RHW Podcast Episode 9

Surrender

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Nine of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. This week we are talking about: Surrender.

When we hear the word surrender we may visualize a criminal holding up his hands to a police officer. Or maybe we imagine a soldier waving a white flag in surrender to the opposing army. Our lives aren’t quite that dramatic but the concept of surrendering to a Force greater than we are is still valid.

We really aren’t strangers to surrendering. There are many forces driving our lives that we have surrendered ourselves to. We have all surrendered to things, people and forces in our lives. Be it long work hours to pay for our over-extended finances; various bad habits: food, drinking, smoking, shopping, gambling; unhealthy relationships; laziness, binging on the media and Internet sites… this list could go on and on.

But when it comes to turning the tables on surrender, replacing the bad influences with The Best and Highest Force: God—we are uncomfortable, uncertain, and even fearful. There are times I can get to a place of surrender then in a few days I find myself carrying the load yet again.

Not only is surrender vital to a successful recovery from addiction, it’s important in our walk with God. Until we take life out of our hands and allow God to be the Master in charge, the path we walk is crooked.

A ship can’t be steered simultaneously by two captains going in two different directions. While I’m trying to type on this computer, someone else can’t come along and try to type with me. These objects: the computer or the ship can only be used or directed by one. They each must be surrendered to one user.

All of God’s creations, the sun, moon and stars; the plants, trees and animals are absolutely surrendered to the mighty hand of God. We, like they, have our place in His universe.

Surrendering is scary. But what we must remember is that we aren’t going into this alone. God is with us. God isn’t going to ask us to do anything He doesn’t equip us for.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. ~ Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

This verse tells us that God not only will give us the desire to surrender, but He will give us the power to do it. Everyday, over and over again; as long as we make ourselves available and willing vessels in His hands, the Holy Spirit living in us will do the work of surrender for us.

Remember what I said before about surrendering one day and then picking back up the load another day. Well, we can’t get hung up on that. We have to believe that what God has started in us, He will finish. The key is that we stay close to the Holy Spirit, guarding our input and influences so that we can be moldable vessels in God’s hands. God will honor our efforts when we humble ourselves before Him.

This is where the contemplative practices of centering prayer and visualization can help us. Do you recall that game we played as kids where one of your friends would stand behind your back and you closed your eyes and would fall back into their arms? That was real surrender!

Take a few minutes to sit with God. Pick a sacred word or Scripture to help center your heart. To calm my heart and mind, I like to sit quietly and repeatedly whisper Psalm 46:10 (Be still and know that I am God.) or the word peace.

After you find your sacred word or verse, think about that feeling you had falling back into a friend’s arms when you were a kid. Now begin to visualize your life completely surrendered to God. Next visualize your body completely surrendered to God… then your heart completely surrendered to God … your mind completely surrendered to God … your soul completely surrendered to God. Slowly, take your time with each area.

Surrender. Let go. Fall back. Trust Him. God won’t drop you.

 

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles.

I hope you will check out ReachingHurtingWomen.com this week as we continue to discuss our theme topic of Surrender.

Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

RHW Podcast Episode 8

Waiting

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Eight of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices. Each Monday we are discussing our theme of the week.

Today our theme topic is: Waiting 

Waiting is difficult and annoying for anyone. We each have to wait for something almost every day. But with today’s technology we are doing our best to decrease the amount of waiting we have to do. We can place our table reservations for dinner on our phone app instead of waiting in line. We can order clothes online instead of fighting the crowded mall next weekend. We can even order our groceries to be delivered to our front door. While we can shave time off our busy days in some areas, there are other things that we can’t take shortcuts on.

No matter how fancy modern technology gets it will still take nine months for a baby to be born. It still takes 18 years before most children leave home. And God has His own timing for the various seasons of our life and the lessons that must be learned in them. Our challenge is to keep the right heart attitude in the midst of the waiting.

When I was pregnant and expecting any of my three children to be born, I didn’t just sit around and wait for them to be born. I was actively preparing for their arrival. Now granted, everyday wasn’t a planning day, but most of those 280 days were used for learning, planning and preparing for the expected bundle of joy to arrive. I spent hours reading parenting books, books of baby names, choosing and purchasing furniture, decorating the room, taking birthing classes and so on. While the baby was growing and developing in the womb, my husband and I were growing, developing and preparing to be new parents. The waiting time was active.

When we invite guests to our home for a dinner party we don’t wait to prepare everything the minute the guests arrive. We must make our plans and preparations in advance. We choose our menu, purchase the food, clean the house, and then cook the dinner. While waiting for the anticipated day we are still being active.

Waiting on God to answer our prayers can be an active time, too.

Are you waiting for God to send you a spouse? Maybe you can spend time preparing by reading some good relationship books.

Are you waiting for a job promotion? Maybe you can start learning more about the position in advance to save training time.

What are you waiting for? Is there something you can be doing in advance to prepare yourself?

The Bible has much to say about waiting. Our basic job in life is waiting. Let’s face it, we are waiting on something today, that we get tomorrow. The next day we will start waiting for something else completely different. If we can’t figure out how to wait correctly we will have a miserable life.

