What is the difference between Christian meditation and contemplation? It’s a tricky question, complicated and confused by the fact that words like meditation and contemplation are used in a variety of ways. Below is a brief summary of several respected definitions.
Increasingly I see mature Christians exploring and engaging in the contemplative way as a means of going deeper in faith and love. What then is contemplative Christianity? ContemplativeChristians.com provides excellent explanations, definitions, and resources for those desiring to learn more about the contemplative way. Here are some excerpts from their website.
Brian McLaren is an author and contemplative activist. He spent over twenty years as the pastor of a church where he lived, worked, and prayed with people in good times and bad. The Crisis Praying practice below found in his book, “Naked Spirituality”, is an excellent resource for your own times of prayer during these days of crisis in our nation and world.
In his book, The Mystic in You: Discovering a God-Filled World,Theologian Bruce G. Epperly describes the lives, faith, and spiritual practices of saints and mystics in the difficult days of the Middle Ages. What he says about one of those mystics, Lady Julian of Norwich, is most applicable to these days of struggle, pain, and suffering caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic:
These are indeed extraordinary times we are living through. The COVID-19 Crisis and the constant media coverage has created an air of anxiety we all are breathing. And, our bodies are carrying this stress and palpable sense of dread whether we realize it or not. The Welcoming Prayer is a contemplative practice that can help sustain you through these uncertain days and allow you to become a vessel of light and love rather than a container of worry and fear.
All creation reveals God, so there is no greater location to encounter God than in nature. The following spiritual practice is called “Reading the Book of Nature” using the ancient prayer process of Lectio Divina.
One of the great treasures of the Christian tradition of prayer is Lectio Divina, an ancient Christian form of meditative prayer that is being rediscovered and reclaimed in our time. Lectio Divina is a Latin term meaning “holy, divine, or sacred reading,” which is reading we believe to be divinely inspired.
The importance of silence, solitude, and stillness in the life of Jesus and his disciples is undeniable. Jesus made a habit of withdrawing, sometimes abruptly, from the crowds and his ministry of doing his Father’s will to “the hills” or a “lonely place” or “the wilderness” or a “high mountain” or to the “seashore” or to the Garden of Gethsemene. To be more like Jesus we must likewise find times of silence, solitude and stillness.
One of the most frequently read prayers by those seeking peace and comfort is attributed to Francis of Assisi. I invite you to engage in the spiritual practice of “sacred reading” (lectio divina) using Francis’ “Peace Prayer.” Lectio divina is a contemplative way to read short passages of sacred text and discover meanings running deeper than the literal layer.
Joseph F. Schmidt, noted lecturer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and author of “Praying Our Experiences,” “Praying with Thérèse of Lisieux,” and “Everything Is Grace,” shares this paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. I invite you to read these statements as a spiritual exercise and see yourself in them and open yourself to being love.
Most of us are inclined to mostly use only one side of our brain. Our thought processes are either predominately creative, intuitive and abstract (right brain), or logical, rational and concrete (left brain). This is true in our work as well as our spiritual life. To engage both the right and left sides of our brains requires concentration, focus and intentionality. When we do, we are capable of break through thinking and feeling. Include the following Whole Brain Scripture Meditation Exercise as a regular spiritual practice and judge for yourself.
The importance of silence, solitude, and stillness in the life of Jesus and his disciples is undeniable. If you have experienced genuine silence, solitude, and stillness then you resonate with the words of Jonathan Edwards who found such spiritual disciplines “a delight and a foundation of refreshment, joy, and transformation.”
In today’s world it can be difficult to find times and places to be alone with our thoughts as we are surrounded with a swarming variety of inputs and intrusions through most of our days and nights. What follows are practical examples of some ways to create pockets of solitude during the workday.
Engaging in an inner conversation each week that reviews the events that have occurred and looks for the meaning and wisdom to be extracted is achievable. I find this consistently is the most important conversation I have each week…..the one with myself and God. During inner conversations, your engagement with other people is suspended, as you reflect upon the week and strive to see God in all its moments. Gordon MacDonald has provided a series of questions I have adapted to focus my thoughts and reflect on where God has been working in my life in recent days.
The Daily Office reorients the one who practices it, momentarily turning one’s focus from the experiences and responsibilities of daily life, to the Creator of life. It is not so much a turning to God to get something as it is about simply being with God and communing with Him.
The word Midrash is a Hebrew term with several different definitions, but perhaps the most ancient definition is the one that draws my attention. That is when Midrash is used as a mode of scriptural interpretation in which many different exegetical methods are employed in an effort to derive deeper meaning from a text.
While Sabbath can refer to a single day, as in the Jewish tradition, it can also serve as a larger metaphor for cultivating the qualities, customs, and practices of Sabbath keeping found in the wholistic definition of Sabbath. Integrate some of these practices into your own lifestyle and discover your own unique pathway for observing and enjoying Sabbath.
Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one or beloved pet knows there is much that suffering and death can teach us, as innumerable books on the subject testify. But for me, four realizations surfaced as I pondered, prayed, cried, expressed gratitude, and reflected on my dog's death.
Here is a list of verses about silence, mostly from the New Revised Standard Version, though any translation will reveal how important silence is. What strikes me most about these passages is that they look at silence, not in the human terms of keeping silent or not speaking out when relating to others, but rather they point us to the beauty and meaning of silence in how we relate to God. These verses taken together make a powerful witness to how silence is an essential discipline and practice for a vital and growing spiritual life.
Charles de Foucauld chose to define his life with the simple phrase, “Present to God……present to People.” I am intrigued by the simplicity of that life mission of presence, but must confess I don’t always find it easy. I have difficulty being present to God unless I am still and quiet enough to sense his presence. And, I find it much easier to be present to people who I like and who like me, who I like to listen to and who will listen to me. What does it mean to “be present?” For me it entails being still, quiet, listening, available, reflective and observant in four dimensions of life.
Centering prayer emphasizes resting silently in the presence of God, placing our attention on a single “prayer word” so that our hearts may wordlessly rest in God’s love. It represents a long tradition of Christian teachers who emphasize silence, restful watchfulness, and the recitation of a single word, verse, or phrase as a focal point of awareness — which allows the real work of prayer to take place, in the heart.
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