I have started many processes to improve my life, my relationship with Christ, and other people following the biblical command of Matthew 22:37 “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.'” If you are not a believer is Jesus Christ, I highly recommend you consider pursuing a relationship with Him. This by far outdoes any advice I could give toward improving your life. In this article I will share some of the worldly, self-help processes that have seemed to be the most effective and have driven the change I seek. I view each of these through the lens and filter of my faith, so if you are not a believer, I would hope that you can still find value in these suggestions. I am careful when I investigate self-help because it is easy to think that the world has to offer good answers. I believe there are many if they are filtered through my faith. My Sunday school class has been learning a bit about building God’s church and self-help has been discussed. The teacher said, “Even lost people can have good ideas.” I believe self-help can be useful if we are focused on Jesus and not selfish ideas. Any self-help I write about will be to show how it can be used considering my faith in Jesus. Here are a few things I have learned lately and how I am applying it to my spiritual life.
- Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation seem to be cropping up in many of the books I read and documentaries I have been watching. I even got an e-mail from my Trauma Informed Training as a teacher that suggests we teach our students about mindfulness. This is a very important aspect of my daily routine lately that has greatly improved my life. Mindfulness can take on many forms, but it is basically a type of meditation. I get the impression that many Christians are resistant or hesitate when it comes to meditation because it seems to be mostly done by eastern religions and has a bit of a mystic stigma attached to it. It is biblical to meditate. We are to meditate daily on the word of God. Psalms 1:2 states, “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” In Genesis 24:63 Isaac, “…went out to the field one evening to meditate….” Meditation or being mindful is simply being present and thoughtful. Many believe that meditation requires the person to clear their mind. You can certainly try that, but our minds are working all the time to process our thoughts. Being mindful is a way to focus those thoughts.
Mindfulness can take on many forms. I can be mindful of my breathing, concentrating on taking deep breaths, how the air feels as the air enters and leaves my nostrils, focusing on breathing from the lower part of my lungs which is what we do when we are relaxed. I can be mindful of how I feel in the moment, both physically and emotionally. I can be mindful of how I feel about others, what I am grateful for, about my driving without distraction. We are often mindful without really knowing that that is what we are doing. The point is to be intentional about it. Use it to calm ourselves, tend to our emotions, or focus our attention. Mindfulness can be accomplished without anyone knowing you are doing it within minutes, or you can sit in a room alone and do it for minutes or hours. When you are praying in your head or repeating scripture to memorize it, you are using mindfulness. This practice is to live in the moment and has made it possible for me to love, forgive, and have empathy for others when it would seem impossible at times. Mindfulness has even allowed me to forgive and love myself, not in a conceited way, but in the way that God wants us to love ourselves by taking care of our bodies and recognizing that we are his child and his creation. We can avoid negative self-talk and feelings about ourselves when we consider the love Jesus has for us. He died for each one of us individually, even while we were still sinning. The creator of the universe is crazy about us and nothing we can do will change that.
- Read, Read, Read!
Now you can certainly read fiction if you wish to be entertained. If I do this now, I tend to look for something that will have meaning to me or has a great theme to it. After all, if I am willing to sit and mindlessly watch Netflix for 2 hours, I can certainly read some entertaining novel instead. I recommend, however, choosing text that will challenge you, help you grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. One of the first things I do in the morning is read my devotional, and then I meditate using my memory verses. Here is a list of books I have read that I feel have great ideas for changing your mindset and support the ideas that lead to improving your life.
Do not follow what you learn from any book blindly, not even the bible. Research, dig, do what you must to understand what you are reading and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. Think critically about what you read whether it is Christian or secular. Learn from others and apply the principles that will provide positive results and that fall in line with God’s word. Find things to read that will be uplifting, help you grow spiritually, help you to learn, and have meaning and purpose. Always be mindful of what you are reading and if it will help you glorify God.
- Connect with Others
Connecting with others is the foundation of this site and the reason I started it. I wish to make a connection with like-minded people who want to improve their lives through experience and growth. I have the spirit of God within me. If I think about that for a minute, it should fill me with excitement and wonder. God created me in His image. God is loving, forgiving, creative, strong, wise, and as Rich Mullins put it, “Awesome.” God is so much more than what I just listed, but I would need to write much more…MUCH more to include all that He is. We cannot be everything that God is, because then we would be God. If I create a clay pot it cannot become me, it is merely a reflection of my handiwork. However, God created us to serve a purpose and we should strive to fulfill that purpose to the best of our ability and reflect His handiwork. To express the image of God to others is true life fulfillment. We should be connecting with others to show His character and nature by being loving, forgiving, creating, remaining strong, searching wisdom, and showing how “awesome” He is. Consider Jesus for a moment. He connected with anyone who wanted to connect with Him. God in the flesh sat with sinners and loved them. He ate with them, created with them [remember He was also a carpenter], loved them, shared His wisdom, forgave, and He remained strong through great trials showing us that we can do the same. He was obviously self-sacrificing. If we are willing to sacrifice our comfort, time, and our lives to the service of others I will guarantee you will find fulfillment and a connection with others that will be glorifying to God and deepen your relationship with Him and the ones with whom you connect. Connecting with others seems to come naturally when you start seeking to improve your relationship with God and love others. Mindfulness, meditation, and reading are only a start to improving your life. I titled this post “Three Ways to Improve Your Life, Unchained” because if you improve your life with a belief in Jesus, we are not bound by Earthly limits to the improvements we can make to our lives and the lives of others. We are set free, free indeed.