The Spiritual Discipline of Contemplation

Contemplation is not a commonly-discussed spiritual discipline for Christians, perhaps because it could easily lend itself to mysticism or reminds too much of the practice of other religions like Buddism.  However, when rooted on the Word of God and balanced with other disciplines like worship and prayer, contemplation can help us practice the presence of God and respond to His Word.

The practice of contemplation includes (taken from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook):

  • Practicing the presence of God and keeping company with Jesus all the time.
  • Taking time to truly see and gaze on life.
  • Sensitivity and obedience to God's revelation.
  • Savoring the symbolic nature of life and faith.
  • Being, not just doing.

Some of the fruits of contemplation include:
  • Freedom from preoccupation with self that keeps you from focusing on others.
  • Living the tensions of life reflectively.
  • Patience with life.
  • Seeing there is more to life than efficiency and productivity.
  • Knowing through faith, hope and love, not just the mind.
  • Opens us wide to life (not believing the lie that experiences alone open us to life)
  • Entering into the moment with a heart alive to whatever might happen.
  • Refusing the compulsion to go everywhere, see everything, and try everything new.
  • Seeking God and the meanings threaded through our days and years so that our experiences of being embedded in the triune life of God deepens and grows.

Home Behind the Sun - Book Review

Rather than waiting for the next big event or circumstance, I want to find significance in the daily slog, to discover the beauty, mystery, and thrill of life even in the mundane.  In the book Home Behind the  Sun: Connect with God in the Brilliance of the Everyday, by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy, the authors show how they see God’s brilliance in their daily lives and how it inspires them to live it out.  We can see the wonder of God’s glory through the kaleidoscope lens of belief rather than shuffling along with eyes to the ground, absorbed only with the things right in front of us. This book is a collection of essays in a journey to brilliance in the everyday in work, in parenting, in forgiving, etc. 

There are some truths that I will carry with me long after I put this book on the shelf.  Too often, when we grow older, our hearts shrink. Through their stories, they show how forgiveness is not a process, but a way of life.  Our faith ought to clarify the more we age, as God is shaping us and making His desires become ours. 

I found especially convicting that there should not be a dichotomy between the way we work and the way we leisure.  Do both with enjoyment and worship, tend toward discipline, detail, and perseverance (page 137).  We can extend the gospel of Christ into every facet of life, and then God’s brilliance overwhelms and compels us through the shadows. 

This book is beauty in itself with the words poetically woven and stretching my imagination.  It is uplifting, inspiring, and eye-opening – all the things I love to find in a book that helps me to see life a little bit differently.   

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Books in exchange for my honest review.

The Psalms - Language for All Seasons of the Soul

The Bible is readable as it stands, but there is much breadth and depth to studying it, and studying it deeply, gleaning knowledge from scholars who study the original culture and language, especially in the Psalms, which is diverse with songs of both praise and lament.  In Psalm 13 when the psalmist cries out, “will you forget me forever?”, is he accusing God of not being aware or not paying attention to his circumstances?  The connotations of what it means for God to “remember” is not that He suddenly realized what was going on, but that He finally is visibly acting.  Scholars can help us to see beyond our milieu to a different perspective of understanding.

Psalms is both simple and difficult.  Some of the psalms seem contradictory to what Jesus taught us to be like. Demands for justice and for destruction of our enemies flies against Jesus’ teachings of praying for our enemies and to go the extra mile.  But the psalms express the full range of God’s love in all seasons of the soul – in times of joy as well as times of pain.  They are filled with the faithful voices of the people of God in response to His saving history as they petition for His justice and praise His faithfulness. They give us permission to lament, and enables us to meet with God in a special encounter.  In our silence and pain, God waits for us to turn to Him for comfort and restoration.   

Scholars can help us see the richness of the Psalms.  The Psalms, Language for All Seasons of the Soul, is a collection of 19 papers from the Evangelical Theological Society’s Psalms and Hebrew Poetry Consultation written by seasoned Psalms scholars.  It’s not as dry as it sounds!  While it is scholarly, it is readable and enlightening as well as practical.  The book accomplishes its purpose of celebrating the impact the Psalms has had throughout history to the 21st century with an emphasis on insights into current studies and application in today’s world. 

The book is divided into five sections, but the longest one on the lament, expressions of sorrow and pain, was my favorite as it provided insight to who God is and what He is like in the midst of it all.  It inspired me to pray my emotions, to pray honestly and boldly, to join with other believers throughout history who have struggled to make sense of life while developing a fuller understanding of faith.

 I spent months devouring the words of this book and will undoubtedly return to this treasure again and again for deeper understanding.  It is rich with keys to interpretation and analysis.  This book is a great tool for those who love to study Scripture and teach.  I highly recommend this book for pastors, professors, seminary students, and anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the Psalms.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for my honest review.