Using a form of Lectio Divina for personal meditation

This is a very brief “cheat sheet” on using lectio divina in times of personal solitude with God.

Summary
Be alone. Prepare your heart and mind. Then:

  1. Read – Out loud? Repeat.
  2. Reflect – Think it over. What stands out?
  3. Respond – Speak to God.
  4. Receive – Let go and listen.

Jesus often withdrew to be alone and pray. I find that in praying it is easy to speak but difficult to listen. Using lectio divina as a way to structure prayer time with scripture is helpful in getting started with personal times of solitude and silence in prayer that help to preserve our attachment as branches to the vine.

More details for each step are below.

Preparing
Find a relatively quiet place where you can be alone and undisturbed. Make yourself comfortable, but not so comfortable that avoiding sleep is difficult. (If you fall asleep, don’t fret. Just resume where you left off.) Pick a passage of scripture that you will read, like Psalm 1. Or you could choose a parable or a natural section of the narrative in the books of Moses. Clear your thoughts. Some people find it helpful to focus on one special word, like “Jesus”. Others focus on their own breathing. The idea is to empty oneself of thoughts and concerns in order to be filled with the presence of Jesus. Ask Jesus for his presence.

Read
Read the passage to yourself at least three times. Or listen to the passage on an audio device.

Reflect
Reflect on what you read, asking God to draw your attention to the one word or phrase or idea from the passage that he wants you to focus on. What word or phrase stood out to you? Let this come easily, like air bubbling up to the top of a glass. Remember this word or phrase.

Respond
Ask God about that word or phrase. Or tell him what you are thinking about it. Bring to God whatever is on your mind or heart.

Receive
Stop praying your own words or thoughts to God in order to listen and receive. Focus for a moment on the word you chose earlier. Then, let go and listen in silence. If your mind wanders, focus on that word or phrase again. Make note of what comes to you. You may receive a clear impression of what God wants to say to you, or simply a peaceful resting time with God, or an emotion. Be open to whatever God brings to you. Close by expressing the idea to God: “Let it be with me just as you say.” If there is something specific that you believe you should do in response, be sure and follow up.

Time
It is possible to work through these steps in just minutes. Longer, less hurried time is beneficial. Some find spending even an hour or more in preparation is very helpful. Centering prayer is a possible approach to this kind of preparation.

My purpose? To help people pay attention to God and respond appropriately.

Other Resources
For a longer time or restreat, check out an approach to personal spiritual retreat.
Check check this article  on using lectio divina in groups.
Check this site for some additional resources for centering prayer and lectio divina.

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On a Shopping List, Somewhere

A commercial came on during the Winter Olympics. Johnny Weir tried to get hair gel from an empty dispenser. He said to his Google home mini, “Hey Google, put hair gel on my shopping list”. The Google home mini on TV answered him appropriately.

My Google home mini, sitting in front of the TV, spoke up and said, “I’ve added hair gel to your shopping list.”

I said, “Hey Google take hair gel off my shopping list, that was the TV.”

Google home mini said, “I can’t remove items from your shopping list. You’ll have to go to the Google home app and remove it there.”

I said, “Hey Google, you are listening to the TV. Stop it!”

Google home mini said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do that yet.”

I told Susie what happened; she had just returned to the room from somewhere. She said, I guess you’ll have to buy hair gel. I didn’t think you used hair gel…

I got my phone and looked at the Google Home app. I found my shopping list (of which I was previously unaware) to remove hair gel. There was nothing on my shopping list.

Ergo, somewhere in the cloud, Johnny Weir has a shopping list with probably about 28 million units of hair gel on it.

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Notes from the Other Side – Jane Kenyon

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

Jane Kenyon
Notes from the Other Side

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Alan Jacobs’ “The Politics of Long Joy”

Alan Jacobs has re-cycled an excellent essay he wrote ten years ago as a column for the late lamented Books & Culture. He found what he had to say then particularly apropos to the present day. I don’t recall reading it 10 years ago, so maybe I missed that early edition of Books & Culture; but I’m very glad Jacobs decided to reprint this essay on his blog. Give it a read here.

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Advent Calendars

I’m writing this on November 25. There is just enough time to get an Advent calendar to use for yourself or with your children to work your way through the Christmas season with daily reminders of what it means to us as followers of Jesus.

For children, the idea these days is that you get a “calendar” that is actually a picture of some sort with little doors that you open one per day on the 25 days leading up to Christmas day. If you choose a Christian Advent calendar, there will be something behind each door that takes you through the Christmas story leading up to Jesus’ birth. Our two youngest grandchildren are into Snoopy this year, so I ordered the Peanuts Calendar from Amazon. There are two Peanuts Advent calendars. One is completely secular and the other (the one I ordered) tells the story of Jesus’ birth in a way that may remind children of the original Peanuts Christmas special.

