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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! We hope this Friday finds you enjoying the birth of spring and clinging to the promise of resurrection in all things. Enjoy these posts and podcasts as part of your reading and reflection time.

With love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Pietà via Matt Schultz (a poem)

Thank God for the Poets via Margaret Renkl (poetry reminds us that life is our birthright…read this opinion piece for the many links to wonderful poems)

Bray & Keane: A Primer on The Book of Common Prayer via The Laymen’s Lounge (a podcast episode providing an introduction, overview, and step-by-step guide)

Making Space for Each Other’s Grief via Michelle Reyes (grief can bind us together if we resist the urge to judge how others grieve)

A Specific Love via Courtney Ellis (finding love–and God’s love–in the small and specific)

How Does an Introvert Emerge from a Pandemic? via Afton Rorvik (an introvert’s guide to venturing out once again)


Restless in Spring by Prasanta Verma

In a Midwest spring, the sky hangs low and gray, with muted sunshine. The grass transitions slowly to a bright green when the snow finally recedes.

April is a season of change, a transition from one extreme to another, in this part of the country. Winter winds blast us from the north, and drenching seasonal rains fall during this in-between time. While spring in the south is already dotted with lacy flowering trees, spring is still sprouting its legs in the colder Midwest.

I find the same is true for my life: it is constantly in the midst of one change or another. I discover something new emerging, changing, transitioning, growing, and dying—sometimes, all at once. There is always something to remember, and something to forget, something to cry about, something to laugh about, something buried, and something resurrected.

New tomato and lettuce seeds are sprouting in paper cups, sitting in front of a window. They can’t be transplanted outdoors until after Memorial Day, when a cold freeze won’t endanger the seedlings.

One of my kids will be headed to college, and I watch a different kind of growth and flourishing. I see an image of a branch with leaves and blossoms, and somehow I feel this represents my children. They are growing and branching away, soon to be off on their own, with hopes and future dreams tucked away and taking root.

I want to remember what is good and true and what is useful to remember, and forget what needs to be forgotten. I can’t seem to throw off memories as far as the east is from the west, though, but thankfully, God can take care of the parts that I can’t. Each day holds enough dirt of its own—the good and bad kind—soil which is nourishing and warm, and the dirt of something broken and shattered.

April tussles between winter and spring, a restless season, like a tug-of-war (do kids nowadays even know what tug-of-war is?) Perhaps it is just as well. It is another change.

I feel more changes coming on. I dig my heels deeper in the ground, cognizant of the soil around me. During this past year, with all the vagueness and uncertainty, I’ve experienced long stretches of restlessness.

“God, our hearts are restless ‘til they find their rest in you.” – Augustine

Where has my heart been? I know it is prone to wander. Perhaps this is part of the secret for restlessness?

Something new is growing. A new side of my voice, just as spring breaks forth unexpectedly out this frozen tundra. It was always there, this voice, but maybe it was the wrong season before, and maybe now the time has come.

Perhaps something new is growing in your life, too. Spring is like that—reminding of newness and sprouting hope where tears have fallen. It may sound trite and cliché, but I always look forward to learning this lesson anew each year. I need these reminders that Someone bigger than me is in charge of all that changes and all that stays the same. Hope blankets the world in a sea of green in this season, and it is exactly what my soul needs.

Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants. – Deuteronomy 32:2

Photo credits: unsplash

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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 Native American Prayer

This week we’re praying a beautiful Native American prayer. I find it to be especially meaningful in the Easter season, when we celebrate the earth’s renewal and all things being restored by Christ.

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The world before me is restored in beauty.
The world behind me is restored in beauty.
The world below me is restored in beauty.
The world above me is restored in beauty.
All things around me are restored in beauty.
My voice is restored in beauty.
It is finished in beauty. Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

On this Good Friday, we hope that these posts, which include music, art, and fiction, help you to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and the coming hope of resurrection.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Today You Shall Be With Me in Paradise” via The Lent Project, Biola University (a reflection for Good Friday involving Scripture, art, poetry, and music)

The Stations of the Cross via Pádraig Ó Tuama (a guided meditation for Good Friday)

Holy Week via Duane W. H. Arnold, Ph.D. (a brief history of Holy Week and looking ahead to hope)

Ubi Caritas via Joel Clarkson and Joy Clarkson (an arrangement of Ubi Caritas, which commemorates Jesus washing his disciples’ feet)

Gethsemane via Simon Parke (an extract from Parke’s novel, Gospel, Rumours of Love)

Easter Flight: Crucified in the Middle Seat via Leslie Leyland Fields (“This week, Friday, many of us will watch a man take that middle space for us, the place no one wants…”)


Jesus, Pilgrim of Pilgrims

In my new book, 3000 Miles to Jesus, I make the case that we are all pilgrims on the Jerusalem road. The book traces the journey of three pilgrims who made their way to the Holy Land in the 15th century. By following these travelers, we come to understand our biblical identity as strangers and sojourners on the earth.

