What Lost Cause?

Every year, when I go on my annual retreat, I visit the statue of St. Jude. I go because I want to remember the first time I went and to look for the angel who was there. The first time I was thinking about Third Son. He was addicted, hurting and miserable. We knew that if he continued his life the way he was going, he would not live to be an old man. St. Jude is the patron saint of Lost Causes so I stood there and wondered. I said a prayer for Third Son, not to St. Jude, but he might have joined the prayer chain composed of the Communion of Saints if he chose, to add his own prayer.

As I stood there the angel came. It looked like a tiny blue bird. A bird that I had never seen there before and have never seen again. The bird peered intently at me, cocking its wee head and said after awhile, “There are no lost causes in the Kingdom of God.” When I got home, I learned that Third Son had died that day. A few weeks later, a music box a friend gave me when he died, began to play for no reason. The music box’s song is “Love Makes The World Go ‘Round.” I checked that music box over and again. I tried to make it play without any prompting, but it would not. I knew Third Son was aware that I loved him. He was gone but not lost.

So, why am I writing about this? Well, because I visited Jude again to look for the angel to bring to mind that there are no lost causes in the Kingdom of God. I need to remember that. I think about the state of our world where often we don’t see the Kingdom. And sometimes we do. Jesus told us that it is here with us. Philip Yancey in his book, GRACE NOTES, talked about lost-cause times that have changed because Kingdom people prayed and used non-violent means to bring it about. The meditation is from September 23 if you want to reread it or read it for the first time.

The story that most caught my attention, although all of them are wonderful, was this, “The Cold War, says former senator Sam Nunn, ended ‘not in a nuclear inferno, but in a blaze of candles in the churches of Eastern Europe.’ Candlelight processions in East Germany did not show up well on the evening news, but they helped change the face of the globe. First a few hundred, then a thousand, then the entire population of the city—turned out in Leipzig for candlelight vigils. After a prayer meeting at St. Nikolai Church, the peacful protestors would march through the dark streets, singing hymns. Police and soldiers with all their weapons seemed powerless against such a force.
“Ultimately, on a night a similar march in East Berlin attracted one million protestors, the hated Berlin Wall came tumbling down without a shot being fired. A huge banner appeared across a Leipzig street:…..(We thank you Church.).” Wow!!

We aren’t all called to be marching protesters, but we in the Kingdom are all called to pray and to take the Light of Christ (our Candles) into our streets where ever we are. Because there are no lost causes in the Kingdom of God and God changes things. Second Son gave me a picture of a small girl with a tiny bird sitting on her hand. It hangs in my bedroom and helps to remind me of this.

Shine on, dear ones,
~ Donna

With Open Eyes

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

—Ephesians 1:18-19

I prayed for awareness.  I prayed that God would open the eyes of my heart so I that might see him – all around me—in everything, in every face and in every situation.  I haven’t been looking as well as I want and I want to see Jesus.

When my grandson Zac was about seven years old, he and his sisters lived with us for a time. He had ADHD and hated to walk three blocks to school alone.  He was terrified of that and there were times when he wouldn’t walk even with his sisters.  One day, I began walking with him and I was silently fuming, but Zac was very happy.  After a bit he asked, “Grandma, did you ever notice how sparkly the grass is in the morning after it rains?”  Well, not recently I was sure.  We talked later about why he was so afraid to go to school on his own but had no problem at all walking home alone. He was afraid he would get distracted and not get to school on time but he knew he would get home.

Zac, though he didn’t know it, was a spiritual director for me at the moment.  He pointed out to me the divine light of creation in the sparkly grass—The Holy light of God. I saw it.  But I get distracted; sometimes, I forget to look, but I want to.

Then…just recently…I saw a story on Facebook about the discovery of new galaxies forming in the universe.  Many of these galaxies are larger than our own Milky Way.  The tiny, tiny dot of Earth was shown in the midst of the vastness, and there was still more universe than they could see.  I couldn’t breathe.  There were no words.  To see God continually creating!  And he loves me!  Us!  Us! On that tiny, tiny dot.

