Tag Archives: Contemplative Living

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Examen”

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Examen”

“Examen” (ex ‘ah men) is an ancient practice of examination of oneself in the light of Christ. The idea is to attentively draw close to Christ, the Light of Life, who will in a singular moment illumine his great love for us and illumine the darknesses of our hearts which have failed to notice his love and his calling.

The practice is a formative and comforting practice and fits well in the liturgical prayer rhythm of compline or late-evening prayer, which is where forms of such have been practiced for many, many years.

The prayer of examen can flow smoothly in this rhythm: Continue reading

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Lectio Divina”

A Fruitful Devotional Practice: “Lectio Divina”

Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of reading Scripture that intends to lead the reader into a participation with the text. It is slow, filled with intent, and rich for laying one’s being toward the presence of God. I feel this is a great way to start the day.

Step 1: Lectio (Read)
This step is the simple reading and listening to the word of God. This reading is done slowly, perhaps even two or three times over a passage. The goal is to Continue reading

Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Book Reaction)

Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Book Reaction)

I picked up this book in hopes for a simple guidance from a trusted source. Like he mentioned of students in a letter to Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer said, “The kind of questions serious young theologians put to us are: ‘How can I learn to pray? How can I learn to read the Bible? Either we can help them do this, or we can’t help them at all.’”

I felt like a young student of Bonhoeffer as I read along, eating up his simple answers.

The little section I resonated most with was written like a short catechism in question and answer.

1.) Why do I meditate?

Because I am a Christian.

Because I am a preacher of the word. I cannot expound on the Scripture for others if I do not let it speak daily to me.

Because I need a firm discipline of prayer. … Prayer is not a free will offering to God; it is an obligatory service, something which he requires. We are not free to engage in it according to our own wishes.

Because I need help against the ungodly haste and unrest which threaten my work as a pastor.

2.) What do I want from my meditation?

We want to meet Christ in his word. We turn to the text in our desire to hear what it is that he wants to give us and teach us today through his Word. Meet him first in the day before you meet other people. Every morning lay upon him everything that preoccupies you and weighs you down, before new burdens are laid upon you. Ask yourself what still hinders you from following him completely and let him take charge of that, before new hindrances are placed in your way.

His fellowship, his help, his guidance for the day through his Word – that is the goal.

3.) How shall I meditate?

[Meditating on Scripture is preferable to free meditation.]

Just as you would not dissect and analyze the word spoken by someone dear to you, but would accept it just as it was said, so you should accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart as Mary did. Do not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would a sermon! Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you! Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.

This is not the place for the Greek New Testament, but for the familiar Luther text.

We begin our meditations with the prayer for the Holy Spirit, asking for proper concentration for ourselves and for all who we know are also meditating. Then we turn to the text. At the close of the meditation we want to be truly able to say a prayer of thanksgiving from a heart that is full.

What text, and how long should the text be? 10-15 verses and meditate on it over a period of a week. Whatever you do, don’t take the sermon text for the next Sunday!

The time of meditation is in the morning before the beginning of our work. A half hour is the minimum amount of time which a proper meditation requires. It is, of course, necessary that there be complete quiet, and that we intend to allow nothing to divert us, no matter how important it may seem.

4.) How do we overcome the problems of meditation?

The first rule is to not become impatient with yourself. Just sit down again every day and wait very patiently. Incorporate thoughts that come at you into your prayer later on; connect them to the text.

Read the same passage again and again, write down your thoughts, learn the verse by heart. …recognize the danger of fleeing once again from meditation to Bible scholarship and the like. Behind all our uncertainties and needs stands our great need to pray…

On Morning Prayer in Community

Before our daily bread should be the daily Word.

…an hour of quiet time and common devotion.

Although we are often not “in the mood” for it, such devotion is an obligatory serve to the One who desires our praises and prayers, and who will not otherwise bless our day but through His Word and our prayers.

…Grounded in the Scripture, we learn to speak to God in the language which God has spoken to us. We learn to speak to God as the child speaks to its mother.

