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WEEKLY PRAYER: WENDELL BERRY

Today’s prayer is from Wendell Berry, the American poet, novelist, and environmentalist.

***

Teach me work that honors Thy work,
the true economies of goods and words,
to make my arts compatible
with the songs of the local birds.

Teach me the patience beyond work
and, beyond patience, the blest
Sabbath of Thy unresting love
which lights all things and gives rest.

 

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Friday Favorites is back after a break last week. Prasanta Verma and I are glad you’re with us!

This week our links begin with a lectio divina exercise and end with a message of hope for our fallen world. In between are some beautiful, difficult, and necessary posts about spiritual crisis, exile, and healing racial wounds.

Read, be encouraged, and be blessed.

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Daily Lectio Divina: A Broken Prayer via Laura K. Cavanaugh (a lectio divina exercise using the poetry of George MacDonald)

I Can’t Talk My Way Out of Every Spiritual Crisis via Ed Cyzewski (finding presence and comfort in silence– not more words)

The Immigrants’ Daughter via Nichole Woo (sharing, remembering, and living sojourner stories)

Healing the Scars of Racial Wounds via Heidi Wheeler (encouragement for showing up ready to love, listen, and learn)

It’s Like in the Great Stories, Mr. Frodo via Madelyn Canada (what Tolkien teaches us about living in a fallen world–and not giving up on hope)

 

Will All Be Well?

Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) is one of the most beloved medieval mystics. She lived for much of her life as an anchoress (someone who lives enclosed in a cell) and wrote the first known book in English to be written by a woman. This book, the Book of Showings, teaches us about the fullness of divine love and compassion; it is based on a series of revelations or visions that the mystic received in 1373.

Julian’s words are oft quoted, and the most famous passage from the Showings is one you’ve undoubtedly heard:

All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.

We quote this passage when we need reassurance. When things are not going well. When we don’t have much hope for the future. I myself have quoted and tweeted it many times.

Today and next week, I want to explore the context of this famous passage. Reading Julian’s Showings, I found that “all shall be well” is not just one sentence, but a theme that spans some six chapters of the book. The passage has a larger context that is usually not considered.

That context is sin.

Julian utters her famed saying in a portion of the Showings in which she sorrows over sin. She realizes that sin is keeping her from close communion with God, and she wonders why God ever allowed sin to come into the world.

God reassures Julian, saying:

Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well. (225)

There are two main things to note about this passage. First, it has an opening clause that is often omitted (“sin is necessary”). And second, we are to understand it as something that God himself said to Julian. The passage means that, despite the pain and suffering of humankind because of sin, God has promised to make things right.

Julian of Norwich
Statue of Julian of Norwich by David Holgate, 2014

In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t like the statement that “sin is necessary” and cannot pretend to fully understand it. Julian herself is troubled by this notion and persists in asking God how things can possibly be well given the destructive consequences of sin. She won’t let this issue go. For several chapters, she pesters God about it. How can it be well? How, God? And why . . . why did you allow sin to come into the world? These questions make her a kindred spirit to those of us who wrestle with tough questions. Why, God?

God doesn’t quite answer Julian’s questions. But he tells her, very tenderly, to contemplate the atonement, which is far more glorious than sin ever was harmful. And he tells her to trust him. God says to Julian:

For since I have set right the greatest of harms [original sin], then it is my will that you should know through this that I shall set right everything which is less. (228)

“All will be well” refers to nothing less than God’s grand plan of salvation – for setting right the world and the human heart. It does not mean, alas, that things will be okay tomorrow or in a particular circumstance in our life. It could be that, like Moses, we will not see with human eyes the fulfillment of God’s promise to make things “well.”

“All will be well” is not a phrase to throw around lightly. It requires a lot of faith to affirm. Look around you at the world right now. And then look at your own heart. It’s hard to believe that all will be well, isn’t it? It’s hard partly because God is keeping to his own timeline, not ours. And because he is working in ways that we cannot fathom (more on this topic next week).

As we wait on God, we work with him in the grand plan of salvation (because waiting is active, not passive). We suffer and groan. We sorrow in our sin. But we believe: in God’s time and in God’s way, every kind of thing will be well.

