Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Practicing the Presence of People: How We Learn to Love
Mike Mason (WaterBrook, 1999)

I recently read this interesting little book because a guy asked me to. I’m glad he did.

Mike Mason evidences familiarity not only with the devotional classics (the similarity of his title to Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God is no coincidence, as Mason makes clear) but also with popular culture at its best—and worst. In this discerning, wise book, he chronicles his own journey from the tyranny of self-imposed spiritual isolation to the joy of authentic presence with the people he meets in everyday life. Along the way, he suggests some interesting and challenging notions that could revolutionize the way we think of the church and, indeed, the Christian faith.

Mason thinks that by learning to love people, we are learning to love God. To me, that sounds a lot like 1 John 4:20: “…anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” Reminds me of a quote I once heard: “I love humanity—it’s people I can’t stand.”

But Mason will have none of that. Even the wicked are not exempt from his loving gaze, though he recognizes that “being present” with someone who is, say, a racist, will look quite different from “being present” with a child, a family member, or a close spiritual friend.

Practicing the Presence of People is divided into short chapters (over 50 of them) that lend themselves, by the author’s design, to quick reading, then prolonged contemplation. Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon. In fact, the only thing better, Mason would probably advise, is going somewhere to be around people… so you can practice.