Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

prayerr“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.You will always have the poor among you,but you will not always have me.” [John 12:7-8]

Priorities. Sometimes, that can be a the problem while serving others in the name of Christ. We lose track of the reason we are giving up our time and energy. I can speak to this, because, “I are one.” That is, I am working, volunteering, going and going and going, but not stopping long enough to give balance to my day by spending time in silence with God.

It’s the still time, the set aside time, the Christ time, that gives meaning and strength to all the other time. I know this. I believe. And yet, I will sleep an extra 4 snoozes on the alarm, I will throw yogurt in my purse as I rush out the door, I will call people while I’m driving, I will make appointments without checking my calendar, I will say yes and yes and yes to people who ask for my time, I will write at all hours of the night, I will make three trips to the grocery store on the same day, I will pay the late fee on my bills, I will visit friends who are sick, and on and on and on I go. But, I will still fail to stop long enough to center down, to breathe, to pray, to meditate, to connect with the Holy Spirit, to utter gratitude in the silence.

Jesus had a very small window in the flesh. Jesus was more than humanity could tolerate. And yet, despite the urgency of need in the world, he found time for solitude. He made time for prayer and listening. He could not do what he had to do without it.

How long is our own time here in the flesh? I cannot even know what the next hour will bring or the next car ride. I have now. I have a choice in the moment.

Will I pour out my ointment to the Christ or dash about?

Christ is with me always now, but in what capacity? Am I conscious of the Presence? Breathe.

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soul connectionIs not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? [Isaiah 58:6]

Fasting has been narrowed in recent years to being about the food and beverage consumption: no lunch or no sugar or no alcohol or no carbs (oops, that’s a diet option). And that’s the problem, we live in a dieting world where the giving up of one element or another is this short term option that will give us some relatively immediate results. But I am pretty sure that fasting for God is a different mindset. It’s not even intended that this “giving up” be over the long haul. Not really.

Just because Jesus fasted for forty days doesn’t mean we need to fast from food and drink for the same amount of time. Besides, unless we have the the other disciplines going hand in hand with the fasting, it will be a futile effort. Fasting, in and of itself, is not the point.

It’s the change-up. It’s doing life differently. It’s making room for something else. It’s intentionally making a sacrifice in order to intentionally choose time and energy for God.

I remember trying to explain this process to my kids when they were younger and it never really quite took hold. Generally, they concentrated on those food items they could tolerate being without: ice cream, soda, desserts, pizza (well, no, I don’t think they ever did give up eating pizza for Lent or any other time).

This year, I am tossing in a few sacrificial lambs like sodas and lattes and even Words with Friends, but my sense of them is different. These acts feel inconsequential in the face of what I want this time to be about: a centering inside time, a time to know prayer in a deeper way, an unearthing of my soul from the tangles of my busy life (this is my yoke referenced in Isaiah). Can I slow down enough to do it? Can I open the clock for meditation and silence?

When Jesus met the woman at the well, his disciples were out getting carry out. When they got back, they offered him his share but he didn’t need it. He was full from the discourse and connection of two souls.

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Here’s a few questions I find myself pondering: where do I walk? Where do I stand? and Where do I sit? I mean, in my every day life, am I putting myself in harm’s way, despite being unengaged? Am I assuming that my lack of a direct encounter with the “enemy” means I am unaffected by the surround? Does passivity promise protections (forgive the alliteration)? Apparently not.

Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night. [NIV]

Funny, I had forgotten about the old Watchman Nee (1957) book called Sit, Walk, Stand, which has a slightly different take on these same words with different order and as a result, a different emphasis: sitting as rest in God (finding strength there), to walk in trust and perseverance, and then to stand in faith to end. All valid points.

But I am taking the psalmists interpretation of these words to heart. This first verse is really a series of 3 “do not’s” and the more active “do” is quite simple: meditate on the Word. That’s prayer, that’s consciousness, that’s intentional.

