Recently, a friend commented on my website. She said “On your homepage, you talk about your faith and that there is a Christian element in your novels. But you don’t really talk about your faith in your blog posts.” I had been thinking of this in recent months before she even said anything, and I have finally decided how to find the balance between sharing about my writing journey and also my faith journey. If you haven’t visited my home page in a while, I recently gave an outline for my blog’s thematic posts. Each day of the week will have a different theme based on an old nursery rhyme, check out my homepage here. Today is Tuesday and on this day, Grace is the theme, and I will be sharing aspects of my Christian journey.
I spent three years as a missionary with an international organization called Youth With A Mission. During that time my life consisted of a daily scheduled prayer, time spent in teaching sessions and the word, and living in a community where our faith journey was part of daily conversations. When I left the missions organization, I felt a trepidation about leaving a faith community and re-entering a secular life. How would my relationship with God change? I knew it was bound to change, but would it be for the better? Or would it deteriorate? That was in 1987. Now, in 2018, I can honestly say I have gone through periods of both abundance and want in my relationship with God. An abundance of feeling the daily presence of God, and a constant longing for more.
During my university years, I focused a lot of my studies and research on life in the monastic world. This brought me back to the pull of the monastic way of life, its structure and faith focus. I even started a blog about an attempt to lead a more contemplative life based on the monastic form and schedule. Well, I didn’t last long, nor did the blog; it is really hard to lead a contemplative life in the midst of career and other life commitments.
In a strict Christian monastic setting the prayer schedule is this:
Vespers – at sunset
Compline – at bedtime
Midnight Office – at midnight
Matins – morning watches, ending at dawn
First Hour – at 6:00 am
Third Hour – at 9:00 am
Sixth Hour – at noon
Ninth Hour – at 3:00 pm
The work and daily tasks of the monastics fits around this prayer schedule. Each prayer time has a theme depending on the season and scheduled readings. Read more about it here.
Some modern monasteries have an abbreviated version where they pray at 7:00 am, Noon, 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
For the last few years, I have been struggling with making everything fit into my waking hours. There are times when I have a sense of accomplishment and other periods of time when I feel I fail miserably and don’t accomplish much of anything. This too includes my private time with God. At the beginning of this year, I attempted to make a resolution to lead a more contemplative life. Well, this month, thanks to my friend’s question, which only brought into the light of day, the continuous prompting of the Holy Spirit I’ve been feeling for months, nay, years, I have now taken action. Don’t misunderstand, I have been praying throughout my day but I just haven’t set aside a dedicated time for prayer and contemplation.
I have discovered others on a similar journey towards a contemplative life outside of a monastic environment. I’ve been doing some reading of those who have written about their experiences and I have finally made steps in that direction. Some days I am more able to focus, other days, the stuff of this world overwhelms my attempts. One change I have made is my morning and nightly routine. Mornings are hard for me, almost as soon as my feet hit the floor, my mind goes to all that needs to be accomplished that day. But in the last week, I started to make my morning hot drink, and take it to my desk, where I open my Bible and read and pray. Now, in the last week, I have three out of the seven mornings where I didn’t do this, but so far, I feel that my average is good.
I start by reading a selection from Wisdom of the Cloister: 365 Daily Readings from the Greatest Monastic Writings edited by John Skinner, then I pray and read through one of the Psalms. Oh, the uncensored sentiments expressed by King David and other psalmists, for they speak from the heart and their cry and truth are ageless.
I am a night owl by nature and for too long I spent time each night watching movies or tv shows on a streaming service in bed. I am now spending this time reading. Currently, I am reading The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. It is about a married woman who set aside blocks of time in a monastery. There she found time slowed down, offering her a new perspective on community, family, and, as a poet, her own writing practice. The modern prayer schedule above is from her book. She shares many aspects of living with the Benedictines, and I have been touched and comforted by her journey.
So, I have begun a new path by going back to a type of contemplative life that includes dedicated time apart with my sole focus being my relationship with my Heavenly Father, my Saviour Jesus, with the aid of the great Helper, Holy Spirit.
Once in a while on a Tuesday, I will share with you aspects of what I am hearing and learning. My prayer is that you will be blessed, in whatever form that blessing takes.