Meditation As The Foundation Of My Spiritual Walk: Part 1

There is no better time than Easter to learn and practice this ancient foundational art! I want to share this part of my life with you because it is key, life changing, and the basis of any and all good in me.  Silent meditation or hearing God speak to me, is how I accomplish all the activity in my life and do it well.  I have to speak up about this.  No other activity can take place of my blessed dependence on God alone in a silent room.  I speak because many of you have asked me to speak honestly about “how I do what I do.”  If I don’t share this with you, then I am taking the credit that God deserves.

When did meditation become real for me?  Sixteen years ago, I moved to Cambodia with high dreams of attaining much in helping others and starting a life of adventure.  I kinda figured that the spiritual walk would come easy for me (naive, I know!).  I assumed since I was doing a good work for God, that He would bless me with a dynamic filling of Him each day.  Little did I know that being far from my spiritual mentors, church of any sorts, Christians, and a Biblical culture would drain my spirituality to. . well. . ZERO.

It didn’t take long till I felt empty inside, far from God, facing temptation, unhappy, hot, culture shock, and going through the motions.  I spent the next 5 years learning to deal with this by participating in Bible studies and attending church in another language.  Still, I can tell you that hearing God’s voice was occasional at best.  I was doing good but not feeling filled.  This changed when I learned to pray.  Through reading about prayer, I was led to meditation, dwelling in God’s love and acceptance, and being filled by BEING with Him.  Here are the questions I began to ask. . .

“Why don’t Christians talk about meditation?”

 “Is meditation in the Bible?”

“Does meditation have an important part of my life?”

I have sought the answers for myself and want to share some conclusions with you.

I began contemplating the beginning.  At Creation, before any religion was conceived, there was meditation.  God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. A beautiful scene walking hand in hand with the Maker who created relationships for Himself.  In this garden all provisions are met, not a tear until separation began.  Then there was Enoch who walked with God and then just disappeared. Wow. I have sat and thought about this example and the fact that the Bible kind of stops here a sec and allows us to see how this one man stands out.  He learned to listen to an unseen God.  I began to see that Meditation is us being restored to our original true place as God’s creation being blessedly dependent on the God of all.  Our quiet waiting on the Maker to be made one with Him and learn to dialogue and walk hand in hand again.

Secondly, I came to realize that meditation is explained throughout the Bible but the words are often overlooked.  Phrases such as presence of God, waiting on God, listening to God, being still, etc.  When I began to see these examples throughout the Bible, I realized that this is meditation.  I began thinking about the lives of the saints who came before us and how they meditated.  Moses was on that mountain for 40 days.  I contemplated what those days looked like.  I had to realize that he was not catching up on Facebook or watching Netflix:)

Third, Psalms is a book of meditation and I began looking at this book as my guide.  As I’ve read about God’s sovereignty in Psalms, I’ve come to realize that all creation waits on God (Ps. 104:27).  If we were like the animals with no free will, we too would be with him day and night like the rest of His creation. Darn it free will!  It’s always messing with me! I’ll share a few amazing life-changing examples from Psalms in part 2.

Lastly, there are many people who have practiced meditation, listening to God, waiting on God and have written about it.  “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence Andrew Murray has many resources about meditation my favorite being “Waiting on God.”  After reading these and many other stories, I realized that it was foundational for me to hear from God in meditation.

meditation

What Is Meditation?

This is my personal definition of meditation:

Meditation is an act of faith in my absolute need and absolute guidance from God, in harmony with God.  Meditation is unity displayed by God, Jesus, and His Holy Spirit in me. Perfect harmony found from inside of me and not dependent on my outside world.  Found in quiet moments set aside for His purpose.”

Meditation is not depending on articles, books, sermons, as my MAIN source of hearing from God but getting quiet with Him and expecting Him to speak to little Ole me.

beautiful sunset

How Do I Meditate?

