photo of angel figurine near christmas ball

What Do You Think?

This pandemic holiday season offers us an opportunity to be upset or at peace. It all depends on what we think. The Bible tells us this, and it is the essence of Christian mindfulness.

“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, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.

Philippians 4: 4-8, NIV

Advent and Christmas in a pandemic give us plenty of opportunity to think anxious thoughts … as well as thoughts that are angry or sad. The Lord warns us against this. He has given us the incredible opportunity to abide in him. Our thoughts help to take us there.

As Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” we can choose what we think about and what our attitude is, even in the worst suffering.

This choice is not automatic. If we find ourselves down in darkness, worrying about illness, the broken world, politics and so on, we can turn our attention to the Lord’s presence.

We can do that by rejoicing in his goodness. Lifting up our worries in a prayer with thanksgiving. And moving our attention to something that is true, lovely and admirable. More tips about doing this are here. Do your part, and God will do the rest.

Notice the Difference

Today’s exercise in Christian mindfulness involves paying attention. (As all these exercises do.) You’ll be paying attention to two things: something in nature and something in yourself.

Pick something in nature that you can see out your window: trees, bushes, the sky or the grass. For a few days, notice this handiwork of God. How are the trees in your view different? How do they change from day to day? Notice color, texture, shape and form. God is at work in them.

Then, think about yourself. You have survived nearly 10 months of a pandemic. How are you different? What new strengths have you discovered in yourself? What has surprised you about your reaction? How are your family relationships? Your connections to others outside the family? How can you be more of a force for good where you are?

The pandemic has changed us all. God is at work in nature. Like the trees and the sky, we, too, are changing and responding to God’s prompting. Take a look and see how the pandemic has shaped you.

senor ethnic woman reading fairy tale to cute grandchildren on bed

Peace 101 Starts With You

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Those words were the first lyrics of a song I learned in Girl Scouts in the 1960s.

The words are true. As the peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in “Being Peace”:

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”

In Christian mindfulness, this peace comes from walking step by step in the present in the presence of Jesus. It is a peace that passes understanding. A peace that overcomes fear and worry. A peace that reflects the light of God into the darkness.

During this pandemic Advent, when many of us are at home with our immediate families all the time, doing this kind of peace work is essential. We create the mood in our homes. Even one person who is at peace and happy can make a huge difference to the family atmosphere.

In Zoom meetings with Christian friends, I often hear concern about important work for God that the quarantine has delayed. I contend that the quarantine gives us at least two wonderful opportunities: the chance to spend more time with God and to show more love to our nearest and dearest.

Let us enjoy this time. It won’t last forever.

As the song says: “Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

Try It: Light in the Darkness

This Christian mindfulness practice is ready-made for a pandemic Advent.

  • Sit quietly, breathing deeply, for a few minutes.
  • Think about the particular darkness you feel around yourself today. The impact of the pandemic in your life. Losses and illnesses. Financial concerns. Not being able to see people you love. Work overload. Fears for your country, your city, your favorite shops and restaurants. Emotional trauma.
  • How do you feel about this? Untangle the emotions. If you feel primarily feel scared, what else is there? Anger, disappointment, fear. Sit for a few moments and see what emotions you have.
  • Then visualize a great light shining into the darkness. Think of Isaiah 9:2: “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
  • Offer up your emotions. Feel the love of God in the light as He steps into your personal world to bring redemption, peace and joy. In the end, evil will be vanished. Including all the evil you see in your world.
  • Rest in this redemption, peace and joy. Make this exercise bring the presence of Jesus to you today.

Resource: An Unhurried Life

I come from a profession where speed is the norm. “An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest” is a strong restorative.

Alan Fadling opens this book with the words: “I am a recovering speed addict … and I don’t mean the drug.” This spiritual director’s mission is to inspire people to rest deeper, love fuller and lead better.

Living a frenetic life was a sign of success in my pre-retirement world. Even today the successful retired person is busy, even crazy busy. The pandemic has slowed down the pressure, but it’s still there.

Fadling details the rhythms of Jesus’ life … from the huge meetings with seekers, the miracles, the days of discipling the disciples and the nights of prayer alone. Jesus, who could sleep through a storm at sea, led a balanced life.

He applies that insight into our world’s issues, like productivity, suffering and rest. He also provides insightful questions to pray over at the end of each chapter and a list of spiritual practices that can help us to slow down.

Here is a short video of Fadling talking about what he means by an unhurried life and his book “An Unhurried Leader.”

Amazon has “An Unhurried Life” rated at five stars with 99 reviews. Goodreads has it at 4.11 stars with 602 reviews. It won the 2014 Christianity Today Award of Merit.

Other resources useful for a practice of Christian mindfulness are here.

Welcome Advent!

Advent, the season of waiting, is just the spiritual nudge we need in a pandemic year. We are waiting for the vaccine as we wait for the Christ child.

Many families got a big head start on Christmas this year. Even if your tree has been up for weeks, you can still enjoy Advent. Bringing the spirit of Christian mindfulness into the four weeks preceding Christmas opens us up to allow God to heal our weary hearts.

We begin the season by putting up the Advent wreath and putting out the empty creche. We will fill it week by week. We also begin to read our Advent devotionals. More about those are here.

This year we need silent contemplation just as much as Christmas cheer. Celebrate the quiet season intentionally, and you will find much peace in a pandemic year.

Let’s Build the City of God

Hildegard of Bingen … a woman so far ahead of her time … gives us good advice for today. As we stay in our homes, she urges us to build the City of God.

We can do it in Christian mindfulness. We can do it when we cling to Jesus and his vision of eternal peace on Earth.

Hildegard believed that God is generous toward those who, in good times and bad, faithfully work to build the City of God. These people avoid destructive quarrels, hatred and envy. They work with a calm attitude doing good for others.

Being kind of everyone at home. Being patient with pandemic restrictions. Spending free time in prayer and spiritual reading. All this can help us to build the City of God at home.

Think the World Needs Prayer?

To walk into Thanksgiving with Christian mindfulness, we need to remember two things:

  1. Our purpose on Earth is to glorify God.
  2. God says prayer is important.

Today, on the day before our pandemic Thanksgiving, take some time to go before God with your unanswered prayers. The nation, the world, the sick and the healthy all need our prayers today.

I feel we also need to pray for healing of our image of God. He is loving, never vulgar, never hateful. He wants to spend time with us. He wants us to give him time in gratitude and praise, so He can work on our minds and our ways.

The image of God and the church has been blackened for too many in recent years in the United States. We have linked political expediency to God’s will. God is not shy about telling us that He expects us to love our neighbors, not to view them with suspicion and hatred.

It’s time to see what God says to us about our role in resolving these unanswered prayers. We can only do that through time for prayer and thanksgiving. May peace come to our hearts and to our nation.

Thank Your Pandemic Mates

As Thanksgiving approaches … I just got the pumpkin pie out of the oven!!! … take a few minutes to thank the people you have spent the pandemic with.

Thank those living with you and any one else in your bubble. This year, I’m writing thank you notes in Thanksgiving cards for my husband and my son. We have been a bubble of three for many months.

We haven’t had fights or gotten into arguments. We have bitten our tongues when we get on each other’s nerves. This is mostly because everyone has been nice and witty instead.

Think about the character attributes that have made your pandemic mates nice to be around. Write it up on a place card, a thank you note or a Thanksgiving card. Then share it before Thanksgiving dinner.

If you can, continue to do this loving-kindness meditation as part of an effort to heal our own national pain as well.

woman reading a book

Be Grateful for Answered Prayers

Today, take 30 minutes to give thanks for all the answered prayers of 2020. And yes, there have been some.

When I did this today, I went down my prayer list … looking at the names of the people and the groups that I pray for everyday. There was an answered prayer for every one of them.

So, enjoy some fellowship with the Lord. He is with us this Thanksgiving.

Do Your Advent Prep

The first Sunday of Advent is seven days away. If you are still having issues with order delivery, as I am, be sure to get your supplies, books and ideas ready for the year.

