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)

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites, our weekly roundup of life-giving posts and podcasts. This week, Prasanta Verma and I bring you links on spiritual practices, Scripture, and being broken and remade by God. These are such good links for a disorienting time. Be blessed!

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To Bleed and Break via Sarah Rennicke (we’re able to love others because God first loved us)

What Breaks and Remakes Us via Tasha Jun (through every shock and transition, God is with us)

Prayer Walking a Labyrinth — With a Printable Guide via Tongua Williams (an ancient spiritual practice with a guide to help)

Four Practices For Staying Alive Until November 3 (and long after) via Steve Wiens (in this podcast episode, learn practices for engaging in respectful and peaceful disagreement)

The Best Way to Memorize Scripture Has Little to Do with Learning Words via K. J. Ramsey (how neuroscience can help us to be doers of the Word)

Lauren Winner and Marilyn McEntyre on Words, Empathy & Disorientation via Jen Pollock Michel (listen to two prolific writers discuss the role of words and reading during this time)

False Self and Creativity: A Guest Post by Ed Cyzewski

I’m pleased to have Ed Cyzewski back at The Contemplative Writer with a guest post this week! Ed is an author and a contemplative who writes with great wisdom on topics such as prayer and the quieting of our soul. Today, this wisdom comes in the form of a post based on his recent book, Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration From Digital Distraction. Reconnect helps us learn to be present to God rather than to the constant call of technology. If you struggle with distraction or the need for validation, both of which can result from social media use, I really recommend Ed’s book.

Below, Ed talks about the effects of social media not only on our souls but also on our creativity.

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Leah is highly accomplished programmer who has worked on some of the most important features on one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world. Leah also pays someone to manage her social media accounts, especially her Facebook pages.

Why would prompt someone with her credentials to take such a drastic step? Is she naïve to the many benefits of social media? Is she a workaholic who can’t make time for social connections on line?

Actually, Leah is protecting herself from a social media feedback loop that is addicting and destructive. She knows that because she helped create it.

This “Leah” is Leah Pearlman, the co-creator of the red notification button on Facebook.  She had to hire someone to manage her accounts because the red notification button was too appealing and became linked to her self-esteem and daily moods (as of this writing the notifications are a red bubble on top of a bell on the Facebook home page). She went on to say:

When I need validation – I go to check Facebook… I’m feeling lonely, ‘Let me check my phone.’ I’m feeling insecure, ‘Let me check my phone.’… I noticed that I would post something that I used to post and the ‘like’ count would be way lower than it used to be.

Leah even used the word “addicted” in assessing herself: “Suddenly, I thought I’m actually also kind of addicted to the feedback.”[i] 

Even for those generally unworried about the response of peers, social media still prompts us to curate our identity, selecting the “best” parts of ourselves to share with others. This sets a perfect trap of sorts in terms of spirituality, as we have more than enough opportunities to present or live under the influence of a fabricated false self already.

This can be devastating both for our souls and for creativity:

Do we find our affirmation in the integrity of what we create or in the chance reactions of distracted people, many who barely know us, on social media?

Do we find our worth in the chance feedback of social media or in the loving presence of God that doesn’t rely on careful programming, alluring designs, and enhanced algorithms?

When I speak of a false self, I mean that kind of mask or identity we imagine for ourselves. Henrì Nouwen wrote in The Way of the Heart about the pressure in ministry to be relevant and competent, rather than embracing the brokenness we find in silence and solitude.[ii] Whether we try to project ourselves as successful, organized, creative, wise, or smart, the false self steals the security and affirmation we could receive from God. Instead, we face the pressure to maintain and even protect the false self rather than discovering who we are in God.

Social media provides an opportunity to make the false self more concrete—at least in the sense that it becomes something you and others can see. It literally can become an avatar that is projected, and as we become entangled with our online personas and false selves, it may become quite difficult to discern who we are in the security of God’s love.

