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.)
“The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:14
We were in a long season of exhaustion and I had lost hope we would ever make it out. Andrew and I were struggling to make it through each day. We had had three children within four years and a church plant. At bedtime I would make out a schedule of fifteen minute increments: playdoh – 15 minutes, sand play 15 minutes, snack time 15 minutes, just in order to wake up feeling armed. Every day I would crumple it up knowing it was meaningless. We were leaning too heavily on each other because there was nowhere else to lean. Until we couldn’t anymore. We were depleted. There was nothing extra. Love felt thin as one of Aunt Margie’s hand-me-down sheets, see-through, brittle.
And so I would lay down. On the bed. On the floor. It didn’t matter.
When tempers were strong and love was thin I would lay down. Knowing God was holding both of us up. He was the ground of our marriage.
“For in Him we live and move and have our being” from Acts 17 merged with Paul Tillichs’ “God is the ground of our being” and I would lay down feeling the ground hold us up. Because I couldn’t anymore. But I could lay down intentionally knowing God was “upholding those of us who were falling.”
And a strange comfort would come. Grace catches us when we fall backwards.
I didn’t have any answers and yet I could depend on He who was the Answer. I didn’t have the energy to stand and yet I could fall…into God’s strong arms. Because the ground always held and God always held even when I didn’t have the strength to carry us.
Where do you need to be held up today? Where do you feel as though you are falling?
It’s easy for us to view God through the grimy lens of our own imperfect parents. Honestly, it makes sense. It’s the only lens of love we’ve got. But the problem is that we have a horrible tendency to anthropomorphize God. We put human features and characteristics onto a perfect, holy, and all-loving God. We think he’s as fickle and capricious as those we witness walking around this solid earth.
We fear His love morphs with our attempts at holiness. We imagine He showers us with compassion on the good days and withdraws his love, hiding in the shadows, leaving us in the cold, when He’s not pleased.
This. Is. Not. God. This is not unconditional love. Psalm 103 is a good place to sink into in order to let God share his self-revelation.
Listen. Savor. Pray. Ask God to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to tell you how He sees you!
Thirsty? Want more?
“The gardeners at the Center where I bought my white hydrangeas said to chop off the big snowball blooms for two full years. The roots’ establishing was more critical than beauty, she lectured, tenderly patting the black plastic base. Let them spread all their energy to the tightening, spreading roots and then, she promised, they’ll bloom strong into the years.” Read more here.
Want a daily practice to resting in God’s love? It’s a simple practice called the 3 R’s that can be done anywhere.
AND, by the way, did you know every Tuesday we have a lectio divina from the lectionary for the following Sunday? Come back on Thursdays (today) and pray through scripture using a lectio divina series I’m calling The WITH-GOD LIFE. We’ll be soaking in John 15 for a few weeks and then head out to the Psalms. I promise it will be strength for the journey.
Join the Slow Word Movement and subscribe to become a part of the community! I’ll be making a video on Five Simple Ways to Deepen your Scripture Meditation and sharing it right there next week. We also have a lovely Facebook Community for subscribers that’s continually growing.
Every Tuesday we have a lectio divina taken straight from next week Sunday’s lectionary. It’s a sort of appetizer. If there’s a second lectio in the week, I get to choose! It’s sometimes a scripture that I know will minister to struggle. Sometimes I pick it for me. Isaiah 51:12-16 was for me. It represents an area in my life that still needs more healing: fear of rejection. Yup, it’s like an onion, there are often more layers which are uncovered at different times. Verse 14 is my prayer when I’m crying out for transformation: The cowering prisoners will soon be set free. They will not die in their dungeon. Nor will they lack bread!
Did you know that Tuesday’s lectio divina video always corresponds to the next Sunday’s scripture if you’re in a lectionary-based church? Want to get it slipped into your inbox? Would you like to join our private Facebook group to share with other listeners? Subscribe on the right.
Four ways to deepen your lectio divina practice:
Get friendly with the pause button.