The book of Psalms says there are three ways to wait:

  • Wait Quietly I will wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. ~ Psalm 62:5
  • Wait Patiently Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. ~ Psalm 37:7
  • Wait Expectantly I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for what he has promised. ~ Psalm 105:5

During this time of waiting must check our heart attitude and the words of our mouth. Being careful not to grumble, trusting and believing God; while doing all we can to prepare ourselves for the answer.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles.

I hope you will take some time to check out the resources on ReachingHurtingWomen.com this week as we discuss our theme topic of Waiting.

Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 7

Suffering: Bringing Our Struggles To God

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Seven of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I’ll be your host.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices which we will be learning and discussing. It’s my hope to have a new podcast each Monday to discuss our theme of the week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com

This week our theme topic is: Suffering

We all experience suffering and we all handle it differently. Suffering has many levels and can be expressed in various emotions and behaviors. It can be painful, even destructive especially to our relationships.

What is suffering for you may not be suffering for me. What is suffering for me today may not be suffering for me tomorrow.But most suffering is a result of our lack of acceptance. When we can’t control life we suffer. Whatever it is, if we don’t like it and can’t change it, it is going to cause us suffering. Until we surrender to what we cannot control we will continue to suffer.

The degree to which we surrender to our suffering is the degree that we will grow stronger spiritually.

I have to say after 37 years of marriage this particular season of life, especially the last 2.5 years has been one of non-stop suffering for my husband and me. Without going into the details about our personal life we’ve had several moves, each with a job transition, health, legal, financial and family issues. It seems we’re getting hammered from every side. Then throw in trying to stay sober in the midst of all that… and you have suffering!

The book of James tells us:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. ~ James 1:2

I don’t know about you, but I’m not jumping up and down for joy in the midst of my suffering.

As I was preparing for this podcast I found many great blog columns on Christians and suffering, the purposes of our suffering, why God allows us to suffer, truths about suffering and so on. I’d like to share some insights I gathered from my readings. Here are just a few:

7 Purposes of Suffering:

  1. Suffering increases our awareness of God’s power.

In our moments of suffering we are most aware of God’s omnipotent power.

  1. Suffering refines and strengthen us.

Usually when we get on the other side of suffering we have learned a lesson and are stronger for it.

  1. Suffering teaches us humility.

It’s pretty difficult to stay in pride and suffer. Not always, but usually suffering has a way of bringing us to our knees.

  1. Suffering teaches us to number our days.

We may be counting the days for the wrong reason, but at least we‘re counting them.

  1. Suffering equips us to minister to others.

After we have made it through our season of suffering, we are able to help others that struggle with the same thing we did.

  1. Suffering allows God to manifest His care.

If we are in a community of Christians God will use them to care for our needs if we will make our needs known.

  1. Suffering makes us dependent on God.

In times of suffering sometimes God is all we have.

 

During These Days of Suffering The 12 Steps Are Top of Mind:

  • I’m aware of my powerlessness more than ever because I can’t do anything without God’s help.
  • I need God to keep me sane, otherwise I’d be pulling my hair out.
  • I have to turn my will over daily, because following my will can get me into trouble.
  • I am reminded of my character defects, almost every morning. When I get out of bed physical pain reminds me of the bad food choices I made yesterday.
  • I’m asking God daily for the knowledge of His will and the ability to carry it out. Without His help I surely won’t be able to do it.
  • And to help me process my personal struggles, God has provided this podcast and website. This is where I contemplate on the lessons God is trying to teach me and pass them on to you.

That’s not all 12 of the Steps, but those are the ones that stick out most today.

As a recovering addict, I’m usually trying to avoid pain at all cost. But I’m finally learning the more I fight the pain and suffering, the more I try to run from it, to avoid it, to remove it… the worse it gets and the longer it may last.

If I can find my way to accepting this moment and its lesson for me, trusting that there is something better on the other side of the suffering, I will be closer to God’s peace. When I surrender to what this moment brings me, I am accepting God’s providence and by trusting Him, I am loving Him.

Before we close I want to circle back around to the verse I shared at the beginning from the book of James and read the whole verse:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~ James 1:2

Friends we are all in this together. Our struggles are not a waste. God is using them to grow us into something wonderful. Our struggles are what we bring to God; it is His job to deliver us.

I know many of you are suffering in some way today. You may not be physically suffering, but you may be going through a relationship or financial difficulty.

I pray that you will take some time and go to ReachingHurtingWomen.com and check out the different resources on Suffering that will be posting each day this week. Also you will find category tabs above each blog post where you can find more helpful content. As always I look forward to hearing from you. Please post your comments below the show notes on today’s column. 

Thanks for joining me today on The Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles.

Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours…

 

RHW Podcast Episode 6

Embracing Silence

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Six of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I’ll be your host.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices which we will be learning and discussing each week. It’s my hope to have a new podcast each Monday to discuss our theme of the week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com

This week our theme topic is: Silence 

Silence and Solitude, walking hand in hand like best friends; are almost inseparable companions on the Christian contemplative path. As silence is vital to make solitude a reality, so solitude is necessary to make the discipline of silence complete. While it seems impossible to find meaningful silence without solitude, silence will be our focus today.