There are many other Advent Calendars available. ChristianBook.com has many, for example.

I recommend Wikipedia for a bit more in-depth explanation of Advent Calendars.

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Asking the Wrong Question: Can a person come to God through general revelation?

Often, theologians divide revelation into general and special, and mean by “general” what can be known of God through nature. By “special” they essentially mean biblical revelation or at least the explicit gospel. So the question comes down to “can a person turn to trust God through general revelation”?

I think that’s exactly the wrong question. Biblically, no one turns to Jesus unless God draws them through either general or special revelation (by these definitions). This is the beginning of the Calvinist idea no one comes to God on their own. In Calvin’s understanding, God chooses some to be saved and draws them irresistibly to Jesus (or himself). No one turns to God on their own. Quakers agree that no one turns to God on their own, but believe that God draws all people to his son (or himself) at some time or times in their lives. This draw is resistible; humans must choose to trust God as he draws them. If they believe and trust Him, they are saved by grace.

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. That’s the biblical idea. So, instead of phrasing the question into whether or not general revelation can be sufficient in the absence of special revelation, we would say that general revelation is never enough for anything beyond making people “without excuse” (as Paul says in Romans 1) and that God reveals himself and one’s need for Him to each human being on one or more “days of visitation” in which he makes it clear that we are insufficient in ourselves and that he is calling us to trust Him for purpose and direction in our lives at some level of understanding appropriate for the context. Then, we submit to him or we do not. Salvation begins when we submit to Him and trust Him as He reveals Himself to us. The explicit gospel is powerful and intended by God to be used in drawing many to Himself, of course. It is his will that we know it and spread it. But like Abraham, we must respond with belief to a time when God makes himself known to us. That can take place in the absence of anything but a human in the world and God reaching out to that human. It often takes place in the spiritual realm when the gospel is presented through apparently human means.

Further, no one is saved on the strength of their own reasoning through the words of scripture or logical argument. Rather, God speaks to a person, perhaps while he or she is reading scripture (actually, very often while
they are reading scripture – at least where it is available!) It is God speaking that is both necessary and sufficient to produce a context in which a human being can say “yes” in belief and it be credited to that human being as righteousness (or right relationship with God), and that human being be “saved”. It is God that must be present, gracious, and active, and nothing less.

See John 6:44 (No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them) in addition to the many instances of Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. To be justified is to be in right relationship with God. That is the issue. Are we in right relationship to God? God initiates the relationship. We hear him, change our thinking (repent) to trust and to agree with what he says, or we do not. God calls us to trust, enables us to trust, and empowers us to believe and change without overpowering our will. Once we have moved in trust, he calls us to move some more – again and again, toward maturity, for the rest of our natural lives. It is God’s plan that this takes place in and through serving Him and representing Him in Christian community. We are a part of a body – not the body by ourselves.

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Love is the Hardest Lesson in Christianity

Love is the hardest lesson in Christianity; but, for that reason, it should be most our care to learn it.

—William Penn

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Growth and Asking Questions

I heard Jeffrey Greenman, President of Regent College say, in a talk on ethics:

You grow in the direction of what you ask questions about.

My corollary: It’s when I think I’ve got it figured out that I stop asking questions. Life is a good corrective to such an attitude. God isn’t complacent about our complacency.

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Trustworthiness

Quoting Miroslav Volf:

We are in a major crisis of legitimacy and trust. No better time to renew commitment to trustworthiness, as individuals and communities.

Well said.

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American Health Care, or lack thereof, and cost

Here are the raw numbers we have to account for in our failed health care system.

Highlights.

We spend more PUBLIC money on healthcare than comparable countries with national health care systems. When you add the private money in, we spend enormously more money on health care than countries with national health care systems. I mean really enormously more!

Ask regular people with national health care if they like it. They will gripe about it. Every system has limitations.

Ask regular people with national health care if they would trade it for the American system. They would not.

Rich people should be able to use their resources to get the health care they want. Regular people need something a whole lot more like national health care in these other countries than what we have now.

If we were reasonable, we could spend less than now and get better care and cover everyone. Less GDP than now, and less GDP than France – who is already less than us. The numbers are clear. They are not complicated. They are enormously unfavorable to us and our system. They are unfavorable for any system currently under serious consideration in Washington. It is a scandalous failure of our politics and society.

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