Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm and said: “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size? Surely you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves stop?Job 38: 1, 4-5, 8-11
The pandemic has made us more mindful about our hands. We take much more care about what our fingers touch. And we wash our hands more thoroughly and more often. This heightened awareness can be coupled with the following Christian mindfulness exercise.
Put something on your dominant hand, like a Band-Aid, a different ring or a mark with a pen. This will help you notice your hands more frequently during this exercise.
Then, when you touch something or someone, do it with intentional kindness. Be gentle and aware. Feel grateful for the things you touch. Feel love for the people you are touching.
Think of the kind touch of Jesus. He reached out to the leper. He created furniture and bowls from wood. He did it all with love. With His grace, we can bring more love to our daily round.
Another Christian mindfulness practice involving touch during the pandemic is here.
Jesus had a lot of respect for his cousin, John the Baptist, saying, “Among those born of woman, there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” His mother probably told him about her participation in the birth.
I’ve always thought that God was gracious to Mary to guide her to visit her elderly relative, Elizabeth, and her unborn baby. The unborn John the Baptist told his mom via the Holy Spirit that Mary was pregnant with the Messiah.
That allowed the two women who were experiencing miraculous pregnancies to talk about the implications for three months. I’m sure it helped prepare Mary to go face Joseph and the rest of Nazareth as an unmarried pregnant girl.
John the Baptist lived out in nature. Perhaps that was the only way he could commune so deeply with God.
Once he started his ministry, he also started looking for someone. Which one was the Messiah? Did his mother already tell him it was his relative Jesus? Did Jesus and John have a friendship as children? On this, the Bible is silent.
There are so many things that I’d love to know, and I’m happy to believe that all my questions will eventually be answered. Just as all the questions of John the Baptist were.
John Eldredge released “Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad” in February. Then the world went madder.
The only real advice that went out of date by March were the steps to unplug from technology overload. Toning it down is smart, but technology has proven its value during the pandemic.
Otherwise, Eldredge encourages:
- Inserting multiple One-Minute (or longer) Pauses in our day.
- Turning everyone and everything over to God through benevolent detachment.
- Being kind to yourself.
- Enjoying the beauty of nature often.
Eldredge is an outdoorsman who lived in Colorado with acreage, mountains and horses. His ways of seeking Christian mindfulness reflect that.
Overall, the book on Christian mindfulness practices is a gentle read. It has a 5-star review from nearly 300 people on Amazon and a 4.6-star review from 380 people on GoodReads. Eldredge also created an app, One Minute Pause, for the exercises in the book.
The book encouraged me to use benevolent detachment multiple times a day, particularly as a new opening to my nightly examen practice.
Christian mindfulness enjoins you to police your own thoughts, behaviors, spending habits and other actions with an eye to observing God’s law, while trusting in God’s mercy to shower forth love and forgiveness — even on those who have hurt you, or who oppose you politically, or whose moral values are at odds with your own.
If Jesus could ask God to forgive those who crucified Him, even though we have no reason to believe that they asked for God’s forgiveness, shouldn’t you ask God’s forgiveness for all those whose behavior doesn’t meet with your approval?Carl McColman, “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism”
Social distancing can result in upsetting conversations over Zoom and via social media. This is particularly true when we reach out to others who are upset, one way or the other, over systemic racism and/or the pandemic and/or everything.
Working with the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, we can detox from these conversations to return to deep inner peace. It involves, first, identifying how we are feeling. Angry? Disgusted? Sad?
Rather than running away or ignoring the feeling, accept it. Lift it up to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Gently listen to your own thoughts in Christian mindfulness, returning to deep breathing and the Jesus prayer when needed.
Next, calm your feelings. Ask Jesus to be with you as you take care of yourself like you would take care of an upset child. Be fully mindful of your own state. Remember: God is here. God is now. He is with you in your pain and sorrow.
As you calm down, release the emotion to God. As you release, listen. Do you hear a message about something you should do or not do? Did this upset come from a sin area or a false way that you see yourself or the world?
Just keep calming and releasing the problem to God, being willing to do His will. If you are listening in humility, God will be there in a transformational way.
Walking in Christian mindfulness through ongoing pandemic and racial injustice requires faith that abiding in Jesus will bring us peace. In reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace Is Every Step,” I found that Buddhists believe achieving inner peace is necessary to achieving a peaceful world.
In the introduction, the Dalai Lama writes: “Although attempting to bring about world peace through internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way. Wherever I go, I express this, and I am encouraged that people from many different walks of life receive it well. Peace must first be developed within an individual. And I believe that love, compassion and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace.”
As a Christian, I think we achieve true inner peace by abiding in Jesus. For me, His graces are necessary to overcoming my anxious nature. All the Christian mindfulness exercises I do … and the Buddhist exercises that I adapt … are ways to practice opening the door to God.
An explanation of the differences between Buddhist mindfulness and Christian mindfulness is here.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is within us. I do agree that prayer, study and Christian mindfulness practices help us all to walk left-foot, right-foot with God in love, compassion and altruism.
To expect that we cannot achieve peace until everyone is on that path is sad. But I do agree with the Buddhists that inner transformation makes outer peace easier. To be like Jesus … willing to meet people where they are in love … is the path forward.
Living in a fallen world has been especially tough this year. Anger, fear, anxiety … it’s all fallout from a time of protest and pandemic. Brokenness is all around us as well as within us.
I was feeling worried and weary recently. Then Jesus reminded me of a great truth: He wants me to be at peace and without fear. The only way I can do that in a fallen world is to keep my focus on Him.
Focusing on the presence of Jesus gives us strength to do what we need to do. Jesus wants us to live without fear, and He gives us the ability to do that. But we have to focus on Him.
That doesn’t mean that we ignore the pandemic or the issues that are causing the protests. We seek Jesus first, and He gives us all the strength, courage and wisdom we need to do what is right. And he gives us joy and peace as we abide in Him.
“The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” — Zephaniah 3:17
Today is National Get Outdoors Day for 2020. It’s a good time to think back: Do you remember the endless summers of your childhood? I loved mine.
Is there something from those days that you can bring back into your routine? Swimming pools? Old movies on hot afternoons? Reading in a homemade tent in the back yard? Making real lemonade?
The summer ahead is going to be a little odd. Our neighborhood swimming pool is closed, and many of the regular adventures are curtailed. But we can buy a blow-up pool for the back porch to cool our feet in!
We can also take devotionals and prayer books to the woods or to a metro garden to spend time worshipping God within His creation.
Make a plan to do something outdoors to bring back those wonderful summers. After all, we don’t know how many summers we each have left.
Walking in Christian mindfulness in the presence of Jesus looks a certain way. We are each individuals, but consistencies exist. The Bible details them.
Here’s a list of what it looks like to live in God’s presence, put together by Ken Boa and Jenny Abel in their free PDF, “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence.”
They suggest that we start by picking one of the descriptions below. Put on a card and keep it by our beds. Meditate on this verse morning and evening, asking God to help you live it.
Here are the suggested verses:
- Abide in Jesus. (John 15:45)
- Love God and your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40)
- Set your mind on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5-6)
- Walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16,25)
- Set your heart on the things above. (Colossians 3:1-2)
- Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
- Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- Run the race of life with endurance. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
- Submit yourself to God. (Romans 12:1-2)
- Press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:12-14)
- Dwell on whatever is excellent and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:6-8)
- Remember God. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
Other resources to support your Christian mindfulness journey are listed here.
Pretty is as pretty does. You are what you eat. You are a child of God. Who are you anyway?
Many of us see ourselves as our accomplishments, our talents, our work. This can lead to anendless effort to be better and more. Even those who create good work on God’s behalf can fall into this trap.
Charts and lists exist that outline the components of our identity in God. All very helpful, but this is something different: a quick exercise to see what you think and to invite God to comment on that.
- Take about a minute to center yourself with breathing and the Jesus prayer.
- Then ask yourself, “Who am I besides the work I do?”
- Listen to what comes up.
- Quiet yourself again and take those responses before the Lord. See if He guides you toward any thoughts.
Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.Romans 12-9-15
Unity is a gift from God, one that Jesus zealously prayed for at the Last Supper. I am blessed to belong to a racially diverse church, and we are diverse politically as well. For some in this large congregation, this is a time of testing. We are being encouraged to divorce our political affiliations and follow Jesus in a deeper manner. For the whites of our church, this means repenting of our nation’s racism against African-Americans and other people of color.
How do we encourage each other to make this move? I believe the first step is to strengthen our confidence in God. That allows us to move empathetically toward those who have had the wind knocked out of them.
Of course, this includes all people who were shocked by George Floyd’s murder. And all the people who know that this is just the latest in hundreds of years of violence (by law enforcement and regular citizens) against African-Americans in our country. But also … all the white evangelicals who thought God sent Trump to end abortion.
Let us be humble enough to understand that we all have a lot to learn. Let us weep with those who weep. Let us speak our truth with respect to those who struggle to understand. Let us listen without defensiveness.
Jesus wants unity, and he is well aware of His followers’ sins and frailties. He wants unity anyway. Let’s start with a prayer of repentance. Here’s mine:
Father, I am before you, a descendant of slave owners. I have always known that racism is wrong, and I have worked all my career to help those impacted by racism and systemic poverty. Working in Mississippi, I came in conflict with the Ku Klux Klan. I was called names, put on a “death list” and followed. I was scared. Yet I was so proud of myself. I was so sure that people like me would put everything right in a few years. I was wrong.
I confess to you, Lord, that I never think about my privilege as a white person, unless someone directly points it out. As the mother of a son with schizophrenia, I never worried that police would just shoot my son if he had an episode. I never had a talk with my kids about what to do when police pull you over. While I have experienced first-hand the discrimination against women in the workplace, I thought much of the prejudice against African-Americans was handled by laws and affirmation action. I was wrong.
