This past Sunday was Resurrection Sunday, a celebration of the fact that Jesus conquered death and now lives and reigns forever. However, if we truly believe this in our hearts and not just our heads, then really every day should be Resurrection Day. What I mean is that every single day should be lived in an awareness that Jesus is alive and active in our lives. Yet, so often we forget this truth, in our hearts if not our heads.
Many of us suffer from a form of spiritual ADHD. We are unable to sustain our attention on the things that matter most. Rather, we keep getting side-tracked by things that do not matter in the grand scheme of Jesus’ kingdom and our lives as His followers. I suffer from this affliction as well. Even though last week was Holy Week, I found myself constantly distracted by the nonsense on Twitter, in Washington, and elsewhere. Craziness like the shipping container in the Suez Canal is more apt to grab our attention in the moment that the real presence of Jesus. Yet scripture calls us to be mindful of this reality.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.Colossians 3:1-2 English Standard Version Emphasis added
In a world of distractions, how can we set our minds on King Jesus, not just on Sundays, but daily? How can we increase our attention spans in order to develop sustained mindfulness of the fact that King Jesus is alive and active in our lives?
With the caveat that I am a work in progress and by no means a master at this, I want to share a couple disciplines that I am trying to add to my own life to help accomplish this.
The Daily Office
In monastic societies, the Daily Office was a schedule of prayer and meditation. At certain times in the day, the men and women would stop whatever work they were doing and come together for prayer. This was seen as the most important work of their day. Different orders would have different schedules, some twice a day (morning and evening) and some at regular intervals (every three hours, for example).
How can we incorporate this practice into our busy lives? Recently, I have begun using technology to help keep me on track spiritually. We use our phones as calendars and alarms for all sorts of meetings. Why not use it to remind us of our most important meetings and our most important relationship? I have multiple alarms set on my phone for 9 AM, 12 PM, 3 PM, and 6 PM. No matter what I am doing, when this alarm goes off, I take a moment to pause, breathe, and remind myself that Jesus is present with me. The goal is to develop a rhythm to my day in which I am constantly aware of His living presence. Until then, I need the reminder to stop and refocus.
I suggest using a ringtone or alarm that is not jarring and intrusive. This is to be a joyful encounter with God, not an annoyance to be dreaded.
In my faith tradition, prayer was always depicted as talking to God. Prayer was taught as a way to bring your requests to God, whether for yourself or others. God does invite us to do this multiple times in scripture. However, when this is the sum total of our prayer life, our relationship becomes a monologue.
As we grow in our relationship with God, we learn to listen as well as speak to God. We do this often through prayerful meditation on God’s Word and practice call lectio divina. The next step in our relationship is learning to be with God. Contemplative prayer is like watching a sunset with a loved one, sharing the moment together, whether words are spoken or not.
As I am learning to practice this discipline, I focus my thoughts on the presence of Jesus with me. When my mind wanders away to my to-do list, I recenter myself with the prayer, “Immanuel, God with us.” It is both a prayer and a reminder. My prayer is for God to be with me, and the reminder is that He already is. As this truth moves from my head to my heart, as I begin to truly feel His presence, my words move from “God with us” to “Christ with me.”
Again, let me state that I am not a master at this. I am not speaking as one who has figured out the mystery. Rather, as a disciple of King Jesus, these are some of the disciplines I am practicing to keep me focused on Him so I can follow more closely in His footsteps.