If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present. I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.St. Therese of Liseux
“Treasury of Celebrations,” a collection of essays from the 1970s voluntary simplicity movement, contains much material relevant to life nearly 50 years later. One prompt I like comes from a group of Quakers. It seems they were struggling to set parameters for the simple life.
Here are the questions they asked:
- Does what I own or buy promote activity, self-reliance and involvement, or does it induce passivity and dependence?
- Are my consumption patterns basically satisfying, or do I buy much that serves no real need?
- How tied is my present job and lifestyle to installment payments, maintenance and repair costs, and the expectations of others?
- Do I consider the impact of my consumption patterns on other people and on Earth?
Alternatives, the organization that collected these essays, no long exists. But the concerns of the 1970s, including an early alert about the climate, that prompted the movement are still around. It will be interesting to see if an increased awareness of the impact of each life will be an outcome of the global pandemic. I know I feel it.
As we begin to peek outside our homes during this I-hope-this-is-the-end-of-the-pandemic period, let’s enjoy this Christian mindfulness exercise. We want to make a list of activities that bring us joy. Then we will place one of those activities into our schedules on a regular basis.
Time at home has given us an appreciation for those things we do there that bring peace . And an even greater appreciation — even, a longing — for the things we do outside the home that bring joy. Use what you’ve learned from the pandemic to build this list.
Take 10 minutes to make a list of what you love to do, people you love to see and places that bring you peace. Then get those activities into your own scheduling system. Make sure you are doing several of them a week.
We’ve all discovered that life can change at any minute. Keep joy in your life intentionally. It will give you more grace and strength to do good works.
Mary Magdalene had lost everything. Adrift and in deep grief, she went to the tomb of her beloved leader. And, for a long moment, she found out things were even worse than she thought.
That emotion is familiar to me. And I relate to Mary in tears and deep trauma, begging a gardener for answers. The gardener turned out to be God. That morning, Mary Magdalene was chosen to be the first person to see the risen Jesus.
“Look at me,” Jesus says. “My face is shining on you.” As Paul says:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.Ephesians 3: 16-18
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 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.
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:
- Fear of God
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
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.
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?
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.
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.