UU Bloggers, by Libby Moore

This year I attended my second UU General Assembly, in Portland, Oregon (the city itself was enough of a reason to go – what a great place!). Being my second GA, it seemed more manageable than last year, when I felt guilty about all the plenary sessions I didn’t go to, frustrated by all the wonderful talks that I couldn’t attend, and exhilarated by the speakers I did manage to hear. This year I knew that I had to pare down, concentrate on a single thread, spend time nourishing my soul and body as well as my mind. Since Joy and Jen and I were doing a workshop on Wellspring this year, I concentrated on topics that related to that, more or less.

Because we’ve got this Wellspring blog and I’m so new to the blogosphere, I went to the session on UU blogging, which attracted people who blog as well as those who know nothing about it and want to learn about this great new tool for our congregations. I’m grateful to Tina Simson for starting our Wellspring blog and dragging us into the new world, glad that I could raise my hand as one of the people who contributes to a blog.

The blogging workshop helped me understand why we’re doing this and more of its potential uses, but the greater gift was discovering a blog that I hadn’t seen before, translations of the psalms into language that I can live with. The Reverend Christine Robinson from Albuquerque NM, whose regular blog is called iMinister, was on the workshop panel. She said that she’d posted these psalms because so many people had asked for them, and I can see why they would ask. When I open my Bible and try to choose a psalm for meditation, I find myself rejecting one after another for being too violent, too angry, too harsh. I’ve often felt that I had to edit so much out of the psalms – the patriarchal, wrathful god, the anger and vengeance against others, the brutal prayers for victory against the enemy – that I can’t even focus on the deeper meaning. I skim from one to another looking for something I can agree with. Robinson has given me language I can live with, prayers of compassion and hope, honest acknowledgement of my own feelings. When I read her translation, I can rest and reflect on what it means to me today, without having to edit or rephrase or reject. I am grateful to her for posting these beautiful psalms – and grateful as well for the many resources out there that help us all find strength in our faith. This new world has much to offer us.

One Response to “UU Bloggers, by Libby Moore”

  1. I also appreciate Rev. Robinson psalms, but I no longer find traditional translations near as obnoxious as I used to. The thing is I fell in love with a Benedictine monastery, applied to join and did. They eventually kicked me out again (for more on this see my blogs @ seekerswanted.blogspot.com and seekerswanted2.blogspot.com). But until that happened, I had to deal with thrice daily psalm chanting. Although they used a gender neutral translation, there was still all that noxious domination/oppression imagery.
    Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the novitiate. I learned that the early Christian hermits (like Evagrius) had a very Zen way of reading the psalms. The “enemies” being decried were not external humans but their own derailing passions, like fear, loneliness, anger and pride. In fact every character in the psalm was parts of themselves.
    Then one Tuesday morning (the monastery’s first day of the week) I was feeling mighty grim. The second psalm of the liturgy was 88. This is the only psalm which starts as a lament, goes on as a lament and ends on the same down note. All others resolve with “praise God” or some such upward swing. It fit my mood perfectly.
    Soon I found that joyous psalm lines (such as “this is the day our God has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it”) were background music in my head ALL THE TIME. This made life much more fun.
    Still, saying ALL the psalms on a schedule meant praying emotions and concepts that were not mine at the time (if at ever). It was weird how this became a source of power, not annoyance. Most of us are used to prayer as asking FOR something we actually want. Prayer as letting oneself down into the spiritual energy present, using another person’s inspired words as a rope – whether you literally agree with them or not… that turns out to be a whole different, and in the end, more power-laden act.
    It turned out that my problem, believe it or not, was that I took the bible (and the psalms) literally. Maybe I considered most of it literally false and so nonsense, but that is just as foolish as considering it literally true and therefore inerrant.
    To tap the spiritual power of the psalms, and the rest of the biblical literature, it is necessary to learn to read in more sophisticated ways. Of these the most powerful, according to the old monastics, is “lectio divina” or divine reading. This is a method of letting personal meaning come through your intuition (or from God, if you like), without limitation.
    Now I find all sorts of psalm translations – even those full of Lord and He – can become direct conduits for spiritual energy… Which is why the monks chant them in the first place. And ‘though daily psalm chanting was the most annoying part of monastic life when I entered, it is the part I miss the most.

    Reply

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