I never thought, Lord, about how African-Americans were arrested on bogus charges to become the prison labor that rebuilt the South after the Civil War. I never realized our laws have lead to mass incarceration, leading to one in 3 African-American man experiencing incarceration. I knew from my own experience covering law enforcement about racist cops and bad judges. But I thought that was changing fast. I was wrong.
Those wrongs are sins.
I repent Lord for myself and my country. I want to change. I want to love people more and fight for the right. Show me how to be humble in conversation, how to listen without defensiveness, how to love as Jesus did. Your Holy Spirit will be with me to make the change I need and take the steps you want me to take. Thank you for that. Amen.
First of all, my child, think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence. Adore His power. Pray to Him frequently and incessantly. Bear Him always in your mind. Teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship and love God. First and last, think magnificently of Him.Paternus, “Advice to a Son”
Christian mindfulness is becoming aware of the presence of God as you focus on your daily life moment by moment. But what are we thinking about God as we wash the dishes, sit on a Zoom call or make shrimp salad?
I’m taking a class called Life Without Lack that challenges me to think about how magnificent God is. We are practicing doing ordinary things with an awareness of God’s creativity, His love for us and His immense being that none of us have any chance of fully understanding.
The teacher, Jan Johnson, worked closely with the late Dallas Willard, a famed man of God who taught philosophy. The goal is to find the serene balance that Jesus advocated of turning away from worry and fear. Of approaching God with the trust of a little child. Of letting the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
One of the things that Jan has suggested is praying for God to invade your life. She suggests starting by thinking of three things you are going to do in the next 24 hours and agreeing that God will invade them. He will be with you as you pull weeds, cook squash and attend on-line church. And you can ponder about how magnificant He is.
Buzzes, bells and song fragments go off on our phones on a constant basis. Before COVID-19, I made a conscious effort to reduce my notifications, read my email once a day, and turn off the sound on my phone while otherwise engaged.
The pandemic and the demonstrations in support of racial justice have changed that for me. I look at my email when I get up. I turned on many notifications, and the sound on my phone is usually on. I also check social media more frequently. I want to know what’s going on.
The average American consumes more than 10 hours of media a day, a figure that has probably gone up in the pandemic. This level of outside noise and frequent interruption does rattle us. Eventually I plan to work to reduce my phone’s dominance in my life.
Until then, I am going to focus on training myself to take three deep breaths when a notification goes off. I will pray “Lord Jesus, I know you are present.” Then I will look at the notification or even take the call. That will reestablish the presence of Jesus around me as I learn about the latest developments.
Training to respond mindfully to a sound is also a good step in building the habit of taking a deep breath and centering ourselves when any interruption happens. (Bell or no bell.). I know this will keep me in the spirit of Christian mindfulness even more over time.
Live from Rest is a Bible-based Christian meditation app that’s free and easy to use.
You can create dozens of meditation sessions in a variety of categories: shorts, rest, gratitude, centering, family, mindfulness, 12 steps, freedom and songs. The app allows you to set the duration, the backing music or sounds, and the option to have focus bells.
Live from Rest has a choice of four voices to offer some of the meditations. Bible verses and themes are used in all the guided meditations. You can also use the app as a timer for silent meditation.
Lucinda Smith is the source, who provides her story and testimony on the Live from Rest website.
The Resources page contains a list of other apps, online resources and books to support your Christian mindfulness practice.
Just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we also must learn to trust God one circumstance at a time.
Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings, but of my will. The truth we must believe is that God is sovereign. He carries out His own good purposes without ever being thwarted.
Our first priority in times of adversity is to honor and glorify God by trusting Him.
We tend to make our first priority the gaining of relief from our feelings of heartache, disappointment and frustration. This is a natural desire, and God has promised to give us grace sufficient for our trials and peace for our anxieties.
We honor God by choosing to trust Him when we don’t understand what He is doing or why He has allowed some circumstance.Jerry Bridges, “Trusting God”
Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in spite of human failure.
Give us the faith to trust Your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness.
Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts.
And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace.
Frank Borman, member of the first crew to successfully orbit the Moon and return to Earth.
Evil would want us to think the worst about who we are, so we would have that behind our eyes as we looked at our neighbor. Jesus would want us to see the best of who we are, so we would be able to see the best of our neighbor. You can be an accuser or an advocate. Evil would have you be an accuser in this life. Jesus would have you be an advocate for your neighbor.Fred Rogers
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:7-11
My pastor asked us to study these words this week. They are Peter’s words to a group of Christians who are undergoing persecution and far from home.
It’s fair to say that it can feel like the world is being upended. Just today we had demonstrations downtown that resulted in our City Council president, county commissioner and Congresswoman getting pepper sprayed.
As we live life on the edge of eternity, we are called to pray alertly, love eagerly and be available to be hospitable without complaint. We make decisions not based on our own wishes, but on what is loving. And we try to use our gifts in a way that draws attention to God, rather than to our own ambitions.
That’s a high calling. It would be hard if we had to do it by ourselves. But God has always given us the power and graces to represent Him. The more we open ourselves to it, the most power we receive.
I am angry after watching the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I am angry watching a public health crisis become a political statement about “freedom.” It’s been a bad week. Prayer and Christian mindfulness are a path back to peace.
In the book “Renew Your Life,” Kai Mark Nilsen, lead pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, Ohio, offers a practice that can help. He calls it “the daily walk.”
As a daily exercise, use each phase of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi as a lens to view your relationships and your behavior. Throughout the day, repeat the phase and find ways to demonstrate it to others. At the end of the day, think about how you have done. You can rotate through the phases or concentrate on one for a long time.
Oh Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, fear.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
What does it mean to live in the world with a truly compassionate heart, a heart that remains open to all people at all times? It is very important to realize the compassion is more than sympathy or empathy.
When we are asked to listen to the pains of people, and empathize with their suffering, we soon reach our emotional limits. We can listen only for a short time and only to a few people.
In our society we are bombarded with so much “news” about human misery that our hearts easily get numbed simply because of the overload. But God’s compassionate heart does not have limits. God’s heart is greater, infinitely greater, than the human heart.
It is that divine heart that God wants to give to us so that we can love all people without burning out or becoming numb.Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Here and Now”
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the famous Serenity Prayer in 1932-33. People immediately loved it. Niebuhr used it in at least two sermons around 1943 and included in a 1951 magazine column. Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs adopted it and gave it the title “Serenity Prayer” in 1955.
The prayer for the 1930s and 1940s seems to have included its initial … and most famous … verses. The request for “courage” did come before the request for “serenity” in the early versions.
By 1951, the prayer had two verses, which are both beautiful to pray:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Take some time today to sit with this prayer as we seek wisdom in the pandemic.
Hope Mindfulness and Prayer app presents mindfulness and meditation in Christian form. As the narrator describes it in the opening video, “Meditation is the ship, and Jesus is the captain.”
This app … use the whole name as other apps are also shortened to Hope … has a five-star rating with 105 reviews in the Apple app store. It’s an especially good app for beginners in Christian mindfulness. The graphics are well done, and it’s easy to navigate.
The 12-day guide called the Foundation for the practices is free. Getting the other meditations costs you a subscription, which is $10 a month or $70 a year.
If you pay that, you get access to hundreds of meditations in these categories:
- Life (anxiety, stress, purpose, self-esteem, loneliness, disappointment)
- Rest (sleep and relaxation)
- Carpe Diem (energy, creativity, balance, productivity)
- Virtues (happiness, love, kindness, patience, forgiveness)
- Health (depression, dieting, chronic illness)
- Moments (being single, healing a broken heart, marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, divorce)
- Difficulty (delays, fear of flying, test taking, public speaking, talking to a crush)
- Sports and Recreation (training, motivation)
- Kids sleep stories
I couldn’t find much information on who created the app. It does gamify meditation with awards. Other apps for Christian mindfulness and meditation are listed on the Resources page here.
How can we celebrate Memorial Day in a spirit of Christian mindfulness? First, we bring the presence of Jesus to our cookouts. Even if the crowd is smaller this year, we can offer love to all who gather.
Memorial Day is a good time to share your family’s history with the newest generation. Take a look at the old pictures you have. The picture above is from a family picnic 60 years ago. My Dad is holding me. My granddaughter is named after my mother, who is holding my baby sister.
Your family, like mine, may have a history of military service.
Praying over that service is a good aspect to the day:
Oh God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever.
We lift up those who survived their service and still feel its impact in their emotions. May the peace of God come to these men and women.
We also lift up those who suffer most from war: the homeless, the orphaned, the hungry and the innocent. May they challenge us to turn from warlike ways and accept God’s gift of peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
God of Light, you sent your Son into the darkness of our night, and raised him to your glory; not to abandon us to grief, but to teach us to prepare in joy for his return.
We pray for all who have no hope, that they may find it in the lights of your Spirit, according to the promise of Jesus, our Lord.
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light. Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.
Today is the commemoration of Ascension Day, when Jesus rose up through the clouds and into heaven. Here’s a few ideas for celebrating the day and preparing for Pentecost on May 31.
Pray for outreach and missionaries. Before Jesus in physical form left the planet, he asked his disciples to spread the word about his willingness to atone for people’s sins so they could be in the presence of the Holy God when they died.
Pack a picnic. Go outside to enjoy the sky and the clouds. If it’s pouring down rain, try it on the weekend.
Begin nightly contemplations or family discussion on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s a good way to prepare for Pentecost. The gifts are:
- Fear of God
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The world is starting to open up a little. We may see people at least six feet away with a mask on, or we see them on a computer screen. Our strange circumstances call from more Christian mindfulness than ever.
