So, why am I here?

Psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, opened his book, THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, with this paragraph, “Life is difficult.”  That is the whole paragraph so it catches one’s attention.  I immediately added, “Yes, and life is also complicated.”

I spent this morning in Urgent Care with my husband who was having a pretty severe allergic reaction to yet another antibiotic.  I started to get irritated because, even though we were the first person in UC, it was 45 minutes before we saw a doctor.  My husband didn’t feel good and I had other things I had planned to do.  So did he, so I fretted and stewed.  Just before the doctor came in, I remembered to take a deep breath and ask myself, “Ok, why are we here, besides the obvious, that is?”  I started to pray for the woman in the next cubicle who sounded pretty sick, then I sat and tried to listen for the next few minutes until the doctor came in.  After about 10 minutes, we were finished.  Life is complicated.  Is that why we have so much trouble with our focus?  One of the reasons we were there was, I believe, to remember to ask the question, “So why am I here?” and to pray for someone.

We, in The Daughters of the King, are working with the book, SIMPLICITY, by Mindy Caliguire.  She does not necessarily talk about de-cluttering our homes and schedules, though she does that, but about having a single focus on God and doing away with those things that get in the way.  She will give us some thoughts on how to do this.  Jesus gives us his words, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”—verses from Matthew 6

I believe that Jesus’ words speak to simplicity.  Many of our complications come from struggling with how we will provide for ourselves, what we think we need to be happy, and to get along.  Jesus tells us that when we let our single focus be on Him and the Kingdom, what we need will be there.  Many of us have much more than we need and many other things, also, distract us from Jesus and his will for us.   Lent is coming up in a few days, believe it or not, which is a perfect time to take a good look at  the things that clutter our lives—to spend time with Jesus and to stay in the moment.  I plan to try to do that. Then, we can ask, “Lord, why am I here right now?  What would you have me do in your Kingdom?

Give me Jesus

“In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.”

The words to this African American spiritual have been my morning prayer for the last week or two.  It is often shortened to “Give me Jesus” throughout the day.  Sometimes, the prayer sings itself.  It needs to be my prayer though it came without my conscious choosing.  I need Jesus.

I have been grumpy the last few days.  Maybe, cranky is the word.  It might not show in my actions, but I have noticed it in the tone of my voice and the turmoil in my spirit. It’s not surprising given the event and changes that have taken place over the last few weeks and months.  I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin and I’ve noticed my inner attitude might need adjusting. I believed I was doing well.

Yesterday, about an hour before I had to be in church, my hair dryer died with no warning and my hair was very wet.  The smoke detector started beeping signaling a low battery.  The detector, after beeping all day because I couldn’t reach it, didn’t need a battery.  It had died also. It was a very full day, so I didn’t have to listen to it the whole time, but, really.  The final straw was when I lost the draft of The Friday Meditation—the one I thought I was going to write—in the bowels of the computer, somewhere.  I was starting to feel picked on.  “Give me Jesus.”

I meditated on several images from the past week.  One is a Hoya plant I have had for over 30 years who is not fond of change.  If you change any of her environment, she is likely to pout and give up blooming for, maybe, a hundred years.  It’s been at least six so far.

“Dark midnight was my cry.  Give me Jesus.” 

Another is of my neighbor’s maple tree.  I looked out of the window while making the bed and there were tiny swellings on the branches – signs of leaf buds to come.  It was still below freezing.  A blogger I follow posted a picture with his meditation of a tiny pansy blooming in a sunny spot by a wall of our cathedral in Denver.  In mid-winter with snow, ice and cold are signs of new life.  

The final image is a photo.  A tree grows in the middle of a field with a path coming up to it.  The path splits and goes on either side.  I stand there.  Which path is the one to take?  Both are still on the Jesus road because I choose that way, but one is Jesus’ dream for me at this time. It is the new life. The other will also work for his purposes.  So, I wait here.  Give me Jesus.   

“And when I want to sing, and when I want to sing,and when I want to sing, give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus,you may have all this world, Give me Jesus.”

 

Grace & peace, Donna

What does love look like?

This is a day to celebrate love.  This morning I posted a picture on Facebook of a valentine that I received in my childhood. I love those old valentines.  In grade school, we decorated boxes to put them in when our classmates brought them to school.  We covered a box with paper of some kind and decorated them the way we liked.  We put our name on them and anticipated what we would receive. The teacher and our mothers made sure that we had enough valentines for everyone. 

Some years I would make my valentines from scratch.  My mother bought red paper, white lace paper hearts and other little decorations.  This was the most fun.  It not only provided a creative activity for a small child, but as I created, I would think of the person for whom I was making it.  If it was a girlfriend, I would really fancy it up.  If it was a boy—not so much.  I would make a valentine for each person that would just fit them.  There was a great deal of excitement when we opened our valentines at the party to see who loved us and who wanted to be our valentine.

Later, Valentine’s Day meant flowers, chocolate and fancy dinners—also very nice and all about being in love.  After many, many years of marriage, the meaning of the day has changed for me.  It is larger and more than just feelings and celebration. We celebrate being together and taking care of each other in good times and bad and spreading love to others.

