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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! This week, Prasanta Verma and I have a great round-up of links related to prayer, Scripture, remembering, joy, and writing. Enjoy, and be blessed.

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A Prayer Amid an Epidemic via Kerry Weber (a prayer for individuals and groups)

Why Do We Cling to Scripture? Our Lives Depend on It via Patricia Raybon (why black Americans dive deep into the Word, and an invitation for everyone to take the dive)

The Spiritual Practice of Remembering via Nicole T. Walters (the importance of remembrance in our lives)

The Verdant Greening of Joy via Erin Jean Warde (in honor of Hildegard of Bingen, whose Feast Day was Sept. 17)

Of Being via Denise Levertov (a poem)

The Necessity of Pruning via Caroline Langston (pruning in the garden, in the spiritual life, and in writing)

Katelyn Beaty and Al Hsu — Publishing in the Time of COVID via Jen Pollock Michel and ERB (a podcast episode about the state of Christian publishing and favorite books)

Flammable — A Poem by Prasanta Verma

Approaching flames
warm hands, wake
mind, sparks sear heart,
ignite fiber of truth—
a thread of hunger burns

Eternal pyre,
inferno of letters,
old stories illuminated—
a pearl, a passion, a phoenix

This skeleton of dust
catches fire,
I know where I
belong.

In red embers
where love transforms
smoking ash,
I find myself:
A fading flower,
temporal vapor,
with flammable soul

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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/.

WEEKLY PRAYER: EVELYN UNDERHILL

This week’s prayer is from Evelyn Underhill, a twentieth-century English writer, theologian, and mystic. “Enter and irradiate every situation and every relationship,” she pleads. We pray:

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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, or holiness, lying at my feet,
disguised under homely appearance
and only seen as it truly is, in your light.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Please enjoy this round-up of posts that Prasanta Verma and I have gathered for you. This week, there are some wonderful words about self-care, lament, grace, faith, and facing the blank page. Be blessed.

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Today was a Crying Day: A Lament via Deb Vaughn (because God hears us when we cry)

What Does Self-Care Look Like in a Time of Crisis? via April Yamasaki (finding rhythms of self-care and grace from God)

Can We Do All Things Through Christ When Life Feels Impossible? via Ed Cyzewski (feeling overwhelmed and sorrowful can be an opportunity to take a step in faith)

In This Fraught Racial Moment, We Need a Refresher on Human Depravity via Tish Harrison Warren (confronting the sin of racism and accepting God’s radical grace)

The Power of Blessing—with a Prodigal, a Neighbor, an Enemy, the World—plus a gift via Judy Douglass (can we bless one another, even in times of conflict and anger?)

The Cold Open: Facing the Blank Page via William Kenower (what do you do when you sit down to write and…you’ve got nothing?)

A New Book for the Contemplative Community: Recital of Love by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

This year, I’ll be featuring some new or recent books about once a month. These are books that I think will particularly speak to you, and I’m happy to highlight them as resources for our contemplative community.

Yesterday, the writer and Christian contemplative Keren Dibbens-Wyatt came out with a new book, Recital of Love: Sacred Receivings. Faced with a chronic illness, Keren turned to contemplation and prayer and found God speaking words into her heart. Her new book is a collection of these “seeings.”

Keren records her seeings in beautiful language that’s perhaps best described as prose poetry. These seeings are God’s words to us, as received by Keren, and they sing of God’s wonder, grace, creativity, and constant presence in the world. They really spoke to my heart, and I think they will delight yours as well.

In the excerpt below, we’re invited to marvel at the vastness of God, as if we were being given a tour of one tiny room of a universe too immense to ever fully see — but not too immense to fully love. Enjoy this passage from Keren’s book.

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Beyondness

There is much, so much more to be said than can ever be said. Words are inadequate for most of what needs to be poured out from my heart to the world. And so, I do not only speak, but sing, and the flowers and birds add colour and harmony. For I am speaking out an endless stream of universes and laughing worlds into existence. Chains of constellations form from the breath expelled from my nostrils! You truly have no concept or words for the wonder and vastness that I am, nor for the longings in my heart, or the love I harbour, even for the tiniest harvest mouse.

I am beyond all knowing. Do not fence me in, therefore, with your words and ideas, but stretch out with your heart-mind and sense instead, with your feelings, the vibrations of compassion and creation that echo through all of time and space, that resound in your own one tiny life.

By all means, chase my glory, watch my ways, gaze at my goodness, know my presence in the stillness of the waiting heron and the swish of a goldfish’s tail. But do not expect, no, never expect to see more than a glimmer of the whole, more than a flicker of light, more than the furthest edge of the universes of my being. You can only catch a trail of stardust, as you gape in open-mouthed awe at my Love and my Being.

You will return home, but for now you are crammed in the rock cleft with Moses as your guide, and you will only sense my passing, unable to comprehend it.

Yet, do not be dismayed! There is enough in this one moment to keep your minds and hearts busy for all eternity, if you truly love me. Think, ponder, write and paint, sculpt and garden, love and worship, sing and compose, set my wonders into stone and colour and rhyme, do these things with my blessing. But do them knowing that all you have seen is the smallest corner of the hem of my trailing robe, galaxies caught up in the stitching, or that what you capture in your words, or your gleaning of imagery is minuscule, and so small a part of who I am.

Because I exist wholly and holy throughout all creation, every quark knows my name. I may be found under the tiniest pebble, or beneath the lark’s tongue. But if you spy me there, do not imagine for one moment that I am wholly discovered. You could live a thousand years and not see. Gaze instead at my reflection, given within your own heart, and sing with it of my love—for here is where we begin our journey back to unity.

     Selah.

Recital of Love by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt
Copyright © 2020 by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt
Used by permission of Paraclete Press

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Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a contemplative in the Christian tradition. She writes to encourage others, to know the Lord more intimately, and to share the poetic ponderings of her heart. She lives in southeast England with her husband.

WEEKLY PRAYER: ST. GREGORY THE GREAT

This week’s prayer is from Saint Gregory the Great, whose feast day was September 3. Saint Gregory was a sixth-century bishop, pope, and church reformer.

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O God, the Protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our Ruler and Guide we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to the first of this fall’s Friday Favorites!

Each week, Prasanta Verma and I bring you a collection of posts, articles, and podcasts. They include poetry, personal essays, spiritual formation, and articles on the craft of writing. We hope they’ll give you nourishment for these times.

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Rest Is Resistance to a Do-It-All Culture via Grace P. Cho (we rest because we have limits and because we can trust God with all that needs to get done)

Intended for Joy via Emily Polis Gibson (“if all this is made for joy, then maybe so am I…”)

Marlena Graves: The Dangers of Money, Power, and Influence via Julia Walsh (on the Messy Jesus Business podcast, Marlena Graves discusses the message of her recent book)

Mary Oliver: Listening to the World via On Being (Krista Tippett talks with Oliver about replenishment, words, poetry, and the natural world)

Some Trees, Too via Andy Eaton (a poem)

Imagination, Creativity and Spirituality (They Go Together Well) via Carl McColman (cultivating the sacred imagination)

Validate Your Idea to Produce Your Best Project via Ann Kroeker (valuable writing advice for the beginning of your project)

Are You A Contemplative?

As I prepared to kick off The Contemplative Writer this fall, I spent some time thinking about that word in the website’s title — “contemplative.” It’s easy to toss the word around, and I more or less know what I mean when I say it . . . until you ask me. What does this term really mean? What or who is a contemplative? Am I? Are you?

As many of you probably know by now, I often turn to history for answers. A look at Christian history has helped me begin to grasp what it means to be a contemplative or perhaps just a contemplative person (or writer).

Christian contemplation originated early on and in a monastic context. It was one stage in lectio divina, or sacred reading – an important monastic discipline and one that many Christians still practice today. Lectio leads us to read the Bible but is not a form of Bible study. Instead, it’s a way to prayerfully and reflectively engage with a passage and listen to what God might be saying to us through it.

