I’m trying to live a life enhanced by employing my new “Ten-Second Rule.”
No, that has nothing to do with how long a dropped piece of food can stay on the floor and still allow me to eat it. Rather, it is a rule I have discerned and developed that involves a gift, a blessing that God provides me during every hour of every day.
Hourly, I do a quick look-back to recall a special message that God revealed to me, perhaps as briefly as 10 seconds, during that previous hour.
My perceived “rule” had its origin in a mission talk given a couple of years ago by a local priest at my home parish, St. Cletus Catholic Church in St. Charles, Mo. That evening, his message focused on the Mass and how Catholics can fully participate in a way that will provide immediate joy as well as insight. He suggested that every person enter the church every Sunday with the attitude that God had a message for them and would reveal it during some 10-second period of the Mass.
“If you pay attention so closely that you won’t miss your 10-second message,” the priest said, “then you will find that the Mass has greater meaning and impact than ever. And you will leave with a real message from God, just for you.”
Matthew Kelly, the popular “Dynamic Catholic” evangelist, introduced a similar idea a couple of years ago. He recommended everyone bring a notebook – a Mass Journal – with them every Sunday. He said that when something special struck them during Mass, something that could help them “become the best version of yourself,” they should write that in the notebook. Then throughout the week each person could look for ways to build off that special message.
A few of my friends and I have been looking for a personal “takeaway” from each Sunday Mass. In the next few days of the week, we email our thoughts to the others as we try to plant our unique messages as spiritual seeds. We water those seeds with reflection, prayer and encouragement in hopes that our souls with become more colorful flower gardens.
One day, during my Morning Prayer time, I found myself overwhelmed by the blessings I have received in my life. I noticed, however, that my mind kept focusing on specific blessings from the past. Granted, many of those are continual gifts – wife, kids, friends, insights that continue to feed my spirit – but I didn’t notice as many newer, fresher moments of grace that jumped to the forefront of my consciousness. Typical old guy, I thought, thinking only about the “good old days.” The more I pondered it, the more I realized how foolish my memory is – strong on the long-term stuff, weak in the shorter term.
God, I know you love me as much now as ever. I know your blessings never cease. Help me to better notice the gifts you continue to send my way.
Soon, I began to reflect every once in a while and realized God constantly was slipping wonderful things into my days. They usually weren’t life-changing gifts, but rather special thoughts or moments that reminded me that God was around and constantly loving me. There would be a text message from a friend asking how I was feeling, a phone call from a work colleague thanking me for some help I had provided, time in prayer that drew me into heaven for a few seconds, a delicious piece of chocolate …
In addition to carving out larger times daily for prayer – including Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and 15 minutes to a half-hour for contemplation – I pray constantly throughout the day. It doesn’t always take much time, perhaps three minutes while walking to the bathroom and to get a glass of water at work, but I put it to good use with intercessory prayers for family, friends and people who have shared their personal intentions with me. It’s part of the way I respond to St. Paul’s urging to “pray without ceasing.”
At Mass one day, while paying attention for my special 10 seconds, I realized God sends me special 10-second gifts and messages all day long. And like at Mass, the gift might last more than 10 seconds – a heart-to-heart conversation with my wife or a friend, a song I needed to hear, a sunset I witness during my drive home from work, compliments from people on something I wrote, laughter at something one of my grandsons said or feeling impressed at the wisdom of one of my children or tears at something touching I read … One morning, I was awakened by the rolling thunder of an approaching storm – for me a truly special gift, as I lay listening to the wonderful storm for several minutes.
I love storms. Thank you, God, for the holy wakeup alarm.
So I hatched my “Ten-Second Rule.” Regularly throughout the day, I pause to reflect on what my recent 10-second (or longer) gift was. I don’t dwell on it long, just acknowledge it and thank God for it and store it away for future consideration. Indeed, as I lay waiting to fall asleep at night, I can recall a little more clearly the ways God touched me all day long.
Alas, abiding by this rule and receiving the available graces from this rule isn’t as simple as it might sound.
When the cloud of sadness and negative perspective of depression grip my mind, I can struggle to see many of the blessings sent my way.
For instance, I frequently receive ideas for writing projects at random moments. The topics tend to just pop into my head. I occasionally wonder if those ideas are 10-second communiqués or misdirections.
I love to write about prayer and other spiritual subjects, God, as well as depression and other mental illnesses. But shouldn’t I write about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Game of Thrones and entertainment celebrities and sports, grumpy cats and thoughtful memes and women laughing hysterically while wearing a Chewbacca mask, ISIS and transgender folks going to the bathroom and whatever else might be trending on Twitter? I mean, that seems to be what people want to read. Shouldn’t I give the people what they might want?
That’s when the prayerful time of reflection becomes important. I know what is the Lord speaking His message as opposed to a voice whispering nonsense in my own silly head. Experience attunes my spirit to the 10 seconds made just for me.
There are at least 10 seconds meant for you every hour, too. We have a God who never stops with the love, the mercy, the grace. All we need to do is pay attention.