My website is called Gary’s Journal. No big surprise here: The vast majority of my blog posts originate as journal entries. For me, journaling is a form of discovery. Some people may write something in their diary that they know and don’t want to forget. But I most often “write my way into knowing.” I simply start writing, kinda like exploratory surgery, noting what I learn along the way.
Perhaps the most common format I follow for reading the Bible and journaling is an ancient practice called lectio divina. (It simply means Sacred Reading.) I love the simplicity of the 4 steps, and how it demands that I slow down, pay attention and listen – three life-giving activities that don’t come naturally to most of us). But another reason I follow the lectio format is because it’s a process of discovery. What begins as a mystery and a stirring, often leads to peace and rest (which is actually the fourth and final step in this Spiritual Practice).
We are encouraging our church to slow down this Advent season by engaging mind and heart through lectio divina. I’d love for you to intentionally slow down and enter into this time-tested process of transformation and discovery. The following is my journal entry. The italicized portions are the questions and prompts for each of the four steps. There are several versions of lectio, but the main thing is to read and invite the Spirit to transform you as you read slowly, reflectively. I’m including the italicized questions to help you engage in lectio next time you read Scripture and quiet yourself in God’s Presence.
And now my journal entry…when I discovered that small is the new big.
I read through the chosen passage multiple times (three or more). I intentionally read slowly, paying close attention to any word or phrase that stands out.
“Small” – Micah 5:2. Bethlehem is described as “small” among the clans of Judah.
As I mull over this word, what is that word causing me to feel or to think?
The word “small” stirs within me feelings of relief and hope.
Is there something You, God, are trying to tell me or teach me today? Lord, what do you want me to do with the word You have given me today?
Lord, I spend a lot of time and energy trying to be big, trying to make church bigger, wishing I had a bigger motor in my truck, wanting a bigger house, hoping people respond with big laughs to my jokes, etc… America likes big, and I’ve bought into the American mindset.
But “big” wears me out. All the striving that comes with getting bigger at the gym, growing the church bigger, or even compiling a big email list of followers to my blog — each of these attempts at “big” has become a distraction and source of anxiety.
I think that’s why the word “small” stands out to me this morning. While I sense that I must do things to be big, it’s God who does great things through the small. Small is ok. Small is never too small for God to do something amazing. Small has never been a deal-breaker to God and His plans.
Hmm…I just remembered something: My middle name of “Paul” means “small.” God, what do you want to do through Gary Small Taylor? Apparently You like the name Paul, changing persecuting Saul’s name to Paul; from big-time religious zealot to Mr. Small.
This 4th step is marked by restful peace and trust in God. I pray and express gratitude for the ways God is leading me and transforming me through the reading of this Scripture.
Lord, I lay my small self at Your feet. And I rest. I don’t have to gain any more muscle mass to catch Your eye. I don’t have to grow our church to gain Your approval. I don’t have to do something big to win the world or this city. It’s ok if I never write a big book, make big bucks, or become a big-time “anything.”
You see me and know me. You know my tendency to continually compare myself and my work to others who have done big things. This comparison trap leaves me feeling dissatisfied, never at rest with being “small.” I have spent much of my life frustrated with small while wishing I could do something bigger than life.
But this verse today reminds me that salvation begins small:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel…(Micah 5:2)
Lord, this morning I rest knowing You are OK with small. I thank You for calling me to be Gary Small Taylor. Gary Big Taylor is just too much for me to attain or sustain. I fall back into Your arms. I breathe a deep sigh. And I rest my weary soul in Your Presence.
Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus — who was born a very small baby, in a small town, and who didn’t have a big email list of blog followers when He breathed His last earthly breath.