that centers you and keeps you at your best.
For some, it's prayer, scripture meditation or singing.
It could happen while exercising your body. It might be journaling, writing poetry, or reading the newspaper with your favorite coffee.
Spiritual practices help you be fully You, growing your roots deep while stretching your branches out into new places.
To be immersed in the Psalms might mean any number of things for you. Here are a few suggestions spinning off of Psalm 23.
1. Pray like a shepherd
(a small group prayer)
Or an auto mechanic or grocery bagger.
Imagine David laying under a tree. It's hot, and he's finally tracked down all the sheep that ran for the gorge when they heard Jesse's Ricola horn echoing through the hills. The sheep are on fresh grass. They have water and they're resting. The flock is safe.
"Man, the things I do for these sheep. I watch them, protect them, chase them out of danger and lead them back to the flock, help them give birth, sing to them. I feed them, teach them, guide them. Sheep. I just love 'em.
That's what God is like for me. Think I'll write a psalm."
Try writing a prayer modeled after Psalm 23, starting with what you well: your vocation. The area you have some expertise and energy. This is a great thing to do in a small group, because you'll hear wonderful insights about how we experience Holy Presence.
With Psalm 23 open for reference, you might begin:
"The Lord is my dental hygenist. I have everything I need."
Then, tracking with Psalm 23, describe the aspects of your awareness that goes into practicing your job.
"She invites me to open wide, gently examining my deepest molars. With x-rays and little
mirrors, she looks closely at things I seldom even think about. She does everything for my
own good. Even though it hurts sometimes. My dental hygenist scrapes off tarter that
damages; she brushes surfaces that are sick; she smiles compassionately at me."
Include the dimensions of ups and downs like Psalm 23.
"My mouth is one of the most intimate places by which I engage life, taking in food, drink,
conversation, kisses. My mouth is refreshed and healthy.
When I have cavities or infection, and in the worst pain your healing care has my best in
mind. You take care of all things I have no idea how to take care of myself."
Explore any part of the tools of your trade, your relationships with colleagues, and your own expertise means to you and the people you serve.
"Laying back in the chair, mouth wide open, paper bib around my neck, drooling like an
infant, I am at your mercy.
Your tender, expertly practiced mercy is for me. And I will trust you again today."
Parallel the Psalm 23 text as closely as you wish. Share your prayers with others in a group.
A spiritual practice can be anything
Himalayan shepherd in India
2. Trust like a Sheep
(for kiddos and youth)
What would it be like to be a sheep? Here are games that get in touch with the feeling of trust.
For young kids, play "follow the shepherd" (leader). In a wide open space like a gymnasium or a level grassy field, the children hold hands. An adult is the leader, taking the first child by the hand, leading the chain of kids in a fun little tour. Hop, skip, walk, do "the wave," and make a swirly path or straight path.
Next, step it up. Invite the kids to close their eyes. This time, the adult doesn't do anything fancy; just lead the conga line o' kiddos walking here and there, making circles as well as stright lines. Stop once in a while and ask them if they know where they are, and then have them open their eyes to discover where they've been led.
To debrief, ask: What it felt like to be led somewhere unknown? Fun? Scary? Did you trust the leader? Why? Whom do you allow to lead you? Who are some people you follow in your life? Do you think you would be a good leader? If you dare, invite a kid to practice leading the group.
For older youth, try the same Follow the Shepherd game with blindfolds. The leader leads the chain around the room or field, intending to confuse the youth as to their location. Stop and ask if they know where they are, then inviting them to take off the blindfolds momentarily to see. If the final run leads to pizza, all the better.
A variation: Have youth pair up, one person blindfolded, one person sighted. The sighted person leads the blindfolded one on a "trust walk." Then switch roles and discuss afterward.
Duet Meal: In this fun favorite, two people sit across from one another at a table for a meal. Their hands are tied together, so that they must work together to eat.
4. Lectio Divina
It's latin for "sacred reading." Sounds fancy, but this is simply reading carefully while paying close attention to what is happening in your body, mind and spirit as you read. This way of immersion is done in quiet solitude.
To prepare, open to Psalm 23 and chose how much you wish to sit with-- all six verses or just a few lines. Then begin lectio divina.
Step One: lectio (reading, listening)
Read the selection carefully and slowly, allowing the words to sink in generously. Take your time. Unlike reading a newspaper or scanning a webpage, make time for discovery. Give attention to every delicious word. Take a deep breath to close this step.
Step Two: meditatio (meditation, reflection)
In a second read-through, notice what details emerge from the psalm. What questions come up for you? What parts bother you? What parts are soothing? Are there situations in your life that come to your imagination? Another deep, generous breath.
Step Three: oratio (prayer response)
In a third read-through, relax your thinking and opening your heart. Take in the psalm as half of a conversation you might respond to. When you finish, set aside the text and allow words and images to well up in you. What is the prayer of your heart in this moment?
Step Four: comtempatio (restful contemplation)
One last reading. Then, it's a time of deep listening in delicious silence. Close the book and enjoy God's presence.
Port Soy by Colin Brough (CC)
Bev Lloyd-Roberts (cc)