 

WEEKLY PRAYER: HOWARD THURMAN

Today’s prayer comes from Howard Thurman (1899 – 1981), a theologian, mystic, philosopher, and civil rights leader:

***

 

Open unto me—light for my darkness.

Open unto me—courage for my fear.

Open unto me—hope for my despair.

Open unto me—peace for my turmoil.

Open unto me—joy for my sorrow.

Open unto me—strength for my weakness.

Open unto me—wisdom for my confusion.

Open unto me—forgiveness for my sins.

Open unto me—tenderness for my toughness.

Open unto me—love for my hates.

Open unto me—Thy self for my self.

Lord, Lord, open unto me!

 

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WEEKLY PRAYER: EVELYN UNDERHILL

Today’s prayer comes from Evelyn Underhill, a 20th-century poet, spiritual author, and theologian.

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Give me, O Lord, I beseech you, courage to pray
for light and to endure the light here,
where I am on this world of yours,
which should reflect your beauty but which we
have spoiled and exploited.
Cast your radiance on the dark places,
those crimes and stupidities I like to ignore and gloss over.
Show up my pretensions, my poor little claims and
achievements, my childish assumptions of importance,
my mock heroism.
Take me out of the confused half-light in which I live.
Enter and irradiate every situation and every relationship.
Show me my opportunities, the raw material of love,
of sacrifice, of holiness, lying at my feet,
disguised under homely appearance
and only seen as it truly is, in your light.

 

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, Prasanta Verma and I are bringing you a lovely round-up of links related to finding God, beauty, connection, and “fresh bread” in our lives. These short, poetic reads are just right for shining a light in the long days of winter.

Read, enjoy, and be blessed.

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Finding God in Sunshine via Shemaiah Gonzalez (when the light breaks through)

Enjoyment is Worship via Rachel Joy Welcher (enjoyment is a neglected form of worship)

A New Year Revolution via Simon Parke (the present is “fresh bread”)

Love in Ordinary Form via Jennie Cesario (finding God’s love in the everyday)

On Being Kind via David Heddendorf (an interesting take on the kindness movement and what it lacks)

 

 

The Mindset for a New Year: A Post by Prasanta Verma

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

-T. S. Eliot

 

I am sitting in a room with about 70 other people, at a business conference, and the speaker transitions into a message of mindset. We are seated in six long tables on each side of the room, in a large conference center with picture windows overlooking a snowy hill with a half-frozen river at the bottom of the hill. A picturesque scene outdoors delights the attendees; indoors, the audience sits in rapt attention to the dynamic and energetic speaker.

We have two choices, the speaker says. She asks us some questions, poses a few hypothetical scenarios, and then asks us to consider what side we are on.

Abundance? Or scarcity?

As I sit listening, I thought I had already dealt with that particular mind-devil.

Hadn’t I already proclaimed that truth to myself? Hadn’t I already called out the lies of irrelevancy, worthlessness, and lack of confidence? I know the half-empty/half-full glass mindset.

Yet, the taunts of a hidden department of the scarcity mindset were peeping through, so tiny and barely perceptible, I almost missed it.

The difference, I realized, was the circumstance. I had dealt with the scarcity mindset on the personal level. Now, here I was, starting a new business, and recognized that troublesome voice lurking in my life, waiting for its chance to reappear. I had never started a new kind of business, and the monsters of depravity sought to destroy what I was building before I had barely begun.

The scarcity mindset was appearing in unwelcome thoughts such as, “There is no way you can do this.” Or, “You can’t succeed; you will fail.” And, “No one will call you, or hire you.” And other such negative thinking.

All of this is in stark contrast to the abundance mindset, which of course, says, things like, “You can do this.” Or, “You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to make progress.” Or, “You are here for a purpose and you are not alone.” Or, “You have something to offer. People will find you.” And so on.

I realized I had been living in the land of scarcity in regard to my work, though I thought I had slayed that particular demon.

The verse about “abundant life” came to mind, and it brought a new meaning, a new idea of abundance to me. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (RSV).

The abundant life also applies to my thought life. I had not quite thought of it in that way before. My mind was living in a dry place, when a verdant and fruitful place was available to me. Moreover, the thief was still sneaking around, with intentions to destroy me.

As this new reality dawns upon me, I think it is a good way to begin a brand new year: with a mindset of abundance as opposed to scarcity.

