Contemplative Profiles: Rejoicing in the Wilderness

The monks of Palestine throughout the 400’s and beyond played a critical role in guiding the early church in Jerusalem and the surrounding region. While these monks valued solitude and contemplative practices, they also traveled throughout the desert, converted bedouins, and ministered to anyone they encountered.

While some of these monks lived in solitude as hermits, many began to welcome guests who came to them for advice. They also began small communities who gathered for worship together from time to time. Two of these monks were particularly sought out for advice and took up writing letters to the neighboring churches. From Christian History:


“By the sixth century, monasticism in Gaza was thriving, primarily due to the reputation of two elders, Barsanuphius the Great (“the great old man”) and John the Prophet (“the other old man”). The first was from Egypt; the latter was possibly from the region of Beersheba. From the seclusion of their cells, these two elders communicated with visitors only by letters dictated through secretaries. Barsanuphius and John were not eccentric miracle-workers, extreme ascetics, or charming visionaries, but practical advisers. They offered teaching, encouragement, and hope to people in their day-to-day struggles: “Simple advice according to God is one thing; a command is another. Advice is counsel without compulsion.”


Some 850 examples of their remarkable correspondence survive, written in response to questions from church leaders, monks, and laypeople about issues ranging from personal temptation to interpersonal relations, from employment to property, from spirituality to superstition, from dealing with heretics to taking a bath! The letters were filled with encouragement: “Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord!”


Read more here.


For Reflection

Is there a wilderness that you’re facing today?

Where have you found joy this week?


Scripture Meditation: God Sees Us Fully and Loves Us Completely

O God, you know my foolishness,* and my faults are not hidden from you.
Psalm 69:6



How often have you hesitated to pray because you feared you were too sinful, prideful, or just not in tune with God?

How often have you disqualified yourself preemptively?

Perhaps this Psalm comes as bad news to some. Some may read this as a kind of “surveillance God” peering into our lives, seeking any kind fault or reason for judgment or exclusion.

However, what if God’s awareness of our hidden faults is the best kind of good news, the good news we all need. Jesus spoke of himself as a doctor who has come to heal, and the prophets are filled with accounts of God mourning that Israel will not turn back to him.

What if God is a lover who sees our foolishness and faults and still remains enamored with us? God sees our secret sins and wants nothing more than our healing and redemption.

There is grace and mercy for us before we even acknowledge our failings. In many ways, confession is more for us than it is for God. Confession convinces us that God has known who and what we are all along and still wants to call us his beloved.



What is your greatest barrier to God today?

In what way is God’s knowledge of your faults good news for you?


meditation May 3, 2016



How Boundaries Help Our Faith and Families Thrive

A spiritual director once told me that the concept of having “balance” in your life is often unhelpful. If anything, striving for balance creates false expectations and sets us up for failure.

I have personally found it far more helpful to think in terms of words like “intentional,” “boundary,” and “sustainability.” We can find healthy spirituality and healthy relationships by intentionally scheduling our time with clear boundaries. Our relationships and spiritual practices need to be the guarded non-negotiables that we make so easy to pursue that we eventually turn to them as a matter of habit.

That isn’t an easy place to arrive at. I know it’s a struggle each week for me. However, the more I get used to my schedule and the more I set boundaries around my day, the more I can settle into these daily habits.

While I don’t love the title of this Fast Company article about work-life balance, it offers some helpful tips for arranging your priorities and creating healthy habits for your spiritual life and relationships. Here are a few tips to consider:


“People who have managed to carve out a work-life balance that works for them don’t just wait to see what time is left over after work. They make a point of planning and booking time off to spend outside of work and powerfully guard this time. While emergencies happen and situations come up that need their attention at work on occasion, they strongly resist any intrusion on this time.”


