FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! We hope this Friday finds you enjoying the birth of spring and clinging to the promise of resurrection in all things. Enjoy these posts and podcasts as part of your reading and reflection time.

With love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Pietà via Matt Schultz (a poem)

Thank God for the Poets via Margaret Renkl (poetry reminds us that life is our birthright…read this opinion piece for the many links to wonderful poems)

Bray & Keane: A Primer on The Book of Common Prayer via The Laymen’s Lounge (a podcast episode providing an introduction, overview, and step-by-step guide)

Making Space for Each Other’s Grief via Michelle Reyes (grief can bind us together if we resist the urge to judge how others grieve)

A Specific Love via Courtney Ellis (finding love–and God’s love–in the small and specific)

How Does an Introvert Emerge from a Pandemic? via Afton Rorvik (an introvert’s guide to venturing out once again)


Restless in Spring by Prasanta Verma

In a Midwest spring, the sky hangs low and gray, with muted sunshine. The grass transitions slowly to a bright green when the snow finally recedes.

April is a season of change, a transition from one extreme to another, in this part of the country. Winter winds blast us from the north, and drenching seasonal rains fall during this in-between time. While spring in the south is already dotted with lacy flowering trees, spring is still sprouting its legs in the colder Midwest.

I find the same is true for my life: it is constantly in the midst of one change or another. I discover something new emerging, changing, transitioning, growing, and dying—sometimes, all at once. There is always something to remember, and something to forget, something to cry about, something to laugh about, something buried, and something resurrected.

New tomato and lettuce seeds are sprouting in paper cups, sitting in front of a window. They can’t be transplanted outdoors until after Memorial Day, when a cold freeze won’t endanger the seedlings.

One of my kids will be headed to college, and I watch a different kind of growth and flourishing. I see an image of a branch with leaves and blossoms, and somehow I feel this represents my children. They are growing and branching away, soon to be off on their own, with hopes and future dreams tucked away and taking root.

I want to remember what is good and true and what is useful to remember, and forget what needs to be forgotten. I can’t seem to throw off memories as far as the east is from the west, though, but thankfully, God can take care of the parts that I can’t. Each day holds enough dirt of its own—the good and bad kind—soil which is nourishing and warm, and the dirt of something broken and shattered.

April tussles between winter and spring, a restless season, like a tug-of-war (do kids nowadays even know what tug-of-war is?) Perhaps it is just as well. It is another change.

I feel more changes coming on. I dig my heels deeper in the ground, cognizant of the soil around me. During this past year, with all the vagueness and uncertainty, I’ve experienced long stretches of restlessness.

“God, our hearts are restless ‘til they find their rest in you.” – Augustine

Where has my heart been? I know it is prone to wander. Perhaps this is part of the secret for restlessness?

Something new is growing. A new side of my voice, just as spring breaks forth unexpectedly out this frozen tundra. It was always there, this voice, but maybe it was the wrong season before, and maybe now the time has come.

Perhaps something new is growing in your life, too. Spring is like that—reminding of newness and sprouting hope where tears have fallen. It may sound trite and cliché, but I always look forward to learning this lesson anew each year. I need these reminders that Someone bigger than me is in charge of all that changes and all that stays the same. Hope blankets the world in a sea of green in this season, and it is exactly what my soul needs.

Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants. – Deuteronomy 32:2

Photo credits: unsplash

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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/.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

On this Good Friday, we hope that these posts, which include music, art, and fiction, help you to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and the coming hope of resurrection.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Today You Shall Be With Me in Paradise” via The Lent Project, Biola University (a reflection for Good Friday involving Scripture, art, poetry, and music)

The Stations of the Cross via Pádraig Ó Tuama (a guided meditation for Good Friday)

Holy Week via Duane W. H. Arnold, Ph.D. (a brief history of Holy Week and looking ahead to hope)

Ubi Caritas via Joel Clarkson and Joy Clarkson (an arrangement of Ubi Caritas, which commemorates Jesus washing his disciples’ feet)

Gethsemane via Simon Parke (an extract from Parke’s novel, Gospel, Rumours of Love)

Easter Flight: Crucified in the Middle Seat via Leslie Leyland Fields (“This week, Friday, many of us will watch a man take that middle space for us, the place no one wants…”)


Lenten Prayer: Rachel Marie Stone

This week, we’re praying a prayer written by contemporary author Rachel Marie Stone. It looks ahead to the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

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Lord God,
You sent your Son into the world,
And before his hour had come,
He washed his disciples’ feet.
You had given all things into his hands.
He had come from you, and was going to you,
And what did he do?
He knelt down on the floor,
And washed his friends’ feet.
He was their teacher and their Lord,
Yet he washed their feet.
Lord God, help us learn from his example;
Help us to do as he has done for us.
The world will know we are his disciples
If we love one another.
Strengthen our hands and our wills for love
And for service.
Keep before our eyes the image of your Son,
Who, being God, became a Servant for our sake.
All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.
Amen.