I find it especially meaningful to think about pilgrimage during Lent and Holy Week, when, in our minds and hearts, we journey to Jerusalem as we ponder and pray through Jesus’ last days. You can read more about our Lenten pilgrimage in my recent Christianity Today article.  

But there’s another side of pilgrimage I haven’t talked much about.

Giotto, Jesus Entering Jerusalem, 1305

Did you know that Jesus himself was a pilgrim? On Palm Sunday, we commemorated Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But we don’t often ponder the lengthy that journey preceded this event. In fact, Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem was a pilgrimage, undertaken to celebrate Passover in the holy city. The Hebrew Bible instructs Jews to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover (and two other feasts as well). Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, traveled to Jerusalem every Passover (Luke 2:41–43), as did many others. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that during the Second Temple period, the number of Passover pilgrims totaled “not less than three millions.”

During his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus uttered many of his well-known parables and teachings, including his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer to the disciples (Luke 11:-2–4). So, if you think about it, many of Jesus’ lessons are “pilgrimage lessons”– wisdom of the road.

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What was this final, momentous pilgrimage like? When he “resolutely set out for Jerusalem,” Jesus was in Capernaum. The shortest route led due south through Samaria. But because the Samaritans would not receive Jesus, he took a more roundabout way, going east through Peraea. Before leading to Jerusalem, this route crossed the Jordan River and passed through Jericho, Bethany, and Bethphage, where Jesus stayed at the house of Mary and Martha.

From Jericho to Jerusalem, this pilgrimage road leads through the Judean wilderness. It was probably only a day’s journey, but the route ascends about 4000 feet and is fairly rugged. I imagine it thronging with pilgrims who would then pour into Jerusalem and begin purification and preparation for Passover. Some of these pilgrims were surely among the “crowds” that Scripture mentions Jesus teaching along the way to Jerusalem.

In this final journey, Jesus models many of the traits we see in the medieval pilgrims I explore in my book. He had perseverance, taking a long route and enduring wilderness conditions. He traveled in poverty, frequently eating or staying at others’ homes (for example, Zacchaeus’s house and Mary and Martha’s house). And, despite the longer route and the time he took to teach along the way, he focused relentlessly on the goal of his pilgrimage. He resolutely “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

But Jesus, of course, is far more than a model. His pilgrimage is bound up in our salvation. Before traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled to earth and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). Leaving his heavenly glory, he was a sojourner in ways that we will never be. His earthly journeys always had a bigger goal–that of showing us the way to the Father (John 14:2–6)–the way home. Nicholas T. Batzig says in an article on pilgrimage that “Jesus is the heavenly Sojourner, traveling through the foreign land of this fallen world to the eternal inheritance He came to possess by way of the cross.”

We love because Jesus first loved us. And we pilgrim because he first pilgrimed for us. I wish you a good journey during the next few days from the bright darkness of Holy Week to the light of resurrection.


A Prayer for Holy Week: Caryll Houselander

A prayer for Holy Week from Caryll Houselander (1901-1954), an English Catholic mystic, poet, and author:

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By Your heaviness and fear
in Gethsemane,
comfort the oppressed
and those who are afraid.

By Your loneliness,
facing the Passion
while the Apostles slept,
comfort those who face evil alone
while the world sleeps.

By Your persistent prayer,
in anguish of anticipation,
strengthen those
who shrink from the unknown.

By Your humility,
taking the comfort of angels,
give us grace to help
and to be helped by one another,
and in one another
to comfort You, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Here at The Contemplative Writer, we love rounding up posts, articles, poetry, and podcasts from wonderful writers around the web. We hope you enjoy our selection this week.

Be well and be blessed,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“The Poet Thinks About the Donkey,” by Mary Oliver via SALT (a poem for Palm Sunday)

Meditation Monday–The Garden Walk of Holy Week via Christine Sine (Jesus’ journey from garden to garden)

The Grand Positives via Coe Hutchison (a journaling exercise based on the Ten Commandments)

You’ve Got Our Ear via Marjorie Maddox (a poem for the Age of Anxiety)

Archiving Lament via The Visual Commentary on Scripture (artworks and commentary based on Lamentations 1)

“Art + Faith: A Theology of Making” Book Review via Melanie Weldon-Soiset (a review of Makoto Fujimura’s recent book)


“I Trust That I Can Soar”– An Excerpt from The Seeker and the Monk by Sophfronia Scott

Last week, author Sophfronia Scott released her new book, The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton. Scott mines Merton’s private journals for guidance about life and faith. I love the way she converses with Merton, asking him questions, giving him advice (from time to time), and learning from the monk’s faith and foibles.

Today, I’m featuring an excerpt from this book for our community. In the passage below, Scott describes how she began to pray the Daily Office in the Episcopal Church and, through it, learned to soar.

