Coffee vs. Lectio Divina

“What is the first thing you think about in the morning?”

I spend the majority of my waking professional day asking questions.  As a teacher with a curriculum geared toward literary analysis, this seems to be my natural state of communication.  Questions such as “What does the narrator mean when he says x?”  Or, “Why does the poem emphasize this particular image?” come trippingly off my tongue during a school day.  I love asking difficult questions which challenge my students’ perceptions, and to see them squirm in their chairs and furrow their brows (their “brains wrinkling” as I have described it before).

But what happens when the tables are turned?

This usually occurs during the weekend, when, after grading (or often before), I allow my mind to wander freely over anything that catches my interest.

Lately, I have dived, once again, into an exploration of Christian monasticism, particularly the practices of the Cistercians and the Carthusians (sample reading:  The Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Maguire, The Cistercian World: Monastic Writings of the 12th Century, and The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture.).  Reasons for this wading into monastic waters include my own desire for simplicity and solitude, and the attempt to find common ground, and balance, with the contemporary dialogue of the Church, and the gathering of wisdom from its past.

Lectio Divina is one of the practices of the Benedictines, often described as a slow, careful, meditative reading of Scripture.  Readers immerse themselves in the Word, not for “answers,” but for the experience of the Word in their lives, at that particular moment in time.  The reader reads until a verse or word catches her attention, and then the reader repeats the verse or word almost as a mantra, to let the passage sink in and allow the Word to reveal itself in her heart.

A spiritual practice which butts heads with my answer to the question posed at the beginning of this blog entry.

Coffee.  That’s the first thing I think about.

Not God.  Not my faith.  Not thankfulness to God for Him or my faith.

Coffee.

Coffee elicits the direct opposite state of mind that lectio encourages.

You want to do stuff.

And more stuff.

Any print material I come across, I analyze to pieces.

Because that energy needs to GO somewhere.

It can’t just BE.

Which is what lectio demands: that you be on God’s time, not your own, and certainly not on the accelerated bouncing off the walls conception of time that our venti double-espresso culture values so highly.

So I love reading- intensely reading- about monasticism, yet when it comes to the practices of monasticism, such as lectio divina, I come up woefully short in my caffeinated state.

And short as in I’m not taking the time to let the fullness of Scripture tell its tale.  The words become jumbled together and meaningless.  Not always, but enough to make it an issue.

I have a feeling I know what I need to give up for Lent.

This is not exactly going to be fun.

But necessary nonetheless.

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A Post Per Storm

…which I’m hoping this blog won’t become now that school is back in session, and the hurricane season barrels its way through the south this year.  This hope also implies a.) that I write more frequently, which thus means b.) there won’t be that many storms to worry about.

Enjoying a cuppa joe and bagel at Austins Coffee, which gets bonus points today for playing the entirety of the Decemberist’s Her Majesty Presents.

Recently joined the Into the Wardrobe forum under the name “Tumnus’s Books,” which references the books lining the shelves of Mr. Tumnus’s home in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, among them a book entitled Is Man a Myth? I am rarely creative these days when it comes to usernames, so I pat myself on the back for that one.  Good boy.

C.S.Lewis is an author that has dominated my attention over the last few months, for reasons spiritual, mental, and imaginative.  As an English teacher, his relevance, especially when teaching medieval and renaissance literature, is unsurpassed, regardless of the conflicting literary theories of the day.  Time after time he directly confronts the question “What is a story?” and gives to that question the respect and depth it deserves as it relates to the individual.  His pontifications on this question, I find, have great foundations for questions I pose to my high school students, some of whom haven’t read more than two books in their entire lives.

Going through Picaresque in my own iTunes library right now…

School Approacheth…

It’s that time of year again- time to pick up pen and paper and figure out exactly what to do this new school year.  My first thought is to try and find a place to hide with a good book and reemerge next June, which is not a unique thought pattern among English teachers (given that time frame, perhaps choosing Proust’s In Search of Lost Time).

However, the “teaching dreams” have plagued me for the past few weeks (for those not in the know, this is similar to the “actor’s nightmare,” but in this case you find yourself in front of a class of students with no lesson plan, no idea what to lecture on, and no idea of how long of a time you have to teach), and now I sit eyeing a stack of lessons, textbooks, and a syllabus needing revision.  With coffee brewing and poured generously into my Shakespeare mug, it’s time to get back to work.  As I take a deep breath, I quote the mantra from Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “DON’T PANIC!”