Christian Mindfulness?

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If you are alive and reading these days, you have probably heard the term “mindfulness.”

You might know people who are practicing mindfulness to help them navigate the pressures of daily life. Maybe it’s used in your school or workplaces as a tool to reduce stress and boost creativity. In recent years mindfulness has been promoted by public health bodies as a way to promote mental wellbeing, and as a treatment for depression and anxiety. The guided meditation app Headspace—one of dozens you can find in your app store—has been downloaded over 31 million times.

So what should Christians make of the mindfulness trend? Should we jump on the bandwagon? Should we be suspicious and hold it at arm's length? Or is there another way?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us (https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/).

The theory is that when we are mindful in the present, we can avoid the pitfalls of letting the past or the future hijack us from living in the moment. While definitions can vary, the word “meditation” is often used synonymously with “mindfulness”.

Here’s a sample step by step mindfulness practice:

  1. Take a moment to be still and relax.

  2. Pay attention to the sensations in your body. If you are anxious, angry, sad, etc, where can you locate that in your body? What is your body saying?

  3. Stay present in the moment and focus on what you are thinking and feeling. Do this without judgement, even if it is a “negative” emotion like sadness or anxiety.

  4. Label the emotions you are feeling with as much precision as possible.

  5. Ask yourself why you feel this way, and what triggered it.

  6. Let the emotions pass.

  7. Re-enter your world with calm and a commitment to be grateful and caring.

In recent years, scientific research has confirmed what most religious traditions have been saying for a long time: practicing meditation is good for the body and soul. That is why you will find most religious traditions include meditation as a vital element to living out the tenants of one’s beliefs. This is true of the Christian tradition as well.

Today, most mindfulness practices are secular. They don’t emphasize any faith component, which is partly why it has become so popular—mindfulness is for everyone. You don’t have to necessarily believe anything in particular.

What is Christian mindfulness?

I believe that there is a way to practice “Christian mindfulness”—something that connects with the secular trend, but adds a very important dimension. In my new book, Unstuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change that Lasts, I walk through nine steps that share some similarities to the steps above with one main difference: the presence of a personal God, who communes with us and redeems us as we are mindful of his presence with us in the moment.

It is impossible to overstate the difference this makes. Secular mindfulness is personal and horizontal: you pay attention to yourself, so as to be more present for others. Christian mindfulness introduces a vertical dimension: you are paying attention to who God is and your relationship with him through his grace to you in Jesus. This is what is utterly unique about Christian mindfulness.

In one sense, all Christians should be “mindful” Christians. Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to be consciously mindful of the present benefits of being united to Christ.

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…" (Philippians 2 v 1).

His next statement is a call to live in light of that present reality and awareness.

"… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (v 2-4)

Christians have a personal, loving, accepting, forgiving, gracious and present Savior, who aides us day by day through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. As we go about our daily lives, with all of the stresses and busyness, we are constantly invited to be mindful of God’s presence with us, his care for us and new power in us that he has provided to face each moment of each day.

One way we are to be “mindful” Christians is through prayer: we are to live our lives as we “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5 v 17). The word “without ceasing” does not mean “non-stop” but “constantly recurring”—in other words, we are encouraged to punctuate our daily lives with intervals of prayer. You might describe this as living with a moment by moment mindfulness of God’s presence with us.

As you go about your day today, you can practice Christian mindfulness. It isn’t that complicated, and you don’t need an app. Find ways and times to slow down and allow yourself to be mindful of your connection to Christ. As you do, allow his love to calm you and encourage you.

You don’t have to call it “mindfulness”, but all Christians are called to be mindful—mindful of our unity with Christ, and the presence of his Spirit. And it’s with that awareness that we can live with gratitude and move towards others with compassion.

Copyright © 2019 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

"Unstuck" Available for Pre-Order!

This book has been brewing in my mind for over a decade.

The ideas were forming as I counseled, traveled and spoke to churches across the globe. My primary goal was to find a way to encourage people that change was possible and what they needed was a way of connecting the lines between their daily struggles and their relationship with God.

In the fall or 2016, I was invited to teach a class on worry at Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church. Near the middle of the class, I had been mulling over Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and the thought occurred to give the class “steps” they could take to grow in grace. Soon after that class, a series of blogs began to take form that eventually shaped this book.

In late 2017, the final stage came as I reconnected with The Good Book Company and pitched the idea of a book on change that was short, accessible yet nuanced enough to capture more complex struggles. They accepted and provided an excellent editor, Rachel Jones, who gave wise feedback through every iteration of each chapter.

