Spiritual toolbox part 5: Lectio Divina meditation

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Lectio Divina

What is it?
The first time I heard about Lectio Divina was two years ago on a silent retreat. I read this book by Anselm Gruen: ‘Bronnen van spiritualiteit’ (sources of spirituality) which handled the topic of this ancient Benedictine meditation practice.

Daily life in a Benedictine monastery consisted of three elements: liturgical prayer, manual labor and Lectio Divina: a quiet prayerful reading of the Bible. This slow and thoughtful reading of Scripture, and the ensuing pondering of its meaning, is their meditation. This spiritual practice is called “divine reading”, “sacred reading”, or lectio divina

Lectio Divina has been likened to “Feasting on the Word.” The four parts are

  1. first taking a bite (Lectio),
  2. then chewing on it (Meditatio).
  3. next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (Oratio).
  4. finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (Contemplatio).

What do you need?

  • the decision to take some time out of your day every day, for example 20 to 30 minutes.
  • a candle, an image or an icon of Christ or a Bible to look at
  • a dedicated space to sit down comfortably
  • a passage from the Bible
  • pen and paper

How to do it?
Preparation

  • Sit somewhere comfortable (like on a pillow) and breathe slowly.
  • Close your eyes or keep them open. Do whatever gives you the least distraction.
  • Be silent.
  • Be present to God/Jesus and focused on Him alone. If you experience thoughts, imagine throwing them in a stream of water and letting them float along.
  • Accept all your present emotions: stress, restlessness… They are present. Accept them and they will lessen.
  • Greet God, thank Him that He loves you. Open your heart to Him. Trust that He wants to be with you too.

Meditation


Lectio (reading)

  • Read a small passage from the Bible out loud.

Meditatio (reflection)

  • Start pondering a word (or a few words) from the text that particularly speaks to you. Chew and re-chew it so that it can do something to you. It is more important that the word is doing something to us than that we do something to the word. Let the word sink into your heart.

Oratio (response)

  • Every time you are distracted, you speak the word in order to let it bring you back into silence. Then be silent. Be focused on Him, be present in the moment, you don’t have to do anything. Let your heart speak to God.

Contemplatio (rest)

  • Let go of your own ideas and plans. And you can go deeper: let go of your holy words and thoughts. Simply rest in the Word of God. Listen at the deepest level to God who speaks within you with a still, small voice.

Conclusion
Conclude with a simple prayer of thanksgiving, greeting or signing yourself with a cross: in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Of course all of this takes practice. I personally find it really hard to take the very first step to find the rest to actually sit down and be quiet. I often feel a fear of failure or an urge to be busy. I ask God to help me with this and to grow in intimacy with Him despite my own thoughts and feelings.

What are your experiences in Christian meditation? Please feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter.

Sources:

  1. wikipedia.org
  2. ‘Nieuwe wegen, oude bronnen’ by Victor van Heusden (‘New paths, old sources)
  3. United Church of Christ

Can we design our own lives?

Today, as I was lolling about, being sprawled all over the couch, I started pondering the progress of my goals for 2010, but one recurring question kept lingering in my head:

Can we design our own lives?

Judging by my previous blogs, you’d say: Yes.

However healthy it seems to me to set goals, make new year’s resolutions, plot charts and generally try harder at everything and be ambitious, there’s a flipside to that coin of control. Not to dash any of your hopes up front– on the contrary — but we all have to face the fact that not everything is makeable by our own hands and brains.

  • Here’s an inspiring quote from one of my favorite authors: Henri J.M. Nouwen, I want to share with you:

Enough Light for the Next Step

Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, “How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now?” There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.

Henri J.M. Nouwen -Bread for the Journey

I just love how this spiritual teacher conveys his wisdom to us: the picture of us carrying tiny little lights for our paths is just wonderful. So if we just take life moment by moment, step by step, we could get to great lengths while being happy and peaceful at the same time. Moreover, light also brings joy and love to our little spheres of influence, blessing others with it as well.

  • Another one of my inspirators Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits explained on the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast of the 14th of January that he’s abandoning setting goals altogether, and is just going with the flow, doing everyday what he loves best.

Isn’t his advice very similar to Nouwen’s in a way? Just go from moment to moment, being fully aware and present in every one of them. If you daily do what excites you and inspires you, not looking too far into the future, you’ll live a simple and happy life and inspire and encourage others at the same time.

But is it really that simple?

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.

You can plan all you want, but in the end there’s a power greater than us Who decides which plans are being fulfilled.

Just enjoy the ride, plan, but remember to go with the flow.

