But Wait…There’s More

And I myself will send upon you what my Father has promised.  But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.”—Luke 24:49

On one occasion… [Jesus] gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”—Acts 1:4-5, 8

I am not a big fan of waiting especially when I don’t know for what I wait.  I doubt very much if Jesus’ disciples understood what he has just told them.  I don’t know how they could.  They have no concept of what is going to happen to them in just a few days.

The fact is that waiting is a big part of the spiritual life.  Ruth Haley Barton says, “…the place of waiting is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them.” Waiting helps grow patience in us. We often pray for patience and joke about not praying for patience but, in fact, patience is a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  It is something the Spirit works in us when we stay attached to Jesus.

 We would do anything to avoid this type of waiting.  It is uncomfortable and often confusing.  I would like for God to make haste, but I’ve learned that he has good plans for me (for us) and I need to wait for them. We have to wait trusting God in faithful hope.  Barton says that it is in solitude we learn to wait on, and for, God and I’m finally becoming accustomed to the waiting.  I wait for direction and I wait for Holy Spirit power.  His plans are better than mine and I do not know what they will be.

How do we wait in faithful hope? Prayer. I have learned that centering prayer helps me most while I wait.  You may find another way of prayer helpful for you. In centering prayer, the teachers tell us, to center ourselves on that place where God lives within us.  (We don’t have to know where that is.) We ignore distracting thoughts, not something I’m great at doing, and wait in the silence for God to work his transformation in us. This prayer gives him permission, so to speak, to do that.  It is not a prayer of words, but I have learned that often, for me, God speaks into that silence.  I reminded him once that I was supposed to ignore everything wordy that happens in this prayer and he plainly said, “So, I can’t talk to you, now?”  I was quick to say he could talk to me whenever he wishes.  That is a big part of prayer don’t you think?  And we do want to listen and pay attention when he speaks.   Don’t tell the gurus that I don’t follow the rules exactly.  We wait for God.  And we wait with God.

 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.—Romans 8:24-25

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All is Grace

I understand that everyone who writes has times when they are uninspired and have nothing to say.  That has been me this week.  I had a couple of issues to deal with that were guaranteed to convince me that God means business when he said I had to quit stuffing my feelings.  I am learning to pay attention to these, the situations that caused them, and not to bury them in order to see what God has in mind, but I don’t want to write about that.  That was a Lenten project.

Yesterday, I spent all day at the hospital with my husband who had minor surgery.  The plan was for him to come home last night.  But the doctor was three hours behind schedule. We spent a total of five hours in pre-op and Dave ended up spending the night.  He is home now not much the worse for wear.  Last night I was sore and exhausted, and I hadn’t done anything.  This morning, I reflected on it all.  This was not a serious surgery and I didn’t stay at the hospital nearly as long as other people often have to do.  So…..

I spent part of the day, yesterday, saying whiny prayers mostly under my breath.  Maybe you know the kind.  “Why can’t they get this show on the road?” “Can’t we just get this over with?”  Why do we have another severe thunderstorm watch with possible tornadoes?  You know how I feel about that.”  “Why don’t hospitals have heat?”  “Please don’t let it hail on our new car.”  “Etc., Etc.  Please get me home in this downpour.”  I am grateful that God is a good listener.  He didn’t chastise me or tell me I should be grateful and thankful in all things.  He may have nodded his head a time or two.

I don’t want to be a whiny grump (see Philippians 2:14-15).  I want to be appreciative and look for the good and I did send up a “Thank you” or two, especially when I pulled into the garage last evening in the middle of the storm.  As I started checking my email and writing notes, I began to recall things for which I was grateful this day.  And I wrote them down.

I am grateful for my husband and that his surgery went well.

I am thankful for my family.

I thank God for the prayers of friends and the friends themselves who are so caring.

I am thankful for Facebook so that I could send updates when there were enough bars on the phone to send anything.

I am grateful for Barb, the patient liaison, who brought me coffee and a warmed blanket.

I am thankful for the hot coffee and warm blanket she brought.

I am grateful for breakfast cookies, protein bars, and good hospital food – salmon and cheesecake

I am grateful for valet parking at hospitals so that I didn’t have to walk around in the rain getting to the car.

I thank God that I have hot showers and warm beds.

I am full of thanksgiving that God is involved in it all.  And that was just yesterday. I could have listed more.

Colossians 2:6-7 states, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” There’s so much to be thankful for—every breath, grass, iris, puppies, purple mountains, – every thing.  And all is Grace.  Thank you, God. I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

For years I have wrestled, off and on, with this verse.  It didn’t make sense to me to give thanks in all circumstances, but that being said, this verse and meditations about this verse kept cropping up in my readings all week so I need to pay attention.

Being grateful and offering thanksgiving is a very important discipline for our spiritual life, so Practicing Gratitude (Thanksgiving) is now an element in our Trinity Way of Life.  Last year in November, I wrote: “There must be a reason why Paul would tell the church to give thanks in all circumstances.  Does God need our thanks?  I don’t know.  Probably not, but we need to thank God.  It helps us remember who we are and who God is.  Thanksgiving helps us remember that all things are gifts from God. Giving thanks can change our mood from grumpy, from being self-absorbed, from self-pity to one of being grateful.   Giving thanks to God helps us to rejoice always.”  ~ Soul Food, November 2013

I still believe all of that is true but there are times when things are down-right evil – 9/11, Columbine, Sandy Hook, theater shooting, kidnapping of girls in a foreign country, genocide, etc., etc., etc.  How do we thank God then?  Then there are the smaller things, not necessarily evil – lost jobs, relationship difficulties, serious illness, not so serious illness, lost ring, stubbed toe, etc., etc.  Then?  In all things?  How? Why?  Because, in all things, giving thanks is God’s will for us, Paul says.  And then, he models it.

