Photo by Mike McCune

By Liz Chang

In my work with clients who have a history of abusing substances, it is a common theme for drugs to be a tool for coping with difficult emotions and challenging situations in life. But drugs aren’t the only distraction available. There’s Netflix, podcasts, books, pets, shopping, social media, parties, chores, errands, and the list goes on. Distractions are plentiful and not inherently bad. But they often give us the easy way out from facing difficult emotions and challenging situations. They can be cause for us to miss out on opportunities to reflect, grow, problem solve, and engage with the Spirit of God.

When I think about the many stories of Jesus walking through a crowd or walking in a crowd, I realize that Jesus had his options for distraction too. While he didn’t have all the technology, he had plenty of social situations to dilute his attention and presence. But he paid attention. He took notice. He heard. He saw. He responded to individuals who could have been overlooked in the crowds.

The list of distraction options are my crowd. When I am walking in my crowd in day-to-day life, sometimes I use that as a gut reaction to avoid grief, disappointment, stress, anxiety, and other unpleasant emotions. My crowd can help me minimize my experience of those emotions that seem unbearable in the moment. But those can be missed opportunities for experiencing the ease of God’s yoke. When the Spirit of God is what empowers me, can I learn to pay attention in the crowd and be strengthened to take notice and respond?

Jesus modeled this for us during his ministry on earth. He didn’t react to questions from Pharisees and Sadducees with avoidance, defensiveness or fear. He didn’t allow the crowds to distract him from taking notice of those who reached out to him. He responded with thoughtfulness and compassion.

Presence requires willingness to move beyond quick reactions into a mindset of thoughtful and compassionate response. This takes practice. And catching those opportunities builds on our sanctification and foundations of faith and relationship with the living God.

What’s in your crowd?
Who or what are the things in your life that are reaching out for your response?
Can we take the time to notice and respond to what God is doing in our lives?

Liz Chang resides in New York City and is a family therapist at an intensive outpatient treatment center for drug addiction. She is a License Marriage and Family Therapist and graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is an aspiring photographer and is a cat mom to Instagram cat @bennyslyf. She and her husband enjoy going for walks and exploring new neighborhoods, parks, and restaurants.


Photo by Highbrow AV

By Debbie Gin

Can you be present to someone online? Can you practice presence online?

These are questions we’ve been asking in our work with theological schools. More officially, our
questions have centered around: Can people be formed online? (Formation can be about your spiritual
life, your faith, your pastoral skills, your intellectual skills or knowledge, your capacities for human character, your commitments to justice or social justice, etc., but this is for another blog post.) Whatever your context includes in “formation,” can that occur online? Continue Reading »

Photo by Logan Pelletier

By Sharon Lee Song

Emmanuel means God with us. God is with you always. Take a moment, and reflect on this. Do we know this truth? Do we know that God is present with us, moment by moment? How present are we to ourselves, to one another, and to God? Are we paying attention?

There is power in the ministry of presence. As a spiritual director, we often refer to the ministry of spiritual direction as a ministry of presence. I have seen how powerful presence is for me, for my directees, and most importantly, with God.
Continue Reading »

Photo by pato garza

By Diana Kim

It is undeniable to say that youth pastors have high turnover rates. This is no exception of youth pastors in the Korean church; when culture, language, and subtexts get in the way, it is difficult for 2nd generation (and beyond) pastors to be committed long-term. During the 5 years leading up to my start as the youth pastor, there were 3 different youth pastors, along with a list of pulpit supply speakers, at my church. Continue Reading »

Photo by Edward musiak

By Jerrica KF Ching

Throughout my entire time in the Pacific Northwest, I have wrestled with feeling torn between assimilation and acculturation. I have found it quite difficult to balance the values of family, collectivity, and interdependence that created the foundation on which I was raised, with wanting to be more assertive, independent, and viewed as an equal in the workplace.  If I were to describe my presence as an Asian American woman when I first moved from Hawaii to Oregon, it would be quiet, unnoticeable, and timid. Continue Reading »

By Melanie Mar Chow

Photo by Ed Schipul

The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself. ― C. JoyBell C.

Continue Reading »

By April Yamasaki

The date of Easter changes from year to year, but since my first Sunday as a pastor was Easter Sunday, that’s become my marker. Another Easter, another year of ministry.

This past Easter marked 25 years of pastoral ministry with my congregation! Continue Reading »

%d bloggers like this: