I never thought I’d ever be typing a blog about meditation. For the majority of my life, I’ve been on “high definition,” unable to quiet my mind. Silence was uncomfortable. Being still gave me shame and made me feel like I was wasting time. I naturally would run through my to-do list whenever I tried to calm my body. So, I stumbled through life always feeling the need to be busy and productive.
Then my son came. Noise, busyness, and constantly being on the go put me on edge. I began to enjoy quiet and solitude. Being by myself didn’t bother me. Not in a “withdrawn” sort of way, but more of a “I need to recharge” sort of way. I craved time for myself, when I wasn’t attempting to simultaneously accomplish five things on my to-do list!
Our family is in the process of a second adoption, so I’ve been more reflective lately (how do we need to prepare, how can our family be better, what should we prepare for, etc). I’ve been feeling a “pull” of sorts, telling me to engage in silence and listen to the whispers of God. Also, our church is going through a commitment to Christ experience. My preacher sent me some information about the rule of life (also known as the covenant of life) where people can recommit to spiritual disciplines or general attitudes/behaviors that help one engage with God and His people.
I didn’t know what to do. In 2017, I studied spiritual disciplines and knew I wanted to dig deeper. The “pull” that I referenced told me that. I needed to engage in a discipline that would give me multiple opportunities to listen to God. While I knew that I enjoyed quiet and had gotten better about quieting my mind, I had always said I’d never engage in meditation. That was for those really important spiritual people. One of my faith mentors, Eric Wilson, spoke about meditation in some of our church training sessions, and I laughed at the thought of ever engaging in that discipline.
Never say never, right?! Meditation is way out of my comfort zone, but it’s REALLY hard to grow from a place of comfort. Over the past year, I’ve read more about meditation and silence. In Eric’s book Faith: The First Seven Lessons, he states,
“Silence requires us to see ourselves as we are. Doing without, whatever it might be, is uncomfortable, whether sitting in silence or denying our creature comforts.”
Scary, right? No one wants to REALLY see themselves as they are. That would mean we would have to realize how imperfect we are and how we need to change!
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Disciplines, references four types of meditation: meditation on scripture, “centering down” in silence, meditation on creation, and meditation on current events. I never knew meditation could serve so many functions. Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect talks about her journey in embracing silence, solitude, and the lectio divina (a slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures). In her book, she talks about how her commitment to a busy life stripped her of the beauty in silence, simplicity, and reflection with God. As her spiritual journey shifted, she felt more present with God and her family.
In my covenant of life, I committed to practicing meditation for a minimum of one hour a month. So far, I love it! I’ve been incorporating scripture, breath prayers, and yoga into my meditation time. My sister has been helpful in getting me started with yoga, and I have been searching out additional resources to enhance my meditation experience. I’ve already seen some spiritual growth in my sessions, and now I look forward to them!
Trying to figure out how you can get started?
- First, spend time with God to discern if meditation is what you need in this moment during your current life stage. I wasn’t ready for a long time!
- There is no “wrong way” to do it (in my opinion) as long as you are spending time focusing on God. Some people rest in his presence in quiet, while others listen to scripture or music and meditate on the words/message.
- Reach out to your faith community! Share your goals and ask for some accountability.
- If you want to practice yoga, either attend a class or read up on yoga. There’s lots of information out there, and the seasoned yogis could guide you into what is best for your yoga experience.
- Read literature about meditation and other “inward” disciplines. I didn’t realize there were so many disciplines to consider!
Blessings on your journey as you explore how to engage God better this year!
Valentine’s Day: More than Romance
Before everyone rolls their eyes at the title, hear me out. This is not a blog post about the romantic focus of Valentine’s Day (or as my husband calls it, the “Hallmark Holiday”). This blog post is for people of every age and every life stage.
Growing up, I always wanted to be with someone on Valentine’s Day. The flowers, stuffed animals, presents….showing love to your “significant other” was the main focus of my Valentine’s Day. Sure, getting cards from my family was nice. However, there was nothing like getting swept off your feet by the love of your life, right?
A Different Approach to Valentine’s Day
Now that I’m older, I wouldn’t say that approach is wrong. I would just say that my focus on Valentine’s Day is different. God has taught me through my life experiences that we need to see and love people through God’s eyes, not our own. God deeply loves each and every one of us every day. If we are asked to love like God loves, why do we naturally turn the “biggest day” for love each year into a romantic holiday? Why do we tend to only focus on the romantic love, when there are so many ways we can choose to love people that day?
Romans 12:9-13 states:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality” (NLT).
