Martha Stewart does it all. She cleans, she paints (after meticulous preparation), she organizes according to season, and creates perfect parties. She is amazing; we admire her. And, if you’ve ever watched her on the telly, she uses this word: “perfect.” Looking at the televised and internet narratives, it seems an apropos term. Perfect. It’s all truly impressive.

A color coordinated crayon box is as close to perfection as I've ever gotten. A story for another time…

A color coordinated crayon box is as close to perfection as I’ve ever gotten. A story for another time…

My husband has made the point that Martha has things I don’t: years of experience in her craft, a persistent drive toward building a financial empire, and (perhaps most critically) a staff of people to do her bidding. True. (Note to self: Get staff.)

Back to our topic of meditation. I am far from perfect. You are not perfect (I hope). Martha herself is not perfect. And yet, we Believers are called to “enter in” to God’s perfect presence.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

How does this all relate? I in my imperfection am called to present myself to the Lord, trusting in the grace given me by Jesus. In the act of coming before him through meditation, I’m working out some faith. That inexact effort looks like something like this: sitting on the couch with my Bible after a restless night, I doze off. Jerking awake, there is a bit of frustration that I’m not truly ‘present’ in this effort. Read some of the same Scripture again, ask for revelation, meditate with eyes open. I get up and walk, asking for focus. Sometimes it works; sometimes not.

Another day, I’m sitting in the same place, with the same tattered Bible open. Distracted. Things to do start crowding my thoughts. Right, then. I pick up a piece of scrap paper and pen. “Milk, eggs, cocoa…” “…email to…” “…review J’s history project.” Done. I’ve tried to displace those distractions and turn again to meditate.

The scene is the next morning, back in the same place. A friend’s marriage, our finances, or a child’s distress are weighing heavily. But the God of all creation,

Who made everything I see,

Who created time and space,

Who is beyond able to do more than I can ask or imagine

is waiting there for me. And if I can set all of this down and present this person/situation/weight to Him, I am able to then offer Him my worship.

And meditate, and be changed in His presence.

Do you see? Our perfection in the practice of meditation isn’t really the point. Yes, I do what I know to do to set myself up for success in this endeavor. Meditating day in and day out, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much, provides opportunities for us to be changed, slowly, into the image of Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi

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ttronslien-Have you ever seen the play You Can’t Take it with You? There’s a romantic drama wrapped up in a conundrum and all of that, and the action takes place in a large New York City home with a wacky extended family, who are all doing their own thing while taking turns not listening to one another. It’s chaotic and fun, and I’m reminded that my kids have never seen it. (Kaufman and Hart, if you want to look up the play. Or, of course, you could see the 1938 film by Frank Capra. Same name. You’re welcome.)

This is often what life feels like. And here, whether it’s helping with school reports, trying to make a business move ahead, or making sure people are eating more than popcorn and chocolate, there’s never enough time. At least not enough time to sit, rest and breathe.

Deciding to get on this Meditation Train (if we can call it that) means determining to find a place and a time to repose. If you checked that link, you’ll see “to remain still or concealed” from the Latin for “to stop” or “to pause.” Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? “To remain still or concealed.” But in order for that to happen, we have to set aside distractions.

I heard a children’s pastor once telling kids that if a computer or television was distracting them from praying or reading Scripture, they could put a blanket over the item. I remember wondering how many adults would be bold enough to do such a silly thing. And yet, as I sit myself on the couch early each morning, I find myself wondering about email responses and Facebook messages… you get the picture. If I give in, I end up giving quality time to cat videos instead of communing with my Creator. We are truly distracted.

It is a simple thing to do, but sometimes not easy, to put aside the merely distracting, not to mention the truly important. The challenge is this: Will you and I both manage to put the laptop, the phone, the tablet, the tv away from us for a time to repose, to take in, to listen? The choice is ours.

“Help me, O God, to be a still axis in the wheel of activities that revolves around my life. Deliver me from my distractions, which are many, and lead me to a quiet place of devotion at Your feet.”

Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul

Mail AttachmentOver thirteen years ago, I found a sudden desperation to dwell deep, in a spiritual sense. We were walking through a strange crisis – living in the aftermath of 9/11 in a Muslim country. No one knew what would happen, and we hunkered down for over a week. Our email inboxes exploded, full of stressed questions and wonderings from other foreign friends. Gracious neighbors brought condolences, while offering to get us groceries and reporting rumors of happenings as we waited breathlessly for something to give.

With a newborn in the house, there were lots of late nights and early, early mornings. I could, and did, watch tv – admittedly there were a few movies I never would have seen otherwise. But there was an ache of not knowing what form the ominous, warlike specter outside would take next, and this rebuffed any such entertainment as a means of real relaxation. By day we seemed to be surrounded by others with high anxiety, and I didn’t find entering into that mess to be a healthy long-term prospect. The fatigue was overwhelming.

It was time to do something different. To find a way to enter into real peace with such chaos swirling about would take real strategy. I’d tried meditating before many times, with some measure of success for short periods. This had to be radically different, even intentional for it to really work.

This is what I plan to do, both for myself and for you reader friends: to lay out the steps identified that have helped in a personal pursuit of working out meditation as a follower of Christ. It is a practice as ancient as the hills, but relevant for today’s hectic pace. I look forward to hearing your input, as well.

“…little by little, we enter into prayer without intentionality except to consent… and consent becomes surrender … and surrender becomes total receptivity… and, as the process continues, total receptivity becomes effortless, peaceful… It is free and has nothing to attain, to get, or desire … So, no thinking, no reflection, no desire, no words, no thing … just receptivity and consent.” Thomas Keating, Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