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.



Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, FF is participating in #WOCwithpens, an effort dedicated to recognizing and highlighting the talented faith-based writing of women of color from around the web. Read more about #WOCwithpens here and join in!

This week’s posts will bless you. They include poetry, essays, and a list of voices to watch for in 2018. Enjoy!


18 People of Color to Follow in 2018 via Ruthie Johnson (check out this list of great voices that tell us what faith looks like in various communities of color)

Healing From Race-Based Trauma via Sheila Wise Rowe (read this powerful essay in the Redbud Post on soul-care for the journey of healing from race-based traumatic stress; while you’re there, check out the other articles in this month’s Redbud Post on “the holiness of diversity”)

Signs via Natasha Oladokun (an amazing poem published in Image Journal and based on1 Samuel 3:1)

I Am Loved: Nikki Giovanni’s Poems for Kids, Selected and Illustrated by Beloved 94-Year-Old Artist Ashley Bryan via Brain Pickings (a set of Giovanni’s poems brought to life by the vibrant artwork of Ashley Bryan)

How Amazing is Grace via Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros (a beautiful poem on . . . amazing grace!)

Walking When Stuck, Staying When Free via Dorcas Cheng-Tozun (how God points us toward pathways out of even the toughest of stalemates)




A prayer for wholeness from Evelyn Underhill:

O Lord, penetrate those murky corners where we hide memories and tendencies on which we do not care to look, but which we will not disinter and yield freely up to you, that you may purify and transmute them: the persistent buried grudge, the half-acknowledged enmity which is still smouldering; the bitterness of that loss we have not turned into sacrifice; the private comfort we cling to; the secret fear of failure which saps our initiative and is really inverted pride; the pessimism which is an insult to your joy, Lord; we bring all these to you, and we review them with shame and penitence in your steadfast light.


Friday Favorites For Prayer and Writing

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Each week, 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.


The Unassuming Habits of Hope via Richard Clark (how do we sow hope in the dry soil of our world?)

What do Gene Kelly and St. Francis have in common? via Jon Sweeney (the answer to this surprising question might surprise you!)

Finding Forgotten Friends: Apprenticing Ourselves to the Past via James K. A. Smith (how the Christian past can give us wisdom and humility for today)

Christians Need Compassion More Than Ever via Ed Cyzewski (on nourishing compassion, rather than anger, for those who believe much differently than we do)

Humbled By Your Sovereign Ways via Jenneth Graser (a prayer poem to help you worship our Creator today)

Balance: Perspectives and Advice on Finding Harmony Amidst Life’s Duties via Redbud Writers Guild (check out the November issue of the Redbud Post for a series of articles on finding balance in your life)


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Week Two: The Joy of Repentance

Illumined Heart cover

In The Illumined Heart, Frederica Mathewes-Green explores spiritual wisdom and practices from the ancient Christians. Chapters five and six tackle the unpopular subject of repentance.

Mathewes-Green shifts the discussion of repentance from condemnationwhere it usually sitsto joy. I also like her emphasis that repentance unlocks our compassion for others:

Repentance is the doorway to the spiritual life, the only way to begin. It is also the path itself, the only way to continue. Anything else is foolishness and self-delusion. Only repentance is both brute-honest enough, and joyous enough, to bring us all the way home.


For the Christian, two things seem to be ever linked: sorrow over sin, and gratitude for forgiveness. Repentance is the source of life and joy.


What’s more, repentance enlarges the heart until it encompasses all earthly life, and the sorrow tendered to God is no longer for ourselves alone. Knowing our own sin, we pray in solidarity with all other sinners, even those who hurt us. With all creation we groan, crying out to God for his healing and mercy.


Read more.

For reflection:

Mathewes-Green week 2




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.

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.