Today, remember that God has an agenda for your time. It includes who you meet. Try to see each person as a divine appointment. God has put this person on your path. You can have the intention to respond in grace.
This is tough for me this week because I inadvertently set off a storm of criticism for my decision to wear a mask on a social media channel. I became the “COVID-19 police.” People used my name “Karen” in meme vain. That ticked me off. I had to fight off encouraging these folks who refuse to wear masks because they are “free” to hug a coughing person. But the Lord kept my fingers away from the keyboard until I calmed down.
Instead, I should have remembered that I did not meet them online by accident. God put them in my pathway. God was working in them in some way, and I needed to determine how I could best show God’s love to them.
If we can practice doing this for a few days, we may find ourselves in a more pleasant world. Let’s give it a try.
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not envy those who do evil: for they wither quickly like grass and fade like the green of the fields. If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure. If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant your heart's desire. Commit your life to the Lord, trust in him and he will act, so that your justice breaks forth like the light, your cause like the noon-day sun. Be still before the Lord and wait in patience; do not fret at the man who prospers; a man who makes evil plots to bring down the needy and the poor. Calm your anger and forget your rage; do not fret, it only leads to evil. For those who do evil shall perish; the patient shall inherit the land. A little longer -- and the wicked shall have gone. Look at his place, he is not there. But the humble shall own the land and enjoy the fullness of peace. Psalm 37: 1-11
Hallow is a comprehensive app for contemplative prayer and Christian meditation. Listed as the No. 1 Catholic app, its rich resources provide good material for Christians of any denomination.
The app has close to 500 sessions. When you download it, you are asked to pick areas that you are interested in, such as daily Gospel, night prayer and meditation, or prayer lists, which are topics with multiple prayers and teachings.
The app also includes the Rosary, the examen, lector divine, spiritual journaling and chantings. Hallow allows us to build a community with friends and family. It also offers a habit tracker, journal and notifications.
The home page of the app includes a prayer plan filled with options based on your choices and a group of minute meditations.
Hallow has received a 4.9 rating from 8,700 users on Apple. It’s $8.99 a month or $60 a year with the first three months free (and the ability to cancel.)
As the world starts to reopen and the pandemic still continues, it’s easy to get distracted and to lose focus on the presence of Jesus.
This simple Christian mindfulness practice can move you back into the present moment and rekindle gratitude for God’s gifts to us.
Just close your eyes and breathe deeply three times. When you open your eyes, concentrate on what you see. Name the colors of things in the space around you. Thank God for each color that he created. God is the source of the color wheel, and even colors we can see. Thank Him for His creativity!
We are not the only ones who benefit when we practice Christian mindfulness day after day. Experiencing the presence of Jesus comforts and changes us, so we become better co-workers, neighbors, family members and friends. We become lamps on the table in a very dark place.
The world is out of control. People face uncertainty and fear. In the midst of a long-term, ongoing crisis, people notice when someone else is at peace. It is a significant witness in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Our attitudes show our trust in God.
In 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Paul writes that those of us who experience God’s comfort are not just storehouses. We don’t just enjoy the experience. We are conduits that share that comfort with others … sometimes through purposeful ministry, sometime just in daily interactions with others.
Practicing the presence of Jesus brings peace to more than just us. It can show the world a safe path in a challenging time.
Practicing gratitude every Thursday changes our attitude all week. When we start to look for just five things to be grateful for, we can enjoy the joyful feeling of Thanksgiving all year long.
It helps to keep a list … easy to access in your day … where you write down the good things that happen as they happen. Good things do happen as long as we are on Earth and under God’s care. The sky, the sun and the stars can inspire at least three of the five things. On really bad days, it’s also OK to be grateful that the day is over.
This practice transforms our attitude into something more positive. This article from positivepsychology.com talks in depth about how gratitude impacts anxiety and other difficult issues. Particularly when we are experiencing unhappy times, it’s refreshing to look for the good all around us.
Scheduling a Thanksgiving time for every Thursday creates a special focus on gratitude that lightens up the week. As part of weekly Thanksgiving, consider sharing your gratitude list with your family or a good friend. It helps us all to see the true reality rather than just the dark clouds.
For more thoughts on gratitude, click here.
Listen very careful to the sounds around you. Even silence has sounds.
Take five minutes or more to listen. What do you hear? Beloved voices? Music you’ve been stuck with via the kids? The purr of cat or the snore of a dog?
When you listen, you can hear more. It’s also reportedly good for calming your spirit. Listening to silence brings you peace. Listening lets the Lord speak quietly to your soul.
The app provides “a place to develop the practice of pausing and releasing everyone and everything to God.” This is part of what Eldredge calls “benevolent detachment.”
Users take a pause for 1, 3, 5 or 10 minutes. As the app is set up, a user must do a specific number of the shorter pauses before moving up in time. It also provides a reminder function that can alert you of a time you set to take a pause.
During the pauses, Eldredge helps users with the prayer: “Jesus, I give everyone and everything to you.”
The app stems from Eldredge’s book, “Get Your Life Back: Everything Practices in a World Gone Mad,” which was just published in February. The practices include kindness, outdoor activities and reduction in use of technology, as well as the one-minute pause and benevolent detachment. The book is highly rated on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble.
Essays on benevolent detachment, union with God and healing the soul also are available on the app.
Eldredge created the app before the coronavirus pandemic. He has placed a message of encouragement about the quarantine on the app. It contains one of the wisest messages about the pandemic that I’ve heard: “The world is frankly no more uncertain than it ever was. And God remains absolutely as certain as He ever was.”
The Proverbs 31 woman was not controlled by her circumstances and the demands of her family, her household or her home business. She was ruler of her attitudes, her time and her schedule. Her relationship with God was central. All that she became was the result of her yielding to His sovereign control.Linda Dillow, “Calm My Anxious Heart”
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.Luke 1:78-79
Making a decision to spend your money in ways that help your neighbors — that’s one good outcome from the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s a time when everything we do takes on added significance. I last felt this way when I lived in rural Mississippi in the 1970s. I wanted my actions and statements to help reverse racism. Today I want them to help people around me to keep going. All this flows from Christian mindfulness.
Today we are ordering carry-out from restaurants we like and want to stay open. We are planning to buy things from local shopkeepers so they can stay in business. We are making contributions to help our neighbors keep food on the table. We are making more intentional use of our money.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, I was somewhat involved in the voluntary simplicity and back-to-the-land movements. One of the hallmarks of both was making a decision to reduce overconsumption. We were taught: There are two ways to have money. Work more or spend less. Another great lesson was to ensure that you were spending money in a way that reflected your values.
Many of us are doing more of that today. Let’s take a look at how we have spent money in the last 30 days. As the country begins to reopen gradually, can we focus more on buying things from our neighbors instead of enriching Amazon? For example, here’s a list of ways to get local food from farmers from each state. A 30-day Amazon diet that helps local shops and workers could be a good experiment for us all.
Today on the National Day of Prayer, let’s meditate on Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee. This great idea came from an online retreat I attended last week with Jan Johnson through Renovare.
Jesus is the passenger with a beard and some light around his head sitting to the right side of the painting. Who are you in this picture? Are you the disciples working the sails to try to keep the ship afloat? The disciple getting sick over the side? The disciple in brown crouched low at Jesus’ feet? Or the ones talking to him about the situation?
And what do you want to say to Jesus about the storm today?
Mr. Rogers walked with Jesus moment by moment. He focused all his energy on the most important thing: what was happening in the present moment. He was very intentional about how he spent his time.
By all accounts, he was a Christian who began each day with prayer and Bible study. Then he further centered by swimming laps. He worked to walk with Jesus, welcoming children into both of their presences because “of such is the kingdom of God.” Mr. Rogers listened to His Lord, loving his neighbor unconditionally.
I scanned various interviews and stories to see if Fred Rogers ever talked about Christian mindfulness specifically. He and those writing about him described it in his life, but not by name.
Nonetheless, I am certain that this ordained Presbyterian minister embodies the practice. He helped the imprisoned by working to create child-friendly spaces for visitation. He visited the sick by working alongside medical professionals to minimize trauma among child patients. He cared for those who were right in front of him, even if they were actually sitting in front of a television miles away.
Both the movie and the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” provide a vivid portrait of Christian mindfulness, practicing the presence of God moment to moment with full attention. I highly recommend both.
We may live with COVID-19 for months or years. Attempts to protect the health care systems seem to have worked in the United States, except my beloved New York City. Hospitals there have been overwhelmed.
How do we walk in Christian mindfulness as the world begins to slowly reopen? The virus will still be with us, and we must learn to walk with Jesus in a new kind of reality.
The first step is to stay in the day. For most of us, God has provided all we need for today.
The second step is to listen. If we do, we will find that God expects us to feed the hungry. Here’s what Feeding America has to say about this.
Those of us who have not been seriously impacted need to prayfully consider God’s call on us to help. Today, let’s take some time to look around our homeland’s situation and find a new way to help.
God talks about birds more than a dozen times in the Bible. He encourages us to study birds to learn more about our relationship with Him. And he even compares us to birds. Isaiah 40:31 says: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.”
This is a very good time to hope in the Lord. Since we are at home more than ever, we can get acquainted with our neighborhood birds by putting up bird houses or taking up bird watching in the front yard.
While watching, consider meditating on these verses:
Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens. They do not sow or reap. They have no storeroom or barn. Yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
Matthew 10:16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:29: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
Psalm 50:11: I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.
Job 12:7-10: But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Psalm 84: 3: Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Jeremiah 8:7: Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the times of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.
