A LITANY OF THANKSGIVING FROM HOWARD THURMAN

In honor of Thanksgiving, we pray this beautiful prayer from Howard Thurman (1899 – 1981), a theologian, mystic, philosopher, and civil rights leader.

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In Your presence, O God, we make our Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

We begin with the simple things of our days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

We bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that we have known:

Our mothers’ arms,
The strength of our fathers,
The playmates of our childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to us from the lives of many who
talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and diverse kinds
of magic held sway;
The tears we have shed, the tears we have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with
its reminder that life is good.

For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we prepare for Thanksgiving (here in the U.S.), Prasanta and I recommend these posts on giving thanks, prayer, creativity, and grief. Wait a minute – grief? Yes, amid the thanks and hope, we also remember the many people we’ve lost in the pandemic. Grief, hope, and thanks go hand in hand this year.

We’ll be on break next week — see you again in two weeks.

Meanwhile, we’re thankful for each one of you! Be blessed this Thanksgiving.

Love, Prasanta and Lisa

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Thanksgiving; a Sonnet via Malcolm Guite (the English poet writes a sonnet for his American friends)

We Need Your Positive Thoughts and Prayers via April Yamasaki (a selection of thoughts and prayers we actually need)

A Nonet for Morning Prayer via James Laurence (a nonet poem for your morning)

On the Last Day of Class… via Hannah P. Keller (a prayer for students as they leave campus and head home)

How do we grieve the hundreds of thousands of people the COVID-19 pandemic has killed? via Reggie Williams (five writers weigh in on grief for Christian Century magazine)

Making Art in the Midst of Crisis: Pandemic and Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle” via Sarah Sanderson (remembering your identity as an artist/writer during chaotic and unproductive times)


SCARLET THREAD: A Poem by Prasanta Verma

Scarlet Thread

A scarlet thread
burns long, thin,
intersecting Sunday
and the corner
of my heart–
hungry for red.

I know the thread,
the very one—
pulls me to the cross,
unfolds like silk.
I pull string taut,
tie knot
so needle won’t slip.

A few crimson threads
fall to the floor,
and taste the hunger
of belonging.
Scarlet wounds are not sealed
with simply a stitch.

If the button did not fall,
slip out of the pocket,
get lost on a Sunday,
I’d still be searching.

Can I say what is mine
and what is yours?
Can you tell me where
the scarlet thread ends?

A coat of crimson
covers me, covers you,
swathed with scarlet thread.


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/.

WEEKLY PRAYER: MECHTHILD OF MAGDEBURG

Today’s prayer comes from Mechthild of Magdeburg (ca. 1207 – ca. 1282), a German mystic and a Beguine. She was one of the first mystics to write in German rather than Latin. Her feast day is November 19.

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O burning Mountain,
O chosen Sun,
O perfect Moon,
O fathomless Well,
O unattainable Height,
O Clearness beyond measure,
O Wisdom without end,
O Mercy without limit,
O Strength beyond resistance,
O Crown beyond all majesty:
the humblest thing you created sings your praise.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! The links Prasanta Verma and I found this week help us explore our deepest self in relationship to God. What has God given us and who has God created us to be? We hope you enjoy digging into these. Remember, always, that you are the beloved of God.

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As a Child: God’s Call to Littleness via Phil Steer (a new podcast that unpacks what it means to “become like little children”)

We Have Today via Arlisia Potter (living in and thanking God for this day)

Cindy Bunch on Self-Kindness as Spiritual Practice via Casey Tygrett (being kind to ourselves as a way forward to loving others)

Through a Looking Glass Darkly: How (and how not) to be certain of yourself via Jessica Hooten Wilson (we are pilgrims and wayfarers who need one another as we find our way home)

Evensong via Peggy R. Ellsberg (a poem)

Boils & Possums & Kierkegaard, Oh My! via J. Lind (on creativity, writing, redemption, and and the difficult task of faith)


New Book for the Contemplative Community! THE GREAT BELONGING by Charlotte Donlon

This week I’m delighted to introduce another book for our community: The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other by Charlotte Donlon. This is a beautiful and hopeful exploration of loneliness from a Christian perspective. The book shows that sometimes loneliness can become an opportunity for what we all crave: closeness with God and others. Sometimes, it is part of the human condition because we are people of longing. I so appreciate Charlotte exploring a topic that’s so often been taboo. There is no shame in feeling lonely. It just means that we’re human and need one another.

