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.
Every Christian walks a unique and particular path. I’m finding that 50+ years of (as Eugene Peterson famously said) “a long obedience in the same direction” takes us into various streams of Christianity. In the end, our experience can become sturdy and enriched because we have experienced the faith from multiple perspectives … sometimes all at once.
Two people who would agree with this are Richard Foster and the late Dallas Willard. They founded an organization called Renovare, an excellent source for information, inspiration and community. Foster also wrote Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. It’s a good book on the various types of Christian experience. A free resource guide for the book is here. And a short article from Renovare summarizing its view of the six streams is here.
Streams that Foster identified include:
- Contemplative, the prayer-filled life.
- Holiness, a life of holy habits and integrity.
- Charismatic, the Spirit-empowered life.
- Social Justice, a life of compassion to others.
- Evangelical, Bible-centered living.
- Sacramental, encountering God in visible things.
Similar to sacramental, but different, is Liturgical, which follows a calendar of living and growing as a Christian with an emphasis on sacred texts.
I consider Christian mindfulness very much across in multiple streams. Its foundation is Contemplative. But I also experience it in my walk as Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, real Evangelical (not to be confused with American nationalist idolatry, which is not of Jesus), Sacramental and Liturgical. This can make you feel as if you don’t belong anywhere. But the Lord has corrected that for me by reminding me that a strand of multiple cords is not easily broken.
During a time when some Christians have damaged the church’s integrity and reputation, it’s good to look at where you are and what you believe. Jesus never fails us. If we think He has, maybe we have failed Him.
Today is the traditional date of Epiphany, although some churches marked it last Sunday. The celebration commemorates the visit of the wise men to Joseph, Mary and Jesus where they were staying in Bethlehem. (It’s assumed that, by then, they found a place to stay other than the stable.) So many Christians take the opportunity to bless their homes on this day.
Here’s a simple blessing, adapted from “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.” (By the way, I’m not Catholic. But this book is very helpful for those wishing to expand their household’s prayer life.) Here’s the prayer:
Peace be with this house and with all who live here. Blessed be the name of the Lord now and forever.
During these days of the Christmas season, we keep this feast of Epiphany, celebrating the manifestation of Christ to the Magi, to John at the River Jordan, and to the disciples at the wedding in Cana. Today Christ is manifest to us! Today this home is a holy place.
Listen to the words of the holy gospel according to John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten Son to every nation with the guidance of a star.
Bless this house and all who inhabit it.
May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and the keeping of your law.
We give thanks to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit now and forever.
Feeling nervous? Gee, I wonder why. This Christian mindfulness exercise will help you to quiet your spirit by resting your hands.
Several times a day, stop and put your hands in your lap. Keep them still. Then offer up a prayer of praise to God for all you have done with your hands … and all you are going to do with them in the future.
As you keep still, focus on the sensation of your hands. Do you feel a little twinge of pain? Or the feeling of muscles releasing? Focusing on one aspect of your body … like a mini-body scan … can help your entire body to feel more relaxed.
The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian, so it is possible to feel God’s peace, joy and love every day. But it doesn’t just happen.
The easiest way to begin is to spend time in quiet. Silence often leads to an expanded sense of God’s presence. Just sit quietly and pray, “Holy Spirit, fill me with your peace.” Let it happen.
As you feel the peace fill your mind, give thanks. An experience like this seems to lead naturally to gratitude. We can reinforce this gratitude with a simple “thank you” walk or a worship song when the world invades and disturbs our peace.
Once we walk in the present moment in God’s presence, feeling his peace, we can move step-by-step through the day and display love to everyone we meet. That goal would be much too much if we had to do it on our own.
Allowing God to flow through us … to abide in us … to be the vine support our branches … that is how we feel God’s peace and do the most good.
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?
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.
Christian mindfulness allows us to give others a precious gift: our full, concentrated attention coming from a place of God’s grace.
As the year winds down and the pandemic continues, let’s show our loved ones, colleagues and acquaintances that we care about them. The way of Christian mindfulness calls for us to be fully in the present moment in the presence of God. We bring that approach to others by listening with full and concentrated attention. We have no agenda of things to fix about them. We judge not, lest we be judged.
Meeting people as they are … where they are … is a precious gift. We open up to become truly engaged in their words. We ask open-ended questions that begin with “what” or “how,” rather than “why.” We say, “Tell me more.”
At the same time, we shield ourselves from becoming enmeshed in other people’s problems. That requires detachment along with the compassion. In the past, we may have heard things that were fodder for gossip and judgment. In the presence of Christ, these same things become concerns to lift in prayer. Privately.
The only way this can happen is through God’s grace. Being willing to be a conduit opens ourselves to an outpouring of grace in our own lives.
A fear-crazed king orders the execution of all baby and toddler boys in a city. Today is the day that Christians traditionally remember these Holy Innocents. We also remember that Joseph, Mary and Jesus … warned to run … became refugees. So many little ones … some many refugees who need help are all around us.
Christian mindfulness calls for us to be present to this suffering. As we observe, we ask the Lord what he would like us to do. COVID-19 has only made the suffering worse. While it feels overwhelming, even a small offering can bring a bit of light into a dark place.
To honor the children slaughtered in Bethlehem and to help those struggling today, we made a contribution to International Rescue Committee, founded by Albert Einstein in the 1930s.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises in more than 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities. It provides clean water, shelter, health care, education and empowerment support to refugees and displaced people. The board of advisors includes people I trust, not the least of whom is Jeffrey Garten, retired dean of the Yale Business School and Ina’s husband. A generous donor is tripling all contributions given today. You can learn more here.
Dozens of other ways exist to help children in honor of the Holy Innocents today. Giving a family the gift of livestock through World Vision. Sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Contributing to your own church’s relief fund.
Today we recognize the violence against children isn’t new. And that the pandemic will only make the suffering of the innocent worse. Let’s be a force for good.