Developing the daily habit of offering up a sentence-long prayer at specific times is a common suggestion. Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel, authors of the free-pdf “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence,” call these “flash prayers” or “arrow prayers.”
Use your own Jesus prayer or one of these suggestions:
- Come, Lord Jesus.
- Holy Spirit, act through me.
- I thank you in all things.
- This is the day that you have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.
- May I love and serve you and others today.
- I love you, Lord.
Of course, you can also write your own prayer. Just make it easy to memorize.
You can use this prayer at various times through the day. One way to remind yourself is to set a subtle alarm for times. Other times to use flash prayers include:
- When you walk up
- When you are about to eat
- Before a meeting
- Before making a call
- Before sending or responding to a text
- While waiting in line
- At bedtime
Even the hard times contain blessings as well as fear. Abiding in Jesus through the pandemic involves accepting the path as it is and moving forward. If we do this, we will learn much about God and ourselves.
The Lord promises that walking in His Presence is a well-planned and well-staffed operation. “For He shall give His angels charge of over, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone,” says Psalm 91: 11-12.
So, if we are discouraged about the impact of the pandemic on our bank accounts, our families and our dreams, we can be sure that God is with us. Look for the blessings, and pray out your gratitude. And be sure to thank God for those angels who are with you right now.
This reminds me of the Amy Grant song, “Angels.”
Under the authority of God’s word, we know we are his children, our names engraved on the palms of His hands. He knows how we feel. He knows what obstacles we face, and He will be with us.
The Abide app was the first recommendation I received from a friend when she discovered my interest in both Christian mindfulness and the use of apps for insomnia. I now share her enthusiasm.
Abide, which costs about $40 a year for the premium version, has a wide array of Christian meditations, teachings and stories for all times of the day. It’s reportedly the #1 Christian mediation app.
The team creating Abide is Carpenters Code, a small group of former Google employees who decided to use their abilities to serve God. Their mission is to allow the world to experience the peace of Christ through Biblical meditation.
The daily guided meditations, found on the Home screen, come in lengths of 2, 5, 10 and 15 minutes, to suit our schedules.
The home or “Today” page also offer links to meditations for sleep, anxiety and emotions. A journal is on the page as well. Under the Sleep menu, Bible stories, meditations, psalms, material for children and other non-fiction meditations are available.
The Topics menus offers a variety of materials for dealing with emotions, growing spiritually, seeking guidance, healing, praying in the morning, offering thanks and more. The guides are short courses on topics including marriage, grief, money, parenting and more.
I’ve just gotten started with Abide, but so far, I highly recommend it.
Lord, help us to see that our well-being is inextricably bound to the well-being of our neighbor. Our sorrows are shared. Our longings are shared. Our fears are shared. Enable us also to share compassion, patience and courage today. Amen.Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro
The joy of the Lord is my strength. That is something I need to remember in this phase of the pandemic, when it feels like I am running out of steam. I now have insomnia, the result of many nightmares about bad people trying to break into my house. (Very subtle, subconscious.) This tests my ability to practice Christian mindfulness, but in the end, it will strengthen it.
The Lord knows that many of us are starting to wear out. Any initial burst of adrenaline and interest in the uniqueness of the situation are gone. That can be good news.
God is our strength, always there when we are not feeling strong enough to take on a difficult challenge. This pandemic is not even in the Top 5 of bad things that I have experienced. So I know, looking back, that God gives you the strength. But we have to ask for it.
Only by connecting with the Lord in times of quiet and prayer … as well as practicing the presence of God moment to moment … will the strength and the joy flow through us. Calling on the name of Jesus hour by hour, even minute by minute, will build that connection. That is what Christian mindfulness is all about. For more on that, click here.
As Paul writes in Philippians 4:19: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
The Christian Mindfulness YouTube Channel is an active source for meditations and prayers. Updated regularly, Richard HH Johnston started the channel in 2009. Johnston speaks with a Scottish accent and operates the channel and its website, Christian Mindfulness, from the United Kingdom.
He is currently doing a Gospel Diamonds series in which he “looks at the beauty of the gospel from different angles.” The series, like much of the other material on the site, is deliberately simple in production value.
Johnston writes on the website that he created the materials based on more than 20 years of mindfulness, meditation and contemplative practice. He also provides online courses, certificates, workshops and retreats on Christian Mindfulness, contemplation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
He noted that his materials integrate biblical theory, contemplative practices and the latest scientific studies in mindfulness, meditation and CBT.
The breath prayer is a common practice in Christian mindfulness or contemplation. A variation that helps during a pandemic or just daily life is to ask for the grace, knowledge or virtue you need at this moment in the prayer.
When you feel frightened, overwhelmed or unsure, sit or stand quietly for a few seconds. Then start your breath prayer. “Come, Lord Jesus” or “Come, Holy Spirit” work well if you want to create a prayer.
Inhale saying your breath prayer. Then exhale naming what you need, such as:
Come, Lord Jesus. Bring me patience.
Come, Holy Spirit. Grant me the wisdom to deal with this.
Come, Lord Jesus. Let me feel your peace.
Come, Holy Spirit. Speak through me.
This is the 50th Earth Day that I have celebrated. In 1970, I was involved in creating the Earth Day celebration at Westerville High School. And I’ve celebrated ever since.
This Earth Day, I wonder if God is telling us something about how we are taking advantage of the earth by showing us what happens when we stop. The air is cleaner. Wildlife is peeking out. Lions are sleeping on the roads of African national parks.
Does man impact earth and cause climate change? I think this unintended experiment shows us just how much that is true. Did God allow this pandemic to demonstrate this? Is the Earth sick of us?
Simple Living Works is a blog and podcast that has roots dating back to the voluntary simplicity movement in the 1970s. Its latest episode was a discussion about whether this pandemic proves that only huge dramatic events will steer humans away from destroying our environment.
Let us call for blessing on the Earth on this day:
Dear Mother Earth, who day by day
Unfolds rich blessing on our way,
O praise God! Alleluia!
The fruits and flowers that verdant grow,
Let them his praise abundant show,
O praise God, O praise God,
Alleluia, Alleluia, AlleluiaFrancis of Assisi
I remember watching filmstrips about the liberation of the concentration camps in Europe in elementary school in the early and mid-1960s. I thought that the Holocaust happened very long ago among heathen peoples. Looking back, I know what I saw had happened only a decade or so in the past. The heathens thought they were civilized, even superior, people.
Today is Yom HaShoah, the time to remember the Holocaust. It’s time for me to remember how many people who thought they were good Christians participated … actively or passively … in it. As the eyewitnesses leave this Earth, we must all remember and fight those who want to deny reality.
O God, we are conscious that many centuries of blindness have blinded our eyes so that we no longer see the beauty of your chosen people, nor recognize in their faces the features of our privileged brothers and sisters.
We realize that the mark of Cain stands upon our foreheads.
Across the centuries our brother Abel has lain in blood which we drew or which we caused to be shed by forgetting your love.
Forgive us for the curse we falsely attached to their name as Jews.
Forgive us for crucifying you a second time in their flesh.
God of Abraham and of Moses, we pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear your world.
As you have made them your own, so make them continue to grow in love of your name and in faithfulness to your covenant.
You are our God, living and reigning, for ever and ever. AmenCatholic Household Blessings and Prayers
No matter how isolated we all feel, God is with us in quarantine. This unique time in history creates an opportunity. We can choose to practice Christian mindfulness. We can feel the presence of God moment by moment during these days of pandemic.
Romans 8: 38-39 famously reminds us:
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, no anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love go God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“When world events are swirling around you and your personal world feels unsteady, don’t let your mind linger on those stressors. Tell yourself the truth: Yes this world is full of trouble, but Jesus is with me and He is in control.”
We need to move our focus from the pandemic to the presence of Jesus over and over again. “But Jesus is with me” is a good breath prayer. I use “Come Holy Spirit” repeatedly to move my mind from the present to the presence. Let’s all do this.
When stress starts building during the day, this quick Christian mindfulness technique can bring a feeling of relaxation in five minutes.
- Start with a quick prayer asking the Lord for grace.
- Breathe in to a count of four, hold for a count of five, and exhale to the count of six.
- Whisper the word “Relax.”
- Keep up concentrating on the breathing and the word “relax” for five minutes.
- End with a prayer thanking the Lord for relief from stress.
YouTube has a number of channels dedicated to Christian mindfulness. Calming Christian, from Dr. Dre Campbell, is aimed at providing God-centered tools to calm us down and help with symptoms of depression, anxiety and other challenges.
Dr. Dre has been uploading videos of guided prayer to the channel since 2016. His latest is a video specifically aimed at COVID-19 anxiety. It’s linked below.
How’s your posture? A little Netflix-ish? Today we’ll do a mindfulness exercise to fight our tendency to slouch.
Remind yourself to keep an erect posture several times a day. When you are about to eat is a natural time. Supposedly having a good posture helps you to have a better mood. We’ll see!
I bought “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality” at the Abbey at Gethsemani bookstore during a silent retreat. Honestly, I was worried that it would bore me. The book is, as promised, big and the type is small. I was so wrong.
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read about Christian spirituality. The author, Carl McColman, provides the history, philosophy and practical aspects of the contemplative Christian tradition. The appendices has lists of other books to read and Christians to learn about.
This is very supportive guidebook to growing a practice in this glorious and fulfilling type of Christianity, whether you call it contemplative, mystical mindful Christianity. I highly recommend it, and I expect to read it regularly, much more than once.
