How to begin hearing from God

When I was in college, I struggled through a pretty long spiritual dry-spell. Then I discovered something that drastically changed the trajectory of my spiritual journey.

This new way of reading the Bible and praying transformed my “prayer life” from one-way communication (me-to-God) into a two-way conversation.

I began to expect God speak to me through the Bible and practice discernment in my thoughts to see what was from me, and what might be from the Holy Spirit. I experienced a vibrant, refreshing, realness in my walk with God I had previously only caught glimpses of.

Divine Reading

The ancient practice of Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”) most likely originated with monks of the Benedictine tradition, although it is now an integral part of the spirituality many different faith communities.

The driving idea behind Lectio Divina is that Bible study is and should be an expression of your relationship with the Triune God. It is a method that emphasizes a certain conversational aspect of meditating on the Scriptures by providing specific times during your Bible study to both hear from God and respond to His word.

There are are four stages to the Lectio Divina process: Reading, Meditation, Response, and Contemplation.

Before you begin, take a moment to pray and ask for the direction of the Holy Spirit as you move through various stages of Lectio Divina. As with any method for Bible study and prayer, it will probably be beneficial to find a place that is quiet and free of distractions.

Getting started with Lectio Divina

Reading. In this first stage of prayer, choose a passage of Scripture to read slowly and carefully. Don’t read too much…you want to really be able to focus on just a few aspects of the text that might resonate. On the other hand, it’s important to not just take one verse out of context, either. I generally try to go methodically through a book of the Bible, using either the pre-marked sections or chapter markers as my guide for each session. I’ve also found it to be helpful to write down verses that stand out or thoughts that come to mind while reading. If you keep these notes, they can become a valuable record of your spiritual journey over time.

Meditation. After carefully reading through your scripture passage, take some time to ponder the text. Go back over your notes, and perhaps adding clarifying thoughts and ideas as they come. Think about what this passage meant to the writer, to the original audience, and what it might mean for you. You might re-read the passage in order to glean further meaning and gain greater understanding.

Response. During this portion of the prayer, allow yourself to respond to the text. Think about how the text might change you. Does the text alter how you view the world, yourself, or God? What attitudes in yourself does the passage bring to light? Offer your response to the Father in humble submission to his will.

Contemplation. Simply focus lovingly on God. Words are not necessary in this part of the prayer, because you are resting in His presence. Don’t resist thoughts as they come to your mind…simply deal with them. If they are relevant to your conversation with God, then offer them back to him and pray for guidance. If they are not, dismiss them, and return your full attention to the One who gives you peace, rest, and understanding.

As with all disciplines, Lectio Divina takes practice and time. If you stick with it, though, it can be a life-changing way to pray the Scriptures and practice the presence of God.

So I’m a vegetarian…

One day I was thinking about the food that I eat and I realized that meat had ceased to be a once-living thing to me. I had totally forced the concept of “animal” out of the idea of “meat” so that it was just another food substance. This disturbed me because I was reading about how the ancient Jews viewed animal food, and how it was strongly emphasized to them through ritual that a very real life was sacrificed for them. The total draining of the blood, the strict requirement on what kind of meat to eat, meant that animal flesh was something valuable, a meaningful symbol, even a symbolic spiritual pointer. This carries over even into Christian life in the New Testament. I realized that when I ate meat, I had no appreciation of a life lost. It meant nothing to me. I was taking a costly gift for granted.

I did not and do not consider eating meat a sin. Clearly, God allows and even sanctions eating meat throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Noah1. In the New Testament, Jesus ate fish and participated in the Passover meal, so he ate meat. I think when we try to outdo Jesus on the holiness front we typically get ourselves into lots of trouble. No one is weird for eating meat. Pretty sure God is cool with it.

No, eating meat itself is not a sin. The way I was eating meat however, was.

