keyboard with sign that says break time

Take a Mini-Break

Are you standing in line today? Take a mini-break. In the shower? Take a mini-break.

Why? Mini-breaks are rapidly joining the endangered species list of activities. When we can always pull out our phones, the opportunity to rest our minds and recenter our spirits diminishes.

Our brains are not designed to constantly take in data, wrote Jade Beecroft in an article in Breathe magazine, issue 44. We need pauses to reflect and, frankly, to think. Yet the transitional times for this are fading away. It’s a lot easier to scan email or Instagram during those odd moments.

Beecroft cites a University of Texas study that found even the presence of a face-down smartphone on a person’s desk reduced that person’s cognitive ability. Why? Because part of their brains were engaged in the effort of not picking up the phone. Yikes!

Beecroft’s article even includes some scary information: Constant use of the smartphone can create a condition called digital dementia. We underuse the frontal lobes of our brain, causing short-term memory issues, lack of concentration, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

In Christian mindfulness, we need mini-breaks regularly not only to think, but to reconnect with the presence of God. Saying the Jesus prayer is a good option while waiting for the microwave to reheat coffee, for example.

The way to take a mini-break is simple: Put your phone away in a consistent spot where you can’t see it. (So you don’t end up worrying about finding it.) Say the Jesus prayer. Be present in the moment.

The result can be a great idea. (There’s a reason that good ideas happen in the shower.) Or you can enjoy a deep moment of inner peace. Either way, it’s a better space than doom scrolling ever will be.

Let 2 Index Cards Guide Your 2022

This Christian mindfulness exercise is one of the best ways I’ve found to find out why you love (or dislike) your job and/or your life. It starts with two index cards. Ideally, you can find two different card colors: one green and one yellow, for example. Depending on the size, you may need more than one of each.

You are going to carry those cards with you for at least three days. Every time you do a task that drains or upsets you, write that task on the yellow card. On the green card, record every task that gives you joy, pleasure or energy.

In just a few days, you’ll be able to see visually if you do more tasks you like or more that you don’t like. If you are doing lots of things you don’t like, you need to pray about that. Are you actually doing God’s will, or does He want you to change something about your life?

This exercise can help you decide if you need a different job, if you should change up your spiritual disciplines, if you need to work on a relationship or if you need to go get counseling.

You also can incorporate more of the tasks on the green card into your days, so you can enjoy more happiness. You can delegate or stop doing some of the things on the yellow card.

When I tried this in my second-to-last job, I found that the green card was actually a job description that I looked for in my next job. And later, the green and yellow cards helped me to plan my retirement, which has been joyous even in a pandemic.

Just be sure to pray over the results, so you don’t just see what you want to see. It’s an easy way to make 2022 a better year.

World Day of the Sick 2021

Today is World Day of the Sick, a time to lift up those who are ill in prayer. And to think about our own legacies within the coronavirus era.

If we cannot go to help those who are sick, are we calling? Are we sending cards? Are we praying?

Are we doing our parts to stop the spread of the virus? Are we masked up? Are we working to protect our families by social distancing?

Let’s also lift up the doctors, nurses and caregivers we know, so many of them exhausted by nearly a year of emergency service. What can each of us do to make things easier?

Today’s prayer for World Day of the Sick reads:

Illness lays bare our human vulnerabilities, which is the exact place God meets us.  Let us pray for God's healing presence in all the world's ailments.
For the sick and those impacted by coronavirus,
For those who share in the sufferings of the sick,
For those bound by injustice,
For our fragile environment,
For our own hardheartedness,
God of wholeness and hope, heal your people.

It’s Back … Once ‘Deadly Sin’ Returns in Pandemic

Before there were Seven Deadly Sins, there were Eight. The one that got eliminated, acedia, has made a return to life via the pandemic. Or at least to mine.