What does love look like? How do people know that I love them?  How do I know others love me? A person could tell me but I may or may not believe it. Somehow, action needs to match the words. So, what does love do? Jesus said in John 13:34, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”   Love may look like God dying on a cross, Mother Teresa caring for the dying on the streets of Calcutta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fighting for equality. St. Augustine of Hippo said, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”

 This isn’t hard. Mother Teresa said, “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” And also, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” So, love looks like you-like us, taking care of our families, helping our friends, our neighbors, and working for those around us who have no one to love them.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear ones.—Donna

We want to see Jesus.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3: 1-4, 15-17 MSG

I like this scripture.  It reminds me of a church—our church—a church that wants to keep its focus on Jesus.  Ours is a community that not only tries to keep its focus on Jesus, but to look like Jesus and to be Jesus to one another and to the world.  Do we do this perfectly?  No, we don’t but we are in the process of being transformed into it.  We want to be a light on the hill and a house of prayer for all people.  We believe that this is Jesus’ work that he has given us to do.

I read a story the other day in which a woman told of her son when was a little boy.  He asked a neighbor why she didn’t go to church.  When the neighbor shrugged her shoulders, the little one said, “I think you are real lucky that you don’t go. All you do is get dressed up, just to sit there!” Because of his great evangelizing techniques, the neighbor was waiting by their car the next Sunday morning. After a few weeks the little one asked the neighbor if she could see Jesus.  Again, she shrugged. He said to her, “I can see him. I can hear him. I can feel him in my heart.” And he went on saying, “Even if you can’t see him, Jesus sees you and he loves you.”

This story makes me wonder what happened at church in the intervening weeks. I think that this is the light and the house that Jesus wants us to be.  I wish I had had a church like this.  I wish my children had had one.  They certainly didn’t see Jesus in me even at church.  I was dealing with my own issues, unfortunately, and didn’t know how to show them.  I didn’t know I should show Jesus.  I’m being transformed, too.  I try to show them now.  I pray they find a house of prayer filled with the light of Jesus. I pray they will know how much Jesus loves them.  I pray that those who come to our church will know it too.  I pray they will see Jesus.  I pray you will too.  I pray that you do.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will give us what we need for this task.  We want to see Jesus and so does the world.  I’m glad I get to go to this church.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you.

Help me! Help them!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.”—St Francis of Assisi

I have been going over some of my earlier writings, which I do from time to time, because I wonder how often I am repeating myself.  Maybe I have run out of things to say.  It is interesting that for the last two Februarys, I have written that I don’t have anything much to say, but then, I write anyway.  I feel a little like that, today.  Many times, I write about prayer.    Oswald Chambers said, “We think of prayer as a preparation for work, or a calm after having done work, whereas prayer is the essential work. It is the supreme activity of everything that is noblest in our personality.”  Prayer is our relationship with God, so there really could not be any greater work for us to do. Prayer comes first.

Many people pray such beautiful prayers, like the prayer of St. Francis above.  And not just Saints like he, but saints like you.  I would like to pray like that, but it is not my gift.  Most times my prayers are short, and I’m not sure I’ve always covered what needs to be said. Many times my prayers are silent and often without words.  I visualize those people and situations needing prayer into the light of Jesus and hold them there for a while.  He knows what they need better than I.  But I still would like to be eloquent.

There is no single right way to pray.  There are methods to help increase the likelihood of prayer.  We want ways that will help us give up distractions and realize our connection with God. We want ways of praying for each other and for the world in which we live.  We want prayers that express our gratitude and praise to God.  We each need to find what works for us.  When Jesus’ apprentices (disciples) saw John’s disciples at prayer, they asked Jesus to teach them to pray in that way.  Jesus gave them the prayer that has come to be called The Lord’s Prayer.  A prayer of praise to the father who is in heaven.  A prayer for the Kingdom to be realized and God’s will be done on earth as it already is in heaven.  A prayer for food for the day, forgiveness, to not be led into temptation, deliverance from evil.  Simple.  Not terribly eloquent.  Powerful. Beautiful.

Spending those ten seconds a day, or several ten seconds a day, totally focused on God is prayer.  Spending two, 20-minute periods in silence without words, focused only on God, is prayer. This is the method used by those who do Centering Prayer.  Talking and listening to Jesus all day long while you are working, playing, etc., is prayer.  A combination of these is prayer.  And there’s more.

I like this from the Heidelberg Catechism—”Heavenly Father, when I come to the end of my rope, my strength, myself, I’m finally open to the help you offer. Teach me then, God, the basics of prayer, like ‘help’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’. In the name of Jesus, amen.”  This reminds me of a talk given at a gathering I attended by a retired Air Force chaplain. He talked about his tours of duty in war zones with bombs exploding and bullets flying and about those who were seriously injured and/or dying.  He said that, usually, in those situations, there was not time for wordy prayer, so his prayers became, “Help me.” “Help them.”  More words were not necessary.  God knew what was needed.

I could relate to his prayer, not because I am in a War Zone, but because I live in a war-torn zone.  We live there.  We have only to read the papers or watch the news to discover this.  We are in the business of spreading the Kingdom of God already here.  There are mop-up operations needed to heal brokenness of all kinds, to bring justice, to give forgiveness, to render mercy, to bless, and to push evil back through the Gates of Hell.  We are broken, too, and we get broken in the process.  Often, there is no other prayer to pray but, “Help me.”  “Help them.”   ”Help me, help them.”

I talk a great deal about thanksgiving, so I’ll just say that gratitude and offering thanks to God are essential spiritual disciplines.  I’ll write about it again, but not today.  I started this article by saying that there is no single right way to pray, but we must pray.  We need that contact with God.  If you are having trouble with it, find someone who can help guide you.  But as Lacy Finn Borgo says, Talking about prayer is like talking about eating ice cream or riding a roller coaster, words pale in comparison to the real thing.” What we need to do is do it. 

Make our every breath a prayer, O God. Make every breath a song in praise of you alone. Make us living witnesses who proclaim your mercy, love, and forgiveness through our daily words and actions.”—Unknown