Words, words, words! They are everywhere! They surround the scope of our existence. From freeway billboards, radio and television commercials, merchant and street signage, cars wrapped with the latest energy drink advertisement to tempt your taste buds, even most casual clothing is promoting some message.

Then there’s the monkey that chatters incessantly in our mind reminding us of the grocery list needed on the way home; the ear worm sings the lyrics from the undesired tune overheard blaring from the car next to you at the last street intersection; maybe it’s the negative self-talk that’s been continuously in your head for a lifetime…This plethora of words dilutes their value to the point of overload!

Just as our physical bodies need rest and sleep to recharge, our mind and spirit need silence. Most people in our modern world don’t know how to be silent. In fact, many are uncomfortable, even afraid of silence.

But silence is frightening. It has a way of stripping us like nothing else, down to the reality of life that we are desperate to avoid. Silence leaves us face to face with God and ourselves.

When I was living in my addiction, really most of my life up until I began working on sobriety in 2004, I was unable to endure silence of any kind. I kept the radio or television going at all times. I even went to sleep with the TV on. I wasn’t really aware that I was doing it until I got sober and didn’t need the distractions anymore.

As I grew more secure in my relationship with God, working the 12 Steps, and getting to the root causes of my need to escape from reality, I was able to relax in the silence. The more time I spent in silence, the more I wanted. And now silence is my preference. Cultivating interior silence will douse the endless racing thoughts, the list making, future planning, past regretting monkey mind that chatters on.

What is your relationship with silence? Check your daily routine. How much do you depend on noise to keep you company? To drown out the voices in your mind; to keep you from dealing with the convictions of the Holy Spirit?

If you are interested in making a change, start small during your morning devotion. To spend five minutes in real interior silence it may take you another five minutes to reach the place of quiet, to clear your mind and become comfortable. So five minutes of real silence takes 10 minutes in all.

Then bring the silent sanctuary with you through your day. Try taking a walk and actually listen to the birds sing. Drive to work without the radio on in your car. I think in time you will be pleasantly surprised, maybe like me you will grow to find silence your preference.

When we are able to be in silence, we are more available to hear God’s still, quiet voice. When we are able to sit in the silence of contemplation, our own words will have more value.

Don’t let your fear of the unknown rule you. Silence is not your enemy, but a great friend. As we worked Step One we discovered our powerlessness and nothingness before God. Entering into the silence of His presence we are filled with the fullness of His being, and will find the needed strength to take on our day. A heart that is steeped in God can be freed from the clamoring of selfish desires and find the healing in holy silence.

I hope you will take an opportunity to learn more about the spiritual discipline of silence. You will find a variety of resources in today’s show notes and also in the daily postings this week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com.

Thanks for joining me today on The Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles. As always I look forward to hearing from you. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

Resources:

The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison*
The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith OSB
The Rule of Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry, OSB
The Oblate Life Edited by Gervase Holdaway OSB

RHW Podcast Episode 5

The Liturgy of the Hours

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Five of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I’ll be your host.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices which we will be learning and discussing each week. It’s my hope to have a new podcast each Monday to discuss our theme of the week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com 

This week our theme topic is: The Liturgy of the Hours  

The Liturgy of the Hours otherwise known as the Divine Office, the Work of God, the canonical hours or the Breviary; is the official set of prayers that mark the hours of each day and sanctifying the day.

It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns, readings and other prayers. It constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church and forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism.

The Liturgy of the Hours along with the Eucharist has formed the Church’s public worship from earliest times in both Eastern and Western tradition, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches.

The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night in adherence to Psalm 119:164 “Seven times a day I praise you.”

In the cities of the Roman Empire, the forum bell rang the beginning of that day at six o’clock each morning, noted the day’s progress by striking again at nine o’clock, sounded the lunch break at noon, called citizens back to work at three o’clock and closed the markets by sounding again at six o’clock in the evening. Every part of the day within Roman culture was marked and ordered by the ringing of the forum bells, including Jewish prayer and by natural extension Christian prayer also. Christian prayer at that time consisted primarily of reciting or chanting psalms, reading portions of the Old Testament, and later adding a reading from the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles and canticles.

Around the end of the 5th Century The Liturgy of the Hours was made up of seven offices; Benedict of Nursia added an eighth office in the 6th Century. The eight offices attributed to St. Benedict are:

  • Matins/also known as Vigils (The Midnight Office)
  • Lauds/Dawn Prayer (Dawn or 3am)
  • Prime or Early Morning Prayer (1st Hour 6am)
  • Terce/Mid-morning Prayer (3rd Hour 9am)
  • Sext/Midday Prayer (6th Hour Noon)
  • None/Midafternoon Prayer (9th Hour 3pm)
  • Vespers/Evening Prayer (at lighting the lamps 6pm)
  • Compline/Night Prayer (before retiring 9pm)

In 1972 in alignment with the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI announced The Liturgy of the Hours, which modified the office to an order very similar to the one instituted by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer; by reducing the previously mandated eight office hours down to four; dividing them into Major and Minor hours. The Major hours, which I try to keep most, are:

  • The Office of Readings (formerly Matins)
  • Lauds/Morning Prayer
  • Vespers/Evening Prayer
  • Compline/Night Prayer

Volumes of books have been written explaining and describing the history of The Hours, so I would be hard pressed to condense it into a single podcast. Suffice it to say, as we are reciting or chanting the Daily Office we are keeping a religious tradition that even Jesus Christ kept when he walked here on Earth.

