FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! In this 3rd week of Lent, we hope the following posts will be a blessing and an encouragement to you on your journey.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Lent, Week 3: An Image & A Liturgy via The Rabbit Room (a weekly series exploring themes of suffering and loss through music, story, and art)

History as a Lenten Discipline via Chris Gehrz (each moment in history is one more fiber of wood composing the Cross)

The Wondrous Mystery via Bruce Lawrie (the beauty whispering to me from wild places had been Jesus all along)

Charles Spurgeon Knew It Was Possible to Be Faithful and Depressed via Diana Gruver (his example can encourage believers who “walk in darkness”)

Ten Church Fathers to Start Off With via Ed Creedy (expand your reading — an introduction to writers of the Early Church)

Writing Advice I Took to Heart via Lori Hatcher (encouragement for writers everywhere)


Water of Life, Water of Change

This week, I wanted to share with you an essay I wrote that was published in Plough Magazine on Monday. I wrote the essay to express the frustration I/we often feel in this time of Covid and the inbetweenness that marks our life during the pandemic, during Lent . . . and during our time on earth. I hope you enjoy it!

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Last fall, during one of the many pandemic surges in our area, my two daughters and I took a day trip to Grandfather Mountain State Park. We came across a small river, whose name I no longer recall. My city girls will use any excuse to stop hiking, so I let them pause at the water’s edge and remember what it’s like to play, free and unencumbered. It would have been better to keep walking though; I’d forgotten that standing still gives me too much time to think. Watching my girls on the riverbank, tossing stones and exploring the ecosystem, I ached for them. I ached for the season they are living through, the upheaval and the fear and the isolation. As my daughters played and I mused, the river flowed on, like a timeline I wished I could travel to a better place.

If I followed the river many eons back, perhaps I would encounter the earth’s mother river, the one that fed the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10). There wouldn’t be any aching along those banks, surely . . .

Please continue reading this essay over at Plough!


Weekly Prayer: St. Augustine

On more than one occasion, Augustine spoke of the soul as a house — a place where God dwells, a place that is under construction for most of our life. I’ve always loved the beautiful prayer below, from the Confessions, and find it a good one for the season of Lent.

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The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, “Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord, and for those encurred through others, pardon your servant“? I believe, and so I will speak. You know everything, Lord. Have I not laid my own transgressions bare before you to my own condemnation, my God, and have not you forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself; nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my iniquity be caught in its own lies. No, I do not argue the case with you, because if you, Lord, keep score of our iniquities, then who, Lord, can bear it?

Confessions Book I:6



WEEKLY PRAYER: DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

This very moving and honest prayer comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers from prison. We might use it to cry out to God during Lent or other times when we come to the end of ourselves and cannot see the way forward.

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God, I call to you early in the morning,
help me pray and collect my thoughts,
I cannot do so alone.

In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, we’ve rounded up some wonderful posts on the season of Lent and prayer in the night. We hope they’ll enrich your journey this week.

Love and blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Lent, Day 3 via Art & Theology (an artistic and theological meditation for each day of Lent)

Why Christina Rossetti’s “A Better Resurrection” Is Lenten Food For 2021 via Holly Ordway (facing up to, rather than fearing, our weakness)

Ash Wednesday: Guided by St. Clare of Assisi via Shemaiah Gonzalez (how St. Clare can guide us through the season of Lent)

Night Vigil for Insomniacs via Matt Kappadakunnel (an ancient Christian practice and an aid during sleeplessness)

Give Rest to the Weary via Tish Harrison Warren (the prayer for those who are too tired to pray)

The Rabbi Sings the COVID “Blues” via Jeffrey Salkin (“There is a great cloud of unknowing. Sometimes, you just have to embrace it”)


What a Plague and a Pandemic Have in Common: by Prasanta Verma

In the book of Joel, a devastating event occurs, something which will be retold to subsequent generations:

Has anything like this happened  in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. Joel 1: 2-3

What sort of calamity could this be, what sort of story so incredulous that it could be recounted to future generations? It was a plague of locusts.

Can you imagine looking up and seeing the sky turn dark as millions of these insects descended upon the land you occupied? These insects are described as “chewing, swarming, crawling, and consuming” locusts. The scripture says that the fig tree branches were stripped white. The result of the plague was utter loss and devastation. The people of this agricultural society had lost everything– their crops, grass for their animals, their livelihood. Nothing green was left. They looked upon a barren wasteland.

Did you know there are 80 different kinds of locusts?  They belong to the grasshopper family. A typical swarm can be 30 miles long and 5 miles wide, and even today, swarms affect Australia and Africa.

After facing the devastation of such a loss, we can wonder how those in Judah felt. Their dreams were shattered. Their hopes gnawed away by the locusts. What would become of them now? Their dreams and hopes of the future? How would they survive?

My Bible commentary suggests that Joash could have been the king at the time. While it’s not certain, it is possible. Joash was crowned king at the tender age of 7. Humor me for a moment, as we ponder what a seven-year-old king might be thinking while watching a swarm of locusts descend upon the land.

If Joash were like any current day typical seven-year-old boy, he may have tried to catch a few of the insects himself and put them in a place where he could observe them for a while. Or, perhaps young Joash, after the initial  excitement, may have been affected by the horror-stricken faces of the adults around him, and also succumbed to fear, helplessness, and disbelief. One thing is certain: a plague of locusts (or other natural disaster) is beyond the power and control of any earthly king, no matter his age.

