As Bible journaling has become more popular, I’d like to share how it fits so well with the ancient spiritual discipline of Lectio Divina. So, today let’s consider Bible Journaling as Lectio Divina. In Bible Journaling in the New Year I found this definition of lectio divina to share, “Lectio Divina is simply the classical monastic practice of the prayerful reading of the Bible…” It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.”” (Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer) So instead of sitting down and reading my Bible as a text to dissect, I read like the author Tim Gray mentions in his book, Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina; I read the scriptures as “…a personal note addressed to each of us, intended to speak personally to the intimate details of our life.”
Bible Journaling as Lectio Divina
I loved this example from Tim Gray’s book. “A lover who is separated from the beloved doesn’t let a love letter just sit on the kitchen table unopened for days on end with the ever-growing pile of junk mail, but instead quickly and eagerly opens it upon its arrival, reading and rereading it until the ink is nearly worn off from use. Scripture is a love letter from our Divine Bridegroom, and like the saints, we too should eagerly and often read the Scriptures and hear there the voice of our Beloved speaking to us.”
And before all that lovely-dovey stuff makes you feel guilty because you surely don’t feel that way about reading your Bible, did you check out my post the other day, Bible Quotes About God’s Word, where I admitted sometimes reading my Bible seemed like a penance? Yes, I said that. In those times though, I ask God for the desire to read His Word and I know He not only hears that prayer but honors it as well.
So how do my attempts at Bible journaling work within the confines of lectio divina? Extremely well! I sit down and read the text, the assigned reading for the day from our Read the Bible in a Year plan or from a One Year Bible. As I read it, I read it with an open heart and mind, waiting for a certain passage to stand out to me; a verse or even just a word that makes me stop and go back to re-read it. Lectio.
As I roll that verse, passage, or word around in my mind, I am meditating. Meditatio. Tim Gray states, “Christian meditation makes full use of the intellect in an effort to understand God’s Word and to hear God’s voice. Christian meditation is the pursuit of understanding, starting with the fruits of lectio.” I’m spending this time considering what this verse means to me. Why did the Holy Spirit bring me to a pause on these words?
As I’m meditating, I must keep in mind, all Scripture affirms the teachings of the Church and the teachings of the Church are in agreement with the Scriptures. If my meditation begins to lead me down a path away from the Church, I have misinterpreted the passage.
During our lectio or meditatio, our heart might be stirred by one particular observation. Stop there. Don’t just continue on to the next thing. Take time to go deeper and let the Holy Spirit move your meditatio to the next stage of your journey through lectio divina.
—Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina
Remember when I encouraged us not to beat ourselves up if we didn’t finish a book on a list in the appointed time. (The Spirit of Perfection) This is one of the reasons why. It is much more fruitful to take time to listen to the Father admonish, teach, or affirm us in His Word than to say we marked off Day 9…on Day 9.
I’ve decided for this year, I will not get behind in my Bible reading schedule. If I miss Day 10 on January 10th, I’m just going to pick up where I am supposed to be on January 11th. If I have time I can go back, but I decided I’m always going to be right on track day today. This will eliminate any feelings of being behind…maybe even too far behind that I just give the whole thing up. To keep track of what I’ve read when, I date each section of Scripture with the year in which I read it. My sister is putting a piece of washi tape on the edge of each page she has completed.
Next on to prayer–oratio. Prayer is a conversation with God. Speak to Him. You can speak to Him in writing, out loud or in the quiet of your heart, but just start a conversation. And again, how does this ancient practice of lectio divina work well with the seemingly new practice of Bible journaling?
The monks who practiced lectio divina carefully recorded in their personal notebooks or journals the key verses that struck them in prayer or liturgy. Like a honeybee collecting nectar, they would gather these precious Scripture passages for further meditation. As the monks did this they came up with a further practical insight, they realized it helped to write down, slowly, these precious Scripture passages that spoke to them, so that they could be etched into their hearts.
—Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina
Well, that sounds a lot like Bible and Prayer Journaling to me! When I read the passage in Matthew 5 about being salt and light, those words gave me pause. What does that mean for me and to me, to be salt and light? But instead of slowly writing the phrase, I found a pretty little girl to trace and framed her with the phrase. Writing or creating, either way, I spent time with those words.
And finally contemplation–contemplatio. Jacques Philippe states, “Contemplation comes from a deeply personal contact with God, and that is why method is the least useful at the point where prayer is the most personal.” Do you know what that means?! We can’t “do it wrong!” FREEDOM! On the other hand, it also means for someone like me, there is not a “do this, then this, next that…” printable.
The author Tim Gray defines contemplation as a gaze of love. I need to not worry about what to do and how to do and when…I just need to look with my heart, mind and soul, to God. Worrying about doing it right, will likely hamper my gaze. Those fears and doubts will be like a cloud cover and I will be unable to see God through them.
How awesome that this practice of lectio divina will also be a practice of letting go, trusting that God will hear me, love me and respond to me not because of what I am doing but because of Who He is.
I’ve written a book, Bible Journaling Tips, Inspiration and Permission, to encourage and inspire you in your Bible journaling!
The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible
More posts on how I’m using my journaling Bible:
I received the book mentioned free for an honest review. All opinions are my own.