One of the most beautiful things about The Liturgy is that there are thousands of people praying it at the same time around the world, cascading from each time zone to the next surrounding the Earth with God’s Word, which is either being prayed silently, spoken or chanted aloud.

When I was first introduced to The Liturgy, I was drawn to the regularity of schedule, marking the hours of the day with specific prayers and songs. As time went by and I became more connected with the practice, I found it was a very practical way of keeping myself focused and tethered to God and His Word, which was vital to me as a recovering addict.

There are many books and variations of The Liturgy of the Hours. My personal favorites are:

  • The Divine Office iPhone app, which is a recorded production of a prayer service, which you can participate with by reciting along with the word on the app.
  • A second favorite of mine is Phyllis Tickle’s beautiful book series The Divine Hours that takes us around the seasons and church calendar, making use of the four major daily offices.

I’ve been using both the app and Phyllis’s books in tandem for almost four years now.

Since I began practicing The Liturgy more than three years ago it has given my prayer life new direction, energy and purpose. Rearranging my day around prayer has helped keep my heart; mind and soul focused more on the things of God.

I hope you will take an opportunity to investigate this beautiful practice of The Liturgy of the Hours for yourself. You will find a variety of resources in today’s show notes and also new postings each day this week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com.

Thanks for joining me today on The Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. As always I look forward to from you. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

RESOURCES:

RHW Book Review: A Book of Hours with Thomas Merton
The Benedictine Handbook Liturgical Press 2003
The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer by Phyllis Tickle
Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monks Insights for a Balanced Life by Lonni Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life by Benet Tvedten
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine**
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

Image credit: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

RHW Podcast Episode 4

The Sacred Now

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Four of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I’ll be your host.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices which we will be learning and discussing each week. It’s my hope to have a new podcast each Monday to discuss our topic of the week and to introduce the weekly theme on ReachingHurtingWomen.com. 

This week our theme topic is: The Sacred Now


Time is a mysterious thing. We can’t see it but we can see the results of it. We can measure it but we can’t control it. We are fascinated with time. Time travel books and movies abound. Today I want to talk about marking time to bring more awareness of its passing.

A few years go I read something that brought serious attention to my lack of awareness of time passing in my life and how I was spending that time. Here’s the quote:

“Time makes today tomorrow’s memory. Each weekend seems to pass us by like blurred telephone poles flashing past the window of the speeding train of life… Let’s assume the average person dies at 70 years old. Then if you are 20 years old, you have just 2,500 weekends left to live. If you have turned 30 you have 2,000 weekends left until the day you die. If you are 40 years old, you have only 1,500 weekends left. If you are 50 then you have just 1000 weekends, and if you are 60 you have a mere 500 weekends left until the day death comes to you.”**

Rather than days or moments, many of us look at the passing of time in weeks often living specifically for the weekend. Counting by years seems to keep our mortality at a distance. Focusing on our weeks and weekends seems to keep life a little closer. But how are we spending those weekends?

When I first read the quote above, I was 50 years old and had just spent the last 10 years of my life totally living for a party weekend. This quote shook my husband and me so much that we decided to create a way to track the passing of our weekends to help us keep time at the forefront.

Based on our ages at the time, we counted up the approximate number of weekends we had left to live. My husband purchased a lovely crystal vase and filled it full of glass marbles to represent the weekends left in our life. Each Friday we remove one marble and place it in a visible location. Then on Monday the marble goes in the trash. The weekend has been spent.

We started this exercise nine years ago and the decrease of marbles in the vase is definitely noticeable now. It will be interesting to see the continued effect on our use of time as the vase get emptier. As we track the lapsing of time, keeping the present visible between the past and the future, we become more aware of each passing moment; the now in which we are living.

Have you ever noticed we talk about time as money…spending it?

If we really saw time more as money, maybe we would be less wasteful of it. I don’t know a lot of us are wasteful with our money. Well, maybe we should think of time like other valuable resources: water, fuel, food, …life.

Since we started marking our weekends, I am more careful of how I spend my time. I watch far less television. I read and listen to books that better feed my brain and future goals. Are there days that I struggle? Of course, life is hard for all of us. And some days and weeks are harder than others. Do I always spend my time wisely? Of course not, I’m human. But for the most part, I am focused on a plan: To live a healthy, productive, contemplative sober life and to share my message and journey with other women who struggle. Having a defined purpose makes getting out of bed in the morning a lot easier. When I was living in my addiction, all I wanted to do was run from time. I was so miserable I couldn’t bear to be in any moment. Looking back on the years I wasted away, it makes me mad and sad. It’s terrible to look back with such regret.

