Seminary Update – Fall 2011

This update is coming a little late, but I wanted to make good on my promise to share some of my coursework from last semester. What follows is an excerpt from a “reflection journal” I wrote for my Vocation and Spiritual Formation class. These journals chronicled our experiences with the various spiritual disciplines we explored throughout the semester.

My view from the picnic table where I wrote my reflection

Last week, I took advantage of Omaha’s beautiful weather and followed this exercise outlined in Calhoun’s section on Meditation:

Take a walk in nature, meditating on the handiwork of God. The lilies of the field and the birds of the air spoke to Jesus of God’s care (Matthew 6:26-31). How does God speak to you in his creation?

I split my time between two days: on Monday before and during a run with a friend, and on Friday during a distance run.

On Monday, I spent some time in the park where I was to be meeting my friend. I’m especially fond of this park for its large trees that almost completely cover the ground with leaves during autumn, so I made a point of coming early and sitting in solitude and meditation for a while.

I silently observed my surroundings and wrote the following in my journal:

Trees, grass, bushes, and all plants are sustained by things unseen. Light, air, moisture seeping into roots…when a tree is rooted in good soil, it is able to survive the harshness of a storm, the cold of winter, and the dry heat of summer. It does not seek shelter or sustenance elsewhere when the going gets tough. It is firmly planted, and, because of intangible, unseen provision, full of life.

In the same manner, I pray that I will be firmly planted in Christ. I have buried my roots of faith in good soil, and I will rely fully on the Lord’s provision. He is all I need. Amen.

It wasn’t long after I wrote these words that my friend arrived and we went for our run. About halfway through the run we stopped, rather spontaneously, and prayed for each other. I cannot help but think that this was somehow shaped by my meditation experience from earlier – that by spending time in prayer with God, I was attuned to the spiritual needs of a close friend.

On Friday afternoon, I went for a run at another park, this time listening to one of my favorite bands on an mp3 player. All the right variables were in place – the weather was wonderful, it was the perfect time of day (about an hour before the sun started to set), and I left my stopwatch at home so I wouldn’t be distracted by my fitness goals. On this run, I was nearly overwhelmed by God – the music in my ears, the beauty of nature in my sight, and the joy of running itself were all offered back to God as an act of worship. As I ran, I found my mind returning to the excerpt from the Heidelberg Confession of Faith found in Calhoun’s section on Meditation: “I belong, body and soul, in life and death, not to myself, but to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ…”

Since I started running about a year and a half ago, I’ve found that some of my most meaningful prayer experiences occurred on runs when I was intentional about opening myself to God. Being able to incorporate this into my coursework (and more importantly, into my spiritual development) has been a blessing.

In my next update, I will be sharing my thanks to those who supported me last semester and my prayer concerns for the future. I’m excited for the spring semester to begin!

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