Having a mindful Christian Advent is a time of joy and wonder, sorely needed this year. It’s a quiet time spent intentionally concentrating on the miracle of Jesus’ birth, rather than commercial Christmas. This kind of Advent is sure to chase pandemic fears away so we can feel at peace.

two books for Advent

Some ideas for Advent prep include:

  • Get or make Advent candles. (We are doing beeswax candles from a kit this year. You can find the kit here.)
  • Purchase an Advent calendar or stock up one if you have a reusable model.
  • Get the Advent wreath out of storage … or buy one.
  • Order a new Advent devotional or order new ones. This year I’m using two favorites: “Preparing for Christmas” by Richard Rohr and “Living in Joyful Hope” by Suzanne M. Lewis.
  • Get out your Christmas music.
  • Organize children’s Christmas books.
  • Pick the name of a saint or devout Christian. You can study their life during the season.

Make a Gratitude Pumpkin

This idea, originated by Tsh Oxenrider, brings specific gratitude to my Thanksgiving table every year.

Take the gratitude list that you developed this week. Then write it on a pumpkin that becomes part of your Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

When it’s time to go around the table expressing thanks, you’ll have something quite specific to mention. It’s a way to bring Christian mindfulness to the celebration.

thankful grateful blessed in script

Try This: List Your Blessings

The pandemic is hovering over all of us. We’ve had friends lose their parents to COVID. We won’t get to spend Thanksgiving with our granddaughter and her parents. We won’t get to see my husband’s mother who is in dementia care.

Nonetheless, the Lord has been so good to us. Today, let’s look with intention at what’s right and how God has blessed us. Listing our blessings helps us to stay focused on what is good in our lives.

For example, I am thankful to the Lord for:

  • Our continued health.
  • Our marriage that has remained solid despite quarantining together soon after we retired from jobs that involved a lot of travel and time apart.
  • Food, water and a warm house.
  • My granddaughter and the miracles of technology that allow us to have dessert together on Thanksgiving day.
  • My wonderful kids.
  • A ministry that has continued via Zoom through the pandemic.
  • My spiritual director and pastors.

And there’s lots more on my list. Please make one yourself and spend time thanking God for what you have. You will feel much better.

It might be fun to keep it, so you can compare it to next year’s list. Here’s hoping next year’s list has a lot of travel on it!

thank you signage

Use the Mail to Say Thanks

The U.S. Postal Service has been a great blessing in pandemic life. This Thanksgiving, use it to bless others.

Sit in prayer and contemplate the people who have made your life better during this year. Then send them a card or a hand-written note to tell them how much you appreciate them.

Remember to thank doctors, nurses and health care providers, as well as those who work in senior care facilities.

It’s special to get thanks through the mail, especially when you don’t expect it. Spreading love and gratitude is godly this season. So extend your Thanksgiving by reaching through quarantine to give your thanks.

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic

If you are alive to read this, you have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. But it may not feel like it.

Let’s turn this time into a deep harvest of gratitude toward God. He will be at your table on Thanksgiving, even if many loved ones are not.

Thanksgiving in a pandemic may need an extra dose of Christian mindfulness to be memorable. Let’s start with this step. Reflect and think: What do you appreciate the most about the people you’ve been in quarantine with? How have they made the time pleasant?

Today, thank them for the character qualities and personality quirks that have gotten you through 2020 so far. It’s a first step toward a real Thanksgiving.

clock and calendar

End the Work Day With Planning and Prayer

Back in the good old days of 2019, we worried about taking too much work home. How does that compute when work is at home?

Working at home has enormous advantages … no commute, fewer interruptions for office socializing, more time with the family, the ability to run laundry while you run a meeting … and so on.

But it lacks the closure that getting up and coming home causes. Transition time via commuting is also gone.

A 2019 survey by Airtasker, reported in Business News Daily this March, found remote workers actually work 1.4 more days per month than those based in offices. That’s more than three more weeks of work per year. Some of that overage happens in the time once known as “after hours.”

The same survey also found that 29% of remote workers struggle with work-life balance. That’s compared to 23% of office workers. My guess is the figure for remote workers is higher now, more than six months later.

Those who practice Christian mindfulness may find their approach to ending the day has disappeared. The easiest answer is to schedule a prayer or devotional reading time at day’s end. Put it on the calendar. If necessary, call it “planning” or P&P on your public calendar. You’re going to pray over plans during this time.

If you need transition time to quiet down before rejoining your home world, take it. Walk the dog. Change your clothes to music. Breathe deeply.

Having set work hours actually makes you more productive. The day-end prayer time allows you to bring your work of the day before the Lord. Ask His blessing and ask His opinion on what’s ahead.

Then shut down the computer. Sign off from Slack or any other work chat app. Other tips for setting boundaries are in this article from Skillcrush.

Each Time You Enter a Room

This Christian mindfulness exercise is a simple way to slow down a day. Just breathe and welcome God’s presence every time you enter a new room.

As we know, Christian mindfulness is enjoying the presence of God in the present. When we are approaching a new room, our minds are hurrying ahead to the future, thinking about what we are going to do in that room.

This exercise keeps us grounded in the very present moment, as we move toward the door toward the task. As you approach the door:

  • Feel the bottom of your feet on the floor. If you have to open a door, feel your hand on the doorknob.
  • Take a breath.
  • Invite God to go with you into the room.

One breath is fine. No one will even notice.

You can use the Jesus Prayer or any other short prayer that you use often in practice. You can just say “Jesus” or “Come Holy Spirit.”

Bring the presence of Jesus into the present. It’s the best way to feel the day.

Live Life from a Center

I would suggest that the complexity of our program is an inner one, not an outer one. The outer distractions of our interests reflect an inner lack of integration of our own lives.

Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center. Each one of us can live such a life of amazing power and peace and serenity on one condition — if we really want to.

There is a holy Infinite Center within us all. John Woolman resolved so to order his outward affairs as to be, at every moment, attentive to that voice. His outward life became simplified on the basis of an inner integration. He surrendered himself, keeping warm and close to the Center.

Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion

Love Your Enemies

America is very divided. Republicans gained seats in a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Control of the Senate has come down to two runoff elections. And, as of the time I write this, one presidential candidate is refusing to concede to the other.

The country seems to be center-right, although it has rejected a leader whose behavior has been unacceptable to most. At the same time, it’s clear that Native Americans and African-Americans face systemic racism in our culture.

We cannot move forward as a nation without ending the hatred felt against each other. It is God’s will that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Period.

It is time to heal. The demonization needs to end. We are all Americans. It’s time to expect a government focused on serving its people, not seeking political gain for one party.

Today, let’s try to do a traditional Christian mindfulness exercise … Loving-Kindness meditation … focused on those who voted for the other side in the presidential election. Here’s how:

  1. Quiet your mind and invite God’s presence.
  2. Think about yourself. Say: May I be healthy. May I know God’s comfort. May I feel God’s love. May I live in God’s peace.
  3. Think about someone you love. Repeat phrases for them. May they be healthy. May they know God’s comfort. May they feel God’s love. May they live in God’s peace.
  4. Think about people you know who are in the opposite political party. Repeat for them: May they be healthy. May they know God’s comfort. May they feel God’s love. May they live in God’s peace.
  5. Think about the presidential ticket you did not vote for. Repeat: May they be healthy. May they know God’s comfort. May they feel God’s love. May they live in God’s peace.

Let’s do this often until the hatred for opponents has left our hearts.

three garlic bulbs

Learn from the Spring Bulbs

The weather is glorious this weekend in my Midwestern city. It’s a perfect time to plant spring bulbs. Plant mindfully, welcoming God’s presence. We just may learn two lessons that these bulbs provide.

  1. Christian life is all about delayed gratification. The bulbs will be working invisibly for a while. But the end game is beautiful.
  2. You will get signs of hope as a new season begins. The green tops of the bulbs peeking through the dirt … what can be more hopeful than that.

You can plant bulbs no matter where you live. Inside, if necessary. I do hyacinths indoors. The front garden is tulips and daffodils. Just enjoy the beautiful weather.

Hand holding a camera lens

Christian Mindfulness in Just Seven Words

Reading the devotional “Jesus Always” by Sarah Young this morning gave me the easiest way yet to explain Christian mindfulness.

It’s just seven words: Focus on God’s presence in the present.

Today is the fifth day of counting the 2020 election results. I am going weary of checking the AP news app and scrolling my Twitter list of news professionals.

So it was a great day for the Lord to remind us to focus on His presence in the present moment. The presence of God is how Christian mindfulness differs from other forms of mindfulness practice.

As Sarah notes in her subtitle, God brings us joy and purpose … even on days when we are playing a waiting game.

