meditation has been part of my life for decades, and the thought of writing a
book of daily reflections was an infrequent occurrence. As often as I dismissed
the notion, it returned. On January 1, 2011, the writing began – I started my
commentary on random selections from Scripture.
In the beginning years of our
wintering in Mexico, we held non-denominational Sunday services at our clubhouse.
A semi-retired Lutheran minister frequently provided a service, and a retired
Anglican priest from Canada began to fill in as well. When the priest needed a
missal or bible for his Sunday readings I asked around.
One of our neighbors gave me The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Edition
left in her house by the previous owner. I acquired the thick Bible with its
heavy, warped and faded green cover. That Bible became my reading, reflecting,
responding and writing resource for this project.
I began where the Hebrew Bible began,
“In the beginning…” from the “First Story of Creation,” (Genesis 1:1,
page 4), fully expecting to
complete the writing by the end of December 2011.
Four years later, after entering 366
(1 extra for February 29) hand written pages in three separate college ruled
8x10.5 notebooks, I completed the first computer draft.
Most of the time, I opened to a page in the
Bible; pointed to a place on the page and started reading. When I found
something that struck a chord, I wrote the quote for the day, noted the page,
cross-referenced a date in the Bible, took a few minutes to reflect, and began
writing my commentary.
Near the beginning, I told a friend
about my project. And she said it sounded like “Lectio Divina,” a Latin term
meaning “divine reading.” During the 12th century, Guigo, a
Carthusian monk, described his spiritual practice in the following stages:
Lectio (read) Read a Scripture passage slowly
Meditatio (reflect) Think deeply about the text.
Orato (respond) Open our hearts and minds to
Contemplatio (rest) Let go of our own thoughts and
In the 16th century, St. Teresa of
Avila founded a religious order based on the tradition of Carmel, and the
practice of deeply theological prayer and contemplation. Christine Valters
Paintner, in her beautiful book Lectio
Divina—the Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into the Heart-Centered
Prayer, applies the Lectio Divina process to a variety of sacred texts. She
explains the Haggadah, Judaism’s method of studying and memorizing Scripture
that was a part of the life of Jesus and his followers.
Although, the traditional, expressed
purpose of Lectio Divina is to draw closer to the Divine, my personal and
original intent was a writing exercise based in Scripture. Had I known in advance the difficulty of the
task and the number of years involved, I might never have begun. Finishing what
I start does matter, and the exercise is rewarding on so many levels.
My commentaries are meant to
demonstrate the results of staying with the practice of reading, reflecting,
and responding to the words in the holy books of your choice. This introduction
is about the process of honoring my own inspiration and following it through.
If you seek guidance to do what I did, then I direct you to books and studies
using the Lectio Divina method.
Legal Fair Use
During year three, I contacted the
Catholic Publishing Company, New York, NY, and was referred to the
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, regarding copyright for THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, 1970.
In the initial email from the
Associate Director, Permissions and Bible Utilization, I was informed that “If your proposed work uses more than
5,000 words from the NAB (New American Bible) or if the NAB quotes are more
than 40% of your book, we need to review the manuscript before permission may
be granted. Such permission should be requested once you have identified a
publisher for this work.
“Please note,” she continued, “that
all citations must be verbatim and follow the capitalization of the original
printed text. The verse structure of petic text must be retained. Permission is
no longer granted for the 1970 New Testament.”
My estimates followed: “I expect my
Scripture passages will average 25 words x 365 daily entries to equal about
9,000 words. My commentary will average of 300 words per page, or 300 x 365,
about 109,500 words. I chose this edition because I could cross-reference the
Email response: “Since you use more
than 5,000 words from NAB, permission will be required. We need to review the
pages of your manuscript that include the NAB text. In addition, there will be
a permissions fee. That fee is based on the print run and list price of your
“The 1970 NAB New Testament is still
under copyright, so permission would still be required for its use. However, we
no longer grant that permission. Instead, we require that authors and others
use the superior 1986 New Testament translation.”
Six months later, having completed
the computer entry and a first edit, I sent my manuscript as an attachment to
the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD). In two weeks, the review came
back with nearly every scripture entry red-lined. New Testament words were
changed to the 1986 edition of the NAB. After careful count, the words in the
scripture passages represented 9.4 percent of my manuscript. Changing the
wording to the 1986 edition of NAB would destroy my continuity, my commentary.
Finally, I asked “Can we agree on what constitutes legal fair use
Final email: “The NAB’s gratis use
limit is 5,000 words. Your work exceeds that limit. The limit looks at the
whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The approved policy requires a
permissions fee beyond this limit. These points were made in my November
correspondence.” (Mes, May
I took great pains to reduce my word
count for scripture quotes from The New
American Bible, St. Joseph Edition,
1970, to just below 5,000 words. The quotes are brief, and I encourage readers
to go to their Bibles and read on. As a result of this process I am enlightened
The working title for this project
was The Day Book. I went from the
working title to several other attempts to be original. My next choice was Out of Context, until I put the words
into my Kindle search and found several books with that in the title.
I really liked Out of Context because; every word we read, hear or write is taken
out of its original context and becomes integrated with other thoughts or words
to become our own personal creation. Every thought is recycled or released back
into the wild. Every word or thought I express in writing is coming out of my
individual context and released into the
wild – so that you – my readers may integrate my thoughts into your individual
humanness – or release those thoughts into the wild. Thoughts are energy. All
we think, see or do is energy. In my concept of energy there is but one source.
That source, I choose to call God. But, whomever or whatever you believe is the
source of all energy, I honor that.
I looked at titles around the Lectio
Divina method of reading, reflecting, responding and rest. My conclusion was
the title I chose for the cover of this book: Read. Reflect. Respond. Rest. 366 Daily Reflections on Random
Selections from Scripture.
The Bible, Old and New Testaments
combined, is often referred to as the “Word of God.” Not, the “words” of God. I
take that to mean the “Spirit” of the entire collection of words. Those words
have been translated and re-translated over and over again, in an attempt to
find the most relevant meaning for the current times. The words are translated
into different languages – without changing the Spirit of the words that
express the relationship of humans to the God of their understanding at the
time the words were first put in place – cast in stone, or written on paper.
My purpose in starting this project
four years ago was a spiritual, not religious, reading and writing exercise. I
believe that the “kingdom of God is within.” And, I believe that kingdom is
within every human being. The deeper we go (reflect) into our own kingdom
(spirit), the better we will be able to recognize that kingdom (spirit) in
everyone we meet. Seek, and you will find the questions you need to ask
yourself – and sometimes, answers.