Open Book: Thoughts on Solitude by Thomas Merton

BY: pradm2n

LoriImagine a book club built around your prayer life — with no reading required! and her friend Alice Shelton discuss spiritual themes and questions from literature and poetry, then top it off with a prayer from the Prayables collection. Join us in our journey to find God between the pages of our favorite books. This week, Lori and Alice will discuss a quote from Thoughts on Solitude by Thomas Merton.

 

 

 


 

Radio Transcript

Lori:
Hello and welcome to Open Book, a lively discussion of literature and spirituality. My name is Lori Strawn and I'm a pray maker for prayables.com, an online prayer community for women of all faiths. Today with me, as always, is my friend Alice Shelton. Hi Alice

Alice:
Hi Lori!

Lori:
First a few housekeeping matters; we would love to have you join our conversation. Simply call 347-855-8506 and press 1 on your key pad or join us in the chatroom. All you have to do is sign in at blog talk radio, provide a name and a password and enter the chatroom. Alice I believe you have a quote from Thomas Merton that you would like to share this week.

Alice:
I do Lori, it's kind of long, so I hope everyone will sit back and take a good listen.

"I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you, and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I do not do anything apart from that desire and I know that, if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it."

So that's a long quote from Thomas Merton's book "Thoughts on Solitude" and I selected this because I often struggle with finding ways to help myself pray, motivate myself to pray and I often feel like I have no direction, I have no idea where I'm going and sometimes I'm just kind of praying in isolation so that's what struck me about this quote.

Lori:
Well that's very relatable and I think we all have those moments when we don't know quite where we are or where we're going.

Alice
Yeah. Have you ever had a time in your life, Lori, where you really felt like you had gone down the wrong road but ended up in the right place?

Lori:
Oh absolutely, at our last reunion, in fact, I was feeling pretty blue, didn't really know where I was going with my career and it wasn't immediately afterwards, I guess God gives us a little time to figure things out, but it wasn't too long after that that I was contacted by Prayables. And I feel like I've really found something in them, in that it combines my love of my faith, of course, and my writing ability, especially prayers being something like poems, and I've always loved to write poetry and helping people - there's the cherry on top. I mean yeah, that was a wonder, it was just really a wonderous thing that happened to me along the road.

Alice:
Well it's funny, it's a little off subject, but I was thinking about the day that I got your email asking if I would be interested in talking to you weekly about spiritual matters. I had really been struggling with prayer and had been reading a chpter in a book that I'm reading called "Women of Grace" about prayer and trying to just direct your control over to God and things like that. And I got your email and it was just like hello, this is a a surprise that this seems like something that can be helping me focus and keep thinking about God and praying and being focused, so that was kind of cool.

Lori:
Absolutely, now this is going to sound a little strange, but I often pick a current song that is sort of my theme song for a little while. And back when I didn't really know where I was going or what I was doing and it was a song by a band called Dancehall Crashers and it's called "I know Where I Want to go, I Just Don't Know how to get There." Ever feel like that sometimes?

Alice:
I do. I know where I am and I don't know how I got here, is as much the song for me. That's great. Well do you ever think that God hides from us?

Lori:
I'm going to say no. I'm going to say I think it's more my own blindness and I have lessons to learn before he can speak to me so I understand it, rather than he's hiding from me.

Alice:
Yeah, that's my thought on it too. I think that I hide from God if anything, I think God is always there, it's just a matter of me being able to, as you say, hear or see or understand. I think Thomas Merton has written about that kind of place in life and I haven't read everything that Thomas Merton ever wrote, but I think that's one of the things he thinks about in his writing.

Lori:
Yeah I mean really you need to get out of your own way sometimes.

Alice:
Yes and I experience God often kicking me right out of my own way if I'm not getting out of my own way. So I guess that's another way God surprises us.

Lori:
How do you respond when you're surprised by God?