  1. I set aside my best time of the day for Him.  I began this journey by pleading with God for His help and the filling of the Holy Spirit to meditate.  I want Him to teach me.  I know He will give me however much of Him I desire so I am clear to begin by telling Him that I want all of Him.  I ask His help because I am incapable being that I am human and have the craziest wandering mind ever! I pray that He would take away anything in my life that comes between Him and me.  These are dangerous prayers and I don’t regret it a bit.  Although, I will tell you that prayers like this will change your life.
  2. After a time of worship and focusing on the trinity and each of their glorious roles, I open my Bible to Psalms.  This book is filled with meditation and reflections from meditation.  I’m not going to say where you should start but God will tell you as He did for me.  I began seeing the Psalms as meditation and prayer to guide my thoughts.
  3.  At times, I clear my schedule and mind for as many days as I can allow at a time (usually 1, this is still a journey for me too).  I spend time repenting. I remind myself that there are Godly saints around this world who fast and pray for days.  Many of them.  I live in an epidemic of noisy religion instead of a peaceful one that depends on God for all things.  Among the saints this is considered a disease, I repent and am free.  I’ve realized that my culture is a part of me and the sins of my culture are also in me. I recognize that I am often lukewarm in my pursuits towards God.  I ask for God’s help to find true religion: loving God and loving others. I am incapable of the second command until I figure out meditation first.  It is in my waiting on God that I find love and the ability to love.
  4. I expect to hear from God.  I agree to not move until I do. I know that God, being sovereign, is in control of my day and staying with Him is never a waste of time.  I remind myself that many people around the world are joining me.  They may live in Syria, China, or America but they are my brothers and sisters dependent on Him.
  5. I know that my mind is weak and keeping my thoughts fixed on Him for long periods of time is hard, takes practice, but is doable.  If you find your mind wandering off, just gently bring it back to focusing on Him.  I will take a break and sing a few songs, read a few passages, then continue again.

There is so much more to share and I feel words don’t explain half of it.  If this spoke to you, continue to follow the next 2 parts of this series as I work at putting to words something so mysterious to me.

Please feel free to share comments including your own experience.  If you would like to share these 3 posts, please let me know.  Thank you!

Next: How my life changed with meditation and how your life can change too.

 

 

 

Pain and Poverty Have The Same Smile

Women smile. People assume we’re happy. Living in Southeast Asia, the “Land of Smiles” has taught me an unforgettable lesson. A smile doesn’t show what is in the heart. How do I know?

I mastered the art of fake smiles.  I smiled at you when I was in my deepest pit of depression overwhelmed by the cloud of hopelessness that surrounded me.  I smiled at you at the same moment of suffering a panic attack while feeling a swelling pit of fear convincing me my life was over.

Why did I smile?  Why didn’t I tell you?  Because I was your cheerleader.  I was the one to brighten your day.  You looked to me as your leader, encourager, mentor.

I wanted you to think that I was strong.  If I hide my weaknesses, maybe I would be strong.

I’m a Christian, if you see me weak you will think I deserve it because of some sin. Maybe I shouldn’t be leading others. I didn’t want you to doubt me.

My thoughts feel out of control.  Am I out of control? I mustn’t let you see.

Can I be beautiful and weak at the same time?  I want you to think I’m pretty.  Do you see the swollen eyes, my emaciated body, my thinning hair or did I hide it well?

You think I’m strong, independent and I don’t want to change that image of me.

You have always depended on me calling me your role model, teacher, mother, wife.

If you saw the pain, you’d have questions. But I’m sorry friend, I don’t know why I’m depressed or anxious.

From this lack of vulnerability on my part I learned, she’s not sharing with me either.

Your looking at a 23-year-old women. She is illiterate, been abused her whole life, averages 2 meals a day on a good day, she desired to end her life.

We’re friends now.

This picture was the first day I met her. I’m glad I learned the “unforgettable lesson.” When I see this smile, I look for pain. After an hour of prodding, the tears fall. What’s inside seeps out. Healing begins.

Don’t mistake a smile for happiness. Practice looking deeper.

How can you tell if a friend is hurting inside and faking that smile or is honestly happy?

