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’s highlights: learning to sniff, laugh, walk, stare into space, and network…among other things.

Be blessed!

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How silence stopped terrifying me, and started healing me via Anna O’Neil (letting silence heal us of our deepest wounds)

His Fresh Mercy via Ray Hollenbach (sniffing out God’s new mercies each day)

The Medicine Of Laughter via Lee Blum (when freedom feels like belly laughter!)

The Poetry of Liturgy via W. David O. Taylor (poetry as a way of accessing the heart of a people)

Writers Who Walk via Jane Davis (read excerpts from writers for whom walking is part of the creative process)

On Networking: Live-Blogging Jane Friedman’s _The Business of Being a Writer_ via Yi Shun Lai (good thoughts on what networking for writers really means)

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The Contemplative Writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

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FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to this week’s Friday Favorites, where 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.

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 (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

As you read/listen to these posts/podcasts — be blessed. And be a blessing.

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Parker J. Palmer: Penetrating Illusions–On the Brink of Everything via Lisa Colón Delay (in this Spark My Muse podcast episode, Lisa interviews Parker Palmer on the art of listening, living with our shadow sides, the function of contemplation, and more)

Why God Loves Weddings, Families and Good Black Preaching via Patricia Raybon (how can the royal wedding help us move forward in healing, forgiveness, and love?)

“Just Become Yourself”: A Bad Line from a Disney Movie or the Wisest Counsel of All? via Chuck DeGroat (a spirituality of becoming, the beginning of a lifelong journey)

Concentrate! And don’t concentrate! via Simon Parke (I’m intrigued by this — we’re told to and sometimes need to focus; but when does concentration take us away from awareness?)

Befriending Silence via Kyle J. A. Small (on our need for reconciling silence in worship, communion and community, and relationships)

How to Inspire Your Writing (and Your Life) Every Day via Margarita Tartakovsky (writing is work, yes–but what sparks your heart, mind, and soul to do this work?)

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Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative Writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support can keep this website running: Support Us Today

GUEST POST: An Excerpt from Flee, Be Silent, Pray by Ed Cyzewski

Flee be silent pray cover ebook final copyToday, I’m excited to offer an excerpt from Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer, a new book by Ed Cyzewski, founder of The Contemplative Writer. Ed’s book released this week.

In the excerpt below, Ed explains why solitude, rather than more information and more effort, might be a good place to start when struggle, burn out, or crisis occurs. I know you’ll appreciate the wisdom he offers here.

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A spiritual struggle, burn out, or breakdown in my conservative Christian tradition is often treated with more information. The assumption is that you forgot something, never learned it, or distorted the information in the first place, despite your best efforts. I remember worrying that my own sincerity or grasp of the information didn’t click. If I could just line up the right information with the proper mental outlook, things would finally fall into place. This is why so many young evangelicals struggle with sin and then pray the sinner’s prayer again (and again) or rededicate their lives to God.

The sentiment is admirable, as we can all relate to wanting to grow spiritually or getting on the right path, but such an approach to spiritual transformation remains more or less in our control and fails to proceed beyond a confession of faith. Professing our faith and commitment to Christ is certainly a good place to start, but it’s hardly what mature, growing followers of Jesus need.

Solitude isn’t my cure-all that guarantees a vibrant spiritual life, but it has become a vital refuge that saves me from my own inadequate remedies and faulty illusions of myself and others. Nouwen speaks of solitude as the furnace of transformation. “Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self” (The Way of the Heart 25). I can think of no better thing for anxious evangelicals who have come to the limits of personal effort and knowledge. Entering solitude with open hands can free us to receive whatever God will give us. I have often gone into solitude with my own plans and agenda.

I’m not naturally comfortable with mystery, especially with a mysterious God, after dedicating so much time to theological study. Solitude strips away the script that theology can provide for God. In silence before God alone, I am forced to surrender any scripture verses that I may be tempted to manipulate in my moment of need, as if I could trap God by using his own words against him. I can only surrender to the mystery of God in the silence.

There are deep mysteries to God’s love and presence, and solitude is one of the ways I have inched closer to them. What I know of God’s love and presence feels very much like drops of water from a limitless stream. What we’ve come to believe and trust may crumble to dust in the pursuit of solitude. This is just as well. Any illusions or false conceptions of ourselves or of God will crumble eventually regardless.

