Friday, August 28, 2009

It Is Well With My Soul

Deep happiness is in the spirit, not the body or even the feelings. It is like an anchor that holds fast and calm on the bottom even while storms rage on the surface. God allows physical and emotional storms to strengthen the anchor; fires to test and harden our mettle. Our souls must become bright, hard, sharp swords. That is our destiny and His design. We are not toys; we are swords. And that requires tempering in the fire. The sword of the self is to sing in the sun eternally, like the seraphim. If we could catch even a glimpse of this heavenly destiny, if we understood why we are destined to judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3), we would not see a problem in the sufferings of Job. Teresa of Avila said that the most miserable earthly life, seen from the perspective of heaven, looks like one night in an inconvenient hotel. -Handbook of Christian Apologetics

The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding via Wikimedia CommonsWhen I started Posting on the subject of Christian Mindfulness I thought it would be a couple of posts to explain and a few posts giving practical examples.  Well that was 16 posts ago and after some reassessing I figure I am about halfway done.  As I have been going through this I have been thinking that this subject might make a good book.  Anyway today I am moving to another subject related to Christian mindfulness, The Peace of God.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:7 (NKJV)

This verse seems to be a favorite for those that are going through hard times.  I think back over my life and I recall times when the Peace of God came over me during a particularly difficult time.  When we can let go of suffering and come to the "peace of God" then we have entered into Christian Mindfulness.  The passage in Philippians 4:4-9 offers some practical help in how to get to that place of peacefulness beyond what the natural mind can understand.  When we come under the watchful care of our loving Savior Christ Jesus

Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoicing in the Lord in the good times is quite easy and natural.  Rejoicing in the Lord through the hard times is difficult to the extreme and only seems to happen supernaturally.  This is very much related to my post on Completed Joy.  Turn your heart toward God and put your full weight into His loving arms.  Trust in the fullness of God to meet your every need.  God may use others to bring His fullness to you, but do not trust in the fullness of others to get you through the valley.  Only God will do if we are to enter the Peace of God. 

Stop Fighting (be lenient)

Fighting reality is the surest way to increase suffering.  Apparently the word epieikes is a hard word to translate from Greek to English.  The words used in various translations are graciousness, forbearance,  moderation,  gentle spirit, gentle behavior, reasonableness, gentleness, considerate, forbearing spirit, and lenience.   Here is an excellent word study I found. 

When we hold on to what is fair and just in our own mind we are not exhibiting epieikes.  Fighting reality is only amplified when reality is a person who has hurt you, maligned you, spoke evil against you, disregarded you, abandoned you, neglected you, gossiped about you (feeling angry yet).  The interesting thing is that when you hold onto your right of retribution you lose the Peace of God.  What do you trade it for?  Sleepless nights, fear of quarrel, further hurt, escalating anger, guilt, and extended suffering.  Philippians 4:5 makes it clear that the path to peace is through releasing your rights and choosing to be at peace with that person. 

In this one word we find the missing element in broken relationships, split families, unsatisfying marriages, sibling rivalry, dysfunctional workplaces, and unresolved pain caused by others.  The truth is if I could bottle up the elixir this word contains and give it to those that come to me for counsel I could resolve nearly all of their life's suffering.

So I box-but not as if I were just shadow boxing. 1 Cor 9:26 (GW)

I have a friend that I often quip "stop shadow boxing."  It is my cue to him when he is fighting against reality rather than allowing God to move through his situation.  Not to long ago I was talking to him on the phone and he said, "BJ there was a person that told me a while back to stop shadow boxing."  It was the exact word that I needed to lift me out of suffering.  I am thankful for friends that can be honest even when it does not feel good.  Living a life without epieikes is shadow boxing with reality. 

The Lord is Near

I think that sums it up.

Don't Worry

If epieikes kills the peace with others then worry kills the peace within.  Matthew 6:25-34 is the most important passage in the Bible on the topic of worry (in my opinion).  We worry about so many things, but Christian mindfulness teaches us that one thing is needed, to seek God and His kingdom.  Even in Philippians 4:6 says "Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."  Everything we do should be brought before the Lord in prayer, petition, and thanksgiving.  This seeking after God is the cure for anxiety.  Even when our prayers are not answered in the manner that we expect we can trust in His goodness to provide exactly what we need even to guide us through dark times. 

Focus on the Good things in Life

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things. Phil 4:8 (HCSB)

I could write a post just on this verse alone.  But the short of it is that by putting your mind on the good things in life you leave no room to be mindful of suffering.  By being mindful of suffering you can literally think yourself into misery and depression.  You want to be mindful of the honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent, and praiseworthy things in life. 

Obey

Paul says, "Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. (Phil 4:9)"  Has God shown you something that you have yet to do?  Have you received a message through the Bible, sermon, Bible study, a fellow believer in Christ that you have yet to put into action?  Paul says do it.  When we put our faith into action it is evidence that we trust God.  When we fail to put our faith into action it is evidence that either we are unwilling to obey or that we do not trust Him.  Either way it takes us away from the peace of God. 

In summary then rejoicing in the Lord, being lenient with others, stopping our worry, seeking God, focusing on the good things in life, and obeying the Lord is the pathway to Mindful peace of God.  Now that I have given you the path it is up to you to practice it.  If it seems difficult it is, but with God all things are possible.  God Bless You All!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are you Hungry? (mindless fool or mindful righteousness)

Sourdough bread. Image via Wikipedia

Hunger is a state of longing to be filled.  This is a basic drive for all human beings.  If you have ever tried fasting you quickly become aware of how intense this drive can be.  

Jesus said:

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled. Matt 5:6 (HCSB)

Continuing on the subject of filling and wholeness I want to post a question to you.  What is it that you are Spiritually Hungry for?  This may be a difficult post for some.  It was not the direction that I had anticipated, but God has proven to me over and over that He desires for us to take things to the next level of awareness and today this is what He is showing me.

After a good meal there is a general sense of well-being that come over you.  I the expression is often, "that was a good meal."  That feeling of well being is the result of a desire fulfilled.  We can have that feeling about many things, but according to Christ to be filled spiritually we need to desire righteousness.  Being filled with righteousness will lead to a sense of well-being that is greater than that felt after a good meal. 

