All around me people sipped steaming coffee and scrolled away on their electronic devices. They were oblivious. But I could not have sensed Jesus' presence more clearly if he'd sat down in the chair across from me.
I came alone to the coffee shop. My mission: to attempt the spiritual discipline of lectio divina. The intimidating Latin name, combined with the suggested component of burning incense screamed weird to me when I learned about it in Sunday School, but I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I should try it.
Bible study is a normal part of my routine, but I tend to go to the Word with a preconceived plan. Sometimes I want answers for raising my children. Sometimes I need to prepare a discussion topic. And, quite frankly, sometimes I just want to read a few verses and check it off my list for the day. Lectio divina does not allow that.
The English translation of lectio divina is "divine reading." It is a classic spiritual discipline of Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. According to M. Robert Mulholland Jr. in his book Invitation to a Journey, when practicing Lectio Divina we are not to take an analytical approach to the passage but are to be mastered by God for the fulfillment of his purposes in us and through us. We are to shift within ourselves from What do I want to learn from this text? to What does God want to teach me through this text?
I finally gave in to the relentless nudge and wrote LECTIO DIVINA in orange block letters on my dry erase calendar. When the scheduled day arrived and those two words leapt off the calendar at me, I felt obliged to follow through.
I gathered my Bible, Kindle, and journal, and hopped in my mini-van en route to my lectio divina destination: a little coffee shop down the road. It is probably more on par with the traditional discipline to find a quiet place of solitude, but I was already taking a step out of my comfort zone by participating in lectio divina, so I decided the location must be comfortable and familiar.
Once I had my focus (and my coffee), I was ready for my adventure in the Word.
Step 1: Lectio
I began with the first of four steps, lectio, which is simply the process of reading the text while involving our senses. This is where the burning of incense fits in, but instead the scent of freshly-brewed medium roast in my green mug involved my senses.
Starting felt strangely similar to taking a seat on the first day of a college course and not knowing what to expect from the professor. I wasn't sure what to read and wondered if I looked as odd to everyone around me as I felt. After opening my Bible and flipping through it a bit, I landed at Isaiah 55. The chapter was a reasonable length to study for the time I had allotted, so I planted myself there. Mulholland says that we are to "read expectantly, hungry to hear what God has to say to us…" So I started reading, hopeful that I could study the passage without forcing any of my own impressions into the text.