A Prayer for Unity

Awaken us to the Oneness of all things, to the beauty and truth of Unity. May we become aware of the interdependence of all living things, and come to know You in everything, and all things in You. For as we attune to your Presence within us, we know not separation, and joy becomes our dwelling place.

Excerpted from Psalm 106, Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying

Try This: Secret Kindness

This week, do some random acts of kindness in secret. Here’s some ideas:

  • Do someone else’s chore at home.
  • Pick up trash.
  • Make an anonymous donation to a good cause.
  • Leave a positive review for a podcast or small business you like.
  • Leave change in a vending machine.
  • Pay for the coffee or fast food meal of the person behind you in line.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in a store line.
  • Pay a stranger a compliment.

Resource: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Joanna Weaver published “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding God in the Busyness of Life” in 2000, which seems long ago. Yet, her quiet voice on the page is timeless … one of the most influential I’ve heard in my Christian mindfulness walk.

“Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” remains one of the most re-readable books for women on releasing anxiety and slowing down to sit at Jesus’ feet. She writes:

Jesus’ words to Martha are the words he wants to speak to your heart and mine: “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” That “one thing” is not found in doing more. It’s found in sitting by his feet.

Throughout the book, Joanna shows that Jesus wants us to choose the one thing: “a joyful life of intimacy with him that flows naturally into loving service.” For women who feel that they are not enough, it is a soothing balm.

On Goodreads, the book has a rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars with nearly 16,000 reviews. The copy of the book I have includes a study guide for individual or group use. To taste the tone of the book, here’s another gift: a version of Psalm 23 from Japan.

The Lord is my pace setter … I shall not rush.

He makes me stop for quiet intervals.

He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity.

He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here.

His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance.

He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility.

My cup of joyous energy overflows.

Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of the Lord and dwell in his house forever.

Additional resources for Christian mindfulness are listed here.

hand on grateful heart

Begin With a Thankful Spirit

Begin each day with a thankful spirit until it becomes a way of life. Start by focusing on the simple, the mundane … the air we breathe, the ability to serve others, the privilege of thinking about God. It is this spirit that raises us to live on a level above our circumstances rather than under them.

Darien Cooper, “The Beauty of Beholding God”
woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography

Try This: How Are You Like Those You Dislike?

This is a time when many Christians are appalled at others … including other Christians. Politics has overcome many of us. This Christian mindfulness exercise can help us to regain love and compassion for others.

Think of a person who you don’t like. If you are up for it, make it someone whose opinions you find obnoxious or worse. Put this person in your mind while you open with prayer and then meditate on these things:

  • This person is a human with a mind, heart and body, just as I am.
  • God loves this person, like He loves me.
  • Jesus died for this person, just like me.
  • This person has a history that I do not completely know.
  • This person has thoughts and feelings like me.
  • This person has gone through difficulties and hurts, just as I have.
  • This person is not always wrong, just as I am not always right.

Then pray for this person: for their relationship with God, for their health, for their happiness.

I developed this idea based on the Just Like Me exercise in “The Mindful Day” by Laurie J. Cameron. She considers thinking well of others as one of the central practices of mindfulness. If that is true of secular mindfulness, think how much more true it is of Christian mindfulness.

Resource: Jesus Calling

“Jesus Calling” and the other works of Sarah Young are among the most useful resources I have.

We use readings from these books as devotionals for our support groups, where we serve individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness and their families.

I also use the books as part of my daily prayer round in lectio divina. I read the passage, pause to ponder it, pray parts of it out loud and then meditate on it. I rotate using Jesus Calling, Dear Jesus, Jesus Always, Jesus Today and Jesus Lives. The Jesus Calling app is one of the most used items on my phone.

Sarah Young began to write her books of devotions based on her own daily quiet time, which includes journaling. The retired Presbyterian missionary has an extraordinary ability to help people connect to the Biblical truths in a warm and loving manner.

More than 30 million of her books have been sold. Although she is biblically conservative in her faith and reformed in her doctrine, I’ve never met a Christian … liberal or conservative … who objects to her work. It is so Bible-based as to be universal.