There is a difference between filled with self-righteousness and filled with God's righteousness.  Self-righteousness is often only concerned about outward appearances.  This is one thing that Christ was so adamantly against.  Why?  I believe that self-righteousness keeps us trapped.  Let me describe what I mean.  If a person believes they are righteous (but in reality are just self-righteous) then this becomes the core of their identity.  Every action they take is built on confirming their own righteousness.  Jesus gave this example:

The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other people -greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.' Luke 18:11-12 (HCSB)

The Pharisee's very identity was based on the fact that he was not unrighteous.  His self-righteousness blinded him to the fact that he was not perfect (old-world sense).  He was still missing something.  As long as someone continues in self-righteous acts they will continue to be unmindful of who they really are.  Their awareness is only on what they do which serves to distract them from what God is trying to show them.  The self-righteous see that no change is needed. 

There is a concept in psychology about the change process called "precontemplation."   Those that are in this stage are not even aware that they have a problem.  This lack of awareness can be either through ignorance or through denial.  The Pharisees were the most learned spiritual leaders of Jesus' time.  They could not claim ignorance.   That would leave denial as the only option.  So they denied the need of a savior.  That is why Jesus confronted them.  Interestingly in the protocol for counselors working with a person in precontemplation is to get the person to reconsider their opinions, get them to be more self-aware, and point out the consequences of them continuing down the path they are headed.  This is exactly what Jesus was doing with the Pharisees of His day.  Hmmm... Jesus used motivational interviewing (maybe a future post). 

Self-righteousness ends in external hyper-religious unmindfulness (now there is a mouthful).  The cure is to humble yourself before God and allow His Holy Spirit to work on your heart and show you how to be filled.  Self-righteousness is starvation while feeling (or believing you are) full.  Now that is unmindful.

At the other end of the spectrum is casting off righteousness (the fool).  There are people that would just rather that there were not morals to follow.  Their ideal world would be one that suits their pleasure and engaged in the pleasuring of others so that we could have a utopia of pleasure.  Unfortunately such a place does not exist.  The result of such a pursuit is the darkening of one's mind. 

For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Romans 1:21-23 (HCSB)

Note that God has made Himself evident!  But they were not mindful of it and they did not seek His Righteousness so their thinking became nonsense (according to the wisdom of God).  Mindlessness begets mindlessness.  Foolishness begets foolishness.  As this process continues God gives them over to the darkness of their mind (Romans 1:26).  They become completely unaware of God (The fool says in his heart, "God does not exist. ;Psalms 14:1) or His righteousness.   Being a fool is starving while being unaware that the thing you are throwing away is food.  That last sentence should adequately illustrate the the lack of mindfulness in this state.   

Now having established what mindless hungering looks like let's look at what mindful hungering looks like? 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, 'God, turn Your wrath from me -a sinner!'  I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 18:13-14 (HCSB)

First, you have to be aware of yourself as God sees you.  That may seem like a difficult thing.  It is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit.   The good news is that God's Holy Spirit's ministry is to do just that.

When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment... John 16:8 (HCSB)

Notice the tax collector's awareness: "God" (righteousness), "Turn your wrath" (judgment), "a sinner" (sin).  This awareness is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  You have to be open to this process.  If you are not open then you risk quenching the Holy Spirit.  The root of this awareness is based in fear.  This is unpopular in our day and age.  We want to focus on Love of God (no doubt He is love), but the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7)", "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10)", "fear of the Lord prolongs life (Prov 10:27)", "In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (Prov 14:26)", "fear of the Lord is a fountain of life (Prov 14:27)", and "one turns from evil by the fear of the Lord. (Prov 16:6)"

Notice that fear of the Lord leads to escape mindless hungering.  For the self-righteous there is in a moment an awareness of the righteousness of God and how "all our righteous acts are like a polluted  garment (Literally menstrual cloth; Isaiah 64:6)."  That kills the desire for self-righteousness and leads one into hungering for God's Righteousness.  For the fool there is an awareness of certain judgment if his/her state does not change (ie leading to repentance). 

Our tax collector had "fear of the Lord" and confessing his sin to God "went down to his house justified."  You see by cultivating a healthy fear (reverence, awe, respect) of God our attention is drawn to His Righteousness and we begin to hunger and thirst for it. 

Mindful hungering begins with fearful awareness of self as God sees you, reverent awareness of the righteousness of God, respectful awareness of God's judgment, leading to humbling and repentance, which then leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  In short, "God, turn Your wrath from me -a sinner!"  With this in place then the promise, "for they will be filled" can be fulfilled in your life. 

Lord we long to be mindful of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  We hunger and thirst for your righteousness.  Put the fear of the Lord in our hearts that we might not stray from Your path.  Envelop us with Your Love as You fill us with the righteousness of God.  Lead us into mindful awareness of You.  In Jesus Name AMEN

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Completed Joy

9 "As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commands and remain in His love.  11 "I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you."  John 15:9-12 (HCSB)

Image by loswl via Flickr

At some point along the way the pursuit of happiness became the pursuit of pleasure.  Now an unfulfilled desire is the cornerstone of suffering in America.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

You may have heard the expression "it was mindless fun."  I am not against having a good time.  Nor do I expect that all fun has to have a purpose beyond having fun.  What I take exception to is the mindless. part.  We escape into our fun factories and fail to live the life that God has called us to.  Yesterday I posted on the trip my family took.  It was "mindful fun" if you will.  I created memories this last weekend that I will carry with me the rest of my life.  That is the problem with mindless fun is that it is lost as quickly as it is experienced. 

The distinction between the mindless fun and mindful fun has to do with the word "Joy."  Happiness comes and goes.  It is like a mist or vapor.  Here and then gone.   We try to hold on to it, but it slips out of our grasp.  Then we put all sorts of energy into getting it back.  As we become more and more desperate we slip into a pursuit of pleasure.  The pursuit of happiness is the concept that if I work hard to make myself better or better my circumstances that I will be happy.  Not many people want to work that hard so they settle for pursuit of pleasure.  Pursuit of pleasure is pure hedonism.  If it feels good do it more.  If it feels bad avoid doing it at all cost.  The pursuit of pleasure is a vicious endeavor.  We seek to increase the good feelings avoid pain and in the process make it worse.  In the pursuit of pleasure we are pierced with many griefs. 

I wonder if the founding fathers had this in mind when they penned these words (they changed it from property to pursuit of happiness).  Most of this pleasure seeking is rooted in the desire for material gain.  It is an unmindful discontent.  Any time that your focus is on something that you are not it is unmindful.  It is a matter of priorities.

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. 1 Tim 6:9-10 (HCSB)

Having an inordinate desire (selfish love, lust) for any material thing (sex, power, money,...) is a sure path for ruin, destruction, and many pains.  No I do not have a problem with fun, but mindless pursuit of pleasure is destructive and robs you of the Joy that God wants you to have. 

So what is the solution...

