Thursday, May 13, 2010

‘Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now’ by Gregory A. Boyd – Book Review and Giveaway

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Sometimes it seems as though those of us who profess to be Christ followers – myself included – have a hard time establishing a personal relationship with Jesus; we often seem to forget that the Lord wants us to get to know Him now before we see him face-to-face.  Gregory A. Boyd, author of ‘Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now’ has had the same desire over the years.

Here is the description of ‘Present Perfect’ from the back cover:

We long to be transformed, yet our minds are filled with endless trivia and self-centered chatter.  To-do lists.  Worries about the past.  Speculation about the future.  We forget to live in the present moment, and to invite God to be with us there.
After reading classic contemplative authors Brother Lawrence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and Frank Laubach, theologian and pastor Gregory Boyd longed to experience the presence of God for himself.  For two decades, he’s attempted to implement the “practice of the presence of God” in his own life… sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.  What’s he’s learned as a pilgrim on a spiritual journey can help you find true spiritual transformation as you begin to practice the discipline of inviting God into every moment.
Join Boyd on this journey of a lifetime!

Here is the biography for the author:

Gregory A. Boyd is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries.  He was a professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, MN) for sixteen years, where he continues to serve as an adjunct professor.  Greg is a graduate of the University of Minnesota (BA), Yale Divinity School (M.Div), and Princeton Theological Seminary (PhD), a national and international speaker at churches, colleges, conferences, and retreats, and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows.  He also has authored and coauthored eighteen books prior to Present Perfect, including The Myth of a Christian Religion, The Myth of a Christian Nation, The Jesus Legend (with Paul Eddy), Seeing is Believing, Repenting of Religion, and his international bestseller Letters from a Skeptic.

Those are some intriguing titles!  I have read ‘Letters from a Skeptic,’ which was very useful to me when it came into my life.

I love what he wrote in the introduction:

If God is present in all places at all times, which is what the Bible teaches, then God is part of our surroundings each and every moment – or as the apostle Paul says, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) .  The question is, Are you aware of God surrounding you?  Are you aware or asleep to God’s presence?
This book was written to help you stay awake to God’s presence and discover for yourself why this is the most important discipline you could ever practice.
Don’t try to feel his presence.  In fact, don’t try to do anything at all.  Simply be mindful of the fact that you are, in this present moment, submerged in the ocean of God’s perfect love.
Right now, stop reading for a second and just breathe in God’s presence as you take your next couple breaths.  Then as you continue to read, see how often you can remind yourself of that fact.  How awake can you remain? (pp. 10-11)

I don’t know about you, but that is easier said than done for me.  I have a hard time just resting in Him…

Dr. Boyd focuses on the three authors – Brother Lawrence, Jean-Claude de Caussade, and Frank Laubach – and makes the point that they had a common belief:

While the three authors differ widely in both their theology and their emphasis, they all emphatically agree that remaining awake to God’s presence in the present moment is the single most important task of the Christian life and that no spiritual discipline is more foundational or transforming than this one. (p. 18)

Although they all agreed that remaining awake to God’s presence is important, they also agree on this:

Lawrence, de Caussade, and Laubach all proclaim that no spiritual discipline is easier or more accessible to everyone than this one, for waking up to God’s presence requires nothing more than remembering God’s presence each moment.  Right now, as you read this sentence, remind yourself that you are submerged in God’s love.  That is the practice of the presence of God.  Could anything be easier?
At the same time, no spiritual discipline could be more challenging.  The challenge is not in doing the discipline: it’s in remembering the discipline. (p. 19)

There are so many distractions in our world.  It is easier to be dragged along by the culture and the busyness of life than it is to step away and spend time be awake to God’s presence, which is always there.

The three men who devoted so much of their lives to be aware made this interesting observation about what this new perspective will do for us:

Lawrence, de Caussade, and Laubach each testify that whatever task occupies you at any given moment, you’ll tend to do it better if it includes God.  Remaining aware of God’s presence doesn’t compete with our attention to other things; it augments it. (p. 22)

Dr. Boyd opines that modern Western culture by been brainwashed by “the secular worldview;” he think that mindset explains a lot:

If you’re looking for an explanation why so few contemporary believers experience why so few contemporary believers experience the fullness of love, joy, peace, and the transforming power that the New Testament promises, I think you’ve just found it.  The secular worldview causes us to compartmentalize our life, isolating the “spiritual” from the rest of our experience.  Our relationship with God is boxed into special prayer and devotion times along with weekend church services, all of which have little impact on us.  But in the process of segregating God from our “normal” life, we block the love, joy, peace, and transforming power of God. (p. 29)

That makes a great deal of sense to me.

Dr. Boyd provides exercises throughout the book – exercises that will help us better practice God’s presence.  One of them is Frank Laubach’s “Game with Minutes.”  Dr. Boyd explains it this way:

This game challenges us to bring Christ to mind at least one second of each and every minute within a designated hour.  He called it a “game” both because he wanted it to be “lighthearted” and because he found it to be a “delightful experience and an exhilarating spiritual exercise.” (p. 38)

It seems like, especially in the USA, we are oriented to make our own way in this world.  Dr. Boyd points out that it will always come up short, unless we reorient our homing device – being satisfied by Jesus and nothing or no one else:

As we are freed from the grand illusion that we can meet our own needs, our built-in homing device begins to work correctly.  We’re on our way home.  And we don’t have to strive to find it.  On the contrary, the instant we relinquish the world of idols and turn to God, he is there.  He has always been there.  In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  He never leaves us or forsakes us, whether we are aware of him or not (Matthew 28:20).  There is nowhere we can run and hide from his presence (Psalm 139:8)….
The only thing that matters is that we – right now – cease our striving after false gods and become aware of God’s ever-present, perfect love. (pp. 53-54)

