Personal growth, faith, prayer, contemplation, love, oneness,

Contemplation

 

Introduction 
Contemplation is the practice of spending time alone with God, in stillness and silence. The aim is to become more deeply aware of our essential oneness with him. The contemplative process works by helping us to know ourselves more deeply, so we can be completely open and honest with God. Without such openness, there can be neither intimacy, nor unity. 

Information
Throughout our lives we experience a stream of information from our bodies and minds. This flow includes sensations, thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, temptations, visions, dreams and nightmares. In the quietness of contemplation, these conscious and unconscious manifestations of the inner self continue to emerge.

Treasures
However, although these impressions may distract us, they should never be seen as intrusions into our silence. Rather, they are the raw materials through which we learn about ourselves. Only through becoming aware of these “treasures hidden in darkness” (reference below), can we know ourselves more fully, and thus be able to share ourselves more completely with God. 

A sequence of steps 
During contemplation, many of the issues emerging from our information flow will require only brief attention, whilst others may prove more challenging. It can therefore be helpful to practice using a sequence of steps for handling them.

Step 1
The most basic task during contemplation is to become aware of our sensations, thoughts and feelings as they rise into consciousness. These experiences will repeatedly distract us from a steady focus on God. However each time we realise our minds have wandered, we briefly acknowledge this before him, let the matter go, then return to the silence.

Step 2 
When we find we are unable to let an issue go, it helps to discuss it straightforwardly with God. This process generally enables us to decide on the best course of action to take. It is good to jot this decision down, so we don’t worry about forgetting it. Using this process usually makes it easier to set the issue aside until we are ready to act, later on.

Step 3
Sometimes, though, we will still be unable to let a matter go. This indicates the need to embrace and accept the unresolved concern just as it is, whilst continuing to sit with it, in silence.

Honesty 
By using these three approaches appropriately and regularly during contemplation, we gradually come face to face with many hidden (often unpalatable), truths about ourselves. This enables us to share ourselves more honestly and fully with God. Of course, God already knows everything about us, but because he delights in our freedom, he waits patiently for us to draw nearer to him. 

Oneness
However, God’s love for us is so great that he doesn’t always wait for us to complete the journey at our own pace. Instead, he runs to meet us, taking us in his arms and kissing us, as we unite in our essential oneness. After enjoying this closeness for a while, we return, a little more enlightened, to our daily lives.

Conclusion
During contemplation we use our awareness of the information emerging from our conscious and unconscious minds to share our deepest selves with God. This learning and sharing process continues until the very end of our lives. Then, still, silent and alone, we seek him for the final time, in the darkness of death. And this time, when he welcomes us, there is no need to go back, for we will remain wholly one with him, absorbed into his light, fire, peace, truth and love for all eternity.

 

References

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35; NIV).

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10; NIV). 

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

I will give you treasures hidden in darkness (Isaiah 45:3; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

The Lord must wait for you to come to him (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NIV).

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

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Your way

When there’s something 
Nagging at my mind, Lord,
May I stop to think 
What I might do,

Being clear and honest
With myself, Lord,
And sharing every part of it 
With you. 

Once we’ve talked it over
May I act, Lord, 
Sorting out my problem
In your way,  

Then, I’ll share your joy
And peace of mind, Lord,
By growing more and more like you 
Each day.

 

References 

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight (Deuteronomy 6:18; NLT).

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did (1 John 2:6; NLT).

Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21; NLT).

Peace I leave you; my peace I give you (John 14:27; NIV).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

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We can’t control our thoughts

 

Lord,

We can’t control our thoughts,
But we can be aware of them,
With you.

We can’t control our thoughts,
But we can share them straightaway
With you.

We can’t control our thoughts,
But we can share them honestly
With you.

We can’t control our thoughts,
But we can say: “I’m sorry, Lord,”
To you. 

We can’t control our thoughts, 
But we can try repeatedly –
With you. 

 

References 

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).

You perceive my thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2; NIV).

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely (Psalm 139:4; NIV).

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me (Psalm 139:1; NIV). 

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

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My mother’s death

 

Last night, my mother died peacefully in her sleep. She was 102, and had been increasingly deaf, blind, bedridden, incontinent and confused for the last few years.  

On hearing the news early this morning, my initial reaction was one of relief that she isn’t suffering any more, though it’s too early to tell what feelings I might have in the longer term about her. I’ve spent many years in therapy working on the consequences of her behaviour towards me, so hopefully that will now help me to cope with her death.

My mother was a complicated, intelligent, energetic and demanding woman. She was very controlling, dominating, angry, frustrated, and emotionally abusive. Throughout, and beyond, my childhood, her unpredictable, explosive rages were utterly terrifying. During these uncontrolled episodes she was verbally aggressive towards those present, and could be could be violent and destructive towards objects nearby.

She was also a very selfish, manipulative and egotistical woman. Despite the efforts I made as an adult to talk to her about her behaviour, and the ways in which it has affected me, she always minimised it, never acknowledging, or apologising for, all the damage she caused.

Recently, I’ve been trying to forget the bad things she did, and to remember instead the good things about my childhood. However, the positives are so few, so undependable, and so short-lived, that I quickly gave up the effort, which felt artificial and unhelpful. 

Well, none of us is perfect. We all have many faults, including me. Fortunately, I started working hard to forgive my mother several years ago, and have continued to pray for her, and try to forgive her, every day. 

Some months ago, I spoke to her privately for the last time about her behaviour, its effects, and my forgiveness. However, by then, she was incapable of replying. I’m glad, though, that I was able to be completely honest with her, after a lifetime of anxiety, fear, dread, panic attacks, depression and physical illness caused by her abuse. May she rest in peace, at last.

 

References

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4; NLT).

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34; NLT).

We have all sinned against you (Jeremiah 14:20; NLT).

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Spiritual growth

 

 

There is no spiritual growth
Unless we’re honest, Lord.

Prayer is worth nothing 
If our words aren’t true. 

Facing and sharing 
Our shadow self 
Is vital.

May we never feign
Our ideal self
With you.

 

References 

Lord, you are searching for honesty (Jeremiah 5:3; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

God, have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18:13; NLT).

You know my thoughts (Psalm 139:2; NLT).

You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25; NIV).

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Complete honesty

What joy for those […] whose lives are lived in complete honesty! (Psalm 32:2; NLT).

 

Almighty God,
You want us to be honest –

You desired our frankness
Before birth.   

Help us speak the truth in love 
To others,

So we may share the joy of Christ 
On earth.

Almighty God,
You want us to be honest –

To speak the truth to you
Both day and night.

Help us to be frank with you,
As Christ was,

So we may walk with you, Lord, 
In your light.

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References

Lord, you are searching for honesty (Jeremiah 5:3; NLT).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

Let us walk in the light of the Lord! (Isaiah 2:5; NLT).

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Painful honesty

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone (Matthew 18:15; NRSV).

So then, putting away all falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:25-6; NRSV).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1; NLT).

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Lord,

When I have to speak
With painful honesty,

Trying to do the best I can,
In love,

How folk respond
Is wholly up to them –

I can’t control
Their judgement or rejection.

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