Practicing Simple Presence

By Cathy Gates (Director of Thrive Ministries)

About 18 months ago my husband and I moved.  As with all moves, we found a few broken items when we unpacked.  One of them was a small figurine of an angel kneeling in prayer.  Her head had broken off of her body.  I placed in on one of my bookshelves until I had time to repair it.. 

One day as I sat with the Lord, I was struggling to stay focused – on him and on the scripture I was reading, and my mind was drifting as I prayed. At one point I looked up and saw the little angel kneeling in prayer with her head on the shelf beside her body.  I heard the Spirit whisper “Cathy, sometimes you are like this little angel. You are doing the right things, you are in the right place, you are taking time to be with me, but, your head is somewhere else”. 

Are you awake

1 Corinthians 3:16 says Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

We understand the concept that the Spirit lives in us BUT are we in fact awake to the Spirit of God that lives in each of us?

God is fully present in every moment in our lives.  The question is – Are we fully present to God’s presence in every moment of our lives?

Sometimes I wonder about how much I miss of what God is saying to me. How much I’ve missed him saying in the last year?  Or the last month or week.  Have I missed something today? 

Have you ever driven somewhere and when you arrive you wonder how you got there because you can’t remember anything about the trip? Each day we do so many things on autopilot that we can miss present moment experiences. 

In her book Sacred Rhythms Ruth Haley Barton describes three barriers to being fully present with God. 

  1. Speed of life and ministry. We move so fast that there is no time to draw aside as Moses did to even notice God in our midst let alone what he might be saying to us. 
  1. Past / Future focus of our thinking – What happened yesterday that concerns us or what is going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month occupies most of our attention and thinking.
  1. Distraction of technology. Technology although helpful, causes us to be ABSENT in the present moment. (Have you ever noticed someone crossing the street against a red light texting and totally oblivious to the danger they are in?)

Technology has the potential to create a vacuum of present moment experiences with God and others.  And it renders us unaware of what is going on inside of us. 

What if God is gently trying to get our attention in the midst of everyday moments, drawing us deeper into relationship with him?

What might happen if we intentionally look for God’s presence and listen for God’s voice in our lives each day? I believe this has the potential to transform our relationship with him

Try these few steps. 

  1. Slow down.  Intentionally be fully present with all your senses and your spirit. (What do you see, hear, smell, touch, taste) Wait patiently and expectantly for God do draw your attention to something.
  2. Take a closer look.  Allow what has drawn your attention to become your single focus.
  3. Be curious. What questions pop up at you pay attention?
  4. Be humble – Don’t assume you know what God is saying to you.  Be still and say “Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.” And then actually listen😊
  5. Follow the thread. Is this present moment experience part of a thread running through your life?
  6. Make note of your feelings as you spend this moment with the Lord.
Want to set aside intentional time to be fully present to God? 
Join us for a Soul Focus Retreat.

Soul Focus Retreats

Personal spiritual retreats designed specifically for pastors, ministry leaders and spouses. Join others as you cultivate a deeper walk with God, develop and practice the principles of soul care, and build authentic community.

Soul Focus Retreats (Scheduled )

Each half day retreat will include breakfast (in-person sessions only)*, teaching, prayer, silence and solitude for listening, personal reflection, and small group interaction. 

2023 Dates:  Join us in person Thursdays March 9, May 11, September 21 and November 16

TIME:  8:30am-Noon.  

Please see our Events page for more information and to register for specific retreats or a Soul Focus Journey Group.

Cost:  Soul Focus in-person cost is currently $40 per person.  Online format the cost is $20 per person.
Can’t afford the cost?  We encourage you join us and contribute what you can generously afford. 

Payment  can be made by cheque payable to Thrive Ministries or e-transfer to .
Mail cheques to: Thrive Ministries, PO Box 28013, Lakeport, St. Catharine’s, Ont. L2N 7P8

*Breakfast is not included in online retreats

Soul Focus Retreats (Custom for your leadership group)

We would be happy to work with you to design a Soul Focus retreat for your staff or leadership group. You can choose one of our suggested topics or we can build a custom retreat for you. Contact us to discuss specifics for your group and cost.

Each retreat includes teaching, spiritual practices, personal time of solitude and silence, group sharing and prayer ministry time.

