This Just In: Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner, PhD

Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life
by David G. Benner, PhD

The most vital and significant moments in life are moments of encounter. Whether we encounter ourselves, others, or God, these moments let us know that life is meaningful. And presence is what makes encounter possible. When we are truly present, everything that has being becomes potentially present to us.

In this unique resource, David Benner invites us to live with more presence so we can know the presence of God more deeply in our lives. Drawing on over thirty-five years of experience integrating psychology and spirituality, Benner examines the transformational possibilities of spiritual presence and encounter in fresh, exciting, and practical ways. He helps readers understand the personal and interpersonal dimensions of presence and encounter, revealing how they mediate Divine Presence and serve as sacraments of everyday life. His rich meditations are presented in a voice that is intelligent, compassionate, and engaging. The book includes end-of-chapter reflection exercises for individual or group use and a foreword by Richard Rohr.


David G. Benner (PhD, York University; postdoctoral studies, Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis) is an internationally known depth psychologist, author, spiritual guide, and personal transformation coach who lives in Toronto, Ontario. He is a faculty member of The Rohr Institute’s Living School for Action and Contemplation, where he serves as a master teacher. Benner has authored or edited more than twenty books, including Soulful Spirituality and Spirituality and the Awakening Self. He lectures widely around the world and has held numerous clinical and academic appointments. For more information, visit his website at or his Facebook page.


Praise for Presence and Encounter:

“Having journeyed with Dr. Benner in a Transformational Coaching relationship for the past year and having experienced profound shifts through reading his many books before that, I am privileged to recommend the book you hold in your hands. I am excited about the potential for a beautiful unfolding in your life as you encounter practical sacredness, wisdom held humbly, and God’s luminous presence within these pages.”
—Lisa Whelchel, actress; author of The Facts of Life: And Other Lessons My Father Taught Me and Friendship for Grown-Ups

“With his trademark blend of scholarship and accessibility, psychological insight and spiritual depth, David Benner has done it again. Presence and Encounter goes to the heart of spiritual formation and direction, awareness of Divine presence. Whether in Eucharist or casual encounter, it is awakening to Presence that makes encounter possible.”
Gary W. Moon, executive director, Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center, Westmont College; author ofApprenticeship with Jesus

“I always learn when I read David Benner. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Benner expresses what I already know deep down inside, and he does so with such intelligence and eloquence that my heart just soars!”
Ruth Haley Barton, founder, Transforming Center; author of Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community

“In Presence and Encounter David Benner provides a simple but profound guide to experiencing the presence of Christ (even in absence) in everyday life. Every day holds sacramental possibilities if only we learn by God’s grace to be present and to authentically encounter and dialogue with each other and with God. I highly recommend it!”
Siang-Yang Tan, professor of psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Christian Perspective

“This book is a profound articulation of how the Divine Spirit pervades all things in the universe: the life force in all living things, the spirit that takes the form of our own spirits within us, and the energy that keeps the electrons in orbit in the atoms of a rock. This all-pervasive Spirit is what Jesus promised in John 14 when he said in effect, ‘The age of Jesus Christ is over. Now comes the age when God is a Presence as Spirit.’ Presence and Encounter clearly illumines our possibilities to be such a Presence to ourselves and each other that we experience in our encounters not just the dynamics of personalities but the numinous Presence of God.”
J. Harold Ellens, author of Light from the Other Side: The Paranormal as Friend and Familiar (Real Life Experiences of a Spiritual Pilgrim)

Presence and Encounter immediately draws a reflective reader into the essence of human living. It exquisitely points toward the possibilities of being totally engaged with all that is present in each moment–being available without reservation to oneself, to others, and to the Loving Presence that holds all. It is filled with joyous invitations to explore.”
Jeannette A. Bakke, author of Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction, spiritual director, teacher, and retreat leader

“The words ‘presence,’ ‘awareness,’ and ‘encounter’ have experienced a vogue reappearance in recent years. But who is explaining these esoteric and ethereal concepts? My friend David Benner, that is who. In his probing, yet down-to-earth style, David gives us more insight into a spirituality that is at once contemporary and ancient. His work is winsome and practical; he explains and captivates like few can on topics this rich. If you have followed Benner’s work you will love this project. If this is your first book, you are in for a feast!”
Ron Martoia, Transformational Architect (


Six-week Online Discussion Group:

Between Monday, October 20, and Friday, November 28, Dr. David Benner will be hosting a six-week online discussion of Presence and Encounter on his Facebook page, with an additional feed through Twitter.

