Make a Morning Playlist

The British magazine “Oh!” had an excellent idea in its latest issue: Make a morning playlist.

In Pandemic Year Two, many of us are trying hard to get back into the swing of life. Yet life does not seem to cooperate. “I thought this would be over by now” is the national mood.

So why not start by picking 10 songs that always lift your spirits. Put them in a playlist on Spotify or any other method you have. And use them to combat gray mornings.

For example, I find that I can work myself into a giant funk while getting dressed for the day. So I started listening and singing alone to uplifting praise music. It helps.

You can find some other ideas for your own list from these Spotify playlists:

Have fun! Let me know what your favorite songs are.

No More Mean Mondays

You are not imagining it. People are meaner on Mondays.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people display less civility and kindness on Mondays than they do the rest of the week. But the study does contain some good news for those of us who practice any form of mindfulness.

Mindfulness stabilizes this situation. People who practice it are able to maintain a stable level of kindness and courteous behavior across the week.

This is no surprise to me. My form of mindfulness … Christian mindfulness … gives you a solid foundation and handrails to walk across difficult days. It’s a stabilizing force for the kind of inner peace that only comes through a relationship with Jesus.

Staying in the present moment in the presence of God brings a continual source of strength. You learn, as many do, that the only thing you can control is yourself. Christian mindfulness actually gives you the graces necessary to be able to do that in a kind way on a fairly consistent basis.

Determination and Fear: The Legacy of 9/11

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. I remember that day:

  • Sitting in my office at my computer when a colleague named Jeff LaRue poked his head in my office and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
  • Realizing this was not a small plane crash.
  • Interrupting my CEO in a client meeting in the conference room to say that planes had crashed into both towers and the Pentagon. “Could we turn on the TV here?” The client was annoyed at my interruption.
  • Listening to the church bell, located across the street from our office tower, begin to toll. It continued to toll all day. The last time that happened was Pearl Harbor.
  • Watching the first tower collapse from the same viewpoint where I last saw the towers two weeks before.
  • Heading home to be with my high school student, calling my other child in a college dorm room, and contacting my husband who was on the road.
  • Working on a proposal while watching the television in my living room.
  • Finding out that my husband didn’t realize the extent of the situation until he got to a hotel and watching it on television.
  • Looking at the sky which now contained no airplanes.
  • Waking up the next morning to wonder what would happen that day.

The United States was probably at its best that week. We were determined in the face of fear. Many bad decisions later, we aren’t at our best. But we know that Christians can always be determined in the face of fear. Our side has already won.

The Sept. 11 reading of Sarah Young’s wonderful devotional “Jesus Always” points out that the world has always been at war. Yet we do not have to be afraid. Jesus has achieved the victory that allows us to have a hope and a future. But we are still not alone in the world. The dark side is still setting off explosions as it moves in defeat. So we are cautioned to have self-control and be alert.

Is it possible to be alert without feeling all-consuming fear? Yes. But we must be determined and ask for grace to achieve that state. Paul of Tarsus tells us that we are at our best when we recognize that we are weak and allow God to move through us.

So what does determination look like when we know that we are weak? Here are seven indicators:

  1. We expect God to help when we are doing His will.
  2. We believe in the importance of our role in the kingdom of God.
  3. We focus our attention on the work we are doing.
  4. We listen to God’s word and seek his will for next steps.
  5. We avoid distraction.
  6. We ask for help when we need it.
  7. We keep going even when things get difficult.

None of us alive on 9/11 predicted the next 20 years. But God did know what would happen. Walking with Him in Christian mindfulness may help us to make the next 20 more successful for the kingdom.

clock and calendar

End the Work Day With Planning and Prayer

Back in the good old days of 2019, we worried about taking too much work home. How does that compute when work is at home?

Working at home has enormous advantages … no commute, fewer interruptions for office socializing, more time with the family, the ability to run laundry while you run a meeting … and so on.

But it lacks the closure that getting up and coming home causes. Transition time via commuting is also gone.

A 2019 survey by Airtasker, reported in Business News Daily this March, found remote workers actually work 1.4 more days per month than those based in offices. That’s more than three more weeks of work per year. Some of that overage happens in the time once known as “after hours.”

The same survey also found that 29% of remote workers struggle with work-life balance. That’s compared to 23% of office workers. My guess is the figure for remote workers is higher now, more than six months later.

Those who practice Christian mindfulness may find their approach to ending the day has disappeared. The easiest answer is to schedule a prayer or devotional reading time at day’s end. Put it on the calendar. If necessary, call it “planning” or P&P on your public calendar. You’re going to pray over plans during this time.

If you need transition time to quiet down before rejoining your home world, take it. Walk the dog. Change your clothes to music. Breathe deeply.

Having set work hours actually makes you more productive. The day-end prayer time allows you to bring your work of the day before the Lord. Ask His blessing and ask His opinion on what’s ahead.

