Category Archives: Lectio Divina

Spiritual Exercise 22: Slowly Honing in Via Lectio

Background: Lectio Divina is a practice which invites us to hear the divine as we read a sacred text.  Ordinarily we pre-select a passage and read the whole thing several times, looking for a phrase that connects with us.

Sometimes this process of searching for that sacred phrase is the most difficult part.  Sometimes, that difficulty might be a good thing.  Today’s practice side-steps that difficulty, though.

The idea is to read a passage several times, but each time to re-read a progressively smaller portion, honing in something by cutting out aspect of the reading that are not speaking to you.

Spiritual Exercise

  1. Choose a passage to focus your reading on.  The total reading might be around 3 pages.  
  2. Sit with your back straight, and relax.  Breathe.
  3. When you are ready pick up your selection.  Read it, be aware of the feelings the reading stirs within you.  Be on the look out for the portion (approximately half) of the reading that connects most intimately with you.
  4. If you get to the end and are unclear about what portion you want to return to, then re-read the whole thing.
  5. When you have chosen a section of the reading (About half of the original) to re-read, take a few cleansing breaths.  Then re-read this chosen selection from your original reading.  Again, be on the look out for a section, of your reading that speaks most directly to you.  The selection you choose now might be somewhere between 1 page and 1/2 page.
  6. Be on the look out for the paragraph, within this selection, that speaks the most to you.  Choose that paragraph.
  7. Breathe, again.
  8. Now, find a sentence in that paragraph.
  9. If the sentence is too long to hold easily in your mind, consider shortening it.
  10. Transition away from your reading material, now.  Say the sacred phrase with each breath.  Consider assigning a portion to the exhale and a portion to the inhale.
  11. Continue this meditation on the single phrase for a while.
  12. When you are ready, release the phrase.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  13. If you like, enjoy a conversation with God about your new understanding.

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Spiritual Exercise #17: Changing the Focused-on Word

Background:  There is an illustration used for actors.  It begins with the rather dark sentence, “Do you still kick your dog?”  By emphasizing a different word in that sentence, an actor might end up creating 6 different implications.

For example, “Do you still kick your dog?” Suggests that we want to settle the matter right now, with a yes-or-no answer.  Meanwhile, “Do you still kick your dog?” implies that we know someone is kicking the dog; the question at issue is who is doing the kicking.  “Do you still kick your dog.”  is meaningful if it is publicly known that “you” used to kick the dog.  The important question is whether or not this is still going on.  “Do you still kick your dog.”  Leaves us the idea that we know “you” yell at it, we are just wondering about kicking.  “Do you still kick your dog?”  Tells a listener that somebody’s dog is definitely kicked; the only question is whose.  And finally, “Do you still kick your dog?”  Suggests that something is getting kicked, the only question is what.

Today’s practice takes advantage of this principal: That we subtly alter the meaning of a phrase by changing the emphasis.  There are 2 exercises explored below.  In the first, I have furnished the phrase.  The second is left more open, for the practitioner to choose their own.

Spiritual Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  Breathe.  Release your stresses and concerns.
  2. With the next inhale, read the following passage “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ”  With the exhale, consider the meaning of the phrase.
  3. With the next inhale, read or say the phrase again.  But this time, emphasize the first word:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  
  4. With the exhale, consider the nuances of meaning that arise from this emphasis.
  5. With the next inhale, stress the next word: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  
  6. With the next exhale, consider what meanings are implied by this.
  7. Continue this pattern, emphasizing a new word with each breath.
  8. When you have worked your way through all of the words, consider the overall meaning of this phrase.  Consider whether it has taken on a new meaning.
  9. Enjoy some time in wordless communion.

Exercise B:

  1. Select a small, favorite phrase.  It might be from scriptures or a favorite story.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor.  Allow yourself to relax.
  3. With the next inhale, say the statement to yourself.
  4. With the next exhale, consider what it means.
  5. With the next inhale, emphasize the first word.  Say the whole phrase.
  6. With the next exhale, consider what this means with the added emphasis.
  7. With the next inhale, repeat the phrase, now emphasizing the second word.
  8. With the next exhale, consider the new meaning.
  9. Continue through the whole phrase in this manner.
  10. When you are done, reconsider what the whole phrase means.

