Things to Do as the End Comes Near

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 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 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:

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Counsel
  • Fortitude
  • Knowledge
  • Piety
  • Fear of God
  • Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Christian Mindfulness Practice: Intentional Use of Money

Making a decision to spend your money in ways that help your neighbors — that’s one good outcome from the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a time when everything we do takes on added significance. I last felt this way when I lived in rural Mississippi in the 1970s. I wanted my actions and statements to help reverse racism. Today I want them to help people around me to keep going. All this flows from Christian mindfulness.

Today we are ordering carry-out from restaurants we like and want to stay open. We are planning to buy things from local shopkeepers so they can stay in business. We are making contributions to help our neighbors keep food on the table. We are making more intentional use of our money.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, I was somewhat involved in the voluntary simplicity and back-to-the-land movements. One of the hallmarks of both was making a decision to reduce overconsumption. We were taught: There are two ways to have money. Work more or spend less. Another great lesson was to ensure that you were spending money in a way that reflected your values.

Many of us are doing more of that today. Let’s take a look at how we have spent money in the last 30 days. As the country begins to reopen gradually, can we focus more on buying things from our neighbors instead of enriching Amazon? For example, here’s a list of ways to get local food from farmers from each state. A 30-day Amazon diet that helps local shops and workers could be a good experiment for us all.

With Jesus on the National Day of Prayer

Today on the National Day of Prayer, let’s meditate on Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee. This great idea came from an online retreat I attended last week with Jan Johnson through Renovare.

Jesus is the passenger with a beard and some light around his head sitting to the right side of the painting. Who are you in this picture? Are you the disciples working the sails to try to keep the ship afloat? The disciple getting sick over the side? The disciple in brown crouched low at Jesus’ feet? Or the ones talking to him about the situation?

And what do you want to say to Jesus about the storm today?

Christian Mindfulness & COVID-19

We may live with COVID-19 for months or years. Attempts to protect the health care systems seem to have worked in the United States, except my beloved New York City. Hospitals there have been overwhelmed.

How do we walk in Christian mindfulness as the world begins to slowly reopen? The virus will still be with us, and we must learn to walk with Jesus in a new kind of reality.

The first step is to stay in the day. For most of us, God has provided all we need for today.

The second step is to listen. If we do, we will find that God expects us to feed the hungry. Here’s what Feeding America has to say about this.

Those of us who have not been seriously impacted need to prayfully consider God’s call on us to help. Today, let’s take some time to look around our homeland’s situation and find a new way to help.

Make Friends With Neighborhood Birds

God talks about birds more than a dozen times in the Bible. He encourages us to study birds to learn more about our relationship with Him. And he even compares us to birds. Isaiah 40:31 says: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.”

This is a very good time to hope in the Lord. Since we are at home more than ever, we can get acquainted with our neighborhood birds by putting up bird houses or taking up bird watching in the front yard.

While watching, consider meditating on these verses:

Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens. They do not sow or reap. They have no storeroom or barn. Yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Matthew 10:16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 10:29: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

Psalm 50:11: I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.

Job 12:7-10: But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Psalm 84: 3: Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Jeremiah 8:7: Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the times of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.

Christian Mindfulness When You Are Wearing Out

The joy of the Lord is my strength. That is something I need to remember in this phase of the pandemic, when it feels like I am running out of steam. I now have insomnia, the result of many nightmares about bad people trying to break into my house. (Very subtle, subconscious.) This tests my ability to practice Christian mindfulness, but in the end, it will strengthen it.

The Lord knows that many of us are starting to wear out. Any initial burst of adrenaline and interest in the uniqueness of the situation are gone. That can be good news.

God is our strength, always there when we are not feeling strong enough to take on a difficult challenge. This pandemic is not even in the Top 5 of bad things that I have experienced. So I know, looking back, that God gives you the strength. But we have to ask for it.

Only by connecting with the Lord in times of quiet and prayer … as well as practicing the presence of God moment to moment … will the strength and the joy flow through us. Calling on the name of Jesus hour by hour, even minute by minute, will build that connection. That is what Christian mindfulness is all about. For more on that, click here.

As Paul writes in Philippians 4:19: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Earth Day: Is God Telling Us Something?

This is the 50th Earth Day that I have celebrated. In 1970, I was involved in creating the Earth Day celebration at Westerville High School. And I’ve celebrated ever since.

This Earth Day, I wonder if God is telling us something about how we are taking advantage of the earth by showing us what happens when we stop. The air is cleaner. Wildlife is peeking out. Lions are sleeping on the roads of African national parks.

Does man impact earth and cause climate change? I think this unintended experiment shows us just how much that is true. Did God allow this pandemic to demonstrate this? Is the Earth sick of us?

Simple Living Works is a blog and podcast that has roots dating back to the voluntary simplicity movement in the 1970s. Its latest episode was a discussion about whether this pandemic proves that only huge dramatic events will steer humans away from destroying our environment.

Let us call for blessing on the Earth on this day:

Dear Mother Earth, who day by day

Unfolds rich blessing on our way,

O praise God! Alleluia!

The fruits and flowers that verdant grow,

Let them his praise abundant show,

O praise God, O praise God,

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

Francis of Assisi

Commemorate the Holocaust

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

Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

Resource: The Big Book of Christian Mysticism

I bought “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality” at the Abbey at Gethsemani bookstore during a silent retreat. Honestly, I was worried that it would bore me. The book is, as promised, big and the type is small. I was so wrong.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read about Christian spirituality. The author, Carl McColman, provides the history, philosophy and practical aspects of the contemplative Christian tradition. The appendices has lists of other books to read and Christians to learn about.

This is very supportive guidebook to growing a practice in this glorious and fulfilling type of Christianity, whether you call it contemplative, mystical mindful Christianity. I highly recommend it, and I expect to read it regularly, much more than once.