There will always be downslides and uncertainty. The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all this ambiguity. No matter what happens, I can control whether I am going to live a day in fear and depression and panic, or whether I am going to attack the day and make it as good a day, as wonderful a day, as I can.Gilda Radner
Celebrating Easter Vigil with a Christian mindfulness approach helps the experience to become so much more alive, even during this unique pandemic experience.
We are facing the final illness of a beloved pet, Clarence, in the midst of this quarantine, as well as having a mother-in-law we can’t visit in an assisted living facility that has at least one coronavirus case. It is sad, yet we know that so many other people have it much worse. One benefit of this season is that I have been able to participate more fully in Lent and Holy Week than usual. The Lord is speaking to my heart.
Today He reminds me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). If we mindfully abide in Christ, he gives us the strength we need moment by moment. We need to move forward with our eyes on Him.
Today we renew our baptismal vows, decorate for Easter and make our Easter eggs. It is a day that, for more than two millennia, Christians have taken an attitude of watchfulness and prayer.
All-powerful and ever-loving God, your own Son went down among the dead and rose against in glory. In your goodness raise up your faithful people buried with him in baptism, to be one with him, in the eternal life of heaven.
Spend Good Friday with Jesus. Fast during the day, perhaps taking some soup at 11ish. Spend the hours between noon and 3 p.m. in prayer, spiritual reading and meditation before a candle. Blow out the candle at 3 p.m.
Let all my world be silent in your presence, Lord, so that I may hear what the Lord God may say in my heart. Your words are so softly spoken that no one can hear them except in a deep silence. But to hear them lifts him who sits alone and in silence completely above his natural powers, because he who humbles himself will be lifted up. He who sits alone and listens will be raised above himself.Guigo II
Waking up in the night to think about the pandemic is common. It’s also another opportunity to use Christian mindfulness to enjoy the presence of the Lord.
Sleepless nights are a common problem going back to ancient times. David wrote about a solution to them in Psalm 63:6: “On my bed I remember you. I think of you through the watches of the night.”
The Lord has asked us to cast all our anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7) so He will support our efforts to turn our nighttime thoughts to Him.
Once you are awake, consciously work to turn your attention to prayer and worship. Listening to a playlist with worship music, either out loud or on ear buds, can help. Thinking through memorized Bible verses about God’s gifts of love, joy and peace can help. Just turning our attention to gratitude about God’s gifts also works.
As a prayer for Holy Week notes:
Through your Son you taught us, Father, not to be fearful of tomorrow but to commit our lives to your care. Do not withhold your Spirit from us but help us to find a life of peace after these days of trouble.
The wonderful people at Jesuit Media Initiatives have added Pray as You Stay to their Pray as You Go website and app. The support series is “aimed to support you during this time of self-isolation, uncertainty and fear, which we are all going through.”
So far, two weeks of prayer reflections have been posted. I’ve been using them in the evening before bed to help calm me down.
Like the daily Pray as You Go, the prayer reflections are between 10 and 13 minutes long, combining music, scripture and reflection. The aim is to help us all become more aware of God’s presence in our lives and to learn to listen to God’s word.
The word hope I take for faith; and, indeed, hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith.John Calvin
Way before things got weird, April 4 was declared Slow Art Day. I had not heard of this until I read a British magazine (The Simple Things) that said Slow Art Day is more than a decade old and celebrated worldwide. It’s the one day a year when museums and galleries invite visitors to linger … even stop … in front of works of art to observe them.
The article’s author, Susie Hodge, quoted Georgia O’Keefe on the need for slow art. She said she created her huge flower paintings because “Nobody sees a flower — really. It’s so small it takes time — we haven’t time — and to see takes time.”
We can’t go to a museum today, but we can look at pictures online. I have a Pinterest board called My Own Art Museum, filled with works of art that I enjoy. You might want to create your own version.
For Slow Art Day, the experts suggest we look at an artwork, noting its colors and the impact that it is having on us. After 30 seconds, look away and try to remember what you saw. Then, look even closer, thinking about shapes, lines, colors, textiles, composition (layout), materials and subject matter.
Here are some questions to help:
- Can you tell what story the artwork is telling?
- What setting, time and place are being depicted?
- What’s the mood? How do you know that?
- What do you think the artist is trying to communicate?
- What does it remind you of?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
Appreciating nature is one of my life standards. Today, let’s be mindful in appreciating water. What a gift from God!
Water covers three-fourths of the Earth’s surface, but only 0.8% is fresh water. (And about 70% of that goes to agriculture.). Salt water is about 97/4% and ice is about 1.8% (and falling) of the water on earth. We are so blessed that something so precious is so easy to obtain in our civilization.
Today as we wash our hands repeatedly and thoroughly, let us thank God for the gift of water.
This quarantine is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. What kind of experience is mostly up to us. April is a great opportunity to have a home-based retreat. If you are alone or at home with adults, you have the ability to schedule times of solitude and silence. We can look through our bookshelves or online, asking the Lord to show us the way.
If you are at home with children, this is an opportunity like no other to teach them about character, faith and perseverance. A retreat with your children could be a great creative experience with scheduled times for learning and listening. For example, you could create your own Vacation Bible School for the young and work through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline for the teens. Amazon also has some books of guided reflections for children that could help.
This virus is from our fallen world, but the Lord can redeem our time, calm our fears and teach us lessons in this time. We can open ourselves up to ask God what He has to show us. We can read, pray and reflect.
God has shown up how fragile our civilization is and how interconnected we are with each other. I also feel that God is working with us to deepen our faith and give us the strength to choose calm and peace.
What has God planned for you this month?
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”Jesus, Matthew 6: 26-27
Talking about how not to worry, Jesus suggested that we look at the birds. Mindfully observing birds today is a wonderful mindfulness exercise.
This year, many of us get to observe spring as never before. Take a good long look at what’s outside your window. It is a sign from God.
Write out a verse of hope on a 3 x 5 card or anything that’s handy. Post it somewhere where you wait for brief periods on a regular basis. For example, I have verses on top of the microwave, beside my laptop and by the Keurig machine in my husband’s office. We need to change them out on a regular basis so we keep consciously seeing them.
Here are some verses to consider:
Why are you downcast, o my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:21)
Therefore prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13)
Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Be strong and take heart, all of you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:34)
For you have been my hope, my sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. (Psalm 71:5)
My husband retired in January. Things have not been like I expected. First, my mother’s funeral was the day after he retired. Then came coronavirus. So far we have cancelled two vacations, losing money on both. At the same time, my engineer husband is closely observing the way I have managed our home. And he has suggestions. Many suggestions.
Our love languages also create a problem that we have to be mindful about. My husband’s primary love language is quality time … which is currently all the time. Out of the five love languages, that’s at the bottom for me. Even more challenging, my love language … gifts … is at his bottom.
So I order him gifts online, and he follows me around the house. Did I mention he is also making suggestions?
I looked for some support for this and found a good article in the New York Times: “Welcome to Marriage During the Coronavirus.” Author Jennifer Senior interviewed therapist Esther Perel who said some stylistic differences may be relevant to how well we are getting along with our spouses:
- How we get information in a crisis: On a continuum, are you a news junkie/binger or do you say, “enough is enough” and turn off the source, be it TV or internet.
- How consumed we get by the situation: Are you preoccupied with risk or focused on maintaining a normal life?
- How you are handling your time: Are you structured and proactive in dealing with your days or are you passive and fatalistic?
Happily, my husband and I only differ on getting info. As a former journalist, I love input. (It’s my top strength in the Strength Finder.) But I am going his way and being very intentional about getting information only at set times.
Time magazine also got a list from couples’ therapists for getting along. Click here to read it. And here are my new ideas:
- Pray together and do Bible study. Take the time to build your relationship with God. If you are listening, God will help to strengthen your marriage rather than tearing it down.
- Stop criticizing each other. Viewing each other with compassion is truly a giant step. The late great Cokie Roberts once wrote: “You can tell the quality of your marriage by the number of teeth marks in your tongue.”
- Spend some time apart every day.
- Ramp up your own contemplative practice and mindfulness. It will help you stay calm enough to not be reactive.
- Laugh. If you haven’t laughed hard by 7 p.m., watch, read or listen to something funny.
Scary dreams and worries can kick off an overwhelming level of anxiety during this pandemic.
People who have existing issues with panic disorder, depression and generalized anxiety are almost certain to have more intense symptoms unless we take preventive measures. The symptoms can include digestive problems, dizziness, elevated heart rate, fatigue and insomnia, among other things.
I got the idea for this list from an article by Noma Nazish in ForbesLife and have adapted the list below to reflect a mindful Christian perspective.
Control what you can control. And that means you. Wash your hands. Stay six-feet away from people. Still, it helps to smile and be friendly when you pass people from this distance. We also can pray for each person we pass on the street or in the park.
Schedule times for prayer and quiet. If you don’t already have a routine for regular prayer during the day, it’s a great time to start. An alarm on my phone reminds me to stop about every three hours to pray or read Christian materials. Sarah Young’s books, starting with Jesus Calling, are excellent. Her app is very good as well. I also use materials in apps like Pray-As-You-Go, the NIV Bible, Ending Your Day Right, Centering Prayer and the Divine Office.
Make this a good time for your children or grandchildren. Our attitudes will decide how the kids remember this time. Model faith, calm and self-care. Let your kids talk through their fears and concerns. Make sure you find some ways to have fun together.
Use block scheduling to set up a routine. Setting up a routine will help to keep you and your family focused on the good. Block scheduling – setting aside an hour or two for each major kind of activity – has been very useful. Activities can include: reading, homeschooling, housework, paperwork, making things, exercise, shopping online, etc.
