The Power of Presence: Becoming Fully Alive by Neil T. Anderson
About this book: (from the publisher) Neil Anderson has traveled the world speaking and teaching, and has written many books. Always at his side, supporting him, has been his wife, Joanne, his partner for over fifty years.
Now Joanne is gripped in a long decline, sinking gradually into agitated dementia. She depends on Neil’s presence, even calling him Daddy. He has no training as a nurse, but now for long hours he sits at her bedside and cares for her every need. They do not speak much; conversation is a strain. So Neil has used the silent hours to pray, to spend time in God’s presence, and to reflect on what this means.
“I have become keenly aware that God is using Joanne’s illness to teach me about the power of presence. I’m learning on a much deeper level the purpose of just being there, and what it means to be still and know that He is God. There is an inexplicable peace that comes from knowing I don’t have to ‘do’ in order to ‘be’ in God’s will―to be in His presence―to be in each other’s presence. “It has been a peaceful time of reflection upon the presence of God, and how that has shaped me, our marriage, and ministry. My theology tells me that God is omnipresent, but we are not always aware of His presence, and yet without His presence we are not fully alive.”
About the author: Dr. Neil T. Anderson is the founder and president emeritus of Freedom in Christ Ministries, which has offices in Canada, United Kingdom, Switzerland, India, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and throughout the United States. He conducts conferences for Christian leaders around the world in addition to maintaining a heavy writing schedule. Neil stays involved with the academic community by teaching Doctor of Ministry classes at several seminaries. He enjoys golf, bike riding, traveling, family, and being a grandparent.
Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir/Christian Living
Reminds me of: Life After Breath by Susan VandePol
[Tweet “It’s not all about doing–& in his touching memoir, Neil Anderson shares why @KregelBooks”]
Reflection: In its foreword, readers gain quick insight into the purpose of this little book:
“You will gain a deeper appreciation of the relationship that your Creator and Savior longs to have with you, and realize afresh that He does not intend your life to be primarily about doing but about being.” (Steve Goss, page 8)
Catch that? It’s not all about doing but being. Ah, that’s good checks-and-balances perspective for those (like me) who are particularly wired to do (and who find a great deal of joy in doing). We doers need someone like Neil Anderson to remind us that in this life, there’s a great deal of beauty, and blessing, to be found in simply being — not only in the presence of a loved one (which provides the springboard for this particular story), but more profoundly, in the presence of God. As he says,
“There is an inexplicable peace that comes from knowing I don’t have to do in order to be in God’s will — to be in His presence — to be in each other’s presence.” (p. 14)
I was captured from the outset by the presentation of Anderson’s story as a love story, and it is, in parallel context — earthly and ethereal. He wrote his book in “real time” — that is, as events unfolded with his wife, Joanne, making The Power of Presence a journal of sorts. His style at times struck me as a bit stiff, and he relies heavily on his readers’ knowledge of Scripture (“I saw hundreds come to Christ, and that confirmed to me that the field really is ripe unto harvest” p. 76.). But that is more an observation than a critique, given who his intended audience is.
Once or twice, I wanted a bit more detail, especially as he related past events. I wanted more dots to connect so that I might also connect more deeply emotionally. That said, I reveled in his godly insights, my soul resonating in expressed themes of dependence on God and the strong connection between prayer (communicating with God) and thanksgiving.
Reading this book often felt like sitting in the company of a trusted mentor or grandparent. The Power of Presence is a lovely love letter from a man to his wife, and to His God, brimming with profound insights and life-changing truths.
Thanks to Monarch Books/Kregel Publications for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: Can you think of a time when your life was blessed by someone simply being rather than doing for you? Who blessed you, and what was the occasion?