. A faint sound of a phone notification hushes the volume of the ambient noise. People at other tables unconsciously check their devices just in case.
Distraction. Interruption. Derailed conversations.
I have been meditating on and attempting to be more present, giving the gift of presence. While it costs little to no money to give our time and focus, it can be very costly, especially if we are task-oriented.
Here are three practical ways we can practice the gift of presence:
1. Give God the gift of unhurried abiding.
Spend quality, uninterrupted time with Him daily and throughout the day.
Actively worship Him, read His Word, meditate on it, pray, journal, and give thanks.
If you use Apps on a screened device for this sacred time, consider silencing notifications.
Result: This will revive your weary soul, refocus your attention on what is most important, and strengthen you throughout your day and night.
2. Give yourself the gift of listening to your thoughts
Embrace the silence. I know people who, out of fear, will do anything to drown out their own thoughts.
Take a walk or spend some time without your earbuds and listen to what you are thinking about. Pay attention and take note of the tone and attitude of what is really in your heart and mind.
What is the topic of your self-talk? Do your emotions dictate your level of gratitude? Does unforgiveness toward someone dominate your thoughts? Are you rehearsing negative conversations?
Result: This exercise will allow God to renew your mind and speak truth into your thought life.
3. Give others the gift of your full attention
While it’s important to be productive and actively doing good things, those activities must yield to a relationship in need of nourishment or encouragement (spouse, family, friends, a stranger).
Put away your phone and look them in the eyes. Listen carefully to what they are saying – and not saying.
Listen without thinking about what you want to say next, or the wisdom you would like to impart to them. Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. I have been in conversation both in-person and on video calls in which I see the cues that the other person has checked out of the interaction. I feel unimportant and not worthy of their time. Regretfully, I am guilty of doing that to others.
Result: Giving someone your full attention will add value to your relationships, making others feel like they are worthy of your time and energy.
What steps do you need to take to allow unhurried abiding time with Jesus?
What are your thoughts telling you?
How can you increase your listening skills?