With God, I have abundance and life. I have more than enough, and I am enough. I do not know what the year ahead holds, but there is a place for scarcity and its words: in the past. Abundance is our inheritance; it belongs in the future. And that is a better place to dwell.

***

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 @ pathoftreasure, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

Today is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), a Dominican friar, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. We are praying a portion of his prayer “For Ordering a Life Wisely,” which he daily recited before the image of Christ.

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Aquinas by CrivelliO merciful God, grant that I may
desire ardently,
search prudently,
recognize truly,
and bring to perfect completion
whatever is pleasing to You
for the praise and glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God.

Grant that I may know
what you require me to do.

Bestow upon me
the power to accomplish Your will,
as is necessary and fitting
for the salvation of my soul.

Grant to me, O Lord my God,
that I may not falter in times
of prosperity or adversity,
so that I may not be exalted in the former,
nor dejected in the latter.

May I not rejoice in anything
unless it leads me to You;
may I not be saddened by anything
unless it turns me from You.

May I desire to please no one,
nor fear to displease anyone,
but You.

May all transitory things, O Lord,
be worthless to me
and may all things eternal
be ever cherished by me.

May any joy without You
be burdensome for me
and may I not desire anything else
besides You.

Source

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome, friends, to Friday Favorites, where Prasanta Verma and I bring you lovely links on spirituality, prayer, and writing.

In this season of Epiphany, we hope that Jesus reveals himself to you, perhaps partly through the pieces and podcasts below. Be blessed.

***

What I Learned Being Silent with Monks via John Gehring (what happens when we perform the radical act of withdrawing and being quiet?)

More Than “Just Mercy,” A Path to Healing Racial Trauma (an interview with Sheila Wise Rowe and an excerpt from her new book)

Listening Without an End in Mind via Nicole T. Walters (living as a listener and a learner)

Still Life: Pneuma via Michael Wright (on pneuma, art, and spirituality)

3 Life-Changing Rules for Finding More Writing Inspiration This Year via K. M. Weiland (inspiring creative rebirth in the coming year and decade)

The Habit Podcast via Jonathan Rogers (in this episode, Meredith McDaniel shares the connection between counseling and writing)

 

On Turning in a Book

As some of you may know, I’m writing a book on medieval pilgrimage. It features mystics like Margery Kempe and Walter Hilton and lots of pilgrims, both known and unknown, who journeyed to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. From these pilgrims, we can learn about our own journey of faith today.

I have some news about said book. A few days ago, I turned in the manuscript to my editor.

I feel all the things a writer usually feels. For example, elation. I did it! I just completed 40,000 polished words! And anxiety. Will my editor like it? What revisions will she want me to do?

But I did not expect to feel . . . grief. I miss the project that has been so much a part of my life the past ten or so months. I miss working with such wonderful historical material: researching it, shaping it, seeing it come together, finding the words to make it sing. I even miss the less glamorous aspects: looking up niggling details, double-checking facts, formatting endnotes. I miss the way this writing project weighed on my mind. I miss sweating bullets and wondering whether I’d be able to pull it off. I miss waking up on mornings when I had a whole glorious day to do nothing but work on this book.

I really did not want to turn in my manuscript. Which is why I held onto it and tinkered with it for about two months longer than I should have (don’t tell my editor).

pilgrims cross alps
Pilgrims cross the Alps in the prayer book of Bishop Leonhard von Laymingen of Passau, Walters Manuscript W.163, fol. 1v

I miss my project because, for me, writing is perhaps my purest expression of faith. It is where I bare my soul–first and foremost to God, and then to my readers. When I write about pilgrims’ journeys, I walk this road in my heart. In footsteps and stories and metaphors, I am pouring out my belief in this road we all take to our interior Jerusalem. My desire to reach this destination. My awe and fear over how difficult it is. My heartfelt cry that God would make the going just a little bit easier. I cannot express these beliefs in any other way than through the words in my book. Writing is a form of worship, prayer, and wrestling with the angel.

So, I’m a little at a loss this week. Happy, but out of sorts. Relieved, but scared. Resting, but feeling loss.

Fortunately, the journey goes on. I await the next steps . . . revisions and then getting the book into your hands so that you can walk this road with me.

May God grant each of us the grace to walk our portion of the road today. Travel well, perigrini.