Oct 15 2016

Praying the Text

Day 15 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.

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The fourth item I intentionally brought into my new home on the first day was my bible, an NRSV I’ve been using since 2001. It represented my commitment and hope that God’s Word would be foundational to my life in the Contemplative Cottage.

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My life has been deeply influenced by the monastic practice of lectio divina (Latin for divine reading), a four-movement pattern of prayerful reflection on scripture dating from the early church and codified in the 12th century by Carthusian monk Guigo II. Used by Benedictines for centuries as part of their daily prayer practice, lectio divina has enjoyed a rediscovery in the past 20 years, especially among Protestants from mainline and non-denominational congregations.

A short scripture passage is read repeatedly and deeply. Words and phrases that capture heart and mind are meditated upon more intentionally. The meditation on the passage at some point turns into a conversation with God about the passage. Finally, one would rest in a contented contemplation of God, sparked by the reflection.

Another way to understand the movements, according to Guigo II: reading is akin to putting food in the mouth; meditation is chewing; prayer is digesting it; and contemplation is the satiation after a delicious feast.

Models of lectio divina place the movements in ladder or circular relationships, but I prefer a tetrahedron. It allows for the connective nature of the practice to be visualized 3-dimensionally. Each movement can shift to any of the other three movements and back, allowing for a complex relationship between the four modes of engaging the text:

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I take a psalm or short passage of scripture from the larger book or epistle I’m studying, print it out and then use multicolored pens and pencils to highlight those words and phrases that are calling for deeper meditation. Sometimes, a song, person, scripture, or memory might tug at my attention while I’m reading. This may seem unconnected to the passage, but it may be a Holy Spirit nudge toward the word the passage has for me in that moment.

Prayers can be written in the margins, allowing the scripture to form the foundation of prayer. Contemplation might be expressed by simply sitting with the text and annotations as a whole, letting the yeast of the Word do it’s work in my life. Often, my meditation will include looking up Greek or Hebrew words and engaging commentaries to sharpen my own understanding of the text.

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Practicing lectio divina on scripture over the years has seeped into the rest of my life. I find myself reading other texts, such as novels and poetry, art objects, songs, and visual stories in a similar, though less intensive, way. Using the pattern of lectio divina has also affected the way I read situations, conflicts, and contexts, informing the theological method I teach and use for research (my students will recognize this!). Anything can become a “text” to read, reflect, and pray through to God’s wisdom.

If lectio divina is new for you, or if you haven’t practiced it in this organic way, a great place to start is by choosing a favorite scripture passage or psalm and spend 30 single-tasking minutes coloring, highlighting, and praying through the text.

If you’ve practiced it on scripture, I encourage you to try it on a favorite poem (I’ve included one of my favorites below). While I believe that the study of scripture takes a privileged position in God’s formative work in us, I also believe God can use stories, poems, even movies, as means of communicating truth–if we would take the time to enter deeply into the work of art.

Love (III) – George Herbert (1593-1633)

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be s/he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                             My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                             So I did sit and eat.

Sep 30 2016

Friday Florilegium

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Eilean Donan castle, credit unknown

On my playlist this week has been a cover of Rachel Platten’s global hit “Fight Song” by The Piano Guys. Not only is it an instrument version with piano and cello, it also includes a Scottish bagpipe and drum band, and is filmed on location at the stunning Eilean Donan castle.

(Before listening, please pause The Music for Dreaming in the sidebar >>)

While I appreciate the original song because of the story behind it–a singer/songwriter’s struggle to keep committed to her craft no matter what the response, The Piano Guy’s version is a mash-up of the song with Amazing Grace.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already to come.
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far

and grace will lead me home.

Lines from the hymn opens the video along with a quiet introduction of the hymn melody. Later, the hymn returns in a poignant reprise, and finally the two melodies are seamlessly woven together for the finale.

Platten’s lyrics, while not sung, are expressed by the fierceness and determination of the Scottish bagpipers and drummers, as well as the beautiful, passionate playing of piano and cello (Steven Sharp Nelson’s joy when playing is delightful to watch):

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

But with Amazing Grace gently offering a counterpoint to Platten’s melody, the song is grounded in an everlasting source of strength. The hymn anchors the song brilliantly in the grace and power of God and turns the words into a declaration of perseverance in the face of trials.

Enjoy!


Dec 5 2014

Friday Florilegium

Silent Heart-Sulamith Wulfing

 

O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto Love’s great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.

O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life’s eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought’s sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing.

Thomas Toke Lynch (1818-1871)

jesus-feet

While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.

But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’

And they scolded her.

But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her?…

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

–Mark 14:3-9

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I’m joining with my friend Kimberlee sharing quotes and book reviews. She writes:

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Sep 21 2012

An Autumn Florilegium

As the days grow shorter and the slight chill weaves its way through yellowing leaves, I dream of cozy evenings, firelight, soft woolens, and holiday meals with friends.  A song that always begins this time of year for me is Winter Song by Scottish singer Emily Smith:

The leaves are falling from the trees
Farewell for now warm summer breeze
Weather has been good this year
Now the winter will soon be here
The nights are drawing into shorter days
I hear the old folk and the country people say
Don’t fear the dark, nature has it all in hand
Time to reflect and renew the tired land

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

I see the frost etched upon the glass
In the morning sun he soon moves fast
But he’ll be back to claim the frozen ground
With each clear day he surely will be found
The geese fly south to find a warmer home
While the weary bull he soldiers on alone
Children’s laughter it crackles in the air
Sparks fly high and they catch them if they dare

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

With carols sung, the trees been taken down
We’ve passed a dram and the bells no longer sound
Snowdrops rise with promise of the spring
There’s talk and wonder
At what the year might bring
The blackbird starts to thicken up her nest
While the early lamb, he takes a snowy step
But the north wind’s grip it tightens with his chill
And holds the buds closed against their will

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

…..And you can listen to the song here.

And for another literary bouquet, join Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

Aug 10 2012

Friday Florilegium

 

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yhwh

 

The mezuzah speaks

of years finger touched

by faith,

disinterest,

habit–

depending on the day.

 

Painted over,

pried at, forgotten–

hidden scroll still and

silent

like G-d’s voice to Elijah.

 

My fingers twitch

more doubt than hope,

reaching higher than any human door,

Are You still there?

An exhale, waiting

in between

and emptied

 

It answers simply

with breath–

Yes.

 

And for another Friday literary bouquet, join Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

 


Apr 19 2012

Easter Breaking

 

O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto Love’s great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.

O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life’s eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought’s sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing.
Thomas Toke Lynch (1818-1871)

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