Three Steps to Mindful Worship

My journey has taken me from liturgical music to contemporary Christian worship music. It took me a while to learn how to worship intentionally and mindfully while the band plays loudly. Here are three steps that will help you to practice Christian mindfulness as you participate in worship music.

  1. Sing to God, not about God. This is a similarity between liturgical music and contemporary Christian worship songs. But it’s different from some from mainline Protestant denominations. John Wimber, a musician who founded the Vineyard movement, and his wife, Carol, noticed that they experienced God deeply when they sang songs that personally addressed Jesus. Carol Wimber wrote, “Those types of songs both stirred and fed the hunger for God within me.”
  2. Worship with your body. During the pandemic, many of us have watched our services online, singing while we slouched in an armchair. Now we are back in church, standing and lifting our hands. The songs feel much more like worship. The Wimbers saw this, too. “Because the word worship means literally to bow down, it is important that our bodies are involved in what our spirits are saying. In Scripture, this is accomplished through bowing heads, lifting our hands, kneeling and even lying prostate before God.”
  3. Worship throughout the day. Worshipping can lift you up when you are doing something that normally brings you down. I realized that I was thinking very negatively when I was getting ready to go to work. So I started bringing worship music into the bathroom with me. Now I sing to God while I dress. It helps so much. Think about times of the day when you are feeling the worst and see if you can add worship music to the routine!

Do you have any suggestions of how to bring Christian mindfulness to your worship times? I’d love to hear them.

Observe Suffering

Jan Chozen Bays, MD, suggests a practice that sounds grim at first glance. In her book, “How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness,” the Zen teacher says:

As you go about your day, pay attention to the phenomenon of suffering. How do you detect it in yourself or others?

We shouldn’t just look for obvious suffering such as death or starving children. (Those things are good to meditate on with the intention of determining if we can do more to help.) Dr. Bays wants us to be mindful of the spectrum of suffering, from minor irritation to full-fledged grief.

Gaining awareness of the suffering in our hearts and the hearts of those around us is good. But it is most helpful if it unlocks compassion. As Robin Williams once said:

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

Observing our own suffering also gives us motivation to change. How can we stop it? How can we think about it differently? I’ve always believed that your greatest suffering can become your most effective ministry. Could that be true for you?

Dr. Bays also suggests that we use the Loving Kindness exercise when we are suffering to lift up others who are in pain as well.

Are we brave enough to notice suffering today? Let’s see how it changes us.

No Complaints for 24 Hours

The best way I’ve found to monitor my own ungrateful heart is to have a complaint-free day. I’ve put a rubber band or an easy-to-remove bracelet on my arm. Then, when I do get ready to complain, I move it from arm to arm.

This points out the problem. Gratitude is the solution. Whenever we are ready to complain or grumble, we need to follow the suggestion/command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

In everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Gratitude is also the answer when we are prepared to be proud or boastful about ourselves. It’s not us, after all. God has given us the gifts we have, and He has provided graces to make things possible for us to do.

So try a complaint-free day. Change the band on your arm when you feel you want to complaint and consciously move to gratitude. You may find that it feels so good that you can stretch it into a complaint-free week or more.

What Do You Want?

This Christian mindfulness exercise allows us to monitor our wants and desires during a calendar day. It’s a self-awareness tool that can help to see just what we cling to, what we “have to have.”

Set up an hourly timer and make a list of the hours when you are usually awake. Start in the morning if you can. Then when the timer rings or buzzes, write down what you want.

It could be coffee, more sleep, a chocolate bar, a nap, a hug or something else. Looking at the patterns may help you spot things that you cling to when stressed. Are you running to the Lord or to the refrigerator first?

Try the exercise to see what it is you want. Then you can decide if that’s OK with you.

Three Questions for Tweets

This Christian mindfulness exercise is good for any communications, especially for posts on social media.

The exercise involves stopping to think (always good for Twitter!) and asking yourself three questions:

  1. Is this true?
  2. Is this kind?
  3. Is this necessary?

The first two questions are pretty easy. The last is difficult. After all, is any social media post necessary?

But in today’s world, it’s good to shine a light in the darkness you can find on social media. We just need to be intentional and even prayerful about it.