Time is money they say. But really time is much more than that. It is our life. This moment is all I have. It is all you have.

What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears. ~ James 4:14 (GWT)

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

 Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver

Now let me ask you…

What is time to you? Is it a valuable resource? How will you mark the passing of your time?

I hope you will consider creating a way to mark the passing of time in your life; a way that will help you keep the present moment more centered.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path to Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles.

This week our theme topic is the Sacred Now. I hope you will check out the various posts we will have this week at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Be sure to leave your questions or comments below the show notes there.

Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

**The Evidence Bible

RHW Podcast Episode 3

Contemplative Art

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Three of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices, which we will be learning and discussing each week. It’s my hope to have a new podcast each Monday to discuss our topic of the week and to introduce the weekly theme on ReachingHurtingWomen.com. 

This week our theme topic is: Contemplative Art

 

In 2012, a dear friend introduced me to a book that would completely change the direction of my life and ministry it’s called: The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner. It was here that I first discovered Benedictine Spirituality, monasticism and the idea of contemplative art.

Immediately I sought out Christine’s website AbbeyofTheArts.com where she is the online abbess for her virtual monastery which offers classes and other resources for contemplative practices and creative expression.

A few months later I enrolled in one of the Abbey’s classes, which was as an online retreat for Lent. We spent time in Lectio Divina contemplating the writings of Saint Hildegard of Bingen for inspiration to create mandalas. It was a wonderful class. I learned a lot about myself and grew deeper in my relationship with God. The course: Creative Flourishing in the Heart of the Desert: A Self-Study Online Retreat with St. Hildegard of Bingen is still offered as a self-paced class. If interested you can find out more about it here. Also on Wednesday this week at ReachingHurtingWomen.com you can take a closer look at Christine’s brilliant book.

Now let’s talk about contemplative art. You may say, “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body! How can I do contemplative art?” or “Ok, I’m an artist. Now how do I make my art contemplative?”

Contemplative art isn’t so much about the type of art you are doing, as it is about the mindset and heart attitude you are going into your creativity with. There are as many artistic practices as there are artists it seems. Go to any contemporary art museum or studio and you will see that. People are making art by combining all sorts of mediums today.

Whatever your artistic medium: painting, drawing, writing, gardening, cooking, sewing, photography, pottery, ceramics, woodworking, performing arts, scrapbooking, or home decorating… Whatever you do the most important thing to remember in contemplative art is:

The focus is on the process not the product.

In other words, when we are emphasizing process the work that results from the practice isn’t important. Rather we see it as an exercise. This is very freeing for some of us who feel less skilled as an artist. The point here is to observe the mind, be present to the moment in the midst of the creative process.

For the purposes of our exercise we are going to choose an activity that we feel comfortable with. We are going to allow our process of art making to become a place of sacred discovery.

Start your experience with a quiet moment of prayer, asking God to be with you in this creative project, release your worries about how beautiful your product will be. Be gentle with yourself; give yourself permission to make mistakes, avoid judgmental thoughts.

Allow your artistic process to be a time of prayer and meditation. What does the process have to teach you? What do the materials have to teach you? Be present with each step.

In the monastic tradition, we are bringing sacred consciousness to every thing we do, even our artistic creations. We are placing our efforts, every tool and utensil on the altar of our transformation. God will use these moments to change us from the inside out.

There are so many activities you can choose from for a contemplative artistic experience. If you struggle with finding an artistic outlet, adult coloring books are hugely popular now; you might try that as a starting point. The therapeutic aspect of coloring alone is incredibly powerful and worth doing!

I know a woman who listened to the New Testament while coloring mandalas for her Lenten practice this year. She posted each of her daily creations on FaceBook. I really enjoyed watching her creative processes evolve over the 40 days before Easter.

Another new creative book I’ve used is Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth. This book teaches us how to color our prayers, drawing names and images in a journal during our prayer time. It was something I was able to do with my young granddaughter. She caught on to the idea of praying in color very quickly.

The possibilities for contemplative art are endless. Just Google contemplative art and you will get some amazing ideas. Here are a few I found:

  1. Cut and Paste a Collage: I think this would be a great prayer activity, print out photos of specific people you want to be praying for and create a prayer wall.
  1. A Forgiveness Box: here we’re decorating a small box with soothing images and words that are specific to an individual, (even ourselves) who you want to release negative emotions toward, to help you process memories or feelings. I thought this was a very interesting activity. Especially right now as I’m preparing to make amends in my 12 Step work.
  1. Zentangle: a new drawing method, basically doodling which is designed to be a meditative process. To learn the official method you need to find a Zentangle Teacher. But essentially you take a 3.5” square piece of paper and draw freehand a curved line or squiggle and then continue with a series of patterns and shapes. This is another activity where we will consider process vs. product, allowing ourselves to make mistakes because there is no erasing allowed! This is one I’m really interested in trying!
  1. Bible Journaling: this is another new craft that is taking Pinterest by storm! I haven’t tried it yet but I am anxious to learn how. If you’re unfamiliar here’s the scoop… it’s basically journaling or doodling in the margins of your Bible, using special markers and highlighters, writing whatever words or pictures inspire you from the scripture text you are reading. Similar to scrapbooking, you can be simple or get as fancy as you want. There are FaceBook groups and loads of websites to help you get started. I’ll post some in the show notes.**

Whatever artistic activity or medium you choose, I hope you will consider taking a contemplative approach. Possibly listening to some sacred music, meditating on a favorite scripture or prayer while working on your craft.