People in our communities desperately need to experience the kind of love that only comes from God. Why not take this day to share it? Why not embrace the practice of hospitality, serve the Lord enthusiastically, and honor one another through our loving actions?
Ideas for Showing God’s Love to Others
Don’t get me wrong. Loving our spouse is commanded by God and should occur on a daily basis. Valentine’s Day is a great day to honor our spouses and loved ones. However, God calls us into a love that is so much deeper than showing love to those closest to us on Valentine’s Day. He calls us to love those who experience love the least. Valentine’s Day is a special day in which we can make all of God’s people feel loved.
Here are some ways that people (or families) can make others feel loved on Valentine’s Day.
- Make baked goods for the staff and/or residents of hospitals, nursing homes, or community service workers (firefighters, policemen, etc).
- Partner with your church or a local organization to support women and their families through a community event that day.
- Find a creative way to send random people Valentine’s Day cards.
- Work with your local church on leaving “love/encouraging notes” in your pantry boxes that go to hungry families in need.
- Make a meal or offer to babysit (for FREE) for a single parent.
Start planning now so that when February 14th rolls around, you will be ready to go and be love to others!
For those who don’t know, the IF Table is a monthly gathering place where women connect with each other over one of the best things on Earth…food! A blog entry is posted about the monthly topic, and conversation cards are offered to facilitate conversation about the topic. For more information about how the IF Table works, click here (https://www.ifgathering.com/table)
The November blog was written by Bri McKoy, whose most recent book is Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace around the Everyday Table. In her blog, she references how Jesus taught us the importance of gathering people around our table. She stated that a table where Jesus is present is filled with meekness, humility, and service. She asks us to consider the “table,” Jesus’ experiences at tables, and our perspective of our own table.
What is Your Banner?
Bri brings up the word “banner” in her blog and her questions. The question that stuck out to me is: “Do you have an intentional banner for your table?” In other words, do you gather people around your table with purpose? If so, what is it?
This question hit me hard. Sadly, I am running around so much during the week that I don’t have a lot of intentionality with my table. I’m lucky to plan dinner! The phrase “intentional banner” made me think about my home, my family, and the intimacy that meals should bring. What do I want people to know about me and my family? What do I want our focus to be with guests in our home? One of the ladies in my group said she wanted people to feel not just invited, but WANTED when they come into her home.
How true is that? How many times have we received an invitation to someone’s home but were not sure if they would even miss us? Oh, I pray that the people we invite into our home know that they are loved, wanted, and important.
Holiday vs. Everyday Table
Is your holiday table more important than your everyday table?
Talk about deep. How often do we really focus on the importance of our everyday table? This wasn’t a direct question (or statement) from Bri’s blog, but it came up in our IF Table discussion. We take time to focus on the holiday table–the decorations, good food, ensuring that we are surrounded by loved ones. Why do we honor and celebrate the holiday table more than we do the everyday table? Holidays come and go…relationships are rekindled, and memories are made. But why are we quick to dismiss the importance of our everyday table?
We may rekindle relationships at the holiday table, but we make relationships at the everyday table. The everyday table is where we cultivate, develop, and strengthen the relationships of our families, our friends, and those who may need a seat at our table. The everyday table is where we honor and reiterate the importance of community, which is vital to the rhythm of the church.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited to have holiday dinners just like most of us are! But I love Bri’s focus on the table in this blog. Her written words, along with my group’s spoken words, reminded me that our everyday conversations around our table have significance. Don’t exchange “table” time for distractions. God created us to live in community with others.
What is the Focus of Your Table?
I’m still thinking about which word to use for the “banner” over our table. What would your word be? Joy? Peace? Grace? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section of our blog!!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Be encouraged by these posts as well!
Focusing on the “Least of These”
In November 2012, Joel and I experienced a worship service that focused on the marginalized, the orphans, and the least of these. This Sunday is called Orphan Sunday, where nations around the world come together to raise awareness about the social injustices that negatively impact children and which can, at times, leave them without a family. The service was moving, with videos, songs, and visual reminders of how children can become orphans.
A Godly Revelation that Led to Action
After service, my husband Joel asked me to lunch. He told me about how he felt like God spoke to him during the service about choosing adoption for our family. At first I was taken aback, because we had actually started talking about having biological children. However, he felt convicted that God wanted us to do this for our family. He gave me space to pray and think about it.
The next week, I attended a weekend retreat with our church’s youth group. We attended a social injustice tour where we heard from individuals who spoke about different injustices that affect our local communities. One room discussed “the least of these,” meaning children who couldn’t advocate for themselves. The speaker brought up foster care, adoption, and international orphan care.
