• Lectio Divina - Blessed

    “Lectio devina: reading, thinking, praying, and living scripture with the intention of inviting and infinite, omniscient God into your life – as it is, no gloss, no veneer. Lectio divina is more Bible basking than Bible study, as it teaches you to absorb and meditate on Scripture, to converse with God openly, and to live out what has become a part of you – His Word.”

    • The Message: Solo (2007)

    This is, by all accounts, and old and ancient tradition, but one which I’ve only recently discovered. I’m using The Message: Solo to journey through scripture using the lectio devina precepts, and on only day four I already feel I have been so blessed with extraordinary insights.

    Also, I highly recommend trying out a different version than your “norm” if you ever get the chance. I’ve read through the Bible in KJV, NKJV, NIV, and ESV translations in the past years, and although my current foray into The Message is not going to transform it into my standby study translation, there is something inspirational about reading the Word in words that don’t always feel as if you’ve read them a dozen times.

    The Message: Solo offers a scripture reading, followed by a Read, Think, Pray, Live section that offers guidance as you prayerfully reread, consider, and meditate on the passage provided. It seems to be about slowing down, and experiencing (or re-experiencing) the deeper truths within passages we may feel like we already “know” very well.

    Below is an example of some of musings, based on the reading of Gen 32:22-32.

    Genesis 32:22-32 The Message (MSG)

    22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

    Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

    27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

    He answered, “Jacob.”

    28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

    29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

    The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

    30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

    31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

    As I completed the steps in the lectio divina exercise, I was completely captivated by the request for Jacob’s name. Jacob demands to be blessed, and before it is given to him, he is simply asked for his name. And he states it. Jacob. His name is Jacob.

    What I fell in love with was this – Jacob had already received a great blessing in his life. His father Isaac had extended his hand and given Jacob the coveted blessing of the first born, and Jacob had already lived with this blessing for years. In exchange, however, he had to trade in his name, pretending to be someone he was not, and deceiving his father.

    Does a blessing lose some of its joy when you have to pretend 

    you are someone else in order to receive it?

    And on this long, dark night, as Jacob wrestles in the dark with someone he does not even know, he demands a blessing, and in return, he is asked his name. And unlike his first blessing, this time he knows who he is and he states his name. He is Jacob. Flawed, fearful, fighting – but no longer hiding.

    And God sees him, and grants him a new name, a new identity that he received as the dawn was breaking, and his hip was hurting, and he was fatigued from the night.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some of the blessings I’ve received have been carried them a bit like burdens; I was afraid that if people knew who I really was, they would believe that these blessings were never meant for me. I felt like maybe in the church, or at my conservative Christian college, I had pretended to be better, holier, more worthy than I really was, and the blessings I had been bestowed were based on my carefully crafted deceptions, not my reality.

    I think my heart cried out for a God that would ask my name,

    and when He heard it, would give me a blessing that belonged to me.

    Not for what I pretended to be in the presence of His people, but for who He knew me to be in the night, before the dawn broke, while the fight was still dirty and not yet won.

  • Humanity in Biblical Figures


    Whenever Bible stories involving well known, familiar characters are told, it's hard not to think at least one of the following thoughts:

    "How many times does he have to tell you before you get it?"   (Think - All the disciples)

    "Why would you ever do/say/think THAT?!"    (Think: Abraham acts like Sara is his wife, Abraham & Hagar, David & Bathsheba, the Israelites & the golden calf, Moses and the burning bush, etc)

    Basically, we want people to get with the program, make the decisions we can see they are obviously supposed to make, and do what should be done. It just seems so EASY.

    I consider myself a fairly empathetic person, but for some reason that empathy is not something I've always found easy to extend to Biblical characters. I find their stories easy to skim, the conclusions foregone, the lesson clear - and I forget that they were people, living moment by moment, with no sense of their historical importance or the immortalization of their actions.

    They were doing their best with the information, resources, and human natures they had to work with, and the main reason their stories can start to feel trite or pithy is because we forget that. 

    Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, wasn't operating in that at the time. He knew of great, bold promises whose fulfillment he was not seeing. He was stuck with a barren wife in inhospitable political climates and a changing world, the father of a people and religion that didn't even exist yet, and he was taking a step at a time. Sometimes with great faith and forethought, and other times with fear and anxiety and ego. He was a HUMAN.

    Ruth, a women of noble character, whose act of sleeping at the feet of Boaz seems so simple to us today, but who was risking her honor, favor, and way of life. Do we remember she was a grieving a widow, a women who essentially saw her extended family obliterated, emigrated to a foreign land filled with foreign people, and was embracing a new faith. Nothing about her eventual marriage, wealth, and place in the lineage of Christ was known to her, much less a foregone conclusion. The path she took was not worn smooth by centuries of all-knowing readers having gone before her - it was tread slowly, one foot at a time, with a great margin for error if it had not gone well. She was a HUMAN.

    Every individual in the Bible, revered or abhorred, was a HUMAN trying to make sense of their world, find their path, and make it through this crazy thing called life. They dealt with emotions, interpersonal conflict, hormones, physical ailments, family drama, insecurities, self doubt, and all the existential crisis' we feel today. They didn't have more foresight of the next moment than we do, and the Bible we have (something they were never privy to) is a chronicle of their path to seeking God in the best way they knew how. It is riddled with human missteps, errors, poor judgment, mistaken understandings - it is riddled with humanity.

    As you enjoy the Profiles and Promises study during the month of July, I hope you will read with fresh eyes - instead of considering the "giants of the faith" we know Biblical characters as today, consider them to be HUMANS who are doing their best, and often failing.

    To explore this humanity idea further, you could check a historical novel based on Biblical times. I've found that exploring the reality of the times and people helps me remember they they were actual people, and gives me more appreciation for the facets of life we don't always hear about in the Bible. Tessa Afshar did a great job detailing 21 Novels Set in Biblical Times ; click the link to check out some great authors who have written novels set in Biblical times, or about Biblical characters.


    Just a reminder that novels set in this time period don't have the weight of being Biblical truth. There is a degree of creative licence taken to recreate the types of thoughts, emotions, conversations, and climates that may have influenced people. It is an exploration of humanity, not an extension of the Bible itself!

  • Check Out Flipgrid!

    I'd love to share a new, community focused platform for sharing scripture using technology! The site is called flipgrid.com, and it was developed for classroom teachers. It is still fairly new, but it has a great premise and will likely be making its way into the workforce and other professional communities as well as the classroom.

    Flipgrid utilizes a video response approach that gives people the opportunity to orally respond to prompts or questions. This works best if you have an online audience, a Bible study group, or close cohort that wants a chance to verbally interact.

    My husband, a youth pastor, is excited about trying flipgrid out with his high school Sunday School class - he plans to introduce a topic for discussion early in the week, listen to responses as they come in, and develop a longer lesson for their in-person sessions.

    I'm so excited to hear how it turns out!

    In the meantime, click the Inkwell Ministries flipgrid link below and check out the prompt there, based on the poem "In Contrast" that was recently posted on the Words page:

    Inkwell Ministries flipgrid

    Listen to my response, then post your own!

  • Strategy Two - Word Meanings

    Sometimes the texts we read are loaded with words and phrases that mean deep things to us, whether we are aware of it or not. These meanings can pair well with a text and its message, or they can be a distraction, causing us to misinterpret or misunderstand what is happening. Other times, we just don’t get what a word means, and are taken by surprise when we realize we’ve been in the dark for a long time!

    1. The Word Association strategy starts by asking you to choose a text, read it, and identify 2-3 words that stick out to you. They can catch your attention for neutral, positive, or negative reasons – they just need to stand out to you personally. They may be words you already know, or words you’ve never heard of.

    For my text, I chose Matt. 24:45-51, which was yesterday’s reading. Here is the text, with my chosen words in bold:

    45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    2. Once you have your words, list them on a sheet of paper, with about a paragraph worth of space between them, and write whatever comes to mind.

    Wicked: When I hear the word wicked I always think “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – who can know it?” And of course, this translates to considering myself. Sometimes I think I see myself as wicked – desperately wicked – and forget that that was my state BEFORE Christ intervened. Today, I am redeemed. But the lingering taste of wicked, and all its connotations, remains.

