At the start of 2008, I joined a group of bloggers in reading the Bible chronologically…you might remember Cover To Cover and the corresponding weekly posts…this was such an amazing experience in God’s Word and also getting to know other women that I have never met face to face but have in my heart…
At the start of 2009, I began again…a different reading plan but nonetheless, I was going to make it cover to cover. Somewhere around March…I just stopped…not for the usual reasons but because God said to stop…not reading His Word…anything but that…but to stop reading His Word as if it was just a race to check off a box for the day. I was guilty as charged.
I stopped…I abandoned the “structure” that had framed my days and slowed down…I mean way down…somedays I would not get past a couple verses…other times, I barely got past a word that spoke volumes to me. I would journal…I would ponder…I would pray…I would leave saturated.
About this time I also started reading Life With God by Richard Foster. When I read this passage early in the book…you could hear my sigh of recognition mixed with need:
“Finally, as we approach the Bible it is helpful to slow down, breath deeply, and read with the heart. Now, this “reading with the heart” way of approaching the sacred text has a very long and time-honored history among the People of God. It even has a name, lectio divina, Latin for divine and spiritual reading.
What does lectio divina mean? Well, it means listening to the text of Scripture–really listening; listening yielded and still. It means submitting to the text of Scripture; allowing its message to flow into us rather than our attempting to master it. It means reflecting on the text of Scripture; permitting ourselves to become fully engaged–both mind and heart–by the drama of the passage. It means praying the text of Scripture; letting the biblical reality of this with-God life give rise to our heart cry of gratitude or confession or complaint or petition. It means applying the text of Scripture; seeing how God’s Holy Word provides a personal word for our life circumstances. And, it means obeying the text of Scripture; turning, always turning, from our wicked ways and into the way everlasting (Psalm 139: 23-24).”
It is hard for me to slow down…especially when life seems to leave me breathless. Taking the time to focus on just a small portion of the Word has been a huge blessing to my life this past year and I know that it will continue to remain.
As I have prayed and sought to uncover what words would be paramount for me this year…this is what I have found:
Two words have been sprinkled all over my emails and voice lately:
Two other words have become embedded in my mind:
Here’s why…or at least what I can surmise on this second day of January…
I desperately want to KNOW God…do you ever catch yourself saying scripture to yourself when someone recites it from the pulpit or even in conversation?
I have found myself doing this often…and I have come to realize that I may know a scripture reference…but do I really KNOW what it says about God…about Jesus…about the Holy Spirit…about me? Am I quick to believe like my six-year-old, that I know it all…it is kind of endearing and cute when Caleb proclaims it…but it is not so cute when I say that I know it but act the contrary.
I love the word PRESENT…it has so many meanings and it is a verb as well as a noun…I just love that! This year I want to be PRESENT…in my family…in my relationships and most of all in my relationship with the Lord.
If you take a shower, do you SOAK? Probably not…but you do SOAK in a bath…I want to take the time to fill the bathtub…and get in and hang out awhile…until I am changed or wrinkled…I want to be washed clean and come away with a healthy glow…the radiance of Christ. SOAKING takes time…especially depending on how dry the vessel…a hard and dry sponge will eventually become completely saturated when placed in water…but it will take longer than one that is already damp…when squeezed the sponge pours forth the liquid yet still remains wet.
I want to take time to SAVOR the Lord…His Word…His People…it makes me think of a great meal, where you continue to savor the flavor even when the meal is over…I want the aftertaste of His PRESENCE.
Carl and I recently spent time with a group of new friends and after the time was over…the experience still lingered…it still brought a smile to the face…or a remembrance of an apt word or a shared passion…that is how it is supposed to be with our love relationship with the Lord…we are to savor the time and bring it into the rest of our day.
I have distilled these words into a sentence so that I can easily recall my intentions:
By being PRESENT, I will SOAK UP and SAVOR His PRESENCE so that I may increasingly KNOW Him as I PRESENT my life to Him.
Truly, His Presence will be my greatest Present.
I want this to be my heart focus this year…
“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.”
Isaiah 26: 8-9 a,b (NIV)
And read the words of The Message:
“We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger
in the path sign-posted with your decisions.
Who you are and what you’ve done
are all we’ll ever want.
Through the night my soul longs for you.
Deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you.”
Oh how I want to know Him…I pray that this year will find me and you sitting at the feet of Jesus and not leaving until we have met with Him.
In lectio, we do not seek so much to enlighten the mind or to move the will.
Rather we seek the immediate experience of God. We seek to be present
to God, who is present in his inspired Word, and let him speak directly to us.
It is a direct, immediate encounter with our Friend, our Guide, our teacher,
whom we love.
***M. Basil Pennington