Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

Waiting In Silence

January 11, 2017

For God alone, my soul waits in silence. — Psalm 62:1 and 62:5

Two things are difficult–waiting and silence.

Try doing them at the same time. It’s enough to drive the modern person to drink.

Hermann Hesse was called the first modern writer. His characters might have lived alone, but they needed noise. For example, the first thing the main character of Steppenwolf did when he entered his apartment was turn on the radio. He needed noise as a distraction.

Imagine Hesse writing today. Constant distraction. Does that smart phone ever leave your hand? Some people wear their Apple Watch or FitBit to bed. I wonder if the alerts wake them constantly.

We end a Yoga class lying on our backs on our mats in meditation usually called “Final Relaxation.” I’ve been teaching for years. I’ve seen many people who can settle into deep relaxation for those six precious minutes. Others fidget so much I fear they will wear out their mats.

A psychologist instructed a patient to go home, find a quiet place where he could be alone, and just spend an hour a day quietly by himself.

At the next session, the psychologist asked how it went. “Oh, I played around with my violin some. Picked up a book and read.”

“No,” the psychologist said, “I want you to sit quietly by yourself. Doing nothing. Not planning tomorrow. Just waiting quietly.” The man could not bear to be with himself. No wonder the family couldn’t bear to be with him either.


How will you hear God’s whispers or feel his nudges if you are noisy, distracted, and busy? 

Your soul needs to be fed. It likes silently waiting for God.

Lonely or Alone – There Is A Big Difference

October 6, 2016

Here I am again in this mean old town
And you’re so far away from me
And where are you when the sun goes down
You’re so far away from me

So far away from me
So far I just can’t see
So far away from me
You’re so far away from me

–Dire Straits

Have you ever felt lonely? Not just a fleetingĀ  sense of being alone, maybe on a trip. But really lonely. The kind you feel in your gut. The kind that just settles into your bones like a cold drizzle in the late fall.

I imagine that it is a rare human who has never felt that. But it could just be me.

David put it in a Psalm (22)–kind of a prayer wrapped in a song. Jesus quoted this song just before he died.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

It doesn’t have to end there. I’ve been reading lately in some books on personal psychology. Studies are showing that you need to somehow, slowly begin to make decisions. Decide to go out, for example. Talk to the local barista. Someone.

David didn’t end with that deep feeling. He remembered what God had set before him. The promises that God would fulfill if David kept his end. He wrote later (23)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

We sense the presence of God. We release the feelings of loneliness.

Paradoxically, we sense the presence of God often by being alone. Remember how Jesus often withdrew from the group to go off to a lonely spot to be alone with his Father? When we go off to be alone with the Father in prayer or meditation, it actually works to bring us out of that shell of loneliness. We can also then go out and meet people.

The Practice of Silence

September 12, 2016

I knew a guy who talked incessantly. Nice guy. He taught me many thing when I was younger.

At some point early in his adult life, he joined an order and entered a monastery. It was one of those orders where the key discipline is silence. “Can you imagine me, silent?” he would often ask with a smile.

James offers advice in his letter about the virtue and discipline of silence from the view of how much trouble you tongue can cause. When someone approaches and says “Let me speak the truth”, how often do you have that feeling of dismay?

Yes, often it is far better to maintain silence rather than say something.

There is another type of silence.

In Job we read, “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone wrong.”

Again in Job, we read, “If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom.”

There is a silence that pairs nicely with waiting. If we could but be silent and wait for the Lord to speak to us, then we could hear and grow in wisdom.

That is a silence that comes in prayer when we finish talking and then sit and listen quietly for the whisper of God. That part, for me, is the best part. If only I did it three times daily like Daniel!

I love when the writer draws a picture. Imagine this (from Psalm 131), “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”

What a delightful picture of rest and contentment.

In silence we grow in wisdom and quiet our busy minds.

Nobody’s Right If Everybody’s Wrong

August 31, 2016

Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong. –Buffalo Springfield

Phone rang. It was a soccer referee I had assigned to a match. It was 20 minutes before kickoff.

“Gary, I have a problem, they don’t want to give me the check for the game. I’m just going to pack up and go home.”

Then while I’m still on the phone listening, he proceeds to argue with people at the game. He is angry. They are angry. I’m sitting there 35 miles away, listening, thinking this is all just so much nonsense. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.

It’s the first week plus a day of the soccer season. This is the fourth one of these conflicts I’ve dealt with. Almost no complaints about on-field work. Referees are “shooting themselves in the foot” before the game even begins.

In Ayurveda, there is a concept called pitta. It is the mind body type of the element of fire. Environments can be pitta, as well. Our temperatures in western Ohio this summer have been around or over 90 deg F constantly. It is again today. Heat provokes emotions–anger. And we are getting it.