Each week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he will offer an excerpt drawn successively from the 14 chapters of this book and a question to aid readers’ reflections.

No registration is necessary; readers are invited to turn up and share in the conversation in ways that work best for them.

Readers are encouraged to purchase a copy in advance so they’ll be ready to engage over the six weeks of discussion.


The Weekly Hit List: September 19, 2014

Nicole Baker Fulgham, author of Educating All God’s Children, was interviewed by Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt.

“All Christians, even those without school-aged children, have an incredible opportunity to be salt and light in our public schools. From loving and supporting teachers and administrators, to seeking out opportunities to serve under-resourced schools in our communities, each new school year brings with it countless ways to demonstrate God’s love.

“For those of us with school-aged children, public schools are often wonderful places for our kids to be exposed to students from a variety of cultures and backgrounds that prepares them to engage in an diverse and interconnected world. Far from undermining their faith, it gives them the opportunity to learn to be better neighbors, thoughtful citizens, and stronger Christians.”

Read all of “What Christian parents need to know about America’s schools” here.


Quick Hits:

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was reviewed by Angela Shupe.

A Life Observed by Devin Brown was reviewed by Stan Bohall.

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, author of Generous Spaciousness, will appear live on LifeLine (WDCX Radio) on Tuesday, September 23, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET.

Arthur Boers, author of Living into Focus, wrote “Too Busy to Be Faithful?” for Faith Today.

Living into Focus was quoted on Tides and Turning.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 145:

Psalm 145, the first of six praise psalms that conclude the Psalter, is a grand hymn of praise.

As an acrostic where each verse begins with the subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the psalm alternates between vows to praise (vv. 1-2, 10, 21) and reasons for praise (vv. 3-9, 11-20), focusing on both the grandeur and the compassion of God.

The psalm explores in detail the quartet of divine virtues (covenant love, faithfulness, truthfulness, and righteousness) that have recurred throughout the Psalter.

The use of the terms “all” and “every” throughout the psalm highlights its theme of complete praise.

Some commentators have noticed correspondence between Ps. 145 and nearly every petition in the Lord’s prayer.

Prayer for reflection:
Great God, we exalt and worship you.
In Christ you offer us everything we need.
Embolden us to go out into the streets and alleys of our world,
urging others to come to your banqueting house;
and there may we discover the table of forgiveness and healing, of laughter and joy.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Video: Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight

In his new book, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church, Scot McKnight asks hard questions of popular understandings of the kingdom, suggesting we have fundamentally misunderstood this central biblical theme.

Visit to learn more about the book Publishers Weekly called “a must-read for church leaders today.”

The Weekly Hit List: September 12, 2014

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Leadership ConneXtions.

“In his extraordinarily insightful book . . . Dennis Okholm has done a great service, especially for those called to roles of ministry and leadership. Okholm, who is a Benedictine oblate, a pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church and a seminary professor takes us deep into the spiritual psychology of several great monastics. 

“Evagrius, Cassian, Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas are the important authors and developers of the Seven Deadly Sins. Okholm is intimately familiar with their writing, their theology, their spirituality and their contexts. . . .

For every deadly sin, Okholm provides the best practical remedies from the monastic tradition. He makes possible a greater self-awareness about these passions and sins.”

Read the entire review here.


Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, was interviewed by C. J. Stunkard.

Colossians (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Christopher Seitz was recommended by Chris Woznicki.

Monk Habits for Everyday People by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Michele Morin.

Lectionary Reflection for Holy Cross Sunday

This excerpt comes from Numbers (BTCB) by David L. Stubbs, commenting on Numbers 21:4-9:

The serpents can be seen to be a judgment upon Israel that reveals and symbolizes their sin. The souls of the Israelites have been poisoned by the deceiver so that they do not trust in the goodness of God and his provision and plan for them. The people who committed themselves to the covenant with God instead adulterously follow after Egypt and the way of life it represents—a life where their immediate desires are fed yet they are enslaved, a life that falls short of what God intends for them in the promised land.