Try This: Vary Your Talks With God

Mindful Christianity is continual prayer. As we invite God to walk with us, we talk with the Trinity.

Today’s practice invites us to intentionally focus on an element of prayer in that ongoing conversation. The seven elements of prayer that Jesus taught are:

Adoration – Acknowledging who God and responding to that reality with praise and worship.

Confession – Talking about the times that you have sinned and fallen short of doing God’s will, as well as the areas in your life where that happens repeatedly and often.

Renewal – Asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and God’s power in your life.

Petition – Asking God for help in specific situations.

Intercession – Asking God for help with specific people.

Thanksgiving – Expressing your gratitude for all God has done for you and your family.

We can keep this list of conversation starters with God in our phones. Since there are seven elements, we could concentrate on expanding one of them each day. Or we can look at the list when we feel tapped out in continual prayer.

Let me know how this works for you.

Prayer from the Darkness

A wonderful prayer from Sister Eleanor Bernstein’s Praying Our Lives may be appropriate for today’s uncertainty and fear.

My God, I have no words to name the pain within me.
A deep darkness drenches my soul.
No light. No hope. No out.
From my mother's womb, O God, you know me.
Be with me; mend, make whole again my torn and broken spirit.
Lift me up, that this cross of suffering
may become for me the tree of life,
that sacred Tree whose outstretched arms embrace me
and draw me to your heart.
Even in this pain, may I find your blessing. Amen. 

Try This: An Instant Smile Collection

Now, more than ever NOW, we need an Instant Smile on our phones.

So record the laughter of a favorite child or adult. Or take a video of your pet purring or playing happily. Put pictures that you especially love of Jesus and/or spiritual mentors, living or dead, on your phone.

Make a Pinterest file of things that make you laugh. You can see my Instant Smiles collection here.

Having these tools ready helps us when we feel darkness coming on. The Instant Smile collection allows us to Stop, Take a Breath, Observe your collection, and Pray and Proceed. This way we center ourselves into Christian mindfulness.

Being Loving, Election Version

Today is an important day in the United States. And the voter turnout shows that most Americans know that.

Two presidential candidates we see so differently. An election that we all agree on: it’s critically important, and it will be a travesty if the other side wins.

Nevertheless, nothing is the end of the world except the end of the world. Our duty is to behave with Christian mindfulness, inviting the presence of Jesus into our personal walk, living one moment at a time in his love.

The Bible is quite specific about our behavior regarding government leadership. We pray for those people so we can be more likely to lead peaceful lives. Even Nero, who was the emperor of Rome when Paul wrote those words in 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Being loving is not an option for Christians during this or any time. We need to be loving and respectful of everyone’s opinions. Whoever wins, we must, under the orders of God, pray for that person.

As we wait to see the results, we need to be loving as well. Tonight and in the uncertain period ahead, be loving toward yourself to be sure that you have the ability to convey God’s love to others.

The reputation of Jesus has been severely damaged in politics, now and in the past. We must pray for the graces necessary to embody the spirit of Jesus in the world … at home, with friends (Zoom or otherwise) and in our work.

burial cemetery countryside cross

Remember the Souls You Love

Today is All Soul’s Day. Along with yesterday, All Saint’s Day, this is the traditional time for Christians to visit the graves of family members and close friends.

The graves of my parents, my sister-in-law and my step-son are within a 10-minute walk from my front door. Is it creepy living next to a cemetery filled with loved ones? Since I will end up there, too, it’s actually comforting. (And we are blessed to have the city’s botanical garden on the other side.)

All Souls Day is a time especially for those who lost a loved one this year. Should that be you, this is a beautiful sermon about grieving from my pastor, Julia Pickerill:

Whether you can visit a cemetery or not, here’s a prayer for All Saints Day:

Lord God,
whose days are without end
and whose mercies beyond counting,
keep us mindful 
that life is short and the hour of death unknown.
Let your Spirit guide our days on earth
in the ways of holiness and justice,
that we may serve you
in union with the whole Church,
sure in faith, strong in hope, perfected in love.
And when our earthly journey is ended,
lead us rejoicing into your kingdom,
where you live for ever and ever.
Eternal rest grant unto our loved ones, oh Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Amen

You Have Forever. Literally.

A thought jumped up at me this week: I’m already living an eternal life.

What does that mean? Do I have to try to pack as much as possible into each day? Do I need to hurry through tasks and then worry that I did something wrong?

I think not. Jesus lived what is famously called a “three-mile-an-hour” life because he walked everywhere. Were he in the 21st century, would he be screaming around in a car at 70 miles-per-hour while texting to explain why he’s late?

Today we switch from Daylight Savings Time in the United States. We literally get another hour in the day. And it feels good.

We have more time than we believe. We are living an eternal life with a God of grace at the wheel. Let’s slow down.

Try This: A Prayer Over Coffee

Stream rising from our coffee or tea is a great opportunity to lift others in prayer.

The late Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, writing in Seasons of Your Heart, said she used the first 15 minutes of her day to sip a hot drink and pray for “all my favorite strangers.”

She named friends, associates and acquaintances. But she also allowed the Lord to take over the list. Sometime God would prompt her with names of strangers and others she knew. Even faces whose names she didn’t know, like someone from the grocery store, the airport or the streets.

Lifting these faces up in the morning was a great start to her day. Others have used the nighttime when the bedside lamp is off to review the day and lift up everyone they met. Both are lovely habits.

beach wave

Try This: Surf Your Anxiety

When anxiety and fear arise, try to surf them. Feel them, but also release them to God.

The best way to release is to do something simple that no one else can notice. Try taking three deep breathes and crying out (internally … not out loud) to God. Then settle into the present.

This is an exercise you can do as often as needed. Start to feel the swelling of fear or anxiety? Do it. Start to feel a growing wave of worry? Do it.

Breathing mindfully and calling on the Lord’s assistance helps us to surf those distressing emotions. As they swell up, we ride atop them. As they crash to the surf, we can release them.

We can ask the Lord to give us peace, love or joy. Or we can just ask for help. Give it a try!

Try This: Walk With Francis of Assisi

In his book “Renew Your Life,” pastor Kai Mark Nilsen suggests a wonderful Christian mindfulness exercise based on the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

The prayer goes:

Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love. 
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

For it is in giving that we receiving.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

Nilsen suggests taking a verse a day and using it to apply to your behavior in your relationships. How can you sow light in the darkness with the people you meet today? How can you sow hope?

Additional resources are recommended here.

For God So Loved the World

I saw the One who is sitting on the throne, holding to his breast what looked like a lump of black and filthy clay as big as a human heart, decorated with precious stones and pearls.

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen was a Renaissance woman in the 12th century. Such a thing was hardly possible. But she did it.

An aristocrat and an abbess. A composer and an author. She wrote “A Book of Simple Medicine” as well as four books on animals, three books on gems and metals, and two books on plants and trees.

She also saw visions that she wrote down. Centuries later, she was named a doctor of the church for her contributions to the understanding of theology.

This particular vision shows God the father clutching a filthy piece of clay that represents all of us. We all know what the filth is. It’s all our terrible decisions and selfishness. The pearls and gems are the souls that Jesus reclaimed.

When you are struggling over a loved one whose is lost, remember that God is clutching them tight to his chest.

A movie about Hildegard is available on Amazon Prime for free here.

stop sign

Try This: STOP

It’s easy to adapt a common practice in secular mindfulness — the STOP practice — for Christian mindfulness. You really only need to change one aspect … the P … adding a process that also starts with P.

Here we go:

S for Stop what you are doing, saying or thinking.

T for Take a deep breath. Or three.

O for Observe what is happening. Inside and out.

P for Pray for direction and Proceed with a kind heart.

The STOP practice is basic as it allows you to return mindfully to the present moment and seek the presence of God there. For you are a reactor by nature, STOP will help you to respond thoughtfully and in alignment with God’s will.

For more information about how Christian mindfulness exercises are different, click here.

Try This: A Mindful Fall Festival

The concept of a Halloween mask is a little different this year! But outdoor fall festivals are continuing with social distancing in many areas.

Explore a fall festival in your town in a mindful Christian manner. Praise God for the nature around you. The good ideas He had, like autumn leaves and weird gourds and spiders.

Enjoying a Christian mindfulness moment at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus

Pay attention to the sounds and the smells. Enjoy the little kids who are experiencing it all with a natural beginner’s mind.

