Read Scripture as Often as You Eat

The second step for abiding in Jesus involves listening to His voice in Scripture or a devotional book regularly. How frequently? Try to do it as often as you eat.

This provides a wonderful reality check about the Lord while giving us nuggets of wisdom to chew on as we go about our days.

I use Scripture, Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” devotional series, the Liturgy of the Hours and a Christian devotional magazine to keep me full. I also have apps for the Bible and the wonderful Pray as You Go on my phone to use when I am out. A little bit of God’s voice can go a long way in keeping you practicing his presence in Christian mindfulness.

God Does the Work

As I’ve developed my Christian mindfulness practice, I began to notice that most of the exercises on abiding in God have to do with God abiding in me. Scripture verifies this, because abiding in a mutual effort. “Abide in Me and I in you,” Jesus said in John 15:4.

We need to allow Christ’s abiding in us to transform from a fact that we know intellectually to a practice of allowing him to live out of us.

If you’d like to explore abiding in Jesus, I have 15 steps you can take. I’d suggest that you add them one at a time.

Step 1: Try a daily prayer of surrender. My pastor, Rich Nathan at Vineyard Columbus, has suggested this in various sermons. He said he offers his mind, his hands, his feet, etc. every day to God to us.

An example of the prayer could be as simple as: “Today is Your Day, Lord. I am yours. May your Spirit lead, guide and prompt me throughout the day. May I be sensitive to Your prompting and respond accordingly. Today I surrender my life to You.”

Tips for Perpetual Communion

“We must order our lives in particular ways if we hope for perpetual communion. One means: prayer experiments that open us to God’s presence every waking minute. Seek to discover as many ways as possible to keep God constantly in mind. Try to lift every person you see into the light of Christ.

Richard Foster, “Freedom of Simplicity”

How Christian Mindfulness Meditation Differs

Christian mindfulness meditation is similar to both traditional meditation and mindfulness exercises, but also quite different.

What the world calls meditation is just a preliminary step that Christians call “recollection” exercises. It is necessary to bring our spirit into inner stillness if we want to be fully present to the Lord.

The aim of Christian mindfulness meditation is threefold:

  1. To make our minds familiar with the truths of God.
  2. To dwell on those truths.
  3. To apply the insights we receive to our lives.

One reason mindfulness is popular today is that research shows that it works to reduce stress and even pain. Mindfulness can release the mind from an overgeneralized state. It relieves automatic brooding and the avoidant mind. Loving kindness meditation and kindness to one’s self also help to decrease the fears that come from feeling responsible when anything goes wrong. (Being overly responsible and overfunctioning are issues I have.)

Abiding in the Lord has elements of this mindfulness, especially trying to concentrate on the present moment. It helps us to ensure that “the day’s own trouble is sufficient for the day,” as Jesus said. But it goes beyond that to recognize the God is present in the here and now. God is here. God is now.

The condition needed to receive the presence of God is emptiness. We must empty ourselves inwardly of all that is not God, including distraction, agitation, fear and nervous tension. All must give way to the flow of quiet presence.

The person who is experienced with this kind of effort is not a person whose mind does not wander. Everyone’s mind wanders. The experienced person is someone who gets very used to beginning again and again and again.

What most people call meditation is just a preliminary step that Christians call

An Invitation to Abide in Jesus

Jesus invites us to abide in Him while He abides in us. He spoke about this in John 17: 25-26 in his prayer for believers at the Last Supper:

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them and will continue to make you know in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Moses spoke of it as well in his last prayer in Deuteronomy 33:27, repeated in Psalm 90:1. He says, “Oh Lord, You have been our dwelling place for all generations.”

God dwells within us. But we also dwell with our own thoughts, fears, emotions and concerns. Here’s some good news: Your mind is not all there is to you. Your thoughts are just thoughts. No matter how loud, they are not masters, giving orders that have to be obeyed.

Brooding about why things happy and worrying about what’s likely to happen next … focusing on anxiety, tiredness, etc., strengthens the negative as you focus on fear rather than the reality of God’s desire to be present with you. Fighting and flaying about in our own mind does not make an environment where the Prince of Peace can abide.

If we are to do this, we have to be willing to die to ourselves, our own ideas, our projects, our doings and the struggles of our loved ones so we can open to God.