Reduce your exposure to news and social media. I look at my social media channels once a day. I also read the COVID-19 round-up on my Associated Press app and one local news app in the morning and at night. We do watch the PBS NewsHour as well. Other than that, I try to concentrate on my own life. I think the most reliable sources of information are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WebMD, the Weather Channel’s COVID-19 section, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.
Stay connected to family and friends. This is the era of FaceTime calls and Zoom/Skype meetings. There’s also the good old-fashioned phone call and new-fashioned texting. Make an effort to cheer your friends and family up. It will cheer you up, too.
Do a daily stress-reduction exercise. My isolation gift to myself was a subscription to the Breethe app, which is offering specific relaxation exercises regarding coronavirus anxieties. I also use Calm, Meditation Oasis and the Cleveland Clinic’s Stress Meditation. The relaxation exercise is on my block schedule for a specific time in the afternoon.
Eat well. Stress eating is one of my problems, but I do know that mindfully choosing to eat a nutritious meal before I can have my salty/sweet treat is cutting down on the overeating.
Get out in the fresh air and sunshine. Take a daily walk. Set up your patio furniture early or sit out on your porch to read.
Be the hands and feet of Christ. Get involved in helping other people during this time. Your church may have ideas. You also can call a humanitarian organization to see if you can help. Many people are helping from home by calling others to see how they are doing.
Like everything in life, this crisis is offering opportunities to grow as Christians.
If you’re like me, you’ve discovered how unmindful you are about touching your face. All the health care professionals tell us NOT to do it. It turns out that I do it all the time.
I’m not alone. A 2015 study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that people touch their faces more than 20 times an hour on average. That involving touching their eyes, noses or mouth about 44 percent of the time.
Of course, our hands are constantly touching contaminated surfaces. The goal is to stop our hands from getting the pathogens into the body through our mucous membranes (in other words, the eyes, nose and mouth) that give them a clear shot into our throats and lungs.
What we are most worried about is the coronavirus, of course. So it’s a great time to be mindful about our hands and our face. This is hard, because so much is unconscious. Scientists suggest that we make it harder by wearing gloves, but that’s really not a real-world solution at this time with the lack of gloves and the reality that we are at home.
So take some time to be more aware of your hands. Thank God for them and pray for support in using them more consciously. When you do find yourself touching your face, count it. The rising total for the day can make you more conscious as well.
When I get a chance to have a conversation with the Virgin Mary … imagine the line in heaven … I would like to ask her how she had the courage to say yes to Gabriel’s invitation to become the mother of Jesus.
She trusted God beyond any measure. She believed that she could have God’s baby. And she believed that it would be worth any pain that she would have to endure. After the baby was born, she was told that the pain would be like a sword going through her soul.
I would love to know how she grew up and how she learned about God. What experiences did she have that allowed her to love that deeply, to trust that fully?
After nearly 60 years of faith, I still struggle with understanding what God wants me to do and having the trust to do it. Mary is our example, and I love her for it.
“We must try to perceive Christ in the interruption of our plans, in the disappointment of our expectations, and in difficulties, contradictions and trials. No matter what happens we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him. (Romans 8:28)”Fr. Thomas Keating
Secular or Buddhist mindfulness exercises help people. That’s a fact proven by research. Christian mindfulness exercises are similar, but different.
First, they help us grow closer to God as well as becoming more present. We believe that God exists in the present moment. (Our view of the past is flawed. Our thoughts about the future are just our imaginations. Only in the present can we be sure we find God.)
Second, we have a partner in our endeavor: the great God of the universe, who says in James 4:8: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”
There’s a free PDF from Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel packed with Christian mindfulness exercises to try. It’s called “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence: A Companion Guide to Life in the Presence of God.” You can download it by clicking here.
I’m going through these exercises to see which work best for me, and I invite you to accompany me. Here’s the first one.
Record exactly what you are grateful for daily in these four categories:
- The glory of God’s creation
- A material blessing
- A person in your life
- A spiritual blessing
Then pray and thank God for each item. This is a good start to a new practice or a great addition to any gratitude practice we already have.
Staying in the house means that the transition times between work/home life — or even ending one task and starting another — are blurred. Here’s a Christian mindfulness exercise to help in those transitions.
- When you finish your work or your task, stop to close your eyes and listen to your breathing.
- Lift up your heart to God in prayer, asking Him to bless what you have just done. Stay quietly in your prayer for a few minutes, releasing your tension and lifting up your spirit.
- Then ask a blessing on your next task or transition, such as “Lord, please use my work for the highest good.”
- If you are moving from work to family time, take a few more minutes to tell yourself that you are done working for the day. Some people benefit from changing their clothes or taking a walk around the outside of the house to make the transition.
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.Romans 8:25 NIV
Lately I feel a bit like the Lloyd Bridges character in “Airplane” who picked a bad day to give up all his addictions. I picked hope as my word for Lent, long before I knew I would be cloistered in my home. (Not quarantined, folks. Cloistered. It’s a choice.)
When you hope for what you do not see (i.e. the end of this pandemic), we have to wait. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we can ask for more of it.
In “Jesus Today,” Sarah Young suggests that we practice hoping for things we don’t see … even during good times. That includes things in this life and the next.
She also suggests that we ask Jesus to guide us into hopes and dreams in line with His will. Then we focus our eyes on Him as we wait for opportunities to do what He wants, praying for His will to be done.
Let’s do this together, no matter what scary thing happens next.
In 1985, I had a baby at the same time that my then-husband developed a severe psychosis. I had a feeling that I would be raising my son alone. (I was right.) So I named him after the man I trusted could help me: Joseph.
Today we celebrate Joseph of Nazareth, the man God depended on to help raise Jesus. The Bible tells us that Joseph was “just.” This doesn’t only mean that he was fair. He was aligned with doing God’s will, no matter what. Even when devastated by what he thought was Mary’s betrayal, he wanted to do the right thing.
And he did. He married Mary. He named Jesus. He woke up in the night and took his family to Egypt based on a dream. He brought them back to Nazareth. He lived with Jesus for an unknown number of years. He taught Him, and he learned from Him.
When the neighbors were astounded at Jesus’ teaching, they asked, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Yes, he was. And I think there was a resemblance.
Mindful Christianity is abiding in Jesus moment by moment. The best description I’ve heard of this comes from Carl McColman:
“God is love. God loves all of us and wants us to experience abundant life. This means abiding in love — love of God and love of neighbors as ourselves. Through prayer and worship, meditation and silence, we can commune with God, experience His presence, have our consciousness transformed by His spirit, participate in His loving nature, and be healed and renewed in that love. This new life (what the New Testament calls ‘the mind of Christ’) will not only bring us joy and happiness (even when we suffer), but will also empower us to be ambassadors for God, to bring God’s love, joy and happiness to others.”Carl McColman, “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism”
The call to envelop ourselves in God’s love does come at a price: the suffering Jesus paid in His crucifixion AND our need to relinquish “control.”
In these days of coronavirus, we can all see how little control we actually have over our lives. Perhaps this is the best possible time to live in God’s love and be God’s love to our families.
Quite a few of us are praying about COVID-19. I have a long list of people, groups, causes and places I love, which I pray for every day. The Lord has recently been prompting me to find a quieter way to pray inside His will.
Instead of having a long list of what I think SHOULD happen, I am just lifting up the individuals and the groups to God for His will to be done. I am no longer Mrs. God, handing the Lord his honey-do list.
After all, as Psalm 139:4 says, “Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, Oh Lord.”
God knows what we need. The purpose of prayer is to help us grow closer to God and to understanding His will. Just lifting up a person or a cause before the Lord and asking that His will be done is enough.
How many times have we whined that we were too busy? Well, nature just took care of that. When we are isolated / socially distanced at home, our attitude makes all the difference.
I’m challenging myself to see this period as an extended Sabbath that I can brighten with hygge elements, like candles, a fire, plenty of reading, and snuggling with my husband and cats.
During this Sabbath, I can spend more time in prayer, which is needed, and study. My husband is teaching himself to bake. I am finally going to read a foot-high pile of magazines. (I’m glad I didn’t listen to you about this, Marie Kondo.).
While I am an introvert who owns the book, “Sorry I’m Late. I Didn’t Want to Come,” I think reframing the concept of social distancing into something wonderful like a Sabbath will work even for extroverts.
This is the time to calm down and get caught up. Enjoy as best you can.
With everyone hunkered down, it’s a good time to become intentional about giving at least one sincere compliment a day to family, friends or people who have inspired you.
My inbox is packed with emails about cancellations, closings and concern from everyone I have ever done business with, including museums I’ve visited once and shoe companies. So I imagine yours is, too.
It’s a perfect time to send a complimentary email. And those folks that are stuck with us at home deserve to know that we appreciate them. The more specific the compliment is, the better.
One of the essential books for Christian mindfulness is Ruth Haley Barton‘s “Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.” I’ve recently finished reading it for the third time as part of Lenten practice.
Barton, who is a spiritual director and founder/CEO of the Transforming Center, walks chapter by chapter through the spiritual disciplines that help one lead an intentional life in the presence of Jesus.
She writes about solitude, Scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment and Sabbath. Each chapter ends with ideas for how to move the content into your own life. Finally she instructs readers how to prepare a rule for life so we can live closer to God in any life season.
Barton also co-hosts an excellent podcast, “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.” The current season is covering Lent. She’s a wonder! I hope you look her up.
I’m old enough to have made mixtapes that I created for special times: summer, the beach, Christmas. This Lent has been a challenge for my word of the season: hope. So I created a Spotify playlist of songs of hope to enjoy.
Creating a Spotify playlist is very easy, if you haven’t done it before. (Especially when compared to making a mixtape back in the day.) You might want to create your own playlist for Lent.
