Today’s exercise in Christian mindfulness involves paying attention. (As all these exercises do.) You’ll be paying attention to two things: something in nature and something in yourself.
Pick something in nature that you can see out your window: trees, bushes, the sky or the grass. For a few days, notice this handiwork of God. How are the trees in your view different? How do they change from day to day? Notice color, texture, shape and form. God is at work in them.
Then, think about yourself. You have survived nearly 10 months of a pandemic. How are you different? What new strengths have you discovered in yourself? What has surprised you about your reaction? How are your family relationships? Your connections to others outside the family? How can you be more of a force for good where you are?
The pandemic has changed us all. God is at work in nature. Like the trees and the sky, we, too, are changing and responding to God’s prompting. Take a look and see how the pandemic has shaped you.
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Those words were the first lyrics of a song I learned in Girl Scouts in the 1960s.
The words are true. As the peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in “Being Peace”:
If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”
In Christian mindfulness, this peace comes from walking step by step in the present in the presence of Jesus. It is a peace that passes understanding. A peace that overcomes fear and worry. A peace that reflects the light of God into the darkness.
During this pandemic Advent, when many of us are at home with our immediate families all the time, doing this kind of peace work is essential. We create the mood in our homes. Even one person who is at peace and happy can make a huge difference to the family atmosphere.
In Zoom meetings with Christian friends, I often hear concern about important work for God that the quarantine has delayed. I contend that the quarantine gives us at least two wonderful opportunities: the chance to spend more time with God and to show more love to our nearest and dearest.
Let us enjoy this time. It won’t last forever.
As the song says: “Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
Alan Fadling opens this book with the words: “I am a recovering speed addict … and I don’t mean the drug.” This spiritual director’s mission is to inspire people to rest deeper, love fuller and lead better.
Living a frenetic life was a sign of success in my pre-retirement world. Even today the successful retired person is busy, even crazy busy. The pandemic has slowed down the pressure, but it’s still there.
Fadling details the rhythms of Jesus’ life … from the huge meetings with seekers, the miracles, the days of discipling the disciples and the nights of prayer alone. Jesus, who could sleep through a storm at sea, led a balanced life.
He applies that insight into our world’s issues, like productivity, suffering and rest. He also provides insightful questions to pray over at the end of each chapter and a list of spiritual practices that can help us to slow down.
Here is a short video of Fadling talking about what he means by an unhurried life and his book “An Unhurried Leader.”
Amazon has “An Unhurried Life” rated at five stars with 99 reviews. Goodreads has it at 4.11 stars with 602 reviews. It won the 2014 Christianity Today Award of Merit.
Other resources useful for a practice of Christian mindfulness are here.
The first Sunday of Advent is seven days away. If you are still having issues with order delivery, as I am, be sure to get your supplies, books and ideas ready for the year.
Having a mindful Christian Advent is a time of joy and wonder, sorely needed this year. It’s a quiet time spent intentionally concentrating on the miracle of Jesus’ birth, rather than commercial Christmas. This kind of Advent is sure to chase pandemic fears away so we can feel at peace.
Some ideas for Advent prep include:
Get or make Advent candles. (We are doing beeswax candles from a kit this year. You can find the kit here.)
Purchase an Advent calendar or stock up one if you have a reusable model.
Get the Advent wreath out of storage … or buy one.