Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Praying the Psalms ...

Eugene Peterson loves the psalms.

He has helped me to love them, too. And to use them as my guide for prayer.

How?

I start at the beginning. Starting with Psalm 1 I read a psalm each day when I sit down to think, pray, and journal.

I don't care if the psalm fits with my mood, or my concerns, or what is on my mind. I just read the next psalm in order. There is something steady about this plan, solid beyond my flimsy whims and fancies.

I read the psalm slowly; sometimes aloud, sometimes to myself, whatever seems right.

I often read one verse at a time, pausing to see if the Spirit wants to speak to me through that verse, or if perhaps my spirit - sparked by that verse - has something to say to God.

Sometimes nothing really happens. That is ok.

Sometimes I pray in ways that don't fit with the verse or the psalm I just read. That is ok.

But sometimes the words I read in the ancient poetry of the psalms connect with my heart, my life, my struggles in ways so profound I barely have to add my own words.

Whatever happens I keep reading, and I keep praying ... psalm after psalm after psalm after psalm.

I just finished a round, from the beginning to the end - all the psalms read and prayed through.

And though I am looking at other biblical places to land, my heart decided to go back to Psalm 1 and simply start over. Fresh things will happen for sure.

This is what Peterson says about the psalms:

"We learn to listen reverently and attentively by praying the psalms ...

the psalms are poetry, as distinguished from prose ...

Poetry is language used with personal intensity.

It is not, as so many suppose, decorative speech.

Poetry is designed not to teach us about God, but to train us in responding to him.

Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dulled with too much chatter, miss around and within us.

Poets use words to drag us into the depth of reality itself.

They do it not by reporting on how life is but by pushing and pulling us into the middle of it.

Poetry grabs for the visceral."

I don't know about you, but for me, in this distracted and distracting age, I need something that "grabs for the visceral" to wake me out of my stupor and shake me awake to the presence of God around me, and within me.

Thank you, God, for the psalms ...

Amen.

 

Prayer ...

Reading my way through Eugene Peterson's most recent-and possibly final-book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

His thoughts on prayer are worth repeating and pondering:

"Prayer is first of all a means of listening.

Prayer is an act of attention. 

We are not used to this. We suppose we are in charge of prayer.

We aren't.

God has spoken. We are required to enter a world of listening to God."

I need to take Peterson in small doses; to ingest his words and to let them slowly spread into my soul. To ponder them for days before I ingest any more.

To read his thoughts quickly, to gulp down too many words at one time without thinking about them, is a waste. It is like drinking a beautiful glass of red wine in one swallow.

Will you ponder this one little nugget of his writing with me today?

What does it mean that "prayer is first of all a means of listening?"

What does that mean in your life?

How do you operationalize that?

Do you teach this to others, or when you talk about prayer in your life and ministry, is it always as if prayer were primarily the act of talking?

What about the idea that "prayer is an act of attention?"

In a world where our attention is bought and sold by the shiniest object on the internet, this is a sobering thought.

What might prayer look like in your life if you believed it was primarily about listening and paying attention?

More in a couple days ... this is enough Peterson medicine for now.

Just don't tiptoe ...

Just don't tiptoe ...

All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely.

But dear children, do not tiptoe.

Run, hop, skip, or dance,

just don't tiptoe.

(Shane Claiborne, b. 1975)

The pots and pans...

Stay awake today.

There is no such thing as an ordinary moment.

Despite our labeling of parts of our day as boring, repetitive or meaningless, every single moment is God-saturated.

So wake up.

And stay awake.

When you turn toward a task you consider boring, say - washing some pots and pans - remember the wise words of the ancient mystic Teresa of Avila, who said:

"God walks among the pots and pans."

And as you scrub, you can even say to God,

"Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."

Or,

"Hello God, I am glad to be with you in this moment."

Or,

"Show me your beauty today."

Or even,

"Thank you that I am blessed enough to have pots and pans."

Just don't miss the moment.

Don't miss God.

For God walks among the pots and pans, however clean or dirty.

So stay awake.