Experience the Holy Spirit in Contemplation | 01

AUTHOR: Holy Scripture

READ:

Read or listen to Luke 2:25–38.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
For my eyes have seen your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed—and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

 

What did Simeon and Anna have in common? How do you think their spiritual practices (prayer, fasting, etc.) affected their awareness of the Holy Spirit’s work?

The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.

FOCUS:

Read or listen to the blog. What is one thing you learned about what it means to lovingly gaze on Jesus? How can you incorporate what you learned into your daily routines? For example: I will meditate on Psalm 1 today during my run.

The Discipline of Contemplation:
How Gazing On God Helps Us Embrace Life In The Spirit

By Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

I am not the kind of person who puts stickers on her car, but if there was one that read “Go Away 2023!” I would have probably purchased it halfway through the year and gladly displayed its message through the highways and byways of Kansas City. I am generally a positive person with a “can do” attitude, but I have sincerely wondered whether that woman left in 2023  never to return. 

Alone in the Darkness?

When I arrived in KC in January last year, I was excited and eager to continue sharpening my preaching and teaching skills and gain much-needed training in shepherding the Lord’s people. But I was not counting on the emotional turmoil that followed my move to this city. I cried whenever I searched for an apartment. I missed my old job in the laboratory and longed for the conversations I used to have with my colleagues while doing experiments. I was in a new city where I knew no one. I was pastoring people with a culture much different than my own, which I struggled to understand (I still do). A sense of aloneness and loneliness overwhelmed me. Sorrow followed me everywhere, and I could never explain why. I was not sleeping well (I am still struggling). There were days I had to stay home to just weep without having to answer any questions. I remember asking God if  he had forgotten he dropped me here in KC. I was scared that the bubbly Nydiaris I knew had left never to return. It was as if someone dropped me inside a black hole where its strong gravitational pull constantly dragged me deeper into pitch-black darkness. Needless to say, I’ve been confused with lots of questions for God, longing for peace, rest, and clarity. 

Finding God Amid Old Papers

So, to say I was looking forward to going home at the end of January 2024 is an understatement. The greenery and the flowers of my hometown
which rests in the lap of El Yunque Rain Forest, fill me with joy.

Taking a stroll in the streets of the Old San Juan brings me peace.

Savoring my mom’s food is a gift to my senses. And the ocean…oh the ocean! We’ll get to that later. In preparation for my trip, I said to God, “Please, say something,” a prayer I have uttered many times in desperate moments throughout my life. 

One day I told mami that I wanted to revisit Puerto Rican history and needed to buy a book or two to read. She said, “Your old high school textbook is still around here somewhere, along with some papers you wrote in college. I read the one about the Constitution; it was really good!” Surprised, I said, “Really? Where is the book? Where are the papers? As I dug through the bin my mom kept in the closet, I found a prized possession I thought I had lost forever. 

Since I was an adolescent, I’ve had the habit of keeping a record of the things people pray over me, particularly when something strikes me and when I feel the Holy Spirit is speaking through the person praying over me. And there it was, buried in mami’s bin, a stack of papers containing a handwritten record of the things that have been prayed over me from 1998 to 2006, the year I moved to the USA.

I sat alone in my room, earnestly reading those prayers. I found that long before I could understand what God was doing, people were declaring over me that I shall be a preacher of his word and a shepherd of his people. Back then, my young mind could not fathom what God would do today. In those precious prayers, I read about powerful moments in the presence of God as the Lord’s people prayed over me. I was experiencing what it is like to be seen by the Lord and deeply loved in the space of prayer. Little did I know that praying with people would become a crucial part of my ministry. 

That day, amid those worn out, smelly, old papers, when I was least expecting it, God met me in my old bedroom. I was aware of God’s presence strengthening me and reminding me that he was the one who had called me even before I could understand what that meant. He reminded me that being a preacher and a pastor today is the answer to the prayers of his people. Finding those papers was a ray of light in the darkness, God stretching out his hand to start pulling me out of the emotional black hole where I have been. That day I beheld Jesus in my old papers. 

Finding God At The Beach

flower

A few days later I went to the beach, which is for me a place of peace and healing.

It was a beautiful sunny day on the east coast of Puerto Rico. I packed a chair, some snacks, a towel, sunscreen, a book, and headed to the beach. In the car I prayed, “God, please meet me at the beach.” I found a perfect spot under a tree, right by the shore line, and sat down to read while enjoying the lovely breeze. An hour or so later, I took a walk along the seashore, hoping that the waves caressing my feet would wash away the pain in my soul. I walked deeper into the ocean, delighted by the cool water and the sound of the waves. 

As I beheld the vast ocean in front of me with its gorgeous gradations of blues complementing the bright sky blue in the expanse above me and the crystal clear turquoise waters around me, I prayed, “God, you who made all this, you who created this vastness, you who are bigger that this, grant me the clarity you have given this water. I am confused, I need to make decisions, and I need to hear you loud and clear.” I enjoyed looking out into the great expanse and the clarity of the water as I prayed to God. Gazing at God in nature I was reminded of his incomprehensible greatness. 

I cannot say I walked out of the beach that day with clear answers, but I know God met me there. I returned to mami’s house with a renewed sense of perspective. If the One who “measured the waters in the hollow of his hand” and “marked off the heavens with the span of his hand” (Isaiah 40:12)  is my Father, then I need not fear. He will make a way. He will fight for me. That day at the beach was another ray of light in the darkness, God stretching out his hand to pull me a little further out of the emotional black hole where I have been. 

The Discipline of Contemplation and Our Life in the Spirit 

In the midst of old papers and surrounded by ocean waters in my beloved Puerto Rico, I experienced an ancient spiritual discipline known as contemplation, which is often defined as lovingly gazing at God. It is a posture of the heart, which is always bent toward God. Rather than a practice, it is a way of being in the world, where every occasion is ripe for God’s intervention and every circumstance is an opportunity for those who love him to see him more clearly, to experience him in deeper ways, and to pray without ceasing. 

This, of course, takes practice, particularly in a culture that worships at the altar of productivity and materialism, a culture bound to technology and enslaved to the clock. It takes intentionality to cultivate unhurriedness and learn to pay attention to the whisper of God in the ocean and the flowers, through a work of art and in the face of a friend. Being contemplative is an act of protest against the dictatorship of productivity and the tyranny that defines us in terms of what we do rather than who we are. Work is a gift and having high standards for our work is desirable. However, we must remember that what we do and how we do it flows out of who we are. God is concerned about forming our character because he is in the business of shaping people who believe in him, not machines. 

God rescued us from sin and darkness not only so that the lines in our spiritual EKG would change from flat lines of death to rhythmic waves of life, but also in order for us to live our newly-found life in the Holy Spirit with purpose and meaning. That was Paul’s message in Romans chapters 6–8. He wanted the church to live a life that reflected the fact that God made us righteous, adopted us into his family and made us co-heirs with Jesus of the blessings of his kingdom, gave us access to his presence in prayer, and constantly renews our minds so that we are free from the dullness of sin. 

Can you hear the apostle’s desire for us to be constantly aware of the life of God in us? It is as if he wants to jump off the page to tell us in person! The discipline of contemplation helps us do just that, namely to become and stay aware of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and the world around us. Let us not ignore his whisper while washing the dishes, tending to our children, working on a project, or taking a stroll around the city. Let us gaze on the one who is always gazing at us.   

PRAY:

Lord, grant me the desire to cultivate my attentiveness to your presence and the discipline to be consistent in prayer.

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Week 1 of 5 Contemplation

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