Monday, April 18, 2011

Meditation

"We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation?  Well may we ask; for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice.  Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.  It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God; as a means of communion with God.  Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its ful and proper impact on one's mind and heart.  [...] Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God's greatess and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us [...] as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy dispalyed in the Lord Jesus Christ" - J.I.Packer, Knowing God
Why is it, I often wonder, that I have such trouble focusing on God, submitting my mind to him?  Perhaps it is my pride, which slips around that key phrase "by the help of God" and tries to do it on my own.  Perhaps it is simply that I have not been learning long enough and persistantly enough.  Yet I long for it - the ability to let God dominate my thoughts, to let go of all the petty thoughts and concerns in my mind, to dwell on who He is and what he does.

All to often, I think, we think about our spirituallity the wrong way.  Dallas Willard offers a good caution:
Prayer, like all of the practices into which Jesus leads by word and example, will be self-validating to all who will simpy pray as he says and not give up.  It is much harder to learn if we succumb to the temptation to engage in "heroic" effors in prayer.  This is imortant.  Heroism, generally, is totally out of place in the spritual life, until we grow to the point at which it would never be thought of as heroism anyway." (The Divine Conspiracy, p 241)
Ah, the mysterious and sometimes weary paths of our walk with God - as God, infinite in wisdom and mercy, seeks communion with us, finite and fallen humans.  Perhaps this is part of what Jesus has in mind when he commands, "Remain in me, as I also remain in you".  Oh, that we might learn this sometimes lost art of meditating, that every part of us - including our minds - might remain in Him!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Seasons of the Church (Part V): Lent

I began this post a couple weeks ago but it is still relevant so I will continue:

Here we are in Lent, the 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Church decorations are shrouded in purple or taken away altogether, and people consider what to give up or take on for Lent.

But what is the point of lent?  Certainly there are many scriptural examples of 40 periods of time (Genesis 6-8,Exodus 24:12-14, 1 Kings 19:1-12, Matt 4:1-11 to name a few).  I like how Ireton, in her book The Circle of Seasons, puts it:
We can be raised to new life only if we have first died to the old one.  That is the challenge - and the gift - of Lent. (73)

At the beginning of this season I heard a helpful reflection on Lent and Jesus' 40 day time in the desert.  The pastor talked about each of Jesus' temptations in turn.  See Matthew's account below if you need to refresh yourself.  It is interesting to note that in each of the temptations, Jesus was in some way offered a shortcut - whether instant food or power - Jesus was tempted away from the hard path he would follow.

In many ways that is how Lent - and the aspect of our spirituality that it focuses on  - is for us too.  When we are tempted to think that life should be easy, we are reminded that there are no shortcuts.  There is no quick way to righteousness, to loving God with all of our being.  There is only the way of Christ.  Certainly his way is enough - in fact it is more than enough; it is the best way.  The temptations to seek shortcuts are real, and in our weariness we can find ourselves longing for them.  May we learn to fix our eyes on Christ, who understands even this and is the all-powerful one who is surely strong to help us.
*****

  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
   “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
   and they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
  Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
  Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
  Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11, New International Version, ©2011)

Update

You may wonder where I have been these past two weeks.  (More likely you don't.)  Maybe you understand that life can be a little intense at times, more because of the way we perceive it than because of an extraordinary amount of pressure or stress.  But I am indeed alive and well and hope to be posting again shortly.

Blogger greeted me today with an update on their features.  If you like interactive web pages, you should check out this version of my blog:
http://butyouhavecome.blogspot.com/view/mosaic

enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Rainy weather
An interesting photo on Flickr today.