Wherever we go, we can bring our Christian mindfulness. We can enjoy the presence of God even amid spooky lights.

Try This: An At-Home Retreat

It’s been more than a year since I took a retreat away from home. Lots of us miss the silence, the prayers and the feeling of being cocooned in God’s love.

The spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are the framework for many retreats. At least two books offer an “at-home” version that would allow you to enjoy a retreat in safety.

“Journey with Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius” by Larry Warner is the newest, published in 2010. It comes from a Protestant perspective. No matter our stage of faith or age, this one helps us experience Jesus. Warner even includes a part in the beginning that asks “Is this book for you?” Some of those indicators include:

  • Do you have a strong desire to know Jesus more intimately, love him more fully and follow him more wholeheartedly?
  • Do you want to live with an internal awareness that God is in you as you live, move and have your being, and to find God in all things?
  • Are you willing to follow Jesus in good times and bad?
  • Are you open to having your theology and image of Jesus challenged and expanded?

Warner’s retreat includes daily exercises for at least four weeks. He also suggests that you have a spiritual director. Many are doing Zoom meetings in the pandemic. So you can find one by asking your church leaders or searching online by typing spiritual direction and your town. Be sure the director shares your faith.

The second choice is a classic: “A Do-It-at-Home Retreat: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola” by Andre Ravier, S.J. First published in 1989, the book has been republished regularly, so the cover may look different. The four-week daily retreat comes from a Catholic perspective, containing background on prayer types.

At the time he wrote this, Fr. Ravier had been conducting retreats for more than 30 years. He designed the book for “those who want to sincerely place themselves face-to-face with God so as to order their lives along his loving designs.”

We can use the time at home as fall deepens to deepen our own spirituality. Try a retreat!

Five Ideas from Teresa of Avila

I’ve learned a great deal from Teresa of Avila, a woman of courage, wit and wisdom. She reformed the Carmelite order and became the first woman to be named a doctor of the church for her wisdom.

In her day, Teresa’s wisdom was doubted so much that she was called before the Inquisition. Her life was based on a intimate relationship with God walked out in mindfulness.

Here’s five things that Teresa has taught me. I’ve read her writings, but find much wisdom coming from “Let Nothing Disturb You: A Journey to the Center of the Soul with Teresa of Avila.” It’s from Ave Maria Press’ excellent 30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher series.

  1. Let us not forget to whom and in whose presence we are praying. If we were to live a thousand years, we would never fully understand how we ought to behave toward God. In God’s presence even the angels tremble — they who can do all that God wills.
  2. Trials are heaviest for those my Father loves the most. Trials are a measure of God’s love.
  3. Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of our soul. However keen our intellect may be, we are no more able to comprehend the depths of our soul than we are able to comprehend God, for our soul has been created in the image and likeness of God.
  4. If God is pleased with you, whoever resists you — whoever they may be — will be utterly disappointed.
  5. The whole foundation of prayer is humility. The more we humble ourselves in prayer, the most God will lift us up.
hispanic woman in prayer

Resource: Richard Foster’s Prayer

The best book I’ve ever read about prayer is “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home” by Richard Foster.

Similar in structure to his “Celebration of Discipline,” Foster divides the types of prayers into three categories:

  • Moving inward: Seeking the transformation we need. This includes the prayer of the forsaken, examen, the prayer of tears and formation prayer.
  • Moving upward: Seeking the intimacy we need. It covers the prayer of adoration, prayer of rest, sacramental prayer, unceasing prayer and contemplative prayer.
  • Moving outward: Seeking the ministry we need. Prayers include intercession, petitions, healing prayer and the prayer of suffering.

I’m not alone in treasuring this book, which proves that our prayer lives can always grow. The book won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book Award. It’s rated 4.6 stars on Amazon.

It’s a book to use as a resource, to ponder, to experiment with. More resources to help in your Christian mindfulness journey are found here.

Pray for Native Americans

As the United States considers the need for restitution for peoples who have been mistreated, I hope we provide support for the native Americans. I was actually on the Seneca reservation yesterday. I pray that the native Americans will not have to use our nation’s craving for cheap cigarettes and gambling to support themselves in America’s future.

I pray that we can help them with infrastructure to lift the nations out of poverty so they can live the lives they choose with dignity. I pray we will help with health care and education. We have a terrible track record for violating agreements and treating them as less than human. I pray for change.

I’d also like to offer a native American prayer for meditation today.

Great Spirit Prayer

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind,
Whose breath gives life to all the world.
Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever
behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have
made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in
the face of all that comes towards me.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.

Help me seek pure thoughts and act
with the intention of helping others.
Help me find compassion without
empathy overwhelming me.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy Myself.

Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.

Resource: Celebration of Discipline

“Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth” by Richard Foster is an essential guidebook for expanding the practice of Christian mindfulness.

Christianity Today lists the book, first published in 1978, as one of the 10 best from the 20th century. Foster has regularly updated it. The book, which has a 4.7-star review on Amazon and 4.2 on Goodreads, has sold more than 1 million copies.

Foster explores the classic spiritual practices, or disciplines. He divides them into three groups: inward, outward and corporate. Disciplines covered are:

  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Study
  • Simplicity
  • Solitude
  • Submission
  • Service
  • Confession
  • Worship
  • Guidance
  • Celebration

Each chapter provides many examples and Biblical references. It is a book to chew over, many times, as we decide what practice we would like to focus on this time in our growth.

As Eugene H. Peterson, author of “The Message,” writes: Spiritual disciplines “are, as he (Foster) shows us, the instruments of joy, the way into mature Christian spirituality and abundant life.”

Keep a copy in your Christian mindfulness reference library, and enjoy!

For reviews of other resources, click here.

Try This: Carry a Reminder

Christian mindfulness is a practice, not a perfect. One way to remind yourself to be mindful of the presence of Jesus is to literally have keepsakes displayed where we work most often or in our pockets.

The reminders can be simple and free, as Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel remind us in their free pdf “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence.”

Where are you most often during the day? In front of the computer? In your kitchen? Place a reminder there.

What coat or jacket are you starting to wear this fall? Put a reminder in the pocket.

Reminders can be small and easy to carry:

  • A stone to remind us that Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives.
  • A nail to remind us that Jesus died for us.
  • A feather to remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

These same reminders can go in the space where we work. Or we can place larger items. I see a wooden cross from Jerusalem given to me 35 years ago when working in the kitchen. I’ve placed on my computer monitor a “pray continually” car visor clip.

Take a moment to pick out a reminder. We may need to change it seasonally if we get so used to it that we don’t notice them any more.

More information on how Christian mindfulness exercises are different is here.

How to Bless Your Pets

Blessing pets is part of October 4’s usual celebration of St. Francis of Assisi. You can do it at home wherever you can bring the pets together. Here is the Blessing of the Animals:

Leader: Wonderful are all God’s works. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

All: Now and forever.

Leader: The animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth and the sea. They share in the ways of human beings. They are part of our lives. Francis of Assist recognized this when he called the animals, wild and tame, his brothers and sisters. Remembering Francis’ love for these brothers and sisters of ours, we invoke God’s blessing on these animals, and we thank God for letting us share the earth with all creatures.

All: Have a time of silence, and then offer specific prayers for the pets and for all creatures. Then all say the Lord’s Prayer.

All: Place hands on the animals in blessing.

Leader: O God, you have done all things wisely. In your goodness you have made us in your image and given us care over other living things. In the prayer of Albert Schweitzer, O Heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath. Guard them for all evil, and let them sleep in peace. Amen

Try This: Find Your Prayer Closet

Pre-pandemic, many of us worked in offices. Even if you had an office with a door, you had little privacy. The “open door” policy, thin walls, cubicle hell, email, texts and phone calls result in frequent interruptions.

If you are working from home, the interruptions continue. They even get more complicated … if your new officemates are animals and/or small children.

Today, take the time to find yourself a prayer closet in your work space. Find a place where you can be alone for just five minutes of prayer. I have used a bathroom on the deserted floor below my office, a walkway outside the building, and a rarely visited storage area. Prayer closets at home could be a bathroom or the basement.

Then when you need five minutes with the Lord, you know where to go.

