Book of the Month: Thoughts in Solitude

Week Two: Transformation in Solitude

thoughts in solitude-mertonCan you make yourself more loving, holy, or virtuous?

I suspect that you could try, but Thomas Merton suggests that you’ll fail and feel quite bad about it. His alternative is far from flashy: solitude.

In solitude we can rest fully in the love of God and trust the rest to God’s presence within us. Merton writes:

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“If man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit. Everything must be elevated and transformed by the action of God, in love and faith.”

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“There is no hope for the man who struggles to obtain a virtue in the abstract—a quality of which he has no experience. He will never efficaciously prefer the virtue to the opposite vice, no matter how much he may seem to despise the latter.”

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“What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?”

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Learn more about Thoughts in Solitude…

For Reflection

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Saturday Prayer

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that I, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of public worship, and grant as well that my Sabbath upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source: The Divine Hours

Saturday Prayer

“Why should I want to be rich, when You were poor? Why should I desire to be famous and powerful in the eyes of men, when the sons of those who exalted the false prophets and stoned the true rejected You and nailed You to the Cross? Why should I cherish in my heart a hope that devours me—the hope for perfect happiness in this life—when such hope, doomed to frustration, is nothing but despair?”

-Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Featured Book: Falling Upward

Falling-Upward-RohrWeek Four: Second Half of Life Enlightenment

Falling Upward challenges us to stop seeking enlightenment. The more we try to create spiritual breakthroughs, the more frustrated we’ll become. We can only seek God and then take whatever enlightenment and breakthroughs result.

Religion can be healthy or unhealthy. While we begin our religious journeys by learning rules and facts, the deeper Christian experience is a union with God–Jesus called this abiding. Richard Rohr speaks of these two movements as the two halves of life. Both are necessary, but the first half of life can become toxic and unhealthy if it’s all we ever know.

Once we fail, doubt, and struggle, we are most ready to experience God on God’s own terms. Rohr writes:

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Any attempt to engineer or plan your own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it will be ego driven. You will see only what you have already decided to look for, and you cannot see what you are not ready or told to look for. So failure and humiliation force you to look where you never would otherwise.

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Many people are kept from mature religion because of the pious, immature, or rigid expectations of their first-half-of-life family. Even Jesus, whose family thought he was “crazy” (Mark 3:21), had to face this dilemma firsthand.

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By the second half of life, you have learned ever so slowly, and with much resistance, that most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot, and incites a lot of push-back from those you have attacked.

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“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” I learned this from my father St. Francis, who did not concentrate on attacking evil or others, but just spent his life falling, and falling many times into the good, the true, and the beautiful. It was the only way he knew how to fall into God.

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Read more…

 

For Reflection

Are you encouraged or discouraged to read Rohr’s thoughts on reaching enlightenment?

Take 5 minutes today to rest in God’s direction for your life.

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Saturday Prayer

I called upon the LORD in my distress* and cried out to my God for help. He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling;* my cry of anguish came to his ears. The earth reeled and rocked;* the roots of the mountains shook; they reeled because of his anger. Smoke rose from his nostrils and a consuming fire out of his mouth;* hot burning coals blazed forth from him. He parted the heavens and came down* with a storm cloud under his feet. He mounted on cherubim and flew;* he swooped on the wings of the wind. He wrapped darkness about him;* he made dark waters and thick clouds his pavilion. From the brightness of his presence, through the clouds,* burst hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD thundered out of heaven;* the Most High uttered his voice. He loosed his arrows and scattered them;* he hurled thunderbolts and routed them. The beds of the seas were uncovered, and the foundations of the world laid bare,* at your battle cry, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He reached down from on high and grasped me;* he drew me out of the great waters. He delivered me from my strong enemies and from those who hated me;* for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster;* but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into an open place;* he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Psalm 18:6-20

Source: The Divine Hours

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.

7 Ways Thomas Merton Changed the World

Letters from a Devastated Artist

How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western (A powerful story of how writing can help us face the worst parts of the world.)

How to Create an Internal Mindset Conducive to Writing

The Slowest, Best Conversion (My guest post for Emily P. Freeman, whose blog and books I highly recommend!)

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

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Featured Article: Steps Toward Experiencing God’s Presence

Pastor Ray Hollenbach writes frequently about the disconnect we experience between the promises of Christianity and the struggles that often become reality. How do we bridge the gap between the aspirations of our faith and the distance we feel from God.

Ray offers five first steps toward experiencing God’s presence, and I’ll highlight a few quotes from his post below:

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The first step in experiencing the presence of God is to take the Biblical witness seriously. We are told time and again that God is near—why does he feel so far? Worse still we’ve trained ourselves to dismiss the scripture as inspirational thoughts rather than a description of reality. To know his presence we must honestly evaluate whether our daily life matches God’s revelation of the way things really are.

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Second, we should order our lives in ways that allow us to experience his presence: we must train ourselves to recognize his presence. The spiritual practices of silence and solitude do not conjure up God’s presence; they help us awaken to God’s presence.

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Read the rest here…

 

 

Featured Book: Falling Upward

Falling-Upward-RohrWeek Three: Transforming Mercy

God sees our failures and desires to show mercy and to restore us. We see our failures, and we worry that we have finally gone too far. We categorize sins and define who is in and who is out based on the category of the sin.

God’s stated desire is that we abide in him and grow. When we are cut off from the vine, we will struggle and sin. While sin is serious, it’s also an avenue for mercy. Confessing our sin to a merciful God will send us on the path to restoration. When we feel most “cut off” from God, we especially need to reconnect with Christ, our vine who gives us life.

Here’s what Richard Rohr has to say in Falling Upward:

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As St. Gregory of Nyssa already said in the fourth century, “Sin happens whenever we refuse to keep growing.”

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We invariably prefer the universal synthesis, the answer that settles all the dust and resolves every question—even when it is not entirely true—over the mercy and grace of God.

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Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us.

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In the divine economy of grace, sin and failure become the base metal and raw material for the redemption experience itself. Much of organized religion, however, tends to be peopled by folks who have a mania for some ideal order, which is never true, so they are seldom happy or content.

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Read more…

 

For Reflection

Meditate on the word “abide” for fine minutes.

Invite God into the “disorderly” parts of your life today.

Featured Book July 4, 2016

 

Saturday Prayer

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant that all of us may be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Source: The Divine Hours

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.

I’m Tired of Being a Christian (If you can relate to this, then contemplative prayer may be perfect for you!)

Defining Christianity in a Single Word

When Less Is More on Social Media

Spirituality for Busy People

From my blog: My Most Difficult Shift Toward Healthy Religion

 

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.