My Christian mindfulness practice for Labor Day includes thinking back on the summer past. We make a list of things that we didn’t get to do. Then we file it away to review the next Memorial Day, so we can make sure we get it on our next summer schedule. And we thank God for the fun we had.
This year, the list of what we missed …. let’s just say it would be way too long to file!!!
So instead, let’s make a list about the blessings of the pandemic summer of 2020. Gratitude is always a part of the Christian mindfulness journey. What can we be thankful for? Here’s some of my blessings:
- The whole family is still healthy.
- I got to take several interesting classes online for minimal money.
- I went to conferences and events online that would have been too expensive to attend in normal times.
- We didn’t have to go out in the heat to drive to meetings. It was just an air-conditioned walk to the den for Zoom.
- I saved all my travel money, which I can use as a backup for even better vacations.
- I spent even more time in contemplative prayer and spiritual reading, which brought me closer to the Lord.
- We watched several acclaimed TV shows from the 90s and early 00s that we were once too busy to view.
- My husband learned to bake! And he likes it.
And so on. Feel welcome to tell me about the things on your pandemic gift list.
In “Celebration of Discipline,” Richard Foster points out that Jesus was all about joy. From the beginning … “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). To the end … “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you.” (John 15:11).
I went back to his book after I heard Foster on the Renovare podcast, hosted by his son Nathan Foster, talk about the discipline of celebration as an antidote to worry. Because celebration comes from a release of any anxiety, intentionally celebrating can fight off worry.
As we enter the seventh month of the pandemic, worry grows. Lost jobs. Health fears. Kids schooling at home. Isolation from friends and loved ones. When will it end?
Although Foster’s podcast was recorded well before the pandemic, I think his idea of focusing on celebration is sound. After all, as David wrote, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
One way to increase your joy is to pray for it. Specifically, I pray on Monday for the Holy Spirit to give me the fruit of joy. It’s part of the GIFT list mindfulness practice.
Other ways to add celebration to our lives include:
- Play and sing praise songs. Many feel sad, missing the music in church. Break through by adding praise music to your daily prayer routine.
- Celebrate everything. Dozens of fun days are on the calendar. Make the most of them. Enjoy the coming autumn with caramel apples, pumpkins, apple cider, etc.
- See the Lord in the nature around you. Did you know that the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn tree leaves are their actual colors without chlorophyll? Only our ultimate Creative Director could think of that.
- If you haven’t laughed hard at least once by 7 p.m., watch or read something funny.
Silent retreats are the bomb. I took a four-night silent retreat at the Abbey at Gethsemani in Kentucky last year. Afterwards, I promised myself I would do it twice a year.
Well … then came COVID-19. For many of us who have been spending an exceptional amount of time with family for months, a silent retreat sounds like the impossible dream.
So try silence in small bits. Go to a room or outdoor space where you can be alone. No kids, no spouses, no pets. Sit in silence and check in for 10 minutes. Are you anxious? Tired? Feeling pushed or rushed?
Let the silence flow over you. Feel the presence of Jesus in that silence. He loves you. He understands.
This can be a regular practice to restart the day whenever you need it. See how it feels today.
So … is the pandemic over???? I wouldn’t know. I have been fasting from news about COVID-19 for a week.
I am surprised at how much better I feel. I’m lighter somehow. Of course, I’ve been continuing to take all my precautions. Masks, hand sanitizer, hand washing, isolation unless necessary.
The pandemic has been invading my dreams and creating a pervasive dis-ease for months. Once I found out that my state’s people were no longer unwelcome in New York … where my daughter’s family lives … I thought the media fast would help.
I highly recommend it to you. A week without distressing news feels like a vacation.
We’ve had five months or more of COVID-19 pandemic news. Let’s try to step away from it for one week. The pandemic has increased anxiety and disturbed our sleep for too long. We can take a break from the onslaught, while continuing to be safe and thoughtful of others.
This Christian mindfulness exercise has us deliberately reduce our media intake about COVID-19 and its impact. Here’s how:
- Consider where you are getting your COVID information. This includes: news media (online and offline), email alerts, social media, podcasts, television and magazines.
