I met Jan Johnson on Zoom doing a class during 2020. Calm and funny, she seems like a person who has great insight into God. She also was a close associate of Dallas Willard, so she was well taught.
Her wonderful short book gives examples of how others have spent the day … and night … with Jesus during their ordinary circumstances. As the back cover says, “It shows that continual awareness of God is not just for the super-spiritual, but that anyone can sense His companionship in the mundane, in-between moments of life.”
Easy and quick to Read, Yet Profound
The contents are divided into three sections: Moments to Turn Over, Skills to Develop and Questions to Ponder. The first chapter is “Trying Too Hard,” which has been a serious problem for me. I have tried to practice the presence of God by talking to him continually, which gets tiresome, I’d guess, to both of us.
Jan Johnson talks about weaving prayer into activities and praying without words. She also dispenses good advice about asking God questions and addressing our deeper fears, including coming to believe that God actually loves us.
For example, in the chapter “Hearing God,” she writes, “Continual conversation with God means that there are moments when God speaks and we listen. Even though it may be scary to think of God speaking to us, it is normal and not weird.” Some of those ways include:
Works of art
I’m not alone in loving this book. It has an average 4.41 star rating with 150 readers on GoodReads and a 4.9 star average rating with 87 readers on Amazon. Trust me. This book can change your walk with God.
Ash Wednesday is this week, so today is a good time to prepare our Lenten resolutions. I’ve used Lent to give up bad habits, but more often I take this time to create positive habits.
Think about how we can improve our prayer life, fasting and giving. Some families pick a charity and put their change into a bowl each day. Others give up eating out and give away the money they saved. My church took a recent pledge to not have cell phones at the dinner table. We can find many things to improve if we think and pray about it.
I also always have a Lenten reading program. In the past, I read a biography of a Christian I admired, a devotional and a general book about faith each Lent. Today it’s a lot more random. I just look at the bookshelves to see what I think would be helpful and inspiring.
Take some time today to figure out how you want to spend Lent. Your resolutions can be positive and prayerful. May you have a blessed Lent.
Breath prayer is an important part of my Christian mindfulness practice. That’s common. The Christian breath prayer is a supercharged mantrum: the repetition of a word or phrase repeated in conjunction with a breath to center the mind on the presence of God.
I have used the phrase “Come, Holy Spirit” frequently during the day for more than 20 years. I inhale on the word “Come” and exhale on “Holy Spirit.” I plan to continue that practice for the rest of my life, but there are times when I could use another phrase.
Some Christians use short pieces of Scripture in breath prayer, and I see an advantage to this. I’ve found several ideas on Christian websites. For example, a piece written by Joe Iovino for the United Methodist Church website nicely summarizes various ways to expand our prayer lives, including using breath prayer. As he says,”The Holy Spirit is as near as the air we breathe.”
The mennoniteusa.org website offers a pdf on breath prayers with good ideas for using breath prayer. Two are different from anything I’ve seen before:
Confessional Breath Prayers: Exhaling, you breathe out a confession of a personal failing or worry. Inhaling, you breathe in an assurance of God’s love. An example that they give is: (exhaling) I breathe out worry. (inhaling): Grant me your peace.
Breath Prayers for the World: In this style, we exhale as we live up the sins of the world. We inhale as we breathe out corrections, such as “I am the hands and feet of God in the world.” The corrections are about love and justice. One example from me: (exhaling) I lift up all the suffering in Ukraine. (inhaling) May you bring peace and justice.
The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s a great time to make sure you have your supplies, books and ideas ready for the season.
Having a mindful Christian Advent is a time of joy and wonder. It’s a quiet time spent intentionally concentrating on the miracle of Jesus’ birth rather than the commercial version of Christmas. This kind of Advent is build peace instead of panic.
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.
Every Christian life reflects on Jesus. Sometimes we can make Him look terrible. We hope that walking with Jesus in Christian mindfulness makes it easier to help people to see how wonderful He actually is.
That is not because we are wonderful. It’s because we are surrendered. When we strive to see the presence of God in the present moment, we grow closer to the Lord. That allows Him to shine in our actions and words, just a light would do through a lantern. Only God can empower us to show His spirit.
The August issue of “Give Us This Day” magazine contained writings from two believers, a century apart, who were practicing Christian mindfulness, rather they knew it or not.
