FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites, a round-up of great links on the web brought to you by The Contemplative Writer team — Prasanta Verma and myself.

This week, our posts begin with reflection and prayer, move to a consideration of our spiritual habits as we navigate the world of social media, and end with some writing tips. It’s been a while since we featured some really practical posts on writing, and we wanted to be sure to do that this time around. Even in the midst of a pandemic, many of us still struggle to find the time and the resources to get good writing done.

We hope you enjoy this week’s posts. Be blessed.

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Praying for 100,000 via Summer Kinard (“It would take years to sing enough for one hundred thousand people”)

An Examen of the Senses via Carl McColman (a beautiful exercise based on Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer practice)

Lamentation Over Individualism via Rohadi Nagassar (lamenting, waiting, hoping, and praying together)

What Am I Actually Looking for on Social Media? via Ed Cyzewski (forming good habits and finding freedom from the relentless draw of social media)

Improve Your Writing by Getting Back to the Basics via Ann Kroeker (building the four fundamental elements of any project into your process)

Ten Questions to Ask To Find Extra Time To Write via Katharine Grubb (a super-practical list of questions to help yourself dig out some extra time to write)

 

 

A Pandemic of Noise: By Prasanta Verma

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure,” writes Henri Nouwen.

In silence, in the desert places, words develop a skeleton, flesh, and bone. Wandering in the wilderness, words develop greater fullness and depth. Faith grows a stronger backbone and a fresh set of wings. Our spirits flourish with greater sensitivity and nuances of understanding. A cacophony of endless words is meaningless; meaning grows out of the silence from listening in quiet, lonely, spaces.

By quiet, lonely spaces I am not necessarily referring to physical spaces, but those thin and empty places in our lives marked by loss, grief, pain, and suffering. Were it not for the silence of those places, I may not have learned or appreciated the full meaning of those words and the full meaning of their opposites. Indeed, joy is much better understood when underscored by seasons of grief. Health is enjoyed more deeply after seasons of illness. The opposites, the pain that I (and maybe you) want to run far away from, is often the very circumstance that teaches me.

So few in our world are prone to listening, yet we truly learn in the silence of listening from each other. Is it any wonder we talk past each other in political discourse, then? We speak too much and listen less. This is no different in our daily lives, too. In my conversations with neighbors and acquaintances, fewer people ask questions of the other. We are too busy, unavailable, judgmental, or self-centered. No wonder we ebb and flow in a sea of longing and loneliness.

Nouwen writes,

It is not easy to enter into the silence and reach beyond the many boisterous and demanding voices of our world and to discover there the small intimate voice saying: ‘You are my Beloved Child, on you my favor rests.’

We are living in an era where the daily barrage of boisterous news and continuous flow of information is almost like an insult to our systems. We are bombarded, and I can’t help but wonder that we need silence all the more. Eden was not a noisy place, I surmise. I imagine serenity, beauty, and the sounds of water and wildlife. What voices were speaking there in Eden, but of God speaking to His creation and of His creation speaking back? Yet today, the more prevalent voice is creation speaking to itself, or rather, screaming in blaring voices, all the time, all around us, so there is no escape. Are we hearing the voice of the One who calls us Beloved, amidst all the other voices? 

We are living in a pandemic of noise, silence is the treatment, and Christ in heaven is the cure.

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

 

 

 

My Sunday With the Quakers: A Guest Post from Traci Rhoades

This week, I’m happy to feature a guest post from writer and blogger Traci Rhoades. Traci’s new book, Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost, just came out; it’s a memoir about going to church and mostly about finding common faith ground in the midst of our differences. Christian unity is such a worthwhile topic to explore right now!

Traci’s post features a subject we’ve discussed many times at The Contemplative Writer: silence. Some historical forms of prayer, such as centering prayer, involve sitting in silence with God. Below, Traci writes about how she came across an entire church service service that met her “deep hunger” for silence. I invite you to savor Traci’s words and maybe to think about where in your own life you’ve encountered God in moments of silence.