Solitude allows us to preemptively expose these illusions before they let us down in the midst of a crisis. In solitude, we “die” to ourselves so that God can raise us up. Nouwen wrote, “In solitude, our heart can slowly take off its many protective devices, and can grow so wide and deep that nothing human is strange to it” (Out of Solitude 45).

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The desert fathers and mothers saw solitude as a way to replace martyrdom when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In his introduction to the spirituality of the desert fathers and mothers, John Chryssavgis writes, “The voice of the desert’s heart replaced the voice of the martyr’s blood. And the Desert Fathers and Mothers became witnesses of another way, another Kingdom” (In the Heart of the Desert 17).

There was no surer way to strip away what they depended on in place of God. This was a kind of “death” for them that lead to new life. They sought the union with Christ that Paul spoke of (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:9-11) and set aside every possible distraction. Nouwen assures us that “solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring, forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God’s even greater mercy that their life itself becomes ministry” (The Way of the Heart 37).

Flee, Be Silent, Pray is available now, $2.99 as an eBook, $9.99 for print:
Kindle | Print | iBooks | Kobo | B&N
Download a Sample Chapter Here

Ed Cyzewski Author Cafe Square

 

Ed Cyzewski is the author of A Christian Survival GuideFlee, Be Silent, PrayPray, Write, Grow; and other books. He writes at www.edcyzewski.com and is on Twitter at @edcyzewski.

 

 

Contemplative Profiles: Thomas Merton

This month’s contemplative profile by historian Lisa Deam is Thomas Merton:

In several of his written works, Thomas Merton explores the idea of the spiritual life as a journey. While we may like to envision our path as being clearly laid out and free of obstruction, Merton realizes that in reality we’re often groping in the dark. He highlights one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith—we travel, sometimes blindly, to a destination that we already possess. His reflections on life’s journey offer hope as we take the road to Bethlehem this Advent season.

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“In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going. In another sense we have already arrived. We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!” (The Seven Storey Mountain)

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“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Thoughts in Solitude)

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Reflection: Where am I on my journey with God today?

 

About Lisa Deam

Lisa Deam writes and speaks about Christian spiritual formation from a historical perspective. She’s the author of A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps. Visit her on Twitter @LisaKDeam and at lisadeam.com.

 

Contemplative Profiles: Thomas Merton

This month’s contemplative profile by historian Lisa Deam is Thomas Merton:

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, a beloved modern contemplative, and a prolific writer. He left us many books and essays on the spiritual life. When I read Merton, I’m especially struck by the way he confronts and even embraces the difficulties of living the Christian life. Following Jesus is not easy, and Merton knows this. His frank admission of his struggles ministers to us in our own.

Regarding his internal struggles and contradictions, Merton writes:

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“I have become convinced that the very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me: if only because someone so complicated and so prone to confusion and self-defeat could hardly survive for long without special mercy.” (A Thomas Merton Reader)

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“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings . . . All life tends to grow like this, in mystery inscaped with paradox and contradiction, yet centered, in its very heart, on the divine mercy . . . and the realization of the ‘new life’ that is in us who believe, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. “ (A Thomas Merton Reader)

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Such paradoxes define the life of faith. About each person’s struggle with both internal and external darkness, Merton says:

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“Those who continue to struggle are at peace. If God wills, they can pacify the world.  For he[/she] who accepts the struggle in the name of Christ is delivered from its power by the victory of Christ.” (A Thomas Merton Reader)

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Read more about Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Reflection

How willing am I to embrace and learn from the contradictions and struggles in my spiritual life?

 

About Lisa Deam

Lisa Deam writes and speaks about Christian spiritual formation from a historical perspective. She’s the author of A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps. Visit her on Twitter @LisaKDeam and at lisadeam.com.

Featured Article: Learn to Meditate While Walking

Taking my oldest son on a daily walk helped introduce me to contemplative prayer practices as I finally faced my thoughts, let them run their course, and could finally let my mind settle into a place of rest. If you struggle to get started with contemplative prayer by sitting in a quiet room by yourself, these tips for meditating while walking may prove helpful.