    Hypocrites: This word makes me think of two faced people, those who say one thing but do another. I strongly connect the word hypocrite with the church and with other Christians, which makes me sad. 

    3. Now that you’ve established your initial thoughts on the words, pull them up in the dictionary and check what they really mean. Add that definition below what you wrote, and note any surprises. (Googling the Hebrew or Greek meanings can be really interesting too!)

    Wicked: intended to or capable of harming someone or something (Dictionary.com)

    “The two uses for the word wickedness in both the Old and the New Testament are very similar and they both have the same effects: the person committing the wickedness stands guilty as a convicted criminal of harming others and themselves because it is done intentionally (with malice) and indicates the depravity of the individual. As far as humanity is concerned, we know that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands” and “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:10-12).”

    Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-does-the-bible-define-wickedness/#ixzz4frt9zmpS

    Surprises: Well, I loved that wickedness is always linked to someone who has been convicted of wrongdoing. As a sinner, I know I have been found guilty of wrongdoing – that is why I need Christ! Wickedness is the conviction – Christ is the redemption. I can live in the truth that I am redeemed.

     

    Hypocrites: This word makes me think of two faced people, those who say one thing but do another. I strongly connect the word hypocrite with the church and with other Christians, which makes me sad. Biblically, hypocrite is such a negative thing – and its always applied to people I don’t immediately identify with, like the religious elite, the wealthy, or rulers. I’m less likely to assume this word is talking about “me” personally, even though I know that I do things that aren’t always consistent with what I say I believe.

    Hypocrites: people who claim to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense

    Surprises: About what I thought! A Google search of “hypocrisy and the Bible” brought up a ton of references about how God hates hypocrisy, which were interesting, since that word so strongly connects to the church in my mind.

     

    4. Using the two words you chose, incorporate them into a prayer to God. Maybe they are things you want to pray over and for yourself, maybe they are things you need to repent from, maybe they are things you would like to have more of the Father’s heart on. Let him direct your words.

    Lord,

    Thank-you for speaking to us through your Word. As I ponder wickedness, and what that means, I confess to you that my heart has been justly convicted of sin and wrongdoing – on my own I am nothing but wicked. In that same breath, I praise your mighty and redeeming power that has saved me from myself. Thank you for rejoicing over me and saving me – your precious child.

    I pray also against hypocrisy in my own life. I place the hurt and blame and anger that hypocrisy of others has caused me at your feet, and I find peace in the fact that your word states you do not accept hypocrisy either. I also pray that you would help me seek out dark areas of my own heart that may cause me to stumble into hypocrisy myself, and shed your light on them. I long to be more like you Lord!

    Amen

     

    5. Reread your original text, and contemplate the usage of the words you’ve just studied. Jot down any notes that occur to you as you read with fresh eyes.

    Feel free to give this strategy a try with some of this week’s Proverbs and Parables.

  • Strategy One - Making Connections

    Many of you might remember this set of strategies from your days in English. It's based on the idea that readers should be actively seeking to connect the text they are reading with themselves, with other texts, and with their worlds. This is a pretty standard reading practice; here is what www.facinghistory.org has to say about it:

    “Reading comes alive when we recognize how the ideas in the text connect to our experiences and beliefs, events happening in the larger world, our understanding of history, and our knowledge of other texts. “Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World” is a strategy that helps students develop the habit of making these connections. By giving a purpose to students’ reading (i.e. focusing students on paying close attention to text to find connections), this strategy helps students comprehend and make meaning of the ideas in the text. This strategy can be used when reading any text – historical or literary – and it can also be used with other media as well, including films. It can be used at the beginning, middle or end of the reading process – to get students engaged with a text, to help students understand the text more deeply or to evaluate students’ understanding of the text.”

    A. Before Reading: Select a text. Go ahead and read it through once to get the general idea.

    *For my sample, I’ll be reading Luke 14:15-23, The Parable of the Great Banquet*

    This is a parable I’ve already read / heard dozens of times. When I read it today, however, I knew I would be attempting to create three types of connections, so I tuned in in a different way. I was alert for ways I could relate it to other texts, to myself, and my world – I have a purpose for reading, and as a result I’m more engaged than I normally would be when reading a parable I feel I already "know".

