Check Your Gauges!
Series: Mindful Christians
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Sept. 15, 2019
28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
This month we’re looking at the Christian life through the lens of Mindfulness.
Mindfulness involves a number of key concepts that we’ll explore, many of which are very helpful to a life of faith and Christian discipleship. Last week we talked about mindfulness as being fully present, fully awake, fully alive.
One common definition of Mindfulness is this: “a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.”
That’s the heart of mindfulness, living in the present moment, striving to be fully alive and alert to what’s taking place around us and within us.
Today I want us to think about the “within us” part of that, being fully present and attuned with ourselves – heart, soul, mind and strength.
Illustration. Years ago, in my 20’s, I apparently was not very aware of my emotional and physical well-being. I was fatigued and a little depressed, and other people noticed this long before me. One of them got me a t-shirt with a cow on it. The cow was on its back, with its feet straight up in the air. The caption read, “Really, I’m fine!”
That’s a pretty thoughtful friend, and even though I never wore the t-shirt I appreciated the helpful honesty. During that time in my life I was not very mindful. I was not very aware of my state of mind, my emotional world or my physical well-being. (other than that, I was really tuned in)
It’s important that we learn how to Check our Gauges.
Cars have gauges to check such things as fuel level, air pressure in the tires and to see if the engine is overheating. Airplane pilots have all sorts of gauges to check before they take off. In the journeys of our lives we, too, need to check our gauges for our hearts, souls, minds and strength.
Let’s take a quick look at each one.
1. The Heart is the seat of our Emotions.
Some of us are really good at being aware of our emotions. Some of us aren’t.
- “I am NOT angry! I am not angry at all! What are you talking about!
- Are you still mad at your Cousin Charlie for what he said? You weren’t very friendly to him just now.” “Yes. I was. I’m totally over that. I’m not mad at him at all.”
- “You seem anxious about today. Is everything all right? “I’m not anxious. I’m just excited. Let’s go. Let’s get this thing started. Hurry it up! Now!”
You get the idea. We hinder our effectiveness when we’re not aware of our emotions. We’re more likely to be controlled by our emotions when we’re out of touch with them.
“Own your emotions, so they don’t own you.”
In the world of mindfulness they talk about recognizing our emotions without judgement or suppression. We need to acknowledge our emotions, name them, own them, and not try to automatically suppress them. We’re to sit with those emotions for a while without judging ourselves for having them. By doing this we’re in a much better position to manage our emotions instead of our emotions managing us.
Our biblical model for this is the Book of Psalms.
We studied the psalms in the Spring of 2018, and we saw that the psalm writers brought the entire range of human emotions into the presence of God in prayer. They acknowledged their emotions, expressed their emotions, and sat with their emotions in the presence of God, trusting that God would help them sort it out.
“But my soul is downcast, O God. Deep calls to deep, as the waterfalls of life pummel me.” – Ps. 42
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” – Psalm 22
“Do I not hate those who hate you with perfect hated, O God” – Ps. 139
“O that you would slay the wicked, O God.” Ps. 139:19
You can hear all those emotions – depression, despair, hatred, revenge. You name it. The writers of the Psalms checked their emotional gauges through honest-to-God prayers.
Checking our emotional gauges is something we should do constantly.
Can I name the emotion I’m feeling now? Can you?
Am I feeling anxious? Am I sad? Lonely?
Am I hopeful or hopeless? – and how is that influencing my thinking and my decision-making?
Let’s look at the next gauge, The Soul.
“Bless the Lord, O My Soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” – Ps. 103:1
The Soul represents our spiritual center, the place where God resides within us, where our spirit and God’s Spirit dwell together and seek oneness. If that sounds too far out and mystical to you, think of it as the Divine Spark within you, which sets off such things as creativity, compassion, intuition, empathy and of course, love.
To check our Spiritual Gauges we ask ourselves questions like these:
Am I exhibiting what Paul called the Fruits of the Spirit? – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness & self-control.