Our pastor tries to give us “action” steps each week and this is mine for myself:

  • Watch where I am walking; look around; examine the stimuli around me; where am I headed and why; use the time well.
  • Stand on solid surfaces on purpose; be centered and grounded; be aware of the temperature and the environment; use the time well.
  • Sit alertly; notice what I am watching (as in television) or listening to (as in radio); where do my eyes wander and am I judging the others “walking” by? Use the time well.

For example, yesterday, I ran several errands throughout the day and while waiting for my daughter to finish her hair and doctor’s appointments, I wasted the time with Sudoku and Words with Friends. Or, in the evening, I watched a show on television I had already seen, but was too lazy to either change the channel or go to bed. My reasoning? I don’t watch TV that much, so I can afford to just “veg.” I’m not saying I can’t do those things, but in most of those cases, I just did them by default. I didn’t choose, I just allowed. Wasting time is OK as long as it’s intentional. But if it’s not, then really, the time is being stolen from me.

And lastly, I considered this idea of “meditating.” I’ve struggled with this idea before. After all, who hasn’t read Brother Lawrence’s Practice the Presence of God? (If you missed it, go to the library.) I was always a little numb after reading it. That’s impossible. I can’t do it. I can’t pray without ceasing. My life is too full.

And so, with all the “I cannnot’s” rolling around in my head, I can excuse any effort whatsoever.

But a couple of years ago, I challenged myself with praying the Hours and although it was difficult, I had some success. And looking back? It made a difference. And now, I’m thinking, maybe just a single verse in a single day, a popular verse, so that I’m not overwhelmed with memorization or some such, just a thrum, a slight little thing to repeat when I am quiet, before I click on the app.

You won’t believe it, but there’s actually a website called, Top Verses: The Bible, Sorted. Perfect. The top, most referenced verse on the web is no surprise, John 3:16; so that’s my verse for today. And when they sort the Psalms, verse 1:1 is near the top, the same verse that challenged me today as I start my next drive through the Word, through Psalms. I’m digging for God again.

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Photo by Paula Tatarunis

I had always assumed the “House of the Lord” meant the church or temple, a place for corporate worship. I interpreted this scripture (well worn by many of the faithful) to mean, show up every Sunday. Eyes opened today: it means the family place of God, to live or exist within the family, bound by the blood.

Psalm 27:4
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

I’ve never been that comfortable when church leaders refer to their constituents (or members) as family. I’m sure I’ve been tainted by a less than ideal family history. As immigrants, we had no relatives nearby. In fact, most were locked behind the iron curtain and Berlin wall until 1991. Family was a small corps of people, only three (since my father died when I was nine). I was always envious of those large family gatherings that people would have each holiday and I was delighted when our small family was embraced into a larger one, even briefly.

But the church family thing never really resonated. I suppose I couldn’t be myself in those gatherings. It was still too much like a public venue. I had to put on my “church face.”

Now, there is a different family to consider. This “family of God” is not the Church alone; it is not only the people who meet Sundays and weekdays, who have placed themselves under the banner of a particular denomination or church name (although they are included). No, I believe this family is within where the Spirit resides.

The “shelter of his sacred tent” [vs 5], is within.

This is the world of prayer, meditation, and contemplation. This is the place of creativity and imagination, music and color, beauty and light. This is the world outside of time.

And when two or more are gathered here [Matthew 18:20], God is in the midst of them: in the house of the Lord.

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When people are grieving or anxious, they will often say, “I just keep busy to keep my mind off of it.” And, in those situations, being busy sounds reasonable. But I’m thinking this filling up of the mind with stuff may be interfering with the healing work of God.

Psalm 10:4
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Another example is the memory and RAM needed in a computer. I suppose this is on my mind because of the computer parts all over my desk here at home. I knew my computer was on its last legs, but I wanted to get the data off and transferred to the new computer before it was too late. I got all the right cables, the PC Mover software, made all the right connections but when I tried to load the software, I got a blue screen. It was all over. There was simply no more room on the old computer for anything. Even though the PC Mover software would help the situation, would open up space, the computer was too full already.

How many times have I told my kids to leave room at the top of a cup of coffee if they want to add cream and sugar. Instead, there’s a mess all over the counter from spilled liquid while they try to stir it or carry the brimming cup to the sink.