…Above all, we should read the Psalms together. Then a not-too-modest portion of the Old and New Testaments should be read in series. The songs of the Church will place us in the great congregation of the present and the past. The prayer which one person speaks for the whole fellowship will bring the common concerns of the little congregation before God.

[Quotes, some modified and shortened, but meaning retained, are taken from Meditating on the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 29-41]

Preparing for Lent

My heart is bending for the sacred season. I anticipate it every year and make plans, sometimes plans too great to carry through.

There’s something about the coming life of spring associated with Lent, a season of spiritual preparation to receive life. Along the journey, in spring and Lent, the soul is shaped to receive and bloom out new life. The metaphor of the spiritual life being a garden makes sense to me during spring, during Lent. Repentance and preparation is preparing the garden to carry life, and we see early signs of life in the process.

I’ve always been this way, as far as I can remember. Lent has always been an anticipated time. Warm spring days have always carried a spiritual significance to them, like a grace of God received and cherished – meant to be absorbed into the core of our being. This joy, once received, can’t help but express itself in gratitude and generosity – at least it’s a prayer of mine that it continues to be that way.

I’m excited for Lent. I wonder what this season will bring this year.

A Rule of Life for Congregations

I read St. Benedict’s Rule not too long ago and something this morning made old residual questions from that reading resurface. For starters, the concept of developing a Rule for Life that’s loosely influenced by Benedict’s sketch is a great idea.

This is my question:

What if congregations developed a Rule of Life and filtered all the things they did, say, and planned through that same rule. What if being a “member” wasn’t just relegated to having heard some chief parts of doctrine at some previous part of your life. What if being a “member” was living in a community of people who lived a common life that was guided by a Rule of some kind (which would be obviously influenced by the life of Christ)?

Continue reading

Wisdom Chaser (Nathan Foster) | Book Note

Some people’s lives seem messier than others. It always comes as a surprise when it’s “the pastor’s kid” who goes off the deep end. That’s Nathan’s story in Wisdom Chaser.

Wisdom Chaser is a collection of short thoughts and stories from a son who is getting to know himself and his father. The setting is the collection of 14,000 foot mountains of Colorado. And, it all starts with an estranged relationship and a risky question: “Do you want to climb the 14-ers, Dad?”

With the stories of adventure and failure on the mountain, interspersed by life’s parallels in the normal places of life, Nathan and his dad Richard (of Christian spirituality fame, a la The Celebration of Discipline) explore the mystery of one another and of God. The core of the story is learning humility, and accepting oneself as a person who is low – that life is made up of this very moment and not meant to be the pursuit of being the top person on whichever ladder you’re dreaming of. We need freedom from that competition that dehumanizes. We need salvation from The Western Way. Continue reading

The True Presence of Christ With Us (The Heart of True Obedience)

(Thoughts on obedience and life with the EverPresent Jesus)

I believe it is the lack of faith in the reality that the Living Christ is always with us that deflates our courage, faith, and obedience. We feel isolated and it feels to be a burden to carry out our Lord’s will, as if he is distant from us and we that we may hear from him some time later regarding our actions. …much like hearing reading a letter a week later after you first wrote.

Rather, when we live life from faith in the reality of the Everpresent Jesus, the one who is with us and before us as a real person and presence, we have the faith that whatever is done in life is done not for Jesus but with him. Any change, healing, or hope that we walk into, we discover and realize is not from us but from the presence of God, of Jesus, the one who is with us always.

We believe and live this way, no longer preoccupied with carrying out a distant Lord’s will, but instead, by accompanying Jesus in all of life. In this way we are keeping his will because our attentions have been shaped by Scripture to be on him, which is to say, to pray without ceasing – not casting prayers to a distant deity, but keeping company and conversation with Immanuel, God-With-Us.

When we live from this state of being, this posture, we see resurrection life around us take shape, not as a result of our obedience, but because the Christ himself is present and shaping us to be ones who express life as we are healed and vivified by the Spirit. This is true obedience: to be ones who once again have been gifted the capacity to express the Image of God (that is, Jesus).

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