Congratulations! You’ve successfully entered the season for making long treks. The US Department of Transportation states that “travel to a destination 50 miles or more away increases by 54% over Thanksgiving weekend.” Obviously, there are faster and slower ways of getting where we want to go. We’re kind of obsessed with fast, and, unfortunately, that obsession leaks into how we walk with Christ.
So far this month, we’ve processed Psalm 107 using a redemptive lens and a systematic lens. Next up is a contemplative reading. If the idea is newer to you like it is to me, no big deal: let’s take our time. You’ll need a quiet space with no distractions and three different versions of the Bible. You might use your phone or computer unless you have a variety of hard copies at your fingertips.
Google defines contemplative as “expressing or involving prolonged thought” or “involving deep silent prayer or religious meditation.” Sound a little different than what you’re used to? Me too because, hey, I’m not a monk.
But we are repeatedly and emphatically called to dwell on what God says. Our fast-paced culture of constant noise and information has launched a war against the thoughtful Christian life, boiling down our relationship with the Creator to a fifteen-minute devotional if we’re lucky. As Mandy Smith asks, “Quiet time? How are we supposed to get close to God in an age when we rarely have quiet and never have time?”
The contemplative method is reflective, restful, and deliberate. Feel free to journal through this exercise as you go. You’ll need to leave behind your agenda (to hurry up so we can move on and get stuff accomplished already) and worries (What if I screw this up? Will I hear anything? Did I leave the oven on?) and discomfort (brought on by a more intellectual leaning when reading Scripture). It’s okay—you’re okay—God’s got this. Take a deep breath and play Mary rather than Martha for a while at the feet of Jesus.*
When you’re ready, open with a brief prayer. Ask God to meet you here in this place.
Read the chapter in your first translation slowly, paying attention to which couple of words or phrases stick out to you. Savor them, letting them settle into your heart. You might turn them into a prayer.
Using a different version, read it again. This time, welcome God to show you who He reveals Himself to be in the passage.
Read it one last time in the third translation. Where does this text touch your own life experience? What is personally meaningful to you? Let the Spirit bring to mind whatever He thinks necessary.
Wrap up by asking the Lord, “From today’s reading, what are You inviting me to be?” Rest in silence and listen for His voice.
I know this process takes a while. I know. But with the frantic chaos of getting places and gathering ingredients and making sure everything is taken care of (all while Back Friday ads loom at the edges of our gratitude-centered festivities), a contemplative reading of a psalm of thanksgiving might just be God’s gift to your overwhelmed heart. Receive it. Work it into your yearly rhythm just like your grandmother’s pumpkin pie and your uncle’s crazy stories. This slow-paced praise feast might be the best addition to the Thanksgiving menu ever.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
*For the last two weeks, I included my answers to help you along. But I have full confidence that if you let the Spirit move during this time, you won’t need much prompting. (It’s been my experience that when God is given the microphone in my heart, I have a much harder time getting Him to stop talking than to start talking.) Don’t try to get “the right answers” here. Every adventurer is at a different point in this grand story, and we’re all exactly where we’re meant to be right now because God is good and sovereign.