We do the same thing in our brains. Well, at least, I know I do. I max out my head and my calendar. I keep adding and adding and then I wonder why I start to forget things and become more and more stressed out.

Leaving room for what comes next must be intentional.

If I want God to do a work, to help me solve a problem, to transform my habits, then I’d better leave some extra time, energy, and place for that to happen.

De-cluttering is a good example. Surely, everyone knows that things look and feel worse before they feel better when trying to move from chaos to order. To organize a messy closet, everything has to come out first. The stuff ends up all over the floor and bed. And if I don’t leave enough time to return those items methodically to the closet, I have just expanded my problem.

God also needs my time and attention to de-clutter me within.

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Separating myself from “corrupting influences” is not so easy. It’s a matter of degree, that difference between good, better & best. In some areas, I have been successful and on occasion, I have been blessed and used in a powerful way but it’s an erratic arrangement.

II Timothy 2:21
So whoever cleanses himself/herself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself/herself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself/herself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.

Some of this “separation” feels too strict and legalistic, like those Pharisaical laws that disallowed touching contaminated things without all kinds of ceremonial washings and waiting times. It smacks of the story that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37] who broke all kinds of laws to minister to an injured and “unclean” man. There are contemporary versions of this, various religious sects that will not allow people of differing beliefs to sit at table or to share in communion or other sacred acts.

And so I manage to excuse or validate some of my choices in the name of freedom. But it can be a slippery slope, I know.

I think it’s important to recognize the value of single-minded piety, as long as it is also lived with grace and generosity toward others who do not live in the same way. That kind of life does indeed prepare the mind and soul for greater challenges of faith. There are other hints to this concept like Paul’s references to the athletes who prepare hard for the race, who practice their craft diligently, who commit their energies toward attaining a particular goal.

In earlier years of my faith journey, I have somewhat foolishly asked God to drop gifts and signs on me, to use me as that intermediary for healing or miracles. And yes, it’s true that these are gifts; it’s possible that God, for the sake of the moment, might grant such experiences. But for the long haul? I think it’s the warriors of faith, the ones who don’t necessarily shy away from “corruptions” and “contaminations,” they simply don’t have time or interest there. It’s a non-issue.

If I am in a time of prayer and meditation, I am not watching the unenlightening television show or browsing the Internet for inappropriate content. My “self” is elsewhere engaged.

It all boils down to this for me: to be used for “noble purpose” is part and parcel of my daily life, how I manage the little things [Luke 16:10a]. Thanks be to God.

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I suppose the quiet life is relative. At first, I was going make a joke about my life being far from quiet and yet, I’m sure government leaders, high-profile businesspeople or emergency room personnel would consider my life downright idyllic.

I Thessalonians 4:11b-12a
. . . make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders . . .

I think many people think of the quiet life as that time when they can lounge around on the deck sipping mint juleps and watch the sun go down, the perfect retirement, let’s say. Or, perhaps the dream is sitting on the beach or overlooking the mountain side. Our current culture equates the quiet life with down time. I’m not so sure that is Paul’s intention here.

Instead, the quiet life is about steadiness and consistency. It’s being responsible and lovingly caring for ourselves and those around us. It’s commanding the small things first and then moving outward.

But in my life, I tend to heap on tasks from the outside first and overload my day so that my small world stuff is lost. My house becomes chaotic within and the stress begins as I try to juggle them all, thinking my outside job and volunteer work is more meaningful than cleaning out the refrigerator.

Truthfully, as much as I love sitting on the beach or walking in the woods, if I neglect the little things in my world, my respite is surface only. The small world does not go away. There is indeed such a thing as “daily life.”

I can’t afford a housekeeper or a secretary which means these responsibilities fall to me and those who share our home with me (but that’s another story). Let me just focus on my part of the puzzle.

If I sit still and work from the still point within, then the things that need to be done next will show themselves. The quiet life begins within. It’s one of the reasons we are all encouraged to pray or meditate or still the heart before the day begins in earnest.

“Be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10]

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