How to Be Here

How much of our lives do we live somewhere else? We think about the weekend, or next month, or our trip in a few months. Or we think about the next job, or when we will finish school, or when we’ll finally be doing that thing we want to do. Dreams aren’t all bad. It’s good to think forward, to make goals, to make plans, and to hope. But if we live only there, we’ve missed it.

Sometimes it’s not the future that drags us away, but the augmented present. It’s a present distorted by a constant drive to refresh our feeds—our posts, snaps, tweets, and pictures. Social media are another harmless aspect of our lives—important and powerful, even—until we let them consume our every waking thought. And we no longer live here, but are living there, constantly in that world, and we fail to recognize God right before our eyes.

My recommendation for this month is a book called How to Be Here by Rob Bell. I actually read the paper version, the first book in a while that I’ve read analog (thanks for the gift, Wade Poe!). If you gave up on Rob Bell after he said something with which you disagreed (or you heard from a friend of a friend that he said something that a group of friends of yours disagrees with), I encourage you to take a deep breath and move on. He is still doing excellent work. And if you only ever listen to people with whom you fully agree on everything, I invite you into the practice of expanding your network just a bit more. Learning to disagree well is more important now than ever before.

In the years leading up to our move to Peru, I spent years preparing. That is, for the greater part of 8 years, I was looking forward to an eventual move to start what I wanted to do. Of course, over those 8 years Katie and I did a lot that we loved, learned from, and felt fulfilled in, but the orientation was always forward-looking. And so it was a bit disorienting to find ourselves in Peru, finally, and think, 🤔, this is it. We’re finally here. Now what? Living in the future made “arrival” feel disorienting. Anti-climactic, even. And so, slowly, we started leaning into the present.

It’s an easy read, just 200 pages, with lots of one-line paragraphs and 3-page chapters. So it feels fast even if you’re a slow reader. Pick up a copy or borrow one from a friend and spend a few days at the beginning of this season of Lent reflecting on the practice of being radically present. Instead of withdrawing from it all, how can you be more present? How can you be here?

The book is about embracing your God-given capacity to reflect God into the world in ordinary, everyday creative work. You can call it God’s image. Call it divine breath you breathe. In the midst of suffering and joy, work and recreation, we are spiritual beings who, by being present, can experience God and people and life in life-giving ways. I’ll share just a few highlights.

All work is ultimately creative work because all of us are taking part in the ongoing creation of the world.

Not the creative type, you say? You’re just a mom? On moms:

Could anything be more connected to the ongoing creation of the world than literally, physically bringing new human beings into existence and then nurturing that new life as it’s shaped and formed?

To my accountant friends, he talks about accountants as creatives, too.

Four spiritual diseases:

Boredom. Cynicism. Despair. Comparison.

Think about your day yesterday. Do you suffer from any of these?

Then there’s your ikigai—what gets you up in the morning:

To be here is to embrace the spiritual challenge of your ikigai, doing the hard work of figuring out who you are and what you have to give the world.