Resource: Lectio 365 app

I’m loving Lectio 365, a devotional app from the 24-7 Prayer movement that helps you pray the Bible daily. I’m so impressed that I’ve revised my daily prayer schedule, using Lectio 365 in place of another loved resource.

The 24-7 Prayer movement started in the United Kingdom in 1999. Now it is an international, interdenominational movement for prayer, mission and justice. More than 2 million people in 10,000 prayer groups in more than half the Earth’s countries work together to offer continual prayer.

This app is based on Lectio Divina. The video below is a good overview of that practice.

The devotions also incorporate the six core values of the 24-7 Prayer movement: prayer, mission, justice, creativity, hospitality and learning. It also takes the church’s seasons, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter into account.

The app offers your choice of text and audio for the daily prayer. It follows the group’s P.R.A.Y. process:

  • Pause to be still
  • Rejoice with a Psalm and Reflect on Scripture.
  • Ask for God’s help.
  • Yield to His will in your life.

The app is available in the Apple and Android app stores. I found it after listening to the Renovare podcast interview with 24-7 Prayer founder Pete Greig and US Director Lisa Koons. It’s worth a listen as well.

For other recommended apps, websites and books, click here.

Thank Your Archangels

September 29 is the traditional day to celebrate the work of the archangels, especially the ones we know by name. Raphael, Michael and Gabriel were heavenly beings sent to do important tasks on Earth, as reported in the Bible and the Book of Tobit, an apocryphal text from the Hebrew Bible.

Archangel means a high ranking angel. Only Michael, in Jude 9, is called an archangel. Yet the tasks assigned to Raphael and Gabriel have caused Christians to classify them as archangels as well.

Today, let’s take some time to thank them for all they have done for us, known and unknown. Some of the known acts are:

  • Michael is the great guardian angel of the Jewish people and Israel. (Daniel 10: 13, Daniel 12:1) He does battle against the spiritual forces fighting against Israel. Michael fought with Satan over the body of Moses. (Jude 9) The Book of Revelation also tells the story of how Michael and his angels fought Satan and his forces in Heaven and cast them out. Michael’s name means “Who is like God?”
  • Gabriel delivers important messages to those who God favors. He was sent twice to see Daniel to help him understand a vision and to give him a prophecy (Daniel 18:16, Daniel 19). But he best known for his role in the coming of Jesus. He was God’s messenger to tell Zechariah about the upcoming birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1: 13-19). And he asked Mary for her agreement to become the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Gabriel’s name means “God is my defender.”
  • Raphael has a central role in the apocryphal Book of Tobit. He was sent to accompany Tobias in his effort to find a way to cure his father’s blindness. In this book, Raphael says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.” Raphael’s name means “God heals.”

In Grief for the World

Today let’s meditate on quotes from two Georgians, both Christians who have truly lived their faith, about the state of the world.

We must be really grieved that things are as they are. Those people are not real mourners who say, “Sure, the world’s in a mess, and I guess maybe I’m a bit guilty like everybody else, but what can I do about it?” What they’re really saying is that they are not concerned enough about themselves or the world to look for anything to do. The kingdom citizen is different. He’s sick, and he knows it, but he wants to get well.

Clarence Jordan

My faith demands — this is not optional — my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have, to try to make a difference.

Jimmy Carter

A Prayer for Unity

Awaken us to the Oneness of all things, to the beauty and truth of Unity. May we become aware of the interdependence of all living things, and come to know You in everything, and all things in You. For as we attune to your Presence within us, we know not separation, and joy becomes our dwelling place.

Excerpted from Psalm 106, Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying

Try This: Secret Kindness

This week, do some random acts of kindness in secret. Here’s some ideas:

  • Do someone else’s chore at home.
  • Pick up trash.
  • Make an anonymous donation to a good cause.
  • Leave a positive review for a podcast or small business you like.
  • Leave change in a vending machine.
  • Pay for the coffee or fast food meal of the person behind you in line.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in a store line.
  • Pay a stranger a compliment.

Resource: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Joanna Weaver published “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding God in the Busyness of Life” in 2000, which seems long ago. Yet, her quiet voice on the page is timeless … one of the most influential I’ve heard in my Christian mindfulness walk.

“Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” remains one of the most re-readable books for women on releasing anxiety and slowing down to sit at Jesus’ feet. She writes:

Jesus’ words to Martha are the words he wants to speak to your heart and mine: “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” That “one thing” is not found in doing more. It’s found in sitting by his feet.

Throughout the book, Joanna shows that Jesus wants us to choose the one thing: “a joyful life of intimacy with him that flows naturally into loving service.” For women who feel that they are not enough, it is a soothing balm.

On Goodreads, the book has a rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars with nearly 16,000 reviews. The copy of the book I have includes a study guide for individual or group use. To taste the tone of the book, here’s another gift: a version of Psalm 23 from Japan.

The Lord is my pace setter … I shall not rush.

He makes me stop for quiet intervals.

He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity.

He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here.

His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance.

He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility.

My cup of joyous energy overflows.

Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of the Lord and dwell in his house forever.

Additional resources for Christian mindfulness are listed here.

Living With Sorrow

Today is the day devoted to remembering how difficult the life of the Virgin Mary was. She is Our Lady of Sorrows.

Many mothers and fathers can relate. Although she was quick to accept God’s will for her life, that doesn’t mean it was easy to live.

She gave birth in a place meant for livestock. She was a refugee fleeing to save her baby’s life. She dealt with gossip, poverty, life in an occupied country, and the death of her husband. She watched her son be tortured and executed. And there’s all the everyday trouble that we don’t know about.

Finally, in the last glimpse of her in the Bible, Mary is praying to prepare the infant church to live without a visible Jesus.

Today I consider my life as a mother, which has had an abundance of sorrow. That can be seen as a blessing because it has led to two things: an abundance of prayer and an appreciation of the good times. Today is a good day to do something hard … thank God for all of it, even the awful parts.

hand on grateful heart

Begin With a Thankful Spirit

Begin each day with a thankful spirit until it becomes a way of life. Start by focusing on the simple, the mundane … the air we breathe, the ability to serve others, the privilege of thinking about God. It is this spirit that raises us to live on a level above our circumstances rather than under them.

Darien Cooper, “The Beauty of Beholding God”
woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography

Try This: How Are You Like Those You Dislike?

This is a time when many Christians are appalled at others … including other Christians. Politics has overcome many of us. This Christian mindfulness exercise can help us to regain love and compassion for others.

Think of a person who you don’t like. If you are up for it, make it someone whose opinions you find obnoxious or worse. Put this person in your mind while you open with prayer and then meditate on these things:

  • This person is a human with a mind, heart and body, just as I am.
  • God loves this person, like He loves me.
  • Jesus died for this person, just like me.
  • This person has a history that I do not completely know.
  • This person has thoughts and feelings like me.
  • This person has gone through difficulties and hurts, just as I have.
  • This person is not always wrong, just as I am not always right.

Then pray for this person: for their relationship with God, for their health, for their happiness.

I developed this idea based on the Just Like Me exercise in “The Mindful Day” by Laurie J. Cameron. She considers thinking well of others as one of the central practices of mindfulness. If that is true of secular mindfulness, think how much more true it is of Christian mindfulness.

Resource: Jesus Calling

“Jesus Calling” and the other works of Sarah Young are among the most useful resources I have.

We use readings from these books as devotionals for our support groups, where we serve individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness and their families.

I also use the books as part of my daily prayer round in lectio divina. I read the passage, pause to ponder it, pray parts of it out loud and then meditate on it. I rotate using Jesus Calling, Dear Jesus, Jesus Always, Jesus Today and Jesus Lives. The Jesus Calling app is one of the most used items on my phone.

Sarah Young began to write her books of devotions based on her own daily quiet time, which includes journaling. The retired Presbyterian missionary has an extraordinary ability to help people connect to the Biblical truths in a warm and loving manner.

More than 30 million of her books have been sold. Although she is biblically conservative in her faith and reformed in her doctrine, I’ve never met a Christian … liberal or conservative … who objects to her work. It is so Bible-based as to be universal.

Please enjoy some time with the Lord under her guidance.

Other resources that are useful to me are located here.

virgin mary and jesus christ photo

Happy 2030th Birthday, Mary

At least that’s the best guess. Today is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of the Virgin Mary. So guessing that Jesus was born on 4 AD, and Mary was 14 at the time … I got my guess at her age today.

