Technology and the way we are consuming information is resculpting our brains. It’s slicing and dicing our attention span.
In an article by writer Philip Yancey in the Washington Post called The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul, this prolific author was confessing an internal pull to skim, to jump from article to article, and to read short little ditties instead of immerse himself between the covers of longer books.
I’m recognizing this same shift. I have the bizarre tendency to go from amazing quote to amazing quote on instagram and skim like I’m trying to make a satisfying meal out of a light buffet of petit fours. I have a sugar rush and the slight dizziness to prove it.
This is where the slow feast of lectio divina comes in as a gift for reversing this trend. It can be an awkward practice at first, sitting with a scripture not packaged in a tweet. We’re used to immediate emotional connectivity, someone curating a quote that has the potential to go viral. We’re accustomed to the jolt, the effortless “aha” moment. If we’re not careful, we will be building our summer home in the shallows.
In lectio divina we learn to pause, to linger, to listen. We learn to invite the guest home. Then, the guest turns host breaks open the bread and we grow silent in wonder as we realize how much we’ve missed Him.
Action step: watch this Lectio Divina video for Philippians 4:11-13. Allow yourself to experience the awkwardness of silence. Stay present.
(These days I’m writing over on Instagram and Facebook a 31 Day Detox for the Tech-Weary Soul. Join me there? Subscribe to get the entire thing nicely packaged and tied with a bow, figuratively of course.)
(Links to Days 1-3 of our 31 Day Detox for the Tech-Weary Soul are located at the bottom of this post.)
I grasped the three foot Easter Vigil candle and pulled it from its stand at the fire pit. It was Saturday night and about forty of us stood in a circle by the rustic outdoor chapel. For twenty-four hours the lights had been dimmed in the Cathedral. Good Friday we had all left the cavernous darkness of the nave in silence. Tonight was Easter Vigil. The alleluias had returned. The light was rekindled.
I held up the candle and led the way to the cathedral stumbling over a newly laid mulch path and carried the light back into the sanctuary. I dipped the flame under low branches. Parishioners sang behind me struggling to keep tempo as they stretched out along the path.
I resettled the massive white pillar candle into its brass stand in the cathedral nave. As the flame flickered, light glinted over the silver and brass around the altar. Settling back into pews we listened to the overarching stories which had led directly to the open tomb:
*The kindling of light in creation and then the Fall
*Isaac’s near sacrifice and the provision of the ram
*The Red Sea, the near defeat and the miraculous pathway
The children got antsy. Xavier fell asleep on his daddy’s lap but I this is one of my favorite services of the church year and I knew the journey would be worth the wait. We touched down in one story of God’s provision after another. Each story built to a crescendo with the resurrection.
It was while listening to Genesis 2 that I heard one of the verses emphasized. God had come ready for a slow amble through the garden in the cool of the evening. I expect that it was their pattern. Work during the day: name and garden and build. And then another type of naming at night, simple gratitude: “Look, Adam, feel the leathery skin on this pomegranate.” Then, watch this hummingbird. Taste this seed. Smell the rosemary after you rub it between your fingers. I imagine they shared that day’s “best of” list as they walked. I imagine that walking shoulder to shoulder amplified their delight.
But it was his mournful tone over Adam’s hiding that surprised me: “Adam, where are you?” I marked the weightiness of the words. I heard them again, this time personalized: “Summer, where are you?” It was not shame, though I recognized genuine disappointment. It was a reflection of God’s longing.
I wondered how often God comes in search for me. I wondered how often I am hiding deep in distraction. I wondered how often I miss the call for a slow amble down the path.
Here are today’s 31 Day detox questions for us:
When does the distraction of my phone create a wall of separation from God?
When is it a pathway toward Him?
What would it be like to bring the light of Christ’s Presence with us as we walk into our daily technology amble? What would it be like to invite God into social media with us?
*Hi friends, we’re exploring how quiet the inner bully of our phones and make it an ally.*
Lectio divina is an ancient practice dating back to the 500’s which is a companion to Bible study. It’s a doorway to prayer, a landscaped path to relationship. Every Tuesday we listen to a gospel reading looking for bread, but not just any bread, The Bread. We’re hungry to connect not just to a new aha moment, an momentary intellectual high, but to Jesus Himself.
Lectio divina is a slow walk home to the Beloved where we lean in close to listen to His heart. I wonder what you will hear today? (If you desire more companionship on the journey, a free Intro to Lectio Divina video, and a private facebook group, join the Slow Word Movement by subscribing on the right.)
