Lectio Divina

Part of the magic of time at the ocean is that as soon as I arrive I shift gears and slow down. I don’t particularly intend to. It just happens and over the years I have come to be very grateful for it. I awaken early and there is something about a house on the beach with a porch and rocking chairs that summons me outside. I spend most of my mornings in a 23rd story condo, and though the lake view is spectacular the summons there is to sit down and look. Here it is to step outside and look, but also to listen and smell and feel.

Over the years – and we have been coming to the ocean for something like 35 years – and since the children are grown and no longer an early morning presence to be fed and paid attention to, I begin quiet early mornings with a kind of Lectio Divina, the ancient practice of reading scripture, contemplating, and praying. Benedict is credited with the practice established for his monks in the 6th century. It is simply a disciplined attentiveness to scripture and it requires uninterrupted time, quiet, and an atmosphere in which one can focus and attend – i.e. a rocking chair on the porch at the beach. In truth, I have been doing it before I knew there was a name for it. A Psalm and a chapter from the Gospels, I read the passage several times, slowly. Recently I have begun to read out loud (which someone told me was the way poetry should be read). Then I just sit and rock and look at the ocean and let the words work in my mind and my spirit.

This morning I read Psalm 30, long one of my favorites…
For his anger is but for a moment:
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

The writer understands that sometimes I’m so engrossed in an issue, a troublesome conflict, a personal disappointment, that I literally cannot sleep until the wee hours. It seems that the more I wrestle the more intractable the issue becomes, And then, morning, and things seem to reassemble and become more manageable. So I’ve loved that passage.

The conclusion is eloquent and compelling….
You have turned my mourning
into dancing:
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you
and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give
thanks to you forever.

I need the reminder that joy is the product, the result of faith and trust in God. I get as caught up as the next person in the troubling issues of the day; gridlock in Washington, my nation’s international travails, the tragic ideological divide in the soul of the country, and in the church, the gloomy doomsday predictions that all is lost for the church I love. So this morning as I read and pondered I used the last line of Psalm as my prayer to launch the new day.

O Lord my God, I will give
thanks to you forever.


  1. mary rhodes says:

    John, Judi and Marc were with me last week and told me about your blog. Happy to have a place to visit your meditations again. And as I contemplate a 2 week stay on the Outer Banks in late September, your current postings are wonderful preparation. I have missed the Atlantic in the last 4 years–nothing quite like the wide expanses of beach and sea birds. Thank you–Mary Rhodes

  2. Larry McCracken says:

    Thanks, John. Though I don’t read the Bible, I, too, enjoy quiet morning reflections and along a beach or water whenever I can.

  3. This morning I shared with a friend the last entry in Bill Coffin’s Credo about becoming “less intentional, more ‘attentional’ …- yI can no other answer make than thanks, thanks, and ever thanks.” Thanks for the post. Which shore are you on?

  4. I heard of this practice first from Terry Stumph at Fourth Pres. He introduced in our Mental Health Ministry meetings. I was moved by it then and again as you write about it. Thanks!

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