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Merton recognized his prayer life was often grounded—unable to take off, let alone soar. Though he had time alone in his hermitage, he found the quality of his prayers could still be disrupted by his own lack of focus. Just as any of us can be distracted during prayer and meditation, Merton no doubt had a lot on his mind—schemes for his next publication, communications from his friends, how much wood he needed to chop for his fire, whether the dermatitis he sometimes suffered from on his hands would ever heal.

It’s like his wing-flapping was woefully ineffective and he knew it: “I realize now how weak and confused I have become—most of the time I have simply played around and daydreamed and am sadly unequipped to take a real uprooting. Hence the need of prayer and thought and discipline and the self purification.”

How does one strengthen a prayer life? Maybe we can take a cue from professional athletes: quality practice. Just as they have to practice well to play well, if we cultivate a strong prayer life, we will be strong in prayer. It starts with the discipline of routine. Merton maintained the practice of praying the schedule of the Daily Office as he did in the monastery. He knew walking in the woods and being in solitude helped foster his communion with God, but he would still be subject to daydreams and distractions. In his routine, the discipline of reading his prayers aloud helped him stay on point: “Solitude—when you get saturated with silence and landscape, then you need an interior work, psalms, scripture, meditation.” Note that he’s talking about sacred text, not philosophy or theology. Reciting the Psalms was of particular importance to Merton. Among the belongings he left behind was a tattered copy of the Psalms in Latin, the pages so well thumbed that they are crumbling and the cover has separated from its binding.

I have to admit, for a long time I never understood the point of praying with prewritten prayers or of reciting Scripture to oneself alone in a room. Then, in 2011, I joined the Episcopal Church and learned about the Book of Common Prayer. The church defines the book as “a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity.” Every day, churches and individuals around the world pray the same words from this book for Sunday services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals, in addition to a Daily Office of morning, afternoon, and evening prayers.

I decided to experiment with reciting Morning Prayer daily on my own, sitting on the cushions in front of a lit candle in the small meditation space I keep in a corner of my home office. As my practice went on from days to weeks and from weeks to months, I noticed something different about my thoughts, about the material my brain happened to access in any given moment. In the same way that a song might come to me that I can hum or sing, I now had words of prayer in my mind’s playlist. Instead of thinking, in a tough moment, “It’ll be OK,” I hear, “The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.” Or I hear this, one of my favorites, when I’m getting ready for the day or to speak at an event: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.” I can’t tell you how comforting it is to feel these words, like an invisible security blanket wrapped around my being.

The apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). I believe walking around with words of prayer imprinted within me is a way of doing that. And I understand why it’s important: Because the work of God is ongoing—creation is ongoing. I’m praying to figure out my role in that creation. A wonderful story that explains this well comes from the book The Shack and its film version. The story is about a man whose life and faith are shattered after the murder of his youngest child. He has an encounter with God during which he expresses his anger—really giving God what for—and demands to know why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. God, embodied by the actress Octavia Spencer, explains she doesn’t make these things happen, nor does she stop them. But she is constantly working to make something of what has happened. She also wants us to know she is always here—especially when the horrific events happen. We are never alone.

Praying without ceasing reminds me of who I am and to whom I belong. And because I remember this, I can trust the air that upholds me when it’s time to glide. I trust that I can soar.


From The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton by Sophfronia Scott copyright © 2021 Broadleaf Books. Reproduced by permission.

Lenten Prayer: Rachel Marie Stone

This week, we’re praying a prayer written by contemporary author Rachel Marie Stone. It looks ahead to the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

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Lord God,
You sent your Son into the world,
And before his hour had come,
He washed his disciples’ feet.
You had given all things into his hands.
He had come from you, and was going to you,
And what did he do?
He knelt down on the floor,
And washed his friends’ feet.
He was their teacher and their Lord,
Yet he washed their feet.
Lord God, help us learn from his example;
Help us to do as he has done for us.
The world will know we are his disciples
If we love one another.
Strengthen our hands and our wills for love
And for service.
Keep before our eyes the image of your Son,
Who, being God, became a Servant for our sake.
All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.
Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope you enjoy this round-up of posts that will help you pray, praise, flourish, and write.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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A Simple Prayer Marking One Year of Pandemic Life, for All Ages via Traci Smith (a unison and responsive prayer)

Praise on Pi Day via Lisa Rosenberg (a poem)

How Prayer Can Prepare Us For Death via Kara Bettis (an interview with Douglas McKelvey, author of the Every Moment Holy liturgies)

Flourishing Together: When Racism Affects Us All via Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (“Let’s walk together and treat each person like an image bearer of God to be treasured”)

How 2020 Disruptions Have Led to Relational Innovations via Dorothy Littell Greco (how some people are creating something new during the pandemic)

Prompts To Get You Writing via April Yamasaki (some questions and reflection prompts to get your creativity flowing)