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Exercise 7A & 7B: Lectio By Finding Ourselves in the Scene

Background: Many forms of Lectio Divina help the reader to place themselves in the scene.  This is not a time to got bogged down in getting the historical details just so; the important thing here is that we are bringing new life to the reading by considering how it might have happened.  Generally speaking, there are 2 elements to this.

The first is to use the imagination to identify ourselves with the people who appear in a story.  They do not need to be specifically named.  For example, if a crowd is mentioned, we might simply imagine ourselves as a member of this crowd.

The second is to engage the senses.  The easy and obvious are what it might have looked like and sounded like.  The more challenging is the tastes, smells, and textures of the place.  Investing head space into these more challenging senses can be incredibly powerful.

Invoking a sense of playfulness and seeing the text as a spring board can be helpful.  Part of the process is to trust that the Spirit is present, here.  And so if you find yourself having “walked away” from the scene as it unfolds, this can be a great thing.

Two exercises follow.  The first is a rather generic format that can be used for any text.  The second is a specific exploration of one passage in particular.

On the whole, narratives will be more fruitful for this practice than instructional, didactic texts.

Exercise

1)  Read through 1-2 pages of narrative.

2)  Read again.  This time searching for a passage between 1/4- 3/4 of a page that speaks to you.

3)  Read the passage identifying the characters that are either explicitly mentioned or implied.  Explore who you might be in this scene.

4) Imagine (perhaps by rereading) the scene from this characters perspective.

5)  Consider all of the senses: How did it sound there?  How does it look?  How does it smell?  What is the temperature?  Can you reach out and touch anything there?

6)  Can you imagine any additions to the scene not expressed by the text; perhaps what happens immediately before or after?

7) Re-read the whole selection.

8)  Spend some time with God, exploring why this perspective came to you and what God taught you through the experience.

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Exercise B:

1) Read the following passage:

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e]away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

 

2) Having read that passage, you might focus on the following section:

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e]away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

3) Make a mental list of the people implied or explicitly mentioned in the text.  This might include: Jesus, the Jews who came to offer support, Mary, Martha, and perhaps professionals involved in the funeral.

4) Choose who you are going to identify in this passage.  If you chose Martha, imagine her mourning from Lazurus.  Imagine her getting the news that Jesus is finally arriving.  Did she hear from a local?  From someone in advance of Jesus’ party?  Did she see them coming on the horizon?

5)  Are the words recorded the first ones she says to Jesus?  Does she run through his entourage?  Is she angry, sad, or mystified?  Does she yell or whisper?  What clothes are the people wearing?  What is the weather like?

6)  When Jesus says that he is the ressurection, are others watching and listening?  As Martha, what is happening in your heart and mind when you tell Jesus that you believe?

7)  As you, Martha, go back to find Mary, what are you thinking and feeling?  Is there a breeze that carries a scent?  What do you discover your sister doing?  What is her expression like?

8) Do you– Martha– stay in the house?  Or do you follow Mary and all the rest?  What is their mood?

9)  How do you feel as Jesus weeps?  Does he reach out and touch you?  A while before, you would have agreed with the people who are complaining.  How do you feel about them now?

10)  Re-read the whole passage that is listed above, the entire event with Lazurus.

11)  Consider what you learned through this experience of Lectio Divina.

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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Exercise #5A & 5B: Lectio, with Sacred Words

Background: One of the goals of Lectio Divina is to help us find words or phrases in a text which speak to us.

For this exercise, I am not suggesting a particular text.  You might begin with your favorite book of scripture.  Or a poem.  If there is a passage you particularly struggle with, this might be a powerful exercise to attempt.

Whatever it is you use, you are going to want to have it handy.  Having either a physical or electronic copy will work.  There are, of course, many websites which feature scripture and poems.  It would be wise to have the page, chapter, poem, or website pre-selected and open when you begin.

