But I do more than thank. I ask – ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for Christians. Oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him – endless energy, boundless strength!
Ephesians 1: 17-19, The Message translation
Praying the same prayer for nine consecutive days is an old practice called a novena. We all need to do a good old-fashioned novena for our Christian leaders and pastors.
Dealing with all the issues surrounding pastoring in a pandemic has worn them out. Paul’s prayer from Ephesians 1 is a good one. (I’m going to pray it for myself and others working in lay positions at our church as well.)
A novena is not … and never has been … a “magic” formula. But concentrating on the same prayers … slowly and deliberately …. for nine days in a row can reveal the voice of God to us as well as send blessings to our pastors.
I remember watching filmstrips about the liberation of the concentration camps in Europe in elementary school in the early and mid-1960s. I thought that the Holocaust happened very long ago among heathen peoples. Looking back, I know what I saw had happened only a decade or so in the past. The heathens thought they were civilized, even superior, people.
Today is Yom HaShoah, the time to remember the Holocaust. It’s time for me to remember how many people who thought they were good Christians participated … actively or passively … in it. As the eyewitnesses leave this Earth, we must all remember and fight those who want to deny reality.
O God, we are conscious that many centuries of blindness have blinded our eyes so that we no longer see the beauty of your chosen people, nor recognize in their faces the features of our privileged brothers and sisters.
We realize that the mark of Cain stands upon our foreheads.
Across the centuries our brother Abel has lain in blood which we drew or which we caused to be shed by forgetting your love.
Forgive us for the curse we falsely attached to their name as Jews.
Forgive us for crucifying you a second time in their flesh.
God of Abraham and of Moses, we pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear your world.
As you have made them your own, so make them continue to grow in love of your name and in faithfulness to your covenant.
You are our God, living and reigning, for ever and ever. Amen
Your mind is labeling everyone and everything, but you may not even notice. Yet those labels or judgments show up when you interact with people.
Have you ever noticed that you suspend disbelief when you listen to Person A but react with cynicism to what Person B says? Does walking down a particular hallway make you feel stressed?
You can become more aware of this with this Christian mindfulness exercise. It helps us to not behave on automatic pilot, but to become more aware. That way we can walk through our day with Jesus, not our half-buried emotions, leading the way.
Pray to ask God to give you the ability to listen, really listen, to your automatic thoughts. Ask for blessing for this exercise, which you can do all day or just for a few hours.
Be open to surprises and new insights. You may know how much you dread seeing one supervisor. (I used to have a boss with the company nickname “Attila the Hen.”) But you may not know how you automatically feel toward people who cause you less auto-stress.
On a “typical” day, listen to what jumps into your mind when you see individuals, attend groups or go places. For example, walk through the halls of your office space, and notice what you are quietly saying to yourself. How does it feel when you see This Person or pass That Person’s office door? Does a certain room or sight make you feel uneasy automatically?
Acknowledge these emotions. We don’t want to run away from our feelings. We want to be aware of them so we will not behave on automatic pilot.
Realize that you can’t control your emotions, other people or situations. But you can accept that you have some emotional reactions to people and places. And you can control your actions. asking for the grace to walk with Jesus through our daily activities.
This is part of “radical acceptance.” Introduced into American culture by Tara Brach, the concept is used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is a close relative of mindfulness. We pay attention to only what is happening in the present moment (mindfulness) in the presence of God (Christian mindfulness), and we accept that we cannot control reality (radical acceptance).
By realizing the reality of the emotions that we have attached to people and places, we can bring those feelings to Jesus and make a more sound decision about what to do. It’s a good idea to conduct this exercise quarterly or whenever you experience a significant change in your surroundings.
“The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer speaks of Christian mindfulness without uttering the phrase. Comer, a pastor and podcaster from Portland, Oregon, is clearly writing to a congregation much younger than my Baby Boomer self. But his concepts are eternal.
In the book, Comer gives an excellent overview about how we all got so speeded up. Then he presents principles for winding ourselves down to human speed. His view is that we need to do three things in life:
Be with Jesus.
Be like Jesus.
Do what Jesus did in his life in our own surroundings and circumstances.
I first heard his ideas on “John Mark Comer Teachings Podcast,” a listen-worthy collection of his sermons. It can be found on most podcast apps. There’s real wisdom in his words, even if the language seems very Portland-ese.
He encourages us to “unhurry” our lives through four practices: silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity and slowing. He also encourages us to develop a rule of life, sharing 20 ideas from his own.
“The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” is really about living a modern contemplative life in family and church. I highly recommend it.
Other resources for Christian mindfulness can be found here on the Resource page.