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Anyone for mindfulness?


In our restless, noisy, troubled, angry, violent world, a quiet time is something we desperately need, and something we harm ourselves by neglecting 


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If you love someone, you’re happy just to be with them. It doesn’t matter that much what you are actually doing – just being with them is enough.

I wonder if Mark meant us to think like that when he wrote that Jesus “appointed the twelve that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14)? Perhaps I’m reading too much into the passage; but the fact is that when Matthew and Luke record the same event they don’t include these words. So I like to think Mark wanted us to focus especially on them.

So then... it seems that before the disciples were “sent out” (that’s what comes next) - before they did any preaching, before they worked any healings or delivered any demon-oppressed people - Jesus wanted them simply to spend time with him. To listen; to talk; to enjoy meals; to share day-to-day experiences; no doubt sometimes to laugh and  joke and play games: just to be with him.

And the point is very simple: doesn’t he want the same for us? And the question that arises is also very simple: how much time do and I you spend just being with Jesus?

I recently attended a ministers’ conference, and one of the subjects we heard about was “mindfulness”.

Mindfulness is very much the in thing at the moment. One definition I read described it like this: “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment”. Which means, pretty much, being still and focussed; not letting your thoughts zip about here there and everywhere; and this includes taking notice of the posture of your body and the rhythm of your breathing.

You may feel that sounds rather like meditation, even yoga. And you would be right. Throughout history human beings have looked for ways of settling their restless hearts and calming their troubled minds. Some of these may be harmful, and we need to be careful.

But what we were hearing about at the conference was specifically Christian mindfulness. While mindfulness as such has no particular religious content (it is presently fashionable in completely secular circles) there is no doubt that there are strong points of contact with the Bible and with various Christian traditions and practices.

When I first heard of mindfulness a year or two ago I was pretty sceptical – just a fancy name for an age-old interest and practice, I thought. And, if I am to be completely honest, I would have to admit that my scepticism hasn’t gone away, in spite of the many interesting facts and helpful insights we were given at our conference.

I suspect, in fact, that it will turn out to be one of those fashions the church has a habit of adopting from time to time – that perhaps in 20 years’ time we will look back and say “Do you remember that ‘mindfulness’ business that was all the rage a few years back…?” The Bible tells us, after all, that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). And, when it comes to mindfulness, I find myself grunting agreement with that.

I don’t know; time will tell. But we mustn’t, as the saying goes, throw out the baby with the bath-water. And the conference certainly challenged and helped me to reflect a bit on my own mechanical and often rushed attempts to enjoy my relationship with God.

Nothing new; but what you might call rediscoveries. In recent years we have had a spate of worship songs designed to help us cultivate closeness to God: “Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here…” “To be in your presence,/ To sit at your feet,/ Where your love surrounds me,/ And makes me complete./ This is my desire, O Lord…”

Beautiful. And it brings back memories of my Sunday School days nearly 70 years ago, when we were taught to sing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,/ Look full in his wonderful face,/ And the things of earth will grow strangely dim…” When we prayed we were encouraged, “Hands together, eyes closed”, a posture to help focus and concentration.

Call it mindfulness, call it meditation, call it “having a quiet time”, call it “drawing near to God”, call it your “devotions”, call it what you like – the fact is that, especially in our restless, noisy, troubled, angry, violent world, this is something we desperately need, and something we harm ourselves by neglecting. As the tee-shirt slogan says, “Just do it!”

So… Jesus called the twelve “that they might be with him” – I trust we’ve got hold of that.

But what comes next? Ah, this too is vitally important: “…that he might send them out…

Don’t overlook that. Oh, don’t overlook that! 
 

 
Image | Pixabay



Colin Sedgwick is a Baptist minister with many years’ experience in the ministry.


He is also a freelance journalist, and has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, and various Christian publications. He blogs at sedgonline.wordpress.com

 

Baptist Times, 21/03/2018
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