“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 5 of Spiritual Practices: Engaging in Lectio Divina (Holy Reading)

What the heck is lectio divina?!

In Latin, it means, 'divine reading.' It's a way to engage a reading (a poem, scripture, etc), not as a text to be studied, but as a living thing, that can speak and move and come alive in us, if we let it. Lectio divina is not about learning the text, it is about experiencing the text in a new way. 

There are all sorts of variations on how to do lectio divina, but the most common way I know is to read a piece (a poem, a short piece of scripture) three times through, slowly, and to let the words wash over you. 

Pay attention. What phrase comes alive in you? What new thing do you notice in the 2nd or 3rd reading that you didn't notice before? After you've read the piece three times, the idea is to sit in quiet meditation for a while, letting yourself and the text be together, allowing a new insight to be born, to open your heart to the experience. After this, there's often a chance to write or reflect on the experience. If you're in a group, you might share reflections with one another. Finally, you end with silence again, held by the words, the Spirit of Life, and the space.

This process of lectio divina might sound dry or even boring, but it's actually a powerful way to experience the text in a new way (At the bottom of this post, I included a poem I used this morning, as part of my practice...and for what it's worth, the part that really spoke to me was the first two lines; I imagined hope watching over my wife, son, and I, "hovering in the dark corners," as we slept last night...) 

If you're in the Twin Cities, and interested in practicing lectio divina or learning more, Ruth MacKenzie, our Director of Worship Arts, writes in our January church newsletter (on page 5):

In this month of Living Resolutions, join me after the second service (at 12:15 p.m. in room 203) to experience lectio divina, an ancient practice of spiritual reading: Jan 15, 22, or 29. This practice is a meditative approach to the written word, where we allow ourselves to move deeply into a text, and let that text move deeply in us. No sign up is necessary, just a willingness to practice.

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.
~ Lisel Mueller ~

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