Ever sense you can already feel the spray from an impending circumstance, like Peter overwhelmed by that coming wave?
Anticipation becomes worry. The worry deepens.
You stand on the water and watch the swells and can’t help but calculate the time for the massive roll to reach you. You try your darndest to push it back down into your subconscious to strong arm your day but that nauseous feeling has a way of rising back up unbidden.
Maybe it’s a credit card bill that’s looming, a deadline, a yearly procedure, the prospect of connecting with a family member that always leaves you cradling a tangled mass of emotions.
Maybe your wave is way simpler: morning. Maybe just waking up and punching in and going through the motions leaves you drained and apprehensive.
Get still. Take a couple deep breaths and then ask yourself: what am I anxious about?
When you have the answer, enter into the story of Peter walking on the water as if you are Peter.
Hear Jesus in front of you inviting you out onto the rough sea. Hear his voice saying, “Come.” Take that first step out of the boat. Linger with Jesus for a moment and enjoy His company. You have just heard him say: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” How do you feel when you’re with Him? Stay there a moment. Then feel the water just under your feet, flooding your sandals, the fierce wind pulling at your hair, playing with your clothing. Feel the spray of the water. See the wave coming, and then be present with Christ with your wave.
What happens next, Dear One?
Join me in a short 11 minute lectio divina on Matthew 14:26-31a
It’s no secret. I need quiet like I need water. Perhaps we all do. Have you read this article yet? Our brains require ample amounts of silence in order to rebuild the brain cells stolen by noise and stress.
Because who can truly hear in the middle of all this crushing noise?
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). (By the way, this is the first verse of the SLOW Word lectio divina included below.)
This afternoon I chatted with another homeschool mama in the corner of a kitchen as kids in costumes ran from one room to another playing hide and seek. We whispered about the need for quiet as if we were divulging a secret then we giggled at the extremes we go to guard our hours alone. But if this article or my (everyday!) experience are any indication, needing silence is just as essential to our mental and emotional health as our computer’s reboot button is to its continued functioning. And really, should we be surprised? My husband asks me the same question every time my computer seizes up: “When was the last time you rebooted?”
So, friends, it’s time to make a plan for rebooting our internal computer. It’s been necessary for women (and men!) throughout time. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna (1669-1742), used to take her long apron and place it over her head to signal the need for calm. Madeleine L’Engle’s children would recognize her irritability as a need for silence long before she ever did and beg her to take off to her writing tower at Crosswicks. Other women have written about their struggle to create spaces of silence. The introvert in me always smiles when I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem The Art of Disappearing.
In the early 1950’s Anne Morrow Lindbergh penned A Gift from the Sea about the wrestle between motherhood and the need for quiet: “I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote these words before the hundreds of channels on the tv, the portable XBox, or the black hole of the interwebs.
Into the age-old conversation I’m offering this simple little gem: #10MinutesofStillness. Sometimes simple can be embarrassing, but sometimes it can be brilliant. After years of practicing, this one, my friends, is brilliant simple. Of course, it’s not my brilliance. I’m just the beneficiary. I picked it up from my sister, who picked it up from a friend. You get the idea. Now here’s the prescription: Choose a quiet space, put the phone upside down and turn off any beeps and buzzes, and set an alarm for ten minutes. Full stop. It’s the mini-Sabbath in the middle of your busy Thursday.
For just ten minutes you push away the incessant to-do list, and just settle into the gorgeous richness of the present moment. Listen for the birds. Scan your space for beauty. Be attentive to your breath. (Maybe you’re a shallow breather like I am?) Perhaps you can take a short phrase of scripture and do centering prayer. Most days I keep it simple. I make a cup of cinnamon tea, head out to the porch, shut the front door with all its crazy on the other side and sit in the swing. Ten minutes to hit the refresh button.
Why #10MinutesofStillness? Here’s what I’ve found after a few years of the practice:
1. #10MinutesofStillness is the perfect transition. Do you reach for a cereal bowl and a remote when the kids are finally in bed? Yup, some nights I do too. Other nights I want to lean into something more creative. Scheduling a #10MinutesofStillness at the moment of transition helps me to be more mindful of my true desires and not just fall into an immediate Netflix hole. I did the same thing when the kids were young enough to nap.
2. #10MinutesofStillness gives us a moment of time to be attentive to emotions crowding under the surface. You know how it is. Your irritability is coming from somewhere. Nonjudgemental listening is the first step to untangling. Bring the emotion up into the air, look at it with compassionate curiosity and without trying to be a Fixer. Bring it up and out into the Presence of Christ.
