Raising children is an amazing experience. You will never be so happy and frustrated. Disappointed and fulfilled. Anxious and calm. As you are as a parent. How is it possible to love someone so much that drives me so crazy at times! Nonetheless, I would not have traded it for the world. Now that my sons are all young men in their thirties, I have so many wonderful memories to look back upon. I love looking at the pages of our family scrapbooks and being reminded of the trip to Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio, or the Gettysburg Battlefields of Pennsylvania. I remember all the bunny rabbits the boys loved watching run around the campground in Medway, Maine. The windy day atop a hill in New Hampshire, that lifted our kites high in the air. Climbing the rocks at Fort McClary in Kittery, Maine, looking for shells and starfish. I hold all these memories and the stories that go along with them in my heart.
One story I remember concerns one of my boys (who remain nameless) and the call of nature. As a parent, you know that before you go for a long drive in the car anywhere, it is important to make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom first. Am I right? Well, this little boy insisted he did not have to go. You, as a parent, are unwilling to accept that answer (because you know better), and insist they try. So, into the bathroom they trudge grumbling. Low and behold, my little boy comes out a short time later and says, “I don’t know what it is. I didn’t have to go, but as soon as I am inside a bathroom, I do. I think it’s the smell that does it.” “Okay, son.” I replied, “I’m just glad you went.”
As I recalled that story the other day, it made me think. There are smells, places, experiences, that trigger some things inside us. In 2001, when I visited the Vatican in Rome, as soon as I walked in, I began to whisper. This is a special place. I immediately felt that I was in the presence of God. We tend to act differently. Speak differently when we are in the presence of God. I know back when I wore a clerical collar people would apologize to me if they used colorful language within my earshot. I even felt self-conscious about my behavior when wearing the collar. That’s not a bad thing.
We need to remember, however, that we are in God’s presence all the time. Not just on Sunday’s. Psalm 139:2-4 says, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.”
Yes, God is not just in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He is not just at 277 Main Street in Hartford. Psalm 139 should be a trigger for us all. To help us remember, God is omnipresent – in all places, at all times. We should always act differently. Speak differently, because we are different. We are Christ followers – in all places, at all times.
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