Skip to main content

Peter on Lectio Divina

Many Quakers seem to get a lot of sustenance from the Bible. A Friend/friend of mine shared with me a few pages from her prayer journal the other day, and I was really struck by her careful, prayerful, Spirit-filled reading of the Psalms.

I read the Bible, too, but not like that. I attack the Bible the way I would tackle an immense Rubix cube, or a crossword puzzle in a foreign language. It's an exhilarating intellectual challenge, and it's got me digging through history with the excitement of a puppy finding new smells in the woods...but it's not prayerful, and it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, bring me closer to anything I could call the living G*d.

My friend's prayer journal got me asking myself, what is there that I could be reading with the same kind of attentiveness that Christ-centered Friends bring to the Bible? (What Cat, in a post a few months ago, called Lectio Divina.)

What I came up with were mostly poets (even though I read very little poetry) and also a few essayists: Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, Rainer Maria Rilke, Anne Lamott... For the moment, the list stops there.

I'm 6'1", but even I had to stand on tiptoes to get to my poetry shelf, which shows how often I take it out and reread it. But I did today, and here is one of Wendell Berry's poems that speaks to me this afternoon:

A Homecoming

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distances of our faith,
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.


Yewtree said…
My choice of lectio divina would be the Tao Te Ching.

I wrote a post about this, too.
Chris said…
I love Mary Oliver as well.
Mary Ellen said…
I have tried a psalm or two, but it sometimes becomes a wrestling match, as I have to bracket so much. But something about the NRSV Psalm 139, which I shared as a lectio divina exercise with a small newly-forming spiritual nurture group, was really powerful. But I haven't tried it since. Poetry - I should read more and savor it. Good plan.
Mary Ellen--how amazing that you should mention Psalm 139, of all things! From the day a fFriend quoted it to me that particular Psalm has spoken to me quite strongly.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Especially to a Pagan, one whose understanding of Spirit is in its immanence, and whose traditions honor both the dark and the light, this psalm is very, very rich.

Approaching the Bible as poetry is the only way it works for me, thus far. I find myself unable to follow Peter's more studious path (though I do often take advantage of his work, using him as a kind of living footnote when I am puzzling over a passage a Friend has mentioned online or in meeting).

(Like Peter, I find spiritual nurture in Mary Oliver, too. I love her poem "Wild Geese" especially.)
Mary Ellen said…
Thanks, Cat, for that link - I have read and loved "Wild Geese" before, but tonight the poem "Journey" is speaking to me.

Popular posts from this blog

Confronting Racism, Yankee Pagan Style

I am a Yankee.  Right down to my Pagan soul.

My understanding of what it means to be a Pagan is to try to live in right relationship with the gods, the land, and the people, including the ancestors.  My gods are those that are comfortable in New England’s woods and hills.  My land is this rocky landscape of New England.  And my people and my ancestors–on Mom’s side, at least–are New Englanders: sea captains and dairy farmers, teachers and laborers.  Whatever granite is in this place or in my ancestors lives on in me and in my Pagan practice.

And that granite is why I am so driven to speak out against racism.
To help me explain what I mean, I’m going to go ahead and borrow an ancestor: my friend Kirk White‘s father.
A Yankee like a Rock Kirk’s ancestors, like mine, were among the first Englishmen to arrive in North America.  Like mine, this landscape was where they found their home.  And like me, my friend Kirk and his family before him has loved New England–Vermont in his c…

Peter on Grief and Communities

Well, that was unexpected.

For the last year, ever since my mom's health took a sharp downturn, I've been my dad's ride to Florence Congregational Church on Sundays. That community has been important for my dad and the weekly outing with me was something he always looked forward to and enjoyed, so I didn't mind taking him there. It meant giving up attending my own Quaker meeting for the duration, but I had already been questioning whether silent waiting worship was working for me. I was ready for a sabbatical.
A month ago, my dad was Section-Twelved into a geriatric psych hospital when his dementia started to make him emotionally volatile. I had been visiting him every day at his assisted living facility which was right on my way home from work, but the hospital was almost an hour away. I didn't see him at all for three weeks, and when I did visit him there, it actually took me a couple of seconds to recognize him. He was slumped forward in a wheel chair, looking v…

Bears Eat My Lettuce

I love where I live;  since moving to our new home four years ago, I've been able to build a relationship with a piece of land for the first time since I was a child.  It's everything a dirt-worshipping Pagan could ask for.  I have a garden, and I grow much of my own food, and that is as much a spiritual delight as a taste treat.  And I have woods again as neighbors: glacial boulders, white pines and black birches, owls and white-tailed deer.

And bears.

And the bears eat my lettuce.

I'm not kidding about that.  Oh, it's winter now, and the bears are huddled up in their dens.  But this past spring, I grew lettuce.  Award winning, gorgeous lettuce: three different kinds!  They were nourished to extraordinary size and succulence by the cool, wet weather we had, and each night, I would gather just a few outer leaves, knowing that careful tending would mean tasty salads for months.

And then, over the course of three days, the bears ate every single one of my lettuce plants…