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
Month / May 2020
Things to Do as the End Comes Near
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:7-11
My pastor asked us to study these words this week. They are Peter’s words to a group of Christians who are undergoing persecution and far from home.
It’s fair to say that it can feel like the world is being upended. Just today we had demonstrations downtown that resulted in our City Council president, county commissioner and Congresswoman getting pepper sprayed.
As we live life on the edge of eternity, we are called to pray alertly, love eagerly and be available to be hospitable without complaint. We make decisions not based on our own wishes, but on what is loving. And we try to use our gifts in a way that draws attention to God, rather than to our own ambitions.
That’s a high calling. It would be hard if we had to do it by ourselves. But God has always given us the power and graces to represent Him. The more we open ourselves to it, the most power we receive.
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.
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)
- 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.
Share Your Family History
How can we celebrate Memorial Day in a spirit of Christian mindfulness? First, we bring the presence of Jesus to our cookouts. Even if the crowd is smaller this year, we can offer love to all who gather.
Memorial Day is a good time to share your family’s history with the newest generation. Take a look at the old pictures you have. The picture above is from a family picnic 60 years ago. My Dad is holding me. My granddaughter is named after my mother, who is holding my baby sister.
Your family, like mine, may have a history of military service.
Praying over that service is a good aspect to the day:
Oh God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever.
We lift up those who survived their service and still feel its impact in their emotions. May the peace of God come to these men and women.
We also lift up those who suffer most from war: the homeless, the orphaned, the hungry and the innocent. May they challenge us to turn from warlike ways and accept God’s gift of peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
An Eastertide Prayer
God of Light, you sent your Son into the darkness of our night, and raised him to your glory; not to abandon us to grief, but to teach us to prepare in joy for his return.
We pray for all who have no hope, that they may find it in the lights of your Spirit, according to the promise of Jesus, our Lord.
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light. Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.
A Mindful Celebration of Ascension Day
Today is the commemoration of Ascension Day, when Jesus rose up through the clouds and into heaven. Here’s a few ideas for celebrating the day and preparing for Pentecost on May 31.
Pray for outreach and missionaries. Before Jesus in physical form left the planet, he asked his disciples to spread the word about his willingness to atone for people’s sins so they could be in the presence of the Holy God when they died.
Pack a picnic. Go outside to enjoy the sky and the clouds. If it’s pouring down rain, try it on the weekend.
Begin nightly contemplations or family discussion on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s a good way to prepare for Pentecost. The gifts are:
- Fear of God
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Don’t Mask God’s Love
The world is starting to open up a little. We may see people at least six feet away with a mask on, or we see them on a computer screen. Our strange circumstances call from more Christian mindfulness than ever.
Today, remember that God has an agenda for your time. It includes who you meet. Try to see each person as a divine appointment. God has put this person on your path. You can have the intention to respond in grace.
This is tough for me this week because I inadvertently set off a storm of criticism for my decision to wear a mask on a social media channel. I became the “COVID-19 police.” People used my name “Karen” in meme vain. That ticked me off. I had to fight off encouraging these folks who refuse to wear masks because they are “free” to hug a coughing person. But the Lord kept my fingers away from the keyboard until I calmed down.
Instead, I should have remembered that I did not meet them online by accident. God put them in my pathway. God was working in them in some way, and I needed to determine how I could best show God’s love to them.
If we can practice doing this for a few days, we may find ourselves in a more pleasant world. Let’s give it a try.