Exercise:

  1.  Be ready with your reading: have the book or website open and ready for the section you would like to consider.
  2. Spend a few minutes breathing and releasing your worries.
  3. As best you can, with your exhalations, let go of your preconceptions and assumptions of what you are about to read.  With each out breath, let go of more of the things you think you know about the reading.  Do your best to see these assumptions disapating into the air.
  4. When you feel that you have reached a state of beginners mind, read the passage all the way through.  On this first reading, just try and get a sense about the big picture.
  5. When you finish reading through, give yourself some time to breathe.
  6. Reread the passage.  Pay attention to the passages which bring about a reaction in you.  Where do you feel stirred?
  7. Read the passage at least one more time.  This time, try and find a specific phrase.  Ideally, it should not be more than 5 words long.  At most, it should not be more than 10 words long.  If you get to the end of the passage and have not found anything, that is ok.  Read the passage– or at least a portion of the passage– one last time to select your sacred words.
  8. Say your words out loud.  You might wish to assign one half of the phrase to your inhale, and one half of the phrase to your exhale.
  9. Spend a good portion of the time repeating your sacred phrase.  Leave yourself access to the source material, so you can remind yourself of the wording if you get off track.
  10. When you are ready, release your sacred words.  Sit in wordless union.

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Background:

In the exercise above, we are working at not shifting the practice toward our conscious agenda.  This does not mean our agenda won’t slip in, though.

This form of Lectio can also be practiced with a more intentional agenda.   Here, we might actively be looking for insight in one aspect of our life.

As with the prior practice, it is wise to have your reading pre-selected: have the website opened or the book ready, turned to the appropriate page.

Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Breathe calmly.
  3. Speak to God about the things that are on your mind.  Ask God any questions you have.  Identify and verbalize for help in any specific area.
  4. Take a few more cleansing breaths.
  5. Read the passage that you have selected all the way through.
  6. Read the passage again.  This time, be on the look out for words, phrases, and sentences that connect with you.  Perhaps it relates to the thoughts and feelings you expressed to God a few minutes ago.
  7. Read the passage a third time.  This time through, try to hone in on the sentence you will be using in your practice.
  8. If you are not yet committed to a certain phrase, read the passage one more time.
  9.   Choose a phrase of 2-10 words.
  10. Repeat your phrase with each breath.  You might assign the first half of the phrase to the inhale, and the second half of the phrase to an exhalation.
  11.  Let this breathing and recitation occupy at least a third of the time you have set aside for your practice today.
  12. When you are ready, release this phrase.
  13. Discuss the things you experienced today with God.  

You Are Welcome Here.

Build your sense of gratitude!  Our email campaign, featuring a different spiritual exercise intended to focus our sense of thanksgiving has begun.  Click here to participate in the campaign at the website.  Email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to be added to the list and receive the emails each day.

 

The goal of The Faith-ing Project is to enrich your spiritual life.   The goal for this website is that it might be a gymnasium for the soul; a library for the spirit; and a toy store for the psyche.

At this time, most of our content is in the spiritual practices.  If you would like to get background on the various spiritual practices, click here.

For some information on how to integrate your spiritual practice into your life, click here.

To explore some practices which are less neglected by contemporary American Christianity, click here.

If you would rather go straight to the exercises without background and context, click the links below:

Exercise 1: God’s Name

Exercise 2: Breathing With God

Exercise 3: A split-Breath Prayer

Exercise 4: A Time for Silence, A Time for Speaking

Exercise 5: Lectio Divina

Exercise 6: 3-phrase Cycles

Exercise 7: More Lectio

Exercise 8: Sacred Writing with an Unconscious Focus

Exercise 9: Sacred Writing With a Deliberative Focus

Exercise 10: Centered Prayer

Exercise 11: The Word We Need the Most

Exercise 12: Constant Repetition

Exercise 13: Apaphatic Meditation

Exercise 14: Candles, Clouds & Waves

Exercise 15: The Riverside Meditations

Exercise 16: Apaphatic Meditation with Variable Phrasing

Exercise 17: Emphasizing a different word within a phrase

Exercise 18: Who am I, God?  Who are you, God?

Exercise 19: A Second Riverside Meditation

Exercise 20: Tonglen

Exercise 21: Listening to God Listen to You

Exercise 22: Slowly Honing in Via Lectio

Exercise 23: The 5 Remembrances

Exercise 24: A Walk with Jesus

Exercise 25: Padres

Exercise 26: Nature Adoration

Exercise 27: The Examen

Exercise 28: The Jesus Prayer

Exercise 29: A Prayer for…

Exercise 30: The Five Senses

Exercise 31: Adoration

Exercise 32: 7-11 Breathing

Exercise 33: Through a Verse, One Word at a Time

Check back soon.  You will find background on the history of The Faithing Project. information on integrating these practices into your every day life, and a list of our favorite podcasts, books, websites, and other resources here!

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You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project share spiritual practices with a world in desperate need.  Become a  Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.