Tag Archives: Spiritual Disciplines

The Rule of St. Benedict

St. Benedict, Monastery of St. Gilles, Nimes, France, 1129 AD
St. Benedict, Monastery of St. Gilles, Nimes, France, 1129 AD

Though very little is known about the life of St. Benedict, his Rule was to have a lasting impact on the development of Christianity. Born into a “distinguished Italian family” in 480 C.E., St. Benedict would abandon his liberal education in Rome for a life of solitude.[1] However his solitude would soon be broken by groups of monks who sought out his wisdom and guidance. While at first St. Benedict refused to allow these visiting monks to live near him, he eventually took them on as disciples. At some point in his life, St. Benedict wrote his famous Rule to help guide these disciples as they banded together into communities. By the time of his death in 547 C.E., St. Benedict had founded twelve monasteries “with an abbot and twelve monks in each of them.” [2]

The Rule itself is fairly simple and straight forward, blending the best elements of the Eastern and Western monastic movements. The four primary guiding elements of the Rule are the opus Dei, communal work, intellectual activity, and vow of stability. Gluing these elements together was an “evident love and concern for the welfare” of the monks along with some basic common sense. [3]

In reading the Rule I could not help but be struck at the cult-like instructions of total obedience to the abbot. Not only were the monks to obey every command of the abbot, they were not allowed to disagree with him on threat of physical punishment. [4] Though I know the culture was different during the time of St. Benedict with family patriarchs regularly controlling the actions of their offspring, the content of the Rule is hard to digest with my modern Western mindset.


[1] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict. Trans. Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. del Mastro (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1975), 25.
[2] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict, 27.
[3] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict, 28.
[4] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict, 54-55, 70.

The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

story of a soulBorn in France on January 2, 1873, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face enter into the Carmelite order in Lisieux at the early age of 15 after pleading her case to Pope Leo XIII. Upon entering Carmel, she joined two of her older sisters who had joined the order before her. Later on a third sister joined the Carmelites, allowing St. Thérèse the joy of being with her biological sisters as walked out her pledge to Jesus. St. Thérèse died in 1897 of tuberculosis at the age of 24, having spent nine years within Carmel. Six

Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was written in three selections during the last three years of her life at the request of two of her Prioress (i.e. the first nine chapters was written at the request of Mother Agnes while the last two chapters came at the request of Mother Marie de Gonzague). Her biological sister, Mother Agnes, combined St. Thérèse’s writing and published them on the one year anniversary of her death (September 30, 1898). Sixteen years later a cause of Beatification was introduced in Rome with her becoming “Blessed” in 1923. Two years after that St. Thérèse was canonized with a Doctor of the Church declaring coming in 1997. All of these events are very remarkable seeing how St. Thérèse died so young.

The autobiography itself is fairly straight forward as it tells the story of St. Thérèse life from her earliest days as a young toddler to the months leading up to her death. Each chapter is focused on a short time period of two to four years, with chapters six and nine focusing on one year each. The first few chapters are quite remarkable due to the details St. Thérèse remembers of her young life. As the book continues, she starts skipping more and more details, choosing instead to focus on a few highlights that happened during those years.

At first the book seemed to carry with it a sense of pride as she talks about obeying her parents and seeking to follow the ways of the Lord. However the more I read the more I realized that rather than been prideful, St. Thérèse was being overly honest and transparent. While she didn’t go through a ton of outward trials and pains (i.e. she have a good family upbringing, loving parents and sisters, etc.), she had a deep sense of spiritually and self-reflection that caused her to feel pain at every little mistake or selfish act. Her book brings out this self-reflection with a sense of humanity has she seeks to lessen herself and raise to awareness the work of Jesus within her.

In addition to teaching us about how to allow Jesus to work in our lives, St. Thérèse’s book should teach us that children really do matter. They are always listening and watching their parents and older siblings. Instead of dismissing them as too young for spiritual things, we should be encouraging and teaching the young children in the ways of the Lord. The King Himself, after all, beckoned the little ones to himself over the objections of the Twelve. Rather than being the church of tomorrow, children are the church of today and we can learn a lot about following Jesus through them.

The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens
Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens

Born on March 28, 1515 in Spain, St. Teresa of Avila was a reformer of the Carmelite Order during the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation. She was a proponent of the contemplative life whose writings were very influential on the literature of the Spanish Renaissance. The Interior Castle (originally published in Spanish as El Castillo Interior) was written between June and November 1577, but wasn’t published until 1588, six years after her death. The book quickly became known as her best work and served to establish her as one of the top thinkers in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV a mere forty years after her death and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970, one of four women among a list of thirty-six.

