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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.