My hope is that this short book would be read by individuals, couples, families and churches. But I would also love to see it used in one-on-one discipleship relationships, as well as a foundational supplement for counselors as you seek to help others grow in grace.

Thank you to each and every person who had a shaping influence on this book.

Tim Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Finding Grace in Loss and Transition

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Recently, I had the great opportunity to share time with Corey Pelton of FishFoodMedia to discuss grief and how God has helped me in seasons of transition and loss of loved ones. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the comfort he received from Christ as though it belonged not just to him but others. This is the economy of God in seasons of trial. His desire is for you to find deep comfort in the grace and mercy of Jesus. As that grace and mercy is experienced, it then becomes a gift that we can offer to others.

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (J. B. Phillips)

Listen to the episode here:

Fish Food on iTunes

Fish Food on podbean

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

What Are Emotions?

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Recently, I was asked by several organizations and churches to do some work with their staff on the topic of EQ or Emotional Intelligence. Not only was I impressed that these organizations were requesting this kind of training, I was also excited about the opportunity to do some research and develop 4-5 sessions on the topic.

What started as a deep dive into EQ sent me to a much more basic question; "What are Emotions?" This is not an easy question to answer but it is essential if you are going to grow in EQ; which everyone can.

In his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ (1995), Daniel Goleman defines emotions this way:

All emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us. The very root of the word emotion is motere, the Latin verb “to move,” plus the prefix “e-” to connote “move away,” suggesting that a tendency to act is implicit in every emotion (p.6)
A word about what I refer to under the rubric emotion, a term whose precise meaning psychologists and philosophers have quibbled over for more than a century. In its most literal sense, The Oxford English Dictionary defines emotion as “any agitation or disturbance of mind, feeling, passion: any vehement or excited mental state.” I take emotion to refer to a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act. There are hundreds of emotions, along with their blends, variations, mutations, and nuances. Indeed, there are many more subtleties of emotion than we have words for (p.289).

In other words, emotions are what propel us into action. They are a vital part of what it means to be human. Without emotion, we would cease to act. While Goleman says that the nuances of emotions are endless, there are a variety of "families" of emotions that we are able to identify. Here are 10:

1. Anger: fury, outrage, resentment, wrath, exasperation, indignation, vexation, acrimony, animosity, annoyance, irritability, hostility, and, perhaps at the extreme, pathological hatred and violence.
2. Sadness: grief, sorrow, cheerlessness, gloom, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, dejection, despair, and, when pathological, severe depression.
3. Fear: anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, concern, consternation, misgiving, wariness, qualm, edginess, dread, fright, terror (phobia and panic).
4. Enjoyment: happiness, joy, relief, contentment, bliss, delight, amusement, pride, sensual pleasure, thrill, rapture, gratification, satisfaction, euphoria, whimsy, ecstasy (mania).
5. Love: acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, affinity, devotion, adoration, infatuation, agape.
6. Surprise: shock, astonishment, amazement, wonder.
7. Disgust: contempt, disdain, scorn, abhorrence, aversion, distaste, revulsion.
8. Shame: guilt, embarrassment, chagrin, remorse, humiliation, regret, mortification, and contrition.
9. Inadequacy: helpless, inferior, powerless, incompetent, useless, inept, mediocre.
10. Confusion: distracted, rattled, baffled, bewildered, mystified, flustered, perplexed, jarred, puzzled, jolted.

According to research, in order to grow in EQ, you have to be able to identify and name emotions when you experience them. As you do this, you are more able to empathize with the emotions of others.

Scripture is a book that is very much at home with emotions. The Psalms are the most obvious place to look for them. You will see most if not all of the 10 listed above. All of them can be expressed in helpful and wise ways or unhelpful and unwise ways. They can be expressed in such a way that builds others up or tears someone down. The challenge is managing them wisely. That is a key aspect of EQ.

How are you doing with identifying emotions in your life? Perhaps you could be more mindful of them as you go throughout your day. As you do, take moments to record your emotions and identify them as carefully as possible. This is a very important aspect of growing in wisdom and grace.

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Marriage and Emotional Intelligence

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How are you doing with emotional intelligence in your marriage? If you want to find out, keep reading to see if you can identify with the following examples.

Example 1

Emotional Intelligence Fail!

Andy is upset because his life is a roller coaster of workplace politics. When he comes home at the end of the day, he likes to debrief with his wife, Melissa, who is also arriving home from work. Here is how the conversation typically goes:

Andy: You wouldn’t believe what happened today! Jeremy went behind my back and thwarted a change that I had put in place to increase our department’s efficiency. It drives me crazy the way he does this. It feels disrespectful. He reports to me.