Below, I’ve included an excerpt from Charlotte’s book. First, she has a few words of introduction.


The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other has five sections: Belonging to Ourselves, Belonging to Each Other, Belonging to Our Places, Belonging through Art, and Belonging to God. I believe our primary belongings are to ourselves, others, and God. But other things, such as places and art, can enhance our main belongings. The excerpt below, “Visio Divina” is from the Belonging through Art section. It describes encounters with three works of art that deepened my belongings to myself and to God. –Charlotte Donlon

Visio Divina

When I walked into the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe on a hot August afternoon, the first painting my attention turned toward was O’Keeffe’s Trees in Autumn. Most of the trees in this work are portrayed with flames of bright red, orange, and gold. A single green fir provides a touch of realism and stands as a stark contrast to the colorful ribbons of leaves on the more surreal deciduous trees. A background of lavender hills and blue sky, along with layers of crawling light, create that familiar feeling of being outside in the hour or so before the sun begins to set.            

I was attending a weeklong arts and writing workshop, and participants had gathered at the museum with the workshop’s chaplain for visio divina. The spiritual practice of visio divina is similar to lectio divina, when readers take time to interact slowly and deeply with Scripture through meditation and prayer. While lectio divina is the practice of divine reading, visio divina is the practice of divine seeing. As the Upper Room website explains, “visio divina invites one to encounter the divine through images.” Prayerfully beholding a photograph, an icon, a piece of art, or other visual representation provides an opportunity to experience God in unique and compelling ways.

I had practiced visio divina once before, but on this day in Santa Fe, I devoted more time to divine seeing. The chaplain had instructed us to stand before two or three of O’Keeffe’s paintings for several minutes and open to what God might have for us through our engagement with the artist’s work as we lingered, looked, and listened.

After several minutes, I left Trees in Autumn and moved through the gallery until another piece stood out to me. Autumn Trees–The Maple is also a colorful painting, but it’s more muted than Trees in Autumn. It has more white space, some gray, a touch of gloom. The shape and outline of the tree are difficult to discern. It’s an idea of a tree, a tree that is only a tree because the artist said it is.

The painting brought to mind the landscape of late fall, when winter is near and temperatures are cool. Again, I stood with the painting for several minutes and tried to interpret my inner response. I enjoyed the stillness and the process of giving my attention to the art. O’Keeffe’s work invited me to enter a realm that wasn’t affected by the news of the day, my personal anxieties, or unknown passersby. I entered this dimension and considered how the painting might see me. Was it a mirror that reflected an image of my soul? If so, what was it trying to show me? I stood in front of this painting, asking questions and waiting for answers. After the energy of my asking and waiting fizzled, I wandered away to see what else there was to see.

I arrived in a larger gallery and glanced back over my right shoulder. In the corner was a dark painting that I was immediately drawn to. I sat down on the end of a nearby bench and observed this third piece for several minutes. Black Place III has shades of gray, black, and white mountainous shapes. A muted yellow crack or narrow stream makes a crooked path down a portion of the middle of the work. Red shadows splash near the bottom. I eventually discovered two eyes in the middle of the painting. Or the suggestion of two eyes. The painting was dark. Very dark. And I loved it.

After I recognized I was more drawn to this piece than I had been to the other two, I began to berate myself. “Of course I prefer the dark painting. Why do I always lean toward the hard, sorrowful, sad things? Why am I like this? Why do I feel most comfortable in the murkiness?” I stayed with these questions and tried to not shy away from the feelings they produced. Then my thoughts were interrupted by this observation: “But you were drawn to colorful paintings, too. You were drawn to colorful paintings first.”

