Love Your Enemies

America is very divided. Republicans gained seats in a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Control of the Senate has come down to two runoff elections. And, as of the time I write this, one presidential candidate is refusing to concede to the other.

The country seems to be center-right, although it has rejected a leader whose behavior has been unacceptable to most. At the same time, it’s clear that Native Americans and African-Americans face systemic racism in our culture.

We cannot move forward as a nation without ending the hatred felt against each other. It is God’s will that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Period.

It is time to heal. The demonization needs to end. We are all Americans. It’s time to expect a government focused on serving its people, not seeking political gain for one party.

Today, let’s try to do a traditional Christian mindfulness exercise … Loving-Kindness meditation … focused on those who voted for the other side in the presidential election. Here’s how:

  1. Quiet your mind and invite God’s presence.
  2. Think about yourself. Say: May I be healthy. May I know God’s comfort. May I feel God’s love. May I live in God’s peace.
  3. Think about someone you love. Repeat phrases for them. May they be healthy. May they know God’s comfort. May they feel God’s love. May they live in God’s peace.
  4. Think about people you know who are in the opposite political party. Repeat for them: May they be healthy. May they know God’s comfort. May they feel God’s love. May they live in God’s peace.
  5. Think about the presidential ticket you did not vote for. Repeat: May they be healthy. May they know God’s comfort. May they feel God’s love. May they live in God’s peace.

Let’s do this often until the hatred for opponents has left our hearts.

Try This: Vary Your Talks With God

Mindful Christianity is continual prayer. As we invite God to walk with us, we talk with the Trinity.

Today’s practice invites us to intentionally focus on an element of prayer in that ongoing conversation. The seven elements of prayer that Jesus taught are:

Adoration – Acknowledging who God and responding to that reality with praise and worship.

Confession – Talking about the times that you have sinned and fallen short of doing God’s will, as well as the areas in your life where that happens repeatedly and often.

Renewal – Asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and God’s power in your life.

Petition – Asking God for help in specific situations.

Intercession – Asking God for help with specific people.

Thanksgiving – Expressing your gratitude for all God has done for you and your family.

We can keep this list of conversation starters with God in our phones. Since there are seven elements, we could concentrate on expanding one of them each day. Or we can look at the list when we feel tapped out in continual prayer.

Let me know how this works for you.

beach wave

Try This: Surf Your Anxiety

When anxiety and fear arise, try to surf them. Feel them, but also release them to God.

The best way to release is to do something simple that no one else can notice. Try taking three deep breathes and crying out (internally … not out loud) to God. Then settle into the present.

This is an exercise you can do as often as needed. Start to feel the swelling of fear or anxiety? Do it. Start to feel a growing wave of worry? Do it.

Breathing mindfully and calling on the Lord’s assistance helps us to surf those distressing emotions. As they swell up, we ride atop them. As they crash to the surf, we can release them.

We can ask the Lord to give us peace, love or joy. Or we can just ask for help. Give it a try!

Try This: Walk With Francis of Assisi

In his book “Renew Your Life,” pastor Kai Mark Nilsen suggests a wonderful Christian mindfulness exercise based on the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

The prayer goes:

Make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love. 
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

For it is in giving that we receiving.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

Nilsen suggests taking a verse a day and using it to apply to your behavior in your relationships. How can you sow light in the darkness with the people you meet today? How can you sow hope?

Additional resources are recommended here.

stop sign

Try This: STOP

It’s easy to adapt a common practice in secular mindfulness — the STOP practice — for Christian mindfulness. You really only need to change one aspect … the P … adding a process that also starts with P.

Here we go:

S for Stop what you are doing, saying or thinking.

T for Take a deep breath. Or three.

O for Observe what is happening. Inside and out.

P for Pray for direction and Proceed with a kind heart.

The STOP practice is basic as it allows you to return mindfully to the present moment and seek the presence of God there. For you are a reactor by nature, STOP will help you to respond thoughtfully and in alignment with God’s will.

For more information about how Christian mindfulness exercises are different, click here.

Try This: An At-Home Retreat

It’s been more than a year since I took a retreat away from home. Lots of us miss the silence, the prayers and the feeling of being cocooned in God’s love.

The spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are the framework for many retreats. At least two books offer an “at-home” version that would allow you to enjoy a retreat in safety.