“People who maintain balance are able to turn off their electronic devices to enjoy quality uninterrupted time doing matters they enjoy. They realize that multitasking is a myth and focus on the task at hand. Having developed the ability to compartmentalize their time, they seek out moments to simply enjoy the experience and savor life. Often they have discovered meditation, music, physical activity, or some other interest that allows them to get away from the pressures of everyday life…”

* * * * *

One other thing: If you asked me, most people could stand to get rid of their televisions, cancel cable, and see what happens for two months. I suspect you’ll end up having more conversations, reading more books, and having more time enjoyable activities. It’s so crazy that it just may work.

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Scripture Meditation: How to Restore Your Soul


“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”
Psalm 23:2-3a



Seasons of weariness are coming. There’s no guarantee that God will shield us from hard times, from weakness, and from souls that desperately need restoration. While we can anticipate draining, difficult seasons, we are assured that God will restore us.

Are we prepared to receive the restoration that comes from God?

Restoration may look like stopping, lying down, and seeking places of peace and stillness. Perhaps we will resist God’s restoration to the point that he will “make” us lie down.

Finding God’s rest takes faith, trusting that God can lead us and sustain us, especially when we stop trying to maintain control. May we have eyes to see the gentle hand of God leading us to restoration.



Why have you resisted restoration?

When has your soul grown weary lately?

What does it look like to trust God with restoring your soul today?



Featured Contemplative Book: Immortal Diamond

Week Four: Love

Immortal Diamond by RohrI used to speak of God being apart from myself, but Richard Rohr has helped me look at scripture with new eyes. For instance, Paul writes:

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:2-3, NRSV

Our lives are hidden in Christ? In other words, after all of the times I’ve asked God to “show up,” I’ve missed the fact that I’m hidden in Christ. This divine union forms the backbone of Rohr’s writing.

The presence of God we seek and even fear losing because of our imperfections has been among us all along. Even as we reach out for God, God is already holding us. When we fear we are falling away, we are already being held.

May we find comfort today in the loving embrace of God.

Here is the final list of quotes from Immortal Diamond this month.


“It is almost impossible to fall in love with majesty, power, or perfection. These make us fearful and codependent, but seldom truly loving. On some level, love can only happen between equals, and vulnerability levels the playing field. What Christians believe is that God somehow became our equal when he became the human “Jesus,” a name that is, without doubt, the vulnerable name for God.”


“Your False Self is how you define yourself outside of love, relationship, or divine union. After you have spent many years laboriously building this separate self, with all its labels and preoccupations, you are very attached to it. And why wouldn’t you be? It’s what you know and all you know. To move beyond it will always feel like losing or dying…”


“Longing for God and longing for our True Self are the same longing. And the mystics would say that it is God who is even doing the longing in us and through us…”


“The Risen Christ is the standing icon of humanity in its final and full destiny. He is the pledge and guarantee of what God will do with all of our crucifixions. At last, we can meaningfully live with hope. It is no longer an absurd or tragic universe. Our hurts now become the home for our greatest hopes.”



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For Reflection or Sharing

Even as we reach out for God, God is already holding us.

Week 4 Featured book April 25 2016


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, then 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 (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

Letting Myself Be Known by Nicole Walters

How Even the Busiest People Find Time to Pray by Rev. James Martin

Community Lectio Divina via Abbey of the Arts (@abbeyofthearts)


Looking for more recommendations? Check out our Prayer Resources page.

Scripture Meditation: You Are a Beloved Gift from God


Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:11



bible-1440953-1279x852Spirituality and holiness are gifts from God. Existence alone is a gift. From the mud that shaped us to the breath that God breathed into our lungs, we are beloved creations of God. God isn’t done creating us either.

As we seek to live in the wholehearted freedom of God’s Kingdom, we can’t “create” our own clean hearts. Breaking us free from sin and guiding us into a life of love and service is a creative act of God.

The harder I work to create a clean heart, the more likely I am to judge others and, most importantly, to fail. A clean heart and right spirit received from God as a pure gift is humbling and effective.

Those who recognize the depths of God’s mercy live with gratitude and generosity, recognizing that all people are either in need of this gift. May God’s creativity reshape our lives and shape a right spirit for others.