Please notice, Paul did not say that we had to thank God FOR all things but IN all things. Thanking God in the midst of all things, even evil things, keeps us grateful, knowing that the Creator says he will work all things out for good if we are called for his purpose (Romans 8:28).  And we are.  But there’s more.  What if the evil one cannot work in these situations when we turn what could be distrust of God into praise for what God will do. The evil one would not like us to give this “Hands off” message.  Brad Huebert – GO WITH THE FLOW, which is a book on prayer, says “giving God thanks dispels darkness, begins the healing process, and clears the path for a new day.”  I believe offering our thanksgiving allows God to work in our situations, whatever they are.   Is giving thanks in all things hard?  Yes.  But then, that’s why we need the practice.

“I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the people; I will sing praises to Thee among the nations.

For Thy steadfast love is great, is great to the heavens, and Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the Heavens. Let Thy glory be over all the earth.”  

~ “Be Exalted,”—Bret Chambers, based on Psalm 57

Be Patient, Beloved

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

It was a misty and foggy morning as I began writing today.  I had plans to visit my granddaughter and great-granddaughters in Thornton for lunch. And I had a problem.  Because of a medical condition, I lose my balance if I can’t see a horizon.  I don’t have to be walking; this happens even if I am sitting.  It is a very uncomfortable situation when I get caught in fog, rain or snow or if someone turns out the lights. I have to stop right where I am and wait until I have a horizon or someone helps me.

On our Daughters of the King retreat, each of us was given a card with a word and a question.  We were asked to meditate and pray with these throughout the weekend.  My word was “Patience” and my question, “Where in my life do I seek more patience?”  I thought these odd.  I am normally a patient person.  I have learned to wait until a situation resolves itself knowing that God has something in mind and that it will eventually become clear.  There is no particular reason to be anxious.  So, why is this my word and where do I need patience?

Somehow, these two situations are connected.  Since the beginning of Lent, I have had images or visions.  These images are not outside of me; they appear full-blown in my head and I am not able to manipulate them.  The image is of a path that splits and goes around both sides of a tree.  I stood there alone until Jesus came to sit with me.  Then we stood together facing the tree for a time after which we turned slightly to the path on the left.  Here we need to wait for something to occur before we can proceed.  My sense is that whatever must happen is not something I am to do.  I have been carrying something and I am not sure what it is.  For the last few days, the whole image is mostly obscured by mist or clouds.

Cloud images from scripture came to mind. A cloud led the Israelites out of Egypt.  When the cloud moved, the people moved and when the cloud stopped, the people stopped.  Today’s lesson from Exodus 24 tells of a cloud covering the top of the mountain when Moses goes to receive the 10 commandments.  The cloud came and covered the meeting place where the Israelites worshiped.  In Matthew 17, a bright cloud covered Jesus and others when he was transfigured.  There are other places in scripture where God comes as cloud.

What does this all mean to me? God is often hidden when he comes to us. He works in us and our circumstances and we cannot always see or comprehend. We will have times when we have no idea where we are headed but we can trust the One who knows. We will have times when we need to wait until the Cloud moves. We may not have a horizon with which to orient ourselves.  We have to wait.

What does this say to you?  What is hidden for you?  Where is God in this?  Where do you need patience as you wait?  Henri Nouwen says, “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

“Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord….”—James 5:7

When the Wind Blows

”You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”—John 3:7-8

Have you noticed the wind blowing this past week?  That was a rhetorical question; of course you did because it was really ferocious.  I prayed, as I’m sure you did, that there would not be damage, and I also prayed that it would quiet down or stop, but….  I did start thinking, though, about how much God has healed and transformed me. I was not afraid of this wind.  Let me share a story with you that you probably have heard before, but don’t stop me, it’s one of my favorites.

When I was a young woman in my mid-twenties, I started having severe panic attacks.  They started with post-partum depression, in addition to situations that were out of my control, and continued for almost 10 years.  The weird thing was that my panic was associated with wind and tornadoes—I was terribly afraid of those.  I had lived in windy places all of my life so this didn’t make sense.  I wasn’t panicking all of the time, but when the wind started blowing, watch out.  I would stand at the window and watch to see if blades of grass or leaves on the trees were moving.  If so, I would head for the basement.  I had medication and some counselling which helped a little, but for the first five years, I was pretty much housebound.  And I was afraid of God.

Around the end of this 10 year period, our church had a renewal weekend.  Also, around this time, our priest and several members of the congregation had experienced what was called in the 70s, the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  I wanted this because I knew I needed more Jesus. People prayed for me, nothing dramatic seemed to happen, but we joined a small group, my life started to change and my panic to go away.

Fast forward about 25 years—I was well by then—my mother-in-law came to live with us because she couldn’t be alone.  We had never talked about religion but I knew, from her own religious background that she didn’t believe in the experience of being “baptized” with the Holy Spirit.  So it was very strange that, one day when I was straitening her room, she said, “You know, when the Holy Spirit gets hold of you, it’s like you have been slammed by a tornado.”  That was all she said but I think it was God talking.  I realized in an instant that my fear was because I had been afraid of God and I was running from him.  He got me anyway.  I know now that he never stopped pursuing me, no matter how hard I ran.  He loved me too much to stop.  Other stories would need telling in order to explain how I came to know this.

I have said before and I will say again, in case you forget in those tough times, “Jesus loves you and there is nothing you can do about it.”  He is always with you and he won’t stop even if you run.  There is no place where God is not. It’s all about Love—all about Grace.  “The wind blows wherever it pleases…so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  Thanks for listening.