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Marilyn Chandler McEntyre's many books show a concern for fostering careful habits of reading and writing among Christians. In her new title, What's in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause (Eerdmans), McEntyre, professor of English at Westmont College, offers brief meditations on biblical phrases that, for one reason or another, have stopped her short and occasioned further reflection. Laura Turner, a Her.meneutics contributor, spoke with McEntyre about the value of dwelling on passages of Scripture that grab our attention.
How should we react when a Scripture passage gives us pause?
For me, it is rooted in lectio divina, the practice that Benedict taught his monks in the fifth century. It's slow reading of very short passages of Scripture, listening for the word or phrase that addresses you. You're listening for something that invites the Spirit to open doors of association, memory, and feeling.
Say you encounter a phrase like "is my shepherd." On the second reading you might ask, "What is this about? Where I am being summoned? Why did this touch me in some way?" Then you could give those thoughts some silence. On the third reading, you can open up further and ask what the invitation might be, and how this might be giving you specific direction.
You talk about memories that arise while pondering a phrase in Scripture. Is there power in reexamining them?
Allowing a phrase to work as a trigger can create little moments of summoning. Those moments say, "Just walk through this door and see what comes up."
We all have a repository of memories that we can unearth and put to new purposes as life continues. Flannery O'Connor said that if you've lived through eighth grade, you have got enough writing material to last a lifetime. Our memories provide a personal foundation, and as a poet friend of mine put it, the past keeps changing. Or, as William Faulkner said, "The past isn't dead. It ...