The book itself is divided into seven selections corresponding to the seven mansions found within the inner castle of our soul. Each selection has between one and elven chapters, depending on the complexity of that mansion. The overall theme of the book is to help people understand the soul’s journey into and through these seven mansions. Throughout the book St. Teresa is careful to note that this journey is not forced or controlled solely by the person. Rather it is a gift from God given not because the person is holy, but so that God’s “greatness may be made known” (page 19).

The first mansion the soul must enter is gained through “prayer and meditation” (page 20). Both practices are necessary as one must know to whom one speaks while also knowing what it is that is being asked. Rather than seeking out the journey of self-knowledge, a lot of souls are content to staying in the “outer court of the castle” (page 19). These souls are effectively paralyzed as they do not recognize nor want to know about their ability to converse with the Creator God. These souls will be “turned into pillars of salt for not looking within themselves” unless they wake up to their “miserable condition” (page 20). This is why self-knowledge is so important. Each person has been created with the ability to know and converse with their Creator, we only need to embrace the gift of self-knowledge that God gives us and enter into the first mansion.

The second mansion we find along our journey of self-knowledge is often the hardest mansion to enter and leave. It is here that the devil attacks the soul the hardest, trying hard to prevent it from continuing on the journey towards the inner mansion where God dwells. It is within this mansion that we have need of the Lord’s aid more than anyone other time. The prayer being that the Lord will give the soul the resolve and perseverance to continuing to seek the Lord.

Those who persevere through these hardships, will, by the mercy of God, find themselves entering the third mansion. This mansion is marked by humanity and the realization that no matter how far you get, you must always fear the Lord and seek Him. It is especially easy for those whose live revolves around ministry, whether they be pastors, nuns, or priests, to get cocky and over confident. The solution to this is to fear the Lord and keep pushing forward on the journey through charitable services to others.

The Interior CastleIt is in the fourth mansion that the “supernatural elements of the mystical life first enters” (page 11). Namely, it is at this point that the soul’s part in the journey decreases while God’s part increases. St. Teresa’s word picture for this mansion is that of a water fountain whose source comes directly from God. His peace, quietness and sweetness fills up the basin of our soul until it runs over the brim and into all the other mansions and facilities. As this happens, St. Teresa encourages us to not “think much, but to love much” as our love for God is what is important. We don’t have to try to always be thinking about our soul’s journey, but rather we are to let go and trust God to guide us on the journey.

The fifth mansion is one of preparation as the soul prepares itself to receive the gifts of God. Just like a silkworm who spins a cocoon to prepare for the day in which it becomes a moth, so the soul is to build a house through the Prayer of Union in preparation of the time when God will “transforms a soul” into His likeness (page 63).

When one gets the sixth mansion, the relationship between oneself and God transforms into that of a lover. To be in each other’s presences is all that one desires; whereas to be apart is to experience torment and anguish. Yet through these trails, the soul will persevere and begin to spend more and more time in the presence of the Lord. Some people will look upon the soul within the mansion with fear as it is new and different. Rather than turning back, St. Teresa encourages one to keep on walking as the joy experienced with God outweigh the anguish and trials that come.

The seventh mansion is when the soul is married to the Lord and the “scales” are removed “from the eyes of the soul so that it may see and understand something of the favour which He is granting it” (page 129). It is this mansion which is the goal of the contemplative life with the soul merging into the Lord like a drop of rain falling into a river. The two become one and are “impossible to divide or separate” (page 132).

The allegory of a soul on a journey into itself to find the Lord through contemplation and prayer is a worthy one. However St. Teresa’s writing style was a bit chaotic with various tangents here and there, as she herself confessed too (“Without realizing it, I have strayed far from my theme…” page 92).  This made the journey hard to understand at times with some of the mansion blurring into one another. Perhaps it is my Western mind with an enjoyment of specific doors between mansions that kept me from fully embracing St. Teresa’s allegory. Regardless the time spent with her on the journey through the seven mansions was beneficial. I definitely walked away from The Inner Castle with some wise tidbits of wisdom for my soul’s journey.

