Thursday, 26 May 2011

Feasting on the Word of God

At our housegroup meeting last night we tried something called 'lectio divina'. It's a way of reading the Bible that focuses on imagination and contemplation, rather than analysis. With lectio divina, you're not reading the Bible to understand what it means but rather inviting God to speak through the Bible, illuminating what he wants to teach you at this particular time. Here's what the Wikipedia entry says:
Lectio Divina has been likened to 'Feasting on the Word'. The four parts are first taking a bite (lectio), then chewing on it (meditatio). Next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (oratio). Finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (contemplatio).

I particularly like this description of the meditatio phase:
Once we have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and 'ruminate' on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary 'pondering in her heart' what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word – that is, memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina – meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God's word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.

I think we all found it a bit odd, this contemplative reading, but it was a refreshing and different way of reading than we are used to. I'll definitely be trying it again and hoping that, as it becomes more familiar, I'll find God speaking to me more and more. Hopefully I'll be able to get over the strangeness of reading the Bible without trying to analyse it and work out what it means!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Death by Powerpoint

I've been away in Nottingham most of this week on a training course with work. It was interesting but most of the sessions were in the now-traditional style of a presentation with questions afterwards. I don't know about you but I can only take so much of this before I switch off, which is a shame as most of the presenters were giving us lots of useful information. If only they could vary the way they delivered their material; with more interaction, maybe a bit of learning by doing, and a short break or two. It's all about the learning styles.

Every time I have an experience like this it reminds me that most people find it really hard to deliver training and presentations in a truly engaging way. I guess I need reminding as it's one of the things I'm pretty good at. *Thinks how I might make a career out of this talent*

Mind you, there was one shining exception; we had a guy from the Charity Commission talking about how village hall trusts can change their governing documents (cue deafening yawns from my readers!) and he was great. It helped that he had a nice line in dry humour but he also got us to talk in little groups for a few minutes, so we weren't just listening to him for half an hour. The frustrating thing is that I bet all the other presenters we had would love to know how they could make their sessions more interesting, and I think it would just need a bit of training. It ain't rocket science...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

I am the Lord of the dance, said he

I wasn't brought up as a Christian so I missed out on lots of lovely Sunday School songs. We sang a few at my primary school, though, and I quite liked some of them. Had no idea what most of the lyrics were about, mind you. 'Open the door and let the fruit grow' – what on earth does that mean?

Anyway, I was recently reminded of one of those songs we sang at school that I really did like, even though I don't think I got what it was all about. I looked up the lyrics earlier and, just wow. They've hit me harder (in a good way!) than I've felt in quite a while. Check it out:
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said he
And I'll lead you all wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the dance, said he

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee
They would not dance, they wouldn't follow me
So I danced for the fishermen, James and John
They came with me and the dance went on

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high
Left me there on a cross to die

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body, they thought I'd gone
But I am the dance, and I still go on

They cut me down, but I leapt up high
I am the life that'll never never die
And I'll live in you if you'll live in me
I am the Lord of the dance, said he
I am loving the metaphor of life with Jesus being a dance. It works on so many levels; individual, family, community, right up to the cosmic. In fact, next time someone asks me, 'So, what's this Christianity lark all about?', I might just give them the words to Lord of the Dance.