Vulnerability can seem unthinkable but without it we are just a lonely shell.

Are you being vulnerable with your weaknesses?

“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” Rick Warren


Dig deeper with your friends and family today.  I am so glad so many choose to do so with me.

 

I Chose Faith Over Fear To Accomplish My Purpose In Life

I’m facing fear and contemplating its use in my life.  We’ve chosen a life that exists 6 hours from a hospital,  reliable health center, and airport in a 3rd world countryside.  Why did we choose this life?  We have a calling and this is where we belong. But, alongside us are our 4 children.  These children were brought into our world.  We made this choice and it never really bothered us much until last month.

A situation came up where we needed a little medical help at a late hour.  Thank goodness the medical emergency was not for our children but for our puppy who was in great pain.  The first stop was at the vet at 11:30 that night.  It was closed and I knocked on the door until the vet’s wife and his 2 small children met me.  She explained that the vet was out-of-town and they had no medications to help me.  Next stop was a private clinic.  They were open but no-one was inside except for a couple of patients on their beds by the door.  We hollered but no one answered.  We even looked behind the counter for medicines to help treat the dog thinking we would leave the money at the counter but couldn’t find anything.  Therefore, we headed to the last place that would have medicine which was the county health center.  Lights were on but again no-one responded. We knocked on all the doors and finally a very tired looking man stepped out.  We explained our situation and he handed us 2 syringes but said he had no medicines on hand.  We returned home and our puppy died that night.

As my husband and I returned to bed, we laid in silence.  I knew we were thinking the same thing but neither of us wanted to say it.  Finally getting much-needed sleep that night, we returned to our busy schedules but our house was quiet for the next few days. We didn’t feel like talking.  Finally, Marc broke the silence and said it “what if that was one of our children?”

Isolation and fear gripped both of us.  I was reminded that fear is not just a feeling.  It permeates deep like vice grips on the chest refusing to pass on.  Darkness creeped over my thoughts in a way that leaves me feeling vulnerable, isolated, and helpless and often dangles on.

That’s what fear does, it grips and stays beyond my desire.  Many people choose to numb it, ignore it, or knee jerk reaction towards a false feeling of safety.  I’ve been tempted to go down these paths too.  But not this time.  I’ve faced fear enough to know its best to take the ride and wait it out.

I’ve chosen to accept fear and believe that I can use this feeling for good.  I realize what fear can do for me and my purpose in life.  It can derail me or I can use it to strengthen me.  Therefore, I sit and remain calm, patient, and pray for clarity and wisdom.  It’s in the silence that I decided fear can do these 4 things:

Fear can motivate a realistic strategy and warning for the future.

Since our puppy incident, we decided to make solid plans.  Gathering the phone numbers of Khmer friends who could come be with our kids in an emergency.  Gather the passports and money in a safe easy to access location.  Assure that the kids know what to do in an emergency and that we have on hand what we need for emergency treatment.  These step come from a realization of our vulnerability.

cool callie nepal
Callie trekking the Annapurna’s in Nepal.

The feeling of fear helps us realize how tangible and alive our faith is.

It constantly reminds us of our lack of control.  No matter how much we are tempted to put a safety net around those we love, we all realize at sometime or another that we have little control of other human beings.  Whether in the safest box or life in the jungles, life has risks.  Therefore, I choose faith.  Faith acknowledges my vulnerability in light of a sovereign loving Father whose watchful eye never looses track of me; of us.  Just as He has given me purpose, He will do so for my family as well.  It’s beautiful, its good, not pain-free, maybe pain-full but never alone!

Malachi water cold
Malachi the “baby” when the water is too cold!

Fear quiets the soul.

Fear often fills me with desire to be quiet and alone.  It reminds me that everyday is a wonderful gift.  I can live and experience life to the fullest each day not knowing what tomorrow holds.  It’s important for me to accept and face fear so that I can remain in a place where others benefit from my gifts and skills.  Again, I never know how many days I’ll have to give to the people around me today.  So, I choose to live it all.

brooke and locust
My bravest Brooke!  She overcomes fear at a young age.