    B. While Reading: We’re going to use the Facing History framework of questions here. There is a simple set for each connection type. I’ll list them, then provide my sample thinking in italics. Notice you’re asked to complete ONE sentence stem for each type. It’s not meant to be overwhelming – just to give a few options as you think about the text!

    1. Text-to-Text – How do the ideas in this text remind you of another text (story, book, movie, song, etc)?

    Consider, then complete, one of the following statements:

    1. What I just read reminds me of ___________________ (story/book/movie/song) because...

    2. The ideas in this text are similar to the ideas in ___________________ because….

    3. The ideas in this text are different than the ideas in ­­­___________________ because….

    What I just read reminds me of the story about Mary and Martha, because Jesus is in their home to speak with them and minister to them, but Martha cannot be fully present because she is so BUSY – busy preparing the meal and being a hostess. Mary, however, realizes that the presence of Christ is of paramount importance, and must be treasured above other earthly things. As I read verses 15-20, I read about people doing good, or at least reasonable, things. No one refused to follow because they wanted to run off and commit evil sins! But Jesus’ response to Martha is telling – “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) In our parable, verse 24 reflects the other side of the coin – those who turn down the invitation of Christ to do other things are left behind, and “shall not taste my banquet”.

    *I happened to make a text –to-text connection between scriptures. This may happen, or it may not. Your connection may be to a book, story, song, or movie – any other created work, really.

    1. Text-to-Self – How do the ideas in this text relate to your own life, ideas and experiences?

    Consider, then complete, one of the following statements:

    1.What I just read reminds me of the time when I….

    2. I agree with/understand what I just read because in my own life...

    3. I don't agree with what I just read because in my own life...

    I understand what I just read because in my own life I tend to come up with excuses to avoid invitations. I appreciate being asked to your party/get together/social event, but I just get overwhelmed, and I find a reason it won’t work for me. I know that I do that to real people in my actual life – the heart check is to ask myself if I do that to Christ as well. Have I become so accustomed to excusing myself from uncomfortable situations that I’m not stepping out in faith and responding the call of Christ?

    *I didn't use it here, but I love number 3. Sometimes my most powerful conversations with Christ, and indeed my biggest heart revelations, come from a place of “I don’t agree because in my own life…”. Use this response as a jumping off point and see where Christ leads you!

    1. Text-to-World – How do the ideas in this text relate to the larger world – past, present, or future.

    Consider, then complete, one of the following statements:

    1. What I just read makes me think about _________________________ (event from the past) because……

    2. What I just read makes me think about _________________________ (event from today related to my own community, nation or world) because….

    3. What I just read makes me wonder about the future because….

    What I just read makes me wonder about the future, because I wonder if it is a statement about the end times, in a way. As time continues, God is inviting us into his banquet, and asking us to join him. Ultimately, his servant goes to the highways and hedges and invites everyone – there is no one who is not welcome! And ultimately, those who rejected that call are no longer welcome to even taste a morsel of the banquet. On Judgement Day, I imagine that those who refused the invitation in lieu of “other things” will remember that decision and wish they could somehow go back in time and accept the calling of Christ.

     

    C. After Reading: Take a few minutes to read back over your responses, digesting what you wrote, then read back over the text you chose.

    Has your understanding of the text changed? Deepened? Adjusted?

    Is there anything you want to study further, now that you’ve had a chance to ruminate on your reflections?

    *I would spend some time in prayer and journaling about anything that struck me from my responses. Personally, I might go back to the text-to-self connection answer I created, and seriously question how and where this occurs in my walk with Christ. I also want to look at my text-to-world response, because I think there is a connection between the parable and Christ's first invitation to the Jews, then later the Gentiles, but I can't quite remember the details of that.

    Each person’s ultimate response will be different, just as each person’s connections will necessarily be different as well.

    Thank you for trying out Strategy One – Making Connections!

    This strategy can be used with any text, and is a great way to push yourself into thinking a little more deeply. It also adds perspective and depth, particularly to those passages we feel like we already “know” or have read many times.

    Blessings,

    Hannah

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