Strike the Rock – Creative Response to Lectio Divina
Strike the Rock – Creative Response to Lectio Divina
Henri J. M. Nouwen:
We are the Beloved. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved.”
Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: “I have called you by name, from the very beginning, You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse…yes, even your child…wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.”
Centering prayer does not work; Lectio Divina does not work; there is not a spiritual practice on the planet that “works.”
We know when something “works,” right?
When you sit down with family…
(the people who know you BEST!)
…on the best day of the year…
…you open that perfect gift…
(What is your perfect gift? An iPhone? iPad? Xbox? Playstation?)
The second you open that gift you know it “worked.”
The present gave you overwhelming joy, the feeling of love and appreciation, happiness beyond happiness. This is how we know something “works.” Something is doing its job and fulfilling our every need when we experience joy and stop experiencing “want” or “need.” We know when something works!
Lectio Divina, centering prayer and other spiritual practices are so counter cultural to that message of happiness and joy that comes with the opening the best Christmas present. We do not expect a Christmas morning experience with Lectio Divina. I know it is not something I look for or expect to happen. In fact, I expect nothing…and I am content with nothing. (Well…I practice being content with nothing…)
As a requirement for my United Methodist History class, I prayed with Lectio Divina six days a week for nine weeks. I choose my iPod as my starting point. First, I created a playlist on my iPod and named it daily prayer. Using my iPod had a few advantages: I could adjust my time in prayer by adding or deleting songs, it allowed me to clip the beginning or ending of audio tracks, and if I fell asleep in the midst of prayer (oops!) I could stay asleep because the end of a playlist means the end of all iPod generated sounds! Nine weeks ago, my playlist contained three tracks: a piano solo, Lectio Divina when in doubt by Rev. Todd Spencer, and finally O Lord Hear My Prayer by Taizé Community Choir. Every Monday I delete the old Lectio Divina Podcast and replace it with the new one.
Having it on my iPod made it easy for me to make adjustments. For instance, I found that I was uncomfortable moving straight from Lectio Divina to O Lord Hear My Prayer, there was not enough transition time between the two. To fit my needs, I added Tibetan Singing Bowl Meditation by Sounds for Life between the two tracks. Only to discover that the Tibetan Singing Bowls were too loud, (especially if I had drifted off to sleep! Ouch!). Luckily, this is an easy fix in iTunes; I just turned the volume of this track down. Unfortunately, adding the Tibetan singing bowls made my total time in prayer too long. iTunes allowed me to cut out some of the singing bowls, which was enough of an adjustment to the time. I think the ability to make small adjustments like this made the assignment more manageable and enjoyable.
As the weeks went on, I also adjusted what I did while praying. I tried an assortment of activities while listening: I walked or sketched, sometimes I followed along with the text, and occasionally I would journal or blog after praying. Some of these adjustments grew out of impatience, others out of the need for a better fit. For instance, I often had a hard time focusing. Suddenly, I would catch myself planning, scheduling or thinking about homework. However, when I read the scripture while listening to it I could focus with ease. This adjustment fit my spirit. On the other hand, drawing had the opposite effect. I can draw OR I can listen, I cannot do both at the same time! Two things that were most helpful were blogging and journaling in response to the time I spent in prayer. Every time I responded in some way, it was a deeper more meaningful experience.
Journaling or blogging was important whether in the form of a written prayer or a quick sketch (which worked just fine after listening to the text!). This assignment led me to the discovery that I need to respond in some way, it is not a place for me to receive something; instead, it is a time for me to join in conversation with God.
What did I get out of it? Let’s be real…it was never anything like Christmas morning! There was not a moment when I was suddenly overwhelmed with joy and happiness because of this newly opened gift. Spiritual practices, including Lectio Divina, do not offer the instant fulfillment our culture has grown to expect from Christmas Day. We often believe that change must happen in a “WOW!” moment. The tradition of Lectio Divina exists in a world that moves much slower. We slow down to enter into that world. Growth…from baby…to child…to wise adult, takes decades, not a moment or two. This ancient practice seeks to remind me to slow down. It holds me lovingly in God’s hands and gives me the courage and confidence to grow and learn. It is a slow process.