"...that your joy may be complete."  Well based on the passage at the time our solution is based in love (Here is one of my posts on love).  Secondly it is becoming accepting of whatever God gives you or whatever the trials of life come your way. 

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 (HCSB)

Note the words "complete (perfect)," "mature," "complete (whole)," and "lacking nothing."  Let those words ring in your soul and resonate in your spirit.  Why?  Those words perfect (old world type), mature, wholeness, and lacking nothing should inspire us to pay attention to the first part.  We need to be mindful of the whole passage and not just desire the outcome.   We have to accept the whole process and not just the blessing. 

"Consider it a great joy..."  No problem here anything that God wants to do I will consider a joy.  With God all things are possibleI can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  When we focus on the feel good passages of the Bible we become unmindful of our faith.  In a very real sense we become "Christian Hedonist" seeking that next spiritual fix (high). 

"Consider it great joy, my brothers when you experience various trials..."  If you think joy and trials ought not be in the same sentence then dear friend you are a Christian Hedonist.  That may sound harsh, but God is clear in this passage.  Please note, I am not suggesting that God desires for us to live lives of misery.  He does not!  However, if our pursuit of pleasure (even a spiritual pursuit) is more important than what God is doing in our lives then we are most certainly Christian Hedonists.  Again as I said before it is about priorities.  When our priorities line up then we will be made perfect, mature, whole, and will lack nothing that which is needed. 

How do we consider it a joy then?

I believe that mindfulness will help in this regard.  Remember that Christian mindfulness is contemplative awareness by God's Holy Spirit.   When you face an painful or unpleasant circumstance we must resist the urge to escape into mindlessness.  We have to be aware.  We have to note the pain, acknowledge the pain, and accept the pain.  Fighting pain at this point will only prolong suffering.  Fighting pain does not make it go away any more than escaping into mindlessness.  Then we must invite the Spirit of God to join us in our pain (Read this). 

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...the Counselor, the Holy Spirit -the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:16 & 26(HCSB)

I will get more in depth in the Spirit's role in mindfulness in a later post, but let me point out two things.  The Spirit is given as a comfort to be with you through all things.  When we ignore (grieve) the ministry of the Holy Spirit we prolong suffering and discontent.  Invite Him into the moment of pain (and happiness) to be your counselor.   It is the Spirit's ministry to you.  Second the Spirit is a source of knowledge when we forget and when we don't know what to do or say.  We can depend on the Spirit for spiritual wisdom.  Don't ignore this wisdom and thereby quench the Spirit.  Obedience is key as you navigate this difficult time. 

...knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance!

Thank you Lord for sending your Spirit to be our Counselor.  Allow us to receive trials as an opportunity for growing in perfection, maturity, and wholeness.  Help us to increase our awareness of You and Your Holy Spirit in our lives.  Let us contemplate our day and seek Your will in it.  Guide us to love one another that our joy may be complete in You.  Help us to find that place in our walk with you where we are lacking in nothing.  In Jesus Name AMEN

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Monday, August 24, 2009

A Mindful Weekend

I did not post over the weekend because it was very busy.  I spent it with my family and we had a lot of fun.  But it also was a chance for me to slow down a bit and take in life.  I started with the drive. 

Most people believe that Washington State is filled with trees and is all green.  This is not true for the eastern side of the state.   In fact it is mostly sagebrush and cheat grass for miles and miles.  There is some green by the rivers and in lands that have irrigation.  But without a source of water it is very yellow. 

 

 

As I was driving I was trying to take it in.  I have traveled this trek before and decided in the past that it was quite tedious.  I wanted to be more mindful in thought as I drove.  I saw it!  The Common Sunflower, P9170041.JPG Image by Anita363 via Flickrbeauty of the drive.  There were wild flowers here and there along the waySagebrush, from Eastern Washington.  One of the most stunning sights was several patches of sunflowers that were in the median of the Highway.  Like splashes of sun along the dead yellow grass.  It was quite stunning even at 70 MPH.  I also noted the many rock outcrops that are scattered along the way.  They call it the "scablands" of Washington.  Such an unflattering name.  They were not scablands for me on that day.  It was a beautiful drive and I praised God for his creation along the way.  I am not sure that anyone noticed, but that is OK it was my private moment with God. 

When we arrived we shuttled the kids into the Silverwood Theme Park.  We spent much of the first part of the day in the water park and the later part on the the rides.  The lazy river of Boulder Beach Image via WikipediaI took an attitude of acceptance and awareness through the experience.  I must admit that there were a couple of moments where what I wanted did not match up with what was happening or needed at the moment (unmindfulness brings up feelings of irritability for me).  However the Spirit of God reminded me of the importance of receiving the day as itFarris Wheel Image by merfam via Flickr came to me rather than being frustrated with what I wanted.  Noticing this I turned my mind to enjoy what I had rather than to focus on what I did not.  I spent time with my children and that was what was important.  In fact at one point my wife asked if I wanted to go on the rollercoaster's (long lines kept me from riding them on this trip).  The great thing was that I was content to ride the Farris Wheel with my five year old son, because he wanted to.  I am so glad I did (even the 45 minute wait did not seem all that bad).  To be there with my kids and enjoy their enjoyment.  It was quite a special experience. 

On the way home while it was dark I thought of how lucky I was to have a loving wife and four beautiful kids.  A few moments of shut eye, quiet conversation with my wife, and holding her hand was the perfect end to the day.  I did not even mind the tired fussiness that interrupted this moment.  In a way it was a special reminder of the energy we had spent at having fun.  It also gave me a chance to reflect on how lucky my kids are to have their mother as she climbed into the back to comfort a tired soul. 

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov 22:6 (NASB)

Thank You Lord for the wonderful day.  I praise you for the Glory and for the special moments with my kids.  In Jesus Name Amen

It was a mindful day ;-)

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Problem of Perfection (Unmindful Perfection Contrasted with Mindful Wholeness)

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!), Antonio Ciseri, 1...Image via Wikipedia

Most of the time when we think of the word perfection we tend to mean without defect or blemish.  Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48)."  We then are instantly confronted with the unreality of the statement be without defect or blemish as God is without defect or blemish.  When we examine our own lives moment by moment we reach a honest conclusion that we are not perfect (without defect or blemish).  This creates a problem with Christian mindfulness because you are either attempting to be something that you are not (nor can you be) or you are ignoring a very clear statement from Jesus.  Neither seem appealing, however I believe there are a great many Christians that live their lives in this tension. 