Some suggested topics;

  1. Awakening to the Presence of God in Everyday Moments
  2. Come as You Are
  3. The Wall – When God Interrupts
  4. Cultivating a Spiritually Alive Walk with God
  5. Down and Out (Based on Exodus 3:7-8)
  6. Hidden Hindrances (Based on 2Kings5:1-15)
  7. Jesus, Who do You Say I Am?
  8. Finding Jesus on the Road of Life

Simple Faith Series 

Combine 2 or 3 of the following spiritual practices to create a custom retreat designed to help you draw nearer to God.

  • Simple Presence
  • Simple Gratitude
  • Simple Prayer
  • Simple Silence & Solitude
  • Simple Joy
  • Simple Scripture
  • Simple worship

Thrive Ministries provides:

  • Session facilitation
  • Materials
  • Experientials

Requesting Group provides:

  • Venue
  • Food
  • Registration
  • Facilitator expenses (mileage*, accommodation, meals)
  • Honorarium 

Brenda Drost on Unfinished Business

I grew up in church. My dad was a pastor. I have been in church my whole life. This was the single, best thing I have ever done for myself spiritually.”

Brenda Drost

Brenda loved serving in full time ministry from the beginning. She was passionate about the work God had set in front of her to do. It energized her and filled her with joy, but after a while, she noticed that passion slowly fade. During a time of extreme pressure and difficulty, Brenda recalls how her joy in serving God drained away and instead became a heavy burden.

Instead of energizing her, ministry became draining. Brenda was starting to burnout. She threw herself into the work with renewed resolve, but it just got worse. Eventually she reached a point where she just wanted to quit. 

“Here I was a pastor, counselling other women, but I felt like I was lost. I had nothing left in me to give. I didn’t know how to get back to that place (of joy). I was depleted spiritually, emotionally, and physically.”

Brenda decided to get away and have a quiet retreat for a couple of days to seek God. During that time she told God she wanted to quit, but He didn’t release her from it. So, instead she asked for someone to help her through. Two weeks later she met Cathy Gates.

“I knew right away that she was that answer to prayer that I needed, and she invited me to Unfinished Business.”

Unfinished Business is a Christ-centred, small group environment where hurting christians and ministry leaders can explore their “unfinished business” and experience healing and freedom in Christ. It usually runs over a four to five month period. 

Brenda didn’t really know what to expect, and was nervous about being vulnerable with other people, but she relays how the confidential and intimate nature of the group laid those fears to rest:

“A lot of times pastors feel like they have no one they can talk to. Thrive was a place to be broken. People who were willing to take my hand and walk me through it. It was a safe place.”

After Unfinished Business, Brenda says she feels more equipped for ministry, that her relationship with God has grown deeper, and that she was able to put a lot of her own fear and insecurities behind her. She knew she had overcome some serious issues and should a difficult season like that come again, she has the tools to deal with it. The joy is back!

“The really cool thing is that I can now turn around and help other women who need it. As I work as a pastor, I come into contact with other women in leadership who are going through the same (difficulty), and I can turn around and be that safe place for them. I have the tools to help them now.”

Unfinished Business would not have the impact it does without the prayers and financial support that so many have generously given. Thank You!

I am interested in joining an Unfinished Business Group.

There are groups solely for women and solely for men available. If you are interested in joining a group, please contact Cathy Gates. 

How can I help?

Do you want to support Unfinished Business specifically so that others can benefit from the in-depth teaching? Your gift is greatly appreciated! 

Go to, click DONATE, and write “for Unfinished Business” in the comments.

Wondering if you have some Unfinished Business?

  • Do you fear criticism?
  • Do you have a need for perfection?
  • Do you care for others easily, yet find it difficult to care for yourself?
  • Do you isolate yourself from other people?
  • Do you respond with fear to authority figures and angry people?
  • Do you find it difficult to identify and express your emotions?
  • Do you ever wonder why you reacted to a situation poorly?
  • Do you find yourself responding with sarcasm in certain situations?
  • Have you noticed that you are often critical of others?
  • Do you find yourself seeking approval and affirmation from others?
  • Do you overextend yourself?
  • Do you respond with defensiveness to criticism?
  • Have you had problems with compulsive behavior?
  • Do you have difficulty controlling your anger at times?
  • Do you find yourself using technology more when life is very stressful?
  • Do you find yourself blaming others for your mistakes or problems?
  • Do you have a sense of shame about aspects of your life past or present?
  • Do you find you have unforgiveness towards certain people who have hurt you in the past?
  • Do you have difficulty trusting?
  • Do you regularly work more than 50 hours per week?

Thrive’s Unfinished Business groups help individuals seek Jesus in their need for healing from past life and ministry experiences.