Day 7: Contemplative Reading

December 4, 2021

Bible – still life, Van Gogh

I love contemplation. And, I really love reading. When I have done contemplative reading of the Bible, it seems to be especially gifted with Godly presence.

I have several books on prayer that I have used, and prayed through. They have been marvelous helps to me, in my journey with God through these different kinds of prayer, meditation and contemplation. One of my favorite go-to books for contemplative reading, lectio divina and Ignatian prayer is The Word is Very Near You, a not-so-recent book by Episcopal priest Fr. Martin L. Smith. As he introduces the whole idea of meditation on Scripture, he mentions the “image of feeding on Christ and taking in the nourishment of the life-giving word…the prophets had vision in which they were given books to eat.” [1]

I can just imagine Ezekiel having his vision of eating the scroll that tastes just like honey. And, Psalms 119 and 34 both talk about God’s word being even sweeter than honey. To my joy, I have experienced this! I’ve used Fr. Smith’s book on a regular basis, a large number of times over the past twenty years. As I have followed his step-by-step instructions, I have felt stories, parables and other (more visual) sections of the Bible come to life when I listened to his directions and read the Bible passages aloud. I have been blessed by Smith’s book and by his suggestions, countless times. (Yes, I am a fan-girl.)

By this time, I suspect you realize that I love Psalm 119, too. Every verse of this long, long psalm has a mention of God’s Word. Descriptions like “hiding Your word in my heart,” “I am a stranger on earth,” “my soul is weary with sorrow,” and “the earth is filled with Your love” – all poetic, and all so poignant. I can ruminate on any one of these verses for a long time!

Just knowing that God is present with me, as I am reading, can be a stunning realization. (Really and truly.) I hope and pray you can experience this sweetness of contemplative reading, too.

My sweet Lord, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the poetic descriptions and turns of phrase I find in the Scriptures – in both the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the New Testament. I experience You through Your Word so readily. I realize that different people experience You in different ways. Help all of us to truly be encouraged to pick up Your Word and read it on a regular basis. Thank You for the Bible.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Smith, Martin L., The Word Is Very Near You (Cowley Publications: Cambridge MA: 1989), 115-16.

Day 6: Compassion and Loving-Kindness

December 3, 2021

As I read today’s entry on my list of contemplative practices, I remembered that Compassion and Loving-Kindness are two foundational characteristics of God. Attributes of, or adjectives used in describing God. What an awesome thought, that this Tree of Contemplative Practices mentions us – you and me – with the same adjectives that describe God.

(Yes, I am going to geek out at this point, and talk about the Biblical text. I love sinking my teeth into the language and meaning behind the words.)

One of my wonderful go-to books on prayer, Prayer by Richard Foster, talks about compassion in prayer. We – you and I – are urged to show compassion in prayer, just as Jesus did. “Always! The Gospel writers frequently mention that Jesus was ‘filled with compassion’ for people.” [1] In both Hebrew and Aramaic, the root concept of compassion is inward parts. The King James Version calls this bowels of mercy. In other words, reaching down to the guts of a person! That is how much our contemplative practice is to reach down inside of us!

Psalm 103 mentions compassion as a Godly attribute. Verse 8: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” And, Foster equates God with a loving Father in verse 13: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” But, that is not the end of compassion, Not by a long shot!

Psalm 103 highlights loving-kindness, too. I just love the rich, multi-layered Hebrew word chesed, which is variously translated, but in this situation is loving-kindness. Verse 8 mentions the Godly hallmark of “abounding in love,” or, as I translate it word-for-word (with my poor Hebrew skills) “abundant-of loving-kindness.”  

Wow! Double wow! These are two Godly adjectives that I consider so far above me, so far above my pay-grade, that I cannot wrap my head around them. Yet, Richard Foster says that we are to practice these Godly attributes on a regular basis as we pray healing prayers with each other. This is the same way I prayed with people as a hospital chaplain, for years. (By the way, you don’t have to be a “professional Christian” to do this kind of praying.)

We have moved beyond interior-gazing and are now going outside of ourselves. Yes, this is contemplation, and yes, this is action-oriented. A way to practice compassion and loving-kindness in the wild. In the world.

Join me in prayer, will you? Dear God, thank You for the two awesome adjectives about You and Your work in the world. About You and Your relationship with Your creation, Your creatures. (That includes us.) Help me – help us to step out, step forth, and practice compassion and loving-kindness. Help us use these gifts with love, with caring, with action. In the kind, compassionate name of Jesus we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), 208.

Day 5: Gratitude

December 2, 2021

Prayer and meditation mean a lot to me. I try to do one or both on a regular basis. Recovery principles also mean a lot to me. (Did you know that I have a certificate in Alcohol and Drug Addiction, certified by the state of Illinois?) Helping people in recovery and their loved ones is also important to me.

