Embracing the Scriptures

IMG_0821Lectio Divina is a spiritual practice that I have found helpful to connect with scripture. “Lectio Divina” is literally Latin for “reading divinely.” Lectio, as it is often called, is an ancient practice of reading and praying the Bible. It is a practice that assumes God’s Holy Spirit inspires the Scriptures and that the Holy Spirit also desires to speak to us today through the scriptures. One aspect of practicing Lectio that I have always appreciated is that one doesn’t need to be a Biblical scholar to do Lectio, its simply reading scripture and inviting God to speak to us through the word.

While the practice of Lectio Divina can be varied in length, I find that it is most helpful to give myself enough time so as not to feel rushed in the process, often 20- 30 minutes is a good amount of time when first starting out. If you haven’t practiced Lectio before, here are a few steps to guide you through the process.

1. “Lectio”= Reading

Find a passage to read. It can be any passage in the Bible, but some are easier to read and contemplate than others. If you are just starting out, the Psalms provide ample supply of scripture, as do Jesus’ words in the Gospels. I would recommend something in length from 1 verse to 10 verses.

Once you find your passage, spend some time reading it. Read it over several times, even out loud to yourself, if that is helpful to you. As you are reading, you may notice a phrase popping out to you in your mind or heart. Keep reading; chew the words over in your soul.

2. “Meditatio”= Meditation/Focus/Thinking

In this step you may still be reading a bit, but you are beginning to allow yourself to really ask questions about this scripture. What do the words mean to me? How do these words relate to me? What was being said here originally? What would it be like for me to be in this scene (if appropriate)? Take time to really focus and think on the words, especially any words that “jumped” out to you during the initial readings of the passage.

3. “Oratio”= Talking to God/Praying.

When you have spent some time meditating or you have exhausted the questions you could ask of the passage or of yourself in relation to the passage, move on to asking God about the passage. Like Jacob in Genesis 32, this is where we wrestle with God. Ask God what needs to be revealed to you at this time. This time of “wrestling” is filled with asking and listening; alternate between questioning and listening.

4. “Contemplatio”= Contemplation.

This is sometimes the hardest phase. We seek to be quiet and let God’s wisdom and love takes us over. Try not to allow yourself to think about the distractions that come into your mind, but rather let them simply dissolve. Just sit there. Let God speak to you in the silence. Don’t pretend to speak for God. Just sit there and be silent. If you need something to focus on, just focus on your breathing.

There is no defined end “result” of Lectio Divina. Lectio is done to spend “quality time” with God. The result over time is a deepened relationship with God and a dependence on upon the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit, as we read the words in scripture, we pray that you will open our ears, nudge our hearts, and move us in your direction for us. May we always hear your voice, and follow God’s great plan for us. Amen.

Silence Please!

Jeremy and I went to a spa a few weeks ago, the kind where silence is imposed in hopes of encouraging rest and relaxation.  We were excited to embrace the experience that was ahead, anticipating the benefits that would lie ahead both for our bodies and our minds.  We braced ourselves to go from hot to cold and back again, encouraging our bodies to relax and be refreshed. It was quiet, and beautiful, and oh so good for the soul.

As we sat in the hot tub, warm soothing water swirling all around us, we noticed voices carrying over the hum of the jets that were gently massaging our backs.  Jeremy gently shushed them.  And it worked.  For a while. And then we began to notice more people chatting, some in whispers, others in normal volume voices, ignoring the “NO Talking” signs.

Soon we decided not to fight against those who were talking, as it was several people who were doing it.  After all,  the staff at the spa didn’t do anything to control the noise.  Although silence was integral to the experience (signs were everywhere encouraging silence), people didn’t know how to do it.

There are many reasons for avoiding silence. It seems that our contemporary society is uncomfortable with silence, and longs to avoid it.  We fill it with music, incessant talking, the radio or even the TV just to avoid being alone with our thoughts.  Perhaps we don’t know the value of silence, and haven’t had the opportunity to practice it in the context of our lives.

But, my friends, maybe silence is something that we need to lean into. No matter how awkward uncomfortable it is, no matter how odd we feel practicing it.  Because there is value in practicing silence, particularly in our noisy, busy, overstimulating world.  Silence is where we are truly able to hear God’s voice, the gentle whispers that speak directly to our hearts in ways that no audible words ever can.

In the last several years, I have taken to spending a bit of time in silence each time I do a daily office (more on that another time!).  At first, the two minutes of silence before I started felt interminably long.  I kept checking my timer, to make sure it was still counting down the seconds (sure enough it was!).  But much to my surprise, after practicing two minutes of silence for a while, it came much easier.  I worked my way up, tentatively attempting three minutes, then four!  These minutes of silence, are an invaluable time for me, to still my mind, calm my heart, and listen only to my Fathers voice.

In scripture, we read about Elijah who also had this experience.  He was seeking to hear from God, and yet, was not able to in the midst of all that was going around him.  It was only in a still small whisper that he could hear the voice of God.

This week, I want to encourage you to make some space for silence.  If this is your first time, you might want to try a few minutes.  If you wish to challenge yourself, go ahead and try for more!  Make sure you set a timer so you don’t need to feel like  you have to check the clock, and sit somewhere comfortable.  During your time of silence, don’t pressure yourself to think of anything specific.  Perhaps you might experience something significant, but perhaps not, and that is totally fine.  The main goal is that you are calming your spirit and opening yourself up to hear God’s voice.

 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lordwas not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”     1 Kings 19:11-13 (NLT)