Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thoughts on Meditation

 by Bryan Stevenson

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. ~ Psalm 104:34
I’m not writing about anything new. It’s not even new to me. One of my pastors, Marty Angell, gave a message about meditation many years ago. He explained how Christians would often question meditation because of its ties with Eastern religions, but instead we should embrace it as a vital part of a Biblical life. That stuck with me. I’ve had the head knowledge, and I’ve intermittently put it into practice over the years. However, our recent trip with The Center for Short Term Missions, and Jaron’s trip with Global Expeditions, have made the concept more real to me than ever before.

One of the benefits of leaving your home town for a missions trip is that it forcibly pushes you away from your daily routine. It encourages introspection and spirituality, both things that are lacking in a typical American week. So, while in West Virginia we woke up, had breakfast, and then spent an hour or so reading through a study, reading the Bible, and having “quiet time.” (I think the term “quiet time” was invented by American Christians as a substitute for the more uncomfortable feeling word, “meditation.”) Jaron also spent time each morning journaling and reading Scripture. We don’t do this in our daily lives. Personally, I pray every day, typically while walking into my office, or as I fall asleep at night. I’m obviously not very focused, nor am I giving my best.

My Indian co-workers tell me about the rigors of Hindu meditation. Those practitioners take it seriously. They will often set up a shrine in their house, sometimes in a separate room. The sole purpose of that room is for meditation and prayer. There is something to this idea of setting aside a time and a place in our lives for the spiritual. There was a small prayer room at the Baptist church I attended in high school. I always felt a sense of the sacred when I went into that room. The atmosphere set the stage for an encounter with the Divine. I’ve had similar experiences in nature, out on a small boat in the Atlantic, standing in an icy stream just after dawn, watching the waves crash to shore with the sun setting behind my back, or sitting on a patio in the mountains drinking a cup of coffee with Dad. Those times of quiet reflection will lead to personal growth if we allow them to take hold.

The missions trip gave us two things that helped focus our meditation. The first was purpose. The second was location. Now that I’m back home I recognize that I need to set up those same two ingredients. The purposeful setting aside of a time and a place to meditate on the Lord, Scripture, the world, and my place in it.

I’ve thrown the idea up against the wall … now let’s see if I can make it stick.

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