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Panera and Psalms: Where do you find much-needed reflection?


I recently read a Wall Street Journal feature on Ron Shaich, founder of Panera Bread Co. He had just sold the business and was thinking about his future.

Bailey McBride | Insight

“I’ve watched both my mom and dad pass away,” he said. “I learned we each have an opportunity if we have a chronic disease to reflect on our own lives. But I am convinced that the time to reflect is not in the ninth inning, on your death bed. It’s while you are going through life.”

His words struck a familiar chord for me. For 17 years, I have gone each morning to Panera for coffee, breakfast, meditation and reflection. No matter what my responsibilities or position, I have taken the first hour of my day to reflect on what was ahead and how I needed to shape my attitude and behavior.

The Bible is rich with examples of people who took time to reflect. David, the psalmist, spent much of his youth alone with his sheep. He reflected on life and saw God as his shepherd who protected and cared for his needs (Psalm 23). When he was anointed king, he was in constant danger from Saul and his followers. He reflected on God as rock and redeemer when he was saved from a near-death experience (Psalm 18).

Biblical texts can encourage reflection, but life experiences and thought deserve reflection as well.

The book of Psalms is where I go when I need inspiration for reflection. The psalms are a varied tapestry of life experiences and emotions. God clearly blessed David with a perceptive heart and mind to help him explore celebration and danger in life. Working my way through Psalms each year has increased my sensitivity to God’s presence and work in my life.

Biblical texts can encourage reflection, but life experiences and thought deserve reflection as well.

Recently, I had lunch with my youngest grandchildren, Connor and Garrett. They are in their mid-teens and were facing the start of another school year. I have been reflecting on how much they have changed since they were my roommates in Rome last year. Both have grown up a lot, and both are seriously dedicated to wrestling. I am reflecting on how I can best love and help them through this stage of life. This reflection leads to prayer and a search for God’s guidance.

As an octogenarian, I am reminded often of death because so many people I have loved and admired are ill or dying.

I have never feared death, but I am certainly not eager to experience it. Reflections on death remind me of the many unfinished tasks of my life. My reflections prompt me to work on tasks that I can complete.

Reflection is not easy if it is not already a habit. It takes time and isolation.

As an optimist, I am still dreaming and planning during my times of reflection. I am trying to recreate myself after retiring from college teaching after 57 years. I am trying to find meaning after losing the wife of my youth after 59 wonderful years.

I don’t have any idea how long I will live, but I am determined that every minute God gives me will be used to enrich the lives of others.

Reflection is not easy if it is not already a habit. It takes time and isolation. The best way to cultivate the practice of reflection is to set aside time most days of the week to think and consider the events and people in your life. Many find it useful to have a pen and paper to makes notes. Many find it useful to begin with a Bible passage and let their minds absorb the ideas until they are reflecting on life.

Your heart and soul will flourish if you give yourself time to reflect.

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