Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Discipline of Meditation

This discipline may be one of the most difficult for us to wrap our minds around. Our world hardly encourages quiet and contemplation with it's innate noise and distraction. When we are caught up in the tide of the life of business we have created, we may even laugh at the idea of having a moment to 'meditate' on anything.

It is, however, so very much an important part of the God-life. Meditation is something we do to recreate a space for God to speak with us, or more appropriately for us to hear him. According to Foster in Celebration of Discipline,  "What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart."

It's making a space for God's voice in the midst of the chaos of our lives.

You may be a lot like me in that your idea of "meditation" may be influenced by a more eastern notion of the practice. You may picture a half-naked indian guy sitting on a grass mat, humming with his eyes closed, with his hands resting on his knees. I do. But, that isn't exactly what David is talking about when he says, ""Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long...I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes." Psalms 119:97 and 99

Or, what God had in mind when he said to Joshua "Keep this book of law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it." Joshua 1:7

Meditation is about calling our mind, spirit, body and heart to attention for the purpose of hearing God's voice. Whether we are focusing on God's words or his works in the world around us, we are demanding of ourselves a purposeful redirection of our facilities. Before you can learn to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4 and Mark 12:30) you have to learn to see and hear him with all those parts of you.

 Learning to listen to God through meditation is not as difficult as it may sound. It is not relegated to just those super-spiritual people that we look up to, but don't feel we can ever hope to measure up to. Meditation is something that we can do in a moment, if we are focused enough to do so.

Foster gives some great insight into how we can make this sort of focus a part of our daily lives. He gives us several ways of bringing our hearts, spirits and minds into focus. It requires stilling our body for a moment, and then preparing to listen...

* Reflection on Scripture - of course God speaks to us most objectively through his Word. Whether a passage, a verse, a phrase or even a single word God can speak words directly to you. Have you ever had a time when you feel like God must have something specific to say to you because you see the same verse or verses a number of times in a short time period? Have you noticed the same words coming to mind over and over again? In a moment of meditation we can take the time to really focus on those words, to reflect on how God can instruct us where we are or even find new insight that we did not have before. Reading and memorizing scripture is a wonderful way to focus our minds and spirits on God's laws, day and night.

* Re-collection - Foster outlines a method often used by the Quakers called "re-collection". This method allows for one to redirect their focus from the things of the world that weigh and distract, to things of God and his will for us. He says to use a "palm-down" to symbolize a surrender of all things weighing on our hearts. We can give to God the things distracting our focus be it an ungodly emotion, an unmet expectation, a fretful concern over something or someone or anything that needs to be given up. Then, we can follow that with the "palm-up", where were receive the blessings, peace and hope that comes with surrendering all those things to God. When we empty ourselves of the things that overwhelm us, we must fill ourselves back up with the right stuff.

* Reflection on Nature - How often do you all the singing of the birds, the color of the leaves, the sound of water rushing or the wind speak to you as a messenger of God? Scripture is rich with references to God's creation and ways it sings its praises to its Creator. Reflecting on the aspects of God revealed in his world can help redirect our minds to his ever-lasting character that is at work in our own lives.

* Reflection on Events - God reveals himself to those who are willing to look for him. It takes some effort to find God in the events of the world, as well as our lives at times. But, when we desire to do so he will show us himself there. Reflecting on the situations going on around us, in our micro-world as well as more globally, we can see his hand at work.

One other thing that Foster encourages us to do is to use our imagination when we pray, read scripture and meditate. This warrants a bit more attention, so I will add a little bit about this later in the week.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to take a moment today and this week to simply make space for God to speak with you.

Be still. Listen. Reflect. Ponder.

Practice. This one does not come naturally in our world.

If you are willing, share here how God has talked to you during your meditation time. Have you gained new insight when being still?

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