Featured Contemplative Book: The Ragamuffin Gospel

ragamuffin Gospel coverWeek Two: What the Cross Tells Us

Brennan Manning writes that we can make the mistake of turning salvation into a process or transaction when the cross itself is God’s ultimate act of love for us. The cross tells us just how deeply God loves us.

As I’ve read the works of contemplative Christians, I’ve noticed that many of them had their most profound revelations while meditating on the cross. It’s on the cross that God demonstrated his commitment to saving us through a different kind of power that doesn’t resort to force or degrading others. The cross tells us just how far God’s love will go for us.

The cross tells us that God saw a violent, self-centered people and still preferred to sacrifice himself at the mercy of our religious and political institutions rather than demanding the love and honor that is his due.

We are continuing our feature of Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel this month where he reflects on the love of God and the meaning of the cross:

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“We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate…

The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions. It calls us to sing of the spiritual roots of such commonplace experiences as falling in love, telling the truth, raising a child, teaching a class, forgiving each other after we have hurt each other, standing together in the bad weather of life, of surprise and sexuality, and the radiance of existence.” Page 77-78

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“In his monumental work The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann writes, ‘We have made the bitterness of the cross, the revelation of God in the cross of Jesus Christ, tolerable to ourselves by learning to understand it as a necessity for the process of salvation.’” Page 108

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“Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don’t believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross.” Page 165

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For Reflection

Featured Book June 6 2016 (1)

 

Saturday Prayer: A Prayer for Sabbath Rest

The following prayer typically appears at the end of the day each Saturday in the Divine Hours:

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
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.

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.

Researchers Find More Changes Are More Effective (Out with the Old)

Is Solitude the Secret to Unlocking Our Creativity

The Age of Loneliness Is Killing Us

10 Recommended Books on Christian Meditation

The Busy Person’s Lies

Ed’s blog: The Hidden Danger of Business for Creative Workers

Looking for more recommendations? Check out our Prayer Resources page.

 

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Featured Contemplative Book: 100 Days in the Secret Place

100-days-secret-placeWeek Three: Turning to God First

Whether you are encouraged or discouraged, living in holiness or living in sin, the first step in spirituality is always the same: turn to God. In fact, Jeanne Guyon suggests that fighting temptations directly is the sure way to lose.

How is this so? Because temptations flee in the presence of God. As we abide in Christ, we are protected and renewed.

Gene Edwards, author of Divine Romance, has gathered together key writings from three notable Christian mystics from the seventeenth century: 100 Days in the Secret Place: Classic Writings from Madame Guyon, Francois Fenelon, and Michael Molinos on the Deeper Christian Life by Gene Edwards. Here are several quotes to consider today:

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“The more clearly you see your true self, the clearer you also see how miserable your self-nature really is; and the more you will abandon your whole being to God. Seeing that you have such a desperate need of Him, you will press toward a more intimate relationship with Him.”

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“If you attempt to struggle directly with these temptations, you will only strengthen them; and in the process of this struggle, your soul will be drawn away from its intimate relationship with the Lord. You see, a close, intimate relationship to Christ should always be your soul’s only purpose.”

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“What does a little child do when he sees something that frightens him or confuses him? He doesn’t stand there and try to fight the thing. He will, in fact, hardly look at the thing that frightens him. Rather, the child will quickly run into the arms of his mother. There, in those arms, he is safe. In exactly the same way, you should turn from the dangers of temptation and run to your God!”

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“Once the heart has been gained by God, everything else will eventually take care of itself. This is why He requires the heart above all else.”

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Learn more here.

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For Reflection

Featured Book May 16, 2016

Contemplative Profiles: The Female Mystics of the Middle Ages

In the past I have made the mistake of ignoring the spiritual teachings of the Middle Ages, missing out on the rich contemplative practices that were documented at great personal cost. Dr. Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff notes in an article in Christianity Today that women were often denied educations in the Middle Ages, so their religious communities took on a more contemplative, creative, and spiritual shape, while many religious men leaned toward theological reflection.

This resulted in a unique spirituality from women who experienced the love of God in rich and vibrant encounters. Perhaps the simplicity of their spirituality became their greatest strength. While some female mystics from this time were supported by the church hierarchy, many wrote down their accounts and visions despite heated opposition, risking persecution and even death at the hands of controlling church leaders.

Dr. Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff writes about female mystics for Christianity Today:

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We think of the Middle Ages as the age of faith, and so it was, but it was also an age of crisis. In such a context, mysticism was not a retreat from the negative aspects of reality, but a creative marshaling of energy in order to transform reality and one’s perception of it.

Mystics were the teachers of the age, inspired leaders who synthesized Christian tradition and proposed new models for the Christian community. We know some of the men—Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas—but we are not as familiar with the women, although they were actually more numerous. Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Angela of Foligno, Julian of Norwich, and other women mystics drew on their experience of the divine to provide spiritual guidance for others. Such women became highly respected leaders of the faithful. Their role as prophets and healers was the one exception to women’s presumed inferiority in medieval society.

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She goes on to write:

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Dame Julian of Norwich said in her Showings: “ … God forbid that you should say or assume that I am a teacher … for I am a woman, ignorant, weak and frail. But I know very well that what I am saying I have received by the revelation of him who is the sovereign teacher … because I am a woman, ought I therefore to believe that I should not tell you of the goodness of God, when I saw at that same time that it is his will that it be known?”

