man with online schedule filled with appointments

Time for Divine Appointments?

As we enter Holy Week, it’s a good time to ask: Can you fit God into your schedule? This Christian mindfulness practice asks for reflection on how much margin you are leaving in your to-do list. Is there enough space for God to schedule divine appointments for you?

Take a look at your calendar for the last month. I’m seeing more activity as spring arrives and people are vaccinated. Reflect on these questions:

  • Have you taken on too many appointments and projects?
  • Do you feel that you have no choice in the matter … that you are assigned too much or “volun-told” to do things too often?
  • Do you go directly from one task to the next without stopping?
  • Do you care more about your kids’ activities than they do?
  • Are you double-booked at times?
  • Do you say “yes” to activities that seem “high-profile” or flattering, but drain you?

Answering “yes” to these questions mean that you need to work on adding margin to your life and perhaps learning the skill of saying “no” to requests, even when they are framed as orders. (When I got overwhelmed with work, I used to bring my boss a list of my deliverables and ask her to prioritize them. The boss who was TERRIBLE at prioritization responded, “I want you to do them all.” Looking closely at her work style … working 7 to 9, being triple-booked and forgetting to put in time to drive to meetings … caused me to look for a new job.)

After analyzing this, ask God to help you develop a criteria for accepting new requests or invitations. Then run every request through the criteria.

Everyone’s list will be different. But for ideas, here are some of the statements on my list:

  • Biblically sound and seems to be God’s will as far as prayer indicates.
  • Glorifies God.
  • Brings me closer to God.
  • Will be loving to my neighbor, advance the kingdom and/or be a force for good.
  • Is good for my family.
  • Fits with my life calling.
  • Can best be done by me. (Cannot be delegated.)
  • Should not be eliminated or delayed.

If the proposed activity will take big blocks of your time, consider going to your spouse for input.

Even if your schedule is relatively open, having this criteria is helpful. This idea is from “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence” by Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel. A free pdf of this book is available here.

Forgive the Obnoxious

This Christian mindfulness exercise at the end of the workweek to clear your head and your heart. Working, either in a paid or unpaid role, puts most of us on the front line for dealing with people. Unfortunately, we meet our fair share of people who are rude, hypercritical, negative or toxic in any of a dozen other ways. Sometimes, the drip, drip, drip of this kind of behavior can get to us.

This exercise gives us the opportunity to bring those emotions to the Lord and to forgive. Here’s how:

  1. Shut your office door or find another place where you can have privacy for 10 minutes or so.
  2. Take some deep breaths.
  3. Allow your feelings … anger, disgust, sadness … to come into focus. Go before the Lord with these feelings. God already knows how you feel. So bring them to Him.
  4. Ask God to help you to forgive all the actions that have upset you.
  5. Quietly see the faces of each person who has troubled you this week. Ask God to help you see each one as wounded. Think about how their behavior has to do with their own issues, rather than with you.
  6. Ask God to show you how you may be helping that person to heal. Or just pray for their healing.
  7. Ponder whether you contributed to any of these problems. Do you need to apologize to someone? Do you need to change the way you relate to someone?
  8. Thank God for the opportunity to do your work. Ask Him to be with you for the rest of the day.

Try This: Carry a Reminder

Christian mindfulness is a practice, not a perfect. One way to remind yourself to be mindful of the presence of Jesus is to literally have keepsakes displayed where we work most often or in our pockets.

The reminders can be simple and free, as Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel remind us in their free pdf “A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence.”

Where are you most often during the day? In front of the computer? In your kitchen? Place a reminder there.

What coat or jacket are you starting to wear this fall? Put a reminder in the pocket.

Reminders can be small and easy to carry:

  • A stone to remind us that Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives.
  • A nail to remind us that Jesus died for us.
  • A feather to remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

These same reminders can go in the space where we work. Or we can place larger items. I see a wooden cross from Jerusalem given to me 35 years ago when working in the kitchen. I’ve placed on my computer monitor a “pray continually” car visor clip.

Take a moment to pick out a reminder. We may need to change it seasonally if we get so used to it that we don’t notice them any more.

More information on how Christian mindfulness exercises are different is 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.

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.

journal and coffee cup during journaling exercise

Reflect on These Questions

This Christian mindfulness practice came from someone else, but I have no idea who. That person created a list of profound questions for daily reflection or examen. Although I neglected to note the author back then, I’ve found answering these questions bring lots of insight.

  • Where in this day did I feel the presence of God working in my life and in the world?
  • What in this day seemed like it was a part of my leading?
  • What made me believe that?
  • How does that leading fit into my personal and spiritual life?
  • What did I do today to feed my spirit or move me ahead on my spiritual journey?

Let’s try using these questions for discernment in quiet time. They are also great for journaling.

Other good morning exercises are here.

Make Friends With Neighborhood Birds

God talks about birds more than a dozen times in the Bible. He encourages us to study birds to learn more about our relationship with Him. And he even compares us to birds. Isaiah 40:31 says: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.”

This is a very good time to hope in the Lord. Since we are at home more than ever, we can get acquainted with our neighborhood birds by putting up bird houses or taking up bird watching in the front yard.

While watching, consider meditating on these verses:

Luke 12:24: Consider the ravens. They do not sow or reap. They have no storeroom or barn. Yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Matthew 10:16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Matthew 10:29: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

Psalm 50:11: I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.

Job 12:7-10: But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Psalm 84: 3: Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Jeremiah 8:7: Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the times of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.