But not for an omnipotent God. He had an answer for them. He didn’t leave them destitute, alone, holding fistfuls of dirt in their hands. He gave them a promise:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… Joel 2:25

“I will restore to you the years.” What a beautiful promise, from the only One who can even make such a claim and fulfill it. God’s promise to the people of Judah was that he would “restore the years”! That promise is magnificent to comprehend. Who, except God, can even restore time?

You see, today, we face a different breed of locust. We face broken marriages, sudden death, disease, financial ruin, chronic pain, depression, job loss, addiction, plus the losses brought about because of the pandemic. And, the list can go on.

Yet consider that the promise to us is the same as it was to the people in Joel’s day: “God will restore the years the locusts have eaten.” God says,

Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and new oil, and you will be satisfied with them. –  Joel 2:19

God comforts and reassures the people facing the loss produced by the locust plague, promising to send them new grain and wine, and to “restore to them the years”. The loss was devastating and the promise itself is equally as astounding. Can you imagine the hope of the people of Judah, upon hearing such a promise? We have such promises, too, such as:

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

I don’t know about you, but these promises give me hope. Hope I need to hear. While the locusts may have eaten away, God can restore what the locusts have taken. God can take the loss, even produced by a pandemic, and transform it into something new – into a garden of plenty, a place where hope and joy bloom in full glory, a place where others can come and find encouragement and hope as well. He restores us and promises to give us rest. On this Ash Wednesday, we find rest for our souls, and promises of restoration, even in the midst of snowstorms, personal losses, and a pandemic.

(this post is edited from the archives of prasantaverma.com)


Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

A LENTEN PRAYER

Feb. 17 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. During Lent, I like to pray Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance and restoration. Our cries for forgiveness and our knowledge of our failings are more than met by God’s mercy and loving-kindness.

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1     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

  2     Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

3     For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

  4     Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

  5     And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment.

  6     Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.

  7     For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

  8     Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

  9     Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10     Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

11     Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

12     Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13     Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14     I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.

15     Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.

16     Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17     Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18     The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We’re happy to bring you these links by some wonderful writers and thinkers and hope they’ll add beauty and encouragement to your day.

Love and blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Tripping Over Joy” via Daniel Ladinsky (a poem)

Considering the Trees on Ash Wednesday via Isaac S. Villegas (an essay to help us prepare for Ash Wednesday)

The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere via Fred Bahnson (is this what’s missing from contemporary American Christianity?)

Art + Faith: A Theology of Making, with Makoto Fujimura via The Trinity Forum (a conversation on the theology of the act of creating)

Calvin: Refugee and Pilgrim via Randy Blacketer (learn about the theology of pilgrimage via the life and writings of John Calvin)

7 Letters from Famous Authors Sharing Fantastic Writing Advice via Nicole Bianchi (find inspiration from these authors)


How to Recognize a Pilgrim

Last week at the gas station, a man I didn’t know approached me at the pump and asked me if I could give him some change to help him fill up his car. “I’m running short on money this week,” he said.

At first I said no. I was startled… strangers don’t usually approach me at the gas pump. And I thought all the thoughts that often go through our mind in these situations. What if he’s not a good person? What will he really do with the money?

But then, as the fuel pumped into my car, the truth pumped into me. My response to this man wasn’t right. Maybe I didn’t know who he was, but I knew what he was. He was a pilgrim.

The Wife of Bath from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ca. 1405

We might think of pilgrims as people from another time with a penchant for funny hats (I write about some of these people in my new book). Or perhaps as folks with backpacks walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Yet these images we have—that I have—can blind us to the fact that not all pilgrims are distant historical figures or travelers on faraway paths. Sometimes, they’re people like you and me; people on life’s journey who can’t make it alone.

In simple terms —

Pilgrims are strangers — That person you just met or who just asked you for help may be unknown to you, but their very “strangeness” makes them a pilgrim. In Roman times, a peregrinus, the Latin word from which we get “pilgrim,” was someone “not from these parts.” It was a legal term. The Bible teaches that Christians are pilgrims because we’re not from these parts, either. (Heb 11:13) We don’t belong to the world and its ways. We’re all strangers here.

Pilgrims are travelers — In the Middle Ages, peregrinus morphed to mean someone on a journey, usually one of sacred import. Have you encountered any travelers lately? Maybe someone fueling up at the pump next to yours? Or someone on a difficult path through life? Every person is on his way somewhere—or trying to be, if he gets a tank of gas.

Pilgrims are needy — Historically, pilgrims often traveled in desperate circumstances. Medieval pilgrims frequently were ill or were atoning for sin or crimes. Many arrived at their destination completely broke, relying on others to help them and even to keep them alive. That day at the gas station, I was charged to help a pilgrim in need. The next time, it might be me who needs help.

Although I hesitated at first, I walked over to the pilgrim after filling my tank. He was standing beside his car and running his fingers through his hair in a gesture of utter despair (he must have coasted in on fumes). I did what I could for him. It wasn’t much because I didn’t have much to give. But then another man walked over and also gave some money. I hope that enabled the pilgrim to get further down the road.

Having studied pilgrimage for so long, I’m chastened that I had to remind myself to help. What I needed, and what I got, was a lesson that brought my studies down to earth. Pilgrimage teaches us about our biblical identity as people on our way to the heavenly country. In practical terms, it means that we welcome the stranger and help one another on our long journey home. We are all pilgrims, and we need each other. No one walks – er, drives – alone.


WEEKLY PRAYER: HENRI NOUWEN

Preparing for the season of Lent, we pray with Henri Houwen:

Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, thoughts can become a hymn of praise to you.

I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.

Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend.

Amen.

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