FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

If you’re like me, you may not be sure what day it is . . . most weekdays look alike right now. But I think it’s Friday, so…welcome to Friday Favorites!

Today, Prasanta Verma and I bring you words of hope for what Marlena Graves, in her article linked below, calls a “heavy season.” As Christians, we believe that, despite the weight of everything pressing down on us right now, there is still reason to hope . . . and to pray, believe, travel (vicariously), and write.

Read on, and keep the faith.

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20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic via Jen Pollock Michel (prayers that address specific needs for communities and situations)

C. S. Lewis on Times of Fear, And A Much Needed Psalm via Chase Replogle (words of encouragement from a well-known author and Scripture)

Holding Space via Aaron J. Smith (sometimes, we need to believe for each other)

A Saving Practice Amid a Heavy Lenten Season via Marlena Graves (a reorienting practice for a heavy time)

Writing During a Pandemic via Leslie Verner (what can you do to keep writing now that home life, work live, and schedules have changed?)

30 National Parks Virtual Tours via Jill Mills (explore the country’s amazing parks without having to travel)

 

 

Scar on the Cheek: Betrayal: A Post by Prasanta Verma

As we meditate and pray during this season of Lent, one aspect of the upcoming days of Jesus’ trial is clear: there was a betrayal. This betrayal led the guards to finding Jesus, arresting him, and eventually his dying a brutal death nailed to a cross.

What is quite remarkable, however, is how Jesus responds to Judas. Even though Jesus knew what would happen, he still kept Judas near him as one of his twelve disciples.

The same is true for Peter. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, yet Jesus still washed Peter’s feet.

Jesus still kept them near. He did not deny them nor betray them, but served and loved them.

If it were not Judas, though, it would have been someone else. It could have been me. Or you. God’s plan will be carried out. If we are honest, we know we also betray Jesus. Have we denied him? We betray him.

“There is no one righteous, not even one…” (Romans 3:10). Even so, to all of us who are unrighteous, we are all offered the gift of reconciliation to God Himself. We are all offered the hope of restoration and redemption. The scabs of our wounds, the scars of sin, and the scratches of pain may be healed, restored, and transformed into gifts that flow from our words, hands, and feet. We are new creatures, sewn up from the inside, able to give love and shine a light into darkness around us.

We have hope to live an abundant life on earth. We have hope for eternal life spent with God. With this kind of hope, this kind of love, our pain transforms into joy, which spreads to others in this hurting world—all made possible by forgiveness. That is love. That is Jesus.

Below is a poem I wrote a few years ago, meditating about Judas’ betrayal, our betrayal, Jesus’ response, and the hope and love that flowers and blossoms out of God’s love for us.

***

 

Scar on the Cheek

The kiss on the cheek
planted swift, turns
to thorny scratch, burns
long and thin, drips

red on black dirt.
Fragile petals live a breath
away, a thin vein from death.
Roses keep distant,

far from drawn swords
ready to impale petal-skin.
Repent and attempt
to pluck stems

of delicate short-lived beauty,
for arrangements in a vase,
that fragrance may erase
the scent of love’s demise.

But watch when red drips:
seeds bloom anew,
emit ethereal perfume, transform
into wild, vibrant, hybrid,

blood-red rose. Are you a rose?
Are you a thorn?
Or one scratched by scorn
of deceiver’s kiss?

Show me your scar.

(Prasanta, 2011)

***

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 @ pathoftreasure, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome, friends, to Friday Favorites. The world seems a bit different this week, doesn’t it? There is fear and anxiety over the rapidly emerging public health crisis. There is disappointment as events are cancelled and loneliness creeps in. There is concern for the most vulnerable in our society.

This week, Prasanta Verma and I offer prayers and posts to help us in these troubled times. The first four links below concern the Coronavirus and our spiritual response to it. We also have a post on holding on to hope and a beautiful resource for Lent.

Keep prayer, hope, and beauty in your lives this week and always.