The best way to cope with any suffering is a continual conversation with God about everything, big or small, all day long and in every place you go. This is the practice of the presence of God.

A Friend of Mine in Heaven: Francis de Sales

On a babysitting job as a teenager, I picked up “Introduction to the Devout Life” from a bookshelf to read. I read for a bit and put it back. When Francis de Sales talked about a devout life, he REALLY meant a DEVOUT life.

Nonetheless, he has become one of my favorite spiritual teachers. In honor of him today, here are a few of my favorite lessons:

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

“Have patience with all things, but, first of all, with yourself.”

Do not fear the changes of life. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you out of them all. He has kept you hitherto and he will lead you safely through all things. And when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in His arms. Do not be afraid of what will happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace and put aside anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

Gentle Comfort With Jesus

Are your days too stressful? This Christian mindfulness exercise can restore a feeling of safety and comfort as well as helping you to stay alert to the presence of God.

Just as a parent holds a crying child, Jesus can comfort you.

Quiet down, breathing deeply. Pray for a better perception of God’s presence with you. Remember: God is here. God is in the now.

Then visualize Jesus as a gentle presence who loves you and understands that you are frightened or overwhelmed. See Him reaching out to you as if you were a small child. Quiet yourself and listen for the comfort of God.

Even if you only have five minutes, this exercise can bring you comfort.

What If Christians Loved Each Other?

The cross-pollination of politics and faith in the United States has created an unholy mess. Too many unbelievers see Christians as more firmly aligned with a political party than with Jesus.

The light and love of Jesus need to shine in each of us, and we need to love each other even when we disagree with each other. Imagine what a witness that would be today.

It’s traditional during January to pray for Christian unity. Let us add a healthy dose of mindfulness to those prayers. Let us watch ourselves to become aware when we are looking askance at fellow Christians because we disagree with them on an issue, even an issue that we consider fundamental to our belief system. Once we see this behavior, let us pray for those we disagree with in love.

Let us pray for the church and its people:

Gracious Father, we pray to you for all those who believe in Jesus. Fill us with your truth. Keep us in your peace. Where the church is corrupt, reform it. Where the church is right, defend it. Where we are divided, teach us to love one another and reunite us for the sake of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Confessions of a Civil Rights Reporter

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, I always reflect on the 9+ years I spent as a reporter in Tupelo, Mississippi, beginning in 1976. I covered just about everything, which means I covered civil rights, the Ku Klux Klan and local government’s response to protests.

Life in Mississippi was an example of intentional living because I felt that everything I did mattered: going to an integrated church (the only one in the city), having African-American friends and speaking against racism.

I had hope for Mississippi when I left. The people – white and black – were the most polite and hospitable I had ever met. Because there was so little to do, we gathered in each other’s houses and talked. An African-American young man was named Homecoming King at Tupelo High School.

Tupelo was a more progressive city than most in Mississippi. I spent most of my reporting time in the surrounding rural region that had the misfortune to be both Appalachian and Mississippian. The poverty was atrocious and generational. The ignorance was often profound.

Yet I was disappointed to read the book “Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta” by Richard Grant, an Englishman who moved to rural Mississippi. At least in the Delta, so little has changed and much has gotten worse for African Americans. I don’t think the intent of the book was to make one depressed, but it certainly did it for me.

The election of Barack Obama gave me hope. But, as the law goes, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. On this Martin Luther King Day, I continue to pray that our nation may break free of its chains of racism:

Lord, our God, see how oppression and violence are our sad inheritance, one generation to the next. We look for you where the lowly are raised up, where the mighty are brought down. We find you there in your servants, and we give you thanks this day for your preacher and witness, Martin Luther King Jr. Fill us with your spirit: where our human community is divided by racism, torn by repression, saddened by fear and ignorance, may we give ourselves to your work of healing.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen

From “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers” (which I still use even though I am no longer Catholic)

Give a Specific, Sincere Compliment

Flattery can get your everywhere or nowhere, so the sayings go. When we are susceptible to flattery, you stand a good change of falling into falsehoods about yourself and others. Because it’s much easier for me to praise than to criticize, I have to be careful to watch that I don’t slide from sincerity into manipulation.

It’s worth taking a mindful approach to this to understand how it impacts you and others. Today give someone close to you a sincere compliment that’s as specific as possible. Be attentive to how you feel, particularly if you get a compliment in response.