“Journey with Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius” by Larry Warner is the newest, published in 2010. It comes from a Protestant perspective. No matter our stage of faith or age, this one helps us experience Jesus. Warner even includes a part in the beginning that asks “Is this book for you?” Some of those indicators include:

  • Do you have a strong desire to know Jesus more intimately, love him more fully and follow him more wholeheartedly?
  • Do you want to live with an internal awareness that God is in you as you live, move and have your being, and to find God in all things?
  • Are you willing to follow Jesus in good times and bad?
  • Are you open to having your theology and image of Jesus challenged and expanded?

Warner’s retreat includes daily exercises for at least four weeks. He also suggests that you have a spiritual director. Many are doing Zoom meetings in the pandemic. So you can find one by asking your church leaders or searching online by typing spiritual direction and your town. Be sure the director shares your faith.

The second choice is a classic: “A Do-It-at-Home Retreat: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola” by Andre Ravier, S.J. First published in 1989, the book has been republished regularly, so the cover may look different. The four-week daily retreat comes from a Catholic perspective, containing background on prayer types.

At the time he wrote this, Fr. Ravier had been conducting retreats for more than 30 years. He designed the book for “those who want to sincerely place themselves face-to-face with God so as to order their lives along his loving designs.”

We can use the time at home as fall deepens to deepen our own spirituality. Try a retreat!

Try This: Carry a Reminder

Christian mindfulness is a practice, not a perfect. One way to remind yourself to be mindful of the presence of Jesus is to literally have keepsakes displayed where we work most often or in our pockets.

The reminders can be simple and free, as Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel remind us in their free pdf “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence.”

Where are you most often during the day? In front of the computer? In your kitchen? Place a reminder there.

What coat or jacket are you starting to wear this fall? Put a reminder in the pocket.

Reminders can be small and easy to carry:

  • A stone to remind us that Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives.
  • A nail to remind us that Jesus died for us.
  • A feather to remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

These same reminders can go in the space where we work. Or we can place larger items. I see a wooden cross from Jerusalem given to me 35 years ago when working in the kitchen. I’ve placed on my computer monitor a “pray continually” car visor clip.

Take a moment to pick out a reminder. We may need to change it seasonally if we get so used to it that we don’t notice them any more.

More information on how Christian mindfulness exercises are different is here.

Try This: Find Your Prayer Closet

Pre-pandemic, many of us worked in offices. Even if you had an office with a door, you had little privacy. The “open door” policy, thin walls, cubicle hell, email, texts and phone calls result in frequent interruptions.

If you are working from home, the interruptions continue. They even get more complicated … if your new officemates are animals and/or small children.

Today, take the time to find yourself a prayer closet in your work space. Find a place where you can be alone for just five minutes of prayer. I have used a bathroom on the deserted floor below my office, a walkway outside the building, and a rarely visited storage area. Prayer closets at home could be a bathroom or the basement.

Then when you need five minutes with the Lord, you know where to go.

Try This: Secret Kindness

This week, do some random acts of kindness in secret. Here’s some ideas:

  • Do someone else’s chore at home.
  • Pick up trash.
  • Make an anonymous donation to a good cause.
  • Leave a positive review for a podcast or small business you like.
  • Leave change in a vending machine.
  • Pay for the coffee or fast food meal of the person behind you in line.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in a store line.
  • Pay a stranger a compliment.
woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography

Try This: How Are You Like Those You Dislike?

This is a time when many Christians are appalled at others … including other Christians. Politics has overcome many of us. This Christian mindfulness exercise can help us to regain love and compassion for others.

Think of a person who you don’t like. If you are up for it, make it someone whose opinions you find obnoxious or worse. Put this person in your mind while you open with prayer and then meditate on these things:

  • This person is a human with a mind, heart and body, just as I am.
  • God loves this person, like He loves me.
  • Jesus died for this person, just like me.
  • This person has a history that I do not completely know.
  • This person has thoughts and feelings like me.
  • This person has gone through difficulties and hurts, just as I have.
  • This person is not always wrong, just as I am not always right.

Then pray for this person: for their relationship with God, for their health, for their happiness.

I developed this idea based on the Just Like Me exercise in “The Mindful Day” by Laurie J. Cameron. She considers thinking well of others as one of the central practices of mindfulness. If that is true of secular mindfulness, think how much more true it is of Christian mindfulness.