What Is Hope?

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Vaclav Havel

God is sovereign, even if we don’t understand what He is doing and fear the results. For more thoughts on hope in a time of pandemic and protest, click here.

God’s Answer to Arrogance

Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm and said: “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size? Surely you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves stop?

Job 38: 1, 4-5, 8-11

Forgiveness in Tough Times

Christian mindfulness enjoins you to police your own thoughts, behaviors, spending habits and other actions with an eye to observing God’s law, while trusting in God’s mercy to shower forth love and forgiveness — even on those who have hurt you, or who oppose you politically, or whose moral values are at odds with your own.

If Jesus could ask God to forgive those who crucified Him, even though we have no reason to believe that they asked for God’s forgiveness, shouldn’t you ask God’s forgiveness for all those whose behavior doesn’t meet with your approval?

Carl McColman, “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism”

Mindful Detox from Upsetting Words

Social distancing can result in upsetting conversations over Zoom and via social media. This is particularly true when we reach out to others who are upset, one way or the other, over systemic racism and/or the pandemic and/or everything.

Working with the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, we can detox from these conversations to return to deep inner peace. It involves, first, identifying how we are feeling. Angry? Disgusted? Sad?

Rather than running away or ignoring the feeling, accept it. Lift it up to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Gently listen to your own thoughts in Christian mindfulness, returning to deep breathing and the Jesus prayer when needed.

Next, calm your feelings. Ask Jesus to be with you as you take care of yourself like you would take care of an upset child. Be fully mindful of your own state. Remember: God is here. God is now. He is with you in your pain and sorrow.

As you calm down, release the emotion to God. As you release, listen. Do you hear a message about something you should do or not do? Did this upset come from a sin area or a false way that you see yourself or the world?

Just keep calming and releasing the problem to God, being willing to do His will. If you are listening in humility, God will be there in a transformational way.

Do We Need Inner Peace for Outer Peace?

Walking in Christian mindfulness through ongoing pandemic and racial injustice requires faith that abiding in Jesus will bring us peace. In reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace Is Every Step,” I found that Buddhists believe achieving inner peace is necessary to achieving a peaceful world.

In the introduction, the Dalai Lama writes: “Although attempting to bring about world peace through internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way. Wherever I go, I express this, and I am encouraged that people from many different walks of life receive it well. Peace must first be developed within an individual. And I believe that love, compassion and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace.”

As a Christian, I think we achieve true inner peace by abiding in Jesus. For me, His graces are necessary to overcoming my anxious nature. All the Christian mindfulness exercises I do … and the Buddhist exercises that I adapt … are ways to practice opening the door to God.

An explanation of the differences between Buddhist mindfulness and Christian mindfulness is here.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is within us. I do agree that prayer, study and Christian mindfulness practices help us all to walk left-foot, right-foot with God in love, compassion and altruism.

To expect that we cannot achieve peace until everyone is on that path is sad. But I do agree with the Buddhists that inner transformation makes outer peace easier. To be like Jesus … willing to meet people where they are in love … is the path forward.

How to Live in a Fallen World

Living in a fallen world has been especially tough this year. Anger, fear, anxiety … it’s all fallout from a time of protest and pandemic. Brokenness is all around us as well as within us.

I was feeling worried and weary recently. Then Jesus reminded me of a great truth: He wants me to be at peace and without fear. The only way I can do that in a fallen world is to keep my focus on Him.

Focusing on the presence of Jesus gives us strength to do what we need to do. Jesus wants us to live without fear, and He gives us the ability to do that. But we have to focus on Him.

That doesn’t mean that we ignore the pandemic or the issues that are causing the protests. We seek Jesus first, and He gives us all the strength, courage and wisdom we need to do what is right. And he gives us joy and peace as we abide in Him.

“The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” — Zephaniah 3:17

Try This: Meditate on How to Live in God’s Presence

Walking in Christian mindfulness in the presence of Jesus looks a certain way. We are each individuals, but consistencies exist. The Bible details them.

Here’s a list of what it looks like to live in God’s presence, put together by Ken Boa and Jenny Abel in their free PDF, “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence.”

They suggest that we start by picking one of the descriptions below. Put on a card and keep it by our beds. Meditate on this verse morning and evening, asking God to help you live it.

Here are the suggested verses:

  • Abide in Jesus. (John 15:45)
  • Love God and your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40)
  • Set your mind on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5-6)
  • Walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16,25)
  • Set your heart on the things above. (Colossians 3:1-2)
  • Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
  • Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Run the race of life with endurance. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
  • Submit yourself to God. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:12-14)
  • Dwell on whatever is excellent and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:6-8)
  • Remember God. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Other resources to support your Christian mindfulness journey are listed here.

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.