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SPIRITUAL LIFE | MEDITATION

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CADET JENNIFER IVANY writes about her experience and study of the discipline of  Meditation. . . When asked to practice a spiritual discipline for at least four weeks I was hesitant.  This seemed to be just another thing to add to my “to do” list.  I was undecided and just kept up with all of my assigned readings.

I read, “In the midst of an exceedingly busy ministry Jesus made a habit of withdrawing to a “lonely place apart” (Matt. 14:13).[1] I realized that in the midst of my busyness the one thing to calm my anxieties, to centre myself again, was to meet with God and hear his voice.  To be in the Lord’s presence and listen to His voice was freedom from my “to do” list.

The spiritual discipline I would explore was Meditation.  “Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and to obey his word.”[2] 

I found a book, “More Than Wanderers, Spiritual Disciplines for Christian Ministry” by James C. Fenhagen.  I am fond of this book because it links meditation to Scripture.  The first example of meditation discussed was from 1 Kings 19, when Elijah was overcome with hopelessness in his life and runs into the wilderness.  It is in the wilderness alone that he hears from the Lord and his strength is renewed.  Elijah separated himself and heard from the Lord. This taught me about where the discipline of meditation came from, most importantly coming back to Scripture.

Another book, “Christian Meditation” by Edmund P. Clowney relates Christian meditation to the world today.  He helps the reader to see meditation in the world and how to put a meditation practice into action.Clowney also relates Christian meditation to Eastern meditation.  “The Psalm (119) is a meditation, similar to what is called “lotus meditation” in the East.  The meditator centres his mind on one subject; he reaches out to touch a related thought, but in a pattern like the petals of the lotus flower his mind keeps looping back to the central idea.”[1]  I thought it was brilliant for the author to reach into society, and to pick out similarities in different societies for the reader to relate to.

“The Other Side of Silence” by Morton T. Kelsey gave me insight into the preparation needed for meditation.  Kelsey emphasized how important it was to prepare for the inward journey of meditation.  “Unless one takes the time to turn inward and be silent, meditation and the spiritual quest will not get very far.  We seldom find God in a hurry, or in bits and pieces of reflection on a day of busy activity.”[2]  The author says that if you are to practice Christian meditation you need to make sure you come with time set aside.  You need to come prepared to listen and be prepared to be called into action. 

I also read “Meditating on the Word” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The key thing that I learned was derived from this quote, “Why do I meditate?  Because I am a Christian.”[3]  Meditation isn’t something that you simply choose to practice one week and not the next.  It is an ongoing spiritual practice as a Christian. The book was really easy to follow and it was easy to relate to because it was from another human’s experience of this practice.

When I started practicing meditation I knew that I needed to find a space where I could be away from all the noise of life. I found the time, 8am, and the place, the chapel at CFOT.  When I found a space to go to, I needed to be fully out of sight in that space.  I found a spot on the floor which was out of sight of anyone walking by.  I would close my eyes and pray a breath prayer to begin which settled my inner churnings and brought me to a place of peace.  In this place of peace I was able to have a heart that was ready to receive and ears that were ready to hear.

As I would sit the Lord would bring to mind  a Scripture or word.  I would turn to the Scripture and read it with openness to what the Lord was saying.  I found myself reading the Scriptures for myself, and what they were saying to me.  Yet the Lord was bringing me to a place to be completely open to new possibilities. The possibilities were endless it was just a matter of letting the Lord lead me to this conclusion.

The Lord also began to bring songs into my meditation.  I think this is the biggest thing that I learned through meditation; the Lord doesn’t chose to speak the same way today as He did yesterday.  I need to be mindful of the many ways the Lord may speak in my times of meditation.  There are also times where the Lord does not speak and it is simply about being in His presence.

Throughout these weeks I felt as though my ears have been trained more to hear the Lord’s voice.  I can’t expect to walk into a life with the Lord and know His powerful voice, his still small voice, or his voice of correction.  It takes time, practice and a willing heart.

Each time I met with the Lord He began to draw other spiritual disciplines into our time. He continued to bring me to a place where I would journal, to write down things which were revealed.  When I sit down at another time with the Lord and meditate on his goodness I may be brought back to a previous day where I was impacted by God’s goodness.  These connections are what build assurance in our lives of who God is and who He has created us to be.

I also realized that the Lord honours your time with Him when you make Him important in your life.  It seems like a simple thing to do and yet it is hard to put into practice. God sees the actions you take. When I made sure to seek the Lord’s face through meditation God revealed Himself to me. I will continue to seek out special places to seek the Lord’s face and to give God priority in my life.  I long to be changed in His presence and to be more like Him.  I want to be a sheep that recognizes the Shepherds voice and responds.

As part of their Spiritual Formation class, first year cadets (the Friends of Christ) were asked to choose a spiritual discipline to research and practice, and to submit an essay about that experience.

[1] Clowney, Edmund P.. CM, Christian meditation . Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1979. pg.12.

[2] Kelsey, Morton T.. The other side of silence: a guide to Christian meditation. New York: Paulist Press, 1976. pg.83.

 [3] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, and David McI Gracie. Meditating on the Word . Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 1986. pg. 30

Cadet Jennifer Ivany is part of the Friends of Christ session.  She is at CFOT with her husband Josh and their two boys, Liam and Aiden. Jenn is a talented artist interested in visual arts, dance and has been known to play the djembe.