The Spiritual Practice of Editing

18 09 2009

Godspace is running a series on “spiritual practices” in an effort to reclaim the everyday spirituality that can infuse all of our lives, if we will just let it. Guest authors have been writing in on such topics as diverse as unemployment, mothering, drinking Chinese tea, coloring, and driving.  It’s a great exploration of how to, in the words of Eugene Peterson, “take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

One post that particularly caught my eye, by Marcus Goodyear, examines editing as a spiritual discipline, posing the question, “If your life were a manuscript, how much editing do you think it would need?”

Goodyear distinguishes between cursory proofreading and serious editing, and explains Stephen King’s formula that the difference between a first and second draft should be about 10%.   At the end of the article, he concludes with “The more we say no to what is not necessary, the more we can say yes to what is necessary and fruitful.”

I love this.  And although he’s framed the issue into a particular context, the idea is not new.  Like any good spiritual practice, it has simply gained new life.

I often joke with family and friends (right before I tear apart their papers) that I’m a “mean editor.”  But, like many writers, I’m notoriously bad at catching my own errors.  Either I’m so set in my ways that I can’t approach the piece with fresh eyes, or my mind compensates and corrects the mistakes  … but those edits never make it onto the page!

So to me, the spiritual practice of life-editing also necessitates some form of accountability.  In finding an accountability partner, I seek out those who can be fresh, honest, and constructively critical.

After, I’m just a work in progress.

Word of God, Speak…

6 08 2009

BK01David Crowder’s book Praise Habit has been sitting on my bookshelf for about five years.  I’ve taken it down a few times, to read through the first chapter or two.  But somehow I could never bring myself to finish it.  (And at just 155 pages, there wasn’t even that much to finish!)

It is one of those books that cannot cannot be consumed in a day.  Or two, or even three.  In this small volume, Crowder introduces modern readers to the art of Lectio Divina (or, “spiritual reading”), and he gives us 21 psalms to practice with.  Using the Eugene Peterson’s Message translation, he follows each psalm with his own brief meditation on the meaning of the passage.  But, as I am learning, the real “magic” of the book happens off the page.

Crowder describes the practice of Lectio Divino as containing four steps: READ (“immerse yourself” in the Scripture), THINK (meditate on what God is saying), PRAY (converse with God about what he’s saying to you), and LIVE (let the Scripture change you).

I had heard of Lectio Divina before, but somehow that last step had never been emphasized before; I’m sure that the best Lectio-Diviners consider it to be a given, but it certainly changes things to have the “LIVE” step spelled out.

Because, as Crowder notes, “Jesus was the first one to become God’s word in the flesh: ‘The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1)’

There is a long tradition that associates the Word of God with life.  In Genesis, the word of God spoken across the surface of the deep becomes the impetus for creation, and thus, for life.

And Psalm 1:2-3 reads as follows (incidentally, Psalm 1 is also first in Crowder’s collection of Lectio Divina Psalms):

Instead you thrill to God‘s Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

A tree replanted in Eden.  That’s beautiful, isn’t it?  That phrase evokes the idea of rebirth and of God’s new creation.  Something about meditating on the word of God brings that new life.  It is a way of living into the kingdom  of God and living in the way we were originally created to be (as Crowder says, living into our “genesis-shape”)

In all of our prayer and devotional life, I think we should be looking for the last step of the Lectio Divina: Live.  For those who have Christ, the Word made flesh, living within us, shouldn’t we be praying that God would allow his Word (in Scripture, in creation, in other people, in meditation, and elsewhere) to continue to be made flesh inside of us, too?

Prayer and Fasting

2 08 2009

A few great blog posts bring new life into ancient spiritual disciplines:

*** At New Wineskins, Perry Perkins talks about how to take prayer circles outside the walls of the church through “prayer walking.”   I’ve participated in similar experiences before while on short-term mission trips (The Center for Student Missions, for example, incorporates an urban prayer tour into the evening activities for all teams).  It’s always a powerful experience to be able to connect your prayers to a particular location, both visually and geographically. Getting into the rhythm of prayer walking on a regular basis could be a great way for a missional church to become involved and nurture its relationship to the community.

*** A brief entry over at Jibstay lists ideas for the modern-day fasting. Fasting is often overlooked in the church today, and I know I tend to forget that it is an important and relevant spiritual discipline. I tried a week-long technology fast last month, and it was surprisingly harder than I could have ever anticipated (and I wasn’t nearly as successful as I hoped I would be). It was incredible, though, to see how the simple act of turning off the TV and computer allowed me more time, and fewer distractions, to connect with God. More on this later, I’m sure, as I continue to explore this practice.

Thanks to Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed for bringing these great posts to my attention!