At first, my vegetarianism was a kind a fast to remind myself to not take any life (even that of an animal) for granted. Later, I discovered some pretty disturbing things about how mass-market meat is produced, and quite frankly it just stopped being appealing. I realized that what many of us eat is prone to disease, full of chemicals and “filler,” and is produced by treating people and animals with little respect and decency. After reading up on the meat industry and watching some documentaries (yup, Food, Inc. was one of them) I found that I rarely craved ground beef or any poultry or pork—although sometimes an organic steak still sounds good to me.

So far the benefits of remaining a vegetarian have been:

  • Opportunities to discuss animal cruelty, the human rights involved in the meat industry, and the health risks of the current mass-meat production system with many people who are genuinely curious.
  • The willingness to try many new foods—a totally new diet means totally new dishes. There are some absolutely AWESOME vegetarian foods out there and my wife has become quite the vegetarian chef herself.
  • A connection with the global community and my roots in African culture. In Africa (and most of the rest of the world) meat is considered a delicacy and a special treat. It may be part of your meal, but it is never the bulk of it. From what I can tell, this is both healthier in general and seems more consistent with the general attitude of respect toward meat I am trying to cultivate.
  • I generally eat healthier. It’s rare for a day to go by that I don’t get my full servings of fruit and vegetables. I get protein from nuts, beans, cheese, and eggs.

Which leads me to the fact that I am not vegan. I still do dairy and eggs. Also, to be totally honest—and this might come as shock, so prepare yourself—I’m actually not really, truly a vegetarian. I eat fish often (about once every week or two weeks) so technically I’m a pescatarian. Moreover, I’m really not that strict about meat either. I strive for my vegetarianism/pescatarianism to be a general lifestyle and attitude, not some strict form of self denial. So if I come over to your house and you make me a meat dish, I will still eat it out of respect for the time, effort, and care you put into preparing it for me. I ate turkey this last Thanksgiving, and I sure had some ham on Christmas day too.

The point is that it is about being aware of what I eat and drink, and making healthy, God-honoring, life-valuing, socially-conscious choices regarding the fuel I put in my body.

Photo: Some rights reserved by SweetOnVeg


  1. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:3-4 ESV) 

3 reasons you should be observing the Christian Calendar

As a kid, my family participated in Advent through a liturgy that I assume my father created, drawing from various sources and scripture. Each Sunday night in Advent, we would turn off the fluorescent bulbs in our dining room, light a candle on the Advent Wreath, and pray together through Scripture. As we did this we traced the biblical prophecies of the coming Messiah, culminating in their fulfillment in the birth of Christ. From the first time we did this on, something about the liturgy—and especially the Church Year—stuck with me.

There are a multitude of reasons that all Christians would benefit from engaging with the Christian calendar, but here are the Big Three for me:
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Becoming a Minimalist

Photo Credit: Ben K Adams via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Ben K Adams via Compfight cc
Many of you (even those that know me pretty well) wouldn’t characterize me as a minimalist. I don’t have a modern-style home, my desk is sometimes pretty cluttered, and I tend to buy more stuff than I really need. Yet, I am becoming a minimalist. Minimalism as a philosophy has really stuck with me lately, and I am genuinely trying to apply it many areas of my life. A few things that I’ve been keeping in mind:

  • Minimalism isn’t necessarily about a chic decor or ridiculous extremes that limit you from living life to fullest. It’s about appreciating what you have and learning to identify what you really need.

  • Minimalism is a process. No one can just a flip a switch and become something they’re not. Minimalism is another part of life’s journey that I’m embarking on. I’m not the perfect minimalist, and I’ll never be the perfect minimalist, but I’m getting better at it, and I’m looking forward to where it takes me.

  • Minimalism has a spiritual component that is highly compatible with Christianity. In fact, my decision to intentionally pursue a simpler, more minimal life flows directly from my Christianity. I don’t want to be defined by materialism. I want to make time to sit in silence before God. I want to never lose sight of the “mere” basics: That we are saved by grace through faith in the resurrected Jesus, and that we are called to love God and love people. I want to make Proverbs 30:7-9 my prayer.

My current favorite places to learn about minimalism: