Friday Favorites

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.

The Human Cost of Digital Technology

Confessions of a Media Protective Parent

Is Contemplation Dangerous?

I Once Was Lost and Now Am Lost Again…

Productivity Apps for Busy Writers

From Ed’s Blog: Evangelicals Need to Sit in a Room and Say Nothing for a Long Time

 

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Contemplative Profiles: 13 Female Mystics Who Shaped the Church

The women who led the contemplative movement in the church throughout history and influenced the loving search for God over the centuries often made tremendous sacrifices and suffered a great deal. Some gave up wealthy positions, some suffered significant loss, and many of them actively sought to alleviate the suffering of others, exposing themselves to plagues and misery.

They didn’t necessarily shape the theology that we believe, but they do show us steps we can take in the deeper work of abiding in Christ. Here’s an overview of 13 female mystics from church history, but I have included three highlights below:

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Catherine of Genoa wrote about a kind of internal purgatory: “The soul presents itself to God still bound to the desires and suffering that derive from sin and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the beatific vision of God,” Catherine wrote in her book of revelations. She developed a deep relationship with God which Pope Benedict XVI described as a “unitive life.”

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Clare of Assissi worked alongside Francis of Assissi: “Clare’s piety was so profound that her sister, mother and several other female relatives eventually came to live with her and be her disciples in her convent outside Assisi. The group came to be known as the ‘Poor Clares.'”

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Angela of Foligno shares the common background of coming from a wealthy family or, in her case, losing family members to death: “Angela then sold her possessions and in 1291 enrolled in the Third Order of St Francis. At 43, Angela had a vision of God’s love while she was making a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi.”

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Read the rest here…

 

For Reflection

Consider if there are desires you may need to confess to God today in order to experience greater freedom.

 

Featured Contemplative Book: The Ragamuffin Gospel

ragamuffin Gospel coverWeek Two: What the Cross Tells Us

Brennan Manning writes that we can make the mistake of turning salvation into a process or transaction when the cross itself is God’s ultimate act of love for us. The cross tells us just how deeply God loves us.

As I’ve read the works of contemplative Christians, I’ve noticed that many of them had their most profound revelations while meditating on the cross. It’s on the cross that God demonstrated his commitment to saving us through a different kind of power that doesn’t resort to force or degrading others. The cross tells us just how far God’s love will go for us.

The cross tells us that God saw a violent, self-centered people and still preferred to sacrifice himself at the mercy of our religious and political institutions rather than demanding the love and honor that is his due.

We are continuing our feature of Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel this month where he reflects on the love of God and the meaning of the cross:

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“We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate…

The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions. It calls us to sing of the spiritual roots of such commonplace experiences as falling in love, telling the truth, raising a child, teaching a class, forgiving each other after we have hurt each other, standing together in the bad weather of life, of surprise and sexuality, and the radiance of existence.” Page 77-78

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“In his monumental work The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann writes, ‘We have made the bitterness of the cross, the revelation of God in the cross of Jesus Christ, tolerable to ourselves by learning to understand it as a necessity for the process of salvation.’” Page 108

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“Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don’t believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross.” Page 165

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Keep in Touch

Get our latest blog posts delivered to your inbox or sign up for the weekly contemplative email and receive a free eBook: The Contemplative Writer.

 

For Reflection

Featured Book June 6 2016 (1)

 

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.

Staying Sober-ish by Seth Haines

Be a Blesser, Not a Curser by Jennifer Dukes-Lee

Prayer without Ceasing

There’s Never Enough Time by Jen Pollock Michel

Do You Have Low Battery Anxiety? 

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous gifts of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers. Thank you!

Choose a recurring monthly donation:

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Make a one-time gift via PayPal (credit cards accepted!)


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Contemplative Profiles: Catherine of Sienna

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) lived during a particularly tumultuous time in history and in the history of the church in particular. While the Black Death struck during her early childhood and then later in her life throughout her native Italy, the Roman Catholic Church remained in turmoil as successive popes struggled to unify break off groups.

While Catherine devoted significant time toward assisting the Popes and guiding the church toward greater unity, she is best known for the joining of contemplation and ministry. She was an active servant to the poor, an evangelist who even traveled on a mission despite many who opposed women in such a capacity, and nurtured a deep understanding of theology and the practiced prayer regularly.

Caroline T. Marshall writes for the Christian History Institute:

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Mystical experience always led Catherine back into the world to serve. As she wrote of herself: “ . . . she addressed petitions to the most high and eternal Father, holding up her desire for herself first of all-for she knew she could be of no service to her neighbors in teaching or example or prayer, without first doing herself the service of attaining virtue.” With virtue, actions were done for God’s sake alone. “The important thing is not to love Me for your own sake, or your neighbor for your own sake, but to love Me for Myself, yourself for Myself, your neighbor for Myself.”

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“A soul rises up, restless with tremendous desire for God’s honor and the salvation of souls. She has for some time exercised herself in virtue and has become accustomed to dwelling in the cell of self-knowledge in order to know better God’s goodness toward her, since upon knowledge follows love. And loving, she seeks to pursue truth and clothe herself in it.”
– Catherine of Siena

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Read more…

 

For Reflection

How are you being led by God to love your neighbors today?

God Loves Imposters

Healthy spirituality and writing doesn’t require particular accomplishments or milestones in order to be accepted. While the fear of failing or being exposed as an imposter can drive us to do excellent work, we won’t find the peace of God or develop a healthy relationship with our work over the long term with that driving us. .

Christian spirituality teaches us that we are already loved by God, whether or not we are exposed as imposters. In fact, John focused his ministry on repentance because exposing our failures is the only path to freedom. We have to face our worst fears of being imposters and surrender ourselves to the generous, forgiving love of God.

The following article on the imposter syndrome offers some helpful tools for identifying imposter syndrome and ways to manage it.

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Studies show impostor syndrome is related to anxiety and intense fear of failure. So you race to keep up the facade… but when you work hard to make sure you’re not found out, it only reinforces the impostor belief.
You fooled them again. But next time you might not be so lucky.

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But now not only are you feeling bad and overworking but you’re also alone. You can’t tell anyone your “secret.” You feel like you can’t ask for help because you’ll look incompetent.
In the end, it’s exhausting. Working hard, afraid of being “found out” and not being able to turn to anyone is enormously stressful. Eventually you may see self-sabotage as the only way out.

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Focusing on improvement means you know you’re not perfect but you know you can get better. With that attitude, you can. And if you fail, hey, you learned something.
But focusing exclusively on performance goals means anything less than perfect is death. That’s incredibly stressful and pushes you to do things that are extreme, unhealthy and maybe unethical.

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Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz says “good enough” is the secret to happiness and neuroscience studies agree.

Instead of doing everything to keep up this illusion that you’re perfect, accept that you’re not. Don’t build self-confidence, build self-compassion. Forgive yourself when you screw up. Research shows increasing self-compassion has all the benefits of self-esteem — but without the downsides.

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Read more…

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous gifts of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers. Thank you!

Choose a recurring monthly donation:

support-patreon-orange

Make a one-time gift via PayPal (credit cards accepted!)


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Featured Contemplative Book: The Ragamuffin Gospel

ragamuffin Gospel coverWeek One: Receiving God’s Love

Author Brennan Manning touches on a mystery that has long been a struggle in my Christian faith: How do I begin to love God?

So much of my evangelical background focuses on emotions and passion, being on fire for God and committing to a relationship with all sincerity. If you aren’t “feeling it,” it’s hard to know what to do next.

I learned the hard way that you can’t learn your way into loving God or make yourself love God out of duty or obligation, because this is what good Christians do.

Manning’s solution is striking, simple, and the best kind of news: we love God because he first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). In fact, the foundation of Christianity, the cross, and healthy Christian religious practice and spirituality is the love of God that preempts all of our best efforts.

While I could recommend several Manning books, including The Furious Longing of God, we’re going to feature his popular book The Ragamuffin Gospel this month:

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We must go out into a desert of some kind (your backyard will do) and come into a personal experience of the awesome love of God. Then we will nod in knowing agreement with that gifted English mystic Julian of Norwich, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

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In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us—that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. We have that peace when the gracious God is all we seek.

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Do you really believe that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious, that He cares about you? Do you really believe that He is always, unfailingly present to you as companion and support? Do you really believe that God is love?