Celebrating mindfully today, I do a reading about Mary’s life and put flowers in front of her statue. I also talk to her.

“Praying” to Mary is controversial to say the least at my church. But I feel strongly that the Lord suggested I do so when I was a young teenager.

My parents didn’t support my deep interest in faith, and my mother forbid my request to go see what a Catholic church was like. That’s when I got the feeling that Mary was going to be a lifelong friend, as she has turned out to be.

On this birthday, I try to think of a good gift for Mary. Being kind to everyone I meet today is that choice. Of course, she’d like this to become a permanent habit. I see her point.

Gifts of the Pandemic

My Christian mindfulness practice for Labor Day includes thinking back on the summer past. We make a list of things that we didn’t get to do. Then we file it away to review the next Memorial Day, so we can make sure we get it on our next summer schedule. And we thank God for the fun we had.

This year, the list of what we missed …. let’s just say it would be way too long to file!!!

So instead, let’s make a list about the blessings of the pandemic summer of 2020. Gratitude is always a part of the Christian mindfulness journey. What can we be thankful for? Here’s some of my blessings:

  • The whole family is still healthy.
  • I got to take several interesting classes online for minimal money.
  • I went to conferences and events online that would have been too expensive to attend in normal times.
  • We didn’t have to go out in the heat to drive to meetings. It was just an air-conditioned walk to the den for Zoom.
  • I saved all my travel money, which I can use as a backup for even better vacations.
  • I spent even more time in contemplative prayer and spiritual reading, which brought me closer to the Lord.
  • We watched several acclaimed TV shows from the 90s and early 00s that we were once too busy to view.
  • My husband learned to bake! And he likes it.

And so on. Feel welcome to tell me about the things on your pandemic gift list.

A September Filled With Mindfulness

A photo of grilled food and picnic sides appeared on a magazine cover under the headline: Homegating. Tailgating at home? Welcome to the fall of 2020.

The cancellation of some favorite outdoor activities … hayrides, bonfires and tailgating to name a few … offers opportunity to enjoy this autumn mindfully … without rushing.

The apple orchard, the pumpkin patch and the fall leaves still beckon. But we can choose not to pack up the family and rush out every weekend.

This fall, let’s make a commitment to be mindful of God’s beauty around us. We can do things in the neighborhood that bring joy without additional pressure and stress.

Here’s some of them:

  • Meditate and pray outdoors.
  • Walk when you can
  • Read outdoors.
  • Picnic at the park or eat outdoors on your porch or deck.
  • Go to a nearby park to look at the leaves changing.
  • Take the kids on a Stop, Look and Listen walk.
  • Encourage traditional outdoor games: hopscotch, jump rope and four square.

The fall of 2020 could be the best autumn we’ve ever had.

The Antidote to Worry? Celebration

In “Celebration of Discipline,” Richard Foster points out that Jesus was all about joy. From the beginning … “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). To the end … “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you.” (John 15:11).

I went back to his book after I heard Foster on the Renovare podcast, hosted by his son Nathan Foster, talk about the discipline of celebration as an antidote to worry. Because celebration comes from a release of any anxiety, intentionally celebrating can fight off worry.

As we enter the seventh month of the pandemic, worry grows. Lost jobs. Health fears. Kids schooling at home. Isolation from friends and loved ones. When will it end?

Although Foster’s podcast was recorded well before the pandemic, I think his idea of focusing on celebration is sound. After all, as David wrote, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

One way to increase your joy is to pray for it. Specifically, I pray on Monday for the Holy Spirit to give me the fruit of joy. It’s part of the GIFT list mindfulness practice.

Other ways to add celebration to our lives include:

  • Play and sing praise songs. Many feel sad, missing the music in church. Break through by adding praise music to your daily prayer routine.
  • Celebrate everything. Dozens of fun days are on the calendar. Make the most of them. Enjoy the coming autumn with caramel apples, pumpkins, apple cider, etc.
  • See the Lord in the nature around you. Did you know that the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn tree leaves are their actual colors without chlorophyll? Only our ultimate Creative Director could think of that.
  • If you haven’t laughed hard at least once by 7 p.m., watch or read something funny.

Update: What’s on Your Mind?

A frequent Christian mindfulness practice involves monitoring your thinking. Now and again, you stop to see what you are concentrating on. Or you realize that you are thinking about how the Sopranos ended. And you know that God prefers for you to think about something better.

I previously covered this in the post What to Think. Let’s do an update. Are we using Philippians 4:8 as a yardstick to measure our thought life. The verse says:

This week, let’s return to this verse when we are in a bad mood, when we want to complain and when we are waiting. These are trigger times for negative or unproductive thinking. Let me know how it’s going for you.

Try This: A 10-Minute Silent Retreat

Silent retreats are the bomb. I took a four-night silent retreat at the Abbey at Gethsemani in Kentucky last year. Afterwards, I promised myself I would do it twice a year.

Well … then came COVID-19. For many of us who have been spending an exceptional amount of time with family for months, a silent retreat sounds like the impossible dream.

So try silence in small bits. Go to a room or outdoor space where you can be alone. No kids, no spouses, no pets. Sit in silence and check in for 10 minutes. Are you anxious? Tired? Feeling pushed or rushed?

Let the silence flow over you. Feel the presence of Jesus in that silence. He loves you. He understands.

This can be a regular practice to restart the day whenever you need it. See how it feels today.

Try It: Notice Your Need for Control

The COVID pandemic has been a great teacher. I’ve learned a lot about the size of my need for control. How many times have you thought about doing something … only to realize, “No, I can’t do that.”

I can’t see my granddaughter. I can’t see my mother-in-law who is in Memory Care. I can’t go to New York. I can’t take that vacation to San Diego I’ve planned for months. Dozens of projects and wishes are all gone in a sea of “can’ts.”

This actually can be good conditioning for spiritual formation, the process in which God forms us into our best selves. The process also can be, in the words of Billy Joel, “a constant battle for the ultimate state of control.”

In “Invitation to a Journey,” M. Robert Mulholland Jr. wrote that the United States is “a do-it-yourself culture.” We are trained to use the world’s objects and people to shape the world for our own purposes.

This week, let’s mindfully watch ourselves in the area of control. As Mulholland puts it: “If you do not believe that control is a major issue in your life, study the ways you respond when something or someone disrupts your plans for the day.”

The only way to transform ourselves is to let God take the helm. Let’s take note of how hard we fight it.

Update: COVID Media Fast

So … is the pandemic over???? I wouldn’t know. I have been fasting from news about COVID-19 for a week.

I am surprised at how much better I feel. I’m lighter somehow. Of course, I’ve been continuing to take all my precautions. Masks, hand sanitizer, hand washing, isolation unless necessary.

The pandemic has been invading my dreams and creating a pervasive dis-ease for months. Once I found out that my state’s people were no longer unwelcome in New York … where my daughter’s family lives … I thought the media fast would help.

I highly recommend it to you. A week without distressing news feels like a vacation.

Try This: COVID Media Fast

We’ve had five months or more of COVID-19 pandemic news. Let’s try to step away from it for one week. The pandemic has increased anxiety and disturbed our sleep for too long. We can take a break from the onslaught, while continuing to be safe and thoughtful of others.

This Christian mindfulness exercise has us deliberately reduce our media intake about COVID-19 and its impact. Here’s how:

  1. Consider where you are getting your COVID information. This includes: news media (online and offline), email alerts, social media, podcasts, television and magazines.
  2. Think about where you feel bombarded by information or opinion about the pandemic. What upsets you the most?
  3. Fast from it for a week. You can entirely cut off the source or use it only for specific times, days or amounts of time. You also could refuse to read or listen to COVID information and opinion.
  4. During times when you would ordinarily be consuming the media, pray instead. See if we can discover more about how God wants us to behave during this time.

Give your mind protection from the panic. I pray this will take the weight of the world off our shoulders. How do you think you will feel if you can take an information vacation from the pandemic?

Anchored by Priorities

One piece of wise advice I’ve received came from a home management book: “Desperate Households” by Kathy Peel. She wrote:

Part of responding to the unexpected is learning to see situations for what they are, not what we imagine them to be.

You could stop and ask God for patience, wisdom and the ability to remain calm and not say anything you’ll regret later. We do ourselves and our families a favor when we’re anchored by our priorities and are able to wisely and calmly meet the inevitable crises we face day in and out.

