My pal Alice told me about a way to meditate anew on familiar biblical passages and favorite spiritual sayings. I call it “Quotation Subtraction.” It works like this: Choose a beloved, brief quote from a book, poem or other work of literature — the Bible, of course, is a great place to start — and meditate on what it means as you lose, one by one, the last word in the saying. Let’s use Psalm 46:10 as an example.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Take a quiet moment to reflect on the words. What do they mean to you? Now remove the last word.

“Be still and know that I am.”

How does this change what you feel? What emotions and ideas do these words conjure up?

“Be still and know that I.”

And now? Who or what is the “I” in this quotation? Which “I” does God want you to know?

“Be still and know.”

Know what? Again, reflect on what these words mean to you.

“Be still and.”

And what? What is required of you in this moment?

“Be still.”

What value is there in stillness? What can you learn from it?


If God said this single word to you, what would you think or feel?

I have found this meditation surprisingly rich and unexpectedly revealing. It is a quick and easy spiritual practice that can open to you whole new avenues of thought. Imagine what you might do with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son”) or 1 John 4:7 (“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God”)!

Give it a whirl, and see how old words take on new meanings in your life!