It’s good to have a purpose for your social media accounts. The purposes for mine are:

  • Facebook: I use Facebook to connect with family, friends and former colleagues. The pictures from the account feed into a Chatbook series that I use as a family photo album. I also use Facebook to talk about caregiving, helping people with mental illness, being a long distance grandma and practicing Christian mindfulness. Finally, I use it to make people laugh.
  • Twitter and LinkedIn: I use both to promote mental health advocacy, Christian mindfulness and laughter.
  • Instagram: I post my best photographs on Instagram.

So for me, asking if a post is necessary means it must meet these criteria. There’s no room for unsubstantiated or iffy information, political fights, vulgarity or hate speech on my social media. That is, when I do it right.

Try creating your own purposes for social media. It’s what the pros … which I used to be … do. I would love to know how it works for you.

close up of hand holding text over black background

See Yourself As God Sees You

I want you to learn to look at yourself — and others — through the lens of My unfailing Love. As you persevere in this you will gradually find it easier to love yourself and others.

Jesus speaking in “Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence” by Sarah Young

Meditating on your true identity is a beneficial Christian mindfulness exercise. In Jesus Always, Sarah Young tells us that Jesus says: “You are troubled by fear of failure, but My Love for you will never fail. Let Me describe what I see as I gaze at you, beloved. You look regal, for I have crowned you in My righteousness and crowned you with glory and honor. You are radiant, especially when you are looking at Me. You are beautiful as you reflect My Glory back to Me.”

Seeing ourselves as God sees us brings peace. It also opens up a wave of compassion for others.

“A Guide to Practicing the God’s Presence” by Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel recommends this exercise. It also provides a long list of identity scriptures for meditation. You can download the 211-page book for free here.

To do the Christian mindfulness exercise:

Choose one or two of the Scriptures below (or in any list of identity Bible verses). Pick one that you truly believe reflects how God sees you.

Write down the Scripture and place it on your bedside. Before you go to sleep, read the Scripture and meditate on it.

Some appropriate Scriptures include:

“But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“I call you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father, I have made known to you.” (John 15:15b)

“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free man. There is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Laughter and Mindfulness

Laughter is one of the best ways to feel mindful. It has so many benefits that the Mayo Clinic has a whole article on them, found here. The most surprising benefits are the positive impacts on your body!

My general rule is: If you haven’t laughed hard by 8 p.m., watch or read something funny. Deliberately try to laugh.

After you laugh, bring awareness to the way your body .. your chest especially … feels. Do you feel less stress? How about your mood? Did laughter lighten it?

Bring the Lord into your laughter with a prayer of gratitude.

If you would like more, laughing meditation is actually a thing. Here’s a video showing you how:

Let me know if you try this. And how it works for you!

Bringing God to the Table

The practice of mindful eating as a Christian gives us the opportunity to experience the presence of God in the present moment two or three times a day. A beautiful essay about the spiritual aspects of mindful eating came from Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher, “Mindfulness Survival Kit.”

I am adapting his thoughts to include the presence of God at the meal.

When we eat a meal, we should be mindful of our Lord present with us at the table, the food and the people with us. We can contemplate five things:

  1. The food is a gift from God, the Earth, the sky and much hard work.
  2. May we eat in mindfulness and with gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
  3. We ask God to give us the grace to overcome our sins and weaknesses, especially greed, vanity and gluttony.
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.
  5. We accept this food in order to nourish our family, build our community and do God’s will.

Keeping these thoughts in mind is a useful way as we slowly eat and enjoy our meals. Other ideas about mindful Christian eating are here.

family having dinner and celebrating

Try Mindful Eating

This Christian mindfulness exercise helps us eat with mindfulness and gratitude. Practicing mindful eating is a big leap for me.

Growing up, I ate as quickly as possible at the dinner table so I could be excused. My parents were undergoing a tense period when I was young. And I didn’t want to be around the sarcasm and disagreements. My husband is still amazed at how fast I can scarf down a plate of food.

Christian mindfulness calls for us to appreciate our food as a gift from God and to enjoy every bite. This technique is also used in weight loss, for it allows us to understand when we have had enough food.

Here’s the exercise:

  • Begin each meal with a prayer of thanksgiving. Some ideas for prayer at the table are here.
  • Then put down your fork or spoon between each bite.
  • Concentrate on the taste.
  • Only pick up your fork again when you have finished eating the bite.
  • If you are eating something with your hands, put it down on the plate between bites.

A meal together is also a good time to talk about how you experience God in your day. Sharing the best things that happened to you that day also creates opportunities for deep conversation and understanding.

Other thoughts on mindful eating are here.

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.