Of course I also recommend learning to approach prayer from a sitting position since that can prove restful once you get the hang of it. However, if you need a starting point, this article could help:

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“Unlike guided meditation, which asks you to clear your head of all thoughts (often producing the opposite effect), walking naturally allows your mind to go quiet. While you might start your walk thinking of everything that you need to do today, or this week, after a while, the rhythm of your footfall and movement acts as a focus, allowing you to just focus on the road ahead of you.”

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“Studies have shown that connecting to nature on a regular basis, whether that is through walking, gardening, or animal care, can improve your mood and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression.”

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“Once you’ve given your mind a chance to clear, and not think for a while, it allows you to approach the issue from a fresh perspective.”

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Read more here. 

 

 

 

Scripture Meditation: The Glory of God Surrounds Us

“O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Psalm 8:1, NRSV

Creation is God’s invitation for us to witness his glory and beauty. The stars above our heads each night preach a message of creativity and love.

Taking a walk, enjoying our surroundings, and finding peace in a deep breath of fresh air can all become acts of worship for our caring God.  It also falls to us to find ways we can care for God’s creation in order to preserve this message of creativity and care for future generations.

May we always find new reasons to praise the majestic name of God as we observe his work all around us.

 

For Reflection

meditation-for-november-1

 

 

Featured Book: Everything Belongs

Week Five: Free from Fear

everything-belongs-rohrIn Everything Belongs,  Richard Rohr writes that we find freedom from our fears and anxious thoughts by facing them.

In this moment of awareness, we may find that our fears and wounds appear to be even worse than we have realized. There is no way around this. There is no way to avoid this.

As we face our thoughts, we will develop the capacity to trust in our crucified Lord who conquered all of suffering and death, identifying with our weaknesses and still rising to new life.

Much like the silent mystery of the Resurrection, our new life will come from God in ways that we cannot detect but that cannot be denied:

 

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“The wounds to our ego are our teachers and must be welcomed. They must be paid attention to, not litigated. How can a Christian look at the crucified and not get this essential point?”

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“A lot that’s called orthodoxy, loyalty, and obedience is grounded in fear. I do a lot of spiritual direction, and when I get underneath the language of orthodoxy and obedience, I find fear… We call it loyalty, but it’s often fear.”

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“Most people become their thoughts. They do not have thoughts and feelings; the thoughts and feelings have them… So we have to observe, but also not let the observer become an accusing tyrant.”

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“In the silence of contemplation, we will observe the process whereby we actively choose and create what we pay attention to. that’s why the first twenty minutes are usually so terrible.”

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“In reality our growth is hidden. It is accomplished by the release of our current defense postures, by the letting go of fear and our attachment to self-image. Thus, we grow by subtraction much more than by addition. It’s not a matter of more and better information.”

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For Reflection

featured-book-october-31

 

 

 

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.

Seasons of the Soul via Adam McHugh

How Gratitude Made Ann Voskamp a Contemplative Activist

Tips for Handling a Toxic Co-Worker (The contemplative response? compassion)

Thoughts on Contemplative SilenceThoughts on Contemplative Silence

Sleepy Wasps and Ecclesiastes via Tanya Marlow

10 Predictions for the Days After November 8 (Deep breaths folks…)

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support, through a one-time gift or small monthly gifts can keep this website running: Support Us Today

Featured Article: How to Face Digital Addiction

This week’s featured article discusses the possibility of a digital addictions disorder (DAD) that could impact roughly 5% of Americans and could impact as many as 30% of people in countries with frequent internet use.

Heavy internet gaming and social media use can distract us from work, interrupt our relationships, and ultimately change the ways that our brains function and seek pleasure or rewards. While most of us need to be online for one reason or another, we all need to recognize the signs of a problem.

Here are a few key quotes to consider from the article:

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“A digital addiction is comparable to addictions such as food or drugs in its obsessive nature. As is the case with all addictions, they influence the brain – both in the connections between the cells and in the brain areas that control attention, executive control and emotional processing. It triggers the release of dopamine, providing a temporary “high” on which addicts become dependent.”

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“Being stressed out or suffering from anxiety and depression can be a contributing factor in the development of addictions. In addition, people who suffer from DAD are often no strangers to other addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex or gambling. People who have relationship issues also seem to be at a higher risk of developing an internet addiction. They use digital “connections” to boost their spirits and to escape from their problems.”

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Read more…