If our gauges are high, these fruits will be growing in our lives.
Here are other Spiritual Gauge questions:
Are spiritual issues engaging for me or tedious & boring?
Is prayer a regular practice in my life, or a rare occurrence when I’m really in trouble?
In the Book of Revelation, Christ has a letter to the church in Ephesus, in it he says, “You have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Often our Spiritual Gauges run high when we come to faith, but as the years go by we often have to work at it, to rekindle our prayer lives and our spirit of worship.
How’s your Spiritual Gauge?
That’s what Sunday morning is all about, isn’t it?
The Heart needs an Emotional Gauge.
The Soul needs a Spiritual Gauge.
Heart, Soul . . . . Mind.
St. Peter wrote a letter to First Century Christians and said this: “You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness and . . . . knowledge.” II Peter 1:5
Disciples are students, learners. We’re committed to growth – to adding to our faith, knowledge.
You know the brain is an amazing thing. Our brains love to learn! They’re designed to learn!
I was reading this week that, “Each and every time we learn something new our brain forms new connections . . . and makes existing neural pathways stronger.” Our brain cells literally change when we learn something new. As we age, we lose some of those connections, but whenever we learn something new replace a lost connection. The more we learn, the better our brains work, like exercising a muscle.
But not only that, learning new things releases Dopamine! Dopamine, not only makes learning seem exciting, it also makes you want to repeat the experience. Dopamine is also released when we fall in love and it’s involved in addictive behaviors. When the brain wants us to repeat a pleasurable experience, like learning, Dopamine is released!
I also learned this week that the best way for more and more of these new connections to take shape is to learn something new and then get some sleep – which makes my sermons the perfect thing for the health of your brain! You learn, you sleep! (you’re welcome!)
To check our mental gauges we should ask ourselves what we’ve learned recently, what we’ve done to exercise our brains and stretch our minds.
Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength.
4. Strength – This is our Physical Gauge.
CS Lewis said, the fact that we have the bodies that we do is proof that God has a sense of humor. (I used to think that was a funny statement)
St. Paul wrote that our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit. (but I’ve been building a great cathedral.)
God dwells within our bodies through the Holy Spirit. This makes our physical bodies sacred, like a church, a temple, a cathedral.
Think about this: everything you will do for God, you will do in your body.
(Unless of course you have an out-of-body experience and come back to tell us about it. But even then, you’d have to be back in your body to tell us about it!)
Our bodies are pretty smart and they talk to us. They tell us when they need rest, sleep, food, exercise, medicine and Bengay. We need to be mindful of our bodies and what they’re trying to tell us.
I’ve had a number of parishioners through the years who are part of AA and found it to be a life-savor. One of them told me a helpful anacronym that relates to today’s subject. The anacronym is H.A.L.T. It’s stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
H.A.L.T. Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired.
Those in AA are taught to be extremely self-aware when it comes to these four feelings. Why? Because we’re all more likely to make poor decisions when we’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. We need to be checking our gauges.
Well, if this seems like a Wellness talk, that’s because it is! God wants us to be well!
God wants us to be fully alive, awake, alert! And the best way to do that is to be mindful of our emotions, tend to our spirituality, and exercise our minds and our bodies.
In the Mindfulness movement folks believe that meditation ties together all four facets (heart, soul, mind & strength) of the self into one.
Let’s close with a time of meditation.
Please sit up straight.
I suggest putting both feet on the floor, hands resting gently on your lap.
Now focus on your breathing.
Breathe deeply, breathing in through your nose.
Make sure you’re using your diaphragm.
Breath is so central to our lives that it unites our bodies, minds, souls and heart.
As a Christian I invite you to breath in the Holy Spirit, and breath out any distractions.
Perhaps as you breathe in, say, “Come, Holy Spirit, Come.”
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Fill us with your life and power. Grow within us the fruits of the Spirit that we may live in your love, walk in your peace, and be fully alive with you each and every day of our lives until we enjoy your presence forever. Amen.