Write Your Own Psalm

“How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community” by Judith Valente is one of the best books I’ve read this year. But, since I have 10 more chapters to go, I will save the glowing review for when I’ve finished the book.

Judith Valente does present two wonderful ideas about incorporating the Psalms into our daily lives that I’d like to share.

Her first idea is a good way to come alongside the meaning of Psalms you love. She suggest taking a Psalm that you know well and rewriting it to include the events of your life and/or the elements of your world.

This is an excellent way to grow closer to the times of David and his fellow Psalm writers. They wrote about their own personal worlds, filled with sheep and anointing oil. Turning Psalm 23, for example, into a poem about your life may be quite emotional and revealing. Some samples of that are found here.

The second idea is to take a current event … positive or negative … and create a Psalm about it. You can write a psalm of lament for a tragic situation. Or you can choose to glorify God for a positive event.

Each chapter of her book ends with suggestions for building the topics discussed into your daily life. I can’t wait to finish it!

Conduct a Personal Environmental Audit

Some of my steps to improve the environment had to be set aside for the pandemic. (I’m talking about you, Kroger plastic bags! Some of my Kroger baggers were so enthusiastic that they tended to use one bag per item.)

Like butterflies, we are emerging out of the pandemic crystallis. So it’s a perfect time to conduct a personal environmental audit. We can take a mindful approach to decide what habits to adopt to bring our love to God’s natural world.

Here are some areas to consider:

Energy Consumption

  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Use Energy Star-rated appliances.
  • Wash clothing on cold.
  • Air-dry clothing when possible.
  • Keep computers, televisions, small appliances and chargers on power strips that are shut off when you leave home.
  • Maintain your water heater.
  • Increase the efficiency of heating and cooling your home. (insulation, new shade trees, etc.)
  • Add solar or wind energy sources, if you can.

Water Consumption

  • Shorten showers.
  • Collect rain water for gardens.
  • Use the washing machine and dishwasher only for full loads.
  • Wash the car only when necessary.
  • Stop leaky faucets and toilets.

Transportation and Travel

  • Bike and walk.
  • Resume using public transportation and carpooling, if fully vaccinated.
  • Consider how much you are ordering on Amazon.
  • Return to the farmer’s markets, if fully vaccinated.

Waste Stream

  • Resume using your own reusable shopping bags.
  • Get paper, not plastic.
  • Purchase durable goods.
  • Compost kitchen scraps and yard waste.
  • Buy less.
  • Grow food and herbs.
  • Cancel junk mail.
  • Try natural cleaning products or make your own.
  • Take your shoes off in your house.
  • Check for radon and carbon monoxide.
  • Refuse (to take plastic, etc.), reduce (your consumption), reuse, recycle and rot (in compost).

See if you can find one or two things to resume or add to improve your environmental impact.

Now: When Time Intersects Eternity

The present moment is the point at which time intersects eternity.

Sarah Young, “Jesus Always”

The present moment is the only time when we can truly connect with God. Thinking about the future is our own false narrative. Thinking about the past is clouded with misperceptions and mistaken memories. Now is all we have.

Today is May Day, a celebration not much in vogue in the United States. But it’s a wonderful time to stop and celebrate God’s spring. The holiday began in prehistoric times as a spring festival. May Day baskets of flowers and the Maypole dance are still involved in the celebration.

This year, as it is often, the first of May falls in the closing weeks of Eastertide. May Day is also the time when I start trying to have prayer and devotions outdoors.

Take a moment today to stop and connect with God amidst the spring rebirth. God is here. God is now. He is found in the flowers. He is found in the rebirth of activity as the pandemic winter ebbs away.

Thank you Lord for all that is beautiful in nature and in our lives. Please be with us every moment today.

Try a Little Tolerance

Be tolerant with one another and forgiving, if any of you has cause for complaint: you must forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13

“Tolerance is being able to accept things that you wish were different.” So says Linda Kavelin Popov in “The Family Virtues Guide: Simple Ways to Bring Out the Best in Our Children and Ourselves.”

“When you practice tolerance, you don’t expect others to think, look or act just like you. You accept differences,” she wrote.

Political division continues. Christian churches like mine are in strife over what Jesus would do today. Families also have taken the heat in this time. Cousins and siblings, parents and children disagree, often forcefully. We have been kept apart due to the pandemic. Can we practice tolerance as we come back together? Or are we willing to remove people from our lives because we disagree with them?

As a contemplative, empowered (charismatic) evangelical practicing Christian mindfulness, I often struggle with the mighty gap between what I consider evangelical and how others define it. I’ve sat in the evangelical soup long enough to know how it looks and tastes. Many evangelicals are harsh and judgmental. Some white evangelicals have no idea that they benefit from systemic racism. Others actually are racist. They think people like me tolerate sin and are not loyal to God.

I think we’ve been told in no uncertain terms to “Judge not, lest you be judged.” And to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

People who lack tolerance have trouble loving, period. They tend to be angry and unhappy a lot. I’m writing this, aware that I also am being judgmental. God loves even the most intolerant people, and I must follow his lead. That’s actually what tolerance is all about.

How can Christian mindfulness help us to develop tolerance? It makes us aware in the present moment and in the presence of God. It helps us to see that groups of people are persons who God loves. It helps us to be humble enough to understand that we may not be the ultimate authority on what God wants. It allows us, first and foremost, to have respect for the free choice of our family members and to love them without prejudice.

Today let’s try to be aware of our own intolerance. Let’s hold it up to God, asking for forgiveness and for the Holy Spirit to lead us to loving behavior.

Living Moment by Moment

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

Questions About Your Stuff

“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.

Make a Joy List

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.

His Face Shines on You

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

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.