Basketball


Continuing my lessons from Sertillanges’ wonderful little book, The Intellectual Life, are a series of observations about the relationship between the Truth and the Good:

Truth visits those who lover her, who surrender to her, and this love cannot be without virtue. (19)

The true springs up in the same soil as the good: their roots communicate. (19)

We think ‘with our whole soul,’ declared Plato. Presently we shall go much farther, we shall say: with our whole being. Knowledge involves everything in us, from the vital principle to the chemical composition of the least cell. (20)

Purity of thought requires purity of soul; that is a general and undeniable truth. (22)

…study must first of all leave room for worship, prayer, direct meditation on the things of God. (28 )

My pastor once told me a story about a time he was preparing a sermon. In the middle of his study he was so overwhelmed by the truth of what he was studying that he stood up at his desk and sang the doxology. I was very convicted. I have spent much time studying the Word, but I have never been moved to praise God because of it. Digging deeply into Scripture must be an act of worship or we are doing it wrong. I am guilty of this.

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Another favorite ‘nugget’ I have gleaned from Sertilannges’ The Intellectual Life, is the following:

Every truth is practical; the most apparently abstract, the loftiest, is also the most practical. Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man. And therefore Jesus Christ made this unique assertion: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ (13)

One of my Hebrew professors in seminary always pressed on us to dig into the details of the Hebrew text. To go as far as we could go, and then to apply that depth to the average person (or a specific person) in the pew. How important it is to remember as we pursue the depths of academia that all that we learn must be also be practical or we have lost the goal of what we do.

You know the phrase “they’re rubbing off on me”? It usually describes someone who is having a personal influence on you so that it can be said that some of their character traits or mannerisms or whatever are ‘rubbing off on you.’  I just had that experience today.

I spent most of today meeting with a group of people that I can only describe as Prayer Giants. Now I am a cynic by nature, an academic by training and someone who is very suspicious of all things ‘christianese’ (i.e., overly ‘Christian’ lingo). However, after spending the better part of the day with people (most of whom are a generation above me) who naturally drip what I would call ‘christianese’ I found myself softened. Part way through the day I realized that these people actually meant everything they said. They are the type of people who say “Isn’t Jesus amazing!” and actually mean it.

I found myself not being judgmental of language and phrases that I normally would call hypocritical or ‘overly spiritual’ but blessed by it. What an amazing time. As I walked away from meeting with these people I couldn’t help but think that not a little bit of Jesus had rubbed off on me because of my time spent with them. I pray that I rub a little bit of Jesus off on the people I encounter in my life.

This last weekend our church had its All Church Retreat. It was a great time. Games, fellowship, worship and fun. What I want to mention is the opportunity we had to have Dr. Carole Spencer come and speak to our congregation. We had two sessions with her, one on our ‘Spiritual Types’ and one on ‘Ancient Prayer Practices.’ 

The second session was the most beneficial for me because it reintroduced me to these different prayer practices. Too often in academia I find my spiritual life struggling as I read texts about Scripture, hermeneutical method, historical background, etc. Sometimes I forget to engage with God in the midst of it. So, it is good to be reminded that there is more to a deep spiritual faith than understanding what ancient Near Eastern parallels there are to the creation account in Genesis 1-2. 

The first Ancient Prayer Practice she talked about is Lectio Divina (‘holy reading’). Lectio consists of 4 moments. They are (from wikipedia’s article):

Lectio

This first moment consists in reading the scriptural passage slowly, attentively for several times.

Meditatio

The Christian, gravitating around the passage or one of its words, takes it and ruminates on it, thinking in God’s presence about the text. He or she benefits from the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination, i.e. the work of the Spirit that imparts spiritual understanding of the sacred text. It is not a special revelation from God, but the inward working of the Holy Spirit, which enables the Christian to grasp the revelation contained in the Scripture.

Oratio

This is a response to the passage by opening the heart to God. It is not an intellectual exercise, but an intuitive conversation or dialogue with God.

Contemplatio

This moment is characterized by a simple, loving focus on God. In other words, it is a beautiful, wordless contemplation of God, a joyful rest in his presence.

This method is difficult for me. Perhaps it is because I am trained to look at other things when I read Scripture (perhaps to my own detriment) but I have a hard time with this seemingly subjective practice of reading Scripture. It is not that I am opposed to it. I have heard Tony Campolo remark on numerous occasions that this practice is so beneficial and meaningful for him. But it is a practice that I have a hard time with. 

The second Ancient Prayer Practice that Dr. Spencer spoke to us about was ‘Contemplative Prayer.’ My introduction to this kind of prayer came in college when, at the behest of a friend, I read a great little book called The Way of the Pilgrim. This book is a novel/travel diary of a monk who tries to take 1 Thess. 5:17 literally: ‘pray without ceasing’ (ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε). 

The monk, or pilgrim, records his journey of praying the ‘Jesus Prayer’ on every breath. The Jesus Prayer is as follows:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

There was a time in college when I tried to live by this Prayer of Jesus. When I drove, I prayed the prayer on every breath. When I walked to class, I prayed the Prayer on every breath. Ultimately, I am not a monk, and I was unable to continue this for any stretch of time. However, after hearing a lecture from Tony Campolo, where he spoke of beginning his day with a similar prayer, I have, at times, tried to make this my morning prayer.

The idea behind this and other forms of contemplative prayer is that you clear your mind of all other things except the line you are praying. In this way, you make yourself more receptive of God’s message for you. It is receptive prayer, rather than request-based prayer. As someone who’s day consists of studying Scripture academically, this contemplative prayer is a great way to ‘center’ myself with the right perspective first thing in the morning. I hope that I am always open to other kinds of spiritual practices. These were not new to me, but I thank Dr. Spencer for reintroducing me and re-inspiring me to make these ‘receptive’ type prayer practices more part of my daily spiritual life. They are a great balance to the headiness of biblical academia.

Blazers LogoLast night I had the unbelievable opportunity to watch the Blazers game from the 200 level. This includes a free buffet. It was a fantastic time (thank you Mychal) with the slight exception that the Blazers lost. Poor Blazers. They just didn’t have their offense in gear. But that is understandable given that they didn’t have Roy or Webster last night. And it is hard when T-Mac goes off for 35 points. Although, I don’t know how anyone can have a quiet 35 points but T-Mac did. He is good.

The game did have a few great highlights for me though. The first was to see Mutombo play and have a great game! He had 11 points and two fantastic blocks, followed by the finger waving gloriously in the air at the Portland crowd. After which, he strutted back down the court, partly because of his swat, partly because he was tired. Let’s face it he’s 42! I felt like I was back in junior high/high school. 

Another highlight was getting to watch Aaron Brooks have a good game for the Rockets. Brooks had a great career at the U of O, and I remember him from my high school days when he played for Franklin.  We played them in the district tournament. He was a freshman my senior year and he was still definitely better than me. I guess that’s why he’s in the NBA.

Finally, another highlight was the Thrilla’s (Joel Przybilla) awesome rejection of Mutombo (the only moment of the game that really got me off my seat)! It was beautiful. Way to go Thrilla! All in all, good times were had and Portland is beginning to look toward next year. Come on Oden!