Wednesday, January 26, 2011

God in the Yard :: Contemplation

I expected to be willingly led through the set of spiritual exercises outlined in this book, and instead I find myself challenging what I read.

Today the author suggests we look for God everywhere: in open sky and soaring bird; in barking dog and rusting fence. That perhaps it's okay if sometimes we don't start our search with Scripture and prayer. I believe this week's exercise directs me to stop, to wait on the Lord, to be still and see what happens. But I receive this with suspicion.

It's too easy.

At first blush, this sounds to me like an excuse for those who call themselves too busy, due to their pursuit of the American way. For the more I have buried myself in the Bible over the past four months, the more urgently I have sensed a need to pursue God--even to the point of excluding everyday life. If I were to just sit, with no agenda, how would that move me forward in my knowledge of God? Might I be wasting time?

My strong negative reaction startles me into realizing this is either a point on which I disagree, or a chance for me to listen to exactly what God does want to show me through the exercise of contemplation. After all, that is the goal of this experience.

I think, for me, putting God's word in my heart rises above all other priorities, because I believe it will change me and move me to the proper action.

Prayer, the presenting of my petitions before my advocate, follows closely behind.

But what about listening? Where does that fit in to the refining of my soul? What if I spend all my time reading the Bible and congratulating myself on my progress through the story? How about my sessions of throwing words at the throne, filling all the available space until I run out of time?

It's too easy to lose sight of the true goal.

When I spend all my time on me, do-ing, much of the transformative power of Scripture and prayer gets lost. Similar to not "setting" the hook when a fish nibbles at the bait. Or carefully preparing the soil of my garden, then neglecting to water it.

Which may or may not be something I do in real, physical, actual life, with my real-life backyard garden, after my husband builds me a greenhouse to protect the plants through the Texas winter. Shh.

Contemplation, then, must be as important a spiritual practice as reading God's word and prayer. Grudgingly I acknowledge this might complete a trinity of most-essential practices.

The Apostle James (who I may or may not avoid reading regularly due to the challenging nature of his words) addresses the importance of listening, and being changed by it:

If you just listen [to God's message] and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law--the law that sets you free--and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:23-25 NLT

More than anything, I want to be changed by looking steadily into God's law. I don't know about you, but I remember best by taking notes, then going back and considering.

After wrestling with this idea and realizing its importance, I eagerly reach for more time to be alone and contemplate. To allow my Maker to water the garden of my heart.

And I sense small shoots beginning to emerge from the formerly dry, cracked soil. And it feels good.


  1. Krista. :) It is good for us to challenge what we read, to wrestle before we embrace (and sometimes to refuse the embrace). And I love how you do it.

    In all the time I spent outside, I experienced things that opened me. I became so full I started another blog just for prayer and devotion. I wonder if there are seasons to these things. I've been a Christian for a long, long time, and read the bible through 5 times completely (and many more partially), and spoken on it for 8 years, and, and, and...

    And so much of it is in there turning around, following, comforting, admonishing. Sitting outdoors could never oust the Scripture from my life and heart. Nor would I want it to. And as you say... God had something else planned that perhaps was a chance for me to step back and stop trying to control my experience with God. Well, that is how it went after all.

    Anyway, now I ramble. But I still love how you wrestle. :)

  2. I think contemplation and being still is a lost art. I think in our society, we equate it with being either lazy or unproductive. We're always encouraged to "do great things" for God, but rarely are we encouraged to "be" for God. We literally have to give ourselves permission to be a Mary, and sit at the feet of Jesus, instead of Martha "busy about a lot of things". I believe that the path you are on will lead to a much richer relationship and intimacy with the Lord. From that, the "great things" will flow.


  3. Yeah, I'm not big on James, either.

    Somehow I've found my yard time, my sitting-not-doing-just-being time has been in a sense what it must have been like to walk with Him in the garden. It's also softened/opened my heart to see new things in His word.

    Glad to be on this journey with you.


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