Lectio Divina – Step Four: Contemplate (Contemplatio)

The fourth and last step of the Diving Reading is to contemplate – that is, to stop and be silent while allowing everything you have read, mediated on, and prayed about take shape in your life. This is where we use our intuition in order to coalesce the previous three steps. It is meant to consummate the union of our mind and God’s truth, our heart and God’s love, our life and God’s life, our person and the person of God.

Since it is a time of silence – which is hard for most people – it is easy to skip this part, but we must NOT skip it as it is the most important part. It is during this final step that we let go of our own ideas and plans and let God’s ideas and plans wash over us. It is a time of silent prayer; of breathing in all that happened.

The spiritual discipline of “Contemplative Prayer” comes into play here:

“Contemplative prayer is silence, the ‘symbol of the world to come’ or ‘silent love.’ Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the ‘outer’ man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.” –from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

In other words, the contemplative step is a way of cementing everything together as one.

A practical tip: before you start, set a timer for five or seven minutes and then don’t look at it until it goes off. This will force you to focus on sitting there and processing the first three steps while giving you the security that you won’t drift off and miss your next appointment.  😀

Lectio Divina


Lectio Divina – Step Three: Pray (Oratio)

prayAs mentioned before, the Lectio Divina (or “Divine Reading”, to use the English translation) was developed in the 3rd century by the early church fathers as a way to pray through the Scriptures.  Split into four parts, the Divine Reading helps one to slow down and really allow the Scriptures to seep into one’s soul.

The first step is to read a short passage, savoring each word as it crosses your lips rather than trying get through large volumes of verses. Following this, one is to meditate on words of Scriptures – turning them over and over again as they seep into one’s heart. The third step of the Divine Reading, which we will be talking about today,  is prayer – or more distinctly, creating a place where you can talk to God about what was read and meditated on. The last part, which we will cover later on, is to contemplate upon all that has happened with the previous three steps.

Four steps working in unity to breath life into the Scriptures and change our souls. Powerful stuff made even more powerful by the fact that countless Jesus followers throughout centuries have walked through these four steps… wow, talk about finding the “ancient paths” of the faith (Jeremiah 6:16). 

Enough of the review, let us turn to the third step of the Lectio Divina, praying.

Step Three: Pray (Oratio)

The third step is where we dialogue with God about what He told us. It is where we move from thinking about – meditating about – and start responding to the message of the Scriptures. It is the place where we allow our feelings to come out and we get to share our joy, love, sorrow, repentance and desires with God.

Saint Ambrose in the 4th Century said of this step:

“Let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying.”

In praying, we should remember that it is a two-way conversation. We need to – no, we MUST – allow times of silence so that God can respond! All too often we use this time to talk, talk, talk, talk without letting God say anything – and then we get upset at Him for not talking to us!!

God voice could be a silent word in your spirit, something that normally would not be there. Or it could strong impression, reference to a Bible verse, a vision or dream…. perhaps He will bring to your mind something that you have heard or read before or speak to you with an audible voice.

The Bible tells us that God speaks to His people in different ways. Some people get scared about hearing from God because they are afraid they will get deceived. Jesus answered this concern in Luke 11 right after the 12 disciples asked Him how to pray and He gives them the Lord’s prayer. This is what Jesus says (Luke 11:9-13):

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are talking to God, he will guide you and give you good gifts! You don’t have to be afraid being deceived or led a stray. You are just allowing your Father to talk to you about the Love Letter He gave you to read. Having a dialogue with the King is a wonderful thing – for without it, we are just people reading a book and trying to figure things out on our own. We NEED the Holy Spirit and input from the Father on how to walk out the Scriptures in our modern world.

So let us create a place for God to talk to us.

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina – Step Two: Meditate (Meditatio)

garden pathThe next step in the Divine Reading (Lectio Divina) after savoring the Scriptures is to meditate on the words which you just read. It is about stopping and really thinking about them rather than checking an item off your to-do list and moving on to the next thing.

In mediating about the words of the Scriptures is to allows the words to seep through you. You are not trying to assign meaning to the words – you are letting the words work through you. To mediate is to hold the Scriptures gentle, turning them around and around so you can see them through different angles and view points.

It is about allowing the Holy Spirit to breath life into the words – turning them simple letters on a page to life giving manna from heaven. For without the Holy Spirit, reading the Bible is like than reading the label on a can of soup without actually opening and eating the soup. We HAVE to have the Holy Spirit, and we HAVE to ALLOW the Spirit to move in our lives!

