684. The Word that shimmers: lectio divina writing exercise

The Word that shimmers-lectio divina writing exercise.jpg

Last weekend I was at a day retreat and led a devotional writing session. It may be something you’d want to try on your own or with a group. The eight of us divided up some passages of Scripture and started with prayer and silent slow reading. Lectio divina is based on the assumption that Scripture is not only the Word of God with wisdom and instruction for living, but also that it is the living Word of God with something to say directly and in real-time to each of us who reads it. To me. To you. To listen for that personal word (that Word), the practice of lectio divina suggests listening for the phrase or image or single word that resonates with you, that jumps off the page at you, that shimmers. I particularly like that last description. Listen and watch for what shimmers, I told the group. Then start writing. Write fast.

I’m a believer in the value of writing fast when you’re trying to bring something to light. Keep the pen moving across the page even if all you have to write is “keep the pen moving,” because something in this rush pushes away the strong and strict self-editor that makes you want to judge each word before you write it down and instead allows something true and deep to emerge, even if it’s only one sentence on a page of throw-away words. There’s time enough later for writing that’s slow and careful.

We huddled each in our private corner and listened for what shimmered. We wrote in response.

But there was deeper still to go. Next we did what I called the “double shimmer,” which means applying the lectio divina listening to what we had just written. What shimmers, what jumps off the page, what surprises and interests you most from what you had just written in response to the initial shimmer? Now write fast in response to that.

The purpose, of course, is not to fill journal pages, but to finally prayerfully consider, what has been spoken to you, only you?

The passage I got was the prelude to the last supper. Someone else got the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet. Another, the story of the woman washing Jesus’s feet with her hair. Another, the Old Testament story of Abraham hosting the visiting angels. So much to shimmer. 

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[Photo: taken of a marble submerged in water in a cut-glass bowl.]