An old way to read the Bible

I shared yesterdayMatthew 5 about my friend Chris’s new app Parallel Bible–“the world’s first social, visual Bible”–and I’d encourage you to check it out; it’s pretty cool.

This week I’ve also been diving into an ancient practice of reading the Bible called lectio divina–or “divine reading” in Latin. It’s one way that Christians over the centuries have used to hear and listen to God through the words of Scripture, consciously and intentionally laying down our agendas before coming to the text–or at least, allowing those agendas to be changed and transformed by God through what we find in the Bible. Essentially, it’s praying the Scriptures. If you’ve never tried it before, give it a shot; I’m in the process of building it into my life (and I’m definitely feeling like I should have a long time ago!).

I’ve been reading Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms, and she has a great summary of how to go about doing it, so I’ll just let her explain:

Choose a passage (six to eight verses); it can be part of your normal reading plan, a passage you select for today or a passage from the lectionary reading for this week. Use it to enter prayerfully into the lectio process. Following are very detailed instructions to help you learn the moves.

Preparation (Silencio). Take a moment to come fully into the present. With your eyes closed, let your body relax, and allow yourself to become consciously aware of God’s presence with you. Express your willingness (or your willingness to be made willing) to hear from God in these moments by using a brief prayer such as “Come Lord Jesus,” or “Here I am,” or “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Read (Lectio): Listen for the word or the phrase that is addressed to you. Turn to the passage and begin to read slowly, pausing between phrases and sentences. You may read silently, or you may find it helpful to read the passage aloud, allowing the words to echo and resonate, sink in and settle into your heart. As you read, listen for a word or phrase that strikes you or catches your attention. Allow a moment of silence, repeating that word or phrase softly to yourself, pondering it and savoring it as though pondering the words of a loved one. This is the word that is meant for you. Be content to listen simply and openly, without judging or analyzing.

Reflect (Meditatio): How is my life touched by this word?Once you have heard the word that is meant for you, read the passage again, and listen for the way this passage connects with your life. Ask, What is it in my life right now that needs to hear this word? Allow several moments of silence following this reading, and explore thoughts, perceptions and sensory impressions. If the passage is a story, perhaps ask yourself, Where am I in this scene? What do I hear as I imagine myself in the story or hear these words addressed specifically to me? How do the dynamics of this story connect with my own life experience?

Respond (Oratio): What is my response to God based on what I have read and encountered? Read the passage one more time, listening for your own deepest and truest response. In silence after the reading, allow your prayer to flow spontaneously from your heart as fully and as truly as you can. At this point you are entering into a personal dialogue with God, “sharing with God the feelings the text has aroused, … feelings such as love, joy, sorrow, anger, repentance, desire, need, conviction, consecration. We pour out our hearts in complete honesty, especially as the text has probed aspects of our being and doing in the midst of various issues and relationships.” Pay attention to any sense that God is inviting you to act or to respond in some way to the word you have heard. You may find it helpful to write your prayers or to journal at this point.

Rest (Contemplatio): Rest in the Word of God. In this final reading you are invited to release and return to a place of rest in God. You have given your response its full expression, so now you can move into a time of waiting and resting in God’s presence, like the weaned child who leans against its mother (Psalm 131:2). This is a posture of total yieldedness and abandon to the great Lover of your soul.

Resolve (Incarnatio): Incarnate (live out) the Word of God. As you emerge from this place of personal encounter with God to life in the company of others, resolve to carry this word with you and to live it out in the context of daily life and activity. As you continue to listen to the word throughout the day, you will be led deeper and deeper into its meaning, until it begins to live in you and you enflesh this word to the world in which you live. As a way of supporting your intent to live out the word you have been given, you may want to choose an image, a picture or a symbol that you can carry to remind you of it.

– Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, 59-61

A new way to read and share the Bible

Excited to share this with you all: my friend Chris and his brother Andrew and their team have been working on a new app called Parallel Bible–“the world’s first social, visual Bible”–and it just came out today for the iPhone. Watch the video below, check out their website at theparallelbible.com, and check out the app in the iTunes Store.

Résumés and obituaries

[Excerpted from Sunday’s message: “Jesus = More Life.” Listen to the sermon here.]

Jesus = More Life

Forty-seven years ago, in February 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what would be his last sermon. It was called “The Drum Major Instinct.” If you haven’t read it or heard it in full, I’d encourage you to—it’s a challenging, inspiring word. As he gets to the end of this sermon, Dr. King begins to imagine his own funeral, and he says this:

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

I heard it said recently that people nowadays tend to think more and more about their résumés and less and less about their obituaries. In other words, people seem more concerned with padding their lives with experiences or with things that will impress others rather than thinking about how they would want to be remembered, and not just in terms of the impression they leave on others—as if it were all just about the façade—but, more substantively, thinking about who they are becoming, about what kind of person they are growing into, about how their character is being cultivated.

How would you want to be remembered?

What kind of person are you becoming, by the choices you’re making, by the relationships you’re investing in, by the values you’re prioritizing?

What kind of world will you leave behind?

How will you respond to the opportunities God gives you every single day, every single moment?

Dust

A beautiful poem for Lent: Blessing the Dust, by Jan Richardson.

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

You can find more of Jan Richardson’s poems and drawings here.