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Read more from The Ragamuffin Gospel.

 

Keep in Touch

Get our latest blog posts delivered to your inbox or sign up for the weekly contemplative email and receive a free eBook: The Contemplative Writer.

 

For Reflection

Featured Book May 30, 2016

Contemplative Profiles: Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila (1515 to 1582) is remembered as a practical mystic whose combination of contemplation and service make her a particularly friendly guide for Protestants seeking an introduction to contemplative practices. Her writings on spirituality, the soul, and spiritual direction are viewed as classics, and she used her considerable leadership abilities to found 14 Carmelite convents–a point that made her less than popular among the defensive men leading the church throughout Spain during her lifetime.

While we would do well to remember the writings of Teresa, another aspect of her legacy may provide particular encouragement. Her first 20 years in a convent were largely unproductive as she wavered with her commitment and struggled with sin. It took a dramatic spiritual encounter with Christ to finally propel her into deeper spiritual practices.

How many of us have worried about missing opportunities to draw near to God or struggling with sins for years? Teresa reminds us that there is always hope.

The Interior Castle is one of her best-known books on prayer, but this brief profile in Christian History offers a helpful introduction:

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“Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord not to go without so great a good. There is nothing here to fear but only something to desire.”

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The Interior Castle describes the soul as a “castle made entirely of diamond or of a very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms.” Some are above, some below, some to the sides, “and in the very center and middle is the main dwelling place where the very secret exchanges between God and the soul take place.” Teresa wanted to teach her readers how to enter this castle, that is, how to pray, so that they might commune more intimately with God.

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For Teresa true suffering comes from being in the world and serving others. Spiritual progress is measured neither by self-imposed penance nor by the sweetest pleasures of mystical experiences but by growth in constant love for others and an increasing desire within for the will of God.

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Read more…

 

For Reflection

How have your attempts at prayer been stifled by fear?

 

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.

Researchers Find More Changes Are More Effective (Out with the Old)

Is Solitude the Secret to Unlocking Our Creativity

The Age of Loneliness Is Killing Us

10 Recommended Books on Christian Meditation

The Busy Person’s Lies

Ed’s blog: The Hidden Danger of Business for Creative Workers

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

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous gifts of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers. Thank you!

Choose a recurring monthly donation:

support-patreon-orange

Make a one-time gift via PayPal (credit cards accepted!)


Donate Now Button

Learn more about how to support us.

Featured Contemplative Book: 100 Days in the Secret Place

100-days-secret-placeWeek Three: Turning to God First

Whether you are encouraged or discouraged, living in holiness or living in sin, the first step in spirituality is always the same: turn to God. In fact, Jeanne Guyon suggests that fighting temptations directly is the sure way to lose.

How is this so? Because temptations flee in the presence of God. As we abide in Christ, we are protected and renewed.

Gene Edwards, author of Divine Romance, has gathered together key writings from three notable Christian mystics from the seventeenth century: 100 Days in the Secret Place: Classic Writings from Madame Guyon, Francois Fenelon, and Michael Molinos on the Deeper Christian Life by Gene Edwards. Here are several quotes to consider today:

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“The more clearly you see your true self, the clearer you also see how miserable your self-nature really is; and the more you will abandon your whole being to God. Seeing that you have such a desperate need of Him, you will press toward a more intimate relationship with Him.”

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“If you attempt to struggle directly with these temptations, you will only strengthen them; and in the process of this struggle, your soul will be drawn away from its intimate relationship with the Lord. You see, a close, intimate relationship to Christ should always be your soul’s only purpose.”

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“What does a little child do when he sees something that frightens him or confuses him? He doesn’t stand there and try to fight the thing. He will, in fact, hardly look at the thing that frightens him. Rather, the child will quickly run into the arms of his mother. There, in those arms, he is safe. In exactly the same way, you should turn from the dangers of temptation and run to your God!”

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“Once the heart has been gained by God, everything else will eventually take care of itself. This is why He requires the heart above all else.”

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Learn more here.

Keep in Touch

Get our latest blog posts delivered to your inbox or sign up for the weekly contemplative email and receive a free eBook: The Contemplative Writer.

 

For Reflection

Featured Book May 16, 2016