Category Archives: Spiritual Health

Maintaining/gaining good spiritual health

Lectio Divina – my new approach to the Bible…

sceneI will qualify this post by saying I am a Christian, but I’m not a Biblical scholar.  I can’t quote scripture – especially if it means citing the chapter and verse; and, if I need to refer to any book in the Bible beyond the first five chapters of either the Old or New Testament, I need to refer to the table of contents to even find my way.

I’ve never really had any interest in the Bible.  I remember stories learned in the Sunday School days of my youth, but don’t always remember how they fit into the scheme of things or relate to Biblical characters.  It has always seemed to me the Book is just a whole lot of history and I admit I’ve never been a history enthusiast.

But, I want to tell you about a new approach to Bible reading I’ve recently discovered.

I participate in a Thursday morning book group at my church; and, yes, we often include citing pertinent Bible verses when discussing our books, but we are not a Bible study group in the true sense of the word.  We generally read books about spirituality – spiritual journeys, spiritual transformation and the like; and, I find those topics very interesting.

I especially enjoyed the book we just finished in the spring – Sacred Rhythms – Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation  by Ruth Haley Barton.  book  Obviously, as the title implies, this book is about spiritual transformation.  Included in the book is a chapter about using the Bible to enhance one’s spiritual journey.  In fact, the chapter is entitled Scripture: Encountering God Through Lectio Divina.

Now, after all the explanation above, I want to tell you about Lectio Divina in case you don’t already know of it.

I love this way of getting into the Bible, so to speak.

Just briefly, Lectio Divina – translated as sacred reading – is defined as a scripture reading approach that helps us listen for a message that we can respond to in the present moment.  In my case, I understand this as God’s word speaking to me personally.

Here’s a very simple description of how Lectio Divina works –

  • Settle down and be quiet for a few minutes – calm yourself from your busy life.
  • Pick a passage of scripture about 6-8 verses in length.  (Sometimes I just open the Bible and put my finger on the page and see where it lands.)
  • Read your chosen passage four times – each time with a different question on your mind.
    • Read the passage and “listen” for the one word or phrase that stands out from all the rest.  (If it’s not immediately clear, read the passage a second time.)
    • Read the passage again and reflect on how you are touched by this word.  What is going on in your life that you needed to hear that word today?
    • The third time you read the passage, respond to the invitation or challenge the word has invoked…for example, dealing with pain, frustration, anger, love, gratitude, a call to do something new.  What feelings has the text aroused?
    • Lastly, read the passage one more time and contemplate how your higher power – God, Spirit, Universe – will help you respond to whatever the “word” is calling you to do.

As I am trying to make Sunday a day of rest as it was originally meant to be in my Christian faith, it seems fitting to practice Lectio Divina on that day – to find my word for the week.  I find a passage, pick my word and then try to think of it daily throughout the coming week as inspiration, comfort, or whatever emotion/action it sparks in me.  I eagerly look forward to Sunday when I’ll discover my new word.  (This week my word is Salvation.)

I didn’t Google this topic prior to writing this, but I bet if you did you would find a more detailed description of this method of reading scripture.  I likely haven’t done it justice.  I just know for me, it provides a meaningful aide to Bible reading.  The Book is no longer just a history of my religion, but in it, I can find useful applications for dealing with my every day life.

I’d be curious if any of you have used this method of scripture reading;  or use any other interesting approach to using the Bible for that matter.  Feel free to leave your comments below.



Trusting my intuition…


Recently I re-read the book, Life’s Companion – Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest by Christina Baldwin, as part of my morning read/meditation/journaling exercise.  The book has a copyright date of 1990, so I’m not sure if it is still available for sale – maybe on Amazon or a used book store; but, I highly recommend it whether or not you are a journal keeper.  I think it has lots of good stuff in it about the spiritual journey we are all on (even if we are not aware we’re on it).

I was especially intrigued by the chapter on intuition...our secret voice, which if we don’t ignore it, offers guidance.  Our intuition is not rational since conscious reasoning is not part of it – we just know.  For a person like me who likes to analyze everything that happens – what/why/when/where – it’s easy to reject my intuition.  How can that possibly be what action I should take…it came to me too easily, too quickly.  Instead, I usually have to mull over important decisions.

So, I’m working on trusting my instincts, my hunches – my intuition.

Ms. Baldwin relates a story in the book about how she studied with an Indian medicine man who helped her determine her totem animal was a fox.  She says the fox symbol comes to her often in dreams and meditations…representative of her intuition, her secret voice.  She suggests we can all create our own image of inner guidance – it could be an animal, an object of nature, a refrain of music, etc.  We just have to “ask” for a symbol and then notice and be open to receiving an answer.  It might come to us in a dream or a vision; or, read on for another potential source for discovering a representative symbol.