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As we honor their legacy, learn from their wisdom, and embody their practices, may we have the courage to share with others the ways God has spoken to us.

 

Reflection

Take 5 minutes to ask God what you need to receive today.

Remain open to sharing that with someone else if appropriate.

 

 

Contemplative Profiles: Julian of Norwich

We best know Julian of Norwich for saying: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” 

Despite her optimism in this statement, Julian lived in the late 1300’s in England, facing plague and violent warfare, to say nothing of a church hierarchy that could turn on her in light of her visions of Christ.

At the age of 13 in May 1373, Julian suffered a severe illness and experienced a series of sixteen “showings” or visions of Christ. These visions revealed the love of God in ways seemed to run counter to the assumptions about God during her time, but she managed to both live a quiet life as a female hermit and to put her experiences down on paper. Julian was the first woman to publish a book in English: Revelations of Divine Love.

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She is remembered by biographer Amy Frykholm as a mystic who embraced suffering–almost to the point that one would raise an eyebrow. However, the depth of her compassion for others cannot be separated from her embracing of the sufferings of Christ and the suffering of others.

Reviewer Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes,

Julian’s compassion grows out of her passion—a suffering both in and of the church, but a suffering that nevertheless reveals the love at the heart of the church. Julian gets God’s love not because she retreated from the world and focused on spiritual things, but because “she chose Jesus over the bliss of heaven.”

Contemplating a crucifix that began to drip blood onto what she thought would be her deathbed, Julian saw and later wrote about a vision of God that was revolutionary to the church authorities of her day—indeed, to many church leaders in our own time.

May we have eyes to see the suffering of others around us.

May we remember that the cross wasn’t just the means of our salvation. It was the way of life that Jesus modeled and expected us to follow.

 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…

Philippians 3:10, NRSV

 

Reflection

Remain open to the ways you can share in the suffering of Christ today.

 

Scripture Meditation: Trusting God to Care for Our Souls

 

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; my God I put my trust in you; . . .”
Psalm 25:1

Meditation

I bible-1440953-1279x852have long wondered what it means to “lift up my soul” to God, but I recently read one suggestion that “lifting up” our souls to God is a surrender. Lifting up my soul is a handing over of control to God.

A weary soul is consumed with the cares of this world, distracted by entertainment and greed, or caught up in pleasing others. Perhaps we “lift up” our souls to others each day as we hope they’ll notice us, affirm us, or meet a deep need.

Trust is no small matter. Is God worthy of our trust? Will God show up if we lift up our souls to him?

The practice of contemplation opens our souls to the presence of God. It’s a lifting of our souls to God, inviting him to care for us and our souls. Over time, we will learn to place greater trust in God, but we must begin by lifting up our souls in faith and expectation.

 

Reflection

How is your soul today?

Are you lifting up your soul to something or someone other than God?

What does it look like to trust God with your soul

 

 

 

 

Announcing The Contemplative Writer: Soul Care and Spiritual Practices for Writers

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Where does your identity come from?

I’m going to guess that anyone attracted to a site called The Contemplative Writer looks to their faith and their writing as important parts of their identities. Writing is extremely fulfilling and can serve others, but it will fail anyone who looks to it as as an identity.

The foundational principle for everything that follows at The Contemplative Writer is this: Your identity is determined by God’s love for you, and you’ll only find that identity by caring for your soul. While there are many ways to care for your soul, the goal of this website is to lay a strong foundation of Christian contemplative spiritual practices so that you can pray and write with a healthy, well-grounded soul.

Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation says that he focuses on 80% contemplation in order to guide 20% of his action. Our actions (or writing) will be rooted in love and purpose when they are grounded in an identity established by God through our contemplation.

For those of us who write, our identities can be particularly fragile. While anyone can benefit from this website in the weeks and months to come, writers of faith will especially benefit from the practices and mindsets presented in daily posts and weekly newsletters.

If your identity is dictated by outside voices and circumstances, there’s every reason to believe that your soul will suffer and your actions will veer in any number of wrong turns. At the contemplative writer the content I share each day follows Rohr’s 80/20 approach: 80% guiding contemplation and 20% guiding writing practice. If we can use the tools of Christian spirituality to help you connect with God and to care for your soul, I believe we’ll be in a much healthier place for our writing.

Each week you’ll find the following brief blog posts (100-300 words) to aid your contemplative journey:

  • Monday: Quotes from a book of the month on contemplative prayer.
  • Tuesday: Scripture meditation.
  • Wednesday: Featured article or book on contemplative prayer or writing practices.
  • Thursday: Contemplative profile or history.
  • Friday: A list of prayer or writing links.
  • Saturday: Guest writers and spiritual directors (coming soon)

Each month you can also expect a weekly newsletter that will soon be adapted into a podcast as well.

Finally, a small disclaimer…

I have not set up this website because I am the most accomplished or knowledgable contemplative Christian. I do not view myself as an expert. I am merely someone who has immersed himself in Christianity since my youth, and the contemplative prayer practices I started learning in the early 2000’s have been the most important, formative, and longest-lasting aspects of my faith. The more I lean into contemplative prayer, the more essential it becomes for my faith and my calling as a writer.

I set up this website because I wanted to immerse myself in contemplative prayer while also sharing my journey with others. I hope that this new venture helps you find space to meet with God, guidance for the road ahead, and rest for your soul as you create and bless others. I’ll share some simple ways you can keep in touch and support us below.

Thank you for visiting!

Ed

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For Reflection or Sharing:

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