By the Garden Gate: A Journey with Robert Campin

My book on pilgrimage releases next week! And because I have pilgrimage on the brain, I wanted to share an article I wrote a few years ago for Epikeia Magazine. The article shows how pilgrimage can become an intensely personal journey to the heart of our faith. I hope it opens the gate to a journey of your own.

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A few years ago, in New York for a conference, I made a pilgrimage to The Cloisters museum and gardens. I use the term “pilgrimage” advisedly. Like a medieval traveler going to a shrine, I went to see a sacred object—the painting known as the Merode Altarpiece by Flemish artist Robert Campin. From Midtown, the Cloisters was enough out of the way to make the journey a little difficult, the gratification a bit delayed. The museum’s medieval setting enhanced my sense of sacred purpose.

Once at the Cloisters, I discovered that Campin’s painting has its own gallery, called the Merode Room. I made straight for it. At the time of my visit, the altarpiece hung above a medieval bench opposite the gallery entrance. By some miracle, the room was empty. The painting beckoned me forward, and I walked toward it as to an altar…

Please head over to Epikeia to continue reading!

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we come to the end of another eventful week in an already eventful year, enjoy these posts that bring us poetry, the timelessness and constancy of God, and the pursuit of God’s voice.

Be well and be blessed,

Lisa and Prasanta

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In This Place (An American Lyric) via Amanda Gorman (discover more poetry by the National Youth Poet Laureate who read at the inauguration)

“The Cup” / “Maundy” via Matthew J. Andrews (two poems that look ahead to Holy Week)

The End Which is Really the Beginning via David Russell Mosley (the planets, stars, time, and God’s time)

A Regime of Small Kindnesses via Jen Pollock Michel (on how we imitate the constancy of God’s care)

The Wonder of Truth: Caring for Words as an Act of Discipleship via Charity Singleton Craig (how do we, as Christians, commit ourselves to the pursuit of truth?)

Listening For God In The “Unquiet City” via April Fiet (learning to listen to and discern God’s voice)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Happy Friday, everyone! For Friday Favorites, we have a collection of Advent posts for you to savor as we wait the last, long week before the Christmas feast. We wish you a joyous season and all of God’s blessings.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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A Global Advent Calendar via#AdventWord (join an international community in prayer to explore the mystery and wonder of Advent)

Wait of Glory via Nichole Woo (an Advent prayer based on Luke 3:25-38)

God Struck a Match via Maggie Wallem Rowe (what happened 2000 years ago was revolutionary–incendiary, even)

Advent and the Burning Bush via Phoebe Farag Mikhail (a Coptic Orthodox Advent tradition and the mingling of cultures)

Advent and the Trees via Rob Ebbens (a poem and reflection on the weight of waiting)

Mary, Martha, and My Holiday Kitchen via Carlene Hill Byron (kitchens, baking, and doing what matters)

When God’s Work Feels Too Small & Slow via Emotionally Healthy Leader Podcast (Advent doesn’t feel very hopeful or expectant this pandemic year…)


Inner Pilgrimage in a Time of Pandemic

This week I wanted to share with you a guest post I wrote for Abbey of the Arts. In it, I reflect on inner pilgrimage during a time of pandemic, especially during Advent and Christmas. I hope you enjoy!

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Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all become a little monkish, whether we want to or not. I’ll admit that the recent months of isolation haven’t always felt very sacred to me. As I continue to restrict my movements out of extra caution, I’ve deeply missed the ordinary activities of daily life, such as gathering with friends and writing in coffee shops. And I mourn the loss of larger opportunities. For example, a friend invited me to join a pilgrimage . . . just before the pandemic began.

Wrestling with the “new normal” of pandemic life, I’ve found it worthwhile to read the Christian mystics, many of whom did not travel because they were enclosed monks, nuns, or anchorites. Perhaps because they accepted a life of voluntary restriction, they understood that journeys do not always involve footsteps. These mystics are good companions as we sit on our sofas and dream of roads not taken. . . .

Please head on over to the Abbey of the Arts to read the rest of this post!


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Click the links below to explore poetry, Advent resources, and gratitude as we continue our journey through the season.

May God bring light into your darkness.

Lisa and Prasanta

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Turning Darkness into Light: A Soft Shroud’s Folding via Emily Polis Gibson (Rowan Williams and the beauty of Advent)

Untitled via Trischa Goodwin (a poem)

The Advent Project via Biola University (a daily devotional series celebrating the Advent season through art and Scripture)

Advent Calendar via Visual Commentary on Scripture (discover an artwork each day during the Advent season)

12 Tiny Things to Grow Gratitude in Your Home via Ellie Roscher (small practices to grow gratitude)

10 Best Books to Buy a Writer for Christmas via K. M. Weiland (writing-craft books for the scribbler on your list–or for you)


Learning to Pray in the Dark: A Post via Prasanta Verma

I’m going to be honest with you.

I’m quite new to liturgical readings and practices. I didn’t grow up in a tradition (hello Baptist Deep South!) that followed a liturgical calendar. The word “Advent” was not part of my Christmas vocabulary, and if you had used the word “Compline”, I might have thought you were awkwardly trying to pay me a compliment. I am learning about liturgical practices only now, as an adult.

I am also new to the Book of Common Prayer. I could not pass a quiz about it, and I hardly know what to do with it. But I am delving in, as well as reading a book called Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren, to be released in January 2021.* I was drawn to the book’s description and hooked by this question: “How can we trust God in the dark?” I knew I wanted to read more, and as it turns out, the book is framed around a nighttime prayer of Compline.

