On Words Like Contemplation, Meditation, Thanksgiving, Religion and a Few More

One of the many reasons I have decided to sail into the Vast Ocean of Words is that I would love it if we could be free again (like the Puritans, for example) to use words like contemplation, meditation, thanksgiving, religion, experience, emotion, hearing, silence, without being accused of promoting a false religion. I know, I know, context reigns, but let’s be sincere here. Many today have come to the point that the moment they see such words, they stop reading and just label the author as a terrible mystic (and there you have it,  another forbidden word: mystic)

So yes, I will be brave and I will take the risk (today and in the near future) and will use those words to say, for example:

I am a religious person who loves to contemplate God’s creation, and meditate on His Word in silence. (and no, I am not a Pantheist)I love it when I can hear God’s voice speaking to me in His Word. The whisperings of the Holy Spirit through the day reminding me of a Bible verse,  a person to pray for, or a hymn to sing.

I love to give thanks, one thousand times to my God when I see the gay colors in nature, the rainbow across the sky, my husband and children. I love that God made sex for His glory and I love the marriage bed. I am amazed that God used the allegory of marriage as his favorite to describe our union with Christ.

The experiences I have lived are real, and so are the emotions. I don’t ignore either of them, I face them, I deal with them. I bring them subject to the Word of God; I crucify those that oppose themselves against God’s Word and at the same time I cherish those that have helped me grow more in the faith.

I am not ready to give up the use of these words. They are rich and God-given to us; and maybe it is time for us to redeem them instead of censuring them by locking them up in a dark dungeon. Instead of excommunicating them from our vocabulary, we could start using them, I am sure many times those are just the right words we are looking for.

And to follow the advice of the experts in the craft of writing, let us look at some etymological definitions:

Meditation c.1200, “contemplation; devout preoccupation; devotions, prayer,” from L. meditationem (nom. meditatio), from pp. stem of meditari “to meditate, to think over, consider.”


Contemplation c.1200, “religious musing,” from O.Fr. contemplation or directly from L. contemplationem (nom. contemplatio) “act of looking at,” from contemplat-, pp. stem of contemplari “to gaze attentively, observe,” originally “to mark out a space for observation”


Thanksgiving 1530s, “the giving of thanks,” from thanks (n.) + giving. The noun thanks is attested from mid-14c., from the verb thank. In the specific sense of “public celebration acknowledging divine favors”


Religion c.1200 “conduct indicating a belief in a divine power,” from L. religionem (nom. religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” in L.L. “monastic life” (5c.); according to Cicero, derived from relegere “go through again, read again,” from re- “again” + legere “read” (see lecture). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. Meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c.1300.

Zinsser recommends in his book, On Writing Well, that one of the best ways to end a piece of writing is with a good quote, so my friends,  because I want to be a diligent student and this is my workbook, I’ll close with a few words of Spurgeon,

“There is something exceedingly improving to the mind
in a contemplation of the Divinity–
It is a subject so vast,
that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity;
so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.

Other subjects we can compass and grapple with–
in them we feel a kind of self-content,
and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.”

But when we come to this master-science,
finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth,
and that our eagle eye cannot see its height,
we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be
wise, but he is like a wild donkey’s colt; and with the
solemn exclamation–
“I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.”

No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the
mind, than thoughts of God.”

Grace upon grace,



Please, take the time to read an excellent follow up to this conversation at Tried by Fire: Disarming the Gut Reaction

Trisha also wrote some wise words about “those dirty words” here.


Update: Diane at Theology for Girls has another great  post that goes hand in hand with all these: Isn’t it Time that We Stop  Devouring One Another?

Painting by J.M.W Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1839

You still have time to enter the giveaway of Douglas Wilson’s book, Wordsmithy here.

16 thoughts on “On Words Like Contemplation, Meditation, Thanksgiving, Religion and a Few More

  1. Dear Becky,

    What a rich post, my dear friend, and so freeing to the intellect and a word lover's sensibilities!

    “To the pure, all things are pure…”
    -Titus 1:15

    Your logic is clear. If we stop using particular words because of the defilement of man, we've made ourselves slaves to the one whom we obey.

    Thank you, sister.


  2. This is so close to my heart! I'm glad that you have such an effective way to point out the things that God reveals in such edifying loving ways! I still have a long way to go, but by all means, let “us to redeem them instead of censuring them by locking them up in a dark dungeon. Instead of excommunicating them from our vocabulary, we could start using them, I am sure many times those are just the right words we are looking for.” Let's put aside our knee-jerk gut reactions and embrace faith fully! Much love!


  3. Just read this and thought it was worth sharing.


    “Brief life is here our portion,
    Brief sorrow, short-lived care:
    The life that knows no ending,
    The tearless life, is there.
    There, glory yet unheard of
    Shall shed abroad its ray,
    Resolving all enigmas—
    An endless Sabbath-day.”—Bernard

    “Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.” —1 Cor. 13:12.


  4. Wise words, and I heartily agree with all the women who posted above. We all have a responsibility to read, study and make wise choices in our reading materials, and what we promote on our blogs as well. I have been guilty of bad reactions over certain words as well. I pray the Lord gives me patience when dealing with others, and also the discernment to know when what I am reading leads to error. I also pray that we all bear with each other as we go along. None of us learns with the same pace, and may we all approach each other with the Grace of Christ and also with the truth in love. Wonderful thoughts Becky!


  5. Becky — this is a really fabulous post. You really hit the nail on the head. I concur with everyone's statements. The bottom line for all of us is that we measure it all against the one True standard — the Word of God. Hold it all in light of Truth! Cleave to what is good and reject what is false! The eternal Word of God IS our heritage! Bravo dear sister!


  6. great post. I love the addition of the original definitions – particularly thanksgiving as public celebration. But the “religion” definition is sobering – particularly considering the recent You-tube flap over that word.

    And I love Zinsser's book. My editor made me read that book on my first job!

    Thanks again for the lovely reminders


  7. I too have a negative reaction to those words. In modern times they no normally convey ideas that are at odds with the Word of God, sadly. We have a Websters Dictionary from the 1800s in our home and it's so neat to look up the words and see how different the meanings are in such a short time! And amazingly, in many of the definitions Bible verses are cited as references.

    I think the idea of reclaiming these words is wonderful and noble. However, I will probably still approach them with much caution and discernment just because of their current uses. 🙂


  8. Dear Persis,

    Me too, me too, I have had that natural reaction against these words before, but as I have just said, I think it is because of the love for words and The Word, that we can redeem these words and use them wisely; never abusing them and always in agreement with what the Word of God says.

    My point here is that lately it seems that we, particularly those of us who have a profound zeal for sound doctrine, are “over-reacting” to these kind of words.

    Is just like those few other words that I also marked in italics: gay, rainbow, sex, marriage bed, these words have been abused, many have used them to to advance an open war against Christianity; but are we to dismiss them? Just because they are “dirty” words in some setting are we going to ban them? No, we want to redeem them.

    I love your input here, my friend. And I am grateful for a friend like you who loves God and the Scriptures, and encourages me to walk in the Way of the Lord.


  9. I admit to having a negative gut reaction to some of these words. 🙂 But probably a great deal of my discomfort is the misuse and redefinition of words – such as contemplation and meditation which should involve thinking whereas now it means turning one's mind off.

    I heartily agree with you that these words and others need to be reclaimed.


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