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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites, my weekly round-up of great finds on the web. This will be our last Friday Favorites for the summer — but look for them again when the leaves begin to turn.

Friday Favorites features posts and podcasts on prayer, writing, and spirituality. Today’s finds offer a little bit of everything, from contemplative activism and contemplative history to a short story and a summer reading list. Read, and be blessed.

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Fast for Familias (do something today — fast for an end to the separation of children from families at the border; this event is happening today, June 29)

An “Outsider” Can Show Us How to Love Our Neighbors via Ed Cyzewski (what if the help we need — now or one day — comes from people we wouldn’t have chosen to help us?)

After the Death of a Dream via Tasha Burgoyne (God is at work even when your most cherished dreams come undone)

2018’s Ten Christian Women to Watch via Jenna Barnett (did you catch Sojourners’ list of women who are making and shaping history this year?)

Why Finding God in All Things Leads to Fullness of Joy via Carl McColman (finding joy with the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich)

Friday Feature — National Selfie Day via Prasanta Verma (a light-hearted but serious look at one of our more interesting “holidays”)

The Sparrow via Jane Tyson Clement (a mystical short story about the God who sees every sparrow fall)

20 short novels you can read in one day via Modern Mrs. Darcy (add these short but impactful books to your summer reading list)

BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Week 3: Press On
Presence of God cover

This is our last week reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century lay Carmelite. Brother Lawrence advocates practicing what he calls a continual conversation with God. The last two weeks, we’ve looked at what this practice entails and Brother Lawrence’s thoughts on leading an integrated life.

Brother Lawrence admits that sometimes, “practicing the presence” is not easy. He says that for ten years he found it extraordinarily difficult.

I must tell you that for the first ten years I suffered much. The apprehension that I was not devoted to God as I wished to be, my past sin always present to mind, and the great unmerited favors which God did me, were the matter and source of my sufferings. During this time I fell often, and rose again presently.

I appreciate his candor, because I find consistently practicing any spiritual discipline to be fairly difficult.

In his letters, Brother Lawrence gives advice similar to medieval mystics like the author of the Cloud of Unknowing. When our mind wanders or we experience other difficulties practicing the presence of God, we simply and gently return. God is always there, waiting.

About a member of his society, Brother Lawrence writes (I believe he might be talking about himself here):

If sometimes he is a little too much absent from that divine presence, God presently makes Himself to be felt in his soul to recall him, which often happens when he is most engaged in his outward business. He answers with exact fidelity to these inward drawings…

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To someone struggling with wandering thoughts during prayer, Brother Lawrence writes:

You tell me nothing new; you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts.

I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults and to humble ourselves before God. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer, many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering.

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If [your mind] sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that: trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to recollect it; the will must bring it back in tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.

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Brother Lawrence urges us to take heart, press on, and keep on this spiritual road.

Let us make way for grace; let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left . . . I say again, let us enter into ourselves. The time presses, there is no room for delay; our souls are at stake.

Let us encourage one another this week, for the spiritual road is not always easy. Let us take heart and press on, friends!

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The Practice of the Presence of God consists of the letters of Brother Lawrence, some of his Maxims, and four conversations with him as recorded by a contemporary, Abbe de Beaufort. You can read them here (other editions are widely available).

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For Reflection:

Brother Lawrence week 3

WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897):

Yes, my Beloved, this is how my life will be consumed . . . I have no other means of showing you my love than by throwing flowers, that is, of not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, not one word, but by profiting from all the smallest things and doing them out of love . . . I want to suffer for love and even to rejoice for love so that in this way I will throw flowers before your throne. I shall not come upon one without unpetalling it for you . . . Then while I am throwing my flowers, I shall sing (for could one cry when doing such a joyous thing?). I will sing, even when I have to gather my flowers in the midst of thorns, and my song will be all the more melodious when the thorns are longest.

Source

BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Week Two: An Integrated Life
Presence of God cover
This month, we’re reading The Practice of the Presence of God, the spiritual classic by the seventeenth-century lay Carmelite Brother Lawrence. Check last week’s post for an introduction to this practice, which teaches us how to continually remain in God’s presence.

I’ve long admired what Brother Lawrence has to say about work — work in relation to prayer and to being with God. I’m always tempted to segregate my life into compartments, and it’s easy for me to box up my work and see it apart from God, prayer, and the spiritual life. This is true of everyday work, like housework; and guess what? I can do the same thing with my writing on spirituality. I can easily box that up and stow it far from God, too.

Brother Lawrence, by contrast, speaks of living an integrated life, one in which we are always in the presence of God, no matter what we do. He wrote:

It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church. We may make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God…Let us begin then.

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We might begin such conversation in the realm of our day-to-day work. Brother Lawrence provides a good example. Upon entering the monastery as a lay brother, he was assigned kitchen duty. He didn’t much like it but came to see even this dreaded assignment as a way to be in the presence of God. He said (this is the famous omelet quotation; you knew it was coming):

[I]t is not necessary to have great things to do. I turn my little omelet in the pan for the love of God; when it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and adore my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise, more content than a king. When I cannot do anything else, it is enough for me to have lifted a straw from the earth for the love of God.

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Brother Lawrence also affirmed:

 

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.

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What about you? Have you encountered God in your kitchen today? How spiritually integrated is your life?

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The Practice of the Presence of God consists of the letters of Brother Lawrence, some of his Maxims, and four conversations with him as recorded by a contemporary, Abbe de Beaufort. You can read them here (other editions are widely available).