The problem lies not in the words of Christ nor in the impossibility of perfection.  The problem lies in our understanding of perfection.  Perfect had an original meaning of maturity or moral purity.  I need the source for this, but I read once that the word perfection changed as a result of the industrial revolution.  For example before the industrial revolution a perfect chair was one having four legs, aesthetically pleasing, and work of a craftsman.  After the industrial revolution a perfect chair was one that met particular specifications (without defect or blemish) and was exactly like the hundred that just came off the assembly line. 

An alternate meaning of perfect is complete (or whole).  In this passage the Greek word is teleios.  This word means to be complete in the thing it is referencing (age , growth, character). 

He (Jesus) personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, [growing] into mature man with a stature measured by Christ's fullness. Eph 4:11-13 (HCSB)

Note the last part "mature (teleios) man... ...Christ's fullness"  This is where wholeness and filling come together.  What is it that makes us whole (teleios)?  Is it not the filling that comes from Christ?  You see Christ's statement to "Be perfect" is not so much as to be without defect as it is to be filled with God's Holy Spirit.  In the context of the passage then Loving is perfected in you when you can love those that you dislike the most (enemies).  Not that loving your enemies makes you without defect, but rather loving your enemies (and everyone else for that matter) makes you whole as God is whole.  Why?  Because of the fullness of Christ according to Ephsians 4:23. 

In short stop striving to be without defect or blemish (ie striving to be like other homogonous fashionable happy Christians) and embrace the fullness of Christ.  Then you will be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.  This will be the genuine you (That God designed).  This will be "Christian Mindfulness."

God Bless You

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wholeness and Filling

Emptiness of faith Image by Swamibu via FlickrI have already mentioned that one of the key differences between Eastern Mindfulness and Christian Mindfulness is emptiness versus filling.  There are some definite similarities between these concepts and then some stark contrasts. 
One similarity that is worth looking at is the tendency of the human mind to develop preconceived ideas and notions.  This is a universal phenomena and can be readily observed.  One problem though is that these are more easily seen by others (or in others), not in examining yourself.  Most of these tendencies for preconceptions and notions tend to operate at the level of our subconscious (ie outside of our awareness).  Eastern Mindfulness and Christian mindfulness agree then that these fixed beliefs created by the human mind are a source of misperception, misunderstanding, self-deception, misbehavior, and errors in thinking.  In Christian faith this is called sin.  It is interesting to note that the most common meaning of the word sin (in Hebrew and Greek) is to miss the mark!  So Eastern and Christian thought agree that there is a natural tendency to miss in the human mind and played out in human behavior.  The key difference in how to resolve this tendency to miss (sin). 

One of the core teachings in Buddhism is emptiness (Sunyata).  Buddhists teach that the things that happen around us really do not have permanence.  Stated another way "once it happens it will never happen again."  When we hold on to our conceptions we are holding on to this emptiness as if it were real and tangible.  We become more insightful as we release these conceptions (I think this is where the term emptying the mind comes in) and allow the observable world (and our thoughts about this world) to come into our awareness and then pass like a stream.  By practicing this type of meditation it is proposed that a person gains greater insight into his/her life as well as the world around them.  This realization of the emptiness leads to the ability to transcend suffering, antagonism, fear, etc.  Further awareness of this emptiness leads a person to enlightenment (Nirvana).  I am by no means an expert in Buddhism.  If I have misrepresented please feel free to comment below.

In the Christian practice resolving the missing takes a decidedly different direction.  Throughout the Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) is the concept of filling and wholeness.  Being filled and receiving wholeness from God is the solution to sin (missing) and the key  to fulfillment.  The first three commandments of the Bible are, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth (Gen 1:28)."  To be fruitful requires maturity which is a from of wholeness (more on this in another post).  Multiplication (ie reproduction) is required to have filling.  For example you cannot fill a grain elevator unless there is seed to reproduce itself.  This is God's way.  Filling is an ongoing process and not a goal to be achieved.  Filling is continuous action of filling up and overflowing.  

Consider these two perspectives to further draw the contrast between Buddhist and Christian mindfulness.

Zen: A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted. "You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup."

Christian: "Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure-pressed down, shaken together, and running over-will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38 (HCSB); Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe [in Him] so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (HCSB); For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. 2 Cor 1:5 (HCSB)

Another similarity and difference has to do with the role of self.  Both Buddhists and Christians agree that the self (often Soul, Mind or Flesh in new testament teaching) is the barrier to greater spiritual insight and growth.  In Buddhist teaching self is diminished through liturgy (chants, mantras, meditations, and the like) self-transcendence and/or self-denial practices (middle way).    In Christian teaching self is diminished through exercising self-control, Reckon "Old self" dead, Putting off old self and put on new self by renewing the mind.  The contrast then is in Buddhism the goal is transcendence of self (escaping rebirth ie nirvana) and Christian thought is renewal (rebirth) of self (leading to escaping divine wrath). 

You see God desires that we be filled.  Being emptied does not accomplish filling.  The problem with the Zen teaching is it is limited.  I can only receive that which I have the capacity to receive.  For the Christian on the other hand God gives out of His infinite abundance if we are willing to receive it.  No emptiness required just a willing heart to turn from sin (missing), die to self(rebirth), and trust in Him (our fullness). 

I will be going into more detail about Wholeness and fullness in future posts. 

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Mindfulness in Action

Bernini's stained glass window in St. Peter's ...Image via WikipediaLittle children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.  1 John 3:18 (HCSB)

Awareness of others will lead to mindfulness in action as the Holy Spirit makes us aware of others needs.  I believe that in Christian fellowship and relationship God desires that we focus on our own character (awareness of self) and others needs (awareness of others). 

In order to meet the needs of others it requires that we become aware of those needs.  We have to look and see what the needs are.  This also requires a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will prompt you to others' needs that you might otherwise not be aware of.  This type of awareness requires a high level of responsibility though.  We cannot "love in word or speech," we must love "in truth and action." 

There are three important elements of effective action.  First actions have to based in sincerity, purity and grace.  Second, the primary motivation for our action is love.  Finally, fulfilling God's purpose in our life will lead to effectiveness. 

Sincerity, Purity, and Grace

For this is our confidence: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God's grace.  2 Cor 1:12 (HCSB)

In the DBT literature "Wisemind" is the integration of emotional experience and logical analysis to develop "intuitive knowing."  The goal of wisemind is to achieve a balance of feeling and reasoning to achieve this wisemind state.  Wisemind is often experienced in the as a sensation in the gut.  Wisemind is not Christian mindfulness.  Wisemind is inward "fleshly wisdom."  This can be dangerous for the Christian because "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:18)."  Wisemind can (for the Christian) lead them away from "God's Grace"  I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with intuition or gut reactions.  The Bible has many examples of these type of experiences.  What I am saying is that relying on these reactions of "intuitive knowing" can lead to serious error and must be subjected to God and His Holy Spirit.

