Weep With Those Who Weep

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.

Romans 12-9-15

Unity is a gift from God, one that Jesus zealously prayed for at the Last Supper. I am blessed to belong to a racially diverse church, and we are diverse politically as well. For some in this large congregation, this is a time of testing. We are being encouraged to divorce our political affiliations and follow Jesus in a deeper manner. For the whites of our church, this means repenting of our nation’s racism against African-Americans and other people of color.

How do we encourage each other to make this move? I believe the first step is to strengthen our confidence in God. That allows us to move empathetically toward those who have had the wind knocked out of them.

Of course, this includes all people who were shocked by George Floyd’s murder. And all the people who know that this is just the latest in hundreds of years of violence (by law enforcement and regular citizens) against African-Americans in our country. But also … all the white evangelicals who thought God sent Trump to end abortion.

Let us be humble enough to understand that we all have a lot to learn. Let us weep with those who weep. Let us speak our truth with respect to those who struggle to understand. Let us listen without defensiveness.

Jesus wants unity, and he is well aware of His followers’ sins and frailties. He wants unity anyway. Let’s start with a prayer of repentance. Here’s mine:

Father, I am before you, a descendant of slave owners. I have always known that racism is wrong, and I have worked all my career to help those impacted by racism and systemic poverty. Working in Mississippi, I came in conflict with the Ku Klux Klan. I was called names, put on a “death list” and followed. I was scared. Yet I was so proud of myself. I was so sure that people like me would put everything right in a few years. I was wrong.

I confess to you, Lord, that I never think about my privilege as a white person, unless someone directly points it out. As the mother of a son with schizophrenia, I never worried that police would just shoot my son if he had an episode. I never had a talk with my kids about what to do when police pull you over. While I have experienced first-hand the discrimination against women in the workplace, I thought much of the prejudice against African-Americans was handled by laws and affirmation action. I was wrong.

I never thought, Lord, about how African-Americans were arrested on bogus charges to become the prison labor that rebuilt the South after the Civil War. I never realized our laws have lead to mass incarceration, leading to one in 3 African-American man experiencing incarceration. I knew from my own experience covering law enforcement about racist cops and bad judges. But I thought that was changing fast. I was wrong.

Those wrongs are sins.

I repent Lord for myself and my country. I want to change. I want to love people more and fight for the right. Show me how to be humble in conversation, how to listen without defensiveness, how to love as Jesus did. Your Holy Spirit will be with me to make the change I need and take the steps you want me to take. Thank you for that. Amen.

Living in Mindfulness of God’s Magnificence

First of all, my child, think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence. Adore His power. Pray to Him frequently and incessantly. Bear Him always in your mind. Teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship and love God. First and last, think magnificently of Him.

Paternus, “Advice to a Son”

Invite God to Invade Your Life

Christian mindfulness is becoming aware of the presence of God as you focus on your daily life moment by moment. But what are we thinking about God as we wash the dishes, sit on a Zoom call or make shrimp salad?

I’m taking a class called Life Without Lack that challenges me to think about how magnificent God is. We are practicing doing ordinary things with an awareness of God’s creativity, His love for us and His immense being that none of us have any chance of fully understanding.

The teacher, Jan Johnson, worked closely with the late Dallas Willard, a famed man of God who taught philosophy. The goal is to find the serene balance that Jesus advocated of turning away from worry and fear. Of approaching God with the trust of a little child. Of letting the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

One of the things that Jan has suggested is praying for God to invade your life. She suggests starting by thinking of three things you are going to do in the next 24 hours and agreeing that God will invade them. He will be with you as you pull weeds, cook squash and attend on-line church. And you can ponder about how magnificant He is.

Breathe Deeply When Your Phone Goes Off

Buzzes, bells and song fragments go off on our phones on a constant basis. Before COVID-19, I made a conscious effort to reduce my notifications, read my email once a day, and turn off the sound on my phone while otherwise engaged.

