This week, we have a special guest bringing you the Monday Minute. Jay Muir is the worship pastor at Kings Church and does an amazing job of bringing people to the throne of God through music and song. Part of that is guiding people to see God in the moment, and I believe today's devotional will do just that.
If you’re the type who pays attention to popular culture, or if (like me) you’re one who is sometimes seduced by the "fix-your-life" promises of the multi-billion dollar self-help industry, there's a term you may have heard in recent years that's become something of a catchphrase for every new age philosopher or armchair psychologist peddling their latest e-book or 7-step program - mindfulness.
Have you heard of it? I’m guessing you have. The truth is that although it has only risen to mainstream acceptance in recent years, mindfulness meditation has been around in one form or another for millennia. But if you’ve heard of the practice of mindfulness and never really cared to understand what all the fuss was about (also like me), read on…
According to Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, mindfulness is the practice of, “setting aside mental distractions to pay greater attention to the here and now.” Popular meditation website mindful.org defines it as the, “basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly distracted or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? To be fully in the moment, not concerned about the future, no regrets about the past… Like one of my own favourite gurus, Master Oogway from Dreamworks “Kung Fu Panda”, said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift…that’s why they call it the present!”
The ability to dwell in the present is a gift! What’s more, actual clinical studies have shown that it’s a gift that gives generously to our physical health and overall sense of well-being. Practitioners of mindfulness meditation have demonstrated scientifically measurable reductions in stress, depression, anxiety, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder. As it turns out, worrying too much about the future or focusing too much on our past just isn’t good for our brains or our bodies.
And it isn’t good for our spirit either...
One of my favourite stories in the New Testament involves a visit from Jesus to the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. We pick up the scene in Luke 10:38-42:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NLT)
Many of us will identify with Martha’s state of mind and level of activity in this scene. Company has arrived, and important company at that - the Messiah and His twelve disciples - 13 grown men descending upon one humble village home. Food must be prepared, refreshment must be offered, the floor must be vacuumed, beds must be made! (Vacuums and even beds were probably in short supply back then, but you get the idea)
And yet here is Mary, lazily flopped at the feet of Jesus doing nothing while her sister does everything. And to make matters worse, Mary is the one who gets the praise for doing the right thing!
So just what was this “one thing” that Mary discovered that would not be taken from her, that led Jesus to rebuke Martha in this moment?
Being fully present with the Lord in the moment, allowing His words to penetrate her soul and shape her heart in the complete absence of the concern and distraction that clearly threatened to overwhelm her sister.
Martha’s brain was firmly focused on the future - how will we feed these men, where will they sleep, will I have enough?
Mary allowed her own thoughts to take root firmly in the present - the Lord is here, now, and He is all I need. He is always enough.
Do you see the difference? I believe Jesus was trying to gently remind Martha that the future she was worried about could be gone in a heartbeat and the past is already…well…in the past. But the present can never be taken from you. And the Lord is here, right now, right in front of you, and He is really all that is required.
Listen to the words of Jesus from another famous teaching in Matthew 6:25-34:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (NIV)
The answer to that question? No. No we cannot. Mindfulness - focusing on the present without concern for the future - was and is actually God’s idea. No wonder it holds so many physical, mental and spiritual benefits!
It has been said (I don’t know by whom) that the phrase “fear not” occurs 365 times in the Bible - one for each day of the year. While you may have to use several different translations and apply some rather generous interpretations to arrive at this exact number, the point is it’s an extremely prevalent sentiment in Scripture. Why?
Because the Father knows His kids, and He knows our tendency to worry about what’s coming will always keep us from experiencing the joy of what is already here. Today, seek first His Kingdom, and let Him worry about the rest.