So what is Christian mindfulness in this respect then?  First it lies within our conscience.  God has given all humanity a moral sense that is called conscience.  When your conscience is filled with God-given sincerity, purity, and grace then it is a reliable source of intuitive knowing.  Note the source though.  It is God given.  It is His gift.  In Eastern mindfulness the source is within in a person, in Christian mindfulness the source is God. 

Sincerity is the singleness of purpose.  In this case the best interest of others.  We often do not mind engaging in seemingly altruistic behavior as long as there is a benefit for us.  This is a dual purpose and does not have a singleness of purpose that is captured by sincerity.  At its root effective action for the Christian is acting without regard for any ulterior motive.  This can be hard to do but it is essential for effective action.

Purity is similar.  It is acting genuinely.  Your motives and interests are apparent clearly understood by others.  There is no hidden agenda that you have.  You are acting above board.  This effective action allows you to put energy into the action over trying to keep your true interests and self hidden. 

Grace involves invoking God's favor for you and then turning His grace into your relationships with others.  You become a vessel or channel through which God's grace flowing to you, though you, into the lives of others.  God's grace is effective.  If you want to have effective action in your life then you have to allow His Grace to flow through your actions. 

Motivated by Love

Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me.  I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.  John 17:25-26 (HCSB)

There is enough material on the subject of love in the Bible to blog on the rest of my life.  Suffice it to say love is a very important subject.  Effective action is motivated by love.  1 Corinthians 13 has been called the love chapter.  I encourage you to look at the whole passage (Here is a blog on the subject).  I want to zero in on verse 7 as this verse to me gives the fuel to effective action.

[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor 13:7 (HCSB)

When we bear all things it requires in my estimation that we receive it from God.  That is not to say that God is the author of our suffering (remember Job), but that He is the Redeemer of our suffering.  God can take any event in our life good or bad and turn it into a blessing.  Do you believe that?  In this case effective action bears others in love.  Even when our flesh tells us to take revenge or to give up.  Notice the difference between what we tend to do (I put up with them) and what this verse says (I carry them). 

Believing all things is not the same as being blissfully ignorant.  It is an attitude that holds others in positive regard and sees their expressed thoughts, feelings, and beliefs as honest and reasonable representation of their true thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  There is something that is incredibly validating when someone believes not just in your words, but in you as a person.  When a person can look at your shortcomings and still hold you up as worthy of their love, that is believing all things. 

Hope.  Without hope effective action becomes meaningless.  Hope brings meaning and purpose to our lives and to our action. 

Endurance of both things that are happening to you as well as completing the task before you are needed for effective action.  Endurance requires a certain degree of flexibility.  Without flexibility things break (ie they do not endure under the pressure). 

Fulfilling God's Purpose

Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Gal 6:2 (HCSB)

It is no accident that fulfilling the law of Christ is closely aligned with love.  Christ died for sinful humanity that he might bear our sin and remove our guilt.  We ought to die to self that we might bear another's burden and gently restore him/her to God.  This is "Christian" effectiveness.  It is easy to contrast with the opposite attitude which is unhelpful, harsh, punitive, judgment.  Generally speaking this sort of attitude pushes people away and does not lead them to repentance.  That is to say it is ineffective. 

 

There is much more I could write about effective action, but this post is long enough as it is.  So perhaps the Lord will allow me to come back to this subject in the near future.  God Bless you all.  I believe that you can be effective in what you do informed by God's word, empowered by His Spirit. 

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Awareness of Others (Non Judgmental?)

 

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Matt 12:33 (HCSB)

HS_Dove_Bible Image by nFriedly via FlickrOne of the contrasts between eastern mindfulness and Christian mindfulness becomes very apparent the area of our awareness of others.  In Eastern mindfulness (and DBT) the tradition is to approach this awareness the instruction is to be Non-Judgmental.  Christian mindfulness teaches a different type of awareness that involves discernment.  I believe that this distinction is very important and would be one of the key differences between the two.  Someone might suggest, "but doesn't the Bible teach us not to judge others."  People in this camp will often quote   Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge, so that you won't be judged."  On the surface this seems like it is in agreement with the eastern tradition, but unfortunately it takes the verse out of context.  Looking at this passage will be useful in understanding Christian mindfulness and awareness of others. 

Why do you look at the sawdust in your brother's eye when you have a 2x4 sticking out of your own eye?  You Hypocrite first take the 2x4 out of your eye and then you will be able to help your brother take the sawdust out of his eye.  (My translation)

In this passage Jesus is saying not to judge others until you have become aware of your own faults and dealt with them first.  Interestingly "the other" in this passage has the same fault (sawdust) in a smaller degree than the one judging (plank of wood).  Awareness of others then proceeds from self-examination, awareness of self, effectively dealing with your own shortcomings.  Our own thoughts, ideas, feelings, prejudices tend to color our awareness of others.  After self-awareness, Other-awareness becomes clearer and more effective.  That is Jesus' central teaching of this passage.   

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.  You'll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can't produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that doesn't produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So you'll recognize them by their fruit." Matt 7:15-20 (HCSB)

This teaching is in the same sermon as the statement "Don't Judge" giving further credence to the notion that Jesus was not teaching Eastern Non-Judgment.  We need to be aware of other's fruit.  This means looking beyond what they are saying to see what they are doing.  Listen to there actions over their words. 

Research has shown that 55% of communication is non-verbal and as high as 93% when examining the feeling state of a person.  Awareness of a persons non-verbal actions is a key to understanding others.  This fact points to the relative weakness of electronic communication to face to face communication.    It also points to the importance of being aware of others nonverbal cues. 

Awareness of others also requires an open mind.  It is possible to be "so discerning" (legalistic judgmentalism) as to close your awareness of others off.  This happens when our own thoughts, feelings, and opinions become priority over hearing and understanding others or awareness of God.  We must resist jumping to conclusions if we are to be aware of others.  Consider the Bible's definition of "open mindedness."

The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men.  Acts 17:11-12 (HCSB)

Open-mindedness is three steps: willingness to listen, eagerness to understand the message, and then examine by the Spirit (using God's Word as the standard).   Often our awareness of others breaks down in one of these three steps.  This also is quite a bit different from the Eastern Non-Judgmental Open-mindedness that has come to dominate the definition of "having an open mind" in our culture. 

Listening requires that we are paying attention.  To be aware of others your attention must be directed toward that person.  This requires focus and elimination of distractions.  When we fail to focus or if there are too many distractions then awareness of others can be seriously inhibited. 