The serpents’ venom, like bitter water, has entered into the people and caused bitter pain, showing that they have indeed gone astray. As with Adam and Eve, the venom of doubt about the words, ways, and goodness of God had taken hold of Israel and was leading to their “spiritual death.” In response to the serpents, Israel is moved to confession: “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us” (Num. 21:7). As a result of this confession, God does relent. He does not simply forgive them of their sin and heal them outright, but rather commands Moses to construct a “fiery serpent” and set it on a nas (“standard”).

The bronze serpent represents to the people all that the fiery serpents represent. In it they can see the sufferings of their journey. But in it they also can see the judgment of God about them. Like the raising of a battle standard, this action ironically represents who the people are truly following: the serpent, rather than God. This people, this generation, have rejected God and his ways, and are following instead the ways of the serpent, the envious desire for power, the lust for the easy comforts of Egypt that makes them turn back from entering the land. It is a fitting symbol for all the rebellions of the people.

But the raised serpent is more than a sign of judgment. It is also a sign of God’s victory over the serpent. Like the head of an enemy placed on the tip of a spear and shown to the people, the serpent lifted up shows that God is more powerful than the serpent. God is able to cure the physical effects of the serpents’ poison.

By offering to the people this symbol of victory over the serpent, it also becomes a symbol of God’s compassion and desire to heal them and to do them good. It is a symbol that God did not send Moses to his people in Egypt to condemn them, but to save them and bring them life.


©2009 by David L. Stubbs. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

On Presence and Encounter: An Excerpt from Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner, PhD

The following is an excerpt from the preface to Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life by David G. Benner, PhD.


Far from being merely a topic that I chose out of a desire to write another book, what follows is the fruit of a haunting interest that chose me over forty years ago. I have been pondering the nature of presence and encounter since first reading Martin Buber’s I and Thou as a university student. His assertion that “All real living is meeting” struck a deeply resonant chord in me. I recognized even then—and now know with much more certainty—that the most vital and significant moments in life are moments of encounter. Whether it is encounter with others, the Wholly Other, or myself, these are moments when I know that life is its own meaning.

Presence makes encounter possible. It also makes life meaningful. The search for meaning is really a search for presence, because grand systems of truth or meaning can never satisfy the basic human longing for life to be meaningful. Without presence, nothing is meaningful. But in the luminous glow of presence, all of life becomes saturated with significance.

Only in presence can we encounter anyone or anything. Others may be present to us, but we will not notice their presence until we are present ourselves. Once we are truly present, everything that has being becomes potentially present to us.

It was a glimpse of these possibilities, along with an encounter with Jung and Freud, that led me into clinical psychology. That same glimpse subsequently guided my efforts to make presence and encounter central to my psychotherapy, spiritual guidance, and transformational coaching. Usually, there has been a gap between my aspirations and my experience, but I have never lost my conviction that all real living is meeting, and that this is made possible by presence.

Yet instrumental applications of these powerful dynamics miss the point that in order to truly unpack transformational potential, presence must be a way of living, not merely something we attempt to do. Presence is not something that can be turned on and off like a tap. It is either an expression of our being or it is posturing and pretense.

Ultimately, we can no more control presence than we can control our being. Presence and being are so beyond our control that we are unable to even adequately define them. I will do my best to clarify what I mean by these terms, but you will quickly notice how big concepts such as presence and being resist containment in a string of words that we might offer as a definition. This is even more the case when we encounter them with an initial capital letter. When I speak of “Being” or “Presence,” I refer to God. Naming the deity in these ways reminds us that neither names nor definitions contain reality but merely and imperfectly point toward it. This is particularly true when words are used to point toward the Ultimate Reality we have conventionally called God. While these concepts are big, it is equally true that they have immense practical implications. It is these implications that most interest me, and we will keep them very much in focus as we explore this topic together.

I long to live with more presence. I long to know the presence of God more deeply. I long to learn how to make myself more available for encounter, and I am convinced that these things are all connected—that somehow my presence is essential to an encounter with the presence of anyone or anything, especially the presence of the One who is the ground of being and the source, therefore, of presence.

I write about these things not so much to communicate what I understand as to help me learn to live with more presence. Consequently, the voice with which I will be writing is a voice of one sharing ponderings rather than teaching truths. It is my hope that my ponderings will evoke your own, for it is in such reflection that the practical implications of the things we discuss will take root in your soul.