Overcoming Fear = Freedom.

Without fear, I would never know the beautiful upbeat dance of joy mingled with freedom.  That’s when we can live the abundant life to our potential, God’s potential.  This is the lightweight life with few burdens on my back.  Therefore, fear can come and go and  I will choose the path leading to everything I hoped to accomplish in life with my husband and children by my side.

 

Friends, Your Silence Is The Greatest Sign Of Love

I’m awkward with silence.  You know the 7 minute rule followed by the “natural” pause in conversations.  I’ve always tried to fill that natural pause with something.  For the first time, I wasn’t able to fill the pause.  Its like my brain couldn’t pull anything out.  Therefore, many times friends and I sat in quiet.  What I came to realize was that this silence was calming, reassuring as those friends chose to stay not because of fun, hyper, entertaining, and funny Ann but because of love, loyalty.

Then I realized that was God at this time in my life.  His silence angered me.  It brought fear to me.  It was uncomfortable.  It was what I needed but not what I wanted from Him.  I didn’t value silence.  Not until silence brought healing.  An amazing thing happened during my bout with depression and anxiety. Out of desperation, I choose a week to spend most of each day in silence.  I took a blanket and bottle of water into a banana grove and sat and waited. My motive was to hear God speak.  You know, one of those shining bright light moments that sweep away the negative feelings I felt.  But no memorable conversation or revelation came.  But, for the first time in months, I was calm.  I slept.  I couldn’t figure out why.  I now realize that my brain was healing in the quiet.

But, I felt quiet was not an option.  I had dreams to fulfill, good ones and 4 kids to take care of.  I couldn’t sit any longer.  I didn’t realize that quiet would help me accomplish those dreams.  So I tried to press on, fight, ignore, push aside, which probably extended my healing process.

Then there was family who listened to me for hours.  Friends who sat with me quietly.  A husband who held me in silence.  Thank you for knowing that advice was not what I needed but your peace, love, acceptance, patience, kindness, and loyalty; that’s what I needed.  From you and from God.

Here is a poem for my friends, Creator, and family who remained by my side (I know my brothers are probably rolling their eyes, stop it!). (Taken from lyrics “Dreams” by Cranberries.)

All our lives are changing everyday in every possible way.

All of our dreams are never quite as they seem.

It’s come over me before, but now the feeling is growing even more.

Because it came from you.

Then my eyes are open to see the person fallen here is me.

A different way to be.

We want more, its impossible to ignore.

They will come true, impossible not to do.

And now I’ll say it openly, You have my heart so don’t hurt me.

You’re what I couldn’t find.  An amazing mind, understanding, kind.

You’re everything to me.

Oh, our lives are changing everyday.  Every possible way.

All of my dreams are never quite as it seems.

Cause you’re a dream to me.

“Do to others what you’d have them do to you.” Jesus

How has this lesson changed me?

The younger me would often sit and pretend to listen to others but my mind was elsewhere most often on what I wanted to say next.  I was quick to throw out advice, a verse of correction, a twinge of judgement.

Nowadays, I feel little reason to use my mouth.  I believe all people are in the process of change.  Love and acceptance flow from me in my thoughts towards others.  I can take in others experience and perspective without a sense of judgement, arrogance, as if I know better.  I’m free from feeling as if I have to change anybody but me.  God’s job, not mine.  I can sit quietly and love.

Nowadays, I continue accomplishing my dreams.  A friend recently shared with me a wise example she had read in a book.  It said that life is like parallel train tracks and we are the train.  One track is sorrow and the other is joy.  We are constantly moving forward on one track or the other.  Often switching back and forth unexpectedly.

I guess what I’m saying is – accomplish your dreams.  There is nothing in your way except you.  Whichever track you’re on right now, carry on.  You never know when a switchback might lie ahead.

To see all 4 articles I’ve written about my battle with depression, click here:

My Personal Battle With Depression

Comments, shares, responses, criticisms always welcome!

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