I am, by the way, a pitta mind-body type. I’ve spent a life calming and cooling down. Now I try to be the calming influence. The Zen Master is what people called me at one job.

And I thought that we have so much of this in our world right now. Heat. Emotion. Anger. Hatred. The whole world needs a cooling and calming.

Where Buffalo Springfield sang, “Stop children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

I would answer, “Stop children, let’s calm down, everybody breathe and slow it down.”

How do we hear God’s voice and leading if we’re too busy shouting?

Take a deep breath, hold, release, “Ahhh.” Don’t you feel better?

A Change Of Scenery

August 17, 2016



Sometimes a change of scenery is just what you need. This is looking over Green Bay from my lodge in Door County, Wisconsin. I grew up where there was no water. No stream. The lake was 20 miles away. A little stream we called a river was 7 or 8 miles away. When you’re a kid on a bicycle, that is a long way.

It’s 6 am and no one is out save the crows. Last night’s thunderstorm cleared the air and left a little mist rising from the woods.

I seldom read the Psalms. Don’t know why. I like poetry–even published some a long time ago.

But you get the feeling like David must have. In the still of the morning or evening after one of his high-tension days, he sat and meditated looking over the landscape. And his thoughts focused on God.

He thought about his needs and worries. Then he thought about God’s graciousness. How if you just trust God, it’ll work out somehow.

And whatever will be good for the soul.

I have projects piling up. Need to wrap up about three of them before Labor Day.

But for today. It’s just you and me, God. Right?

Be Filled With the Fullness of God

August 2, 2016

I will be looking at Ephesians for a few weeks with a small group. We used to pride ourselves on how long we took going through a book. Now, they seem to rush through. The leader covered two chapters of rather dense thinking Sunday. I had to hold things up.

Yesterday I talked about unity in Chapter 2. Let’s look at Paul’s prayer for the people in Chapter 3 (14-20).

It’s a short prayer.

He says he bows his knees before the Father.

When I began to practice meditation a long time ago, we all thought you had to sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees and one finger and thumb brought together in a circle to complete the energy loop.

Nonsense. Lying flat on your back is an excellent posture. Sitting–any kind of sitting other than slouching in a soft chair or sofa–is an excellent posture. You can do cross-legged on a prayer cushion, a favorite chair, a park bench. Standing and walking are also excellent postures. Some people raise their hands. I feel ostentatious doing that. But that’s just me. I don’t like big displays.

…so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul introduces himself and his topic and then takes time out to pray. His prayer contains three petitions:

  • “that you may be strengthened in your inner being”
  • “that Christ may dwell in your hearts”
  • “so that you may be filled with the fullness of God”

Can you take a hint?

Envision what sort of person Paul wishes for us to be.

When Paul said “hearts”, that is the English translation into a term used by modern English-speaking people. Ancient peoples believed the seat of deep emotion came from deep within our gut.

Paul had just pleaded for unity in the church. Breaking down barriers between people. Then he prays (and repeats three times) that we have God filling us with power–I’m betting he’s thinking (using one of his favorite phrases) so that we can achieve that unity, break down those walls.

Are We Really What We Think We Are?

February 19, 2016

Sometimes in our head we say that we do certain things regularly. Then we wake up and see–No we aren’t.

I like to think that I have meditated regularly over the past 45 years or more. But…there are times where life gets hectic and I don’t take the 15 minutes to slow down. I study the Bible regularly…except when I’m traveling and things are hectic and I don’t find 15 minutes to sit and read.

How many things do we tell ourselves that we do or are, but in reality we’re nowhere close to that?

Are we just kidding ourselves? Or trying to deceive ourselves?

The rich young man came to Jesus and said, in so many words, “I’m perfect.” And Jesus seeing into the heart said, “Oh, no, you’re not. Here is somewhere you fall short.” And the man couldn’t do it.

Or take poor Peter. He told Jesus he’d follow him anywhere, any time. Jesus said oh, no, even just tonight you will deny you ever knew me.

Yet, Peter went on to be a great leader. The young man with no name went away sorrowfully.

Maybe it’s not so much that we deceive ourselves. It’s when we get a realization–maybe someone says something about us and we think “What????”–and it’s what we do with that realization.

We start to set aside 15 minutes a day. We help the next person we see who needs help. We bite our tongue and refuse to say that mean thought that popped into our brain.

It’s the same with us as leaders. We think we’re including everyone. We think we have a vision and direction. We think we give clear instructions.

Except when we don’t.

It is not what we have done but what we do when we come to awareness that counts.

Lent For Non-Lent People

February 10, 2016

Today begins the season that we call Lent. The season traditionally calls for sacrifice, introspection, and focus on God.

I grew up in a family and church that did not really call for much difference after perhaps an Ash Wednesday service. I have a virtual friend, Jon Swanson who writes a very good blog called 300 Words a Day and wrote Lent for Non-Lent People. He comes up with very good questions to ponder during Lent.