- Think about where you feel bombarded by information or opinion about the pandemic. What upsets you the most?
- Fast from it for a week. You can entirely cut off the source or use it only for specific times, days or amounts of time. You also could refuse to read or listen to COVID information and opinion.
- During times when you would ordinarily be consuming the media, pray instead. See if we can discover more about how God wants us to behave during this time.
Give your mind protection from the panic. I pray this will take the weight of the world off our shoulders. How do you think you will feel if you can take an information vacation from the pandemic?
Today is the 75th anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.
The event took place a few days after we dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. So it’s probable that the U.S. government knew at least a little about the death and devastation it would cause.
Mahatma Gandhi said at the time that these bombs would make peace a necessity. Peace has not come.
And, as the World War II generation around the world dies off, actual memories about the two actual uses of atomic bombs die, too. It’s more important than ever to learn about these events so we do not duplicate them.
Christian mindfulness calls for prayer and fasting today as a way to express sorrow over the deaths of these two cities and a combined 226,000 civilians. We as Americans in particular have an obligation to be responsible for making a more peaceful world.
Here is a prayer of lament and repentance for Nagasaki:
Above the clamor of our violence, your word of truth resounds, O God of majesty and power. Over nations enshrouded in despair, your justice dawns.
Grant your household a discerning spirit and a watchful eye to perceive the hour in which we live. Hasten the advent of that Day when the weapons of war shall be banished, our deeds of darkness cast off, and all your scattered children gathered into one.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near: your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.“Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers”
My sister bought me a perpetual calendar called “Meditations for the Busy Woman” by Jan Silvious in 1994. I still use it, although 2020 is the least busy year I’ve had ever.
Deletions, erasure marks and black scratches are all over many of our calendars these days. Today’s message on the perpetual calendar seems very timely.
Unrest in the Nest
Our God is honor-bound to make even the tearing up of our nests, the unraveling of our homes and dreams, the canceling of our plans and appointments, to work together for our good. Remember that today as you struggle with a nest that feels shaky beneath your feet. Jan Silvious
Today is the memorial for Martha of Bethany. She’s the woman best known for asking Jesus to tell her sister to get up off her rear end and help her. I think Martha is the patron saint for today’s busy working women.
Brother Lawrence is the patron saint of Christian mindfulness. Here’s some advice from him on getting things done that could have helped Martha:
We must carry out all of our actions with care and with wisdom, without the impetuosity and precipitancy (haste) of a distraught mind. It is necessary to work peacefully, tranquilly and lovingly with God, begging him to accept our work. And by this continual mindfulness of God, we shall crush the head of the devil and cause his weapons to fall from his hands.Brother Lawrence
Jesus told Martha, as you know, that “only one thing was necessary” and her sister was already doing it. Thousands of stories have been told about this conversation. But we also need to remember that Martha understood the truth.
As she said to Jesus when he arrived after her brother Lazarus’ death, “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
This simple Christian mindfulness practice keeps us aware of God’s presence. It makes time spent in the car a joy.
When we are passengers in a car, rather than playing with our phones, look out the window. Notice the world going by: the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the grass, the sky, happy children.
Remember: “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
Savor the beauty of the things we see. The one perfect cloud. The gradation of blue and gray in the sky. A well-tended garden. A family on a walk. Take a moment to pray for that family, too.
Another in-car practice that brings joy is naming the colors of things you see. Bringing awareness and gratitude while riding in a car helps us abide in God.
In his book, “Life Without Lack,” the late Dallas Willard makes a great suggestion for an exercise. Wherever you read or hear the word “faith,” substitute the word “trust.”
As Sarah Young writes in “Jesus Calling,” “Trust is a rich word, laden with meaning and direction for your life.” Jesus wants us to trust and be confident in Him. It actually makes him very happy.
Faith is a hard word because we so often doubt that we have enough faith. Here’s how some Bible verses would read with the word substitution:
And without trust, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through trust – and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
You are all children of God through trust in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by trust in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)