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GUEST POST: An Excerpt from Flee, Be Silent, Pray by Ed Cyzewski

Flee be silent pray cover ebook final copyToday, I’m excited to offer an excerpt from Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer, a new book by Ed Cyzewski, founder of The Contemplative Writer. Ed’s book released this week.

In the excerpt below, Ed explains why solitude, rather than more information and more effort, might be a good place to start when struggle, burn out, or crisis occurs. I know you’ll appreciate the wisdom he offers here.

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A spiritual struggle, burn out, or breakdown in my conservative Christian tradition is often treated with more information. The assumption is that you forgot something, never learned it, or distorted the information in the first place, despite your best efforts. I remember worrying that my own sincerity or grasp of the information didn’t click. If I could just line up the right information with the proper mental outlook, things would finally fall into place. This is why so many young evangelicals struggle with sin and then pray the sinner’s prayer again (and again) or rededicate their lives to God.

The sentiment is admirable, as we can all relate to wanting to grow spiritually or getting on the right path, but such an approach to spiritual transformation remains more or less in our control and fails to proceed beyond a confession of faith. Professing our faith and commitment to Christ is certainly a good place to start, but it’s hardly what mature, growing followers of Jesus need.

Solitude isn’t my cure-all that guarantees a vibrant spiritual life, but it has become a vital refuge that saves me from my own inadequate remedies and faulty illusions of myself and others. Nouwen speaks of solitude as the furnace of transformation. “Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self” (The Way of the Heart 25). I can think of no better thing for anxious evangelicals who have come to the limits of personal effort and knowledge. Entering solitude with open hands can free us to receive whatever God will give us. I have often gone into solitude with my own plans and agenda.

I’m not naturally comfortable with mystery, especially with a mysterious God, after dedicating so much time to theological study. Solitude strips away the script that theology can provide for God. In silence before God alone, I am forced to surrender any scripture verses that I may be tempted to manipulate in my moment of need, as if I could trap God by using his own words against him. I can only surrender to the mystery of God in the silence.

There are deep mysteries to God’s love and presence, and solitude is one of the ways I have inched closer to them. What I know of God’s love and presence feels very much like drops of water from a limitless stream. What we’ve come to believe and trust may crumble to dust in the pursuit of solitude. This is just as well. Any illusions or false conceptions of ourselves or of God will crumble eventually regardless.

Solitude allows us to preemptively expose these illusions before they let us down in the midst of a crisis. In solitude, we “die” to ourselves so that God can raise us up. Nouwen wrote, “In solitude, our heart can slowly take off its many protective devices, and can grow so wide and deep that nothing human is strange to it” (Out of Solitude 45).

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The desert fathers and mothers saw solitude as a way to replace martyrdom when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In his introduction to the spirituality of the desert fathers and mothers, John Chryssavgis writes, “The voice of the desert’s heart replaced the voice of the martyr’s blood. And the Desert Fathers and Mothers became witnesses of another way, another Kingdom” (In the Heart of the Desert 17).

There was no surer way to strip away what they depended on in place of God. This was a kind of “death” for them that lead to new life. They sought the union with Christ that Paul spoke of (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:9-11) and set aside every possible distraction. Nouwen assures us that “solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring, forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God’s even greater mercy that their life itself becomes ministry” (The Way of the Heart 37).

Flee, Be Silent, Pray is available now, $2.99 as an eBook, $9.99 for print:
Kindle | Print | iBooks | Kobo | B&N
Download a Sample Chapter Here

Ed Cyzewski Author Cafe Square

 

Ed Cyzewski is the author of A Christian Survival GuideFlee, Be Silent, PrayPray, Write, Grow; and other books. He writes at www.edcyzewski.com and is on Twitter at @edcyzewski.

 

 

WEEKLY PRAYER

This week’s prayer is from St. Anselm (1033 – 1109):

Lord, because you have made me, I owe you the whole of my love; because you have redeemed me, I owe you the whole of myself; because you have promised so much, I owe you my whole being. Moreover, I owe you as much more love than myself as you are greater than I, for whom you gave yourself and to whom you promised yourself. I pray you, Lord, make me taste by love what I taste by knowledge; let me know by love what I know by understanding. I owe you more than my whole self, but I have no more, and by myself I cannot render the whole of it to you. Draw me to you, Lord, in the fullness of your love. I am wholly yours by creation; make me all yours, too, in love.