Please enjoy some time with the Lord under her guidance.

Other resources that are useful to me are located here.

Gifts of the Pandemic

My Christian mindfulness practice for Labor Day includes thinking back on the summer past. We make a list of things that we didn’t get to do. Then we file it away to review the next Memorial Day, so we can make sure we get it on our next summer schedule. And we thank God for the fun we had.

This year, the list of what we missed …. let’s just say it would be way too long to file!!!

So instead, let’s make a list about the blessings of the pandemic summer of 2020. Gratitude is always a part of the Christian mindfulness journey. What can we be thankful for? Here’s some of my blessings:

  • The whole family is still healthy.
  • I got to take several interesting classes online for minimal money.
  • I went to conferences and events online that would have been too expensive to attend in normal times.
  • We didn’t have to go out in the heat to drive to meetings. It was just an air-conditioned walk to the den for Zoom.
  • I saved all my travel money, which I can use as a backup for even better vacations.
  • I spent even more time in contemplative prayer and spiritual reading, which brought me closer to the Lord.
  • We watched several acclaimed TV shows from the 90s and early 00s that we were once too busy to view.
  • My husband learned to bake! And he likes it.

And so on. Feel welcome to tell me about the things on your pandemic gift list.

The Antidote to Worry? Celebration

In “Celebration of Discipline,” Richard Foster points out that Jesus was all about joy. From the beginning … “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). To the end … “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you.” (John 15:11).

I went back to his book after I heard Foster on the Renovare podcast, hosted by his son Nathan Foster, talk about the discipline of celebration as an antidote to worry. Because celebration comes from a release of any anxiety, intentionally celebrating can fight off worry.

As we enter the seventh month of the pandemic, worry grows. Lost jobs. Health fears. Kids schooling at home. Isolation from friends and loved ones. When will it end?

Although Foster’s podcast was recorded well before the pandemic, I think his idea of focusing on celebration is sound. After all, as David wrote, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

One way to increase your joy is to pray for it. Specifically, I pray on Monday for the Holy Spirit to give me the fruit of joy. It’s part of the GIFT list mindfulness practice.

Other ways to add celebration to our lives include:

  • Play and sing praise songs. Many feel sad, missing the music in church. Break through by adding praise music to your daily prayer routine.
  • Celebrate everything. Dozens of fun days are on the calendar. Make the most of them. Enjoy the coming autumn with caramel apples, pumpkins, apple cider, etc.
  • See the Lord in the nature around you. Did you know that the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn tree leaves are their actual colors without chlorophyll? Only our ultimate Creative Director could think of that.
  • If you haven’t laughed hard at least once by 7 p.m., watch or read something funny.

Update: What’s on Your Mind?

A frequent Christian mindfulness practice involves monitoring your thinking. Now and again, you stop to see what you are concentrating on. Or you realize that you are thinking about how the Sopranos ended. And you know that God prefers for you to think about something better.

I previously covered this in the post What to Think. Let’s do an update. Are we using Philippians 4:8 as a yardstick to measure our thought life. The verse says:

This week, let’s return to this verse when we are in a bad mood, when we want to complain and when we are waiting. These are trigger times for negative or unproductive thinking. Let me know how it’s going for you.

Try This: A 10-Minute Silent Retreat

Silent retreats are the bomb. I took a four-night silent retreat at the Abbey at Gethsemani in Kentucky last year. Afterwards, I promised myself I would do it twice a year.

Well … then came COVID-19. For many of us who have been spending an exceptional amount of time with family for months, a silent retreat sounds like the impossible dream.

So try silence in small bits. Go to a room or outdoor space where you can be alone. No kids, no spouses, no pets. Sit in silence and check in for 10 minutes. Are you anxious? Tired? Feeling pushed or rushed?

Let the silence flow over you. Feel the presence of Jesus in that silence. He loves you. He understands.

This can be a regular practice to restart the day whenever you need it. See how it feels today.