Don’t rush what the Spirit may be doing. Stay present. Listen. Gather up all the manna.
Stash a 3 by 5 card.
Don’t let the seeds slip through your fingers. Write down the phrase the Spirit seems to be highlighting. Write down the invitation. Put the card in your pocket and take it out throughout the day. Walk that truth out into your day. Look at it like a prism in your hand, turning it around and looking at it from different angles, in different lights.
Write in your journal.
When the lectio is over, continue the conversation. At its simplest, Lectio divina is using the scriptures as a doorway to prayer.
Get present with Jesus through the Scripture.
If Jesus is asking a question, take it to heart. How does that question reverberate in your own soul?
Now let’s try it out. Here’s Jesus’ question to us today:
Let’s go deeper. What would it look like if you gained success but lost Jesus?
Let’s put skin and bones on that question. Think about it. Imagine your craziest, worthy-of-a-book dream coming true.
Go ahead. Walk around in the heady success for a bit. Who’s there? What are the trappings, the curtains, the toys, the numbers? Touch the grandness of the dream. Smell it.
And now here’s the most important question: Where is Jesus in the midst of this dream? Where are you? Who is at the center? Who is on the outskirts? Whose dream is it?
Along those same lines, what does this scenario truly cost your soul? What did it cost your soul to get there?
Next question: where is your true self in the scenario? No really. Where is that smallish but beloved and barefoot child of God? Is He or She plastered over with a thick mask? Does she get lost in the dream? What does her voice sound like? Is it authentic? Who is putting on her make-up, caking on a false self? Who is his tailor?
So, now you know that this is where I’m parking myself for the next few days. And now your turn, what word/phrase connected with you?
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
We’re listening to the Parable of the Sower with a view of Bar Harbor, ME just down from this week’s vacation house. *Pinch me!* Bar Island is over my right shoulder.
In order to amplify this scripture to the crowds, Jesus climbs into a boat to make a natural amphitheater of the hills around the Sea of Galilee. I’ll bet the boat rocked and swelled with Jesus’ words just like the dock does here.
Hello dear friends, I’ve packed up the SLOW Word lectio divinas in my suitcase and you’re coming on vacation with me! This scripture is the perfect place to start and happens to be Sunday’s lectionary. Bonus! Join me weekly for a feast of the word right here. Want more? Subscribe on the right to get them slipped right into your inbox and receive my intro to lectio divina welcome video.
Why is true refreshment so elusive?
As we point the minivan towards the Green Mountains of New Hampshire and our yearly family vacation, I’m reminded that on vacation we sometimes just relocate our frenetic pace. My sister coined this being stuck on high speed through life as doing “Cedar Point” after the amusement park perched on the shores of Lake Erie. These days we’re no longer an amusement park kind of family. We linger long at Italian restaurants with the antipasta and a glass of pinot. Now we use “Cedar Point” as a verb when we discuss being overwhelmed and cramming “just one more thing” into our schedule such as: “I’m going to have to say no. That sounds like Cedar Point” or “if we stop at one more store, it’ll be completely Cedar Point.” It’s our white flag that we need to listen to our need for rest and downsize into something small and quiet.
But how often do we listen? For years I lived full speed ahead. I’d only declare a sabbath after pushing towards an exhaustion which was more kin to illness. Sabbath had more to do with a crash than a rhythm. Later after a day of netflix bingeing, I’d be crawling from deep in overwhelm back up to Zero, but refreshment? I barely knew what that meant.
I’m learning to give myself time to push the pause button early, to allow myself to recognize my poverty before the Lord and ask: “Will You be my Teacher, to learn a rhythm of rest in a way that will truly refresh me?”
That’s the question I asked after a week of new faces and church services and the tightly cramped schedule of the Anglican Church of North America’s Provincial Assembly at Wheaton College. The answer came in the form of an unexpected detour and an errand, a task I took while grudgingly. Why would I want to leave? I was happily surrounded by family, three couples and seven kids at my in-law’s cottage in North Central Ohio. We were tucked deep in Amish country under a thick canopy of trees. I won’t even mention the full tins of homemade gingersnaps. Besides, I brought my watercolors.