As more likes and followers amass in approval of the false self, we may fear the loss of this steady stream of affirmation and may do what we can to ensure that it continues to grow. That isn’t to say that every social media user is at the mercy of a false self. Rather, social media offers a perfect opportunity to “incarnate” the false self and to build relationships around it.

Are we truly seeing people as they are? Or are we only seeing a projected image that is meant to appeal to us? As algorithms help us find people who are most like ourselves and as social media results in people migrating toward divided echo chambers, we are at risk of losing touch with the complexity of each other while also reducing people to simplistic labels based on what they reveal online about themselves, such as their religious or political preferences. 

While there are opportunities for connection, community, and encouragement via social media notifications, those notifications can also serve as a source of insecurity that drives us back to social media for another hit of affirmation. This ready-made, daily affirmation from friends, family, and even complete strangers can make it difficult, if not impossible, to give up a social media affirmation hub like Instagram or Twitter—although services like Facebook, YouTube, and SnapChat offer many similar quandaries for users seeking affirmation. You could get “amazing feedback” at any moment if you keep checking, keep posting, and then keep checking. This feedback loop runs counter to the vision for content offered by Thomas Merton:

In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.[iii]

The feedback on social media is quite immediate, especially if you compare it to the older publishing processes, such as a magazine article. We immediately know if our ideas, images, videos, or favorite articles resonate with our family, friends, and colleagues. The elation of that feedback can become addicting.

At the same time, we can also enjoy reading updates, viewing videos, and browsing photos from our friends, which go on in an endless supply. We have no end of sources for comparison and envy. The more we fill our days with the parade of images and videos on social media, the less likely we are to turn to God for our affirmation, identity, and security.

This post has been adapted from Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction by Ed Cyzewski (Herald Press, 2020).

Learn more here and get a free study guide.


[i] Hilary Andersson, “Social media apps are ‘deliberately’ addictive to users,” BBC, July 4, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44640959.

[ii] Henrì Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence, 19-21.

[iii] Merton, No Man Is an Island, 127.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

One of the greatest joys of being a writer and, well, a person, is that of being in community. It’s always a joy to discover the words of fellow writers and then to bring them to you. This week, Prasanta Verma and I are sharing a collection of links that we hope will inspire you. So much beauty! Be encouraged, and be blessed.

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Day Begins via Linda Hoye (after dark comes dawn)

My Prayer Mat via Kevin Driedger (channeling Brother Lawrence in the kitchen)

My Cross I’ll Carry via Aarik Danielsen (when you pick up a cross to justify yourself, that cross gives up its meaning)

When You’re Stuck–A Reflection on Exodus 14:19-31 via April Fiet (when we get stuck, we want to turn around and go back–but is “back” where we’re meant to go?)

Days of Awe: A Gentile Discovers Jewish Poetry via Melanie Weldon-Soiset (the poetic history and possibilities of the Days of Awe)

You Do Have Agency: Your Morning Walk with Sophfronia via Sophfronia Scott (as creatives and as people, we can do much more than we think)

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to the first of this fall’s Friday Favorites!

Each week, Prasanta Verma and I bring you a collection of posts, articles, and podcasts. They include poetry, personal essays, spiritual formation, and articles on the craft of writing. We hope they’ll give you nourishment for these times.

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Rest Is Resistance to a Do-It-All Culture via Grace P. Cho (we rest because we have limits and because we can trust God with all that needs to get done)

Intended for Joy via Emily Polis Gibson (“if all this is made for joy, then maybe so am I…”)

Marlena Graves: The Dangers of Money, Power, and Influence via Julia Walsh (on the Messy Jesus Business podcast, Marlena Graves discusses the message of her recent book)

Mary Oliver: Listening to the World via On Being (Krista Tippett talks with Oliver about replenishment, words, poetry, and the natural world)

Some Trees, Too via Andy Eaton (a poem)

Imagination, Creativity and Spirituality (They Go Together Well) via Carl McColman (cultivating the sacred imagination)

Validate Your Idea to Produce Your Best Project via Ann Kroeker (valuable writing advice for the beginning of your project)

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/.