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Never in my entire evangelical existence has my church family sat in silence for sixty minutes. In fact, I recall only one time of silence during any worship service and that was because someone missed her cue. The staff heard about it on Monday morning.

That’s how the Quakers do it though, or so I’d been told. Months earlier, an online friend put me in touch with Jason, a “Friend” in the Quaker sense. He attended unprogrammed services (a time of silent waiting for the Spirit) on the campus of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. After a few messages back and forth Jason encouraged me to visit when I had an opportunity to do so. They meet on Sunday mornings so it would need to be a time when I didn’t have any obligations at my own church.

A snowy day last December showed itself to be the right time. Surprisingly, my daughter agreed to attend with me. We asked another friend of ours, who asked a friend of hers. The four of us met up on the Catholic college campus to attend the Quaker service.

At first we weren’t sure we were in the right place, until a man rode up on his bicycle and put the sign in the ground by the front steps. The Friends Meeting was in session. A nice man greeted us at the door and asked us to sign the guest book. He assured us they frequently have guests. We took our places in the roughly-formed circle of about twenty individuals, and promptly at 10am, silence fell upon us.

Rhoades blog post
What do you do for sixty minutes of silence? The Spirit didn’t prompt anyone to talk the entire time. I took my prayer rope out of my purse and prayed the Jesus Prayer. I offered up lots of intercessory prayer, for individuals God brought to mind and for each person seated around that circle. I sung a few hymns in my head. I wondered what other people were thinking about. A prominent thought kept popping into my head, you could never leave from here angry. Pacifism came to mind. Quakers are pacifists, correct? My daughter sat pretty still for the first fifteen minutes or so. After that, she fidgeted off and on. The few times I caved and made eye contact with her, she mouthed the words, “how much longer?”

We made it. After the service of silence, we went around the circle and gave our names. When it came time for my daughter to give her name, she gave a made up one. I asked her why and she said, “I wasn’t going to give a roomful of strangers my name.”

After going around the circle giving our first names, a man asked why we don’t divulge our full names. It occurred to me I knew this one. “If we’re a circle of friends, we’re on a first name basis.”

Afterward I talked with my contact, Jason, some more. He shared with me he’d grown up United Methodist. He missed the music offered in a more traditional worship service the most. I thought for the 3,017th time, why can’t a worship service offer it all?

Following this experience I read a couple books I had on my bookshelf, written by Quakers. One author is a Quaker pastor, certain branches of this church tradition do have clergy. In The Same, but Different, Phil Baisley explains that moments of silence are part of every Quaker gathering. “When Friends gather for worship, no matter whether a pastor is present, they are gathering with Christ to worship God in spirit and in truth.” Indeed, this extends to business meetings, classroom settings and basically every conversation a Friend has with another human being.

I enjoyed my first unprogrammed service and will attend again. The people were kind and encouraging, but I left feeling as if I hadn’t gone to Sunday church. Was that a programmed response or do I personally need more? It’s hard to say when you’ve only visited one Sunday.

In Brent Bill’s book Holy Silence, he paints a vivid picture of how God has spoken in moments of silence throughout his lifetime; on Sunday mornings, in his home, at weddings, when he leads moments of holy silence at ecumenical services in their vacation town. There’s more to corporate silence I need to explore. Bill writes, “The deep silence of the soul is our Eucharist.” Maybe that explains my deep hunger for silence. I am thirsty for a word from the Spirit. I love the idea of Him speaking corporately in communion of another kind. The Quakers are teaching me. We need each other. We really do.

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Happy Friday, friends! Prasanta Verma and I hope you enjoy this week’s round-up of favorite links. You’ll find reflections on life during the pandemic and some articles/resources about important spiritual practices – daily prayer, spiritual mentoring, and letter writing. Enjoy, and be blessed.

