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.

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week’s faves have been specially chosen by Prasanta Verma and me to help us get ready for Lent. During Lent, we journey into a kind of darkness: we go into the desert, we go into the darkness that Jesus experienced, we go into a place of sorrowing and repentance. This place is necessary to help us prepare for new life.

Today’s posts help us explore darkness in our lives — and to find God there. He will not leave us alone in the inky places.

Read, and be blessed.

***

When You’re Not Feeling Very #Blessed via Kate Bowler and Jan Richardson (when you’re not feeling #blessed, you need a blessing)

The Breath of God via Keren Dibbens-Wyatt (on being enfolded by God even in  weakness)

Black Space, Dark Matter via Sarah Rennicke (to be in the shadows is still to be seen, met, and formed by God)

4 Reasons Why You Need a Sabbath Journey for Lent via Shelly Miller (Lent is an opportunity for God to reveal how he’s been at work in your life)

Ash Wednesday via T. S. Eliot (listen to Eliot read his poem aloud)

Last Curtain via Rabindranath-Tagore (a poem about life and death)

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverWeek Four: What Is Life and What Is Death?

This month at The Contemplative Writer, we’re reading Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr. Rohr is leading us through some Scripture meditations for the season of Lent.

The Scripture reading for yesterday, the fifth Sunday of Lent, is John 11:1-45, and its theme is key: life and death. Rohr writes:

Humans are the  only creatures who have knowledge of their own death . . . This places humans in a state of anxiety and insecurity from our early years.

***

On this last Sunday before Palm Sunday, we dare to look at the “last enemy,” death. And the only way we can dare to part the curtain and view death is to be told about our resurrection from it!

***

We get a foretaste of resurrection in the raising of Lazarus, from the Gospel of John. Many of us are familiar with this story: in calling forth Lazarus from the grave, Jesus conquers death! I love what Rohr emphasizes about this passage:

[I]n a final brilliant finale to the story, he [Jesus] invites the onlookers to join him in making resurrection happen: “Move the stone away!. . . Unbind him, and let him go free!” It seems that we have a part to play in creating a culture of life and resurrection. We must unbind one another from our fears and doubts about the last enemy, death.

***

The stone to be moved away is always our fear of death, the finality of death, any blindness that keeps us from seeing that death is merely a part of the Larger Mystery called Life. It does not have the final word.

***

Scripture Reading:

‘This sleep is not to end in death, but is instead to reveal the glory of God’. . . . With a sigh that came straight from the heart . . . He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Move the stone away! . . . Lazarus, come forth!’ . . . ‘Now, you unbind him and let him go free.’ — Jon 11:4, 34, 38, 43-44

***

Even as we prepare to accompany Jesus to his own death during this Lenten season, may we always remember that he is the resurrection and the life.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverWeek 3: Could the “New” Thing Be Inclusion?

This month at The Contemplative Writer, we’re reading Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr. Rohr is leading us through some Scripture meditations for the season of Lent.

In one of his meditations, Rohr discusses the Scripture readings for Monday of the fourth week of Lent (Isaiah 65:17-21 and John 4:43-54). Rohr teases out two themes from these readings: the big patterns of God’s story and the wonderful message of inclusion.

About the prophet Isaiah, Rohr writes:

Prophets are seers of the big patterns; they see what is always and forever true . . . One of the big patterns is that God’s message always gets wider and more universal, despite our best attempts to limit it.

When Isaiah speaks of the “new heavens and a new earth,”

he is not so much talking about concrete particulars as he is talking about universals, the big things that are always true, and might also be true here or there.

***

And what does this tell us about today’s passage in the Gospel of John, when Jesus heals the son of an outsider (a royal official and a non-Jew)? Rohr writes that it illustrates one of the big patterns of God’s story:

The circle of the biblical revelation keeps widening to create that “new earth” of Isaiah, and within a century a people who will call themselves catholic or universal. Here comes everybody! One wonders how we ever made religion into any kind of exclusionary system whatsoever when the vast majority of Jesus’ healings seem to happen to the excluded ones and maybe even the unworthy ones.

***

Scripture Readings:

The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create. — Isaiah 65:17-18

***

The man put his trust in the word that Jesus had spoken to him, and set of for home . . . He and his whole household thereupon became believers. — John 4:50, 53

***

May we rejoice in the ever-widening vision of God this season.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

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, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

This week, we’re exploring posts and podcasts on Lent, writing, and #WOCwithpens. Do you have an article/post to recommend? Please let me know! Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

*****

There is a Burning Bush Inside of Me via Tasha Burgoyne (a powerful post on embracing our weakness with God’s power) #WOCwithpens

Walking in the Jesus Way: A Lenten Journey via Diana Trautwein (Scripture and poetry each day for Lent)

3 Companions for the Wilderness via Lisa Colon DeLay and Lisa Deam (are you in the wilderness this Lent? Listen to Lisa DeLay and I talk about the desert fathers and two medieval mystics who can guide our journey)

Love Matters More Than Logic or Experience (Lectio Divina Diligens for the Third Sunday of Lent) via Carl McColman (Carl takes us through a lectio divina exercise based on a Scripture reading)

What keeps the darkness via Glynn Young (a poem after 2 Corinthians 12)

The Case for Writing in Coffee Shops: Why Malcolm Gladwell Does It, and You Should Too via Open Culture (does a coffee shop offer just the right kind of distraction for writing? Where do you write best?)

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverThis month on The Contemplative Writer, we’re reading Wondrous Encounters. Richard Rohr is leading us through a series of Scripture meditations for Lent.