I left the event and sobbed. It was not an accident that I attended this event with our teens. Living life with this youth group led to a Godly revelation. I was broken by the injustices plaguing the children in our communities. Although I was scared, I knew that God had spoken to me too. He was telling me “It’s OK. I’ve got this. Enter into this world of social injustice on behalf of these children. I bless this choice.” I went to bed, praying and crying. I knew that God had led Joel and me on a path that would be life-changing. And so, we began the adoption process.
A Reminder to Show Love to Those who Feel Unloved
Four years later, we are preparing to experience another Orphan Sunday at our church. So many things have happened in the past four years. How we entered into the adoption process is not how we finished it. When we first began the process, we focused on what WE could do to combat the social injustices that affect children: poverty, hunger, neglect, crime. But what God revealed to us through His word, our friendships, and our son’s birth mother is this…these children don’t need us to be their savior. They already have a Savior–one who actively seeking these children every day, loving them in ways only He can do and only He can understand. We are supposed to step into these children’s pain…not to “fix it,” but to love them enough that we pray them through it.
Orphan Sunday is a somber reminder that we are here to show love to those who feel unworthy of being loved by anyone. For some people, that is walking alongside a struggling family in hopes that your support helps keep them together. For others, it’s sitting in another court session about the foster child who is in your care. In our case, it was adoption. Let me be clear. None of these situations are “beautiful” just because you are trying to live out what God has asked us to do. Even though we are all adopted by God, we are not all adopted by others in this world. That is a HUGE distinction. Caring for the fatherless/orphaned/widowed is messy, hard, and heartbreaking.
So what does Orphan Sunday mean to us?
For our family, it’s not just about raising awareness about the 150+ million children who are orphans. It’s also about reminding us of our daily, Godly mission. Serve the least of these. Fight social injustices that rip (either blatantly or subtly) our communities apart. If we are to live out the gospel, we have to do more than go to church and be at home. We have to be in our community, interacting with others who don’t look/talk/act like us. We have to teach our children through a combination of Godly example and Scripture. Then, we need to seek (and receive) discernment from God about how best to serve these children/families in a way that glorifies Him (not us).
What if we treated everyone like we wanted to be treated–with the worth that God has bestowed upon us? What if we loved God AND our neighbors? Would our world even have “the least of these” living among us? Would we have orphanages, foster care, and families broken apart? May we strive for restoration to occur around us and through us.
Here are some scripture references from this blog post.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless in this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Orphan Sunday is November 12, 2017. For more information on Orphan Sunday or to find an event near you, please visit Christian Alliance for Orphans.
Is Your Prayer Life Flourishing?
How is your prayer life? I definitely have some room to grow in mine. When I have a lot on my plate, I tend to schedule everything but God into my day. I do make attempts to read Scripture at night or pray before I go to bed, but most nights I am unsuccessful. I don’t really know why I don’t make prayer more of a priority. Sometimes, childhood teachings creep into my heart, telling me to only pray for God’s will because His will must be accomplished. Other times, my anxiety and stress level paralyze my heart and mind, causing me to stay in the here and now and not pray for the future.
A couple of years ago, I knew that my prayers (when prayed) were shallow. Even when I asked God for things, I knew that what I asked was meager and infrequent. So in order to challenge me and to stretch my concept of prayer, I selected the book The Circle Maker. Several statements and passages resonated with me, including this quote:
“The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.” (p. 19)
Analysis of My Prayer Life
This made me analyze my prayer life. Why do I pray? Why do I ask what I ask? Do I only ask for select things because I question God’s power or interest in my life? Is it a lack of faith, or a lack of trust? Am I putting up emotional and spiritual barriers between me and God so I won’t get hurt? If that is the case, do I not trust God to carry me through whatever trials I may experience?
The follow-up passage to the quote listed above speaks to some of these questions.
“He will answer. And His answers are not limited by your requests. We pray out of our ignorance, but God answers out of His omniscience. We pray out of our impotence, but God answers out of His omnipotence. God has the ability to answer the prayers we should have prayed but lacked the knowledge or ability to even ask.” (p.19)
What prayers of yours have been unanswered because they have been unasked? Where are you holding back in your prayer life? Your family, your career, maybe your involvement in a project or an organization? God may not answer your prayer exactly the way that you want him to, but He will listen and respond. Be still and know that God is with you.
Here are some Scriptures to meditate on…
1 John 5:14-15
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of Him.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”