Lent points us toward Easter. Christmas gets huge society play as non-christians also celebrate with gift giving, food, and parties.

Easter gets less society play–although the “Easter Bunny” and candy are popular sales items in stores.

Do you give up things for Lent? As a Methodist in a Lutheran town (if you’re from a city you wouldn’t understand, but if you are also from a village, well), we sort of made fun of, or at least chuckled about, what the Lutherans gave up for Lent. I’ll never forget the guy who gave up watermelon. You couldn’t buy a watermelon in February if you wanted it in those days! Then last week I heard about another guy who is giving up watermelon.

That, of course, is not taking the season of life seriously.

I have another friend who gives up his daily can of beer, fried foods, and desserts. He’s in his 80s. He wonders why he feels so good physically during that time and loses up to 15 lbs. (All of which he replaces on Easter Sunday!)

Right now, I’m at a conference. I’m usually very busy during these things, but this year seems to be crazy. Monday I was up at 3 am to catch a 6 am flight from an airport 90 minutes away. I arrived at the site at 11:30 and immediately began meetings which included dinner. Back at my room at 11 pm. Tuesday keynote sessions and meetings non-stop all day. Back at my room at, er, 11 pm. Today, 7 am breakfast meeting, maybe a little break to catch up on writing this morning, and meetings all day.

How do I find 15 minutes to remember God? To ask what he wants of me today? To ask him to help people I know and people I don’t. It recently dawned on me that I could also ask him to help me. No, I can’t do it all alone.

How about you? Have you found time to be alone with God, his word, his companionship? Maybe Lent gives you a good excuse to start.

Preparation Forms The Spiritual Life

February 4, 2016

Teenagers watch their favorite athlete. They try to mimic his or her style. They fail miserably at becoming a top athlete.


They didn’t mimic what they didn’t see–the work ethic of the top athletes. They practice and work out and eat right as a way of life.

Unless…they are like “Johnny Football.” The curse from my dad was to make me a Cleveland Browns fan. Although I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the NFL, the curse lingers. And the geniuses drafted a known problem child but thought about bringing excitement to the town.

This is a kid who had one good year in college. Came to the pros as a cocky kid imitating the swagger of some top pros. Except–he forgot about the work ethic. And there is a lot of work that goes into being a top pro player.

Dallas Willard used the first example in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines as a metaphor for the life with Jesus.

We ask “What Would Jesus Do?” thinking about acting like he acted in public.

Do you ever think about Jesus’ preparation. He knew the Scriptures thoroughly. We know from a snippet of a story from when he was 12 and was studying with the great teachers at the Temple.

He studied, memorized, thought about the Scriptures. He could quote and interpret flawlessly.

We know his practice was to go off alone and pray.

Jesus put in the hard work of living a life of preparation in order to “be a pro.”

If we want to be like him, it’s not just asking what he’d do in a situation. Or wearing sandals and growing a beard. Or acting like we know it all.

There is the hard work of constant study. Reading and thinking about the scriptures. Praying, meditating, contemplation as we grow into a deeper relationship with God and our knowledge and wisdom increase.

That work need not be joyless. But it needs to become a way of life. Then we are ready to act like Jesus because it is just a natural part of our lives.

It’s easy to coast. But the fruits that come from a spiritual life only come to those who are prepared.

Prepare To Meet Thy God

November 3, 2015

I was driving some back country roads this evening on my way to dinner. Passed by a small country church with a sign about as big as the church. “Prepare To Meet Thy God” it proclaimed.

Do you also get the feeling that that comment is an in-your-face remark? The picture of a black-bearded, black-suited, black string bow-tie wearing, finger waving, American country preacher springs to mind?

Maybe I get that image because I know so many people that way. It may be a caricature. But unfortunately, the phrase just strikes me that way.

Many of those “bumper-sticker” phrases do. There is something impersonal about them. It’s like shouting at someone. Not like conversing with someone.

Maybe that is my problem. This should be personal–not something shouted out.

I remember meeting God. It was personal. And life-changing. In the quiet of meditation, the experience was unmistakable. Then again in celebration time during an Emmaus Walk. And other times.

Preparing to meet your God–THE God–takes a life of getting ready. There was study so that I knew what was real. There was prayer. There were the disciplines of meditation and contemplation. There was an openness toward and expectation of the reality of God.

Like Paul, I hesitate to write things such as this. It is not boasting, which Paul abhorred. It is merely witnessing. Pointing to a reality that exists no matter what materialists say. No, it is not delusion as much modern psychology maintains. If they would prepare….

I don’t like in-your-face evangelizing. I am praying right now that God would lead someone into my life to disciple. Personally. Not just shouting slogans, but really preparing to meet our God.