Eagerness to understand requires that we "get it."  I call it the "I get it" factor.  A question that I often ask myself is, "Does what this person just said (or doing) to me make sense?"  If I answer the question "no" then clearly I have not understood him/her.  My goal then is to spend more time listening actively and possibly asking a question or two to clear up my misunderstanding.  To be clear understanding someone is not the same as agreeing with them.  Discernment is the last step in open-mindedness.  You cannot test what you do not understand.  Nor can you be aware of what you do not understand.  Understanding is another key to other awareness. 

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God...  1 John 4:1 (HCSB)

Examine by the Spirit is much more difficult to describe.  I will talk more about the role of the Spirit in Mindfulness in a later post.  We often judge by our own standard and our own understanding.  This is a natural act of the will.   Spiritual discernment though requires engaging the Spirit of God in some manner.  Prayer, Bible Reading (as in this passage), meditation, setting your mind on the Spirit, and other spiritual disciplines are the ways to examine.  In short God's Spirit helps us to examine and God's word gives us the standard.

By practicing self-awareness proceeding other awareness, paying attention to fruit (listening to actions), and applying Biblical "open-mindedness" then we can greatly increase our awareness of others. 

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mindful Listening

Ocean Lake and Alamere Falls This is another mindfulness exercise. In this one the goal is the art of listening. So often when we listen we tend to filter it through our own personal experience, understanding, and meaning. We tend to think of what we are hearing rather than the tone, quality, pitch, volume of the thing we are listening to. In this exercise then you listen not for what you hear, but how it sounds. Here is a list of adjectives to help you use descriptions rather than labels (soft and loud). When you think of labels like "that's a wave" or "Birds singing" you are focused on what it is rather than how it sounds.

As on the last post you can list your description in the comment section below.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mindful Looking

This is like a game of I spy.  The goal is notice as many things as you can about this picture and post what you see in the comment section below (try to find something that no one else has noticed).  You can see the full size image by clicking Here

Shopping

Did you notice: the yellow stripe (anyone humming "follow the yellow brick road"), four people wearing jeans, the couple holding hands, the young woman with pants having one short leg and one long leg, the orange shopping bag, the green roll along luggage. 

Feel free to post what you see below. 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Awareness of Surroundings

Bridge over Triagalna Gramada Stone River in B...via Wikipedia
It is possible to becomes so completely self-aware that it becomes self-absorption.  At this point a person can loose touch with the world around them.  It is also possible to become distracted in this life so as to lose touch with the important details of life.  Mindfulness requires that we become aware of the things that surround us, events, and activities.  This awareness comes to us moment by moment through our senses.  God has blessed us with 5 senses to allow awareness of the world around us.  We can cultivate mindfulness by focusing our awareness through our senses to become more keenly attune to the things around us. 

Mindful Viewing of the Night Sky

When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, Psalms 8:3 (HCSB)

Take some time to look up at the night sky while in town with ambient light surrounding you.  Then take a trip away from ambient light.  Spend time observing the Glory that David spoke of in this Psalm.  Notice the literal thousands of stars that never reach your awareness, because we fail to look up.  Thank God for this new awareness and worship Him.

Mindful Nature Walk

...the animals in the wild, the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea that pass through the currents of the seas. Psalms 8:7-8 (HCSB)

Find a nature preserve or park with lots of trees.  Take a walk noticing the diversity of animal and plant life.  Soak in the beauty of God's creation.  Pay attention to the various sounds of nature.  If you are walking with someone, notice them as well.  The sounds of his/her steps, breathing, voice, etc.  If the wind is blowing note how it moves the leaves.  Be careful to note the small things as well.  Take time to notice the colors, textures, shapes of all that is around you.  Praise God for the glory of His creation. 

Mindful Walking

He keeps us alive and does not allow our feet to slip. Psalms 66:9 (HCSB)

This activity is similar to the nature walk.  In this exercise you pay attention through your senses as you walk.  Your focus is on the moment rather than the thing you are walking to (meeting, exercise, work, etc).  You pay attention to your steps.  Focus on your breathing.  If you can, notice your heart rate.  Then there is the things around you that will pass through your awareness.  Careful though you want to be aware of your walking not distracted by these things ;do not hold on to your awareness of them, just notice.  Pray as you go thanking God for life and keeping your feet steady on this walk and in life. 

Mindful Day in the Sun

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a groom coming from the  bridal chamber; it rejoices like an athlete running a course. It rises from one end of the heavens and circles to their other end; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Psalms 19:1-6 (HCSB)

This is a good practice in the early fall when the warmth of the sun is contrasted with the coolness of the air.  In this exercise you spend time taking in the warmth of the sun.  Noticing how it feels.  Paying attention to the changes in temperature that you experience as you walk in and out of the shade or as the wind blows.  Notice the rays of sun created as it passes through trees that are losing their leaves.  If there are clouds on that day look up and notice the various shapes.  We were much more mindful of the clouds when we were young now we barely notice them at all.  Except to complain about the rain or being overcast.  Allow the Heavens to declare the glory of God.  Listen as the sky proclaims the work of His hands.  Pause, listen, and worship.

Mindful Music Listening (and Making)

Praise the Lord with the lyre; make music to Him with a ten-stringed harp. Sing a new song to Him; play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout. Psalms 33:2-3 (HCSB)

Often with the advent of personal electronics we tend to listen to music while doing something else.  In this exercise you simply stop doing the "something else" and listen.  Appreciate the melody and harmony of the music.  Allow the lyrics to come into your awareness through active listening (not passive as we often do).  Note the tone and quality of the music.  If you have the opportunity, go listen to the music live.  If you are a making music sing (or play) a new song to Him.  Allow the Spirit of God to raise your praises to the throne room of heaven.  Focus intently on the gift of music and praise God for this wonderful gift.

Mindful Thankfulness

You answer us in righteousness, with awe-inspiring works, God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the distant seas. You establish the mountains by Your  power, robed with strength. You silence the roar of the seas, the roar of their waves, and the tumult of the nations. Those who live far away are awed by Your signs; You make east and west shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it abundantly, enriching it greatly. God�s stream is filled with water, for You prepare the earth in this way, providing ?people? with grain. You soften it with showers and bless its growth, soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges. You crown the year with Your goodness; Your ways overflow with plenty. The wilderness pastures overflow, and the hills are robed with joy. The pastures are clothed with flocks and the valleys covered with grain. They shout in triumph; indeed, they sing. Psalms 65:5-13 (HCSB)

This passage is filled with activities of mindful thankfulness to God.  Take time to notice and then praise God for: Awe inspiring works, the powerful ocean waves, magnificent mountains, rain, streams, rivers that give precious water for life sustaining crops, green fields, flocks of animals on hills.  The list of things to be thankful for is endless.  In this activity you simply allow yourself to become aware of them and then turn it into a praise to God. 