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Daily Prayers for Uncertain Times via Richella Parham (a prayer guide for you to download)

Breaking via Nichole Woo (when things break all over again)

Pandemic Journal: An Entry on Cutting Your Son’s Hair (and the Lilac Bush) via Laura Boggess (gifts during this pandemic season)

We Must Cure the Global Pandemic of Loneliness via Andrew Vanderput  (the pandemic helps us realize anew that we need our neighbors and they need us)

Help Wanted: Imperfect Mentors Only via Michelle Van Loon (wisdom about the practice of spiritual mentoring)

Letter Writing Isn’t a Lost Art in Egypt. It’s an Ancient Ministry via Phoebe Farag Mikhail and Bishoy Lamie Mikhai (letters re a physical connection in times of discouragement, loneliness, and grief)

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Friday Favorites is back after a break of several weeks. We hope you are keeping well and sane. This week, Prasanta Verma and I have some beautiful posts, podcasts, and videos for you. They include thoughts on navigating the pandemic in our spiritual and writing lives, suffering and the church, and the ancient spiritual practice of remembering our death. We hope these words bless you this week. Be well!

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Ask A Spiritual Director via Kimberly Pelletier and Samuel Ogles (Pandemic Series Part 2: How do I deal with people who think differently than me about this pandemic?)

Reading Hope in Trying Times with Barbara Brown Taylor via Writing for Your Life (thoughts on the pandemic, online experiences, and books)

Memento Mori: Memento Vivere via Raymond (Randy) Blacketer (remembering our death so that we can remember to live)

The Tender Way via Marlena Graves (God doesn’t cause our suffering, but uses it to change us)

Can the Church View Disabled Bodies as Jesus’ Body? via Amy Kenny (it’s time for the church to start treating people with disabilities as full members of the body of Christ)

Writing the Pandemic: Your Morning Walk with Sophfronia, May 1, 2020 via Sophfronia Scott (taking small steps in our writing lives during this time)

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we continue seeking hope and courage in the middle of a pandemic, Prasanta Verma and I bring you a round-up of posts and podcasts to help you on this journey. Enjoy liturgy, words of faith, writing encouragement, homeschooling tips, and more.

Blessings to you . . . and keep the faith.

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A Liturgy During a Pandemic via Porter C. Taylor (a meaningful liturgy for groups or individuals)

Giving Up via Taryn R. Hutchison (When Lent started, Taryn knew what she wanted to give up. What she actually gave up was something altogether different; something more. You gave it up, too.)

How to Fight an Unseen Enemy via Shelly Wildman (what do we need to remember about God in these times?)

Stand Against Anti-Asian Racism in The Time of COVID-19 via Tasha Jun (every human being is made in the Imago Dei and is worthy of being treated as such; an invitation to take a stand)

Civic Housekeeping + Dietrich Bonhoeffer with Laura Fabrycky via Ashley Hales (now more than ever, we need the lessons Fabrycky brings us from Bonhoeffer’s life)

Poet Laura: Keeping Your Distance with Emily Dickinson via Tania Runyan (finding depth even in distance)

The Myth of Perfect Writing Locations via Erica Wright (do writers really need a “room of their own?”)

Tips for Homeschooling in a Pandemic…and Beyond via Ingrid Lochamire (tips for those who are suddenly faced with homeschooling)

 

 

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)

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites, our round-up of great links from across the web.

This week, Prasanta Verma and I are bringing you posts that give us hope and resources for the difficult time we’re in — how to pray, how to talk to your kids, what to read, what to see, how to write. Read . . . and keep your faith burning bright.

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A Quarantine Litany via Phoebe Farag Mikhail (a beautiful prayer)

Pandemic via Lynn Ungar (a poem for this time)

Spiritual Rhythms for Quarantine via Justin Whitmel Earley (a host of practices, good habits, and resources to keep and restore the rhythms of life)

Talking to Your Kids about Coronavirus via Shelly Wildman (gentle advice for talking to your children about fear and God’s love)

Six Books to Get You Through a Coronavirus Shutdown via Karen Swallow Prior (what to read with your extra time)

Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch via Andrea Romano (travel vicariously and see some beauty while you’re stuck at home)

One Thing Writers Can Do in a Pandemic: Document the Days via Ann Kroeker (ways to witness with your words)

 

 

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

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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.