While I try to stay up on the news and even novel things that are happening in various corners of the knowledge world, I also try to stay grounded in my own Christian tradition. That tradition is a resource. It is like soul food. I need a healthy balanced diet of soul food to stay healthy. It is like the food balance we need to be healthy and physically well.
One thing I do is follow the daily lectionary. Because of my association with the monastic tradition, I follow the daily lectionary provided for Benedictine monks. Many years ago I became a Benedictine oblate. That means I am affiliated with a local Benedictine monastery and am something like a lay member there. I find that way of life to offer a sane choice of living within an often-insane world.
Of course one of the things I quickly learned when I began hanging out with the monks is they can be as crazy as those of us who don’t live in the monastery. Monks have taken vows to try as hard as they can to live a life of the Spirit. They see Jesus as a great role model for their own life’s journey. The guidelines for a healthy spiritual life are fairly clear. But all of this matters not, until they begin to put it into practice. That’s the hard part.
The Benedictines carve up the day to have a balance of worship and work. In fact that is their motto---worship and work---Ora et Labora. The great thing about this is their decision that worship (broadly defined) is central to their lives. They know as well as I do, if they do not intentionally make this happen, their lives will be swallowed up in busyness just like my life can be.
The lectionary is the predetermined selection of readings and prayers all Benedictines say all around the world at appointed times. It begins with an early morning period of worship replete with Psalms, bible readings and times for meditation. And there are similar spots throughout the day, culminating in a time at the end of the day called Compline, which means complete or finished.
I don’t follow all of the appointed times for spiritual refreshment, but I try to do some of them. It is easiest for me to do the morning one and or the evening one. Compline is my favorite---coming at the end of the day. Too often, however, I choose some lesser activity---like watching basketball or something. I guess I am a work-in-progress!
Yesterday I managed to spend some time with the early morning lectionary reading. The first Psalm that was offered was Psalm 86. I usually read the entire Psalm, but then I settle in on one or two verses so I can let that portion feed my soul. So yesterday I focused on the first two verses of Psalm 86. There was much there to ponder.
I laughed at the audacity of the Psalmist with these opening words: “Incline your ear to me, O Lord…” (86:1) That sounds like a spiritual, “Hey Lord! Listen up!” There is no meek worm offering this request. It is a bold spirit. I want to emulate that, too. The audacity continues when the Psalmist asks God to “answer me.” At that point the Psalmist asks this of God and confesses, “For I am poor and needy.” My own Quaker tradition would say with the Psalmist: “You speak my mind.” That means something like, “That’s just how I was thinking.”
I doubt that the Psalmist meant that he was economically poor---although maybe he was. I am not financially poor. But I am usually dealing with poverty of spirit. As we used to say on the farm, “we’re running on the fumes.” Busy lives and busy schedules sap us of our energy and our spirit and we’re running on the fumes of our lives. We are poor and needy. We know there is a source of living water.
The second verse of Psalm 86 follows with two more petitions. “Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you.” I am not sure the Psalmist is saying he is literally dying and asks that his life be preserved. Instead, I think maybe the issue is spiritual dying. I certainly know the experience of being so unplugged from life that it feels “as if” I am dead.
The final petition is touching. “Save me.” I don’t take this in an altar call, revivalistic sense---although there is nothing wrong with that. I learned in Greek the word often translated “save” could also be translated “heal.” I like the word the petition that way: “heal me. Make me whole.” That is my request, too. That is what I will speak into the Divine ear.