Blog

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up some of our favorite posts on prayer, writing, and the contemplative life. We hope they’ll be a source of hope and encouragement for you.

This week, our round-up includes posts on Lent, songs of lament, and the 500-year-old sounds of Hagia Sophia. Enjoy, and be blessed.

***

Psalms for Lent via Andrea Bridges (a simple devotional practice — reading the Psalms each day during Lent)

Lenten Chaos via Duane Arnold (Lent is a time of spiritual practices, but only God can create in us a new heart)

Sing the Wounds [reflections on lament, song, and hope] via Sarah J. Hauser (lamenting and singing in times of grief)

Disruptive Love via Catherine McNeil (may we disrupt the powers of the world through our compassion, generosity, and love)

Pathmaking, Forgetfulness, and the Recovery of Memory via Drew Miller (remember, anticipate, and live through treasured stories and songs)

Listen: The Sound Of The Hagia Sophia, More Than 500 Years Ago via NPR (listen to what a Christian choir might have sounded like inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia in the 13th century)

 

 

Do You Fast? Prove It!

Among the practices we associate with Lent, fasting usually tops the list. Fasting from food and delicacies can be a form of preparation for Easter. We respond with our body to our soul’s hunger for God and for new spiritual life. More recently, fasting from social media has become popular.

Yet St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), Archbishop of Constantinople and early Church Father, bids us be careful about fasting. He recommends the practice wholeheartedly, devoting several sermons to its benefits. But he also has words of caution. He warns against boasting and asks if we have remembered to fast not just from food but also from some of our more pernicious behaviors. “For the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices,” he said. In Homily XVI (Homilies on the Statues), Chrysostom writes:

It is common for every one to ask in Lent, how many weeks each has fasted; and some may be heard saying they have two, others three, and others that they have fasted the whole of the weeks. But what advantage is it, if we have gone through the fast devoid of works? If another says, “I have fasted the whole of Lent,” you should say, “I had an enemy, but I was reconciled; I had a custom of evil-speaking, but I put a stop to it; I had a custom of swearing, but I have broken through this evil practice.”

In his book, Fasting, Scot McKnight calls this a “full-orbed” view of fasting because it’s a way of life, not merely a limited and temporary practice. Here’s another taste (if you’ll forgive the pun) from St. Chrysostom:

Do not just let your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast by being pure from theft and avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles . . . Let the mouth fast as well from disgraceful speeches and railing.

Chrysostom also mentions that fasting can include serving those in need: “Do you fast? Prove it by your good works . . . If you see a poor man, take pity on him!” The point of a fast is not to endure a temporary privation, but to enter a new way of life. The fast goes on, even when Lent is over and we’re all stuffing our faces again.

I love Chrysostom’s emphasis on serving and on being reconciled with our enemies. He seems to imply that he’s not even going to believe that you’re fasting unless you’re ALSO looking out for your neighbor. Fasting can be not just a path to spiritual growth, but a means of justice as well.

In what ways might you consider fasting this season?

WEEKLY PRAYER: JANE AUSTEN

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) is well known for her novels about English mores and manners but also wrote three prayers that echo the form and style of the Book of Common Prayer. Although they are intended to be evening prayers, I think that the fragment quoted below helps to set a good tone for the coming day.

***

Teach us, Almighty Father, to consider this solemn truth, as we should do, that we may feel the importance of every day, and every hour as it passes, and earnestly strive to make a better use of what Thy goodness may yet bestow on us, than we have done of the time past.

 

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites. February 26 was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. So today, we wanted to offer you some posts and poems for this stark yet beautiful season.

Blessings on your Lenten journey.

