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.”
This Christian mindfulness practice is ready-made for a pandemic Advent.
Sit quietly, breathing deeply, for a few minutes.
Think about the particular darkness you feel around yourself today. The impact of the pandemic in your life. Losses and illnesses. Financial concerns. Not being able to see people you love. Work overload. Fears for your country, your city, your favorite shops and restaurants. Emotional trauma.
How do you feel about this? Untangle the emotions. If you feel primarily feel scared, what else is there? Anger, disappointment, fear. Sit for a few moments and see what emotions you have.
Then visualize a great light shining into the darkness. Think of Isaiah 9:2: “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
Offer up your emotions. Feel the love of God in the light as He steps into your personal world to bring redemption, peace and joy. In the end, evil will be vanished. Including all the evil you see in your world.
Rest in this redemption, peace and joy. Make this exercise bring the presence of Jesus to you today.
Advent, the season of waiting, is just the spiritual nudge we need in a pandemic year. We are waiting for the vaccine as we wait for the Christ child.
Many families got a big head start on Christmas this year. Even if your tree has been up for weeks, you can still enjoy Advent. Bringing the spirit of Christian mindfulness into the four weeks preceding Christmas opens us up to allow God to heal our weary hearts.
We begin the season by putting up the Advent wreath and putting out the empty creche. We will fill it week by week. We also begin to read our Advent devotionals. More about those are here.
This year we need silent contemplation just as much as Christmas cheer. Celebrate the quiet season intentionally, and you will find much peace in a pandemic year.
Hildegard of Bingen … a woman so far ahead of her time … gives us good advice for today. As we stay in our homes, she urges us to build the City of God.
We can do it in Christian mindfulness. We can do it when we cling to Jesus and his vision of eternal peace on Earth.
Hildegard believed that God is generous toward those who, in good times and bad, faithfully work to build the City of God. These people avoid destructive quarrels, hatred and envy. They work with a calm attitude doing good for others.
Being kind of everyone at home. Being patient with pandemic restrictions. Spending free time in prayer and spiritual reading. All this can help us to build the City of God at home.
To walk into Thanksgiving with Christian mindfulness, we need to remember two things:
Our purpose on Earth is to glorify God.
God says prayer is important.
Today, on the day before our pandemic Thanksgiving, take some time to go before God with your unanswered prayers. The nation, the world, the sick and the healthy all need our prayers today.
I feel we also need to pray for healing of our image of God. He is loving, never vulgar, never hateful. He wants to spend time with us. He wants us to give him time in gratitude and praise, so He can work on our minds and our ways.
The image of God and the church has been blackened for too many in recent years in the United States. We have linked political expediency to God’s will. God is not shy about telling us that He expects us to love our neighbors, not to view them with suspicion and hatred.
It’s time to see what God says to us about our role in resolving these unanswered prayers. We can only do that through time for prayer and thanksgiving. May peace come to our hearts and to our nation.
As Thanksgiving approaches … I just got the pumpkin pie out of the oven!!! … take a few minutes to thank the people you have spent the pandemic with.
Thank those living with you and any one else in your bubble. This year, I’m writing thank you notes in Thanksgiving cards for my husband and my son. We have been a bubble of three for many months.
We haven’t had fights or gotten into arguments. We have bitten our tongues when we get on each other’s nerves. This is mostly because everyone has been nice and witty instead.
Think about the character attributes that have made your pandemic mates nice to be around. Write it up on a place card, a thank you note or a Thanksgiving card. Then share it before Thanksgiving dinner.
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.