Sing to the LORD and bless His Name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations and His wonders among all peoples. Psalm 96:2–3
In the morning, LORD, You hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for You. Psalm 5:3
This is what the Spirit teaches any faithful person to do—read Scripture (and the very experiences of life) with a gaze of love. Contemplative practice helps you develop a third eye that reads between the lines and finds the thread always moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice.
Lectio divina is a contemplative way to read short passages of sacred text and discover meaning deeper than the literal layer. With the first reading, listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word that stands out for you. During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, perhaps speaking that response aloud or writing in a journal. After reading the passage a third time, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and what it calls you to. Finally, rest in silence after a fourth reading. –Richard Rohr
No lofty reasonings about God and about His relations to us and ours will do away with the obstinate fact that if we love Him really, and not in our reveries alone, we must love our neighbor too, really, and not in theory alone. It is no use at all to see (as who can fail to see?) that He is in all things and persons and consequently is to be found and loved in them and they in Him, unless our belief flows over into action and in the practical affairs of daily life we do thus see Him and them too and do act upon what we see. –R. H. J. Steuart
Seven years ago I began the discipline of Lectio divina.
And this morning, as I worked my way through the Saturday Maximum VO2 swim practice, between trying to emulate the long beautiful stroke of one of the U of A swim gods I had watched before jumping in, and between thinking deep core thoughts as I flip-turned, because of my conversation last night with Zach, my own personal swim god, I chatted with Doctor Darrell, kicking 75 sets. And he and his wife also worked at a school tucked into a Mexican village up in the Chihuahuas with the Quakers and I am pretty sure he has dropped at least twenty or thirty pounds over the years and years of five o’clocks in the morning even if he is the last one in the pool, and Micky with the scar-laced knee brought me some really cool hiking boots and Gail in the next faster lane has a couple of matching surgeries dug into her back. And we are all busted up and broken bodies, and my twenty years of splashing into the waiting water is not particularly pretty, but bit by bit it has shaped and formed me.
Just as surely as reading His word daily with the gaze of love has shaped and formed me.
Steuart reminds me that all of those years of listening, reflecting, responding and resting mean nothing if they are not actively shining love into lives of our neighbors. Well, not nothing. Worse than nothing. They are empty and useless.
And our school celebrated Freaky Friday the 13th by having the teachers dress up as kids and the kids dressed up as their favorite teacher. And let me tell you, kiddos do not miss any detail.
Eyes are upon me, every moment is held up to the verse I have taped to the back of the bookcase as a reminder …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
That they may be able to comprehend the breadth and the length and height and depth of His love, filled up to all the fullness of God.
And this week, the first week back into the new year, one of the Arizona legislators offered up an amendment to section 15-112, Arizona Revised Statues: A school district or charter school in this state, nor a Arizona-funded university or college, shall not include in its program of instruction any courses, or classes, events or activities that include do any of the following: Promote division, resentment or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people.
And, well, what can they do to me? Fire me?
Starbucks or Trader Joe’s really and truly seem like happy easy places to run a cash register.
I am teaching social justice every single page of my American history textbook.
And we read Night and are once again reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch’s definition of courage: Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
And each and every one of my students is spending Martin Luther King weekend reflecting on self-selected words of Dr. King the Baptist minister, and paragraph one must have a hook, a correctly written quote, and a thesis statement, and paragraph two is to have three specific supports of how this belief flowed over into action and in the practical affairs of daily life, and paragraph three is how we can thus see Him and them too and do act upon what we see even now, in our present historical circumstances.
And one of my students from so very long ago added a comment to one of yesterday’s Facebook trails discussing this new affront to education in Arizona, a state where fully 25% of teacher positions are unfilled: Thank you Christy Voelkel for being the person who was the spark for my appreciation of social justice. Your teaching was so impactful.
And I am not sure what teaching she is talking about, but I am sure that we also walked through Night and To Kill a Mockingbird together. Eighth grade.
And there was one more moment. A moment that I am not even sure should be published.
That was the year that I was battling the bureaucracy of Child Protection Services and the reality that “they” were not going to do a single thing to protect a certain child or two. And the phone call came, while I was sitting around the table with the social worker and the case worker that police officers were coming over to the school to pick up the students and turn them back over to the abuser.
And one of the girls began to weep. And the other one became very angry. So I called my momma and poppa, and dad got in his car and drove down the dirt side street running along the back wall and just happened to be there when I hefted the girls up and over the cement blocks and he drove them back home where my mom was having a fancy dinner party, and she got in the car and just drove around so she wouldn’t be there to answer the phone in case anyone called.
And I knew I couldn’t lie to the police officers standing out in the parking lot waiting for me, so I slid into the gym and sat on the floor up against the closed bleachers and thought. And one of my students noticed me just as basketball practice was finishing up.
“Why, Mrs. Voelkel, what are you doing here?”
“Um. Do you mind doing me a little favor? Could you get your car and let me lie down in the back seat so the police officers in the front won’t see me, and can you drive me to my parents’ home?”
Her eyes grew huge.
“Sure, Mrs. Voelkel.”
And later on that night I got the dreaded phone call from her mother.
But rather than rightfully berating me for dragging her daughter into my civil disobedience, she thanked me profusely for showing her daughter what it meant to courageously stand up for justice.
And yesterday, years and years later, I was reminded of the impact of belief flowing over into action.
Dear LORD GOD, early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for You. May I develop this third eye that reads between the lines and finds this thread that always moves toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.