The eighth Deadly Sin was indeed acedia, which means “a lack of care.” It was laziness and more. Acedia, according to the Atlas Obscura website, was a kind of boredom. It makes it difficult to practice the presence of God. Mindful magazine’s Spring 2021 issue notes: “It has resurged, thanks to a certain pandemic, as (acedia) describes a thoroughly modern condition: listlessness, ambient anxiety and an inability to concentrate.”

The Desert Fathers, particularly Evagrius of Pontius, thought acedia was the vice that could most tempt monks and hermits to leave the faith. (His other deadly sins were gluttony, fornication, avarice, sadness, anger, vainglory and pride.) He called it “the demon of noontide” and felt very strongly about monks taking naps as the gateway to sin galore. (!!!)

Pandemic naps or not, Christian mindfulness is a way out of this listlessness. If your practice is feeling a little anxious or you are having difficulty concentrating, the magazine suggests you start by bringing mindfulness to a daily activity or a daily routine. This becomes Christian mindfulness when you pray before and after the activity and practice the presence of God during it. Give it a try.

A Mindful Response to Difficult People

Difficult, even toxic, people are a fact of life. We can … and sometimes must … avoid the most abusive. But we may still find that we have to deal with difficult coworkers, bosses, family members or neighbors.

Reviewing an old journal, I found my younger self listing the self-destructive ways that I was dealing with difficult people. I was:

  • Draining my own energy by being upset.
  • Thinking about how people were not behaving as they “should” be.
  • Trying to appease people in ways contrary to God’s will.
  • Saying half-truths and lies to keep the people off my back.
  • Rehearsing and re-rehearsing upcoming conversations.
  • Later, thinking about what nasty things I could have said to them.
  • Spending time and energy trying to stabilize myself after I was shaken by an encounter.

Christian mindfulness does call on us to handle toxic people differently. We need to look at ourselves in prayer to see if we are the cause of any of the unpleasantness. After we have dealt with anything that’s our fault, we can alter our behavior to make dealings with the person easier. Here are five ways that I have changed my approach.

  1. Accept that this is a difficult relationship with a person who has emotional problems. Accepting this frees us from hoping the person will behave in a different way next time.
  2. Tell the truth. Instead of trying to appease by lying, tell the person the truth. That doesn’t mean attacking them. It means using “I statements” about how they make you feel. “I don’t want to go to lunch with you because I tend to get nervous and anxious around you.”
  3. Do not respond to them … in words, writing or online comments … until you are calm and centered.
  4. Pray for them every day. Jesus asked us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
  5. Ask for the gift of mercy for yourself. Eventually you may be able to see this person as Jesus does. That will give you compassion.

Six Steps to Mindful Buying Online

During this pandemic, Amazon and other online retailers have become my close friends. And I’m not alone.

J.P. Morgan Chase reported in October 2020 that e-commerce sales were up 60% during the first half of 2020. Salesforce found that global digital orders peaked at 71% year-over-year on Dec. 5-6, 2020. The panicked buying of cleaning supplies, toilet paper and baby formula has calmed down. But we are still at the keyboard shopping.

So how can we bring Christian mindfulness to our urge to buy stuff? Isolation is making it tougher. I know I get really excited to see the Amazon Prime truck and the mailperson.

But I also know that more people are struggling these days. My money is God’s money. If I spend it on items that cheer me up for 30 minutes, I won’t have it to contribute to help others. These six tips can help:

  • Ask the right questions. Is this necessary? Do I have to buy it from Amazon, or can I get it delivered from the local shop that is struggling? How can this purchase do the most good?
  • Make a list. Put the things you need on a list. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it.
  • One in, one out. When you bring one item in, remove another worn item. This works for just about every type of purchase.
  • Consider the packaging. I’ve had a few items arrive crushed and broken, so I know that packaging is necessary. Recycle what you can, and urge sellers to use only what packaging is necessary.
  • Pray before you click. Are you doing this just because you’re bored, lonely or needy? Turn to the Lord to see.
  • Find other ways to lift your spirits. When you are down, try worship music. Many are missing the opportunity to gather together and sing. Or go for a walk in nature. Do what you need to do to lift your spirits with spending a lot of money.

