Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Meditating and Pondering

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. - Psalm 119:148

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. - Luke 2:19

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 36; Nehemiah 5:1-6:14; Romans 4:1-12

Today's texts speak to me of the "brain work" of time with God and scripture. There are lots of ways to do this, including "meditating" and "pondering."

My favorite explanation of Christian meditation on scripture is to read a passage, then focus on it in silence, keeping the "mental cursor" centered on a phrase or image from the passage. If the brain wanders or starts getting too active, just gently let go of that and return to focus. It's a form of listening, abiding in the presence of God and of the scripture's message, subtly allowing this word from God to inform and enlighten. I don't use this form of meditation every day, but when I do, I find it relaxing, centering, reassuring, and often the most fruitful part of my day in terms of connecting with what God has in mind for me.

Then there's pondering, which for me is more of an active process of piecing together scripture's message, my own situation, the context of the world around me, and what I know about God from life experience so far. What message am I getting? What is God calling me to do about it? What connections do I find with other situations, stories, people? Who should I be talking with or working with about this? What might come next? What should I be looking and listening for in the near future? When pondering, I find journaling - longhand, in a nice-quality, old-fashioned notebook - to be the best medium. I have only paper and pen, no other distractions, and I try to take the time to work through however small or large the process seems to be that day. Again, I don't do it every day, but in times of uncertainty, or when the Spirit seems to be ramping up the windspeed, it's helpful.

Today's scriptures give a few examples of people meditating and pondering. David recommends it for everyone, all the time! Psalm 36 includes a little inspiration: "In your light, we see light." Mary treasures and ponders the words of angels and shepherds after the birth of Jesus. Nehemiah watches, listens, stays aware of both God's will and the sneaky plans that would distract or lure him away from it. Paul draws stories and quotes from scripture to help us start to comprehend the grace of God that's so different from the way the rest of the world works.

Life with God is like this. It takes brain work, as well as physical work and emotional processing. God is revealed to us a little at a time, light ray by light ray, at a rate we can handle, alongside others who are trying to figure this all out too. Sometimes I think it would be nice to just be suddenly "zapped" all the way up to a new level of understanding! But in general, I'm thankful for the gift of meditating and pondering, the time and effort it takes to absorb the fullness of what God is saying and doing, and to experience the wonder of the One who is beyond our comprehension yet intimately involved in our lives.

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