Love from Lisa and Prasanta

***

 

A Coronavirus Prayer via Kerry Weber (a prayer for this time)

Social Distancing with Jesus via Michelle Van Loon (finding comfort and courage in a time of concern)

The Spiritual Practice of Social Distancing via Charlotte Donlon (social distancing to protect the vulnerable among us)

The Surprising Gift of Cancelling Plans and Staying Home via Lesley Sebek Miller (with forced stillness and quarantines, we have the opportunity for quality time and creativity . . . what will you do with this gift?)

Are You Tending a Deep Hope? via April Yamasaki (when you’re tending a deep hope yet not seeing results)

The Lent Project via Biola University (daily Scripture reading, artwork, poem, and devotional–beautifully done)

Holy Tears and the Spiritual Joy of Lent

When I was growing up, my best friend and I often gave up Carmex (the medicated lip balm) for Lent. I’m not sure why we felt that was the best way to prepare for the resurrection of Jesus. I guess we believed that we had a Carmex addiction and were relinquishing something very dear to us.

During this season, I like to see what the ancients of the Church say about Lenten practices. Their views are much richer than what I knew of Lent as a child. Last week, we explored St. John Chrysostom’s full-orbed view of fasting. This week, let’s see what St. Benedict (ca. 480-547), founder of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, has to say.

In his Rule for Monasteries, written in the sixth century, St. Benedict includes a chapter entitled, “On the Observance of Lent.” He writes:

Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

 

During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
“with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is,
he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.

For his monks, St. Benedict advises the moderate withholding of food, drink, sleep, and talking. But, like St. John Chrysostom, Benedict also has a fuller view of Lent. He suggests that ideally, Lent is a way of life. A difficult way, to be sure. Yet we are called to prepare our hearts for resurrection during all seasons.

Also note that St. Benedict has suggestions on what to add to our Lenten diet, not just what to give up. We might forego certain foods, but we can add prayer with tears, reading, and compunction of heart—that is, repentance; a holy desire to sin no more.

Speaking of tears, I love the depiction of the weeping Mary of Clopas in Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross (ca. 1435). I think about this painting every year during Lent and Holy Week. In the painting, Mary and her companions express overwhelming sorrow as the body of Jesus is taken down from the cross. Mary of Clopas is the figure on the far left. Her tears, which escape from the cloth she has pressed to her eyes, are sacred outpourings of grief that we might emulate on our own journey to the cross.

Deposition - tears
Rogier van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross, ca. 1435, detail
Tears - van der Weyden
Rogier van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross, detail of Mary of Clopas

Yet Benedict ultimately moves us from tears to joy. At the end of the passage, he says that during Lent, Christians are to look forward to Easter with the “joy of spiritual desire.” We know that Easter brings joy, but so should the darker season of Lent bring a somber kind of joy — that of yearning for Christ, whose resurrection we await.

May this unique joy be yours as you prepare for resurrection and renewal in your own life.

 

 

A PRAYER MEDITATION FOR LENT

Today’s meditation reminds us that although we can fast with our body, a traditional Lenten practice, we can also and more importantly fast — and feast — with our minds, our hearts and our life.

***

Fast from judging others;
Feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from fear of illness;
Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute;
Feast on speech that purifies.
Fast from discontent;
Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger;
Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism;
Feast on hope.
Fast from negatives;
Feast on encouragement.
Fast from bitterness;
Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern;
Feast on compassion.
Fast from suspicion;
Feast on truth.
Fast from gossip;
Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm;
Feast on prayer that sustains.
Fast from anxiety;
Feast on faith.

Source

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up some of our favorite posts on prayer, writing, and the contemplative life. We hope they’ll be a source of hope and encouragement for you.

This week, our round-up includes posts on Lent, songs of lament, and the 500-year-old sounds of Hagia Sophia. Enjoy, and be blessed.

