Time is in very limited supply in this life. How we spend this moment is much more important than most of us will stop and realize. Last week, we discussed our relationship with God in the present tense. We remember God’s faithfulness in the past; that’s called “thanksgiving.” We anticipate His provision in the future; that’s called “faith.” But “now” is the only time in which we can choose to interact with the Holy Spirit.
Previously, we read through the story of Mary and Martha in the context of Christian Mindfulness. We see where Martha’s concerns for the day cause her thoughts to be distracted. As she scurries about with tasks, she is angry with Mary for sitting with Jesus. Martha’s worries cause her to miss an opportunity to be still and listen to the Son of God, face to face.
Today we have the benefit of hindsight. Of course, we assume that if we were there with Jesus we would have been like Mary. We would have listened intently for every word the Master spoke. Granted, putting it in that context makes it a bit obvious, doesn’t it? Let’s step back and think of our most recent prayer time. Could we describe our latest meditation as reflective, listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit? Or would we characterize our time with God as “Martha-time”, covering lists of requests and worries?
Even in our day to day lives, “autopilot” thought is a fruitless and sometimes dangerous way of life. If I permit myself, I can leave my driveway, navigate heavy traffic, walk into my office and realize I remember absolutely nothing of my morning commute. My body was driving the car, but my mind was somewhere else entirely. Living outside of the moment is a destructive habit that can set us up for all kinds of trouble.
In the book of Exodus, the people of Israel continually forget God’s provision. They are miraculously saved out of Egypt; they are fed daily with manna; water is available as they need it. God proves Himself faithful again and again, yet the people can only worry about the future or long for their days of captivity in Egypt. In Numbers 12, Moses sends spies into the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb bring back a favorable report. However, most of the spies return, saying that the task God has set before them is impossible. They cry, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” (Numbers 13:31). Fear, worry and a lack of confidence are all the result of failing to stay in the present moment with God. As a result of their doubts, the people of Israel wander the desert until every adult dies except Joshua and Caleb.
In the second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah when he says,
“At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” (Isaiah 49:8).
Paul goes on to say,
“Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’ “ (II Corinthians 6:2). I added underlines for emphasis.
The means to peace of mind is simple: stay present with God in this moment. I may have repeatedly failed in my past and there may be seemingly unbeatable giants in my future. However, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). When does Jesus strengthen me? He strengthens me right now. Staying with Christ in this moment becomes a way of living. It’s how we “pray without ceasing.”
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
“Auto-pilot” thinking is habitual. Like any bad habit, it can be broken. Christian Mindfulness techniques provide a way to practice keeping our minds present with God. The following simple exercise has been very helpful to me.
Christian Mindfulness Exercise:
· Complete your usual devotional routine.
· Be conscious of your body, feel yourself sitting in the seat. Feel your feet touching the floor. Feel the fabric of the chair, the coolness or warmth of the floor under your feet.
· Focus for a moment on your breathing. The purpose is not to bring attention to breathing, but rather to provide a focal point to keep the conscious mind in the moment.
· Inhale through your nose for a count of 5 to 7, as you inhale, invite the Holy Spirit in, to calm your thoughts. Hold that breath for a count of 5 to 7. Ask the Holy Sprit to enable you to focus on an idea from your devotions. This can be as small as one word or a phrase. Then exhale gently and quietly through your mouth for 7 seconds. As you exhale release the tension, worries or fear that may have crept into your thoughts
· Repeat the controlled breathing for 5-10 cycles.
· Center your mind and rest in the presence of God. Thank God for the peace you enjoy through His Holy Spirit. The point is not to force God to talk. The point is to stay in the moment and rest in God. Return to the controlled breathing should your mind begin to wander.
Exercise Courtesy of Dr. Lorrie Slater, LPC-MHSP, Ph.D. – Used with Permission
I am writing a book called, Christian Mindfulness… Real-Time Help from God. It will be ready for release sometime this fall.
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