Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

Posted by Addie Woods

November 6, 2021

Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

By Beverly Hoffman, SCN

Part of the Toolbox for Prayer series

Download in PDF format
I often use my prose that I produce as a creative writer, as a stepping-stone into my prayer time with God. I start by slowly reading a piece of my prose. I then contemplate how this has played out and been experienced in my life. I talk to God a bit, but I mostly listen. The sanctuary of silence allows for space of intertwining of the sacred and the secular. Paradoxes, insights, and clarity
emerges. Problems are not solved, they are shared. Often peace emerges amidst the ambiguity that exists. Sometimes the mystical encounter produces more prose to ponder. Sometimes not. Sometimes it leads me to scripture or to a song. Sometimes the process leads me to journaling. Sometimes silence is what radiates with me. Sometimes I feel called to act on my insights. Whatever happens or if nothing happens, that is ok. I am thankful for the gift (grace) of my relationship with my higher power.

From these prayer experiences, my prose emerges as words that become
incarnate on paper, often shedding a new insight into my daily life experiences. Insights emerge, that then influence my actions in my relationships, my community life, ministry and future prayer.

The prose also offers me a tangible way to remember a life event or experience
and how God was a part of this. My Prose Psalter that has a collection of my prose over the years allows me a concrete way to record this journey of seeking God in my daily life encounters. Themes emerge, that also deepen my contemplation and actions.

Today, I would like to share three pieces of my prose with you. So, pour yourself a cup of herbal tea, savor a few of my prose writings, and see where they take you in your own conversations with God.

Today’s theme: The emptiness of Surrender
I don’t know about you, but not being in control, not knowing the answers, and not grasping the meaning in my life experiences can be daunting. Feelings of ambiguity, emptiness and surrender are sometimes present. During these uncertain times, we often want sure answers. God asks for trust, patience and courage.

Read this prose slowly.

1. The Spirituality of Ambiguity

The Spirituality of
Ambiguity
means not having
sure answers,
logic, reason,
a path,
a destination,
an outcome
or some closure
to grasp onto.

It means clarity
is elusive; and that
the present moment
will have to do.

But Ambiguity
as a Spirituality
has some virtues too…

It cultivates
Trust,
Patience,
Courage, and Creativity.

It calls for
Mystery,
Wonder,
Potential and
Possibilities.

And it puts me
smack in the middle
in solidarity with
the marginalized
who live this way daily.

And if I live
this Spirituality
with authenticity…
…God shows up at
the marginsthose spaces
where the
paradoxes meet,
the tensions are real.

And God invites me
to surrender
my need for certainties,
and to anchor my hope
in something new…
…once again.

February 6, 2005
Beverly Hoffman, SCN

Reflection Questions:

How would you rate yourself (1 is low, 10 is high) in your
ability to embrace a spirituality of ambiguity during these uncertain times?

What word or phrase struck you when reading this?

Next, read this prose/prayer slowly.

2. My Water Jar

My water jar is full today, God,
too full.

I gaze into it.
I don’t like what I see;
It is brimming to the top
with all of my stuff that I carry.

You ask me,
“Just what are you so full of?
You have no room in your jar for me!”

I sigh; my water jar is heavy right now.
So much is in there…

Fear, anxiety, worry, catastrophizing,
swirl around inside my jar,
mixing up the other stuff and
burdening me even more.

You ask me, “What else is in your jar?
Look deep inside, into the depths and identify what’s there.”

I struggle, taking my time to peer inside and to reflect on
what else is there.

I begin to pull out one by one,
my fears, my expectations, and my assumptions.

First is my assumption that my importance is based on
bringing in some income.

Second is my assumption that what I do
is more important than what and who I am.

Third is my desire to be God, and to have everything
figured out and to be in control.

Last of all, is my fear and my weariness of
living in mystery and ambiguity.

I let go of these fears, expectations and assumptions one by one.

It is hard work, but my jar gradually becomes lighter.

It is half empty now and I am relieved.

But God, you ask me again,
“Can your jar become empty so I can fill it?”

I wonder if I can let go of anything more!

I once again peer inside my water jar.
I see my reflection as I peer inside;
my face shows worry, anxiety and tension.

I pour all the worry, fears, catastrophes, what if’s and
anxieties out.

They stream away from me; I relax; for my
water jar is now very light.

I once again look inside my jar.
Nothing, nothing but empty space is there at first glance.

I sit with my empty water jar for a while.
I wait in the emptiness.
I let my being experience this emptiness;
this void;
this abyss of ambiguity.

My being searches for meaning, thirsts for something,
anything to soften the void, to make sense of the ambiguity.

And being empty of me,
I realize I am now open to the fullness of God.
And the fullness of God
is full of possibilities, full of paradox, and
full of potential for a yet to become.

And I pray…

In my emptiness, God…
Fill me, Fill me. Amen.

October 18, 2002
Beverly Hoffman, SCN

Reflection Questions:

Think of a time when you felt empty in your life. What was going on? Did you ask God to help fill the void? What blessings did God provide you?

 

Last of all, read this Acrostic poem.

3. Surrender

Surrender simply is
Understanding that
Reality means that you choose to
Release control and
Embrace the moment of
Now, while
Depending
Entirely on god’s power to
Reconfigure the ambiguity into possibilities.

June, 2003
Beverly Hoffman, SCN

Reflection questions:

Read this prose 3 times slowly.

Ask yourself after the first read … What phrase speaks to you right now?

After the second read … What is God calling you to?

After the third read … Talk to God about something you want to surrender.