Throughout this book, the author provides examples/suggested exercises for journal writing and/or meditation to accompany the topics she writes about. One of the exercises she suggests in this intuition chapter is meant to help us recognize a personal intuition symbol.  She says to sit quietly and imagine the space behind your eyes and between your ears is an imaginary room – designed any way you want it to be.  Then, invite a messenger into this space, and notice what/who the messenger is.  I take that to mean whatever form the messenger takes is a  symbol of our intuition.

I just did this little exercise a few days ago and the image that came to me was the sun flooding my imaginary room with sunbeams, providing lots of bright light.  So, I’m thinking the sun or sunbeam is the symbol for my intuition.  I will be curious to see if that image pops up when my intuition is kicking in (and, if it does, will I pay attention to it?!).

If you’re like me and sometimes have trouble recognizing or listening to your secret voice, you might want to try the above exercise and see if you can come up with a symbol for it.  (If nothing else, it’s kind of fun!) That way, when you think of, or dream about the image in the future, you will know it is your intuition speaking to you and just maybe you should listen.



Be Still…

The holidays are upon us creating a flurry of activity for most people…parties, shopping, wrapping, writing, decorating, baking.  As I pondered a topic for a new blog post, I wondered how I could help you find enjoyment in the season?


On Thursday mornings, I often join a small group of people at my church for a half-hour of contemplative prayer.  Much of our time together is spent in silence.  Today, our mantra, if you will, was “Be Still”.  (Actually, Be Still and Know that God is Here – changed slightly from Be Still and Know That I Am God from the Psalms.)

It was the inspiration I needed for this post.  In my mind, being still is one of the best ways to find enjoyment in this busy season.  It calms me and helps me discern which of my activity options are most important and will be the most rewarding, allowing me to say no to the activities I find less important, time consuming and stress-inducing.

Here is how I accomplish being still.  I sit in a quiet room in a comfortable position.  I close my eyes, or I light a candle and focus on the flame.  I begin by breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly to calm me.  Though difficult, I try to rid my mind of what happened yesterday, what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even what’s going to happen in the next hour.  This brings me into the “present moment” – I’m sure you’ve all heard that phrase.  I use a word or two that I repeat over and over in my mind, like “silence”, “be still”, “calm”, or “listen” to bring me back to the present when my mind wanders – and believe me, it does have a way of wandering!

When I spend a few minutes in this silent state, I am amazed at what my Spirit says to me.

I encourage you to try it – just be still and listen!

 So, back to getting through the holiday season and all the accompanying  preparations and events, with as little stress and with the most enjoyment possible…I am going to share my favorite “12 Days of Christmas” activities (in no particular order other than the first and foremost – being still and listening to my heart).  I hope that you will be inspired to take time and figure out what is most important to you, letting some of the not-so-important things drop off your list.  Here goes –

  1. Being Still and Listening and then trusting your heart.
  2. Going to a tree farm with son, Peter, daughter-in-law, Karen, and grandsons, Jack and Max, to cut our Christmas tree.  This also involves drinking hot chocolate or apple cider and munching on Christmas cookies.  (Side note for those wondering – parents of Jack and Max – Amy & Dan – like to get their tree earlier than we do so have already cut and decorated their tree by the time we get around to it; thus, they do not accompany us on our outing, they just let us borrow their kids.  Actually, I think they use the time to shop for the kids’ gifts.)
  3. Taking time to sit and enjoy the lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree once it is decorated.  This may involve sipping a glass of wine and listening to Christmas music while relaxing.
  4. Making sugar cut-out cookies with the grandsons – frosting them is the best part.  See the photo to see some of our creations – messy, and probably not worthy of a sophisticated cookie tray display, but, oh so much fun.  (And really, I don’t even like baking!)IMG_0204
  5. Enjoying Tom & Jerry beverages with good friends at a restaurant all decked out with beautiful decorations for the season – an outing that has become an annual tradition.
  6. Getting enough sleep and keeping my exercise routine.
  7. Spending the first Friday in December shopping at the Mall of America (with a side trip to Ikea) with my two girls – Amy and Karen.  This is often referred to as “the best day of the year”.  We start with coffee, then shop, then lunch, then a glass of wine somewhere, and end with dinner…just the girls!
  8. Watching the movie, White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney…one of my favorite movies.
  9. Making fudge.
  10. Writing Christmas cards – some years yes, some years no if I’m feeling stressed about getting them done.
  11. Keeping a gratitude journal – either written or just in my mind.  Each day listing 3-5 things for which I am grateful.
  12. Giving to others who are not so fortunate.  Each year, my office mates and I sponsor a family in need and provide gifts for them.  My church provides opportunities for giving to others like contributing to the Food Shelf or providing gifts for Homeless Teens, my choice this year.

However your choose to spend your time this month, I hope you find joy in meaningful times with family and friends, and peace of mind.