Do you imagine God giving you a gift of a clean heart or demanding a clean heart from you?

What does it look like to trust God to create a clean heart in you?

Meditate on this today: I am a beloved gift from God.



Scripture Meditation: Trusting God to Care for Our Souls


“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; my God I put my trust in you; . . .”
Psalm 25:1


I bible-1440953-1279x852have long wondered what it means to “lift up my soul” to God, but I recently read one suggestion that “lifting up” our souls to God is a surrender. Lifting up my soul is a handing over of control to God.

A weary soul is consumed with the cares of this world, distracted by entertainment and greed, or caught up in pleasing others. Perhaps we “lift up” our souls to others each day as we hope they’ll notice us, affirm us, or meet a deep need.

Trust is no small matter. Is God worthy of our trust? Will God show up if we lift up our souls to him?

The practice of contemplation opens our souls to the presence of God. It’s a lifting of our souls to God, inviting him to care for us and our souls. Over time, we will learn to place greater trust in God, but we must begin by lifting up our souls in faith and expectation.



How is your soul today?

Are you lifting up your soul to something or someone other than God?

What does it look like to trust God with your soul





Featured Contemplative Book: Immortal Diamond

Immortal Diamond by RohrWeek Two: The Struggle with the False Self

Who am I?

This is a foundational question that we’ll forever struggle with in prayer and writing until we finally confront it. There may be no better tool for answering this question than Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond: The Search for our True Self.

This is the book that saved my soul, or at least saved me from myself.

The false self won’t be silenced easily. In fact, I have found that the false self is so hard to fight because living into your true self in God’s love requires doing LESS. So much of religion is about doing more or doing something differently. Rohr’s wisdom about the true self appears to be counterintuitive at first.


“Your True Self is who you are, and always have been in God . . . The great surprise and irony is that “you,” or who you think you are, have nothing to do with its original creation or its demise. It’s sort of disempowering and utterly empowering at the same time, isn’t it? All you can do is nurture it.”

* * * * *

“The soul, the True Self, has everything, and so it does not require any particular thing. When you have all things, you do not have to protect any one thing. True Self can love and let go. The False Self cannot do this.”

* * * * *

“Remember, please remember, you do not (you must not!) fear, attack, or hate the False Self. That would only continue a negative and arrogant death energy, and it is delusional and counterproductive anyway. It would be trying to “drive out the devil by the prince of devils,” as Jesus puts it. In the great economy of grace, all is used and transformed, and nothing is wasted. God uses your various False Selves to lead you beyond them.”

* * * * *

“What the ego (the False Self) hates and fears more than anything else is change. It will think up a thousand other things to be concerned about or be moralistic about—anything rather than giving up “who I think I am” and “who I need to be to look good.”


Finding your true self in God’s love is largely a matter of practicing the presence of God rather than trying to do any one thing better. If we let God define who we are, we’ll start to recognize the times when the false sense begins to whisper lies to us.

Once we learn to rest in Christ, we’ll begin to recognize when the imposter of the false self emerges.

Learn more about Immortal Diamond today.


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Do less Contemplative Writer



Scripture Meditation: A Love That Stays When We Fail

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Psalm 103:8 NRSV


bible-1440953-1279x852How does God respond to our unfaithfulness and failures? By standing by us and continuing to love us.

Do we believe God is still loving us while we fail and struggle?

I can believe that God still loves someone else who fails or falls into sin, but that’s much harder for my own sins. I’m far more likely to imagine a God who is fed up with me. I should know better by now and this time I’ve just gone too far. 

A God who abounds in love can’t help but be steadfast, standing by people who are unfaithful and fail. How else can God transform us than remaining by our sides with his grace and mercy when we are at our lowest points?


Personal Reflection

When did you fail today?

Imagine God reaching out to you right now in love despite that failure.

Take a moment to sit with the idea that God is “abounding in love.”