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Friday, September 6, 2013


As I sat to pray this morning, I continued my reading through the book of Joshua.  Most days, I read a chapter in Joshua and write a couple of paragraphs of reflection in my journal.  Then, I spend time doing lectio divina.  I read a passage several times out loud.  I then spend a few moments going over in my mind whatever word or phrase in that passage God highlights for me.  Following the reading and the meditating, I then pray through my words.  Whether out lout or silently, I speak to God.  Finally, I end in several minutes of silence, listening as God speaks to me.

I am doing my lectio divina in Lamentations.  Why not Joshua, the book I am reflecting on in journal entries?  I have no good answer.  I have done what I am doing in Joshua dating back to 2003.  I read through a book and jot down a few comments and responses.  I have very little structure other than what is provided by the Bible, the pen, and the notebook I happen to be using.  I just started lectio divina recently.

I was already a few weeks into Joshua and I added lectio divina to my routine.  Why begin in Lamentations?  Well, I think my experiences in Atlanta this summer influenced my decision.  I did not want to start with "favorites" (Psalm 23; Matthew 11:28-30; etc).  I wanted to start in a harder place because I had been to a hard place and spent a week with children who live their lives in hard places.  So, Lamentations.

But, what I read this morning is the highlight of Lamentations.

Lamentations 3:22-24

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

The word I chose for lectio divina prayer was "Steadfast Love," translated "lovingkindness," in the version I had this morning, The New American Standard Bible.  

The hard place for me this morning was Joshua.  

Joshua 11:8-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
And the Lord handed them over to Israel, who attacked them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the valley of Mizpeh. They struck them down, until they had left no one remaining. And Joshua did to them as the Lord commanded him; he hamstrung their horses, and burned their chariots with fire.

In case it is missed, note the phrase at end of verse 8.  "Until they had left no one remaining" means the Israelite warriors killed everyone, combatants and noncombatants alike.  It was divinely commanded genocide and it happens over and over in Joshua.  What a bloody book!!  My journal entries are often pleas for understanding.  "Why, God, why?  Why did your story have to go this way?  Had I lived then, would I have been wiped out along with the other non-Jews?" I'll write questions of this sort.

It's odd to find relief from such woe in a book of poems about woe - Lamentations.  But, even though I know the prayer in Lamentations 3:22-24 comes on the heels of sorrowful statements of pain and loss that are brought about by God as punishment, still faith not only in God, but in God's goodness dominates these verses.  "The lovingkindnesses of the Lord never end."

I was at a point of moving from prayer into silence, listening to God.  I was sitting on my back porch.  It was a beautiful September morning, 8AM, the birds singing a concert of praise. With each new note of birdsong, I felt uplifted and I felt reminded of God's lovingkindness.  All of a sudden, above me, I got a different and even happier reminder of it.

Our boys were off to school and our preschool aged daughters who stays home Fridays was in our bedroom drying off after her bath.  Our room is directly above the porch where I was sitting.  Unbeknownst to me, she was right above me, wrapped in a towel, appreciating the same bird concert.  She decided to join.  She began saying quite loudly, "tweet, tweet, tweet."  I was filled with happiness for God and for my daughter - thankful for both.  I decided God was telling me, through her, that I did not need the silence this morning.

So, I shouted "tweet."  She did not know I was on the porch below the window.  She thought it was her and the birds.  "Who said that?"  She asked smiling.  I stepped back a bit and she saw me.  That was the start of a wonderful morning with her.  I take Fridays off and I take my daughter.  With the boys in school, it is the one day my wife has time for herself.  She goes to a Bible study.  She shops.  Today she had a lot of tasks, chores.  She certainly was not at all pampered.  But I was lucky - lucky to have a day with my beautiful daughter; a day in which I basked in God's lovingkindness.

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