Pushing Away Distractions to Mindfulness

Certainly, man walks about like a mere shadow. Indeed, they frantically rush around in vain, gathering possessions without knowing who will get them. Psalms 39:6 (HCSB)

This verse lists 3 things that get in the way of mindful living.  First is walking for show not in genuineness.  The side you let others see is a mere shell of the person God created you to be.  Second is busyness.  Busyness allows escape from pain and suffering, but in the process robs you of joy and life.  Third, preparing for the future, while disregarding the day.  When all your energy is spent living for a day that has not yet arrived you lose the life that God has given you today.    

These are just some ideas for practicing mindful awareness.  There are many more that perhaps I will have a chance to post.  Maybe you have some Ideas of your own.  Please feel free to post any ideas in the comment section below to share with others.  May God richly bless you and your awareness of His awe inspiring works. 

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Awareness of Self (Effectiveness)

I don't want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me -yet many oppose me.  1 Cor 16:7-9 (HCSB)

Paul was sharing his plans (desire) to come and see the Church a Corinth.  He was aware that if he came at that time that he would be distracted and he wanted to "be there" when he visited them.  He was self-aware of what was happening at that moment and chose to focus on what was effective over what he desired. 

Part of self awareness is the ability to recognize our thoughts, feelings, and desires without immediately acting on them.  But rather to consider what would be most effective in light of the situation, the people involved, and what God is doing.  Effectiveness is releasing your right to have it your way in favor of what is really the best (God's) way.

When it comes to self-awareness I have found that two questions that I ask myself helps lead me into better awareness.  First, "How do I feel about this situation?"  At times I will even pray a short prayer like, "Lord open my eyes to see as you see."  The next question is, "Does this make sense to me?"  Any situation, thought, feeling, belief, relationship, etc that does not make sense to you is outside your awareness.  Things that make sense are inside your awareness.  Applying this to personal awareness then if you act, say, feel things that do not make sense to you then it is a lack of self-awareness. 

Let me give an example.  There was something that my wife shared with me about a comment made about me at Church.  At the time I laughed it off.  Later I was being sort of forceful in making a point that the comment was not true to the person that made it.  My wife then said to me aside, "you are really bothered by that aren't you."  My immediate thought was "no," but I asked the question to myself, "How do I feel?"  I had to be honest and thought, "defensive."  Then the next question, "does this make sense to me?"  I thought about it and figured that my wife was right.  Then I considered the original comment which was really not anything to be defensive about.  Then I decided to let it go.  The defensiveness disappeared and I felt more at peace.  That was effectiveness.  I had to stop acting based on how I felt in order to focus on what would work to release those negative feelings. 

You can practice self-awareness by pausing to think about how you are feeling or thinking through the day.  Thinking about thinking seems kind of funny at first, but it works.  Another great way to develop self-awareness it journaling.  Journaling keeps you in contact with how you feel and think about situations while giving you something to do that prevents you from reacting to the situations.  It also can be a way to discover effective ways of dealing with problems as you move from reacting emotionally to coming up with ways to respond effectively. 

If you practice this then you can be effective in your life, relationships, ministry even in the face of great opposition. 

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Awareness of Self

For the Christian to be mindfully aware of self it requires a willingness to be focused on the here and now as well as examine oneself in light of what God has revealed in His Word.  We can easily get focused on ourselves as we want to be or how we have been.  These are distractions from mindful awareness of self.  You have to be "all there" in order to achieve this level of awareness. 

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;  for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:21-25 (NASB)

This passage deals with effective action which I will address in a future post.  It also deals with self-awareness.  Note those that do not have a awareness of themselves are deluded.  Those are strong words.  The image is of a person that looks in the mirror and then proceeds to forget what they look like.  Note also that the Bible (the gospel in particular) is the mirror by which we see ourselves.  When we look into God's word He makes us aware of Himself, but He also is revealing something about ourselves as well. 

Interesting the psychological test for self-awareness is using a mirror.  In this experiment a red dot (or some other object) is put on the toddler's forehead and then place them in front of a mirror.  The level of self-recognition is dependent on the toddler's reaction to the object.  If they reach up and touch the object on themselves then it is hypothesized that they recognize that it is them that is in the mirror.  This is fairly reliable research finding .

Spiritually speaking we achieve self-awareness when we can reflect on ourselves (meditation on the Bible is good for this) and our place in this world, then see "that is me."  It is authentic awareness of who you are, your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.  It is recognizing who you are not who you were or who you would like to be (in the moment here and now).



Another tool of self-awareness is called the Johari window.

 

Known to self

Unknown to self

Known to others

Public Self

Blind Self

Unknown to others

Private Self

Unknown Self

The goal of the Johari window is to minimize the "Blind Self" which is what others know about us that we ourselves are not aware of.  This is accomplished by asking others for feedback on a list of adjectives from others that know you well.  By performing this exercise you become aware of your "Blind Spots."  Interestingly this term blind spots has made it into our cultural lingo for a person lacking self-awareness. 

In the "Christian Mindfulness" we have the ability to not only minimize our blind spots, but we can also minimize the "Unknown."  This unknown is revealed to us as we trust in the Spirit's ability to examine our hearts, thoughts, motives, and desires.  Below is a Christian Johari Window if you will.

 

Known to self

Unknown to self

Known to others

Fellowship

Bearing one another up 
Intersession

Unknown to others

Intimacy (with God and trusted others)

Known to God

God can either use others or His Spirit to make us more self-aware. 

One last area of self-awareness.  Mindlessness can become a way to escape painful self-awareness.  There are within all of us things that we do not like to admit.  These weaknesses, fears, disgusts, hatreds, sufferings are pushed away from awareness.  This can be intentional or subconscious.  It is useful in that it protects us from experiencing pain or suffering.  However, this defensive approach to life is not mindful and many times leads to problems as well.  I am sure that you can all recall a time where in an effort to escape suffering or the hard work of change you created more problems than if you were more honest with yourself and confronted this issue.

Self-Awareness is essential to being mindful.  Seeing your self as God sees you is ideal and leads to more authentic (and more spiritually healthy) living. 