Sit quietly and listen to God’s response

Closing Prayer:

God of my life, You ask me to trust you when life is ambiguous, to
have patience with Mystery, and to have courage. I surrender my need to know, to understand, and to have certainties in my life. I embrace the unknowns, the undone, and the questions. I bring them to you and offer then as my gift of surrender. Hold me in my emptiness and fill me with your blessings. Amen.

Action for today:

(Choose one)
 Journal on what you want to surrender to improve your relationship with God.
 Take a word or phrase from any of the prose above and see where you can
apply it to your encounters with others today.
 Notice what questions, confusion, ambiguous situations arise today. When you notice, ask God to calm your heart in the present moment and provide you with the patience, trust and courage to know that All will be well.
 Thank God for the many ways God has filled you with blessings today.

 

Beverly Hoffman, SCN has lived and worked in Belize since early 2003. Sister Beverly has a Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Therapy from Ohio State University, USA and a Masters degree in Adult Education and Community Development from St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish Nova Scotia Canada. Sr. Bev’s mission statement is simply this: “To create spaces, make connections, and create opportunities for change.” As a Pediatric Physical Therapist in Belize, she currently uses her creativity, strategic planning and networking to coordinate a Student Elective Program for international allied health students and faculty. The program provides virtual telehealth therapy services for children with disabilities in Belize in response to the pandemic.
Want to read more from the Toolbox for Prayer series? Click the links below.

Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

I often use my prose that I produce as a creative writer, as a stepping-stone into my prayer time with God.

Heart Meditation

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris provides the opportunity to reflect on the idea that there is no greater gift you can offer, that the energy of an open heart. An open heart has the qualities of unconditional love, a healing presence, innate harmony, and compassion. Opening our hearts to these qualities allows for joy filled service to be possible. 

Dance as Prayer

Dance was always a part of my life growing up. I am from German heritage so polkas, along with the chicken dance, conga lines, the hokey pokey were a big part of our family celebrations. Our joy and enjoyment was expressed with our whole being – mind, heart and body. I loved it!

But, I never thought of dance as prayer until the novitiate. Our novice director, Sister Mary Pauletta, had a Sister friend from another community who visited her when I was a first-year novice. This was in the post Vatican II days when lots of new ideas were emerging. The Sister friend introduced us to liturgical dance. She choreographed several dances to psalm songs and many of us participated. Though her name is long lost in my memory, I will never forget the gift she gave me by introducing body as well as mind and heart to my way of praying. I loved it!

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

As an Indian Christian Religious, the two wings of my prayer life are Biblical and Indian Spirituality. At home, we had everyday family prayer which included Rosary and reading from the Bible. I was responsible to conduct it. It was a vocal prayer that did not touch my heart though there was devotion to do it. After coming to the Congregation too, prayer was mostly a recitation of psalms and singing of songs. Though I was faithful to it there was not much impact on my life. Prayer was like an activity I had to do but I did not enjoy it or experience anything in my heart.

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Window Gazing on Travel’ emerged as a free form of prayer for me ever since I was introduced to contemplative Spirituality within the SCN Congregation.

Praying with Catherine Spalding: From the Known to the Unknown

What seems like a lifetime ago, during a third grade social studies activity about daily life for the Kentucky pioneers, I vividly remember taking turns churning
butter and pouring melted tallow into iron candle molds. I was fascinated by all they embarked upon on their journey. From an eight-year-old’s perspective, their
lives seemed unbelievably difficult – fraught with obstacles to daily survival, uncertainties about the future, and risk. I could not understand why someone
would choose this path; however, I admired the passion, grit, ingenuity and faith in God required to cross from the known into the unknown. All that I learned back then took on its own shape in my active 8-year-old imagination and I believe those early images of the pioneers awakened in me a curiosity and awe about acting on a dream. What was it like to be so strongly drawn to move into the unknown – willing to risk it all in the name of hope? I was captured by this pioneer spirit. As I grew older, my understanding became more informed, less imaginary and more inclusive of the various impacts of this westward movement. Today, it continues to be expanded as we search to recognize the full story of that era and our place in it – good or bad. We still have so much to learn. However, for this reflection, I will focus on the part that captured my interest as a child – spirit, passion and resilience.

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” It is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques rediscovered 2500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, and is the essence of what he practiced and taught.

What Leads me to God?

A quick and easy answer to this all important question, “What leads me to God?” might be, “Everything!” That answer bears much truth in it. Plunging more deeply, however, reveals places and happenings, situations and persons who bring God front and center into my life. It could be a beautiful tree, an imposing mountain, a peaceful, winding river, the discovery of a poem, a passage from Scripture, being alert and finding God wherever the divine may be waiting for me. Places would be where Eucharist dwells and where I sit to pray. The places where I find the beauties of nature bring God right to me. A fragile flower, a singing bird, a lovely cloud call out the Creator’s name.

Feast day of St Louise De Marillac

Sisters in Pittsburgh, along with Caritas Support Services staff and a few VCS employees who work at St Louise Convent, gathered for a festive meal after the 11 AM mass held at the Sacred Heart Chapel on the May 9th feast day of St Louise De Marillac.

The Legacy of Mother Catherine Spalding

Catherine believed that God is truly present everywhere – in each person, in each circumstance of life she encountered. Through prayer and reflection she would discern, what is the loving thing to do here, right now? Then with confidence and faith she would daringly utilize all the various means at her disposal to accomplish the task that was before her and always with a gentle spirit and a loving heart.

3 Comments

  1. Archana Valiaparamabil

    I am sure you are a friend of Thomas Merton. Deep heights

    Reply
  2. BettyBlandford scn

    Bev, your prayer poetry/prose is a gift that I feel grateful for each time you share it! 😊🙏🏼

    Reply
  3. Mary Margaret Nirmala

    Thank you Bev for sharing your deep spiritual experience. It is an inspiration.

    Reply

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