Behold, the power of reading.
A wee snippet from a great blog post by Orange Marmalade.
Behold, the power of reading.
Come divine breath!
from the dust of my sleep
to the divine possibilities
to be seized through
Just came across this prayer I wrote for those daily devotions I throw together each week.
I love how my own words can sneak up on me,
put their hands over my eyes
and surprise me
as though I had never met them before.
but even more
they want something
easy to swallow –
not unlike a suddenly
in an otherwise
difficult and sometimes dissonant
even if it is only
for the moment
of hearing it.
~ Mary Oliver, Blue Horses
“What We Want”
It’s true of sermons too, this.
Sermons should be more poem
than point parade,
More parabolic dance
than propositional entrée.
it’s those words crafted in and for
that go deepest,
that live most
rather than the ones we so carefully
In honor of Tolkien reading day.
My favorite reading from Lord of the Rings. Fellowship of the Ring. Book Two. From the chapter entitled “Many Meetings” (being a pastor, that title is precious to me…)
On a good day, this is where holy Writ and worship take me when clearer run the words…
At first the beauty of the melodies
and of the interwoven words in elven-tongues,
even though he understood them little,
held him in a spell,
as soon as he began to attend to them.
Almost it seemed that the words took shape,
and visions of far lands and bright things
that he had never yet imagined
out before him;
and the firelit hall
became like a golden mist
above seas of foam that
upon the margins of the world.
Then the enchantment became
more and more dreamlike,
until he felt that an endless river of
was flowing over him,
too multitudinous for its pattern
to be comprehended;
it became part of
the throbbing air about him,
and it drenched and
Swiftly he sank under
its shining weight
into a deep realm
There he wandered
long in a dream of music
into running water,
and then suddenly into
It seemed to be the voice of
Bilbo chanting verses.
clearer ran the words.
I will also bless those who bless you and further you in your journey, and I’ll trip up those who try to trip you along the way. Through your descendants, all the families of the earth will find their blessing in you.
~ Genesis 12:3
I’ve begun a leisurely stroll through the Bible in The Voice – it’s creators calling it a translation based on “contextual equivalence” which they define as a translation technique that “seeks to convey the original language accurately while rendering the literary structures and character of a text in readable and meaningful contemporary language”; an approach that “keeps in mind the smaller parts and the larger whole” and “captures uniquely the poetic imagery and literary artistry of the original in a way that is beautiful and meaningful.”
All I know is it works for me. Imagine that. A translation intentionally engaging the imagination and aiming at beauty and meaning! It’s been awhile since I’ve had this much fun reading an English translation. I find myself being carried away by turns in texts I would never have guessed had it in them – which is, I suppose, a key mark of success in any biblical translation effort.
Take this turn in Genesis 12:3.
“Bless you,” we frequently say. Especially after sneezes.
“Bless you.” Nice, but what does that mean?
The conferring of a divine benefit or gift, perhaps?
An inspirational download?
A God-pat on the back?
We could commence a verbal digging into the land of word studies, turning over Hebrew and Greek topsoil and seeking the roots. Yes, that’s one way of going about it. But the slight turn in The Voice with their elaborating addition of “and further you in your journey” – wow. It opens up vistas of meaning.
What a concept!
To further someone in their journey is to bless them; to bless them is to further them in their journey. To impede your progress, to trip you up on your way is to curse you.
That just put some teeth in this for me.
Who am I impeding in their journey – no matter how sweet and sound be the verbiage from my lips? Who am I furthering in their journey – no matter how uncouth, clumsy, fumbling or “cursing” my speech my seem?
Ah, now these be good questions for the day…
I’ll admit this isn’t the most appealing image of prayer.
In fact it’s
and just slightly humiliating.
Perhaps that’s why I like it so.
“Open your mouth and I will fill it,” says God.
There we have it.
The ultimate, essential prayer posture is not
standing with arms spread or
kneeling with bowed head or even
spread-eagled on the ground.
Picture a baby bird, her mouth gaping open.
No sweet song.
Just raw desperation.
Why is it we are so convinced prayer is all about filling God’s ear with our words?
It’s as if we read Jesus’ primal prayer instruction,
“Don’t pray like those outsider religious sophisticates
with all their multiplied words,”
wiped our mouth, and proceeded to do just that.
Giving God an earful.
A holy, properly ordered and delivered earful.
As if he were our secretary as we provide the dictation.
But he only seeks receptacles
wide open, empty, cracked, pathetic receptacles
that he can fill.
What’s the hardest step in line dance?*
It’s not the grapevine.
Not the coaster step.
Not the kickball change.
Or the reverse weave.
Or the sailor step, the rock step, the shuffle step, or the step-lock-step.
It’s the hold.
It’s drawing your foot back and then,
though momentum is pushing you,
though everything in you wants to move to the next step,
It’s waiting for the rhythm,
and then launching into the next move.
So against the grain of us, this.
This holding, this waiting business,
this yielding to the rhythm the self-indulgent initiative we feel
and so want to express.
But at the heart of the dance of life (chuwl!) is
slowing the step as you wait
for the beat of the song
for the next pivotal movement of life
waiting, waiting, waiting
slowing the step…
And then the pivot comes.
No. We really don’t care for this step at all, do we?
* This question was asked and answered by Michael Barr, a nationally known line dance instructor, at the Sweetheart Jamboree in Seattle, February 7, 2015.