Keep Not Quitting via Sarah Bessey (perhaps you, like me, really need to hear this message)

When You Don’t Have It All Together: How to Live a Flourishing Life via Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (a guest post for Ann Voskamp)

3-Minute Retreat: Living in Freedom via Loyola Press (take a 3-minute guided online retreat)

The Spirituality of Imperfection via Clint Sabom (this is a spirituality I can wholeheartedly embrace!)

What the Enneagram Can Teach Us About Beloved Community via David Potter

7 Things to Do When You Want To Give Up (Instead of Giving Up) via Brian A. Klems (practical advice from Writer’s Digest)

11 Brutal Truths About Creativity that No One Wants to Talk About via Benjamin Earl Evans (very thought-provoking and myth-busting)

Books by Christian Authors of Color via Deidra Riggs (check out this awesome reading list!)



Week One: Tough Questions

Illumined Heart coverIn The Illumined Heat: Capture the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians, Frederica Mathewes-Green shares spiritual practices and wisdom from the ancient Church. I first read this book several years ago, and I thought it was time to revisit it and share some of my favorite parts with you.

As she discusses the early Christians, Mathewes-Green gives us a peek into the life of a fictional fifth-century couple, Anna and Theodore. This is one of my favorite pats of the book, especially when Anna struggles to show love and grace to her mother-in-law.

Mathewes-Green begins with a statement of what we know (intellectually) to be true: in God is life.

Here is communion. In God’s presence we discover ourselves able to love one another, to be vessels of heroic love, even toward our enemies, even unto death. We find all creation in harmony around us, as responsive and fruitful as the Garden was to Adam and Eve. The peace that passes understanding informs our every thought.


If we know that God’s presence is life and love, why don’t we look like we know it? Mathewes-Green asks a whole series of tough questions I find it really good (and uncomfortable) to consider:

Why are we modern Christians so indistinguishable from the world?


How come Christians who lived in times of bloody persecution were so heroic, while we who live in safety are fretful and pudgy?


How could the earlier saints “pray constantly,” while our minds dawdle over trivialities?


How could the martyrs forgive their torturers, but my friend’s success makes me pouty?


In the rest of the book, Mathewes-Green considers how the spiritual practices of ancient Christians might help us as we struggle with our faith. For this week, I invite you to wrestle with the tough questions she asks in the first chapter. What might you answer to some of these questions?

Read more.

For Reflection:

Mathewes-Green week 1 corrected


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.

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.


Prayer Made Sense When Henri Nouwen Told Me To Give Up via Ed Cyzewski

Martin Sheen: Spirituality of Imagination via Krista Tippett

The Contemplative Way as a Practice in Death via Drew Jackson

101 Books to Dive into this Summer: A Massive Reading List via Rebekah Barnett and Chelsea Catlett (TED-speaker recommended books – just in case you don’t have enough piled on your nightstand right now)

7 Prayers I Pray for People I Love via Judy Douglass

Nothing and Everything (Reflections on a Retreat) via Lisa Bartelt

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.


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).


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 and is on Twitter at @edcyzewski.




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.

I found so many good articles and posts this week: some deeply spiritual, some funny, some practical the internet was on fire, it seemed! If you have someone else’s article to nominate, be sure to let me know next week before noon on Thursday.


Laser Listening: Paying Attention from Inside Out (an interview with author Adam S. McHugh)

Liturgical Meditations: Pentecost (a video meditation from Fuller Studio)

I want to be all flame via Morgan Guyton (on becoming overwhelmed by the brilliance of God)

This Is the Place via Carolyn Arends (a video reflection on the intersection of spirituality, music, and songwriting)

Prayer for a New Day of Promise and Opportunity via April Yamasaki (“The day lies before us like a page waiting to be written . . .”)

Finding God in Fairytales via Tanya Marlow (how stories, imagery, and faraway worlds help us connect with God)

Getting to the Core of Your Distractions via C. S. Lakin (identifying what most distracts you and keeps you from being productive)

The Writer’s Process via Hallie Cantor (hilarious . . . because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry)