FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! This is our final roundup before we go on summer break here at The Contemplative Writer. Enjoy these rich offerings from a host of talented writers, and accept our blessings for a fruitful summer.

Lisa and Prasanta

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‘I Wake With Wonder’: A Crowdsourced Poem Of Pandemic Pain And Hope via NPR (a community poem about the challenges of the past year and hope for times ahead)

A Litany for the Planet via Louise Connor (a prayer for all our neighbors)

The Prodigal Son: Visio Divina 2021 via Karen Hice Guzmán (a visio divina exercise from The Well )

Kintsugi and the Divine Potter via Gretchen Crowder (the Divine Potter and the art of repairing broken pottery)

How to Lose a Sense of Wonder via Debra Elramey (when were you last awestruck or seized by wonder?)

The Problem with Urgency and the Power of Letting Go via Sarah Westfall (the more we untangle ourselves from what feels urgent, the more we find peace where we are)

Attending to the Word: Reading as Spiritual Practice via Gregory Wolfe (a series of reflections on the gift and practice of reading)

Revamping the Raven–And Other Writing Mischief via L. L. Barkat (on crafting a well-rounded writing approach)


Perspective and Winged Seeds: by Prasanta Verma

Recently I moved my home office from a little, dark corner to my daughter’s former room, which functions now as a guest room. I transported my desk, added a small bookcase (already full!), and some odds and ends. The lighting is better, the room is brighter—and I have a view of my backyard now. Soon the backyard flower patch will be blooming and full of perennials and annuals. I have a direct view of the hummingbird feeder and the orange slices I placed for the orioles.

The new perspective and change of venue brought a fresh vigor into my writing and reading, like a like running spring of inspiration. What a difference this small change made to my mood and motivation. A room of my own, in a sense.

This summer is one of change. My father retired and my parents are moving closer to one of my siblings, and will sell their home, my childhood home. The level of grief I’m experiencing at losing my childhood home is taking me by surprise. I knew this sort of change would happen someday, but now it’s here, and I’m struck by the strangeness of losing this connection to my hometown. I simultaneously want this to happen (as I know it should) and I don’t want it to happen.

And of course, this is a significant change for my parents. In their senior years, they will be moving to another city a couple of hours away. The same house I grew up in—they also lived in. My mother said to me that leaving this house she’d lived in for 45 years feels the same as when she left India in her 20s. This move carries the weight of a major transition. And it is. We all feel the upheaval.

It’s both a heartbreak and a necessity to move on to another stage of life. It’s both exciting and frightening. We’re ushered on, ready or not.

My youngest is graduating in a few weeks, and in a few months, all of my kids will be enrolled in higher institutions. Very soon, I’ll be facing vacant rooms, silent hallways, and more solitude than I’m ready for.

When my kids were young, I couldn’t wait for solitude. Often I felt I was drowning taking care of the needs of young children, with no family nearby. That’s when I became a night owl, as I’d stay up late and write, and burn the candle at both ends. It was journal writing—which was all I could eke out of my tired mind and body—but it was soil. It was a beginning. Persistence stirred the soil, keeping it fertile, and those words written in the dark became little seeds.

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.” – Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation

Funny how life works. Now that I’ll soon have more solitude than I’ll probably need or want—I’ll want the hum and bustle of my kids back in the house. I’ll walk through a season of transition with its accompanying grief, and find new rhythms of living. I’m not ready for the anticipated emptiness and loneliness that I know awaits in the days ahead. But I know it is all a part of life, and it is good, and my kids are following their own destinies and doing what they are supposed to do.p

Are we ever truly ready for any stage? I hardly spent time around children before having my own. The first diaper I had changed was my firstborn’s! Like many other parents, I learned as I stumbled along.

The same is true for what lies ahead. This next stage of life is the next sequence in the usual turn and circle of life, but this next turn in the cycle is a new phase for me. I’ll walk through this next part of the journey the same as I have done with all new stages. With all of the mixed emotions. With all of the uncertainty. With excitement and hopefulness. With both gratitude and sadness.

“In order to become myself I must case to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live, I must die.” – Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation

Moving forward, I know that winged seeds are being planted in today’s soil. As I enter this next stage, I’ll eventually see evidence of sprouting seeds. I’ll witness what must die and what will unleash. In the months and years ahead, I’ll see what I had to leave of myself to find. I’ll gaze from new windows, and find fresh perspective.

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

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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 @prasantaverma, and at her website: https://prasantaverma.com.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope this week’s roundup, featuring some excellent writers and thinkers, will be thought-provoking and inspiring.

Enjoy, and be blessed.

Lisa and Prasanta

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Spirituality With A Dog In Your Lap via Casey Tygrett (the great mistake is to idealize the spiritual life)

AJB Recommends: Spiritual Practices for Personal and Social Healing via Amy Julia Becker (some resources for finding healing in mind, body, spirit, and community)

The Problem(s) of Susan via Matt Mikalatos (what to make of Susan’s fate in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle)

A Black Woman at War: Battling for God and a nation’s people via Natasha Sistrunk Robinson (the lie of white supremacy that’s killing us all)

What We’ve Lost in Rejecting the Sabbath via Sohrab Ahmari (in an age of constant activity, we need the Sabbath more than ever)

The Stories Between Us: Karen Swallow Prior Talks Frankenstein and Twitter via Shawn Smucker and Maile Silva (in this podcast episode, Prior talks about intentionality, writing, and social media)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope this week’s roundup will give you an opportunity to reflect on God’s goodness and our life of faith.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Makoto Fujimura Sings with God, Carries His Cross, and Awaits the New Creation via Joel Clarkson (the renowned Christian artist’s insights on faith and creativity)

Catherine of Siena to Her Confessor via Jane Greer (a poem based on the life and letters of Catherine of Siena)

As the world reopens post-pandemic, how will we find our way in it? via Stephanie Paulsell (finding a guide in St. Theresa of Avila)

Plum Harvest via Laura Cerbus (what does it mean to receive a gift we haven’t chosen?)

The Year of Madeleine via Haley Stewart (motherhood and writing as acts of co-creation)

The Unmaking of Our Biblical Womanhood via Michelle Van Loon (“what if we finally stood together, united by our belief in Jesus instead of divided by arguments over power and authority?”)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope you enjoy this round-up of posts that will help you pray, praise, flourish, and write.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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A Simple Prayer Marking One Year of Pandemic Life, for All Ages via Traci Smith (a unison and responsive prayer)

Praise on Pi Day via Lisa Rosenberg (a poem)

How Prayer Can Prepare Us For Death via Kara Bettis (an interview with Douglas McKelvey, author of the Every Moment Holy liturgies)

Flourishing Together: When Racism Affects Us All via Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (“Let’s walk together and treat each person like an image bearer of God to be treasured”)

How 2020 Disruptions Have Led to Relational Innovations via Dorothy Littell Greco (how some people are creating something new during the pandemic)

Prompts To Get You Writing via April Yamasaki (some questions and reflection prompts to get your creativity flowing)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope the posts collected here will enrich your Lenten journey and inspire you in your writing/creative life!

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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The Power of the Cross via Classically Christian (a meditation on 1 Cor. 1:18-19 and some wonderful quotes from women mystics on the cross of Christ)

Juan de Yepes via Roger Butts (a short poem about St. John of the Cross, when he was released from jail)

I want to talk to Thomas Merton about race via Sophfronia Scott (“I don’t want to be a rigid flame of indignation. I don’t want my life weighed down by anger, hopelessness, and resentment.”)

Intention can turn any lockdown walk into pilgrimage, urges British Pilgrimage Trust via Emily McFarlan Miller (ideas for taking a micro-pilgrimage or a spiritual pilgrimage during lockdown)

A Tale of a Fox and a Novel: On Taking the Leap and Submitting Your Writing via Nicole Bianchi (“Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.”)

Blogging Versus Email Newsletters: Which Is Better for Writers? via Jane Friedman (the pros and cons of each approach and how to figure out which might be better for you)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! In this 3rd week of Lent, we hope the following posts will be a blessing and an encouragement to you on your journey.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Lent, Week 3: An Image & A Liturgy via The Rabbit Room (a weekly series exploring themes of suffering and loss through music, story, and art)

History as a Lenten Discipline via Chris Gehrz (each moment in history is one more fiber of wood composing the Cross)

The Wondrous Mystery via Bruce Lawrie (the beauty whispering to me from wild places had been Jesus all along)

Charles Spurgeon Knew It Was Possible to Be Faithful and Depressed via Diana Gruver (his example can encourage believers who “walk in darkness”)

Ten Church Fathers to Start Off With via Ed Creedy (expand your reading — an introduction to writers of the Early Church)

Writing Advice I Took to Heart via Lori Hatcher (encouragement for writers everywhere)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We’re happy to bring you these links by some wonderful writers and thinkers and hope they’ll add beauty and encouragement to your day.

Love and blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Tripping Over Joy” via Daniel Ladinsky (a poem)

Considering the Trees on Ash Wednesday via Isaac S. Villegas (an essay to help us prepare for Ash Wednesday)

The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere via Fred Bahnson (is this what’s missing from contemporary American Christianity?)

Art + Faith: A Theology of Making, with Makoto Fujimura via The Trinity Forum (a conversation on the theology of the act of creating)

Calvin: Refugee and Pilgrim via Randy Blacketer (learn about the theology of pilgrimage via the life and writings of John Calvin)

7 Letters from Famous Authors Sharing Fantastic Writing Advice via Nicole Bianchi (find inspiration from these authors)


The 7 Habits of Highly Inefficient Writers

I’m always hooked by articles about becoming a more efficient writer. Most of them don’t disappoint: they’re full of good practical tips – for example, stay focused, avoid negative self-talk, find your best time of day to work, and so on.

The other day, while thinking about this issue, I looked up the word “efficient” and read the following definition: maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort. I have to say that it made me shudder. It made me think I don’t want to be an efficient writer after all.

The fact is, I am not productive to the max in the sense of being prolific. I’m not able to churn out books and articles one after the other, no matter how often I write at my best time of day. It takes time for my ideas to steep, like tea leaves having a long soak to produce the richest flavor. Sometimes, I put a piece of writing aside for a while. I daydream a lot. I rest.

Here’s a confession: I just released a book, and I don’t have a new book proposal ready to go out. I don’t even have one in the works. I feel like I should, but I just don’t. I need a little time to lie fallow.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

But in the end, I’m not too bothered by this because I believe that steeping and daydreaming and waiting are key parts of the writing process. I’m going to go a step further and say that I’m being productive when I engage in these activities. Simply put, they help me produce. My writing will not go where I want it to go without them.

A few years ago, author Leslie Leyland Fields wrote a post entitled “The Slow-Writing Revolt.” Her words resonate with my thoughts about efficiency (or the lack thereof). She encourages writers to “slow down. M a r i n a t e. Wait. Sometimes even—stop. Sometimes even—say No.” Leyland Fields calls it “marinating” while I call it “steeping,” but the idea is the same. It takes time for the good stuff to come.

I recently talked with Jonathan Rogers of The Habit podcast, and during our conversation he said something very interesting: Being too efficient can stifle creativity. Going straight for that one source you’ve pinpointed for your project means that you may miss other sources and ideas along the way. One of the best ways to aid new discoveries is wandering the stacks in a library. I did this many times during my graduate studies at the University of Chicago. On my way to a particular book, I took the time to let my eye wander over nearby book titles and discovered valuable information I wouldn’t have found any other way. It was time consuming but completely worth it.

Fellow writers, be encouraged that inefficiency is a virtue. Steeping and daydreaming and resting are legitimate parts of the writing process. Even if words aren’t flowing from the pen (or marching across the computer screen), things are likely happening behind the scenes, in your heart and mind.

A couple caveats:

  • Please note that I’m distinguishing steeping from procrastination. They are very different things. Don’t procrastinate—even though I do it all the time.
  • I understand that the need for a paycheck may complicate my arguments. Sometimes a writer may have to be efficient to put bread on the table. But I still think all writers should take time to daydream and wander through their mind palaces.

I summarized my points in this list – The 7 Habits of Highly Inefficient Writers

  1. Steep (your ideas) – let them develop a rich flavor
  2. Wait – it’s ok to put your project aside for a better time
  3. Daydream – get lost in your mind palace and dream up new ideas for your writing
  4. Rest – fill the well by taking time off when you need it
  5. Wander (the library stacks) – see what you discover by exploring with no particular goal in mind
  6. Say no – feel free to decline a writing project if it’s not the right one or the right time
  7. Live life – writing is intertwined with life, so don’t hesitate to enjoy your friends and loved ones, laugh, and be fully engaged in all the pleasures and responsibilities of daily life

Write on — inefficiently. Creatively. And well.


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

It’s time for Friday Favorites! Find prayer, hope, healing — and encouragement to keep writing and creating no matter your circumstances — in this week’s collection of posts and podcasts.

Wishing you all God’s blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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A Litany of Healing for a Time of COVID via Christine Sine (a prayer for healing during this time of suffering)

My Porch Is My Pilgrimage via James Laurence (a poem for shelter-in-place pilgrims)

Whatever Tomb You’re In via Tammy Perlmutter (although all may seem lost, your rescue is already in play)

Making Christians Great Again via Leslie Leyland Fields (“This leader is like no other. He bent like a slave to wash His people’s feet. He chose our lashes instead of His power…”)

Susanna Clarke on Piranesi, Illness, and Faith via Church Times (in this podcast episode, listen to Clarke talk about her novels and her struggles towards faith)

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Relying on Perfect Conditions to Write via Cassandra Lipp (how to write when your circumstances change, you’re too busy, and so on and so on…)