©2014 by David G. Benner. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


The Weekly Hit List: September 5, 2014

Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church (October 2014) by Scot McKnight was reviewed by Publishers Weekly.

“Over the past decade, McKnight (The Jesus Creed) has emerged as America’s theologian, a breezier, more down-home version of the British N.T. Wright. His works provide an extra layer of theological undergirding for pastors and lay people who wish to go deeper in Bible study and live more consciously under the rule of ‘King Jesus,’ as he refers to Jesus Christ.

“McKnight’s writing is vivid, occasionally a little quirky. His book is valuable because he begins with the present state of churches: divided between what he calls the ‘skinny jeans’ and ‘pleated pants’ approaches.

“The skinny-jeans types want to present everything in terms of social activism and justice—’kingdom work for the common good’—but they often miss the boat when calling people to do everything under King Jesus. The pleated-pants crowd wants to understand everything as related to personal salvation, but they too miss the larger picture of the implications for the saved life under King Jesus.

“This is a must-read for church leaders today.”


Quick Hits:

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Towers and by Brave Reviews.

Craig Blomberg wrote “Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages” for Canon Fodder.

Jim Wallis, author of The (Un)Common Good, appeared on CNBCAfrica to discuss “the role of social movements in politics.”

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Michael Philliber.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was reviewed by Chris Altrock.


Ebook Specials:

Conversations with Poppi about God: An Eight-Year-Old and Her Theologian Grandfather Trade Questions by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold is only $0.99 from Amazon through September 2.


Ebook Special for Conversations with Poppi about God by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold

Now through September 11, the ebook of Conversations with Poppi about God: An Eight-Year-Old and Her Theologian Grandfather Trade Questions by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold is only $0.99 from Amazon.

A Crossings Book Club Selection

“What a good premise for a book: an eight-year-old precocious child carrying on a theological conversation with her 73-year-old grandfather–not just any grandfather but a noted ‘Reverend Canon Professor . . .’ who has edited a volume on Christian dogmatics. . . . There is something here for all Christians–or skeptics–from adolescents to grandparents, who read for insight as well as whimsy.”
Evelyn Bence,

Come and listen in as one of the world’s most respected theologians talks theology with his eight-year-old granddaughter. In Conversations with Poppi about God, Robert Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold share with us their unscripted, spontaneous talks about everything from the meaning of the Trinity to what God looks like. The result is a charming and enlightening book that reminds us all we have a lot to learn from theologians and from children. Now available in paper, Conversations with Poppi will appeal to parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, and Christians looking for a refreshing perspective on the mysteries of Christianity.

Robert W. Jenson (DrTheol, University of Heidelberg) is former senior scholar for research at the Center of Theological Inquiry. He is the author of On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions and coeditor (with Carl Braaten) of Christian Dogmatics. Jenson lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Solveig Lucia Gold attends elementary school in New York and enjoys visits to Poppi’s home in Princeton, New Jersey.

Lectionary Reflection for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 149:

Psalm 149, the fifth of six praise psalms that conclude the Psalter, is a song of praise that envisions God’s people as both those who sing praise in public worship (v. 1) and those who conduct warfare in the name of justice and covenantal commitment to God (vv. 5-9).

The psalm serves to help us enter into the experience of the people of Israel and the way in which they perceived an intimate relationship between praise and fighting just and holy wars.

As with Ps. 44, Christian responses to the battle imagery vary widely. Nearly every tradition laments the way this psalm has been misused to justify crusades and misguided acts of terror and warfare.

Many traditions appropriate this text primarily with reference to spiritual, not military, warfare. In traditions that affirm the legitimacy of warfare in some contexts, the psalm is a prophetic call to ensure that every military action is done in light of and in praise for God’s longing for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

Pacifist traditions are more inclined to see the psalm as an example of OT experience that is challenged by the NT’s call for peacemaking and reconciliation.

It is, then, a psalm to handle with great care. It is also a psalm that can provoke instructive conversations about the nature of faithful obedience in a world of injustice.

Prayer for reflection:

Sovereign God,
we dance and sing for joy because you have called us to be your people
and have given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Armor us with his grace and embolden us with the Spirit’s power,
so that we may faithfully struggle for peace and justice everywhere. Amen.

©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.