Melissa: Well, Andy, you should know by now that he is going to do that. Can’t you just confront him? I mean, it is really that simple. I think you should send an email to him saying that you need to talk to him. Don’t put it off. I know you are tired, but you have to nip this kind of behavior in the bud. Let him know who is in charge. If you don’t do it now, it will just get worse…(blah...blah...blah).

Andy: (Dead silence…..)

Emotional Intelligence Pass with Flying Colors!

Andy: You wouldn’t believe what happened today! Jeremy went behind my back and thwarted a change that I had put in place to increase our department’s efficiency. It drives me crazy the way he does this. It feels disrespectful. He reports to me.

Melissa: Oh no, this happened again? I am so sorry you had to experience that. Jeremy is a real thorn in your side, isn’t he? You must really be upset…..

Andy: Thank you so much for understanding. Sometimes I just need to share my frustrations, and it helps me to know that you are there for me. I may want to talk with you later tonight once we get the kids to bed. I could use your insight.

Example 2

Emotional Intelligence Fail!

Sara has been home all day taking care of her 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter. When her husband, Dan, comes home, she shares some of her struggles that she has encountered throughout the day.

Sara: Dan, you wouldn’t believe what kind of day it has been. First, Johnny vomited about 3 times from a stomach virus that came out of nowhere. And Jessica has been at it again with her strong-willed nature, pushing all of my buttons. I am exhausted!

Dan: Sara, it is so hard to come in the front door everyday after I have been at work and listen to you complain about the kids. You need to have a firmer handle on caring for our kids. I have a job, too, but I don’t come home complaining about everything that is on my plate…..(blah, blah, blah).

Sara: (Silence…….crying)

Emotional Intelligence Pass with Flying Colors!

Sara: Dan you wouldn’t believe what kind of day it has been. First, Johnny vomited about 3 times from a stomach virus that came out of nowhere. And Jessica has been at it again with her strong-willed nature, pushing all of my buttons. I am exhausted!

Dan: Wow! What a day it has been for you! What a bummer about Johnny. Is he okay? And I’m sorry you had to have Jessica pushing your buttons all day while that was going on. How can I help?

Sara: I am so glad you are home. I really could use some help. Thanks!

What’s the Difference?

Three simple words: Listening, Understanding and Empathy. This is very different from trying to fix the problem or change your spouse’s emotions. The bottom line is being able to stay connected and identify with them in the moment, especially when they are expressing so called "negative emotions".

What Does the Research Say?

Emotional intelligence (self-awareness and other-awareness) is not only important for the workplace, it is highly important for marriage and family. While both husbands and wives need to grow in emotional intelligence, it seems that men are often in more need than their wives. Statistics say that about 35% of men are emotionally intelligent, and that has risen some over the past several decades. The research is not certain as to why there is a difference. Is it nature or nurture? Probably some of both. In his classic work, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman says this about emotional intelligence and men:

I believe the emotionally intelligent husband is the next step in social evolution. This doesn’t mean that he is superior to other men in personality, upbringing or moral fiber. He has simply figured out something very important about being married that the others haven’t---yet. And that is how to honor his wife and convey his respect for her. It is really that elementary…..The other kind of husband and father is a very sad story. He responds to the loss of male entitlement with righteous indignation or a sense of victimization. He may become more authoritarian or withdraw into a lonely shell, protecting what little he has left. He does not give others very much honor and respect because he is engaged in a search for the honor and respect he thinks is his due (pages 124-125).

What Does Scripture Say?

Maybe the Apostle Peter understood something that modern research has confirmed when he says this to husbands in I Peter 3:7:

Husbands, live considerately with your wives, and treat them with respect…

While Peter didn’t have the vocabulary of emotional intelligence, he certainly captured the meaning in his encouragement to husbands. What he says is particularly amazing when you think about how patriarchal the cultural and religious milieu was in his day. Here is how one commentator puts it:

Live considerately with your wives is literally, ‘living together according to knowledge’. The ‘knowledge’ Peter intends here may include any knowledge that would be beneficial to the husband-wife relationship: knowledge of God’s purposes and principles for marriage; knowledge of the wife’s desires, goals, and frustrations; knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms. A husband who lives according to such knowledge will greatly enrich his marriage relationship…(Wayne Grudem, I Peter, Tyndale, p. 142-143).

While this sounds simple and easy, it’s not. Believe me, I need a daily reminder myself. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Copyright © 2017 Timothy S. Lane
1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.