Our goal is to commune with the Holy Spirit and bring our minds to the present moment rather than running to substances, behaviors or media to numb us away from reality. This will help us have healthier thoughts, which will in turn bring healthier actions through our day.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path to Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles.

Be sure to leave your questions or comments below.

Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

** Art idea links to get you started. There are piles of them on Google!

20 Art Therapy Activities You Can Try At Home To Destress – Lifehack

10 Easy Art Therapy Techniques To Help You De-Stress

RHW Podcast Episode Two

The Contemplative Practice of Lectio Divina

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Two of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles.

With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating traditional 12 Step recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices which we will be discussing each week. Today our topic is: The Contemplative Practice of Lectio Divina.

If you haven’t yet, I want to encourage you to check out our highlighted book for this week on ReachingHurtingWomen.com which is: The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide To Contemplative Spirituality by Carl McColman. I just finished reading it myself and found it a fascinating overview and explanation of contemplative spirituality; a valuable resource and reference book!

Let’s look at the definition of contemplation according to the Noah Wesbster 1828 dictionary:

  1. the act of the mind in considering with attention; meditation; study; continued attention of the mind to a particular subject.
  1. keeping the idea brought to mind, holy meditaion; attention to sacred things, the application of the foregoing definition

Here’s a wonderful quote, really a perfect definition from Richard Rohr:

“The contemplative life is being so present to the moment that you catch a glimpse of God in all that is.”

The glossary in the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplation this way:

“A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love.”

As you can see contemplation is intentional thought, prayer or meditative thinking on God, His word and His creations; to Jesus and the mysteries of His life in faith and love; trying to be more in the moment rather than just rushing through life; slowing down and looking for God in all.

As a recovering addict, this new mindset is helping me tremendously in this particular recovery season I’m working. It’s overused but the example of the layers of an onion being peeled off representing the layers of our addictive issues coming to the surface is so true. Just when you think you’ve got your life figured out, something new shows up to teach you otherwise. For me contemplative spirituality has been a valuable tool to help me work and live life in a healthier state of mind.

Over time we are going to talk about many contemplative practices. But today I’d like to focus on the practice of Lectio Divina or sacred reading.

You may be unfamiliar with these Latin words.  Lectio Divina which means “holy or divine reading” is an ancient form of prayer using Scripture as the voice of God to our heart. This type of prayer is simple in concept but powerful in practice, taking us deeper and deeper in our relationship with God.

I like this quote from Richard Foster explaining what Lectio Divina means:

It means listening to the text of Scripture, really listening-yielded and still. 

It means submitting to the text of Scripture, allowing its message to flow into us rather than us attempting to master it. 

It means reflecting on the text of Scripture, permitting ourselves to be fully engaged by the drama of the passage.

It means praying the text of Scripture, letting the biblical reality give rise to our heart cry of gratitude or confession or petition.

It means applying the text of Scripture, seeing how God’s Holy Word provides personal guidance for our life circumstances.

It means obeying the text of Scripture, always turning from our ways and into the life everlasting.

The words of Richard Foster. So beautiful.

Before beginning our Lectio Divina practice we will want to choose our text. A chapter in the book of Psalms is a great place to start. But you can use any section of scripture or other sacred texts, writing from various church fathers are excellent also.

Be sure to set aside some uninterrupted time, 20 minutes or so. Then choose a quiet place to sit with the Lord. Focusing on our breath, we still our minds and prepare our hearts to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The practice of Lectio Divina is divided into four steps:

  • LECTIO: (Latin for reading) In this step we read a section of Scripture slowly, savoring each word as a delicious morsel that will nourish our soul. It’s helpful to read the passage aloud watching ever closely for a word or phrase that shimmers in our heart.
  • MEDITATIO: (Latin for mediation) Here we take the phrase that caught our heart’s attention and ruminate on it through repetition and reflection. As we chew on the given text we connect it with our life situations. Reflecting: We can ask what in this passage touches my life today?
  • ORATIO: (Latin for prayer) In this next step we actually begin our conversion with God, our closest friend and confidant who we can share anything with. Here we may find much needed joy and gratitude;…a renewal of hope and trust.   We may respond to what we believe God is asking us to do today.
  • CONTEMPLATIO: (Latin for contemplation) Here we stop doing and just be, we still our hearts and minds, find rest in God’s loving arms as His precious child. We may continue our reading, meditate on our experience, or end our prayer with thanksgiving.

