Finding a Life-Giving Approach to Scripture (part 6): Contemplate Upon It

Roof Ladder (Porvoo, Finland) by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho (cc license)

Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness." That is Guigo II (d. 1188) talking about the fourth and final step of lectio divina, the spiritual reading of Scripture. In his classic little book he compares the process to a ladder, and this is the top rung. When I was a child my … [Read more...]

Why Reformed Theology? (via Heidelberg Catechism Q. 18)

Christ Pantocrator (photo by Waiting for the Word, cc license)

I find Christian faith coherent, intellectually rigorous, and deeply soul-satisfying. Why? Probably because I have been fed a hearty diet of Reformed Theology. I did my doctoral dissertation on John Calvin, the Reformed theologian who shaped the tradition more than any other. For a good long while I've regularly taught the theological summaries that make up the … [Read more...]

Finding a Life-Giving Approach to Scripture (part 5): Pray It

Trauben - wine grapes, by Thomas Tots, Germany (cc license)

I am convinced that far too few who follow Jesus find fuel for the journey in their own regular engagement with the Bible. If you do, that's great. If you don't, Guigo II (d. 1188) is the man to check out. Actually it is his little book that you should check out: The Ladder of Monks is the go-to guide to the real medieval practice of lectio divina or prayerful reading of … [Read more...]

My Nominee for “MIP” of the Middle Ages: St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Francisco Ribalta - Christ Embracing St Bernard; public domain via Wikimedia Commons

I don't know if there is a competition for "Most Interesting Person" in the Middle Ages, but today I'd like to nominate St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). August 20 is his feast day. What a rich and varied influence he had. He was a shaker and mover in the Cistercian monastic reform. Clearly his gifts were visible from the start: after only three years as a monk he was … [Read more...]

Finding a Life-Giving Approach to the Bible (part 4): Meditate On It

Dein Steak ist wuschelig und voller Neugier, by Brigitte Mackscheidt, cc license

Raise your hand if the word "meditation" brings to mind images of someone trying to empty their mind of every thought. Okay, how many of you think of "meditation" as repeating a mantra -- a secret word in a language you don't actually understand? What about option three: When you hear "meditation" how many of you think of a cow? Seriously. You SHOULD think of a cow. At … [Read more...]

A New View of Contemplative Prayer, from St. Clare of Assisi

Brother Sun, Sister Moon on Amazon

I first knew of St. Clare of Assisi (c. 1193-1254) through one of my favorite films: Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Son, Sister Moon (1972). I was totally smitten by Judi Bowker's portrayal of the young noblewoman who risked all to live in poverty with St. Francis, joining him in serving Christ in the poor. Today is her feast day. I want to share some of St. Clare's thoughts on … [Read more...]

Finding a Life-Giving Approach to the Bible (part 3): Read It

Foundation, by, cc license

The subtitle here is not a snarky Nike-influenced oversimplification: "Just read it." No. I am referring to the first step of the process in medieval monastic spiritual reading, the foundation of "lectio divina." Simply reading the Bible, opening at Genesis and pressing on to Revelation, is an excellent practice, of course, though a challenging one for many. But that is not … [Read more...]

Online Class “Prayer for Pastors” and a Special Opportunity for Small Church Pastors!

Kneeling with Giants - cover

The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, is again offering my five-week online continuing education course "Prayer for Pastors" beginning September 15. It is open to ministers of all kinds, but this time around I am offering a limited number of scholarships to pastors of small churches, thanks to a generous grant from the Louisville Institute's Christian Faith and … [Read more...]

Finding a Life-Giving Approach to the Bible (part 2): Lectio Divina

Santa Teresa de Avila, via Wikimeia Commons under cc license

When I started this series I mentioned that our mentor as we search for a richer way to engage with the Bible, Guigo II (d. 1188), because His little book The Ladder of Monks is the go-to text for people who want to understand the actual monastic practice of prayerful reading of Scripture, or “lectio divina.” I want to look at his "ladder" rung by rung, but first I want to do … [Read more...]

How Can We Make Sense of Guilt? Heidelberg Catechism Q. 12

Not Guilty, by Ged Carroll, cc license

When I read classical Reformed theology, some parts grate on my ears. These challenging bits teach me about myself: they show me where my assumptions about life, the world, even faith, are influenced by the culture I’m steeped in. I too need to learn “Christianity” as a second language. This definitely happens at Question 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Here it is: 12 Q. … [Read more...]