Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Giving Thanks for Simple Things

First, with prayers for all those who have been displaced from their homes due to fires, for those who are facing danger by seeking to contain the fires, for those who are grieving loss in its many forms.

Thanks to all who have encouraged us to go ahead and take this cruise. I think we're gonna do it! Looks like we'll be heading out in the spring, shortly after Easter. We'll celebrate Monk's 10th birthday in Ensenada, Mexico. Now, really, how cool is that? We're very excited about this grand adventure ahead.

More immediately, I'm scheduled to head back to the dentist today for (possibly) some major work to be done on my tooth that broke a few weeks ago. I say possibly because I got a letter from my insurance company which suggests this particular procedure may not be covered. Either that, or there was simply a technicality with the way the claim was filed. At any rate, it means a day chock full of some of the most unpleasant things I can imagine doing: dealing with an insurance company and going to the dentist. Nice.

In other news, I finally gave in on Monday and paid for Amazon Prime so that I can get "free" two-day shipping on my orders. The trick is whether or not it truly will be free; that is, if we buy enough books from Amazon (and Barnes & Noble, I guess) that we would have spent the $79 over a year anyway. Even I, as terrible with numbers as I am, have that much figured out.

Truth is, though, it's not so much about saving $$$ as it is about getting the books immediately. And I have found that often, once I am online looking for a title, it's because I need the book yesterday.

Speaking of which, my books did arrive yesterday (one day sooner, even, than expected). The first is for my dissertation. A book by Jurgen Habermas called (tantalizingly) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Say wha? Even so, I remain hopeful that by the time I get to the end of the book, I'll have some glimpse of what the heck that title means. :)

The second book is equally for my own prayer life as it is for work. (How joyous that the two can be that closely intertwined!) It's by Nan C. Merrill called Psalms for Praying: An Invitation for Wholeness. Merrill's project is a lovely one (although I freely recognize the dangers in it). She offers a translation of the Psalms that does not "other" enemies or nations, but draws them in and identifies them as internal enemies, whether fear, doubt, despair, lack of self worth, and so on. She also translates images of God primarily in terms of Love--calling God Love, Beloved, Compassionate One, Blessed Healer, Blees One, Listening Heart, etc.

One of the dangers, of course, is that a translation like this over-psychologizes the imagery in the Psalms. In some ways, the Psalms are transformed into nothing more than a sort of Jungian prayerbook. Another danger is that it clearly de-historicizes the Psalms, which commits a certain violence to the Hebrew/Christian texts--faiths that are deeply rooted in historical events.

But here's the thing: Merrill is not proposing her translation as a replacement of the more literal translations. And in that sense, I feel like the prayer book's dangers are mitigated considerably. And the benefits of these contemporary, accessible, and poetic images outweigh the dangers as I see them. I can't help but wonder what it might be like to grow up knowing God's name as Love, Beloved, and Compassionate One. I mean, really, what might the world look like if we knew this as God's name? Truth is, I open this book of Psalms and immediately experience it as a prayer book in a way I've never quite been able do with the traditional translations.

Anyway, enough talk about this, let me leave you with one of the Psalms. Here is Merrill's translation of Psalm 54.

Awaken me, O Blessed Healer with
your holy mercy,
that I might be free of fear.
Hear my prayer, O Holy One;
give ear to the words of
my mouth.

For nagging doubts assail me,
bringing loneliness and pain;
I remember not the Beloved, so
overwhelming are my fears.

Yet behold, You are my helper,
the upholder of my life.
With You I have the strength to
face my fears;
Your faithfulness will help me
transform them into love.

With boundless confidence, I
abandon myself into your Heart;
I give praise to your holy Name,
O Beloved,
with gratitude and joy.
For You deliver me from my illusions,
and, through Love, my heart
opens to Wisdom.

1 comment:

leah sophia said...

i love nan merrill's psalms for praying; i discovered it several years ago in tandem with a weekly centering prayer group i used to attend. you're so correct about the joy of combining work and prayer, head and heart. blessed thanksgiving!