Black Place III was a mirror, and it reflected my doubts back to me. Its eyes might have even been looking at me. The painting ignited questions—asked with a tone of judgment and ridicule— about the essence of who I am. I’ve long been aware of my tendencies to stray toward hard things, to acknowledge and make room for brokenness. But my harsh views about the truth of who I am only surfaced after I practiced visio divina in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. At first it was uncomfortable to realize I was judging myself, but I was also thankful to see my inner world with greater clarity. Then, when I noticed the interruption and saw more of the truth—I was also drawn to color and brightness and lightness— my soul settled. It was as though God were telling me, “You are all of who I created you to be.

From The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other by Charlotte Donlon copyright © 2020 Broadleaf Books. Reproduced by permission.

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Charlotte Donlon is a writer, spiritual director, and podcast host. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University where she studied creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Catapult, The Millions, Mockingbird, Christ and Pop Culture, and elsewhere. Her first book, The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other, will be published by Broadleaf Books in November 2020. Learn more about Charlotte, her writing, and her work at charlottedonlon.com. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @charlottedonlon.

WEEKLY PRAYER: St. Augustine

St. Augustine (354-430) wrote this prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? Prasanta Verma and I hope you will find some peace and solace in these posts. Prayer, poetry, and positivity — it’s all here. 😉

Be well and be blessed.

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Prayer for the Christian Political Other via Gena Thomas (a good prayer for election week)

A Lesson in Meandering via Jeff Grills (enjoy this poem on the serpentine path of life)

Self-Care in Grief and Hard Times via Lisa Appelo (ideas for biblical self-care, which is always rooted in God)

Unmasked via Nichole Woo (what do our metaphorical masks hide?)

The Pastoral is Political: Poetry as Cure for Being Gaslit via Melanie Weldon-Soiset (reading and writing poetry can be healing acts)

30 Positive Words for November via Roz Andrews (one positive word to contemplate for each day this month)


On Election Day, Remember the Saints

Today is Election Day, and many are anxious. I am. Maybe you are, too.

I find it provocative that this year, Election Day follows right on the heels of All Souls Day and All Saints Day. On those days, we commemorate the saints and hold close the memory of the departed. We are reminded that we’re part of a big and beloved community.

Today, as we steer our country and watch with baited breath, we need more than ever to have that community with us. To know, as we wait in our isolated pandemic pods, that we’re not alone. That is why I relentlessly study the Christian mystics, saints, artists, and pilgrims of old. For me, history is spiritual formation because it grounds me in something bigger than I am. I am part of a great cloud of witnesses with whom I am scudding across the sky toward home.

So, although All Saints Day may be over, I declare this to be All Saints WEEK. And on this Election Day, I urge you: remember the saints. The ones you read about in Scripture and spiritual texts from the past and present. They will guide and ground you.

Remember the saints. The ones who paved the way for the church and our country. The ones you love who have already gone home, perhaps far too soon. Their work and their memory is with you.

Remember the saints. The ones in your home. The ones you encounter on the street or on your Twitter and Facebook timelines. The ones who feel alone and anxious and vulnerable this week. They need you.

Remember the saints. Check in on them. Love them. Feel them near you. We are all—past and present, dead and living—in the same boat sailing toward a distant horizon. Or, to use a different image, “we’re all just walking each other home (Ram Dass).”

WEEKLY PRAYER: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, Nov. 1, was All Saints Day, when we commemorate all the saints of the church, those that are known and those that are unknown. In our prayer for the week, Martin Luther King, Jr. gives thanks for the saints and foreparents that have preceded us in the faith.

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Oh God, our gracious, heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the creative insights in the universe. We thank Thee for the lives of great saints and prophets in the past, who have revealed to us that we can stand up amid the problems and difficulties and trials of life and not give in. We thank Thee for our foreparents, who’ve given us something in the midst of the darkness of exploitation and oppression to keep going. And grant that we will go on with the proper faith and the proper determination of will, so that we will be able to make a creative contribution to this world and in our lives. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen.

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