Each Day, A New Beginning
When I was in graduate school I lived with a friend who was very involved in Al-anon. She used a little book of encouragement every morning, and left it on our coffee table. It was called “Each Day, A New Beginning.” One day I opened it, and read the words for that day. They spoke directly to me and to the struggles I was battling. Before long, I was using that little book every day as well. We were both Divinity School students, and preparing for lives of ministry. This woman also introduced me to lectio divina, to contemplative prayer, and to spiritual direction. Lectio divina, or “sacred reading,” is a form of meditation using a sacred text. We would use a passage from the bible, or from “Each Day a New Beginning.” One of us would read a short passage aloud, slowly and prayerfully.
We would both tune in to the particular word or phrase or image from the reading which tugged at our heart. Then in a time of silence, we would each ponder, contemplate, the particular word or phrase, or for me often picture image, which had come to us. The belief is that the sacred text is “alive and active,” as the writer of Hebrews said (Hebrews 4:12). When you hear a passage, a story, a psalm, a poem, and one particular thing grabs hold of your heart, that is God speaking to you through the text. I later learned that lectio divina is a form of meditation developed by Saint Benedict in the sixth century. He used it with the monks in his monastic community. About a thousand years later Saint Ignatius of Loyola further developed it. To this day, I still pray and meditate each and every day, using lectio divina, and over the years have taught this ancient practice of prayer or meditation to hundreds, actually probably thousands, of people.
When you meditate using lectio divine, you can also use another spiritual practice to help you to enter the text more deeply. Sometimes I journal with the particular phrase or image that speaks to me. On retreats, sometimes I incorporate art: painting, sculpting, composing poetry or music as we ponder the text. Being a physical person, I also use movement to enter into the text more deeply. In fact, this is how I usually write my sermons. I read the text during my morning prayer time. Then I go for a run, a walk, a hike, a bicycle ride, a yoga practice, bringing the text with me, tumbling it over and over in my spirit, pondering its many facets as I run, cycle, etc. Sometimes, the text truly ignites something in me, stirs me on a profound level, lifts me outside of myself into something bigger, into the presence of God, the author of this sacred text. When this happens, sometimes it frightens me, because the Spirit wants me to face something inside of myself that I do not want to face. So I ignore or deny the Spirit’s stirrings, and think of something else. But it still continues to tug at my heart.
Over the thirty-five years I have been doing this practice, I have learned not to resist, so most of the time now I follow the Spirit’s leading and go to this place to which the Spirit is inviting me to go, to this place of epiphany, of realization, but sometimes it is a place even deeper than that. Sometimes the Spirit draws me into a place of deep union with God, knowing myself held in the embrace of something so much bigger than I am, knowing myself deeply united with God, and with all that is. Often in this place of union, I am moved to tears.
Once a month, I get together with an amazing woman who is my spiritual director. Spiritual direction or accompaniment is an ancient practice where you meet on a regular basis with someone who invites you to go even deeper into your relationship with God. A spiritual director invites you to unpack and explore those experiences of God’s powerful presence which you have had during the past month, and what it might be that God is inviting you to in your life. If you have never heard of spiritual direction, I invite you to go to the website for Spiritual Directors International (www.sdiworld.org). SDI ‘s “Seek and Find Guide” can help you to locate a spiritual director in your area. I have been receiving spiritual direction for over thirty-five years, and offering spiritual direction to others for almost as long.
As we enter this new year, and tomorrow as we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, I invite you to see each day as a new beginning. I invite you to take time each day to steep yourself in sacred story, through reading a short passage from the scripture of your faith tradition, or through the sacred text of the landscape, of nature, of God’s creation, which also speaks deeply to our souls. Finally, I invite you to explore the sacred text of your inner landscape, of your own soul.
Martin Luther said, “Every morning when you wash your face, remember your baptism.” In other words, remember that each day God gives us an opportunity for a new start. Today, may you say Yes, and receive this day as a new beginning.
This day may you see God in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God to all you encounter.
Linda Forsberg, Copyright January 5, 2016
Photos: Blog Header: Easter Sunrise Service, Sandy Point Beach, Warwick, RI; early morning, Hunter, Catskills, NY; morning prayer, Panama City Beach, FL; Second Beach, Newport, RI; Walking path, Reservoir, Newport, RI; Catskills, NY; Third Beach, Newport, RI; radiant new birth, Nicolette and Liam