Rohr’s meditation for the fourth Sunday of Lent (which is this Sunday) is about blindness, light, and seeing. First, Rohr diagnoses the human condition:

Because humans cannot see their own truth very well, they do not read reality very well either. We all have our tragic flaws and blind spots. Humans always need more “light” or enlightenment about themselves and about the endless mystery of God.

***

Good news! The Gospel of John speaks into this condition. In John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind. Rohr makes the following observations (along with others) about this Gospel reading:

The “man born blind” is the archetype for all of us at the beginning of life’s journey.

***

Spirituality is about seeing. Sin is about blindness, or as Saint Gregory of Nyssa will say, “Sin is always a refusal to grow.”

***

The one who knows little, learns much (what we call “beginner’s mind”) and those who have all their answers already, learn nothing.

***

Scripture Readings

“I do not know whether [Jesus] is a sinner or not, I only know this much, I was once blind, and now I see.” — John 9:25

***

“I came into the world to divide it, to make the sightless see and to reveal to those who think they see it all that they are blind.” — John 9:39

May we all learn to see a little better this Lenten season.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites, my weekly round-up of great finds on the web. We are in the second week of Lent, so today we have some posts and a podcast to help us in this season. How are you keeping Lent this year?

I also wanted to share some wonderful posts by #WOCwithpens, and an exploration of how we can learn to ask questions and receive God with our hands open.

Enjoy, and be blessed.

*****

Breathe . . . via Colletta Rhoads (wow, I love this beautiful poem!) #WOCwithpens

Interview with Piper Huguley via Gena Thomas (author Piper Huguley talks about POC in publishing and gives advice for writers) #WOCwithpens

I am 200 Percent. I am Chinese-American. via Kaitlin Ho Givens (trusting the Creator that he made us exactly the way he wants us to be) #WOCwithpens

Simple Advice for Christians: Trust Your Instincts via Ed Cyzewski (if you have questions about the “Christian machine,” you’re not crazy . . . or alone)

Meditation Monday — Spiritual Practices for Lent via Christine Sine (some disciplines for the season)

The Examen with Father James Martin, S. J.: The Second Week of Lent (this podcast leads us through a traditional Jesuit prayer)

When My Heart is Heavy, and the Days are Hard via April Yamasaki (a really unique way to meditate on Psalm 23, with a writing prompt that’s great for Lent)

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverOur Book of the Month is Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr. In this meditative book, Rohr takes us through the Lenten season with a meditation and Scripture for each day.

One of the meditations for the second (full) week in Lent is entitled “Good Mirroring and Bad Mirroring.” In this meditation, Rohr talks about humans knowing themselves through the gaze of others.

A good parent, like God, naturally blesses the child through their receptive and affirming face. It is the eternal blessing to the children of Israel, “May Yahweh let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May Yahweh uncover her face to you and bring you peace!” (Numbers 6:25).

In the reading for the day from the Gospel of Luke, Rohr writes, we see this divine mirroring at work:

Receive God’s compassion, and you will be able to be compassionate . . . Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Give and it shall be given to you. Jesus describes a perfect reciprocity between what we have received or not received and how we will give or not give.

***

Once you know that you are inside Trinitarian Love, you are connected to an infinite Source, and one is never sure who is doing the giving and who is doing the receiving. It is all Flow and Outpouring. It is you and yet it is God. Thus Jesus ends this Gospel by a wonderful image of overflowing abundance.

***

Gospel Reading:

Full measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap, because the measure you measure out with will be measured back to you. – Luke 6:38

***

May God’s overflowing abundance be yours this season.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

 

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, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

This week, I found such a wonderful variety of posts: some for Lent, some celebrating #WOCwithpens (“women of color with pens”), and a poem about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Also, writing — we can’t forget to look at our writing.
I hope you’ll be blessed by these posts, as I was.

*****

Still {For the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting} via Christian Hubbard (a poetic response to the tragedy in Florida)

Citizens of Heaven {Guest post by Alice William} via Alice William and Kate Motaung (“Heavenly citizenship breaks barriers and unites us all in Christ.”) #WOCwithpens

Watching Black Panther With God via Patricia Raybon (a powerful reflection: “When the movie stopped…my question still remained: Who does GOD say that I am?”) #WOCwithpens

With a Puff via Mihee Kim-Kort (a beautiful audio Lenten reflection) #WOCwithpens

I’m Not Fine via Abby Norman (on giving up self-sufficiency for Lent)

Field Notes on Praying the Hours via Traci Rhoades (starting a new practice for Lent)

Seven Tips for Getting Started With the Divine Office via Carl McColman (another post on getting started with this worthwhile practice)

4 Lies That Are Keeping You From Writing a Book via David Safford (read this post and gain commitment and confidence; there’s even a practice at the end)

 

 

CONTEMPLATIVE HISTORY: ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON FASTING

Among the practices we associate with Lent, fasting usually tops the list. Fasting from food and delicacies can help Christians remember the sacrifices of Jesus and can also be a form of preparation for Easter, the holiest day of the year.

St. John Chrysostom (349-407), preacher in the early Church, bids us be careful about fasting. He cautions against boasting and asks if we have remembered to fast not just from food but also from some of our more pernicious behaviors. In one of his homilies, 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.”

I love what Scot McKnight calls this “full-orbed” view of fasting. Here’s another taste (if you’ll forgive the pun):

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.

When we consider that fasting can include taking pity on the poor (which Chrysostom mentions in another passage) and being reconciled with our enemy, it can even be a justice issue.

In what ways might you consider fasting this season?

Sources: You can read about fasting and St. John Chrysostom here, and read the full text of some of his homilies here.