When we’re at my in-laws, the rules for rest are graciously bent. We nap when we need to and curl up under one of mom’s handstitched quilts on a couch in the cool of the basement. We check into work occasionally but for the most part forget our computers and phones charging in a back bedroom. We spend the evenings in front of the campfire down the hill in surrounded by a crescent of tall pines. The fireflies blink their syncopated magic while we watch the children reach for the tiny hatches of light.
But in the midst of Grandparents’ Camp 2017 and an hour car ride to watch the July 4th fireworks, the check engine light began its long unwelcome glare. We were on a cross-country trip. We needed a mechanic sooner than later. This was only stop two of six. Mom and Dad’s personal garage mechanic came to the rescue which is to say that I would need to spend Monday in Mansfield stuck in never-ending-strip-mall-world (My Favorite.) just down the road from where my husband and I went to high school. The repair shop was smack dab between our favorite pizza shop and the paint store where I had my first job pretending I had expertise on paint colors and wallpaper patterns.
My sister-in-law came to the rescue and gave me a ride from the garage to the library in the adjacent town. I slid into a banquette beside a floor to ceiling window and sat in the slanted light. I spread out a new journal on the table and felt the promise of the empty pages. That morning, what had felt like a detour away from rest became permission for this mama to be alone and listen to the scrawl of pen on paper for a few solid hours.
The next day as I sat on the rough hewn picnic table next to the campfire ring and spent time with Matthew 11:28-30 in this lectio divina video, I heard Jesus’ invitation to rest from a slightly different angle.
I heard it with a new bent to trust.
That Monday I hadn’t needed to grasp at rest. It had been perfectly shaped for my refreshment. Those two long hours in Ashland Ohio’s library reminded me who holds those keys. As I read the end of Matthew 11 in our slow word and heard, “Come to Me,” I was being invited to stop pursuing own artificial version. No more self-provision. No more lurching speeds and then the steep crash of a Cedar Point.
Hi Friends, this summer I’m joining the Grace Table family and reading Shelly Miller‘s beautiful book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. This book is tall-glass-of-iced-tea good. It’s gentle and grace-filled for those of us just learning here and I think you’ll find that by sitting with Shelly’s words, you’ll begin saying yes to Sabbath in small ways. Join me?
Today our lectio divina leads us to Jesus’ words warning the disciples that persecution is coming. He said that they would have to take up their cross, to die in order to find Life.
I remember that first time my sweet Madeline grasped the wood of the crucifer’s cross. She was just five and she fit inside my arms as we walked together in procession toward the altar. Our acolyte was gone that Sunday and I volunteered to be the crucifer. But, as she grasped the cross, instead of feeling proud, I cringed.
I was shocked by my reaction.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this blond haired girl of mine (singing right now in the shower) to grasp the cross.
That cross? That cross is going to cost your life, little one. Choosing the cross cost Jesus His life, and grasping our cross will eventually cost us our life. We may never see persecution so many of our fellow Christians experience in the Middle East, but we will find that the road to Life is not Easy Street. The way up is often down. We lay down our American Dream, our vision of what life was supposed to look like and we choose to worship the one true God instead of the way our hearts whisper.
Through all the refining, the stretching, the humbling we can keep walking back to the cross and reaffirming our vow: I WILL FOLLOW WHEREVER YOU LEAD. We can say after the hard words in this lectio, “Take up your cross and follow me,” that the alternative is great cosmic loneliness (I’ve felt it!) and in the end a different sort of death. With Peter we can acknowledge, “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Because He is the Good Shepherd, and we can trust in His goodness that the hard way is actually the best way, and the way down is actually straight into His arms we can grasp that cross tight.
Thank you for walking with me.
Blessings as you wrestle with these words today dear friends,
Rev. Summer Joy