The pandemic will not last forever. Let’s try to get through it without building up clutter and depleting our accounts.

What Does God Want You to Do?

Today I need to understand God’s will for a particularly long list of items. It does seem to be that kind of January here in the United States.

Today’s Jesus Always reading said: “Seek to align your will with Mine and to see things from My perspective.” We always want to do this. But we all know that far too many Christians have been complicit with evil throughout the centuries. It’s no different today.

So what do we do to align our will with God and to see things from His perspective? Bible study is essential. I have studied the Bible since I learned to read 61 years ago. I know what it says and what it does not say.

I want to avoid the problem presented in Romans 1:21-23: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of corruptible man.”

With Romans 1:25, I pray: “O, merciful God, help us not exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.”

The prayer is a good start. God will not leave us alone when we genuinely seek His will with plans to do it. Once we have done this, the Holy Spirit within us will help us. He is our Counselor who will teach us, walk with us and lead us into the path of doing God’s will.

Instead of striving so hard, we can rest in God’s spirit. The fruit of God’s spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Anything that is the opposite of this is not God’s will.

The Day Jesus Obeyed

Today is the church’s commemoration of the baptism of Jesus. Our Lord, who had no sin, went to the Jordan River for a ceremony typically used to mark repenting from sin and starting a new life.

His baptism was unusual. One eyewitness was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. As John the Baptist saw his relative Jesus approach the river, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” John told the crowd that Jesus was the man had had been talking about when he said someone greater than himself was coming. Indeed, John told them, this was the whole reason that he had started baptizing people … “that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Matthew the tax collector reported that John didn’t want to baptize Jesus. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John said. Jesus responded, “Let it be so now. It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was obedient, and so was John.

Dr. Luke, who conducted many interviews to put together his account, said Jesus was baptised among many others. As Jesus came up from the river water, a dove flew down from Heaven and landed on Him. A voice said, “You are my son, whom I love. With you I am well pleased.”

John the Baptist later told his followers, including Andrew, that God had promised to point out the Messiah. God told John the Baptist to look for the man who had a dove fly down and rest on him after baptism.

What’s Your Word of 2021?

Selecting a single word as guidance for the year is popular. I first heard the idea from Gretchen Rubin, whose podcast on it from last year is here. Many others also promote the idea, including the One Little Word project and Happiness is Homemade.

The process differs. For me, it’s about prayer and listening. Several words came to mind for 2021: Forward. Joy. And the one I am going with: Impart Grace. (Two words isn’t cheating, right?)

In her book “Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace,” Jan Johnson mentions that she strives to make every interaction about imparting grace to others. It’s a beautiful thought.

One needs to maintain a deep well of God’s presence to do this. So it’s a perfect marriage of Christian mindfulness, daily work and divine appointments (a meeting with another person that God has arranged).

The pandemic has made filling up with God’s presence easier, as I’m home and quiet more often than not. So as the vaccine makes it possible for the world to reopen again, I hope to go forward and impart grace.

What’s your word this year?

toilet paper roll with message

How to End 2020

I’ve just read my 2020 journal entries and composed my Good Riddance list. We’ll burn the list … our worst of 2020 events … this evening. But is this enough to say good-bye to such a year?

It’s a start. 2020 featured my mother’s funeral, the death of a pet (Clarence, the sweetest cat on Earth, RIP), COVID infecting four family members, and lots of time in the house. We cancelled four vacations, and we didn’t get back all the money. I didn’t get to see my granddaughter in New York nearly enough. Especially hard at Christmas.

Re-reading the journal, I found a lot of blessings. For one thing, I’m seemed to clean the house a lot. More important, I did follow through on my efforts to use the year as an extended retreat. I took plenty of on-line workshops and read useful books. I followed my own Liturgy of the Hours, and I felt more consistently in prayer with Jesus.

Someday we will all look back on this time and … what?? I hope I can be grateful for the good. Do spend some time today counting your blessings, burning your Good Riddance list, and practicing the presence of God.