I did not experience Christmas morning but I did find time and space to think about what was works and what doesn’t. I cannot draw and listen at the same time, but I can read and listen. I can rest or walk away when I am done, but putting effort into responding is an important part of growing my relationship with the One that is always inviting me closer. So, no Christmas morning, no dramatic change…but day after day, year after year, decade after decade, I am shaped by God.
P.S. As an interesting addition to my practice of Lectio Divina this quarter: For an (unrelated) history course we created projects in groups. A member of the group suggested that we create a project on Lectio Divina. So, by a random coincidence I also studied the history of Lectio Divina AND had the opportunity to have a few conversations with other students/pastors. What a great experience :-) Anyway, here is one video that we created for our project. (We also created a Google Site: Lectio Divina)
Most of my Facebook friends have seen it…at least once or twice…(or maybe a dozen times)…
This is usually my response to Facebook posts asking for prayer. Friends ask for prayers…people that I have never met in ask for prayers…and my answer is “Praying…”
So, the question is: do I actually pray?
A couple of years ago my honest answer would have been “no.” I would say, with very good intentions, “I’ll pray for you.” But honestly? I forgot. Within seconds I was thinking about my errands and whatever activity my kids needed to be at that night. I said I would pray…but I didn’t really pray.
Today I am different. When I say “I’ll pray for you.” I am in that moment praying for you. I am taking a breath, thinking about whats going on, listening for a deeper meaning…a spark…God’s voice in your situation.
And then I pray. I say a prayer…in that second…for you. That is what I mean when I say “praying.” But what about the dots “………” There is movement in those dots. Those dots…not a period…not an exclamation…not an end…those dots are a continuing. I continue to pray…
So, tonight, when I told a girl…not even in her teens yet….that I am praying for her, that I know her situation is scary, and that I see that she somehow had the strength to do the right thing. In that moment, I really am praying for her. And in the dots…I am still praying for her.
When I say “I’ll pray for you.” It usually means…I am praying for you, I am listening for you, and I will continue to pray for you because you…like me…are a beloved child of God. You matter. You are worthy of the prayers that are sent up for you.
When I say “praying….” Know that I am praying for you.
It is definitely after midnight. I am home from youth group, my “due at mid-night” homework is in my professors inbox…and finally I had time for my prayers. My United Methodist History class requires me to pray for thirty minutes six days a week. The blogging is not required, but I am hoping it will help with the paper I need to write (I hope writing is good for my soul too of course!) After a long day…with many twists and turns I finally have a moment to pray with the Scriptures.
Questions for the text:
Why do these two translations sound so different? What does the original Greek really say?
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.
Why did Elijah pray for no rain for 3 1/2 years? Does James talk about Elijah in other places? Can we sing if we are suffering? Can we pray if we are cheerful? When James said to call the elders, did he mean a man with an MDiv degree, ordained, with a church under his care? Or did he simply mean the elders of the church? The ones not afraid of our illness and willing to pray even over the sickest because they’ve already seen it all?
I wonder about the ancient people who read this letter. A few weeks ago when I started reading James, it sounded so harsh. Mean at moments. But as I listen and study more, I think we need some of this. We…all of us…churchy, non-religious, anti-religious, devout ..we all need to learn how to live in community. John Wesley’s small group met 3 to 4 days a week!!!! Seriously! Maybe the people that James wrote this letter too had some of the same “distracted with life, don’t know how to live in community” moments just like us. (And very much unlike John Wesley apparently.)
Prayerful Response to Lectio Divina
“epidemic of wandering away from God”
The last line of the text brought with it an image of people, an unimaginable number of them, wandering away from God. Not really wandering away from God but more specifically wandering away from the Church. Along with the image is the question “why?”
God of all Grace, as I step into my future with you, as I choose again and again, to walk with you, to live my life with you, please help me remember…remind me…that I am here, I am doing this because of Grace. In the days, months, and years ahead help me stay rooted in your Grace.
I see Grace…
I see Grace…in the people I talk to, the people I walk by, the people I hug, the people I live with, the person in the mirror.
I see Grace…everywhere.
But I worry. I worry that one day those people leaving the Church in mass will be my concern and I am afraid that in that moment, I will forget to stay grounded in your Grace. In that moment, I will be the one wandering away from you. Help me love the way you ask me to love and don’t let me forget that I love because you first loved me. I do what I do because I see Grace.