Alice:
Well mostly I just sort of sit there and smile and think 'Okay, hello! Alice you should figure this out on your own.' I mean that's kind of how it is a lot of times. I feel like when I'm surprised by God that it's very clear to me that it's God, I mean not when I'm surprised by God, but often when I'm surprised by an outcome, if I can sit and reflect on it, I realize yeah thats God or that's the answered prayer, that's something I should have seen along the way and I just missed. What about you?

Lori:
Oh yeah, it's usually laughter because I realize what just happened. For example I've been freelancing for a long time now trying to, you know I went into writing thinking I'm going to make money and I made money, but that still wasn't good enough so I thought well I'll work on my own stuff and that really wasn't working out either and then I come to Prayables and all the sudden Sue Diamond, who is founder of Prayables, is on the phone with me saying "Hey we're going to do a book, you want to edit it?" And there it was, right in my lap, and I just laughed.

Alice:
Huh. Interestings. Hmm. One of the things I was going to ask you about has to do with road signs from God and sort of what symbols or signals do you feel like God has put along the way to get your attention. What are strange things?

Lori:
That's tricky. I've always known what I wanted to do with my life. In my baby book, first it says at age 2 I wanted to be a good witch who flies around helping people, but after that at age 4 and 5 it says she wants to be a writer and I've always wanted to be a writer. But you know along that road and it's been a long one, I come to places where I feel 'wait a second, am I misreading the cues? Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?' And sort of like a horse being drawn forward by a carrot on a string, there's always a carrot there; God throws me a carrot that lets me know 'yeah, you're doing the right thing, you're on the right track.' That's pretty much what my road signs are; just one more little nudge 'you're on the right track, don't wander away.' Something like that.

Alice:
Well it's interesting to me that you and I are friends because you've always known what you've wanted to do and I still don't know what I want to do. Interesting, interesting. I think, for me, road signes most often are people. They're just what seem to be happen stance, you know, people's paths crossing mine or seeing someone I hadn't seen in a long time that has some message that I just sort of need to hear or am open to hear on a specific day. But sometimes it's things, I mean I'm a big person who uses, I don't know if you know much about St. Anthony, the saint of lost things.

God puts a lot of lost things back in my way through St. Anthony's intervention. I'm definitely a person who has to be sort of knocked over the head by God because I'm pretty much the control freak, I'm pretty opposite, I like things to be the way I like them and I establish a real clear pattern and routine in my life so I would say a big example of a sign for me; my husband, John, went to the doctor 5 years ago because he was having indigestion and ended up having quadruple bipass surgery on the back end of that. And I had just kind of been living my life full force, crazy. not taking any breaks, not focusing on anything but my job and my self and blah blah blah and bam. 3 days before Christmas he has open heart surgery and I'm like "Okay God, I get it. He needs to slow down and I need to slow down." But unfortunately it takes things of that magnitude often for me to give God my attention so that's something I pray a lot about and work on a lot.

Lori:
Now I see why we are friends because I'm exactly the same way. I can go through my life kind of in my own world and God pretty much has to slap me down before I actually get it.

Alice:
You wonder if that will change as we get older.

Lori:
It hasn't for me yet. Well I hate to end the conversation but I do have a prayable to read from the prayables collection at www.prayables.com. It's called Whatever May Come and it's by my friend Ruth Williams.

Amen.

Alice:
Amen. She uses a lot of s words in that poem, I really like that in that prayable.

Lori:
Yes she's very much into that alliteration.

Alice:
It's an interesting use of the word Feral there, it has nothing to do with our conversation but I like that word in that.

Lori:
Oh you'd like Ruth, definitely, she's our type of person.

Alice:
So have you thought about what we're going to do next week?

Lori:
Next week I'm thinking of discussing an essay by Graham Green, I'm not positive yet which one it will be. I think it will be one of his, what he calls, commitments, which are generally speaches or letters to the public about subjects that he is passionate about. Like most great writers and most readers he is a passionate person, or was a passionate person so I think I'm going to pick from one of those.

Alice:
Great well I look forward to that

Lori:
Well thank you everybody for listening today. Please join us next week, we will be discussing Graham Green. Until then, enjoy this greeting.

Alice:
Bye bye.

 

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