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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Consider where you are getting your COVID information. This includes: news media (online and offline), email alerts, social media, podcasts, television and magazines.
Think about where you feel bombarded by information or opinion about the pandemic. What upsets you the most?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!