Christian mindfulness helps us focus our thoughts in order to better interact with the Holy Spirit. Last week we looked at the Sermon on the Mount in the context of Christian Mindfulness. We read “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). In a conventional religious sense, purity of heart might mean living the life of a hermit, making a disciplined separation from anything that might bring temptation.
What does Jesus mean by “pure in heart?” A life “apart” isn’t likely what He’s teaching. After all, throughout the Gospels we see Jesus freely walking among the common people. In Luke 7:34, Jesus is accused of being “a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” No, following a list of rules isn’t what Jesus means by purity of heart.
Purity of heart means having a singleness of vision; it means understanding and centering our thoughts on God. In order to focus our minds on Jesus, it requires that other worries and cares be considered a lower priority.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).
I don’t know about you, but I work in an office where the activity never stops. The phone rings; email pours in; I get text messages, instant messages and Post-It® notes of information. Every day. All the time. It seems that I can never finish one thought without being pulled into another. At the end of the day, don’t you feel dusty and gritty from all the unimportant details?
It may be new technology, but it’s a very old problem. Mary and Martha were sisters of Lazarus and lived east of Jerusalem in the town of Bethany. When Jesus was ministering in Judea, He often stayed in their home. This passage describes one of their first encounters.
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:38-42).
Martha knows how to get things done. She can survey her household with a glance and take inventory of every necessary task. Born in another time, she might be a CEO or own a successful business. But today in Galilee, an event is unfolding that will be written and remembered for over two thousand years. The Teacher has come into her home, and instinctively Martha’s mind races in anticipation. The perceived requirements of the next several hours consume her.
Mary chooses well; Martha doesn’t. Martha is encumbered by her incapacity to choose well; other thoughts crowd her mind. Her concerns prevent her from seeing, understanding and selecting the way she should spend her time. A principal objective of mindfulness is to calm our thoughts and free us to really choose; then it is up to us to make the correct decision.
I have an unusually broad history of careers. I have been a pastor, a church planter and a “tent-maker.” Beyond that, I taught high school; I managed manufacturing plants; I owned a computer training company, and I was a stockbroker. I have worked as a software developer and technical manager. My largest endeavor, by far, was designing and building a “green” business. We received very positive national and regional attention. Unfortunately, the business failed dramatically. Not only did my wife and I lose the business, but we suffered devastating financial loss.
I struggled with forgiving myself. The failure became a touchstone for a lifetime of self-doubt. I engaged in self-talk, endlessly criticizing myself for poor choices and judging myself incompetent. Any idle moment was filled with ruminations of my troubles. I read the Bible and prayed; I read books; I sought counsel with pastors and friends, all to no avail. On the advice of a friend, I picked up a book on mindfulness. I finished the book and realized that I had gained an entirely new perspective of my Christian faith. I did more research and began practicing mindfulness techniques. As I started practicing some simple exercises, I regained my devotional life and overcame issues with self-talk and rumination.
Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Thankfully, Jesus most certainly remains the same. We, however, are very different in our past, present and future. We remember God’s faithfulness in the past; that’s called thanksgiving. We anticipate His provision in the future; that’s called faith. But this… this thing we call “now” is the only moment in which we can choose to interact with the Holy Spirit. To drift mindlessly is to miss an opportunity to fellowship with our Creator. Next week I’ll offer a simple exercise that has benefitted me enormously.
So how about you? Would you practice a mental exercise to help you focus your thoughts if it helped you draw closer to God?
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