Meditate

word

“Meditation… was a simple repetition of the ‘word’ received from lectio [reading]… The ‘word’ was repeated in the mind, or even on the lips, until it formed in the heart.” 

-Basil Pennington, Lectio Divina: Receiving the Revelation

The word MEDITATION is intimidating. One of the main reasons I’ve typically chosen pilates over yoga is because of meditation. I have to shut off my mind? I can’t even do that when I want to fall asleep. I remember taking a voice and diction class in college and being encouraged to meditate on a color as we produced different sounds. I was rolling my eyes the entire time. “Heeeeeeeeeee. HAAAAAAAAAAAAA.” [Sure. That was purple and green. Meditating is awesome.]

But when I read verses like the following, I  realize that I am encouraged to meditate!

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” Psalm 119:15

I am reminded that meditation does not look like humming with my legs crossed. It can, but it can also be an active filling of my mind rather than just clearing. Sometimes I need to clear it. I need to shut out my voice and the self-talk that loops on repeat. I must quiet my heart and head, and sometimes the only way that I can seem to do just that is through… well… meditation! I just haven’t always identified what I was doing as meditation. But my most recent reading in Marjorie J. Thompson’s Soul Feast highlighted meditation in a different light.

“The meaning of mediation in historic Jewish and Christian practice differs in that meditation involves an active mind. The type of mental work is quite specific. It is not the critical, analytical, or formulating work of Bible study, which may inform meditation but remains distinct from it. The mind work of meditation moves us to reflection on where we are in the text. Active imagination can sometimes help us find connections between our life stories and the great story of God’s redemptive work with us. Mediation engages us at the level of the “heart” in its biblical sense, where memory, experience, thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires, intuitions, and intentions are joined. This is where we are likely to discover what a given passage means in our lives personally or as a community.” – Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast

I’m looking forward to reading and studying further. More to come this week.

Following,
Ginger

Confession Time

On June 9th our Pastor shared a lesson entitled Coveting: The Disease of Discontentment. That was my first hint to the theme that would come across my path repeatedly over the subsequent days and weeks. We were challenged to examine the excessive desire to have what belongs to someone else. Although there are days when I think about how nice it would be to have her house with the pool, or his travel budget, I don’t usually notice myself trying to keep up with the Joneses. The disease of discontent hits us all in different ways but the indicators are seen in greed, reference anxiety, envy, and jealousy. The sad truth is that we have all been diagnosed with this particular disease. Thankfully our pastor reminded us that contentment, generosity, and well-placed hope are definite cures for what ails us.

But step number one in the healing process is realizing that we are infected. This not only takes admittance, but the willingness to dig deep in our own hearts.

Last Wednesday night my small group was gathered together and ended up discussing this very topic. (OF COURSE.) We were challenged to consider how coveting and discontentment rear their ugly heads in our lives. Prior to the discussion I had nodded my head in agreement at the sermon, but not really given a second thought to the way that I struggle with discontentment. When faced with the question I slowly began to realize my strain of the virus.

Confession time: I covet a lot of things. I want what you have. I covet your relationship with the Lord. I covet your dedication to prayer. I covet your willingness to serve on a moment’s notice. I covet your joyful spirit and pleasant demeanor even in the midst of challenging situations. I covet (and get irritated with) the fact that you seem to always seem to trust His will. I covet the way you are at peace with your body, personality, and life. I covet your contentment.

I did not share this at small group. I couldn’t bring myself to say it aloud, but I heard it clearly shouting from my heart. I gaze longingly at those around me who seem to have an intimacy with the Lord that I desperately desire but cannot seem to produce. I walked out of small group disappointed that I couldn’t share and unsure of what my next steps should be.

The next morning I opened up Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson and began reading where I last left off…

“Whenever we talk about moving closer to God, it is natural to feel certain reservations… We may be afraid of what we would encounter if we came too close to God. It is one thing to be told what God is like; it could be another thing altogether to discover the truth for ourselves! What is God really like? Can we survive contact? Perhaps we feel anxious over what God might demand of us if we got too close. Maybe God would ask us to give up certain relationships, life dreams, or things we enjoy. God might call us to do something we felt we couldn’t do, like work with the poor or become a missionary in Borneo. Fears like these can certainly make us hesitant to explore the deeper reaches of relationship with our Creator.”