Now that we’ve talked about the four steps of Lectio Divina, let’s practice with one of the world’s most familiar chapters of scripture: Psalm 23.

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

For Step One: Lectio I’m going to read it through all the way slowly first watching for a word or phrase that shimmers in my heart.

For Step 2 MEDITATIO: we will take the phrase that caught our heart’s attention and ruminate on it through repetition and reflection. As we chew on the given text we connect it with our life situations. Reflecting: We can ask what in this passage touches my life today?

For Step 3 ORATIO: we will actually begin our conversion with God, sharing praise and gratitude, we may feel a renewal of hope and trust. We may respond by making a note of what we believe God is asking us to do today.

For Step 4 CONTEMPLATIO: we stop doing and just be, we still our hearts and minds and meditate on our experience, or end our prayer with thanksgiving.

This was a short example of the foundational contemplative practice of Lectio Divina. Many of the other contemplative practices we will be learning about are built on Lectio or can be combined with Lectio.

I hope you will take some time to try Lectio Divina for yourself. On your own you can take much more time and really soak in God’s presence. It’s a wonderful addition to your morning or evening devotions, and it will definitely change the way you read, not only Scripture but devotionals and other books as well.

There are so many rich passages of Scripture you can practice Lectio Divina with: Psalm 51; Psalm 91 and The Beatitudes are great ones to start with.

Well, thanks for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery, where we are finding new and healthier ways of coping with the hurts, habits and hang-ups in our daily lives.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Contemplative Practice of Lectio Divina. I look forward to hearing from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Until next time… may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

Resources:

Be Still: 31 Days to a Deeper Meditative Prayer Life Howard Books 2007

RHW Podcast Episode 1

Beginning Our Contemplative Path of Recovery

We are so excited to announce the first Episode of the Reaching Hurting Women podcast! Below you will find the audio transcript.

 

Hi friends, welcome to Episode One of the Reaching Hurting Women podcast. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Thanks so much for listening!

You may be asking, “Who are the hurting women? How do I know if I am one?” See if you recognize yourself in this list…

Millions of women walk through life with deep emotional pain. Trapped in loneliness, feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless they act out in unhealthy behaviors.

These unhealthy behaviors can take many forms: a runaway fantasy life fed by romance novels or erotica; relationship addiction; physical or sexual abuse; sexual addiction; pornography addiction; unwanted same sex attraction; drug and alcohol abuse; eating disorders; compulsive spending; gambling, self-injury, and the list goes on…etc…

It can get complicated fast. I know because I have struggled most of my life with everything on this list in one form or another. Let me tell you a little bit of my story…

I’m a 1950’s baby boomer from a dusty West Texas oil field town, the first daughter, an invisible middle child, between a brother four years my senior with cerebral palsy, and a sister three years younger. Ours was an average lower middle class home. My mother was a dutiful housewife caring for her family with home cooked meals and handmade clothes. My father was a typical male, at least in my mind; a highly functional alcoholic, womanizing sex addict who was rarely home and never faithful to my mother. His addiction to pornography was no secret with the current Playboy calendar always hanging above the bathroom scales in our only family bathroom.

Never underestimate the power of pornography. Compared to the horrific pornography of today, being exposed to the pornography of the 1960’s seems trite to some. But these calendar images were very destructive to my little girl’s mind. They changed me into a sexual creature at an extremely young age. In fact, it was covert sexual abuse. I became obsessed with these girls. Who were they? Where did they come from? How can I be one of them?

Acting out with boys on the elementary playground became full blown sexual addiction in my adolescence; drugs, alcohol, clubbing, and one night stands brought what I thought was the perfect combination to get the love and attention I desperately craved. In the middle of the free love, I stumbled upon the man who would become my husband. He swept me off my feet with romantic cards and gifts. We married after dating only six months.

I was a frisky fiancé who shut down after the wedding and stayed that way for 15 years. As a young bride, I was unprepared for married sex. It was a shock to my addictive mindset and mode of operation. I no longer held the power, gone was the hunter/prey routine from my single days. At 22 I basically shut down physically.

Sure we still had a physical relationship, but there was no passion because I didn’t know how to connect intimately on an emotional level. Worse than that, I didn’t know what I didn’t know; which kept me frustrated and resentful of what my husband expected from me.

Life was a pendulum swinging from far left to right. To escape the oil field industry my husband returned to college. We survived on student loans as I stayed home and bore three children in four years. When my husband graduated we moved to the big city to start his career and I devoted myself to homeschooling our three children. We threw out all our secular books and music and lived a conservative Christian lifestyle. Though religious and involved in church, there was no joy or victory in my life; I was caught up in following rules and trying to be the best person I could be.

In the mid 90’s my husband engaged in a venture with some professing Christian businessmen that quickly went sour and resulted in substantial financial loss for our family. My immature faith couldn’t withstand the turbulence this created in our lives. I lost faith in Christianity, Christian people and the Christian church. Anger toward God festered and grew until I put my Bible in a drawer, turned and walked away from anything “Christian” for seven years.