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BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE

Week 3: Prayer as a Way of Life

All Shall Be WellThe Revelations of Divine Love by English anchoress Julian of Norwich is our book of the month. In this spiritual classic, Lady Julian explains why prayer is a good and necessary part of life.

I am drawn to the ways Julian speaks of prayer, always emphasizing our radical dependence on God. I also like the two metaphors she uses in the first passage below – prayer is like an arrow and prayer is like a shelter. These metaphors seem so different, yet they work together to describe the gift of communing with God.

 

For prayer is like an arrow shot straight toward joy’s completion in Heaven—and prayer is also like a shelter that covers us with the knowledge that we can trust God to grant all for which we yearn. When we fall short of the joy that has been laid out for us, we are filled with longing; but as we cover ourselves with the knowledge of God’s love and with sweet thoughts of our Rescuer, then we are granted the gift of confidence in God’s firm integrity.

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For our part, we must take care to always lovingly choose prayer as a way of life. We may still feel as though we have accomplished nothing—but in reality (whether we can see it or not), we have. And if we do what we can and ask with constancy and faithfulness for mercy and grace, then all that we lack we shall find in God.

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Prayer makes the soul one with God. Our souls are like God in their essence, and they are connected to God with bonds of kinship—yet because of sin, our way of being is often not much like God’s. That is why we need to use prayer as an affirmation that our souls are aligned with the Divine Will. What’s more, prayer comforts our uneasy consciences and becomes a conduit for grace to flow into us.

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 Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) was an English visionary, mystic, anchoress, and writer. Read about her here.

I’ve been enjoying the Divine Revelations in a modern translation entitled All Shall Be Well.

For reflection:

 

Julian of Norwich - week 3

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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My morning prayers keep me focused on the Holy Spirit’s presence via Mary Lee Wile (kitchen prayers for discerning the day’s path)

Rewrite Radio #14: Brian Doyle 2012 via the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing (writer Brian Doyle, who passed away two weeks ago, talks about the power of bearing witness via the stories we tell)

Dealing with writer’s envy via Heather Walker Peterson (on the dark side of writer friendships)

How to Immediately Improve Your Query Letter’s Effectiveness via Jane Friedman (valuable practical advice for your novel queries)

Discover Your Writing Self via Andi Cumbo-Floyd (take this writing course from Andi in July)

Rough Drafts. The Struggle is Real via Stephanie S. Smith (inspiring words on taking risks and “spending it all” on your rough draft)

GUEST POST: The Blessings from the Animals by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Welcome to a new feature here at The Contemplative Writer. Every so often, I’ll be having guest writers share with you their thoughts on prayer, writing, and the contemplative life. I think their voices will bless you.

Our first guest post from Andi Cumbo-Floyd introduces a spiritual pause or practice that caps the day on her farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It also references one of my favorite books! Enjoy the richness of Andi’s words . . .

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Animals - Andi Cumbo-Floyd
Most evenings, when my husband has come home from work and I have put away the computer, the smart phone, and the e-reader, when the chores are finished and all the animals fed, he and I sit side-by-side in wrought-iron chairs he rescued from a dumpster and watch our rabbits eat and play.

It’s one of the highlights of my day.

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There’s something about the simple expansive of animals that fills my soul. Their eyes gaze deep, and their bodies never mask what they are feeling in spirit and flesh.

As long as I am kind, their affection and trust in me grows. Their motives are pure, and they are never influenced by intentions that are hidden or impure. They are, ultimately, self-serving, but they are, ultimately, intimate, wide-open, innocent.

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“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Of all the lines in all the books I’ve read, this is, perhaps, my favorite. It’s spoken of Aslan, the Lion, the great King of Narnia and all the worlds. On days when I doubt that the world can be good, when even the sweet spirit of our animals cannot cheer me, I remember these words . . . I remember the Lion – not always safe but always good.

