Live in the now

Plus – a good article on how to stop worrying

There are three dimensions of time—past, present, and future—but we can only live in the present. We have lived in the past and we hope to live in the future, but life is only experienced in the now. 

Though our thoughts about the past can be troubling (hurts, misunderstandings) or healthy (pleasant memories), and our thoughts about the future can be troubling (fears, worries) or healthy (goals, plans, aspirations), when we’re thinking about the past or the future, we’re not focusing on the present.

An important life skill to develop is mindfulness. Simply put, it is the challenging art of controlling our thoughts such that we’re not thinking of the past or future but instead, we’re focused on the present. It’s more difficult than we think.

I’m not suggesting that we should never think about past or future events. I enjoy reminiscing about time spent with family, traveling, achieving goals, and funny anecdotes. And I enjoy thinking about hopes and plans for the future. But if that’s all I think about, I’m missing out on life.

Interestingly, and sadly, often our minds focus so much on unpleasantries in the past and worries about the future that even though our bodies are currently in a neutral or pleasant place, we’re not able to experience it. 

That’s why we need to master mindfulness—the ability to corral and slow down our racing mind and maintain an awareness of present thoughts, bodily sensations, and environment.

Perhaps this is what the Psalmist David was thinking when he said, “This is the day the Lord has made, let’s rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). He didn’t say this is the year, or month, or week the Lord has made. He said this is the day…perhaps the moment…the now that God has made. Let’s be happy and rejoice in it. 

To develop mindfulness, use the “5-4-3-2-1 method,” which involves using all five senses to focus your mind on the now. Several times during the day, pause and savor:

      • five things you see
      • four things you hear
      • three sounds you can touch
      • two aromas you smell 
      • one thing you taste 

The story is told of a monk who was walking by himself in the forest. He stumbled over the side of a cliff and halfway down stopped his fall by grabbing a wild strawberry vine. But he soon realized he could neither crawl back up the hill or lower himself to safety. He was stuck. Even in this predicament, he reached out and picked a wild strawberry, ate it, and said, “Lord, thank you. That’s the sweetest strawberry I’ve ever had.” 

Gloria Gaither, noted Christian lyricist, wrote these words, “We have this moment to hold in our hands and to watch as it slips through our fingers like sand. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”

Take time to observe and delight in, the now of your existence.

Here’s a good article on how not to worry.


Never be a spectator of…

How would you complete this sentence: “Never be a spectator of…”

Over which issues will you not remain passive? In conversations or public discourse, at what point will you refuse to remain silent? What will you not tolerate?

When in a public setting, we often remain mute when witnessing an undesirable situation. Someone breaks in line and we say nothing. Someone shares some “facts” that are wrong, and we don’t correct them. Someone consistently dominates conversations and we don’t intervene. Perhaps social grace and the desire for peace prompts us to ignore minor infringements, but where do you draw the line?  

While there are some actions that are universally repulsive and unacceptable (slavery, murder, abuse), we each have unique areas that we are particularly sensitive to. My question is, what will you not tolerate? In what situations will you cease to be a spectator and intervene? We should have an answer. 

It’s a complicated topic. How concerned should we be with the potential cost of speaking out and intervening? (If you live in China or Russia, the costs can be staggering.) When should we just take a deep breath and ignore what is happening? 

Becoming involved may mean addressing an issue immediately and directly, or it may involve a long-term commitment to incremental change. But the question I pose is: When should you never be a spectator of… 

My list includes:

      • Child abuse
      • Arrogant stupidity 
      • Unfairness 

Please  Leave a Reply and tell us what you’ll not tolerate.

At one point in your life you wanted most of what you now have. Why keep moving the goalpost?

I grew up in a 1,000-sq-ft. house. We had one car (that sometimes worked). My father finished high school. Our annual one-week vacation was to my uncle’s off-the-grid cabin in Arkansas. 

My life is vastly different now, exceeding my wildest childhood expectations. While the overall standard of living in America has steadily increased, my lifestyle has outpaced it. I am surprised at and grateful for the abundance I experience. 

While there’s nothing wrong with ambition and enjoying the fruits of good planning and hard work, there’s a danger in expectation-creep. At some point in life we need to hit the brakes on striving for upward mobility and instead be deeply satisfied and grateful for our current status. If we don’t, we may be plagued by jealousy and discontent and become preoccupied in chasing an elusive, ever-moving target.

Micah 6:8 was my mother’s favorite verse and it has become one of mine: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).

Solomon, a wise man from ancient times, summarized the good life by saying, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24). 

These verses commend a simple but focused life, marked by contentment and gratitude.

Pursue life-giving relationships and activities, not life-draining ones.

Here’s a simple exercise that can significantly enhance your life:

      1. Make a list of the relationships that bring you joy. When you’re around these people you are happy and uplifted. Spend more time with these people.
      2. Make a list of the relationships that drag you down. These people have a negative effect on you. Limit your time with them.
      3. Make a list of activities and experiences that bring you joy. Spend more time doing these.
      4. Make a list of activities and experiences that drain you. Spend less time doing these.

Here are my lists:

Life-giving relationships—Every member of my immediate family (I am blessed to be able to say that), every member of my staff at church (again, I am so fortunate), friends I travel with, Christopher, Michael, Dane, my dog Buddy (yes, it is a relationship), and others.

Life-draining relationship—I best not go public with this information.

Live-giving activities and experience—Spending time with my grandson Benjamin, working in my vineyard, traveling (particularly on a cruise ship), worship at Stonebriar, reading, deep conversations, museums, cooking. 

Life-draining activities and experiences—House and car repairs, pessimistic people, inordinately needy people, shallow conversations.

But what if your work requires you to be around people who drag you down or requires you to do stuff you don’t like to do? Well, every job has its pros and cons, but if your job has more cons than pros, get a different job. Seriously, life is short so don’t get in a rut and stay there (a rut has been defined as a grave with both ends extended).

I often reflect on Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. My favorite lines are:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In this post I’m suggesting that there are four areas of your life that you can control, even if in a limited way. You may not be able to avoid all life-draining people and experiences, but you can increase the time you spend with life-enhancing people and experiences.