Soon a corporate move took us to another metropolitan area. Aging parents needing regular care, teens in public school, and a new home which required me to return to the corporate workforce. Two demanding jobs kept us running from dawn till near midnight most days of the week. Needing time together and trying to follow Dr. James Dobson’s advice for couples, we implemented a date night. We told our teen kids don’t call us unless someone is dying. Our mantra was: As long as we are together we can do whatever we want…”

It’s easy to get caught in worldly temptations. What looks like simple date night pleasure from the outside can quickly turn to bondage. Once you open the door the enemy will move in and set up camp; and that is exactly what happened.

I turned 40 in a sexual identity crisis, on a peri-menopausal hormonal roller coaster, with empty nest syndrome setting in and my 20-year marriage crumbling. My drug and alcohol abuse spiraled into deep depression; I was running away from home and acting out in extremely unhealthy ways. Violence erupted continually and the police are regulars at our front door.

In my misery and still too mad to talk to God, I cried out to the “Universe” begging to be removed from this man who was “driving me crazy”…to be with some women who understood my pain. God in His infinite wisdom and timely sense of humor gave me exactly what I asked for. It was the summer of 2004 things had gone from bad to worse. The next time the police came to our front door I was taken away in handcuffs, charged with assault of a family member and spent nearly a month in a crowded jail full of angry meth-using women just like me.

I’m not proud to have a criminal record; however, jail was the best thing that ever happened to me. I never want to forget that experience and the lessons I learned about life, God and myself. When I was released from jail, I went to counseling and rededicated my life and marriage to Jesus Christ.

For 12 years, through a process of studying, meditating on and speaking God’s Word over my life, as wells as working a 12 Step program, God continues to heal the many broken places in my heart, mind and soul. In my Heavenly Father, I have found the love I searched for my whole life.

Now that you’ve heard a little of my story, let me tell you about the Reaching Hurting Women ministry. 

In 2008, I began writing the Reaching Hurting Women blog as a journal as a way of processing Step 12 of my recovery to share the message and help other women who were struggling with various life issues like I had. Over time my topics evolved as I read many books, discovered more about myself, have grown in my recovery and my walk with the Lord.

In 2011 I was introduced to Benedictine monasticism, which is derived from The Rule of Benedict written by Saint Benedict of Nursia. St Benedict wrote his Rule for the monks in his Italian monastery over 1500 years ago. Known as the father of Western monasticism, St. Benedict and his rule have had a tremendous impact on the Christian church. Because Benedict lived before any divisions in the church, his teachings apply equally to all Christians. Surprisingly, the rule provides extraordinary insight into today’s major spiritual issues, and is more relevant today than ever! Once I started this new spiritual journey I knew I was coming home.

Since I began studying Benedictine spirituality I’ve been led to become a Benedictine Oblate. Oblates are ordinary people who dedicate their lives to God like monks. But rather than taking vows and living secluded lives behind the wall of a monastery, Oblates make spiritual commitments that are lived outside the wall as we go about our daily lives. I’m excited to share what I’m learning and hear from you, as we walk the contemplative path together.

Saint Benedict has written what he calls The 12 Steps of Humility in his monastic rule. In studying these rules I’ve discovered a wonderful correlation to the traditional Twelve Steps of Recovery. Going forward it is my goal to focus on ways to apply the Benedictine monastic rules to the recovery steps and lessons of life.

2016 has seen the beginning of a new and enlivening season of recovery for me. Over the last few years God has been bringing contemplative spirituality to the forefront of my devotions and studies.

In my own recovery practices these last few months I’m finding so many benefits to this beautiful contemplative path of recovery that I have completely redirected my ministry focus.

Briefly, contemplative spirituality is a way of focusing one’s life completely on God through prayer, living in love and a continual awareness of God’s presence and it can be applied to every area of life to adding richness and wonder to our walk with Christ. It really helps bring the word of God and life of Christ alive.

If you are unfamiliar with contemplative spirituality, you can see my recent Infographic post called The Tree of Contemplative Practices to learn more.

Now after eight years of sharing my recovery journey on ReachingHurtingWomen.com I’m really excited that God has opened a door for me to branch out with audio podcasts.

On the Reaching Hurting Women podcast we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles. With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we will be integrating 12 Step recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices like mindfulness, journaling, contemplative art therapy like coloring mandalas, lectio divina also known as sacred reading, centering prayer or meditation, yoga, chanting liturgical prayers, and many others. Along the way we will have guest interviews, talk about helpful books, websites and other resources as they make it to our radar.

God has called me to reach other women who struggle with addictions and other life issues. It is my prayer that by sharing my story, they will know they’re not alone in their pain and that healing is possible. True life comes from trusting Christ and depending on the Holy Spirit daily to walk in His freedom.

It is my hope and prayer that you will journey with me as we discover a more contemplative path of recovering from the hurts, habits and hang-ups that have held us captive for too long.

I will be publishing podcasts weekly on Fridays. If you have any questions or topic requests please feel free to comment below the show notes.

                     Until next week may the grace and peace of God be yours…

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