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In the evening, as our rabbits play beneath the walnut tree, my husband and I sit. We listen to the goats tussle for grain and hay. We hear the rooster crow from beyond the farm house and hear the up-ended cluck of a hen laying. In the distance, a neighbor’s donkey, Lugnut, brays, and another’s cattle low.

Just then, when that chorus of animal song takes a fermata of breath, one rabbit launches himself into the air, his feet sideways in joy, and I laugh long and hard.

Not always safe but always good.

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Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer who lives at the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 4 dogs, 4 cats, 6 goats, 40 chickens, and 3 rabbits. You can read more of her writing at Andilit.com and more about her farm at godswhisperfarm.com.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE

Week Two: Seeking God or Seeing God?

All Shall Be Well

In her spiritual classic, The Revelations of Divine Love, English anchoress Julian of Norwich has some amazing insights about how we experience God. In one section of the book, Julian explores the tension between having God and yearning for God; between seeking God and seeing God.

Often these two states occur at the same time, she says. But it’s nothing to worry about. Julian makes the point that seeking God is our job, while seeing God is up to God.

 

All this made me realize that during this time that we suffer on Earth, seeking is as good as seeing. Leave your awareness of the Divine Presence up to God, in humility and trust, to reveal to you as God wants. Our only job is to cling to God with total trust.

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God is pleased when we seek the Divine Presence continually, even if from our perspective, we do nothing but seek and suffer. We see with clarity that we have found God only when the Spirit’s special grace reveals this to us. It is the seeking, with faith, hope, and love, that pleases our Protector, while it is the finding that pleases us and fills us with joy.

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When this [Holy] Presence comes to us, it comes out of the blue, with such speed that we are startled—and God wants us to trust and wait for this Divine Jack-in-the-Box. For God is utterly kind, and the Holy Presence welcomes our hearts with total hospitality. Blessed may God be!

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Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) was an English visionary, mystic, anchoress, and writer. Read about her here.

I’ve been enjoying the Divine Revelations in a modern translation entitled All Shall Be Well.

For reflection:

Julian of Norwich - week 2

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. This week’s finds tend more toward spirituality than writing; some weeks are just like that.

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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12 Best Practices for Finding Time, Energy, and Inspiration to Write + A Prayer for Writers via Sarah Bessey (notes from Sarah’s workshop at the Princeton Theological Seminary’s Frederick Buechner Writer’s Workshop)

Franciscan Spirituality: Week 1 via Richard Rohr (on St. Francis, a “second Christ”)

Putting on the Mind of Christ via Chuck DeGroat (what is “unknowing” and how does it relate to putting on the mind of Christ?)

The Wonder Of It All via Sharon Brani (finding God in the beauty of the cosmos; after you read this essay, check out the entire June issue of The Redbud Post on finding God in creation)

Meditation Monday: Rest In The Peace Beyond Understanding via Christine Sine (how to journey peacefully amidst life’s challenges)

Exploring Summer Sabbath via Whitney R. Simpson (soul care tips for your summer)

Books Can Keep You Stitched Together via Velynn Brown (on the power of story and books as friends)

 

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: WALTER HILTON

In last week’s post, we saw that the English mystic Walter Hilton likened prayer to fire. He continues this analogy in a letter to a layperson. He writes a beautiful description of what he calls the “mixed life:” a life marked by a rhythm of labor and prayer.

[T]he will and desire you have toward God is like a little coal of fire in your soul. It gives you a certain amount of spiritual heat and even light, but it is quite little, and threatens to grow cold in idleness and want of fuel. At that point it is good that you should put against it some sticks of wood—good labors of the active life. And if it seems for a time that these duties shroud or overshadow the coal of your desire, that it does not burn as cleanly and fervently as you would want, then do not be fearful, but rather be patient awhile.

 

Then blow at the fire—after doing your proper duties and service, go alone to your prayer and meditation, and lift up your heart to God, praying him of his goodness that he will accept the work that you have done as unto his pleasure.

I’m encouraged by Hilton’s conviction that the active life is a way to serve God.

Source.

Walter Hilton (c. 1340 – 1396) was an Augustinian canon and a mystic. He was the first person to write a treatise on mysticism in the English language.

WEEKLY PRAYER

A prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1553)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

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