Scripture Meditation: The Fear of the Lord and Contemplative Prayer

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; those who act accordingly have a good understanding; his praise endures forever.” 
Psalm 111:10

While Jesus tells us to not be afraid, and Paul says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, the Psalms have a way of putting us in our place. Those who are wise rightly fear the Lord, even if God does not come to us with thunder and fire.

The gentleness and meekness of Jesus is much like the same approach of Moses, who veiled his face after seeing God’s glory. God does not seek our worship or reverence through intimidation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fear the holiness and power of God.

A healthy “fear” of the Lord keeps us humble and helps us see God’s love and mercy with greater clarity and gratitude.

 

For Reflection

meditation-for-september-27

 

Scripture Meditation: The Freedom in Surrender

“And Mary said,“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
Luke 1:46-47

After hearing news that I suspect no one can fully comprehend, Mary responded with words of praise for God. The word to “magnify” is sometimes translated as extol or praise, as we don’t often speak of “magnifying” someone these days.

Mary saw her role in the salvation plan of God as a reason to praise God. She didn’t have to bear the burden of seeking her own glory, defending her own name, or exalting her own plans.

There is great freedom in our surrender to God’s direction for our lives.

As we limit ourselves to the actions that draw glory to God, we shake away the many ambitions and fears that can drag so many down. May we find the joy of Mary as we surrender ourselves to God’s loving direction.

 

For Reflection

meditation-for-september-20

Scripture Meditation: God Expects Lament

“Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”
Psalm 44: 24, NRSV

The writer of this Psalm of lament notes in the the earlier verses that God surely would know if he had lifted his hands to worship another God. It’s just as likely that God wouldn’t be surprised to hear the laments of his people in the midst of their suffering.

Of course God doesn’t literally hide from us or forget our suffering. In our darkest moments it can surely seem that God is distant and hidden, but even if these remain impossible things for God to do, the Spirit guided these poets to share their laments, frustrations, and fears in the starkest language possible.

What do you fear today about God?

What do you leave unspoken about God?

What if today you could be completely honest with God?

It’s possible that the scriptures telling us about God’s knowledge of our thoughts can assure us. God knows our deepest laments and fears but continues to reach out to anyone who is thirsty and heavy-burdened.

 

For Reflection

 

meditation-for-september-13

Scripture Meditation

“Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.”
Psalm 33:22

 

Lasting, truly healing relief from our anxieties and burdens comes from trusting in our loving and kind Lord.

Perhaps we’re so preoccupied with the weight of our worries that we forget his loving kindness could be resting upon us.

Ask God today how you can take another step of trust and rest in his loving and kind presence.

 

For Reflection

Meditation for September 6

 

Scripture Meditation: Responding to God with Silence

O LORD, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks. I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me. But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast, my soul is quieted within me.
Psalm 131:1-3

 

Do you believe that God desires to nurture, protect, and guide you? Can you accept that God desires you to rest like a child resting with his/her mother?

Stillness and quiet are appropriate, even essential responses to God.

 

For Reflection

Meditation for August 30

 

Scripture Meditation: Waiting on God’s Generousity

Jesus taught in the parable of the vineyard laborers:

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” 
Matthew 20:15, RSV

 

Envy will dismantle the patience that is growing within us, robbing us of the joy of God’s blessings when they finally come to us. God is generous, but we all experience that generosity in different ways and at different times.

God’s generosity will not spare us seasons of darkness and doubt. It’s possible that waiting helps us view his generosity with greater clarity.

 

For Reflection

Meditation for August 24

 

 

 

Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

Why We Can’t Ignore the Pings (about driving, but still relevant for everything else)

Training for the Good Life

Resources for Centering Prayer

Outsmart Your Next Angry Outburst

Seven Reasons to Pray the Divine Office

 

 

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Contemplative Profiles: Rejoicing in the Wilderness

The monks of Palestine throughout the 400’s and beyond played a critical role in guiding the early church in Jerusalem and the surrounding region. While these monks valued solitude and contemplative practices, they also traveled throughout the desert, converted bedouins, and ministered to anyone they encountered.

