I am a journal keeper.
I’m so grateful that our editor at Conversations invited us to use lectio and listen for God regarding our past year. Frankly, I had never considered the idea.
Lectio has traditionally four phases: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation or resting).
The first phase, lectio is a listening way of reading that invites patient waiting for the Word (Jesus) to reveal Himself and, boy, has he ever.
Over and over in my journal I had written during my times of listening for God, phrases like relax – have fun, release (worries), let me lead you, surrender your (expectations).
Even as I reviewed some of my art work, God was saying, “Bless yourself first.” My beloved therapist has said, “Juanita put yourself first on the list of priorities.”
At other times God was inviting “rest from exhaustion”, “streamline your activities”, “just be”, and “enjoy what gives you life”. These words flood my journal on countless days.
Lectio over the past year of my journal could be summarized in so many words as God asking, “Will You let me care for you—my way?”
The second phase of Lectio Divina, the meditatio (meditation), is the invitation to ponder and ruminate what was read and to quietly savor the Word, and meditate upon it in expectation. I felt particularly drawn to a certain day in July where two dear friends and I hiked together on the San Ysidro Trail in California while on retreat. The journal entry was clearly my “word” from the Lord. It read, “Juanita, source your life from adventure not out of illness.” I have always believed that illness is a teacher, one that has profoundly informed my life. But now God was saying that there is another powerful teacher available to me now. I began to realize that God was really cool with me “blessing myself first”. God was inviting me to pursue the adventures that I had put off and postponed. God was saying, “Have fun, I’ll take care of you!”
The third phase of Lectio Divina is oratio or prayer. It’s a response to the Word from the deep place in our hearts. It may be in words or even just a sense of feeling loved. As I hiked the San Ysidro Trail that day my prayer rose up in song. I marveled at the beauty all around me. I was captivated, by the morning dew on the leaves as our elevation rose. The sun beamed into every crack and crevice every branch and stream. My oratio, my prayer was a song and I sang it loudly. I sang, “Bless the Lord Oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name.”
Contemplatio (contemplation), it’s been said, is a divine gift that the Lord in His goodness gives us. In contemplation, one is totally passive, held by the mystery of God. I have heard it described essentially as a gaze, God’s gaze into us, and our gaze of faith back at Him. Looking over the past year and particularly the experience last July, I felt the gaze and in being with the memory again I want to sing to the top of my lungs. I will bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me blesses his holy name. He has done great things, God has invited me into a way of living, and being that offers me the freedom I’ve longed for. I am re-feeling God’s love just as I did along the San Ysidro trail. I’m so grateful for having used lectio over the past year. I feel a kind of confidence, a new awareness that if God was interested in caring for me last year then how much more this year.
A few great tools for using Lectio Divina in your own life:
For a fresh teaching on Lectio check out Chris Webb’s new release, The Fire of the Word: Meeting God on Holy Ground
What experience from the past year do you feel drawn to revisit, as Juanita did?
What keeps you from spending time review and understanding what God has said to you in the past?
Juanita Campbell Rasmus is an inspirational speaker, motivational teacher, author, and founding board member of the Bread of Life Homeless Project. Juanita and her husband Rudy co-pastor Saint John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.