Thursday 27 December 2018

Lectio divina

Lectio divina is a spiritual practice translated from the Latin as "divine reading". Originating from the third and fourth centuries, and used by monastic orders for centuries, lectio divina usually concentrates on a passage of Scripture. It is usually used in community, but can be used in individual reflection also. 

There are four movements in lectio divina. These are lectio (read or listen), 
meditatio (meditate/reflect), oratio (pray/respond) and contemplatio (rest/contemplate). These movements are experienced in many different ways today as people have adapted and kept the practice relevant. Essentially, the text is read aloud three times. Each reading takes those participating through the four movements at deeper levels each time. As I practice lectio divina, I ask myself during the first reading which word or phrase particularly grabs my attention. On the second reading, I ask myself what emotions are tied to this word or phrase. How does it speak into my life at this time? In the final reading, I ask myself what God might be inviting me to this day? What might God be saying to me through this text?

My Community Group at WCC Conference in 2004
My most memorable experience of using lectio divina in community was in Greece at the World Council of Churches Conference on Mission in 2004. Each morning we met in our community groups. People from all across the globe - different languages, different cultures, different theologies - were thrown together in small groups of about ten to engage in Bible study. You can imagine the problems that might have arisen. The process used, however, was lectio divina. No one commented on others' responses. The time was held in a prayerful way, that did not lend itself to theological debate. This practice enabled us to meet on a common ground that would have been near impossible using traditional Bible study methods.

Since this time, I have used this practice in my own personal life and in small groups. The text has not always been Scripture. Often we have reflected on a poem together (I particularly enjoy Mary Oliver) or perhaps the words of a song. The same process is used to take the participant deeper into the text. The aspect of this practice that particularly appeals to me is that it treats a text as living. Each time the text is heard there is an opportunity for it to speak freshly into our lives again. Lectio divina is not simply reading, it is a prayerful, meditative reading that invites the divine to enter the story and intertwine with ours. In this way, no two readings can ever be the same.

Sunday 23 December 2018

Sharing Mandalas

As many of you will be aware, this year I released "A Mandala a Month Workbook". I am gifting myself another copy for Christmas to work through in 2019. In many ways, this book achieved what I was hoping - except one. The inspiration for this book came from a program I ran in 2013 where people met together each month and shared their experience. A small group also registered online. These people would send in a picture of their mandala each month with a few words and I would add them to our dedicated website. It was wonderful to share with others as we worked our way through the year with our mandalas.

I was reminded of this recently, as I received an email from someone who had completed the first mandala in their book. It included a picture of the mandala they created and a reflection on the process and what it means to them. It was such a joy to receive. The importance of sharing the journey with someone was highlighted again. It is one thing to engage in spiritual practices for ourselves, but in sharing this with someone else I find the value is increased for ourselves and benefits the one with whom we share.

Please feel free to share your mandala experiences with me by emailing or if there was enough interest, I could launch a private group page where these reflections and pictures could be shared. Let me know your thoughts. 

Friday 21 December 2018

A Different Christmas

This is my first Christmas in quite some time that I am not madly preparing worship services and wondering how on earth it will all happen before the big day. I love Christmas! And, to be honest, I have been anxiously anticipating what this first year without the ties of ministry might look like for me. With only a few days to go, I have been reflecting on this different advent space. What have I enjoyed? What have I missed? How am I approaching this Christmas? And how have these differences been reflected in my spiritual journey? It has still been a little chaotic, but the fact that I have time to ask these questions is a huge difference.

Let me begin with what I haven't missed. No matter how hard I tried to be super organised while in ministry, Advent always snuck up on me. I would have these super creative ideas about how to journey through Advent or some craft activity to include in the Christmas Eve service, and would only end up cursing that pesky imagination for putting me under so much pressure at such a busy time of year. At the same time, I would preach each week about spending time, not rushing, being expectant and taking time to be still. Hypocrisy gone mad!!

This year, I don't have any services to prepare, no church to decorate, no last minute nativity costumes to whip up, no orders to print off, messages to write for local papers and the list goes on. Instead, I am helping my family get ready for Christmas. I have been out gardening each day helping my husband cram two weeks of mowing, weeding and raking into one so that he can take some time off over Christmas. I have been offering advice to my daughter who has decided to take on some baking. I am taking the learner driver out for some practice, being a taxi mum and attempting to keep on top of the washing and other chores.

We will be heading to the city to spend some time with our extended families over Christmas and I get to choose where and when I would like to attend church. I must say it is a joy not to have the same pressures of the last few years. There have been a few aspects I have missed, however. The singing is one. There is nothing that bonds people together quite like singing, particularly Christmas songs. I am hoping to make up for this a little on Christmas morning.

The other aspect I have missed is the ritual of Advent and the anticipation it brings. Most of the churches I have been involved in throughout my life have participated in an Advent candle liturgy in the four weeks leading to Christmas Day. This act, often including a song, some words and the visual of the candles being lit each week, has a way of preparing me and building the anticipation for Christmas and all the meaning it holds.

All this being said, I am still super excited about Christmas. I will probably still be up at the crack of dawn as I have been for many years now (much to my parents and now my children's disgust). Christmas has always been a time of surprises. It began with God surprising the world in the incarnation and it continues in how we find the Christ anew in the people we encounter during this special time. I was concerned that without the busyness of ministry Christmas might somehow lose its shine. Instead, I have more time to be present and just let it happen, rather than being the one who makes it happen. Happy Christmas to you all!!