“Surely the LORD was in this place, and I was not aware of it.”Genesis 28:16
It was 6 a.m. and my inner alarm went off. This was out of the ordinary for me as most days I sleep until at least 7. The night before I gave myself a pep talk about getting up early. I thought it was to no avail. But here I was, 6 a.m. and wide awake.
The flat was quiet, dark and cozy. The shades and curtains were still drawn closed. I warmed up my teapot for some early morning tea and then settled in to do some writing on the couch.
An hour or so later my husband woke up and came into where I was. The first thing he did was to open the curtains and tell me that it was beautiful outside. Ice had formed overnight and it covered the trees and rooftops.
Even though I was the first one up, I was completely unaware of the magical scene right outside the window. It wasn’t that I intentionally ignored it, I just didn’t know it was there. I was more focused on paying attention to my own agenda. I almost missed it.
“Where we direct our attention is exceedingly important to Jesus because where we direct our attention determines what our life is. It’s easy to sleepwalk through our days of commuting, working, eating, exercising, texting and so on. Christian mindfulness/attentiveness keeps close watch on our inner compass so we can notice if we are mostly present to anxiety about our wardrobe, our longing for food or our expectations about tomorrow. Jesus tells us to be present to God and others, and not only to our worry. ‘Do not worry about your life…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?’ (Matthew 6:25, 27) A mindful person collects scattered attention and brings him-or herself back to the presence of God.”Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook”
As I stepped outside into this Narnia, I couldn’t help but come up with a plan for my whole family to step into this winter wonderland. By allowing myself to be captivated by the beauty of God’s creation, my mind couldn’t help but to be in awe of God, praise Him and thank Him for the wonder before my eyes.
Excitedly, I shared my plan with my family. We were going to do a wintertime tea party outside on the rooftop! This was a morning that the normal routine would go amiss and we would step out into the beautiful gift God had created.
I turned on the Christmas lights that were still on the rooftop, heated up some hot water, took out the tablecloth and candles. The kids were instructed to dress as warm as they could and then meet both my husband and I out on the rooftop with their steaming mug of warmth.
“Historically, great theologians have cited the created world and its beauty as the first sign of God’s goodness. Paul said as much in the opening chapter of his epistle to the Romans. Creation speaks of the goodness and glory of God through dazzling colors and intoxicating scents. The sunrises and sunsets are grand spectacles that happen twice each day and are seldom noticed by people too busy to look. God could have made an ugly world; he was not obligated to make a world that inspires awe. Beauty has a lot to do with order. Simply gazing at a daisy reveals the mind of God.”James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God
As we all gathered outside to drink hot tea and share some poetry, we could barely sit still. All around us were sparkling crystals that drew our attention. The choice in that moment was whether I allowed the beauty of nature to draw us closer to God or not.
The practice of paying attention or being mindful of God in our midst has been around for centuries. Yet as our culture gets busier, louder and more demanding, we have to be more intentional about paying attention. It is a habit that can be cultivated.
“But for all the soul’s vastness and independence, the tiny executive center of the person- that is, the spirit or will- can redirect and re-form the soul, with God’s cooperation. It mainly does this by redirecting the body in spiritual disciplines and toward various other types of experiences under God.”Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart
Where is God inviting you to be mindful of Him today?
Being mindful of God in our present moment has been around for centuries. In the act of Christian mindfulness it is the goal to be aware of the present moment, not in emptying our minds, but in filling them up with thankfulness, praise, awe and prayers to God about what our eyes see in the present. It can be quite challenging to be in the present moment, but it is an invitation to awareness of God in your everyday ordinary moments of life. Being mindful is an invitation to prayer.
- Slow Meal- During meal times you can choose to eat slowly, savoring the tastes and experience of those joining you at the table. Be present with all of your five senses. How does the food taste? smell? feel? look? What does it sound like to share conversation around your table? How can you see God in all of it? Talk to Him about this as you enjoy a slow meal.
- Slow Walk- Decide to take a walk for the purpose of being mindful of God in your midst. Pay attention to the small things. Stop and look at the insect crawling across a leaf. Notice the sound of the birds singing and try to identify them. You can even take a sketch book or camera along with you to draw or photograph the beauty of God’s creation. Sunset is an especially good time for this. Prayerfully walk with God and share with him what is stirring in your soul as you respond to what you see around you.
- Stillness- Take time in your day to sit and just be present with God. The goal is not to rush somewhere, to try and check items off of your list or work harder. The goal is to be still with God. Just be. Even if it is just for 5 minutes. If it helps, keep a notebook and pen handy to jot down all of the distractions that come across your mind initially. Invite God into this moment and enjoy being in His presence. Think on scripture, talk to God and listen to Him. Let God renew your mind.