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For Reflection: 

Brother Lawrence week 2

 

 

WEEKLY PRAYER

Today’s prayer comes from The Venerable Bede (ca. 673-735), an English Benedictine monk, historian, and theologian. This is an especially good prayer to say after spending some time in the Word.

I pray thee, merciful Jesus,
that as Thou has graciously granted me
to drink down sweetly from the Word which tells of thee,
so wilt Thou kindly grant
that I may come at length to thee,
the fount of all wisdom,
and stand before Thy face forever.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! (To tell you the truth, every day feels a little like Friday right now since summer is here, my girls are out of school, and I don’t have to go to work at my day job at the school–every day a Friday is not a bad thing.)

This week, I have a great round-up of posts and podcasts about prayer, place, silence, life, and writing. It’s summer–read/listen to them by the pool or beneath your favorite tree.

And be blessed.

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For the Love of God and Place via Marlena Graves (ask the Lord how you can seek welfare in this place)

Examen Recordings via The Gravity Center (guided evening examen from Gravity retreats–a great resource!)

Rich Lewis | What to do in the Silence — The Centering Prayer Episode via Matthew Brough (on the Spirituality for Ordinary People Podcast, Matthew Brough interviews Rich Lewis on the practice of centering prayer)

Praying with the Power of Paradox via Julia Walsh (perhaps mystery is not a threat, but an awesome place to pray)

How Will You Live Your One Life? via Michelle De Rusha (on living the ordinary, unseen moments of life)

10 Ways the World is Getting Better via Leslie Leyland Fields (the news is often grim…but are there ways the world is actually getting better?)

Jane Friedman on the Business of Being a Writer (Jane Friedman talks publishing and debunks myths on The Creative Nonfiction Podcast)

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Next week, Friday Favorites will take a break while I am at a Writers’ Retreat led by Andi Cumbo-Floyd, Shawn Smucker, and Kelly Chripczuk. I’ll be leading a workshop/craft talk entitled “Write For the Market or Write For Yourself?” Will any of you be at the retreat?

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BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD


Week One: Practicing the Presence
Presence of God cover

This month I wanted to return to a book I’ve always liked – The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence (c. 1611 – 1691) was a lay brother in a monastery of the Discalced Carmelites in Paris.

Brother Lawrence is well known for what he calls “practicing the presence of God.” He speaks of this practice as “a quiet, continual conversation with God” and also as “the habitual sense of God’s presence” — a habit of allowing yourself to be always with God.

Brother Lawrence says that, to draw close to God, we don’t need anything but this habit of continually conversing with him. We don’t need lots of complex practices or prayers. In fact, Brother Lawrence admitted in a letter that he had given up all spiritual practices except the ones specifically required by his office. He writes:

People seek for methods of learning to love God. They hope to arrive at it by I know not how many different practices; they take much trouble to remain in the presence of God in a quantity of ways. Is it not much shorter and more direct to do everything for the love of God, to make use of all the labors of one’s state of life to show Him that love, and to maintain His presence within us by this communion of our hearts with His? There is no finesse about it; one has only to do it generously and simply.

I’ll be honest. Brother Lawrence’s method of being with God is so simple that it sometimes seems difficult. Perhaps we are trained to expect drawing near to God to be complicated, to be a method with many steps and a steep learning curve? Or to intellectualize our relationship with God? (Guilty.) But maybe it doesn’t always have to be this way.

In a letter giving advice about the spiritual growth of a mutual friend, Brother Lawrence describes the practice:

Let him think of [God] as often as he can, especially in the greatest dangers. A little lifting up of the heart suffices. A little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship . . . are prayers, which however short, are nevertheless very acceptable to God . . .

Let him then think of God the most he can. Let him accustom himself, by degrees, to this small but holy exercise.

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The following quotation from a letter provides a good overview of how this practice might be worked out in everyday life:

[God] requires no great matters of us: a little remembrance of Him from time to time; a little adoration; sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company; the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.

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More quotes for us to ponder:

I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of God. For my part, I keep myself retired with Him in the fund or center of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing, but the least turning from Him is insupportable.

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In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

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There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because god would have us.

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The Practice of the Presence of God consists of the letters of Brother Lawrence, some of his Maxims, and four conversations with him as recorded by a contemporary, Abbe de Beaufort. You can read them here (other editions are widely available).

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For Reflection

Brother Lawrence week 1

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

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Daily Lectio Divina: Mother Theodora via Laura Cavanaugh (a guided lectio divina podcast featuring one of the desert mothers)

Be Still, Life: A Songlike Illustrated Invitation to Living with Presence via Brain Pickings (a book about living with wakefulness to the world)

Unexpected Friendship in a Cup of Cold Water via Dorina Lazo Gilmore (sometimes friendships can start with a simple act of [awkward] hospitality)

Neighborly Bread via Laura M. Fabrycky (this is a beautiful essay on embodied learning and kneading life)

Do I Pray for the Wrong Reasons? via Ed Cyzewski (do we sometimes pray just to get results? Thomas Merton is on the case…)

Does my life have meaning? via Parker Palmer (grappling with a big question and learning to embrace the mystery of our life)

Why Publish? Why Write? via Glynn Young (why do you want to write or publish? It’s worth asking yourself these questions along with Glynn)

 

WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer from e. e. cummings:

i thank you God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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