As many people who know me well know, I love spiritual formation and exploring the spiritual disciplines. However, I also have a lot of criticism for most of the disciplines. My favorite has been the practice of the presence of God, particularly made famous by Brother Lawrence's book of the same name. That made me very excited to have the opportunity to review Gregory Boyd's Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now, made possible through a complimentary copy from Zondervan.
In this text, Boyd explores the practice of God's presence, particularly leaning on the works of Brother Lawrence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and Frank Laubach. While I was familiar with the former, I was not aware the latter two authors contributed to this little-known discipline.
Rather then a rehash of what practicing the presence of God is and how to live living in the present out, Boyd does a nice job of taking it to the next level. He explores the ways it can be beneficial in a modern era and also many of the modern hindrances to this practice. This approach makes the book very useful to people already familiar with the discipline and concept of living in the present. Further, Boyd's writing is very accessible, making it much easier to digest and interact with than old translations of Brother Lawrence's tome.
Boyd also takes a bit of a twist on the practice of the presence of God, emphasizing staying present as a way to accomplishing experiencing God's presence. This is an excellent approach, biblically, psychologically, and sociologically. Particularly in modern times, we are living in the past or the future, neither of which are where God is, as Boyd states. We need to remember to live in the now much more frequently. That is where we find God. There are plenty of hindrances to living in the present, many of which are psychological and which Boyd addresses quite well (that may be a topic for a future blog post). Presenting living in the present in such a hope-filled, life-enhancing way, Boyd encourages the readers to really struggle with themselves and with God in order to truly engage more effectively.
Additionally, the focus on staying present fits well with a lot of pop psychology, pop spirituality, and even true clinical psychology. Staying grounded in the moment is actually a clinical technique (and a very good, effective one). Intentionally or not, Boyd capitalizes on this trend and shows how it can be used to enhance our spirituality. Once again, psychology and spirituality need not be in conflict, but rather mutually supportive.
I highly recommend Present Perfect for both people struggling spiritually and who also want to grow spiritually. It's also one of the few books that explores an incarnational view of spirituality.