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Psalms for Lent via Andrea Bridges (a simple devotional practice — reading the Psalms each day during Lent)

Lenten Chaos via Duane Arnold (Lent is a time of spiritual practices, but only God can create in us a new heart)

Sing the Wounds [reflections on lament, song, and hope] via Sarah J. Hauser (lamenting and singing in times of grief)

Disruptive Love via Catherine McNeil (may we disrupt the powers of the world through our compassion, generosity, and love)

Pathmaking, Forgetfulness, and the Recovery of Memory via Drew Miller (remember, anticipate, and live through treasured stories and songs)

Listen: The Sound Of The Hagia Sophia, More Than 500 Years Ago via NPR (listen to what a Christian choir might have sounded like inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia in the 13th century)

 

 

Do You Fast? Prove It!

Among the practices we associate with Lent, fasting usually tops the list. Fasting from food and delicacies can be a form of preparation for Easter. We respond with our body to our soul’s hunger for God and for new spiritual life. More recently, fasting from social media has become popular.

Yet St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), Archbishop of Constantinople and early Church Father, bids us be careful about fasting. He recommends the practice wholeheartedly, devoting several sermons to its benefits. But he also has words of caution. He warns against boasting and asks if we have remembered to fast not just from food but also from some of our more pernicious behaviors. “For the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices,” he said. In Homily XVI (Homilies on the Statues), Chrysostom writes:

It is common for every one to ask in Lent, how many weeks each has fasted; and some may be heard saying they have two, others three, and others that they have fasted the whole of the weeks. But what advantage is it, if we have gone through the fast devoid of works? If another says, “I have fasted the whole of Lent,” you should say, “I had an enemy, but I was reconciled; I had a custom of evil-speaking, but I put a stop to it; I had a custom of swearing, but I have broken through this evil practice.”

In his book, Fasting, Scot McKnight calls this a “full-orbed” view of fasting because it’s a way of life, not merely a limited and temporary practice. Here’s another taste (if you’ll forgive the pun) from St. Chrysostom:

Do not just let your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast by being pure from theft and avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles . . . Let the mouth fast as well from disgraceful speeches and railing.

Chrysostom also mentions that fasting can include serving those in need: “Do you fast? Prove it by your good works . . . If you see a poor man, take pity on him!” The point of a fast is not to endure a temporary privation, but to enter a new way of life. The fast goes on, even when Lent is over and we’re all stuffing our faces again.

I love Chrysostom’s emphasis on serving and on being reconciled with our enemies. He seems to imply that he’s not even going to believe that you’re fasting unless you’re ALSO looking out for your neighbor. Fasting can be not just a path to spiritual growth, but a means of justice as well.

In what ways might you consider fasting this season?

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites. February 26 was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. So today, we wanted to offer you some posts and poems for this stark yet beautiful season.

Blessings on your Lenten journey.

***

Strengthening Those Breathing Muscles via Christine Sine (breath prayers and meditations — a good preparation and practice for Lent)

Lent: A Primer via Sandra Glahn (learn about the history of Lent, as well as suggestions and practices for keeping this liturgical season)

Lent via Image Journal (a collection of poems, essays, short stories, and visual art for the Lenten season)

That “Strange Season” of Lent via Erin Wasinger (learn what Madeleine L’Engle had to say about this “strange season”)

Ash Wednesday with St. Anne via Jessica Mesman (a story of Ash Wednesday, saints, and coming home)

penitents and elements via Julia Walsh (an Ash Wednesday poem)

 

 

 

The Making: A Lenten Poem by Prasanta Verma

The Making
 

Scattered, broken particles
must be remade
after life on earth snaps,
crushes each bone, sinew, organ
into first-born
molecules

Dust catches in throat
chokes irrelevancy

Smeared ashes
reconstruct
into wooden cross beams

unmade – made – remade

 

***

 

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 @ pathoftreasure, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

 

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Today (Feb. 26) is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance, is often recited in Ash Wednesday services, and this will be our prayer of the week (as taken from the Book of Common Prayer).

***

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.