This happened when I said I was reading Thompson's Soul Feast with the "eyes of my heart" this go-round as opposed to having read with the "eyes of a student" back when I read the book in Seminary. Sometimes we read in order to gain information; that's what I meant by reading with the "eyes of a student." Other times, we read in order to experience transformation and that's what I mean by reading with the "eyes of the heart."
In chapter two of Soul Feast, Thompson uses the metaphor of a love letter to make this distinction. Who, what, when, where, how - information concerns - are not first and foremost when one reads a love letter. Presumably we know the facts about someone who knows us well enough to profess to love us! Rather, you or I would read a love letter (and send a love letter, btw) in order to experience something of the relationship with our beloved.
Sometimes we read scripture for information, but other times we need to read it as though we're reading a love letter. "Chewing the bread of the word" is Thompson's way of means setting aside reading for information and seeking, instead, to read for the experience of connecting with God.
> Pause for a bit and read the Lord's Prayer aloud, thinking about what each phrase might mean. Read the prayer a second time, imagining how each phrase helps you connect with God. There's no right or wrong here; just see if this experiment will help the difference make sense to you.
That Lord's Prayer experiment is a bit of an appetizer for a centuries old practice called Lectio Divina. The 4-movement dance of Lectio Divina can be summarized as Reading, Reflecting, Responding and Resting.
Sometimes I find it helpful to do that first step, the Reading step, a few times. I'm too used to being a student who reads for information! So, I might read through one time and let my mind make meaning of the text. With the Lord's Prayer, this means recognizing that this passage is Jesus' recommended prayer for his disciples. The second time I read through, I try to take in the spiritual impact of the whole text. Again, with the Lord's Prayer, this might mean marveling at Jesus' tenderness in providing exactly what the disciples asked of him - a particular way to pray. When I do a third reading, I look for the place where the prayer has traction for me in particular. Today that connection is with "Forgive us." What does it feel like - as opposed to what does it mean - to be forgiven?
The Reflecting step is about meditating on the part of the text that rose to the surface in the Reading step. Reflecting on "Forgive us" takes me on a journey of confession and assurance. It's really a mini journey of Lent and Holy Week as I let "Forgive us" rattle around in my heart, mind and soul. (Reflecting can also be thought of as Receiving - the thoughts and experiences that come to us in this reflection time are gifts from God!)
Reflecting then overflows in a Responding step, where I offer a prayer - praise, thanks, confession - to God for the gifts I received in my reflection. This prayer might be words, but it might be tears, or a smile, or a heaven-ward beat of the heart.
Finally, Resting is a bit of time spent in the presence of God. I suppose the Resting step could even be called Reveling - either way, we're meant to remain in the moment of connection. This step is the 'point' of Lectio Divina, really, for this spiritual practice is meant to draw us into closer relationship with the Triune God.
> Pause and practice Lectio Divina with one or more of the following texts:
Psalm 121, Luke 15:1-7, Matthew 26:6-13, I Corinthians 13:1-13
You can use the same practice with poetry (Christian Wiman, Wendell Berry, Kathleen Norris, St. John of the Cross, CS Lewis to name just a few) or with artwork (the St. John's Bible is a treasure trove, or search for icons or old masters' works.).
Lectio Divina can happen in 15 or 20 minutes or you can spend hours (or days) at a time! Slow down and savor, even for just a while, and I'm sure the Holy Spirit will feed your spirit.
Until next time
P.S. Share your discoveries - and your struggles, too - in the comments section. -L