Soul Feast

I know that’s a lot to take in, but it hit me straight in the gut. During the course of my reading I slowly began to recognize that the source of my discontentment isn’t really those I admire around me, but instead  the source  is really my own fears. Thompson’s words pinpointed the heart behind my coveting. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

That’s my anxiety! I fear that He calls deeper than I am willing to go. I watch M, B, S, J, E, A, and so many others actively listen and then follow Him: down-sizing, adoption, prayer, service, withdrawing and yet connected, at peace and in union with you… hearing AND following. He gives them much, and they take the next step. I stay on the fringe, on the edge.

Thankfully discontentment has a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t have to stay in this place. And that’s what I’m praying today. I realize that motherhood will change all of my relationships in deep ways, including my relationship with the Lord. I’m asking more than anything that it might draw me closer to Him. I have hope. He’s not finished with me yet, and I certainly don’t want to throw in the towel and call it a day.

I recognize this was rambling and I wonder if it even makes sense. More than anything I know that I needed to share this struggle with someone today. I just happened to choose you. Thanks for listening.

Following,
Ginger

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I didn’t post anything yesterday. Two years ago I would have agonized over that fact. Little by little I’m learning to accept imperfection. The good girl trapped in me really wants to do EVERYTHING by the rules. Believe it or not, there are not rules for blogging. Last year I made the switch from posting five days a week down to four… and even sometimes down to three. But I had yet to give myself permission to miss posting on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Don’t even ask where that OCD bit came from.

I spent yesterday packing my hospital bag and organizing my house. I’m nine months pregnant and nesting is in full swing. I don’t even have a kid yet and it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything I have planned. So rather than beating myself up for not finishing every task, or for taking time to read over my lunch break, I’m learning just to let go. I’m a much more pleasant version of myself when I’m not stressed or anxious.

All of the progress I’ve made in the past year with my counselor is fueling the other aspects of my life. This self-shamer is leaving guilt at the door and learning to give grace more readily. My mantra…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28, MSG

 grace

Here’s how I’m practicing grace this summer:

1. The house doesn’t have to be perfect. Invite people into your mess.

2. It’s okay to play hookie every once in a while. I don’t want to miss an appointment or be rude, but sometimes I also just need to tell myself that the world will not stop spinning if I don’t write a blog post.

3. Sometimes we say “yes” to others in order to bless them, even when there’s nothing gain on our end. I will always remember my mom telling me about the shift she made in her thinking about funerals. She doesn’t attend for the person who has passed, instead she attends in order to love on those who are hurting and grieving. There are a lot of things I don’t “feel” like doing – but it’s not always about me, is it?

4. Give the benefit of the doubt to the cashier, waiter, or staff member. We never know what kind of day someone else is having. Atticus Finch will always remind me how “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird) Demonstrating patience is a tangible evidence of grace.

5. Write letters. There’s something so enchanting, exciting, and wonderful about seeing your name on an envelope that does not contain a bill. Perhaps your note might be the perfect picture of grace to someone struggling this week.

6. Daily connect with the Author of Grace. I’m working through a book that I’ve owned for nine years and yet have never actually read. I needed a workbook so I pulled Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson off my shelf. I’m only in the second chapter but this book is getting highlighted quite a bit. This section is sticking with me today:

“Spiritual disciplines are like garden tools. The best spade and hoe in the world cannot guarantee a good crop. They only make it more likely that growth will be unobstructed. They mystery of maturation lies in the heart of the seed, and the outcome of planting depends largely on the vagaries of weather. Still, tools are important in helping to ensure that planted seeds will bear fruit. Tools can remove stones and roots, aerate the soil, weed and water the garden.

Disciplines like prayer, scriptural reflection, and hospitality have the character of garden tools. They help keep the soil of our love clear of obstruction. They keep us open to the mysterious work of grace in our heart and our world. They enable us not only to receive but to respond to God’s love, which in turn yields the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.” (Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast)

I know the list isn’t long, so feel free to suggest some more. This is just what came to mind at the moment. I’m sure I will be seeking more grace in the coming weeks and months.

Following,
Ginger