Source


Lenten Prayer: St. Ephrem the Syrian

This week’s prayer comes from St. Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306 – 373), an Eastern Christian theologian and Doctor of the Church.

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O Lord and Master of my life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Source


Weekly Prayer: St. Augustine

On more than one occasion, Augustine spoke of the soul as a house — a place where God dwells, a place that is under construction for most of our life. I’ve always loved the beautiful prayer below, from the Confessions, and find it a good one for the season of Lent.

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The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, “Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord, and for those encurred through others, pardon your servant“? I believe, and so I will speak. You know everything, Lord. Have I not laid my own transgressions bare before you to my own condemnation, my God, and have not you forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself; nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my iniquity be caught in its own lies. No, I do not argue the case with you, because if you, Lord, keep score of our iniquities, then who, Lord, can bear it?

Confessions Book I:6



WEEKLY PRAYER: DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

This very moving and honest prayer comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers from prison. We might use it to cry out to God during Lent or other times when we come to the end of ourselves and cannot see the way forward.

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God, I call to you early in the morning,
help me pray and collect my thoughts,
I cannot do so alone.

In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-hearted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the right way for me.

Source


What a Plague and a Pandemic Have in Common: by Prasanta Verma

In the book of Joel, a devastating event occurs, something which will be retold to subsequent generations:

Has anything like this happened  in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. Joel 1: 2-3

What sort of calamity could this be, what sort of story so incredulous that it could be recounted to future generations? It was a plague of locusts.

Can you imagine looking up and seeing the sky turn dark as millions of these insects descended upon the land you occupied? These insects are described as “chewing, swarming, crawling, and consuming” locusts. The scripture says that the fig tree branches were stripped white. The result of the plague was utter loss and devastation. The people of this agricultural society had lost everything– their crops, grass for their animals, their livelihood. Nothing green was left. They looked upon a barren wasteland.

Did you know there are 80 different kinds of locusts?  They belong to the grasshopper family. A typical swarm can be 30 miles long and 5 miles wide, and even today, swarms affect Australia and Africa.

After facing the devastation of such a loss, we can wonder how those in Judah felt. Their dreams were shattered. Their hopes gnawed away by the locusts. What would become of them now? Their dreams and hopes of the future? How would they survive?

My Bible commentary suggests that Joash could have been the king at the time. While it’s not certain, it is possible. Joash was crowned king at the tender age of 7. Humor me for a moment, as we ponder what a seven-year-old king might be thinking while watching a swarm of locusts descend upon the land.

If Joash were like any current day typical seven-year-old boy, he may have tried to catch a few of the insects himself and put them in a place where he could observe them for a while. Or, perhaps young Joash, after the initial  excitement, may have been affected by the horror-stricken faces of the adults around him, and also succumbed to fear, helplessness, and disbelief. One thing is certain: a plague of locusts (or other natural disaster) is beyond the power and control of any earthly king, no matter his age.

But not for an omnipotent God. He had an answer for them. He didn’t leave them destitute, alone, holding fistfuls of dirt in their hands. He gave them a promise:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… Joel 2:25

“I will restore to you the years.” What a beautiful promise, from the only One who can even make such a claim and fulfill it. God’s promise to the people of Judah was that he would “restore the years”! That promise is magnificent to comprehend. Who, except God, can even restore time?

You see, today, we face a different breed of locust. We face broken marriages, sudden death, disease, financial ruin, chronic pain, depression, job loss, addiction, plus the losses brought about because of the pandemic. And, the list can go on.

Yet consider that the promise to us is the same as it was to the people in Joel’s day: “God will restore the years the locusts have eaten.” God says,

Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and new oil, and you will be satisfied with them. –  Joel 2:19

God comforts and reassures the people facing the loss produced by the locust plague, promising to send them new grain and wine, and to “restore to them the years”. The loss was devastating and the promise itself is equally as astounding. Can you imagine the hope of the people of Judah, upon hearing such a promise? We have such promises, too, such as:

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

I don’t know about you, but these promises give me hope. Hope I need to hear. While the locusts may have eaten away, God can restore what the locusts have taken. God can take the loss, even produced by a pandemic, and transform it into something new – into a garden of plenty, a place where hope and joy bloom in full glory, a place where others can come and find encouragement and hope as well. He restores us and promises to give us rest. On this Ash Wednesday, we find rest for our souls, and promises of restoration, even in the midst of snowstorms, personal losses, and a pandemic.

(this post is edited from the archives of prasantaverma.com)


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/.

A LENTEN PRAYER

Feb. 17 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. During Lent, I like to pray Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance and restoration. Our cries for forgiveness and our knowledge of our failings are more than met by God’s mercy and loving-kindness.

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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.


WEEKLY PRAYER: HENRI NOUWEN

Preparing for the season of Lent, we pray with Henri Houwen:

Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, thoughts can become a hymn of praise to you.

I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.

Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend.

Amen.

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