6 Ultimate lists of 2009

Yes people, it’s that time of the year again! Lists time. Hurray! 🙂

Today I took some time off to write my review of the year 2009 and I thought it would be fun to make a few lists, to remind myself of the fun I had last year and to inspire you to read and listen to:

Here we go:

Top 12 of the best christian books I read in 2009:

  1. The New International Version of the Bible
  2. Henri Nouwen – The way of the Heart (audiobook)
  3. Pete Greig – Red Moon Rising
  4. Pete Greig – 24/7 Prayer Manual
  5. Adrian Verbree – Est (Dutch)
  6. Henri Nouwen – Gebeden uit de stilte (Dutch translation of: Cry for Mercy)
  7. Jos Douma –  Geworteld leven (Dutch)
  8. C.S. Lewis – the Screwtape Letters
  9. C.S. Lewis – Surprised by joy (audiobook)
  10. Francine Rivers – a Lineage of Grace
  11. Jos Douma- Jezus aanbidden
  12. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek – Ik heb te weinig geloof om een atheist te zijn (Dutch translation of: I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist)

Top 10 of the best mainstream books I read in 2009:

  1. David Allen – Making it all Work
  2. Leo Babauta – Zen to Done (e-book)
  3. David Allen – Getting Things Done (the art of stress-free productivity) (audiobook)
  4. Lisette Kreischer en Merel van der Lande – Veggie in Pumps (Dutch) (about an ecofabulous lifestyle)
  5. Migon Fogarty – Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty tips for better Writing
  6. Dirkje van den Nulft en Marianne Verhallen – In de weer met woorden (Dutch)
  7. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz – The Power of Full Engagement (audiobook)
  8. Rita Emmett – the Procrastinator’s Handbook (audiobook)
  9. Jodi Picoult – my Sister’s Keeper
  10. Corinne Gouget – Wat zit er in uw eten? (over E-nummers)

Top 7 of the best blogs I read in 2009:

  1. Zen Habits – Leo Babauta (about productivity, simplicity, habit change, living a balanced life)
  2. 6 Changes – Leo Babauta (about habit change)
  3. Ccgforum’s Weblog – Wim Gelderblom (Dutch) (about complementary medicine)
  4. Weblog Jos Douma (Dutch) (a pastor’s blog)
  5. Live, Love & Believe – Remmelt Meijer (Dutch)
  6. Cute Overload (about cute animals)
  7. Spotted by Locals – London cityblog by locals

Top 6 of the most promising blogs I subscribed to (not read them yet) in 2009, but that I’d like to read in 2010:

  1. Write to Done – Leo Babauta (about blog writing)
  2. Unclutterer: Daily tips on how to organize your home and office.
  3. mnmlist.com – Leo Babauta (about minimalism)
  4. Lifehacking (about tips and tricks to make your life easier)
  5. ProBlogger Blog Tips – The Blog (about blog writing)
  6. Copyblogger (about blog writing)

Top 10 of the best podcasts I listened to in 2009:
(Go to www.itunes.com (or www.itunes.com/nl) and download your free copy of the iTunes store and subscribe to all the podcasts you like for free)

  1. Daily Audio Bible (going through the Bible in a year)
  2. Breakfast with father Roderick (talk show)
  3. HTB Sunday talks (from the holy Trinity Brompton church London)
  4. Christian audio podcast morning and evening with CH Spurgeon (devotional)
  5. GTD virtual study group
  6. Grammar Girl’s quick and dirty tips for better writing
  7. @Context (interview series about people using GTD)
  8. the Catholics next door (talk show)
  9. the Biggest Loser fan podcast (talk show inspired by the Biggest Loser television series, about weight loss, inspiration and motivation, pursuing a balanced life, even if you don’t want to lose weight)
  10. Prayer from the Taize community

Top 10 of the best music I listened to in 2009:

  1. family force five – dance or die
  2. fighting instinct – Back to you
  3. Sela – Live in Utrecht
  4. Gotee hits album
  5. Gotee acoustic album
  6. Trinity – Cada Dia
  7. Salvador – Aware
  8. Sela – Gloria
  9. Taize music
  10. Fee – we shine

Have fun checking them out.

I have a few questions for you:

  1. what is your favorite book of 2009?
  2. what is your favorite music of 2009?
  3. did you read any blogs or listen to any podcasts in 2009? Do you have any tips?

And do let me know if you checked out some of the tips I gave: books, blogs, podcasts or music.

I’d love to know your take on it!

Best wishes for 2010!!