FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope this day brings peace and that the following posts and poems lend encouragement and beauty to you.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Time to Heal via Jeannie Kendall (just as God never rushes, so your healing and recovery may take time)

Breakfast Epic via Brother Richard (a poem for your morning)

The Snowfall via Franz Werfel (a poem from a pre-Nazi Austria)

St. Brigid’s Cloak and Blueberry Jam via Charlotte Riggle (learn about St. Brigid, 5th-c. patron saint of Ireland)

Boundaries Breed Kindness via Chellie Wilson (protecting peace is a choice)

What do you journal about? via Anne Bogel (do you journal? read some new ideas here)


A PRAYER BEFORE WRITING

Before writing, preaching, and perhaps even blogging, we all need to pray. So today, I’m featuring a prayer before writing from Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), a Dominican friar, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. Aquinas’s Feast Day is January 28.

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O Creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with the loving knowledge of you, that I may bring your light to others. Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries which you have revealed.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we come to the end of another eventful week in an already eventful year, enjoy these posts that bring us poetry, the timelessness and constancy of God, and the pursuit of God’s voice.

Be well and be blessed,

Lisa and Prasanta

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In This Place (An American Lyric) via Amanda Gorman (discover more poetry by the National Youth Poet Laureate who read at the inauguration)

“The Cup” / “Maundy” via Matthew J. Andrews (two poems that look ahead to Holy Week)

The End Which is Really the Beginning via David Russell Mosley (the planets, stars, time, and God’s time)

A Regime of Small Kindnesses via Jen Pollock Michel (on how we imitate the constancy of God’s care)

The Wonder of Truth: Caring for Words as an Act of Discipleship via Charity Singleton Craig (how do we, as Christians, commit ourselves to the pursuit of truth?)

Listening For God In The “Unquiet City” via April Fiet (learning to listen to and discern God’s voice)


WEEKLY PRAYER: MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we pray with the minister and civil rights activist for peace and enemy love.

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God, we thank you for the inspiration of Jesus. Grant that we will love you with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, even our enemy neighbors. And we ask you, God, in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, to be with us in our going out and our coming in, in our rising up and in our lying down, in our moments of joy and in our moments of sorrow, until the day when there shall be no sunset and no dawn.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we continue along in the first month of the new year, enjoy these posts and podcasts that will help set a good tone for living faithfully, creatively, and communally. Praying that 2021 will be a good year for all of us.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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10 Fresh Ways to Read Your Bible in 2021 via Traci Rhoades (practical ideas for getting started or picking the Bible back up again)

What Are We Expecting in the New Year? via Ed Cyzewski (are we expecting to find God each day? or are we expecting the worst to happen?)

Homesick via Elizabeth Gatewood (finding home and rest in a community that is bound together in mutual concern)

Hospitable Hospitals and Space to Grieve What’s Lost via Lore Ferguson Wilbert (finding space to doubt, fear, and grieve all that has been lost)

And All Shall Be Well via Marjorie Maddox (a poem with no beginning or end)

Creating Courageously During Difficult Days via Shawn Smucker and Maile Silva (how should creative people engage with culture during these difficult days?)


A PRAYER FOR THE NEW YEAR FROM HOWARD THURMAN

As we ring in the new year, let’s pray with Howard Thurman, the 20th-century theologian, mystic, and civil rights leader.

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Through the Coming Year

Grant that I may pass through
The coming year with a faithful heart.

There will be much to test me and to make weak my strength before the year ends. In my confusion I shall often say the word that is not true and do the thing of which I am ashamed. There will be errors of the mind and great inaccuracies of judgement which shall render me the victim of my own stupidities. In seeking the light, I shall again and again find myself walking in darkness. I shall mistake my light for Thy light and I shall shrink from the responsibility of the choice I make.  All of these things, and more, will be true for me because I have not yet learned how to keep my hand in Thy hand.

Nevertheless, grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart. May I never give the approval of my heart to error, to falseness, to weakness, to vainglory, to sin. Though my days be marked with failures, stumblings, fallings, let my spirit be free so that Thou mayset take it and redeem my moments in all the ways my needs reveal.  Give me the quiet assurance of Thy Love and Thy Presence.

Grant than I may pass through
The coming year with a faithful heart.

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A BLESSING FOR EPIPHANY

The Feast of Epiphany is Wednesday, January 6. Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Christ to the world, as epitomized by the visit of the Magi. This week, we have a blessing for Epiphany.

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God has called you out of darkness,
into his wonderful light.
May you experience his kindness and blessings,
and be strong in faith, in hope, and in love.

Because you are followers of Christ,
who appeared on this day as a light shining in darkness,
may he make you a light to all your sisters and brothers.

The wise men followed the star,
and found Christ who is light from light.
May you too find the Lord
when your pilgrimage is ended.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! The links Prasanta Verma and I found this week help us explore our deepest self in relationship to God. What has God given us and who has God created us to be? We hope you enjoy digging into these. Remember, always, that you are the beloved of God.

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As a Child: God’s Call to Littleness via Phil Steer (a new podcast that unpacks what it means to “become like little children”)

We Have Today via Arlisia Potter (living in and thanking God for this day)

Cindy Bunch on Self-Kindness as Spiritual Practice via Casey Tygrett (being kind to ourselves as a way forward to loving others)

Through a Looking Glass Darkly: How (and how not) to be certain of yourself via Jessica Hooten Wilson (we are pilgrims and wayfarers who need one another as we find our way home)

Evensong via Peggy R. Ellsberg (a poem)

Boils & Possums & Kierkegaard, Oh My! via J. Lind (on creativity, writing, redemption, and and the difficult task of faith)


New Book for the Contemplative Community! THE GREAT BELONGING by Charlotte Donlon

This week I’m delighted to introduce another book for our community: The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other by Charlotte Donlon. This is a beautiful and hopeful exploration of loneliness from a Christian perspective. The book shows that sometimes loneliness can become an opportunity for what we all crave: closeness with God and others. Sometimes, it is part of the human condition because we are people of longing. I so appreciate Charlotte exploring a topic that’s so often been taboo. There is no shame in feeling lonely. It just means that we’re human and need one another.