3. #10MinutesofStillness is the creative’s best friend. When we’re mired in the tough of the making and the words refuse to flow, just ten minutes of no agenda silence will often unleash the dam and we’re on our way again.
4. #10MinutesofStillness is a gateway back to gratitude. Practice opening up one sense at a time for sixty seconds each, without judging what you receive and without trying to create meaning. And then start thanking God for the simple gifts you are experiencing. Pretty soon the chaos is tinged with joy and you’re ready to love your people again.
5. #10MinutesofStillness can push the door open to God’s Presence. When our head is down and we’re leaning hard into hustle, we can forget to be aware of God-with-us. Light a candle in your quiet space and sit without an agenda but with expectation, contemplatively present to He who is always present.
So, friend, I’m daring you: schedule a mini-Sabbath into your day. Cultivate a small corner of stillness then enter the conversation. What was it like for you? Was it a struggle? Was it a gift? We want to hear. And if you use the hashtag #10MinutesofStillness, let us know! I’d love to see the chorus of contemplatives rise!
Do you have another brilliant simple idea for creating calm in the chaos? Do share!
Today’s SLOW Word. (The scripture starts at 2:20):
Subscribe on the right for more aThirstforGod.com or the SLOW Word Lectio Divina videos.
(SLOW Word at the bottom. Remember, every Monday and Thursday there will be a Lectio Divina right here. Let’s savor the Word together.)
Perhaps you’d like to read in the quiet. I get that. Or perhaps you are like my sister and you want to be read to today:) I get that too. I’ve got you covered. Check out the very bottom of this page.
“You are painting a picture without God in it.” My mother was a month from moving day when those words were spoken to her, lifted up before her like a mirror. Dad’s work had moved eight hours away. So like it or not, there would be a moving truck parked in front of the house they had just built and all their furniture would be hauled up a ramp and she would have to listen to the movers with their heavy, hollow, halting steps tramp up and down with pieces of her life. No family was waiting on the other side of the truck’s journey with a table long enough to receive them. No friend was waiting inside a screened door with a cup of coffee. She would need to start creating a life from scratch. Again.
She carried the heavy anxiety and brought it into Delores’ office for them both to turn over in their hands. Delores listened to the fear and then quietly spoke, “Beth, you are painting a picture without God in it.”
And we do that, don’t we? We walk into our day with a picture of what that day will hold…and it rarely has God painted into it. Our imagination mocks us with absence, not Presence. We allow fear to reign and forget that Christ the King is walking beside us. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” we were told in Hebrews 13:5. Jesus Himself gave this one last statement to the disciples to echo down through his disciples’ hearts for the centuries to come: “And surely I AM with you to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:30).
The picture of our future is completely different with God inside the frame. When Jesus is present, the picture of our future sparkles with light, with ungathered joys, and there is always a full table set.
Writer and preacher Gregory Boyd in Seeing is Believing says this, “If Christ IS with us, isn’t picturing Him present actually more true than picturing an existence without Him?”
Christ present is the promise.
Christ reigning is the truth.
Christ WITH us is the essence of His name: IMMANUEL.
And THIS, my Friends, changes everything.
But stay with me through this transition. Christ Present not only transforms our tomorrow, it changes how we do life today. Profoundly.
When we live picturing Christ present, we are saying yes to reality and framing our lives to fit the truth.
And here’s where this truth connects right here with the SLOW Word movement. When we create space to listen to the word, WITH the WORD, the scriptures come alive. Try it. Try offering Jesus a seat at the table across from you and looking into His eyes as you hear Jesus ask Peter before the betrayal: “Will you really lay down your life for me?” (John 13:38). Ouch.
Or try, again looking into His eyes, “If you love me, you will do what I command,” (John 14:15) and see what rises in your soul.
Or perhaps try today’s SLOW Word, “Come to Me and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28-29).
When you are looking into Jesus’ eyes, the Word of God begins to vibrate with intensity and no longer sits still on the page. It BREATHES. It no longer lies flat. You can no longer pass over to the other side unchanged. The Word is now sitting there between the two of you and it becomes a vital part of the ongoing conversation of your life.
This verse from the writer of Hebrews awakens us to the truth: “The Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12). Looking into His eyes, awake to His Presence in the present, I ask His Spirit to do His SLOW work, renewing my mind, teaching me to place Him in the frame of my reality, and transforming me through His Word.
(Subscribe on the right to receive more practical keys to the WITH God life and more SLOW Words. And if this, dear friend, is a gift for you, share it with someone you know who may need the encouragement. Set the table for someone else.)