This is also the time in which we can use our imagination to enter into the Scriptures like we mentioned before. Here shortly I will talking more about this step as I have some suggestions based upon the four basic personality temperaments…but for now, know that this step is where you allow the word that you have just read to permeate our lives.

Here’s an example, a few weeks ago I went into a conference room at work to pray. Opening the Bible my fingers led me to Romans 8:15:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.

I have read that verse many times – shoot, I even preached on it a few years ago!  Yet that day, my heart stopped on the last half of the verse: God adopted me;  He choose me

My eyes started tearing up… My soul couldn’t believe it…No fear again…I was adopted…For the next few days that’s all I could think about…I’m still thinking about..

This is mediating. It is slowing down and letting the words become alive – letting the Holy Spirit speak to us rather than just closing our Bibles and walking off.

Wow… powerful, yet simple stuff… =)

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina – Step One: Read (Lectio)

bible 2The first step in the Divine Reading (Lectio Divina) is to read the Scriptures. While this seems self evident, it really isn’t as we all have different ways of reading. For example, there are some folks whose goal in devotional reading is to make it through large chucks of Scriptures. And while there is a time and place for reading large amounts of Scriptures (after all we NEED to get the overall story line of a particular letter as well as the Bible as a whole), reading with the Divine Reading is not that place.

The reading of the Lectio Divina is a prayerful reading. It is using our senses to perceive the works of the Lord – to slowly savor each word. It is a gradual reading of a verse or a few verses, pausing after each word and recognizing how carefully the Spirit chose each word to be recorded. It is reading like you would fondle over a new toy or tool – looking at over and over, turning it over and over, seeing the beauty and life behind the printed text.

In fact, I would recommend reading the verse(s) out loud as there is something powerful about physically voicing the Scriptures. In speaking the words out loud, it is almost as if the verses become real and moves from your mind into your heart. It is not a magical formula or a way of manipulating God – it is a way of using all of our senses to experience the words of God given to us.

It is about seeing the words on the page – hearing the words read out loud – about touching the pages of the Bible (or one’s cell phone, tablet…) – smelling the paper and perhaps a candle or two.

It is about slowing down and relaxing… opening yourself up to read a letter from your Lover and King….

Read the passage…re-read it…re-read it yet again… savor each word… that is the first step of praying through the Lectio Divina.

After all, the Scriptures are, in the words of King David:

They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
(Psalms 19:10)

Lectio Divina

Introducing The Lectio Divina

•    Let’s open our Bible’s to 1 Peter 2:1-3

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

•    We have tasked that the Lord is good

o    Each of us have bowed our knees to the King of Kings

•    Now that we have done so, we are to seek to grow in Him

o    To “train yourself to be godly as St. Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:7

•    We are to “CRAVE pure spiritual milk”

o    It is a strong desire to learn and grow
o    It is following in the steps of The Rabbi
o    Getting to know Him

•    Which is the whole purpose of prayer

o    To align our lives – our souls, spirits, minds, emotions with Jesus

•    We pray not to get answers

o    We pray because we want to know Jesus
o    We want to be WITH Jesus

The Ancient Paths

•    During the siege of Jerusalem the prophet Jeremiah warned the people against disobeying God
•    In Jeremiah 6:16 he is recorded as saying

This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.
    But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

•    Ask for the ancient paths

o    Ask for the tried and true paths

Lectio DivinaLectio Divina (The Divine Reading)

•    Starting in the 3rd Century (200 AD), the church adopted a form of reading – of breathing the Scriptures
•    The Divine Reading has four steps

o    Read (Lectio)
o    Meditate (Meditatio)
o    Pray (Oratio)
o    Contemplate (Contemplatio)

•    These are simple steps

o    Some of us probably already do them without knowing

•    However I would say that most of us have never really thought about how we read the Scriptures

o    I know I didn’t!!

•    We may read them like we do a novel, or a school book…
•    The Scriptures are an interesting book

lectia-divinao    They are different than anything else out there
o    They are love letters to us
o    They are the story of God working in and through history

•    The four steps of the Divine Reading uses all four of our psychological function

o    Sensing (heart, reading)
o    Thinking (mind; meditating)
o    Feeling (spirit; praying)
o    Intuition (body; contemplate)

•    As such, it is a tool that can be used by anyone of any temperament
•    Carthusian Prior Guigo II in the 12th century said of the Divine Reading

“Reading, you should seek; meditating, you will find, praying, you shall call; and contemplating, the door will be open to you.”