The traditional stages or parts of lectio divina are:

  • Read
  • Meditate
  • Pray
  • Contemplate

In this practice, contemplation is the final stage; it’s meant to flow naturally from reading Scripture, meditating on its meaning, and then praying. During contemplation, we enter a time of prayer in which we “hear” or “speak” the word of God largely without words. We are attentive and open to God’s love. Some describe this as “resting” in God’s presence.

Throughout the Middle Ages, contemplation remained a part of lectio divina. But it also became an independent exercise in The Cloud of Unknowing, a spiritual treatise written in the late 14th century. The anonymous author, a monk, gives guidance and even some steps for contemplation, which include the repetition of a single word to help focus the attention on God. He mostly refers to contemplation as a “special prayer.” Today, we call this practice contemplative prayer or centering prayer. To learn more, check out this book by M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, and Thomas E. Clarke.

Contemplation can sometimes sound a bit esoteric. And historically, it was; it was limited to the literate, the scholarly, and/or to those in a monastic context. But a number of history’s monks and mystics highlight its relevance to “ordinary” people like you and me. The Cloud author, for example, describes contemplative prayer as a yearning for or reaching out to God. Even though God is in a large sense unknowable, our longing for him is the key.

In 1915, the Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill wrote:

Though it is likely that the accusation will annoy you, you are already in fact a potential contemplative: for this act, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, is proper to all . . .  is, indeed, the characteristic human activity (from Underhill’s book, Practical Mysticism).

Underhill describes contemplation as “the” characteristic human activity because all seek to draw near to God . . . even if our drawing near happens in a kind of cloud.

Drawing on these historical sources, I might summarize the contemplative life as a deep-rooted, daily desire to draw near to God. Prayer and silent prayer are good aids to this life, and other practices might be, too – Bible reading, general reading, experiencing the natural world, and sacred friendship, to name a few.

I also love this definition by a group of Poor Clares: “The contemplative life is a life long journey to God in prayer and worship, turning from all else that could make the journey less direct.”

We are all on this journey, friends; the journey of life! And this means:

The Contemplative Writer is for you.

Contemplation is for you.

And, above all —

God is for you.

WEEKLY PRAYER: Thomas à Kempis

The Contemplative Writer is back after our summer hiatus! We hope you are keeping well and whole in what are truly challenging times. Our goal is to continue offering resources that help us pray, write, and live.

We begin with a prayer from Thomas à Kempis, author of one of the most popular devotional treatises of the late Middle Ages, the Imitation of Christ (ca. 1390-1400). This is a prayer for friends, those wonderful people who see us and love us anyway, the people for whom we’d do anything and who we’ll love until the end.

 

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Almighty, everlasting God, have mercy on your servants our friends. Keep them continually under your protection, and direct them according to your gracious favor in the way of everlasting salvation; that they may desire such things as please you, and with all their strength perform the same. And forasmuch as they trust in your mercy, vouchsafe, O Lord, graciously to assist them with your heavenly help, that they may ever diligently serve you, and by no temptations be separated from you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Source

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites, a round-up of great links on the web brought to you by The Contemplative Writer team — Prasanta Verma and myself.

This week, our posts begin with reflection and prayer, move to a consideration of our spiritual habits as we navigate the world of social media, and end with some writing tips. It’s been a while since we featured some really practical posts on writing, and we wanted to be sure to do that this time around. Even in the midst of a pandemic, many of us still struggle to find the time and the resources to get good writing done.

We hope you enjoy this week’s posts. Be blessed.

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Praying for 100,000 via Summer Kinard (“It would take years to sing enough for one hundred thousand people”)

An Examen of the Senses via Carl McColman (a beautiful exercise based on Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer practice)

Lamentation Over Individualism via Rohadi Nagassar (lamenting, waiting, hoping, and praying together)

What Am I Actually Looking for on Social Media? via Ed Cyzewski (forming good habits and finding freedom from the relentless draw of social media)

Improve Your Writing by Getting Back to the Basics via Ann Kroeker (building the four fundamental elements of any project into your process)

Ten Questions to Ask To Find Extra Time To Write via Katharine Grubb (a super-practical list of questions to help yourself dig out some extra time to write)