I have not always been a faithful newspaper reader, except for an addiction to the Sunday New York Times, especially the book review. I prefer to get the bulk of my news through National Public Radio, both local and national programs. However, depending on what is happening in the world, I do spend time reading daily newspapers, but I have never been someone who starts the day with coffee and the paper. Typically, I spend a chunk of my morning reading a selection from a spiritual text, writing in my journal, and praying or meditating. Well, given what is happening in Wisconsin right now, it feels imperative to include time for reading both our local paper as well as the Times.
This morning as I was reading the paper, I found what I was looking for in an op-ed piece by Phil Haslanger, a Methodist pastor in Fitchburg, WI. He quotes Rev. Jim Wallis, who leads Sojourners, a national network of progressive Christians working for justice and peace. "When I read the Gospels, the narrative is clear: Defend the poor and pray for the rich. But our political leaders have taken to defending the rich, and if the poor are lucky, they might get a prayer."
I sat with those words for a few minutes, closing my eyes, breathing slowly in and out, holding all those who suffer in my heart. When I opened my eyes and returned to the moment, an ordinary Wednesday morning sitting at my kitchen desk, I realized reading the morning papers was becoming a spiritual practice for me, the Christian practice of lectio divina or "sacred reading." One of my favorite spiritual writers Jan L. Richardson in her book In the Sanctuary of Women, A Companion for Relfection and Prayer says, "Lectio invites us to take a small bite of a text--a few verses or perhaps just a few words--and slowly chew on them, ponder them, and pray with them until they give up something that will provide sustenance for our soul and nourishment for our work in the world."
Most often lectio is applied to the reading of scriptures, but it need not be limited in that way nor does it need to be practiced in a Christian context. We can each read more mindfully, allowing the words to move within us, becoming alive for us, transforming into a new or changed or augmented perspective. This kind of reading can lead to new understandings as well as additional questions to be explored. For example, I have pulled my copy of Jim Wallis's book God's Politics, Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It off my office shelves and opened it to "Part IV, Spiritual Values and Economic Justice. " I will study more, knowing that often a result of practicing lectio divina is commitment and action. It seems to me practicing lectio divina can also lead to deeper listening; something that seems to be missing in the heat of the current crisis.
A blessing from Richardson, "Among the most familiar words, may God open you to new worlds."