I have read others’ testimonies of how the prayers of the saints gave them the language of prayer when they needed it in their own lives. Perhaps that is another reason I was drawn to this book. What I have been lacking in my own faith life just might be the voices and steady faith and prayers of past believers who clung tightly to these words and practices.

I used to reason that I would not like the repetition of such prayers, and thought I would find it dull and devoid of the spirit and life. Those were thoughts, however, I had when I was much younger, before I had any inkling I would be fumbling through my own paths of darkness and wilderness and not able to pray. For those who grew up in a liturgical tradition, the prayers may have helped you find the way when it could not be found. Perhaps it was a respite to draw upon the familiarity of the offices, and give you the words you needed.

For someone like me, who does not have the background and experience of these prayers, and though the comfort of familiarity does not exist, perhaps it is a means by which I may learn to pray again. These prayers offered by others give me a hope of authenticity that a Person is there, listening, behind my present veil of darkness. Nothing is familiar in the dark; a familiar landscape can look like an alien planet at midnight. We can’t see who is there and who isn’t, only shapes and shadows and mysteries, so I find myself siphoning strength from a congregation of believers who came before me as I stumble along.

“When we’re drowning we need a lifeline, and our lifeline in grief cannot be mere optimism…We need practices that don’t simply palliate our fears or pain, but that teach us to walk with God in the crucible of our own fragility,” Warren writes. These words resonate with me. Maybe this is what I have been missing. Not that having such practices or tradition would prevent any dark nights of the soul—no, not at all—but that now it may help bring me back, lighting my footpath in the dark. Like Advent candles lit week by week, maybe this is the path of light pointing toward hope during this walk in the wilderness.

*I paid for and pre-ordered the book, requested to join the launch team, and was provided with an advance digital copy to read. This post is not being solicited by the launch team or book publishers, and I am writing my own thoughts and opinions out of my own personal experience.


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/.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! The links Prasanta Verma and I found this week help us explore our deepest self in relationship to God. What has God given us and who has God created us to be? We hope you enjoy digging into these. Remember, always, that you are the beloved of God.

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As a Child: God’s Call to Littleness via Phil Steer (a new podcast that unpacks what it means to “become like little children”)

We Have Today via Arlisia Potter (living in and thanking God for this day)

Cindy Bunch on Self-Kindness as Spiritual Practice via Casey Tygrett (being kind to ourselves as a way forward to loving others)

Through a Looking Glass Darkly: How (and how not) to be certain of yourself via Jessica Hooten Wilson (we are pilgrims and wayfarers who need one another as we find our way home)

Evensong via Peggy R. Ellsberg (a poem)

Boils & Possums & Kierkegaard, Oh My! via J. Lind (on creativity, writing, redemption, and and the difficult task of faith)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? Prasanta Verma and I hope you will find some peace and solace in these posts. Prayer, poetry, and positivity — it’s all here. 😉

Be well and be blessed.

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Prayer for the Christian Political Other via Gena Thomas (a good prayer for election week)

A Lesson in Meandering via Jeff Grills (enjoy this poem on the serpentine path of life)

Self-Care in Grief and Hard Times via Lisa Appelo (ideas for biblical self-care, which is always rooted in God)

Unmasked via Nichole Woo (what do our metaphorical masks hide?)

The Pastoral is Political: Poetry as Cure for Being Gaslit via Melanie Weldon-Soiset (reading and writing poetry can be healing acts)

30 Positive Words for November via Roz Andrews (one positive word to contemplate for each day this month)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This week, Prasanta Verma and I were struck by the number of posts and podcasts that wisely and gently help us through difficult times. And, dear friends, you may have noticed that the times are difficult. We urge you to keep your hope and faith alive. The words below may help — soak up these writers on finding God and tranquility in disruption and sorrow.

Be well and be blessed.

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A Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow via The Rabbit Room (a liturgy that feels particularly appropriate for this time)

Open or Closed: Welcoming an Expansive View of God via Gem Fadling (an Unhurried Living podcast episode that walks us through a practice to cultivate a greater vision of God during overwhelming times)

Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life with Shelly Miller via Sally Clarkson (how difficult times can become purposeful times of spiritual growth)

Poems for All Saints Day via C. Christopher Smith (from the Englewood Review of Books archives, some poems by and about the saints)

Bookish, Tranquil, and Wise via Joy Clarkson (in this podcast episode, Alan Jacobs discusses how to recover our tranquility by reading old books)

Hilary Mantel on How Writers Learn to Trust Themselves via Literary Hub (Mantel talks about routines, early readers, and trusting your writerly self)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

It’s Friday again . . . and that means it’s time for Friday Favorites! It’s such a joy to find and share these links each week. Good and true words bring hope into the world. This week, Prasanta Verma and I have rounded up an amazing collection of words that will help you pray, ponder, and read. Enjoy, and be blessed.

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Ode to Autumn via Brian Draper (a guided autumn walking retreat)

How the medieval practice of stargazing can change your prayer life via David Russell Mosley (look to the stars and remember that the heavens are telling the glory of God)

What does healing look like within faith communities? via Kimberly Pelletier and Samuel Ogles (an Ask a Spiritual Director podcast episode)

We Are All Related via Nathan Beacom (Black Elk’s spiritual vision for peace)

Reading Emily Dickinson with Job via Laura Cerbus (the resistance and obedience of Dickinson and Job)

Books for pandemic reading via The Christian Century (nine writers tell us about books that reframe what it means to be a person of faith)