When we talk of meditation, the mental picture is of quiet detachment. Well, that does not work for me. I am not critical of a more monastic approach, but it is not the only way to think extensively, deeply and connectedly about the word. So here are a few ideas that I have used over the years.
Sit in church. I used to sit in the sanctuary of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, when I was a student at the U of Washington. Once I got in this space I would sit and let my mind go to wherever it wanted to go. I would stay there until the ringing sound of city noise had subsided. This is the effect of living in a city like Seattle (or Chicago, New York or Madison), where there is a sort of hum residing after you are away from the noise. This took about 15 minutes usually. Then when I re-entered the world, I was surprised at how loud and busy it was (a state I had been part of merely 20 minutes before.)
Chop wood. Three of us lived in Montana in an apartment heated by wood, and so we had to chop firewood. There were times when I could not sit and think or pray, so I would “pray with my axe.” This was a very therapeutic way to think about frustrations. I also discovered that wood flies apart when you chop it at sub-zero temperatures – if the axe does not bounce off the surface, that is.
Carve wood. I like to go to the “man cave” and work on a carving project, the best for this is something of my own design, which has no particular deadline attached to it. Being active with a physical craft (maybe you paint or play guitar, knit or quilt) frees up the conscious and subconscious to have little conversations about life and the sermon text.
Take a walk – basically the same idea as above.
Take the sermon text to the gym – there is nothing more boring than exercise, so often I will print out the text and look at it while I am grinding out my 3-5 cyber miles on the exercise bike.
Write creatively. I find a little free verse poetry, free association, brain storming on paper with words and images or telling a story is another outlet.
Listen to Jazz – I have some music on my work computer – and anything that is jazzy, and that is either without words, or is in another language, is helpful. sometimes classical music, for me Baroque is good, or instrumental versions of hymns are also good. In Advent, I usually give Handel’s Messiah a spin.
Here is the bottom line, what does not work is to sit and stare at a piece of paper for hours on end. when I get to the end of the usefulness of that method, it is time to try something else.
Oh, finally, Blog. One reason for Fresh Read is to talk about the scriptures in a non-churchy way toward a fresh view of the text. The other is to think with the keyboard.
There you have it – a combination of advice and confession.