While some of these monks lived in solitude as hermits, many began to welcome guests who came to them for advice. They also began small communities who gathered for worship together from time to time. Two of these monks were particularly sought out for advice and took up writing letters to the neighboring churches. From Christian History:

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“By the sixth century, monasticism in Gaza was thriving, primarily due to the reputation of two elders, Barsanuphius the Great (“the great old man”) and John the Prophet (“the other old man”). The first was from Egypt; the latter was possibly from the region of Beersheba. From the seclusion of their cells, these two elders communicated with visitors only by letters dictated through secretaries. Barsanuphius and John were not eccentric miracle-workers, extreme ascetics, or charming visionaries, but practical advisers. They offered teaching, encouragement, and hope to people in their day-to-day struggles: “Simple advice according to God is one thing; a command is another. Advice is counsel without compulsion.”

*****

Some 850 examples of their remarkable correspondence survive, written in response to questions from church leaders, monks, and laypeople about issues ranging from personal temptation to interpersonal relations, from employment to property, from spirituality to superstition, from dealing with heretics to taking a bath! The letters were filled with encouragement: “Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord!”

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Read more here.

 

For Reflection

Is there a wilderness that you’re facing today?

Where have you found joy this week?

 

Scripture Meditation: God Sees Us Fully and Loves Us Completely

O God, you know my foolishness,* and my faults are not hidden from you.
Psalm 69:6

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Meditation

How often have you hesitated to pray because you feared you were too sinful, prideful, or just not in tune with God?

How often have you disqualified yourself preemptively?

Perhaps this Psalm comes as bad news to some. Some may read this as a kind of “surveillance God” peering into our lives, seeking any kind fault or reason for judgment or exclusion.

However, what if God’s awareness of our hidden faults is the best kind of good news, the good news we all need. Jesus spoke of himself as a doctor who has come to heal, and the prophets are filled with accounts of God mourning that Israel will not turn back to him.

What if God is a lover who sees our foolishness and faults and still remains enamored with us? God sees our secret sins and wants nothing more than our healing and redemption.

There is grace and mercy for us before we even acknowledge our failings. In many ways, confession is more for us than it is for God. Confession convinces us that God has known who and what we are all along and still wants to call us his beloved.

 

Reflection

What is your greatest barrier to God today?

In what way is God’s knowledge of your faults good news for you?

 

meditation May 3, 2016

 

 

How Boundaries Help Our Faith and Families Thrive

A spiritual director once told me that the concept of having “balance” in your life is often unhelpful. If anything, striving for balance creates false expectations and sets us up for failure.

I have personally found it far more helpful to think in terms of words like “intentional,” “boundary,” and “sustainability.” We can find healthy spirituality and healthy relationships by intentionally scheduling our time with clear boundaries. Our relationships and spiritual practices need to be the guarded non-negotiables that we make so easy to pursue that we eventually turn to them as a matter of habit.

That isn’t an easy place to arrive at. I know it’s a struggle each week for me. However, the more I get used to my schedule and the more I set boundaries around my day, the more I can settle into these daily habits.

While I don’t love the title of this Fast Company article about work-life balance, it offers some helpful tips for arranging your priorities and creating healthy habits for your spiritual life and relationships. Here are a few tips to consider:

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“People who have managed to carve out a work-life balance that works for them don’t just wait to see what time is left over after work. They make a point of planning and booking time off to spend outside of work and powerfully guard this time. While emergencies happen and situations come up that need their attention at work on occasion, they strongly resist any intrusion on this time.”

*****

“People who maintain balance are able to turn off their electronic devices to enjoy quality uninterrupted time doing matters they enjoy. They realize that multitasking is a myth and focus on the task at hand. Having developed the ability to compartmentalize their time, they seek out moments to simply enjoy the experience and savor life. Often they have discovered meditation, music, physical activity, or some other interest that allows them to get away from the pressures of everyday life…”

* * * * *

One other thing: If you asked me, most people could stand to get rid of their televisions, cancel cable, and see what happens for two months. I suspect you’ll end up having more conversations, reading more books, and having more time enjoyable activities. It’s so crazy that it just may work.

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous gifts of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers. Thank you!

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