The playlist is Songs of Hope by Karen Twinem on Spotify. It contains:
- “Great Are You Lord” – All Sons and Daughters
- “I’ll Take You There” – Mavis Staples
- “Here Comes the Sun” – the Beatles
- “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
- “Can You Feel It” – The Jacksons
- “Celebrate” – Three Dog Night
- “Happy” – Pharrell Williams
- “In Christ Alone” – MercyMe
- “It Is Well With My Soul” – Hillsong Chapel
- “Heaven Come Down” – Michael W. Smith
- “You Can Make It If You Try” – Sly and the Family Stone
- “10,000 Reasons” – Matt Redman
- “One Love” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
- “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Aretha Franklin
- “Hello Hooray” – Alice Cooper
- “I Gotta Feeling” – Black Eyed Peas
- “Mighty to Save” – Hillsong UNITED
- “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” – Amy Grant
- “Morning Has Broken” – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
- “Ode to Joy”
- “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” – Selah
- “Joy to the World” – Three Dog Night
- “Mr. Blue Sky” – Electric Light Orchestra
- “On My Way Home” – Enya
- “Dance to the Music” – Sly and the Family Stone
- “Everybody Is a Star” – Sly and the Family Stone
- “Penny Lane” – the Beatles
- “We Are the Champions” – Queen
- “Coming Around Again” – Carly Simon
- “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – Aretha Franklin & George Michael
- “Perfect Day” – Lou Reed
- “With a Little Luck” – Wings
- “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” – Donovan
- “Believe in Life” – Shawn Phillips
What did I miss?
Twitter can be like pornography for the vicious. For reasons I’ll never understand, some people — even some who say they are Christians — enjoy being cruel to people they do not know online. I once read one man say that he can’t figure out the truth about people’s beliefs because it would spoil his fun online. Really?
This Lent, I’m following the advice of a Hindu that I have long admired, the late Eknath Easwaran:
Please do not indulge in unkind words, in negative comments. Criticism, as you know, can only be useful when it is constructive. Comments can only be useful when they are friendly. So even from the point of view of effectiveness, I would suggest that unkind comments add to the problem. Unloving criticism makes situations worse.Eknath Easwaran, speech in 1979
As the stock market bungee-jumps and fears of the coronavirus intensify, we may find ourselves in a downward thinking spiral. Our thoughts and fears get away from us. Inner peace, joy and calm are gone.
One of the best and most effective ideas I’ve read to stop this comes from Rachael Kable of “The Mindful Kind” book and podcast: Take a deep breathe and name the colors of the things you see.
This distracts the mind and allows us to get back on track. A brief walk is an effective way to start naming colors. A good ending is to express gratitude for the things we have seen.
Today, millions around the globe are facing a potentially dangerous pandemic. Where’s a safe place to stay?
One famous answer came from Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian who ended up in a Nazi concentration camp for her role in helping almost 800 Jews escape the Germans. She said, “The safest place is in the center of God’s will.”
I agree, but that doesn’t guarantee sunshine and roses for life, as ten Boom well knew. She did God’s will even though it was dangerous and even though she ended up suffering dreadfully for it.
Did she have internal consolation for doing so? Certainly.
Praying to find God’s will in a situation and doing it does bring elements of safety, as well as trouble. It means that the Lord of the universe wants you to succeed. It means that pathways you didn’t expect will appear. It means you can have inner peace about your life. Let’s walk step by step with Jesus this Lent.
“You are making yourself miserable, and you are the only one who can stop it.”Rachael Kable, “The Mindful Kind”
Rachael Kable, author of “The Mindful Kind” and host of “The Mindful Kind” podcast, may be young, but she is wise.
The host of the No. 1 mindfulness podcast, she has written an excellent guidebook for anyone interested in mindfulness. You’ll refer to it again and again. I’m planning to keep a copy on my Kindle app on the my phone.
For example, she suggests a new habit: Use the feeling of stress as a signal to do a mindfulness exercise.
Rachael is an Australian who sounds and looks fairly young. Sometimes her examples from her own life reflect a limited … so far … life experience. But she does have many wonderful options for introducing awareness and intention in many aspects of life, both in the book and the podcast. At the book’s conclusion, she suggests doing one new activity in the book a week to eventually build a great repertoire of responses to keep it on task.
Rachael never discusses religion. Her ideas are suitable for any Christian to try. Subscribe to the podcast and buy the book. You’ll be glad you did.
We are asked to keep our thoughts pure, but our minds are often racing in the other direction. Affirmations are a mindful Christian approach to reining in your thoughts when you notice negativity, unrighteous anger and other bad attitudes.
Use them as a script to turn around your thinking, repeating as needed. Here’s a few affirmations to use:
- Let compassion lead me.
- Holy Spirit, speak through me.
- I choose to renew my mind.
- Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.
Deliberating breaking into your thinking pattern will help.
Giving up things – from Facebook to coffee – is a classic part of participating in Lent. This year, great suggestions from Pope Francis are on social media:
- Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
- Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
- Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
- Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
- Fast from worries and trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
- Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
- Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
- Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
Even with these wonderful ideas, God calls for fasting that helps people:
Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: Say to all the people in the land and to the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and the seventh month these 70 years, was it really for me that you fasted? … Thus says the Lord of hosts: Judge with true justice, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the resident alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts.Zechariah 7:4-5, 9-10
Similar requests for fasting are in Isaiah:
“Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Isaiah 58: 5b-7
I think the Lord is serious. Lent is a good time for us to contemplate what we can do to make that happen.
When God does or allows the unexpected, our reactions can range from puzzlement to tears to shock to rage. What’s a good way to move through the initial feelings back into trust?
After all, God is good. He loves us dearly and wants what is best for us, even if it’s not pleasant at the time. God continues to reveal Himself to us even when we are perplexed.
I know a person who responds to any surprise with the same question: I wonder what God is up to? I think that’s a great way to move ourselves away from fear to trust. It sets us up to believe that God is in the situation and is working. We just need to wait to see what happens next.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has done essential work in spreading the practice of mindfulness worldwide, has written dozens of books. “The Art of Communicating” is one of his best.
Although his work clearly comes from a Buddhist perspective, he has much to teach us all. One of my favorite chapters covers the four elements of right speech:
- Tell the truth. Don’t lie or turn the truth upside down.
- Don’t exaggerate.
- Be consistent. That means no double-talk: speaking about something in one way to one person and in another to someone else for selfish or manipulative reasons.
- Use peaceful language. Don’t use insulting or violent words, cruel speech, verbal abuse or condemnation.
The book is short, but so useful. I particularly like the Six Mantras of Loving Speech, which each person is free to adapt as the situation calls for it.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.Proverbs 17:22
My word for Lent is hope. Cheerfulness is both a strategy and an end result for that.
How we react when trouble comes is the greatest witness to those around us. Maintaining a genuinely cheerful heart shows that we truly believe what we profess. Filling our minds with gratitude and praise for everything God has done for us – from dying on the Cross to creating trees – opens our hearts to feel the graces of joy and peace, no matter what else is happening.
One of my favorite quotes is from the late, great comedian Gilda Radner, written as she was dying from cancer:
“There will always be downslides and uncertainty. The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all this ambiguity. No matter what happens, I can control whether I am going to live a day in fear and depression and panic, or whether I am going to attack the day and make it as good a day, as wonderful a day, as I can.”
Many worry that the culture has moved further and further from the Christian faith, so that we may become irrelevant. I think it could be a blessing.
The American way of life often has been different from the Christian way of life, but we pretended otherwise. I lived in Mississippi for nearly 10 years and met people who hated African-Americans yet proudly went to church on Sunday. Materialism as a signpost for success is not exactly what the homeless man who died for us intended.
Today we have an opportunity to be noticeably different from the culture, and that’s good as long as we are different in a Christian way. Hate is never the Christian way.
It’s Ash Wednesday, and we’re starting the season of Lent. I’m blessed to have a church that has a moving and effective church service this day. For years, I didn’t so I created one at home. Here’s the ceremony should you need it:
- Burn a list of your sins, a palm frond or an evergreen in a bowl to make ashes.
- Open with this prayer: Let us ask our Heavenly Father to bless these ashes which we will use as a mark of our repentance. Lord, bless these ashes. Wearing them reminds us that we are from the dust of the Earth. Pardon our sins and keep us faithful to the resolutions that we have made for Lent. Help us to prepare well for the celebration of your Son’s glorious resurrection. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
- Mark your loved one’s foreheads, saying “Turn away from sin, and be faithful to the gospel.”
- Close with this prayer: Loving Father, today we start Lent. From today, we make a new start to be more loving and kind. Help us to show more concern for the less fortunate, the hungry and the poor. Help us to love you more and speak to you more often. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Happy Mardi Gras! We celebrate the day with pancakes in the morning and good vegetarian jambalaya for dinner. Today I also celebrated by picking out my word for Lent: hope.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.Psalm 42:5 NASB
This Lent I am continuing to focus on practicing the presence of God. It’s been quite a rough year so far. So I feel God calling me to seek hope. George Mueller wrote: Even when our situation appears to be impossible, our work is to “hope in God.”
We know that we can never hope in vain, so that’s the focus of Lent for me. I pray you find your word also.
You are a force for peace. Don’t get caught in angry, frightened talk. Choose what goes into your mind. Don’t leave it to the media. Don’t let hostility and resentment take over your life. Step away from the whirlpools of negativity that swirl around us.Eknath Easwaran, Blue Mountain Center of Meditation
The biggest danger in being extraordinarily busy is that God’s voice is so quiet I am liable to miss hearing Him. He speaks to me in a steady whisper, always there but easily drowned out by the noise of the world.Lynn Bowen Walker, “Queen of the Castle”
This is the scary prayer I’ve ever prayed. But it opens doors to a new way of being.
Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions. I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself. I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within. Amen.
The GIFT list idea originated with organization experts Pam Young and Peggy Jones. (I’ve successfully used their productivity program since 1982ish and highly recommend it. You can find out more here.)
I’ve adapted the concept over the years, keeping a daily list with my to-dos. GIFT stands for:
Every day, I ask God to give me Grace from the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, righteousness, gentleness and self-control.
For Imagination, I pick a virtue and imagine how I could incorporate using it in my day. For example, yesterday’s virtue was a positive attitude. Today’s is being a caring citizen.
Focus is the day’s predominate activities: writing, planning, cleaning, making things, running errands, enjoying the family, taking a Sabbath, etc. Labeling a day as your paperwork & planning day, for example, helps you to cluster activities that come up during the week.
And Thanksgiving is a gratitude list that I fill out as the day goes on. That way I always have something to be grateful for at day’s end.
When my mind goes on a tear, I deliberately turn it back to the Grace, Imagination or Focus of the day. It’s a great mindfulness exercise. I hope you have fun with it.
Loving the Lord with all your mind may seem like an impossible task. After all, your mind may well be pretty wild and free … thinking about your friends, your kids, your job and Netflix.
God gives us direct instruction about what He wants us to think about in order to be a peaceful place where He can abide. It’s in Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
That means, when I’m thinking about what a moron the driver ahead of me is, I should switch lanes literally and figuratively. I need to think about how happy I am that I found my church, or what a nice (and noble) guy my husband is, or how lovely my granddaughter is.
I made up a phrase to help me remember this: The normal real person likes an excellent pizza. (true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy). This helps me do a thought check when I seem to be on the wrong track.
A continual “thank you” may be the sweetest kind of Christian mindfulness exercise. It uplifts your spirits every time.
As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Always rejoice. Unceasingly pray. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Yes, this is the will of God for our lives. That means rejoicing when things seem bleak (for we always have God with us), praying at all times (even when we are driving or reading) and giving thanks for everything (even when we are poor, hungry or imprisoned).
We can break any bad mood with a thank you walk, looking at what’s around us and giving thanks for it!
Abiding in Jesus means having faith that God is at work even in horrible circumstances. We can be a “yes” to all that is in God and to each circumstance and person who comes into our lives. We can look at all environments, events and people as coming through God’s hands so we can serve Him.
This is the “good” that all things work for as mentioned in Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Acceptance of this makes our most difficult roles in life less depleting and exhausting. It’s challenging to accept the reality of circumstances and not argue in our minds that they should be different. But it is possible and makes all the difference.
This is not the same as being happy in sad situations. We cannot pretend everything is fine, because our minds know it’s not. We do have to accept that everything is not fine, and that it is impossible for us to change. This allows us to offer more empathy without draining excessive energy.
We are not in heaven yet, and bad things happen in a fallen world. God is still present and wants to abide in us. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
During our work and other activities, even during reading, writing or religious exercises, we must stop regularly for a moment, as often as possible, to worship God.
Praising God from the depth of our hearts brings us closer and closer to abiding in Him. Stopping routinely to lift a word of praise is good, no matter how spiritual the work we were doing.
A worship song can be a good way to do this. Before I retired, I found myself having negative thoughts about the day ahead as I dressed for work. Playing worship music at this time stopped that. If you have a time of day when you are routinely unhappy, try playing a worship song and lifting up your voice to the Lord. It helps!
Carrying on a continual conversation with God can be a challenge. When we run out of words, we can say the Jesus prayer.
It helps to use a “Jesus” prayer when we need to calm down or we are in a situation in which we would otherwise turn to our phones to distract ourselves.
We can pray “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over. Others use other versions. You can find information about Jesus prayers here. I use “Come Holy Spirit.”
In time, we will be able to feel God’s presence without the need for words. Until then, the Jesus prayer feels so comforting. It’s also a nice way to go to sleep at night.
The next Christian mindfulness exercise is the hardest: Carry on a conversation with God and try to make it continual.
The Christian best known for doing this is Brother Lawrence, who died on February 12, 1691. He served as a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris, typically working in the kitchen. He never achieved prominence during his life, and yet he is remembered today more than any other Christian of his time.
Brother Lawrence developed an intimate, continual conversation with the Lord. He became known when his letters and writings were compiled into a book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” after his death. You can find a free PDF of the book here.
The Carmelites of Boston website sums up his teachings like this:
Speaking humbly and lovingly with Him (God) all the time, at every moment, especially during times of temptation, suffering, aridity, weariness, even infidelity and sin. This habit is formed by repetition of acts and frequently bringing the mind back into God’s presence … conversing with God everywhere, asking Him for what is needed, and rejoicing continuously with Him in countless ways.”
Paul would agree. As he wrote in Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
This exercise is simple, if hard to remember when we are distracted. We try to center ourselves as we move from place to place, event to event.
We can say: I am calm, peaceful and aware of the presence of God as I enter this home/door/time/event. Using the ringing of the telephone or the sound of a text message has a moment to pause and refocus also helps.
If you have a time of day that’s particularly hard for you … which I nicknamed the arsenic hour when I was a young single mother … having an alarm on the phone to remind you to center can make a big difference.
Listening to yourself with a compassionate ear is another Christian mindfulness exercise that ultimately draws us closer to God. But the interior noise can be deafening.
When this happens, the Three Things exercise can help us to focus our attention, reduce restlessness and add calm. Stretch or drink some water before getting started. Then:
- Note three things that you see.
- Note three things that you hear.
- Note three feelings that you have.
It can be that simple to restore some clear thinking.
Ash Wednesday is a little more than three weeks away so it’s a good time for us to start thinking about our Lenten resolutions. I’ve used Lent to give up bad habits, but more often I take this time to create positive habits.
Think about how we can improve our prayer life, fasting and giving. Some families pick a charity and put their change into a bowl each day. Others give up eating out and give away the money they saved. My church took a recent pledge to not have cell phones at the dinner table. We can find many things to improve if we think and pray about it.
I also always have a Lenten reading program. In the past, I read a biography of a Christian I admired, a devotional and a general book about faith each Lent. Today it’s a lot more random. I just look at the bookshelves to see what I think would be helpful and inspiring.
When we walk with Jesus, everything we do can be a prayer. This is where the practice of Christian mindfulness comes in.
Focus on the task at hand, giving it your attention while seeking to feel the presence of God.
We don’t always have to use words to pray continually, although we generally have to start out that way. Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his book “Here and Now,” recommends starting with a simple prayer … the name Jesus, Come Holy Spirit, the Jesus prayer or anything short like that … and repeating it over and over. This is called a mantram in other traditions.
Nouwen writes: “When we remain faithful to our discipline, even if it is only 10 minutes a day, we gradually come to see … by the candlelight of our prayers … that there is a space within us where God dwells and where we are invited to dwell with God. Once we come to know that inner, holy place … we want to be there and be spiritually fed.”
Staying focused on one thing can be about as difficult as continual prayer. Here’s some encouragement: The Amish accomplish an incredible amount in their days in part because they are working with concentration and not dealing with constant distractions, like cell phones and television. We can do the same by focusing on one task at a time while the mantra bubbles away in the back of our minds.
When events and attitudes make the world feel even more chaotic and frightening, we can take a deep breath and become an antidote to the fiery atmosphere. We can be an island of peace in a stormy sea.
The first step is to bring calm into our minds. Otherwise we add to the fear and anger swirling around us.
One easy way to recenter is to do the 3-4-5 breath that I taught many in crisis management classes. We can do it anywhere, usually with no one around us noticing. It’s so simple:
- Breathe in to a slow count of 3.
- Hold your breath to a slow count of 4.
- Breathe out to a slow count of 5.
Repeat until you can feel yourself calming down. Then open yourself up to feel the presence of God.
Remember: You can be a force for good. You can be a force for peace. That is one way … not always small … to let the light of Christ shine in the world.
The fourth step toward mindfully practicing the presence of God is about our approaches to each day.
Be in the day with a plan and the willingness to disregard that plan to respond to what God allows. As my pastor, Rich Nathan, teaches: Left foot, right foot. Do the next right thing.
We want to be attentively present to the here-and-now situation while also attuned to the voice of God.
Remember: Now is the only moment you have. Now is the future you promised yourself.
“Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours” is Kathleen Deignan’s effort to assemble Merton’s teachings, poems and prayers into a similar format to the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. I appreciate Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk who was in many ways decades ahead of his time.
Many see him as one of the spiritual masters of the 20th century. I’ve read several of his books and gone on silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where he lived and is buried. His work also inspires me to deepen my commitment to the Lord and to contemplative prayer.
I used this book as a prayer experiment, praying the sections of Dawn, Day, Dusk and Dark for a week. This may work well for others, but it didn’t work for me. Turns out I much prefer to use Psalms as Psalms rather than Merton’s poems, no matter how lovely they are. The use of his work in Examen and Lessons was good, but could have used more context.
True Merton devotees certainly may love this book, and I think it was assembled with a good spirit. Still it just didn’t work in my prayer experiment.
Not only is today Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhog Day, it’s also the Presentation of Our Lord on the Christian calendar. Today is a feast to commemorate Joseph and Mary taking the infant Jesus as a first-born son to the Temple for the ceremony commanded by God through Moses to induct him into Judaism.
Simeon and Anna were at the Temple, as they had been for thousands of days, waiting to see the Messiah. They recognized him.
This feast is also called Candlemas, and it involves blessing candles and lighting them. Try lighting up your candles to symbolize the light of the world arriving in His own temple.
This is also a good day to pray from the poor, migrants, immigrants and refugees, the Holy Family being one of this number.