Another exercise that Dr. Boyd shares is something he calls ‘Finding “Home” in Your Own Skin.’  Dr. Boyd explains:

For much of my life I’ve felt a little bit like an alien.  I’m sure many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.  To be completely honest, there are still times when I just don’t feel completely “at home” in my own skin or in any environment.  For most of his life Frank Laubach felt the same way.  In fact, he struggled with a profound sense of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
At the age of forty-five, however, he discovered that practicing the presence of God eradicated these feelings.  He became continually aware that wherever he went and whatever circumstances he found himself in, he was “bathed around by my own Father’s Spirit” so the whole universe came to “seem so homey.”  As a result, Laubach found that worry, anxiety, alienation, fear and loneliness pretty much left him. (pp. 54-55)

Dr. Boyd addresses an issue that comes up when bringing up the subject of practicing the presence of God – does it lead to inactivity?  I was thinking the same thing.  He asserts:

Some may fear that if they rest in God’s love they will lose their drive to be the best they can be in school, in their careers, or even in their ministry.
But the more we train our minds to remember God moment-by-moment, the more we discover an entirely different kind of motivation for doing things.  We no longer engage in activities in a desperate and futile attempt to acquire Life we don’t yet have; rather, we engage in them as a means of expressing the fullness of Life we already have – apart from these activities.  The irony is that when a person no longer needs to succeed to feel fully worthwhile and significant they will tend to be more successful than if they did need this.  When we need to achieve, acquire, and accomplish things to find Life, the pressure often compromises our passion, creativity, and flexibility. (pp. 72-73)

This type of book – its subject being Christian Life/Spiritual Growth – is right up my alley!  I really appreciate what I learned from Pastor Boyd in this small, yet insightful book.  I have been seeking more information on how to deepen my relationship with the Lord, and I appreciate what Pastor Boyd has imparted in this book.

I have been practicing some of the exercises in ‘Present Perfect’ since I finished reading this book.  He also recommended that we use an object of some sort as a reminder to practice God’s presence, as well as posting Post-It notes with the reminder, “Are You Awake” in places where that you regularly frequent; I have put both of those ideas into practice.  I can say without reservation that these practices have made a difference in my perspective and my outlook; I feel more “at home” and closer to God as a result.  I think the ideas in this book will help a lot of people live a more Christ-like life.  I am grateful to Dr. Boyd for bringing these ideas to our attention in such an understandable and practical way.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan for review and giveaway purposes and provided by the Blog Tour Spot.  I am pleased to be participating in the blog tour with these fellow bloggers.

I have a copy of this book that I would love to send along to one of you! 

There are several ways to gain entry:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog, telling me what your thoughts are on this book and its message, and what intrigues you the most.  Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.  If you don't leave an email address, I will not be able to make contact - really important! :  )

2) Follow me on Twitter; I will more than likely follow you back!  If you are already a Twitter follower, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

3) Follow me as a Google Friend on this blog; if you are already a Friend, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

4) Become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

5) Follow this blog as a NetWorked Blog Follower after you’ve become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

So there are five chances to enter!  Please limit one entry per option.

This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.  The deadline for entry is Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on Friday, May 28, 2010 and will be contacted via email.  The best to all of you! 


Anonymous said...

i'm interested in reading this inspirational book...thanks for the chance :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

rides the said...

Nice blog. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I am now following you. Great giveaways too.

Linda said...

Would love this one, Andrea. Finding God in our everyday lives sounds appealing to me. Please enter me. Thanks.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I follow you on Twitter.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I follow on FB.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I follow as a Google Friend.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Wanda said...

This book sounds very interesting. I would say a great bit of my life is lived without be concious of God's presence. So easy to get caught up in doing the mundane that you miss He is present even there.


Judylynn said...

Please enter me in this giveaway - Thanks!


Judylynn said...

I am a Twitter follower.


(Carman sent me)ch

Judylynn said...

I am a Facebook friend


Judylynn said...

I am a Google follower.


Judylynn said...

I am a Networked Blog follower


Linda Kish said...

This sounds like a book I could learn from.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Esther Y.M. said...

So far I like what I have read in the intro.

Please enter me into the contest.


Esther Y.M. said...

And I am a follower...and Carman sent me


Patsy said...

Sounds like another great read! Carmen sent me.

Steve Capell said...

I like the idea that unless we reorient our homing device – being satisfied by Jesus and nothing or no one else is a valid point. I found your review to be intriguing and one that I think I would take pleasure in reading. Thank you so much for hosting this giveaway.


Patsy said...

Would enjoy reading this book! Carmen sent me.

Andrea Schultz said...

Thanks to everyone for the great comments and kind words!


lotus82 said...

I follow you on friend connoect. Great blog, great giveaways. Thanks.


lotus82 said...

THis books looks wonderful. It is sometimes easy to get off track a little, but what is more important is how you get rid of the distraction and get back on the right path just as soon as you can.


Carman sent me.

lotus82 said...

I am awaiting friend confirmation on facebook under Stephanie Christmann


LaTawnia said...

Andrea this one is very interesting. Having read Andrews and rest I would love to see what he has to say. It is much easier said than done.

Enter me please. I am following you everywhere :)

jeffpartain said...

I loved Boyd's previous books The Myth of a Christian Nation and The Myth of a Christian Religion. I love his podcasts as well. This book sounds personally transforming and I'd love to read it.

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