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Awareness of God

Image by Ampliato [ Edu ] via Flickr Verdadeiro Amor 1 - True love 1

Before one can be aware of God He must first reveal Himself to that person.  The method that God draws us into awareness is through love.  "For God so Loved the world..."  We are drawn to His love when we become aware of the Love of God through the Gospel then we enter a relationship with Him.  Our awareness becomes intimately connected through the person of Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Knowing God is not understanding some theological truth.  Often we seek intellectual knowledge of God.  This pursuit is indeed admirable, but should never replace the intimacy of knowing God.  Like all relationships awareness comes from spending time with the person that you are relating.  This for the Christian requires time spent reading, meditating, praying over, reflecting, and applying God's word.  Christian mindfulness then is rooted in the understanding of the word of God and how God is using His word in your life.

Do you want to have greater mindfulness of God?  It must start with reading of the Bible and meditation on His Word.  There are many strategies for studying and meditating on God's word. 

Let me draw a distinction before discussing this between meditation and devotional thoughts.  If I shared with you how much I love my wife.  I would tell you about her loyalty, devotion, strength of character, her amazing insight, gift of discernment, and her devoted love for our family.  Does this help you know my wife?  Or does it just help you know about her? 

Devotionals are nice.  They are an experience that someone has had with God that they then put into words.  This blog is me sharing what God has done or revealed in my life.  If the only spiritual food you get is from devotional thoughts or what someone else has written about God then you will gain much knowledge about God without ever coming to a place of knowing Him. 

Devotional thoughts also lack staying power in my estimation.  Perhaps you have experienced this for yourself.  You hear or read a wonderful devotional thought.  Perhaps an accompanying verse from the Bible.  You are lucky to remember that thought a few minutes later by a few hours later it is gone.  You remember that it was good, but have no recollection of what it was.  Meditation on the other hand forces you into greater awareness and resulting challenge and change.  You cannot forget meditations (if sincere) for they are written on the heart and not in the fading stream of our consciousness. Before you go throwing out those devotionals let me say that a devotional can become a meditation if You allow God's word (key God's word and not man's) to be written on your heart.  If it is not written on our hearts then devotions just become nice uplifting words that make us feel good when we read them (and not much more).  

So how do we meditate? 

The time of day is morning, evening, and through the day.  There is a strong connection between the "prayer without ceasing" and meditations.  When we start our day with a meditation it gives the Spirit of God to give us our daily need.  The Bible is filled with images of dining on the Word of God.  In the evening it gives us opportunity to reflect on the goodness of God's provision.  Through the day is where awareness and action meet.  This is Christian mindfulness. 

Who or What Should be the Object of Our Meditation?

God's Word
God's Truth
God's Way
God's Instruction
God's Work
God's Blessing

A Basic Scripture Meditation

Pick a text
Pray for God to illumine the text
With contemplation read the text (3 times)
1st Reading with goal of understanding the Context
Pause of contemplation and prayer
2nd Reading with the goal of understanding the words
Pause of contemplation and prayer
3rd Reading with the goal of understanding the whole
Pause of contemplation and prayer
Then Ask God in light of this truth �How to I apply this to my day/life.�
Write down your spiritual insight and application
Use this insight as a meditation that you reflect on through the day.

Some things to note
  • Being distracted is normal gently bring you mind back from wandering
  • Effective meditation takes practice (lots of it)
  • Consistency will have the biggest pay off
  • With practice you can achieve a state of mindfulness with a short meditation You do this by setting your mind on the Spirit (ie spiritual insight and/or application)


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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mindlessness

Image via Wikipedia

Foolishness brings joy to one without sense, but a man with understanding walks a straight path. Prov 15:21 (HCSB)

There are many forms of Mindlessness. I have been able to identify a handful. They are escapism, simple mindlessness, Egoism, busyness, dividedness/double mindedness, and unspiritual. These all have there unique qualities, but they share one thing in common. They lack authenticity, genuineness, integrity, and serve to distract people from being aware of their own condition, condition of others, God, and the world around them.

Escapism is the failure to be connected to life by devoting oneself to activities that allow for distraction. The most common activities that come to mind are entertainment, consumerism, alcohol, and drugs. These activities allow a person for a time to escape into a life that is not real to avoid some sort of pain or suffering they are having in their own life.

Simple mindlessness is rooted in being lazy and/or failing to think for oneself. It is easy to be resigned to being told what to do. If I am merely following then I do not have to be personally responsible for the outcome. Becoming aware means that I may have to give up some of my preconceived ideas about myself and the world around me. Awareness may force me into making a decision for my life. Awareness may command action that I am not yet ready to take. It is far easier (but less authentic) to live life by laws and rules than to be moved by the Spirit.

Busyness is a plight of our time. We have all filled our lives with things to do and have squeezed out the one thing that is needed (connection with God). It has the appearance of being productive and doing something of value. It even can be wrapped up in Christian works. However, busyness is mindlessness put into action. I think of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit them. Martha was distracted by her busyness while Mary sat at the feet of our Lord listening to His word. To Martha, Mary was being lazy and uncooperative. However, Jesus said, "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 10:41-42 (NASB) Busyness is often based in pride or self-indulgence. It is dangerous because we often celebrate accomplishments. However in the area of Spirit life works are destructive if they are done in the flesh which is works based religion. It is not motivated out of purity of heart, but out of need to do good or impress others.

There are times when self-glorification is the primary objective. Egoism is type of busyness, but it much more focused on the self. It is unmindful because the person seeking self glorification has little awareness of others or what is happening around them. In fact the main focus in either on what they can personally benefit from or what makes them look the best. Some people might observe that this type of person is "self-absorbed." Jesus identified many of the Pharisees as this type of person. They honored God with words, but really followed their own way.

Dividedness or double mindedness is a barrier to mindfulness. This can be doubting while proclaiming faith, sinning while claiming righteousness, battling of the soul (desiring to do right) and the flesh, lack of integration of the personality (role strain), anxiousness, and being "half-there." Romans 7:14-24 is a good description of this state. The conclusion of double mindedness is, "What a wretched man I am!" It leads one in to feelings of desperation. The dominant feeling is anxiety and insecurity.

The last barrier to Christian Mindfulness is being "unspiritual." There are two ways that a Christian can fall into being unspiritual: quenching and grieving. Quenching the Spirit occurs when we have awareness of the Spirit of God, but then do not act accordingly. In other words God gives clear direction and you don't do it. Grieving the Spirit occurs when we act not according to our awareness of the the Spirit, but according to the desires of our flesh. Stated another way we do something that God clearly does not want us to do.

Mindlessness is overcome by mindfulness. Moment by Moment awareness of God, others, your surroundings, in relation to self moves a person from acting carelessly as in mindlessness to acting authentically according to the Spirit of God. We can all strive to increase our mindfulness of God.

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