Kathy Peel

Try This: Visualize Dying With Jesus

An excellent description of Christian mindfulness is found in Acts 17:28: “for in him we live and move and have our being.” Step by step, hour by hour, we walk with Jesus intentionally, paying single-minded attention to every moment.

An exercise suggested in the Life Without Lack course I’m taking helps us move into this way of being.

Visualize being crucified with Jesus. Sound weird? Yes, but it’s Biblical.

  • Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  • Colossians 3:3: For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
  • Romans 6:6-7: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

So let’s take a quiet moment to visualize ourselves crucified with Jesus. This is a good start to dying to self and waking to walk in Christian mindfulness.

Remember Nagasaki

Today is the 75th anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

The event took place a few days after we dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. So it’s probable that the U.S. government knew at least a little about the death and devastation it would cause.

Mahatma Gandhi said at the time that these bombs would make peace a necessity. Peace has not come.

And, as the World War II generation around the world dies off, actual memories about the two actual uses of atomic bombs die, too. It’s more important than ever to learn about these events so we do not duplicate them.

Christian mindfulness calls for prayer and fasting today as a way to express sorrow over the deaths of these two cities and a combined 226,000 civilians. We as Americans in particular have an obligation to be responsible for making a more peaceful world.

Here is a prayer of lament and repentance for Nagasaki:

Above the clamor of our violence, your word of truth resounds, O God of majesty and power. Over nations enshrouded in despair, your justice dawns.

Grant your household a discerning spirit and a watchful eye to perceive the hour in which we live. Hasten the advent of that Day when the weapons of war shall be banished, our deeds of darkness cast off, and all your scattered children gathered into one.

We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near: your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

“Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers”

Look for Divine Appointments

Today’s Christian mindfulness practice calls for 24 hours of attention. We are looking for “divine appointments,” things that God is calling us to do even though they are not on our calendars.

It’s true. The most important thing that Jesus wants you to do today may come entirely out of the blue. An unexpected phone call. A nudge to reach out about something. A whisper to pray for someone. An opportunity to be loving, especially if no one else is looking.

It’s hard to look for divine appointments when we are relentlessly charging through our to-do lists. Make time today to quiet yourself and ask God what He has planned. You may get a very nice surprise!

pencil erasing item on calendar

When Our Calendars Are Cancelled

My sister bought me a perpetual calendar called “Meditations for the Busy Woman” by Jan Silvious in 1994. I still use it, although 2020 is the least busy year I’ve had ever.

Deletions, erasure marks and black scratches are all over many of our calendars these days. Today’s message on the perpetual calendar seems very timely.

Unrest in the Nest

Our God is honor-bound to make even the tearing up of our nests, the unraveling of our homes and dreams, the canceling of our plans and appointments, to work together for our good. Remember that today as you struggle with a nest that feels shaky beneath your feet.

Jan Silvious

Waiting on the Lord

Is it easy to practice Christian mindfulness while standing in a line? No. Yet it may be harder to practice waiting on the Lord.

The contemplative practice asks us to remain prayerful in God’s presence while we wait patiently for direction or answered prayer. This practice is all over the Psalms, especially in Psalm 27 written by David.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

David

Today let us quiet our minds. Let us listen for the Lord’s direction via Scripture and prayer. I always find that synchronicity is a sign. If I hear, read and see the same verse or holy thought again and again, I know the Lord is knocking on the door.

Wait! Wait! Just Be There

Today’s version of waiting in line usually requires standing six feet away from the people in front of you. This makes lines seem longer, although we know they are just spaced out. This Christian mindfulness exercise helps us bring some space and calmness to our wait. We might even enjoy it.

Whenever we are waiting — in a line, in a car, in front of a computer screen — practice Christian mindfulness. Speak to the Lord and seek His presence. The Holy Spirit is standing in line with you, after all.

Notice what is around you. Who is there? Can you offer up a prayer from them? What do you hear and smell? Is there a cashier or service person who needs a word of encouragement when you get to the front of the line? wai

journal and coffee cup during journaling exercise

Reflect on These Questions

This Christian mindfulness practice came from someone else, but I have no idea who. That person created a list of profound questions for daily reflection or examen. Although I neglected to note the author back then, I’ve found answering these questions bring lots of insight.

  • Where in this day did I feel the presence of God working in my life and in the world?
  • What in this day seemed like it was a part of my leading?
  • What made me believe that?
  • How does that leading fit into my personal and spiritual life?
  • What did I do today to feed my spirit or move me ahead on my spiritual journey?

Let’s try using these questions for discernment in quiet time. They are also great for journaling.

Other good morning exercises are here.

praise god for the sun

Thank God for the Sun

This Christian mindfulness practice brings attention to something we take for granted. Yet it is essential for our life on Earth. The Sun.

Today, when you see the sun (which can be iffy where I live), thank God for this special star for all these reasons and more:

  • It creates the wind.
  • It causes evaporation, which become rain and snow.
  • It creates tides with the moon’s help.
  • It allows for the seasons.
  • It is responsible for colors.
  • Its light and heat allow life on Earth.

The sun may be just a middling-size star out of 200 million in our galaxy. But God created it just for us. Let’s be thankful.

Jesus, Mary and Martha

Advice to Martha

Today is the memorial for Martha of Bethany. She’s the woman best known for asking Jesus to tell her sister to get up off her rear end and help her. I think Martha is the patron saint for today’s busy working women.

Brother Lawrence is the patron saint of Christian mindfulness. Here’s some advice from him on getting things done that could have helped Martha:

We must carry out all of our actions with care and with wisdom, without the impetuosity and precipitancy (haste) of a distraught mind. It is necessary to work peacefully, tranquilly and lovingly with God, begging him to accept our work. And by this continual mindfulness of God, we shall crush the head of the devil and cause his weapons to fall from his hands.

Brother Lawrence

Jesus told Martha, as you know, that “only one thing was necessary” and her sister was already doing it. Thousands of stories have been told about this conversation. But we also need to remember that Martha understood the truth.

As she said to Jesus when he arrived after her brother Lazarus’ death, “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Notice When You’re Surprised You’re Wrong

This Christian mindfulness exercise simply requires listening to our own thoughts. We’ll find out much about ourselves when we listen. But we are looking for one thought in particular: surprise when we discover that we have made a mistake, failed or done something wrong.

We each are often the only ones who are surprised. God isn’t surprised. The angels aren’t surprised. They know who we are and what we are capable of doing.

When we are surprised, we need to think about it. The situation shows an issue with humility. In reading about humility online, I found one secular article titled “How Humility Will Make You the Greatest Person Ever.” Funny. But humility is not a low opinion of ourselves. It is an accurate opinion of ourselves.

It comes when we know God is beyond understanding. And we trust Him. It seems to grow as we increase our abilities to be grateful. As Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility is the fear of the Lord. Its wages are riches and honor and life.”

Let’s watch our thoughts and see what we really think about ourselves!

silhouette photo of man leaning on heart shaped tree

Resource: Life of the Beloved

This beautiful book — “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World” — began when a non-religious friend asked one of the late 20th century’s most renowned religious men to explain spiritual life.

Henri J.M. Nouwen responded with the manuscript for “Life of the Beloved.” Nouwen avoided spiritual “Christian-ese” and theology. He told his friend about how much God loved him and what knowledge of that love does to a person.

Nouwen’s friend still didn’t get it. At first, Nouwen thought he had failed. But the response among others who read the manuscript was overwhelming positive.

Considered one of the greatest spiritual writers of the 20th century, Nouwen was a Catholic religious who taught at Harvard, Yale and Notre Dame. He spent 10 years living and serving in a community of the developmentally disabled called L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto.

Just flipping through the book gives you gems of wisdom:

“The world is only evil when you are its slave.”

“The problem of modern living is that we are too busy to notice that we are being blessed.”

“The real question is not ‘What can we offer each other?’ but ‘What can we be for each other?’ “

“Life of the Beloved” is a masterwork, well worth your time.

Practice Looking for God

This simple Christian mindfulness practice keeps us aware of God’s presence. It makes time spent in the car a joy.

When we are passengers in a car, rather than playing with our phones, look out the window. Notice the world going by: the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the grass, the sky, happy children.

