Thursday, January 9, 2014

Prologue: Ora et Labora

So, I've been reading through the psalms. Well, not reading, per say. Listening. I like listening to Krista Tippet's public radio show as a podcast. I will own this; that as a millennial, I like to be able to listen to what I want, when I want. So podcasts. Any rate, I had gone way back and downloaded her interview with Bobby McFerrin. Before anybody gives me crap about liking Bobby McFerrin, I will say that he was raised Episcopalian, so I will claim him in mock denominational pride. I also found out that he was discerning a call to the priesthood and monasticism in his twenties, along with his call to music (he could have easily done all three, but that's another matter...). My point in all this backstory is that McFerrin suggested something I found interesting.

He admitted that every morning he gets up and reads the psalms. He said that every couple months he goes clear through the Book of Psalms. He treats it as a spiritual discipline, along with improvisation, which I also found very cool. And he suggested that it might be a good spiritual practice for others, too. So I tried it

It was very serendipitous for me because I had been looking for a way to be more intentional about my workouts (no matter how strange you find that statement, please bear with me. I will explain how this goes together). I had a new smartphone and, at this point in time, I had recently found out the password to the wifi guest network at the YMCA. So there it was. On suggestion of Bobby McFerrin, I began to stream audio files of the psalms using my Bible Gateway app. That one even gave me a choice of translations to listen to!

Now, at this point, it may be good to explain what I mean when I say "I was looking for intentionality."

I have not often been one to work out, only looking to get ripped. I started working out about the same time that I quit smoking in college. I figured that it would be helpful to quit one habit and pick up another. Point is, in order to deal with the pain of this new "running" thing I was putting my self through, I found that I could meditate on a word or phrase, turning it over in my mind and examining it, letting it shed light in gradients of meaning. Often this word or phrase was something that stuck with me from church.

Well, as I grew stronger and more confident, I began taking on more and more physical challenges. I would agree to projects or helping out with tasks that I would have felt I was not fit for before until I found myself in charge of maintenance for Thunderhead Episcopal Camp in South Dakota. Let me tell you, I have never moved so many bunks and picnic tables in my life.

After our youth camp sessions were done, it was my task to put a weather stain on each of the decks attached to the cabins. It was a time consuming, mind numbing task. I desperately needed something to keep my mind occupied so that I wouldn't go insane. So I began reading the daily office and lectionary each morning before starting my work. I was thankful for this time of prayer and scripture because I was able to take from it a word or phrase and turn it over and over, like I had when I had started running.

The description that came to mind was the Benedictine tradition of ora et labora, prayer and work because that was what I found myself doing, becoming intentional about reading God's Word, offering my prayers and then meditating on it all as I worked. And so this is what I mean when I say I wanted intentionality to my workouts. I wanted a way to better incorporate something churchy into my workouts, since the work I put myself through reminded me so much of the work that I found myself managing while I worked at camp. Finding a way to attend to god's word was appealing. And the smartphone, the wifi, and the suggestion to read through the psalms came together nicely. And like the Benedictines, I thought it would be nice to have the word read to me. To heed the small voice that speaks to me.