***

Strengthening Those Breathing Muscles via Christine Sine (breath prayers and meditations — a good preparation and practice for Lent)

Lent: A Primer via Sandra Glahn (learn about the history of Lent, as well as suggestions and practices for keeping this liturgical season)

Lent via Image Journal (a collection of poems, essays, short stories, and visual art for the Lenten season)

That “Strange Season” of Lent via Erin Wasinger (learn what Madeleine L’Engle had to say about this “strange season”)

Ash Wednesday with St. Anne via Jessica Mesman (a story of Ash Wednesday, saints, and coming home)

penitents and elements via Julia Walsh (an Ash Wednesday poem)

 

 

 

The Making: A Lenten Poem by Prasanta Verma

The Making
 

Scattered, broken particles
must be remade
after life on earth snaps,
crushes each bone, sinew, organ
into first-born
molecules

Dust catches in throat
chokes irrelevancy

Smeared ashes
reconstruct
into wooden cross beams

unmade – made – remade

 

***

 

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/.

 

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Today (Feb. 26) is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance, is often recited in Ash Wednesday services, and this will be our prayer of the week (as taken from the Book of Common Prayer).

***

1     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

  2     Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

3     For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

  4     Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

  5     And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment.

  6     Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.

  7     For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

  8     Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

  9     Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10     Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

11     Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

12     Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13     Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14     I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.

15     Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.

16     Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17     Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18     The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week’s faves have been specially chosen by Prasanta Verma and me to help us get ready for Lent. During Lent, we journey into a kind of darkness: we go into the desert, we go into the darkness that Jesus experienced, we go into a place of sorrowing and repentance. This place is necessary to help us prepare for new life.

Today’s posts help us explore darkness in our lives — and to find God there. He will not leave us alone in the inky places.

Read, and be blessed.

***

When You’re Not Feeling Very #Blessed via Kate Bowler and Jan Richardson (when you’re not feeling #blessed, you need a blessing)

The Breath of God via Keren Dibbens-Wyatt (on being enfolded by God even in  weakness)

Black Space, Dark Matter via Sarah Rennicke (to be in the shadows is still to be seen, met, and formed by God)

4 Reasons Why You Need a Sabbath Journey for Lent via Shelly Miller (Lent is an opportunity for God to reveal how he’s been at work in your life)

Ash Wednesday via T. S. Eliot (listen to Eliot read his poem aloud)

Last Curtain via Rabindranath-Tagore (a poem about life and death)

 

The Smallest Thing Will Not Be Forgotten

Last week, we explored Julian of Norwich’s famous phrase, “All will be well.” We found that it refers to the “necessity” of sin and God’s grand plan of salvation. It points us to the end of time, when God’s purposes for the world will be accomplished. But I want to emphasize that Julian’s saying is also full of comfort for the here and now.

In the Showings, Julian continues to marvel and reflect on the idea that “all will be well.” She says:

He [God] wants us to know that he takes heed not only of things which are noble and great, but also of those which are little and small, of humble men and simple, of this man and that man. And this is what he means when he says: Every kind of thing will be well. For he wants us to know that the smallest thing will not be forgotten. (231-232)

How I love this thought. The smallest thing will not be forgotten. We have a God who sees the small and the simple. And that means that he sees us; sees you and me. God delights not (just) in grand gestures and great deeds; he notices the humblest acts of faith. He loves not just the heroes and saints; he loves this particular man and that particular woman. He loves us in all our marvelous idiosyncracies. In our unique presence. Our ordinariness. And in our insignificance.

hazelnutThis passage on smallness reminds me of one of Julian’s earlier visions. God showed Julian something no bigger than a hazelnut lying in the palm of her hand.

Julian says, “I looked at it and thought: What can this be? And I was given this general answer: It is everything which is made.” (130) God preserves such a small thing, Julian writes, because he created it and loves it.

In something as small as a hazelnut, the whole world can be contained. In something as small as you and me, God finds something of incredible value. Something worth rectifying the world for.

We have to wait until the end – until God’s time – to see exactly how he will rectify every thing, both large and small. But we have this consolation now: we are not lost. We are not forgotten. God takes heed of us. We are swept up in his plans to make all things well.

Julian says that in God’s promise to make well even the smallest of things, we find rest and peace. We are powerfully comforted.

Do you believe, as small and insignificant as you are, that “all will be well” both for the world and for you? I leave you with Lady Julian’s encouragement:

“Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fulness of joy.”

 

 

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.

***

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)