•    A Southern rural minister, it is said, once replied to the question as to how he prays:

“I read myself full; I think myself clear; I prays myself hot; I lets myself cool.”

•    Four pieces operating in unity…

o    Four pieces breathing life into our souls

•    It is a progress from “hearing the Word of God to studying it, reflecting upon it, praying upon it, and adapting it to our situation”

o    It is a progress that will lead us deeper and deeper into the union with God
o    Like steps on a ladder
o    Each piece builds upon the other

•    Tomorrow we will look at the first step of the ladder, “Reading” or “Lectio”

Blessings till tomorrow. 🙂

Prayer and Fasting

fastingWe are moving forward in our series about the spiritual discipline of prayer; about creating a rhythm of life that it is in communication with Jesus. Prayer, as we looked at last week, it NOT about asking for things – even good things.

The goal of prayer is to get to know God! It is about bring our heart, soul, lives into unity with God.

In keeping with that theme, we will be talking about prayer and fasting (click here to listen to the audio version of this talk). Next week, on March 30th, we will be kicking off a 21-day corporate prayer and fasting period. This has become a tradition in our church with this year marking the fourth year we have done this. It is interesting to me how God has used this periods of fasting and prayer within the life of our church

o    2011 – Pastoral transition from Brian to Emily and me
o    2012 – Looking at buying property; we actually bought the land right after the fast ended
o    2013 – A period of looking at our souls, our family, our jobs, our calling

*    It was a tough time in the church
*    The evil one was attacking us from all sides

o    2014 – We are combining all the elements from the last three years

*    Pastor transition
*    Building plans
*    Renewed life with God
*    Fighting off attacks

Because of all of the stuff that is going on, we need to be in tune with God more than ever. Remember, fasting is not about getting answers to these problems per say.  We are not trying to change God’s mind or force Him to talk to us. We are not trying to get God to like us better

Fasting is about re-aligning OUR mind, heart and soul coming into line with God’s

We get distracted; we get confused; we get sidetracked. We need to re-tune our lives so that we are inline with God’s plumb-line.

Psalms 139:23-24

•    Let us turn to Psalms 139 for a bit
•    This is a song of King David

o    The most famous king of ancient Israel
o    The man whom God testified about saying ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ –Acts 13:22

Continue reading Prayer and Fasting

Prayer: Intimate Communication

angel-n-isaiah-the-prophet-unclean-lipsThe below are the sermon notes from Sunday, March 16th. The audio file can be found on the Payette River Vineyard Christian Fellowship website. Blessings.


  • Why teach on prayer to a church full of praying people?
    • What more can I say that hasn’t been said?
  • Did you know that here are a lot of books out there about prayer?
  • It seems that prayer is a bestselling topic
    • Everyone seems to have written about prayer
  • Prayer is a HUGE topic to write or teach about
  • One could talk about healing prayer
    • How to pray for the sick?
    • What happens when folks don’t get healed?
    • What do you do when they DO get healed?
  • Corporate prayer
  • Intercession prayer
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Dinner time prayer
  • Bedtime prayers
  • Not to mention our two favorite types
    • prayers of petition
    • prayers of help
  • Over the next five weeks we are going to be focused on the spiritual discipline of prayer
    • About creating an ongoing prayer rhythm in our lives.


  • It is about intimate communication with our Lover, our King, our Best Friend and Master
    • Some of you may have a hard time thinking about God as your lover
    • Especially  men…
    • But we are the Bride of Jesus – just read Song of Solomon
    • It is full of language that should make you blush
    • God is seeking an intimate relationship with Him
  • Sadly, I think we – stereotypically – have learned to be content in having a so-so relationship with God
    • We like Him – we will give Him our tithes
    • We’ll go to church
    • We may even study the Scriptures
  •  But if we were honest with ourselves, we really don’t want a truly inmate relationship with Him
    • It is scary
    • It is a freighting
  • Not because of what may happen, but because I think deep down in our heart of hearts we don’t want Jesus to know who we really are
    • We can fool our neighbors
    • We can fool our family and friends
    • We can even fool ourselves to a certain degree
    • But we can’t fool God
  • And that makes us nervous
  • One of the verses that has shaped my life the most is Isaiah 6:5
    • Isaiah is mining his own business – perhaps prayer, perhaps not – we don’t know
    • All of a sudden he sees this vision of God
    • As he watches these seraphim start sing

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

  • As they sang the temple shook and Isaiah drops to his knees crying out:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”