Below, I’ve included an excerpt from Charlotte’s book. First, she has a few words of introduction.


The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other has five sections: Belonging to Ourselves, Belonging to Each Other, Belonging to Our Places, Belonging through Art, and Belonging to God. I believe our primary belongings are to ourselves, others, and God. But other things, such as places and art, can enhance our main belongings. The excerpt below, “Visio Divina” is from the Belonging through Art section. It describes encounters with three works of art that deepened my belongings to myself and to God. –Charlotte Donlon

Visio Divina

When I walked into the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe on a hot August afternoon, the first painting my attention turned toward was O’Keeffe’s Trees in Autumn. Most of the trees in this work are portrayed with flames of bright red, orange, and gold. A single green fir provides a touch of realism and stands as a stark contrast to the colorful ribbons of leaves on the more surreal deciduous trees. A background of lavender hills and blue sky, along with layers of crawling light, create that familiar feeling of being outside in the hour or so before the sun begins to set.            

I was attending a weeklong arts and writing workshop, and participants had gathered at the museum with the workshop’s chaplain for visio divina. The spiritual practice of visio divina is similar to lectio divina, when readers take time to interact slowly and deeply with Scripture through meditation and prayer. While lectio divina is the practice of divine reading, visio divina is the practice of divine seeing. As the Upper Room website explains, “visio divina invites one to encounter the divine through images.” Prayerfully beholding a photograph, an icon, a piece of art, or other visual representation provides an opportunity to experience God in unique and compelling ways.

I had practiced visio divina once before, but on this day in Santa Fe, I devoted more time to divine seeing. The chaplain had instructed us to stand before two or three of O’Keeffe’s paintings for several minutes and open to what God might have for us through our engagement with the artist’s work as we lingered, looked, and listened.

After several minutes, I left Trees in Autumn and moved through the gallery until another piece stood out to me. Autumn Trees–The Maple is also a colorful painting, but it’s more muted than Trees in Autumn. It has more white space, some gray, a touch of gloom. The shape and outline of the tree are difficult to discern. It’s an idea of a tree, a tree that is only a tree because the artist said it is.

The painting brought to mind the landscape of late fall, when winter is near and temperatures are cool. Again, I stood with the painting for several minutes and tried to interpret my inner response. I enjoyed the stillness and the process of giving my attention to the art. O’Keeffe’s work invited me to enter a realm that wasn’t affected by the news of the day, my personal anxieties, or unknown passersby. I entered this dimension and considered how the painting might see me. Was it a mirror that reflected an image of my soul? If so, what was it trying to show me? I stood in front of this painting, asking questions and waiting for answers. After the energy of my asking and waiting fizzled, I wandered away to see what else there was to see.

I arrived in a larger gallery and glanced back over my right shoulder. In the corner was a dark painting that I was immediately drawn to. I sat down on the end of a nearby bench and observed this third piece for several minutes. Black Place III has shades of gray, black, and white mountainous shapes. A muted yellow crack or narrow stream makes a crooked path down a portion of the middle of the work. Red shadows splash near the bottom. I eventually discovered two eyes in the middle of the painting. Or the suggestion of two eyes. The painting was dark. Very dark. And I loved it.

After I recognized I was more drawn to this piece than I had been to the other two, I began to berate myself. “Of course I prefer the dark painting. Why do I always lean toward the hard, sorrowful, sad things? Why am I like this? Why do I feel most comfortable in the murkiness?” I stayed with these questions and tried to not shy away from the feelings they produced. Then my thoughts were interrupted by this observation: “But you were drawn to colorful paintings, too. You were drawn to colorful paintings first.”

Black Place III was a mirror, and it reflected my doubts back to me. Its eyes might have even been looking at me. The painting ignited questions—asked with a tone of judgment and ridicule— about the essence of who I am. I’ve long been aware of my tendencies to stray toward hard things, to acknowledge and make room for brokenness. But my harsh views about the truth of who I am only surfaced after I practiced visio divina in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. At first it was uncomfortable to realize I was judging myself, but I was also thankful to see my inner world with greater clarity. Then, when I noticed the interruption and saw more of the truth—I was also drawn to color and brightness and lightness— my soul settled. It was as though God were telling me, “You are all of who I created you to be.

From The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other by Charlotte Donlon copyright © 2020 Broadleaf Books. Reproduced by permission.

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Charlotte Donlon is a writer, spiritual director, and podcast host. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University where she studied creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Catapult, The Millions, Mockingbird, Christ and Pop Culture, and elsewhere. Her first book, The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other, will be published by Broadleaf Books in November 2020. Learn more about Charlotte, her writing, and her work at charlottedonlon.com. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @charlottedonlon.

WEEKLY PRAYER: THOMAS A KEMPIS

This week’s prayer is from Thomas à Kempis (ca. 1380-1471), a Dutch-German monastic, priest, and spiritual writer. He authored one of the most popular devotional treatises of all time, the Imitation of Christ.

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O Lord my God, be not far from me; my God, have regard to help me; for my thoughts and fears have risen up against me and afflict my soul. How shall I pass through them unhurt? How shall I break them to pieces? My hope and my only consolation is to flee to you in every tribulation, to trust in you, to call upon you from my inmost heart and to wait patiently for your consolation. Amen.

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