When I came to the word “Gratitude,” the first thought that came to me was the program of recovery. It is so natural for people in recovery to be grateful – grateful for sobriety, yes. That is the first and primary thing! But after that sober realization, the person’s eyes are opened and all of life opens up. Life becomes possible to live again.

Looking at “Daily Reflections,” a daily meditation book from the Alcoholics Anonymous Foundation, I was struck by the reading for March 25th – “I am grateful not only for sobriety, but for the quality of life my sobriety has brought.” [1] Gratitude is truly a blessing, where peace and contentment become a blessed possibility for grateful people. That gratitude is so often a blessing from a Higher Power.

Yes, gratitude is wonderful for anyone in the recovery program. More than that, did you realize that gratitude is helpful for anyone? So many have negative behaviors, thinking and attitudes in their lives, minds and spirits. Relapse is simply going back to a behavior, way of thinking, habit or speech that you wish to leave behind. Gratitude is a excellent tool to help prevent relapse. Gratitude promotes freedom from relapse to addictive behaviors, negative thinking, harmful habits, hurtful way of speech, or whatever it is that you want to jettison.

How can we be grateful? you may ask. A simple way to start is by writing down a list of things you are grateful for. (And, once you start, you may not be able to stop!) If a whole long list is too daunting, why don’t you try for three things? What are you grateful for, today? Write down those three things, and then tomorrow you can add three more.

Try to stop the negativity tapes that play on “repeat” in your head. Focus on those positive things, and be sure to say “thank You” to God for them. Yes, I’ve kept gratitude lists, even through dark times and difficult patches in my life. These lists can be a lifesaver.   

That is all, one gratitude at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time.

Dear Lord, gracious God, I thank You for this excellent reminder to be grateful, today. And, with today’s meditation from Daily Reflections, I pray that we all may be richly blessed from You, so blessed we will overflow with gratitude, each day. One day at a time. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Daily Reflections (Alcoholics Anonymous Foundation, United States of America: 1990), 93.

Day 4: Meditation

December 1, 2021

Chicago Botanic Garden, Japanese island, photo credit Elizabeth Jones

Do you meditate?

Many people around the world meditate on a regular basis. Many of these people come from a variety of faith traditions. That is, vast numbers of people who practice meditation come from a faith tradition other than Christianity.

I did not know much about meditation when I was growing up. (I guess there were not too many Lutherans who were in the habit of regular meditation during the 1970’s, at least in my area.) By the time I really got interested about different types of prayer – which was during the late 1980’s – I found a number of books published about meditation and contemplation. And, these books came from a variety of different faith traditions.

If no one in your family or among your friends practices meditation, it might indeed seem different.  But, is meditation any more different than certain types of prayer that are practiced in many homes of devout Catholics in the Chicago area? Or, the types of prayer practiced by Orthodox acquaintances of mine around Chicago? This is an honest, sincere question. (I really would like to understand!)   

I love the simple definition given by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “Meditation is simply the practice of stopping and looking deeply.” [1] That means to me stopping and looking deeply – with no judgment.

A snap response might be: “Oh, that is easy!” But, is it? A non-judgmental, open, interested stop, with a deep gaze – this might indeed be a challenge, whatever your faith tradition!

Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say, “With mindfulness and concentration you can direct your attention to what is there and have a deep look. You can begin to see the true nature of what is in front of you.” [2] Isn’t this a way of looking at things (and people) the way God must see them? At least, starting to see them with God’s eyes?

I have practiced the different ways of meditation and contemplation this monk suggests in this small book. Mind-opening, to say the least. I cannot meditate on a regular basis, because my mind is too wedded to the written word. (I really enjoy praying with Scripture! But, more on that, later.) However, when I do try to meditate, I receive rich rewards. God knows that this is not my preferred way of praying, and I believe God honors that, and understands.

Yes, I have meditated, a number of times. I have been refreshed! And, I deeply respect and honor Thich Nhat Hanh, and his practice of coming before the Holy. This slim, little book holds a valued place on my bookshelf devoted to books on prayer, contemplation and meditation.

Please, pray with me. Dear Holy One, thank You for many different understandings of You and how You are in the world. How You relate to individuals, as well as how You might be as different people approach You in different ways. Thank You for helping me to open myself to new experiences in prayer. Thank You especially for this little book How to Sit. Help me glean words of wisdom and ways of prayer and meditation from its pages. In Your divine Name I pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Nhat Hanh, Thich, How to Sit (Parallax Press: United States of America, 2014), 18.

[2] Ibid.