Then shut down the computer. Sign off from Slack or any other work chat app. Other tips for setting boundaries are in this article from Skillcrush.

three garlic bulbs

Learn from the Spring Bulbs

The weather is glorious this weekend in my Midwestern city. It’s a perfect time to plant spring bulbs. Plant mindfully, welcoming God’s presence. We just may learn two lessons that these bulbs provide.

  1. Christian life is all about delayed gratification. The bulbs will be working invisibly for a while. But the end game is beautiful.
  2. You will get signs of hope as a new season begins. The green tops of the bulbs peeking through the dirt … what can be more hopeful than that.

You can plant bulbs no matter where you live. Inside, if necessary. I do hyacinths indoors. The front garden is tulips and daffodils. Just enjoy the beautiful weather.

Try This: An Instant Smile Collection

Now, more than ever NOW, we need an Instant Smile on our phones.

So record the laughter of a favorite child or adult. Or take a video of your pet purring or playing happily. Put pictures that you especially love of Jesus and/or spiritual mentors, living or dead, on your phone.

Make a Pinterest file of things that make you laugh. You can see my Instant Smiles collection here.

Having these tools ready helps us when we feel darkness coming on. The Instant Smile collection allows us to Stop, Take a Breath, Observe your collection, and Pray and Proceed. This way we center ourselves into Christian mindfulness.

Being Loving, Election Version

Today is an important day in the United States. And the voter turnout shows that most Americans know that.

Two presidential candidates we see so differently. An election that we all agree on: it’s critically important, and it will be a travesty if the other side wins.

Nevertheless, nothing is the end of the world except the end of the world. Our duty is to behave with Christian mindfulness, inviting the presence of Jesus into our personal walk, living one moment at a time in his love.

The Bible is quite specific about our behavior regarding government leadership. We pray for those people so we can be more likely to lead peaceful lives. Even Nero, who was the emperor of Rome when Paul wrote those words in 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Being loving is not an option for Christians during this or any time. We need to be loving and respectful of everyone’s opinions. Whoever wins, we must, under the orders of God, pray for that person.

As we wait to see the results, we need to be loving as well. Tonight and in the uncertain period ahead, be loving toward yourself to be sure that you have the ability to convey God’s love to others.

The reputation of Jesus has been severely damaged in politics, now and in the past. We must pray for the graces necessary to embody the spirit of Jesus in the world … at home, with friends (Zoom or otherwise) and in our work.

burial cemetery countryside cross

Remember the Souls You Love

Today is All Soul’s Day. Along with yesterday, All Saint’s Day, this is the traditional time for Christians to visit the graves of family members and close friends.

The graves of my parents, my sister-in-law and my step-son are within a 10-minute walk from my front door. Is it creepy living next to a cemetery filled with loved ones? Since I will end up there, too, it’s actually comforting. (And we are blessed to have the city’s botanical garden on the other side.)

All Souls Day is a time especially for those who lost a loved one this year. Should that be you, this is a beautiful sermon about grieving from my pastor, Julia Pickerill:

Whether you can visit a cemetery or not, here’s a prayer for All Saints Day:

Lord God,
whose days are without end
and whose mercies beyond counting,
keep us mindful 
that life is short and the hour of death unknown.
Let your Spirit guide our days on earth
in the ways of holiness and justice,
that we may serve you
in union with the whole Church,
sure in faith, strong in hope, perfected in love.
And when our earthly journey is ended,
lead us rejoicing into your kingdom,
where you live for ever and ever.
Eternal rest grant unto our loved ones, oh Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Amen

For God So Loved the World

I saw the One who is sitting on the throne, holding to his breast what looked like a lump of black and filthy clay as big as a human heart, decorated with precious stones and pearls.

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen was a Renaissance woman in the 12th century. Such a thing was hardly possible. But she did it.

An aristocrat and an abbess. A composer and an author. She wrote “A Book of Simple Medicine” as well as four books on animals, three books on gems and metals, and two books on plants and trees.

She also saw visions that she wrote down. Centuries later, she was named a doctor of the church for her contributions to the understanding of theology.

This particular vision shows God the father clutching a filthy piece of clay that represents all of us. We all know what the filth is. It’s all our terrible decisions and selfishness. The pearls and gems are the souls that Jesus reclaimed.

When you are struggling over a loved one whose is lost, remember that God is clutching them tight to his chest.

A movie about Hildegard is available on Amazon Prime for free here.

Try This: A Mindful Fall Festival

The concept of a Halloween mask is a little different this year! But outdoor fall festivals are continuing with social distancing in many areas.

Explore a fall festival in your town in a mindful Christian manner. Praise God for the nature around you. The good ideas He had, like autumn leaves and weird gourds and spiders.

Enjoying a Christian mindfulness moment at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus

Pay attention to the sounds and the smells. Enjoy the little kids who are experiencing it all with a natural beginner’s mind.

Wherever we go, we can bring our Christian mindfulness. We can enjoy the presence of God even amid spooky lights.