Remember: “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

Savor the beauty of the things we see. The one perfect cloud. The gradation of blue and gray in the sky. A well-tended garden. A family on a walk. Take a moment to pray for that family, too.

Another in-car practice that brings joy is naming the colors of things you see. Bringing awareness and gratitude while riding in a car helps us abide in God.

God wants us to have the trust of a child

Change the Word “Faith” to “Trust”

In his book, “Life Without Lack,” the late Dallas Willard makes a great suggestion for an exercise. Wherever you read or hear the word “faith,” substitute the word “trust.”

As Sarah Young writes in “Jesus Calling,” “Trust is a rich word, laden with meaning and direction for your life.” Jesus wants us to trust and be confident in Him. It actually makes him very happy.

Faith is a hard word because we so often doubt that we have enough faith. Here’s how some Bible verses would read with the word substitution:

And without trust, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through trust – and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

You are all children of God through trust in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by trust in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

What to Think

Have you been spending a lot of time with your thoughts during the pandemic? I know I have.

Since we also are watching acclaimed TV series from decades ago that we had never seen, I can spend a lot of time thinking … and Googling … “Seinfeld” and other shows. But the Lord tells us that we are not supposed to be thinking about those things.

Instead, as Philippians 4: 8 says:

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.

To keep this in mind, I use a memory device: The normal real person loves an excellent pizza.

As part of my Christian mindfulness practice, I seek to keep watch on the subject of my thoughts. If the subject is not true or noble or right or pure, etc., I turn my mind back to God.

It’s one of the good things about the pandemic. There’s plenty of time to think about the best parts of life.

Love Is All Around

To practice Christian mindfulness is to know the love of God all around us at all times. Keeping ourselves focused on God demands trust in God’s grace. But it also requires awareness and commitment on our part.

This has been an effort for even the saints. One of the great Christian prayers was written by Patrick of Ireland (387-461). It’s a long prayer, and the most famous part reads:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Patrick. Words translated from the Gaelic by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, 1889.

Here is a good video of the prayer, featuring some actors from “Game of Thrones.” The full prayer is beautiful and you can find it here.

In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul writes: “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I pray that for all of us.

photo of person walking on desert

In God for the World

The phrase “in God for the world” reflects Christian mindfulness, walking with God step by step in the moment. It is not the way I used to be, which was “in the world for God.” I depended way too much on my own strength and knowledge, hurrying back to God when things went wrong.

Abiding in God is the answer to Christian exhaustion and fear of failure. To do it is a matter of grace and a decision to notice when you have moved your mind away. We ask God to bring us back into His presence on a continual basis. Here’s an exercise that helps:

  • Stop and take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Pray “Come, Lord Jesus” or “Come, Holy Spirit. Ask God to help you return to His presence.
  • Listen to the sounds around you, identifying them. Pray a prayer of gratitude for what you hear.
  • Open your eyes to notice the colors, shapes and movement around you. Thank God for your sight and for what you see.
  • Ask the Lord to walk alongside you in the next thing you do.

Other Christian mindfulness practices to help you abide in Jesus are here.

praying man looking up

Resource: Life Without Lack

I’m taking an excellent course on Dallas Willard‘s “Life Without Lack,” taught by his associate Jan Johnson. This week I am meditating on this prayer that Willard wrote. I wanted to share it and to encourage you to read the book.

Christian mindfulness is all about filling our lives and minds with Jesus. We do this through intentional practices and through continually returning our thoughts to Him. We seek to keep His face ever before us.

It’s not easy. It is 99% grace and 1% intention. God fills us with joy and peace as we open ourselves up to Him. As Ruth Haley Barton puts it, we go from “in the world for God” to “in God for the world.”

Lord, minister to me by your Spirit. Come into my heart and mind, and release me from all inward tension and anxiety.

Hold before my mind the truth that I have nothing to fear from Satan, for you have defeated him; all I must do is fill my life and my mind with you.

Remind me often, especially in the midst of difficulty, that you, who are in me, are greater than he who is in the world.

Help me to carry this truth with me as I contemplate the awesome reality of the spiritual battle taking place, a battle that, perhaps in our time, is moving perceptively closer to its climax.

Give me the vision of you who are: our Father who art in heaven, the Shepherd in whose presence there is no lack, so I may have the confidence and power to love and to live as Jesus lived.

In his name, Amen.

Dallas Willard, “Life Without Lack”

For more information on the “Life With Lack” course, click here. I am just a student, not affiliated with the course in any way. For more information on Ruth Haley Barton’s books and other resources, click here.

Christian Mindfulness: Reflecting God’s Love

When that happens, I know it’s time for me to sit up and listen. It’s usually the Lord speaking.

This week I’ve had synchronicity around the idea of growing so close to the Lord that I can reflect His love to others. As Mother Teresa always said, we start with the people in front of us. Yes, pray for others. But also become aware that God may ask you to be the answer to their prayers.

A devotional I got from Renovare by Jonathan R. Bailey said it best:

Spiritual formation begins and ends with love. … The way of Christ is not about earning righteousness or self-development. It’s the total transformation of the human personality into the likeness of Jesus Christ: body, mind, heart and soul.

When the Spirit awakens us with his love, we come to see ourselves utterly known and loved by God. There’s nothing we can do to make him love us more, and there’s nothing we can do to make him love us less.

Jonathan R. Bailey, “The Eternal Journey”

Five Ways to Open a Mindful Christian Morning

The best way to start your day is to practice the presence of Jesus as you wake up in bed. Here are five quick ways to bring Christian mindfulness to the first minutes of your morning.

  1. Choose a gentle alarm clock. For decades, I woke up to the sound of ocean waves in a sunrise simulation alarm clock similar to this one.
  2. Once your eyes are open, say: “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
  3. Breathe deeply: In to the count of three. Hold for the count of four. Exhale for the count of five. Do this as needed until you feel centered, thanking God for the gift of breath.
  4. If you are sleeping beside a spouse, a child or even a pet, pray a prayer of gratitude for them.
  5. Listen to the sounds of the house and the world outside. Again thank God for the new day.

Resource: Peace Is Every Step

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and world-renowned mindfulness teacher, has a strong, but streamlined, message. While this makes many of his books somewhat repetitive, “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life” is one of the best.

The book has 5 stars with 971 ratings on Amazon and 4.3 stars with 27,191 ratings on GoodReads. If you only read one book by Thich Nhat Hanh, this is it.

Thich Nhat Hanh divided this book into three sections:

  • Breathe! You Are Alive
  • Transformation and Healing
  • Peace Is Every Step

Packed with mindfulness exercises, the book contains several ideas that especially spoke to me. He writes about the Eucharist as a practice of awareness of the presence of Christ, which it truly is.

He calls often for us to look more deeply, especially at people who we find repulsive. We do not know what we could have become had we lived that other person’s life, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us.

What we need to work on is transforming ourselves into a light. “When you have become fresh and pleasant, the other person will notice soon,” he writes.

“When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight. When you see in yourself the wish that the other person would stop suffering, that is the beginning of real love.”

Amen to that. For other reviews on Christian mindfulness resources, click here.

God’s Answer to Arrogance

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

Try This: Kind Touch

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.

Happy Birthday, John the Baptist

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.

Resource: Get Your Life Back

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.

Forgiveness in Tough Times

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”

Mindful Detox from Upsetting Words

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.

Do We Need Inner Peace for Outer Peace?

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.

How to Live in a Fallen World

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

Celebrate National Get Outdoors Day

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.

Try This: Meditate on How to Live in God’s Presence

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.

Try It: Meditate on Your Identity

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.

Weep With Those Who Weep

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.

Living in Mindfulness of God’s Magnificence

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”

Invite God to Invade Your Life

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.

Breathe Deeply When Your Phone Goes Off

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.

Resource: Live from Rest app

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.

Trust God One Crisis at a Time

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”

Prayer from Apollo 8 for Universal Justice

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.

What Would Mr. Rogers Say?

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

Things to Do as the End Comes Near

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 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.

A Mindful Christian Practice for an Angry Time

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.

The entire prayer is here. I’m concentrating on the first section. Hope this helps. Another prayer for the pandemic is here.

Compassion: More than Sympathy

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”

The Serenity Prayer Is More Than You Think

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.

Amen.

Take some time today to sit with this prayer as we seek wisdom in the pandemic.

Resource: Hope Mindfulness and Prayer

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)
  • Mastery
  • 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.