Fr. Daniel P. Horan is director of the Center for Spirituality and a professor at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. He wrote a sentence that stirred my soul:
In a world that encourages us to take care of ourselves above all else, it does not make sense to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable and heal the brokenhearted as Christ did.
The choice is ours, he said. We can “shirk the Gospel by living according to the standards of worldly interests, or risk appearing foolish because we are striving to walk in the footprints of Jesus Christ.” To me, Christian mindfulness is the best way to walk in Jesus’ footprints.
Another inspiring piece of writing in the issue came from Elisabeth Leseur, who died in 1914. These were some of her resolutions:
To persevere steadily with my daily prayers and meditations and my communions at least weekly.
To increase and strengthen, by divine grace, my spiritual life.
In all circumstances to remain gentle, serene and full of love for those around me.
By my words and actions, to try to make Jesus Christ known and loved.
To ask that He work through me for the good of those for whom I can be the instrument of Providence.
To work first for God and then for my neighbor each day.
To speak to each one in the language they can understand.
These resolutions are mine as well, although I fail far more often than I succeed. If we all tried to live in the presence of Jesus in the present moment, we might make his nature more obvious to a skeptical world.
Are you trying too hard to be at peace? Fighting hard to practice mindfulness?
I feel I am striving too hard to abide in Jesus. Instead of opening the door for Him to enter, I am pounding on the other side of the door … straining to keep pure thoughts and to practice my daily round of spiritual practices. That isn’t necessary, productive or even helpful.
God is already here. Yet I behave as if it all depends on me. Yes, I need to quiet down and let God be present. I am grasping for someone who is all around me, yet my grasp comes up empty. It is only when I relax and submit that I feel God doing the work to allow me to abide in Him.
Is it just me? When I mentioned this in a gathering of Christian friends, I got a lot of blank looks.
Yet, one Christian friend responded with a new phrase I love: Try softer.
That’s the title of a book by therapist Aundi Kolber. She believes we don’t have to white-knuckle our way to God or to life, in general. Her book is a corrective for overfunctioning (one of my greatest issues) and anxiety.
Perhaps I have reached the “let God and let God” phase of my spiritual development. Yet again.
I already consider myself a mindful Christmas practitioner. Yet Kempton took an approach that I found fascinating. She proposes that Christmas has five storylines:
Faith: The celebration of the birth of Jesus and the Christmas story involving church-based traditions and rituals like Advent candles, the creche and traditional Christmas carols.
Magic: The story of Santa Claus, his reindeer and the elves, plus magical Christmas movies and songs.
Connection: Things that connect us to Christmases past, such as “The Christmas Carol,” Christmas trees and treasured ornaments, Christmas dinners, holiday events and Christmas movie traditions.
Abundance: The joy of getting and giving presents.
Heritage: The Christmas practices of your family of origin and your background.
As a Christian, my Christmas celebrations focus on faith. But I was surprised to realize that my family also finds Connection as very important. For one family member, doing the same things that we have done, as in Heritage, is deeply important.
Talk to your family to see what about your Christmas celebration is most important to them. You can create an intentional approach to the season that meets everyone’s needs and desires.
“Calm Christmas” also offers a variety of ideas for a mindful approach to the whole season. I especially liked the author’s idea of spending the time between Christmas Day and New Years Day’s as a “hush” season. This is, she writes: “A time of long walks, hot coffees, languid lounging with leftover chocolates, adding birthday dates to the new diary, telephone catch-ups … and everything on pause.”
Research shows that people who focus on the sensations of exercise and on their surroundings enjoy the experience more. Christian mindfulness can support our exercise program, and the exercise program can build our Christian mindfulness.
How can we do it?
Pray before your exercise, offering thanks for the body you have been given.
Unplug. Exercise without music or other input so you can focus on the experience.
Pay attention to the changes you feel as you exercise: changes and strains in your muscles, your mood and emotions, your breathing and all else you experience.
Notice pain and decide what to do about it. Be nice to yourself.
Observe the surroundings, whether they are nature or the walls of a room.
Listen to your thoughts. Are you in dread? Watching the clock? Feeling competitive with others around you?
As you cool down, offer gratitude for your body, inside and out.
Exercise can be many things, ranging from an addiction to an experience to avoid as much as possible. Bringing Christian mindfulness into the activity can add some calm and clarity to it.