The pandemic and the demonstrations in support of racial justice have changed that for me. I look at my email when I get up. I turned on many notifications, and the sound on my phone is usually on. I also check social media more frequently. I want to know what’s going on.

The average American consumes more than 10 hours of media a day, a figure that has probably gone up in the pandemic. This level of outside noise and frequent interruption does rattle us. Eventually I plan to work to reduce my phone’s dominance in my life.

Until then, I am going to focus on training myself to take three deep breaths when a notification goes off. I will pray “Lord Jesus, I know you are present.” Then I will look at the notification or even take the call. That will reestablish the presence of Jesus around me as I learn about the latest developments.

Training to respond mindfully to a sound is also a good step in building the habit of taking a deep breath and centering ourselves when any interruption happens. (Bell or no bell.). I know this will keep me in the spirit of Christian mindfulness even more over time.

Resource: Live from Rest app

Live from Rest is a Bible-based Christian meditation app that’s free and easy to use.

You can create dozens of meditation sessions in a variety of categories: shorts, rest, gratitude, centering, family, mindfulness, 12 steps, freedom and songs. The app allows you to set the duration, the backing music or sounds, and the option to have focus bells.

Live from Rest has a choice of four voices to offer some of the meditations. Bible verses and themes are used in all the guided meditations. You can also use the app as a timer for silent meditation.

Lucinda Smith is the source, who provides her story and testimony on the Live from Rest website.

The Resources page contains a list of other apps, online resources and books to support your Christian mindfulness practice.

Trust God One Crisis at a Time

Just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we also must learn to trust God one circumstance at a time.

Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings, but of my will. The truth we must believe is that God is sovereign. He carries out His own good purposes without ever being thwarted.

Our first priority in times of adversity is to honor and glorify God by trusting Him.

We tend to make our first priority the gaining of relief from our feelings of heartache, disappointment and frustration. This is a natural desire, and God has promised to give us grace sufficient for our trials and peace for our anxieties.

We honor God by choosing to trust Him when we don’t understand what He is doing or why He has allowed some circumstance.

Jerry Bridges, “Trusting God”

Prayer from Apollo 8 for Universal Justice

Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in spite of human failure.

Give us the faith to trust Your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness.

Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts.

And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace.

Frank Borman, member of the first crew to successfully orbit the Moon and return to Earth.

What Would Mr. Rogers Say?

Evil would want us to think the worst about who we are, so we would have that behind our eyes as we looked at our neighbor. Jesus would want us to see the best of who we are, so we would be able to see the best of our neighbor. You can be an accuser or an advocate. Evil would have you be an accuser in this life. Jesus would have you be an advocate for your neighbor.

Fred Rogers

Things to Do as the End Comes Near

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11

My pastor asked us to study these words this week. They are Peter’s words to a group of Christians who are undergoing persecution and far from home.

It’s fair to say that it can feel like the world is being upended. Just today we had demonstrations downtown that resulted in our City Council president, county commissioner and Congresswoman getting pepper sprayed.

As we live life on the edge of eternity, we are called to pray alertly, love eagerly and be available to be hospitable without complaint. We make decisions not based on our own wishes, but on what is loving. And we try to use our gifts in a way that draws attention to God, rather than to our own ambitions.

That’s a high calling. It would be hard if we had to do it by ourselves. But God has always given us the power and graces to represent Him. The more we open ourselves to it, the most power we receive.

A Mindful Christian Practice for an Angry Time

I am angry after watching the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I am angry watching a public health crisis become a political statement about “freedom.” It’s been a bad week. Prayer and Christian mindfulness are a path back to peace.

In the book “Renew Your Life,” Kai Mark Nilsen, lead pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, Ohio, offers a practice that can help. He calls it “the daily walk.”

As a daily exercise, use each phase of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi as a lens to view your relationships and your behavior. Throughout the day, repeat the phase and find ways to demonstrate it to others. At the end of the day, think about how you have done. You can rotate through the phases or concentrate on one for a long time.

Oh Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, fear.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

The entire prayer is here. I’m concentrating on the first section. Hope this helps. Another prayer for the pandemic is here.