I saw pain on the face of a friend.  I gave her a hug and asked if she needed to talk.  She did.  I did, too, though I didn’t know it at first.  Jesus knew.

I became aware, while on retreat, that I had taken out too much food for breakfast.  I wasn’t really hungry.  It couldn’t be saved for later and what was thrown away might have been almost enough for someone without.  Forgive me, Lord.

From my writing window, I saw a small flower blooming in tall weeds.  I grabbed my camera and went out in chilly, breezy weather in my robe to capture a photo.  A meditation there, I think, about beauty and the Light of God in the midst of mess.  Always. Always!

On retreat, at our last meal together, we were allowed to talk.  Mostly, we are silent. I mentioned that I was praying for awareness and when asked about it, I told Zac’s story.  One table companion asked me how I get awareness.  “I ask”, I told her. I just ask.  As we were leaving, another gave me his card and said, “Please, send me your research on awareness when you finish.”  Uh…ok!  But, I have no research.  I ask, begin to look, then tell the stories.  I pray I never finish.

“Open our eyes Lord; we want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him and say that we love Him.”—Bill Cull

May Jesus bless you with open eyes for your heart,

~ Donna

Just Pondering!

“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, ‘till all the world adore his sacred name.”

Yesterday was one of those days. You may know the type—can’t really wake up, feeling clunky, forget what you are doing, etc. I forgot to get my annual blood test until after I had my coffee so it will have to wait until Monday. Note to self: “Put a sign on the coffee pot.” Sitting down to write, I found myself doing everything but writing.

It has been one of those weeks, too. I have been pondering many things—our recent train trip to visit my mother and family, the weird weather we’ve had this year, new beginnings-school starting, new classes to attend or teach, and church choir resuming after summer break, etc.

My pondering is not exactly thinking; it’s more about noticing. It’s about awareness. I have been pondering the state our planet, trouble in the nation and the world, the anniversary of 9/11, many everywhere crying out for peace where there is no peace, for help when it appears that there is little help to be had. I wondered to God what he was thinking and feeling when an image appeared—God’s tears falling with the rain or maybe the rain is the tears of God. I feel helpless to make a difference—to wipe those tears. And yet…..

“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, ‘till all the world adore his sacred name.” These are the words from the song of our Order—The Daughters of the King. Holy Cross Day which the Church commemorates on Monday – September 15 this year, has been observed in our Christian tradition since the fourth Century. Many traditions, especially the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions celebrate this day. Although it is on our liturgical calendar, most Episcopalians don’t make a big deal about it if they even know it exists, but perhaps we should.

We don’t like to think of the crucifixion of Jesus except in fairly cleaned up images. We know it was for our salvation, but sometimes, we are even confused about what that means. We would rather skip over the cross except during Lent, with maybe a little more emphasis on Good Friday, if we have to. Although the cross is an instrument of torture and execution, Jesus willingly chose to go there for our good because of his great love for us. We must not stop here, though, because Jesus did not. Easter has its story as well and as Christians, we celebrate the empty cross.

I like this quote from Theodore of Studios, an abbot and monastic reformer who died in 826. “How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life.”

We, the Daughters of the King, proclaim this by wearing our cross (instead of a habit), on our chests. The baptismal rite also reminds us that we also wear the cross on our brow—“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” There is an answer for the “whys” that we ponder. There is an answer for the pain of the world and our own pain. There is an answer for violence and hatred. Jesus came to bring it and he also tells us, if we listen, what we are to do to join him in his work. Lift your cross high on the 15th, dear ones. All, not only Daughters, are invited and encouraged to participate. Love Wins! Celebrate!

Stay blessed, ~ Donna

Where is God?

“A few drops [of perfume from an atomizer] suffice for a whole body; a few pumps change the atmosphere in a room.  That is how grace should work, I think.  It does not convert the entire world or an entire society, but it does enrich the atmosphere.” – GRACE NOTES, Sept. 1, Philip Yancey

I missed you last week. As stated, I would try to keep up my modified spiritual disciplines and I actually did practice some of them, but God had a few of his own in mind for me. Why do things happen the way they do? I don’t know. But I’ve learned to look and listen for God in them.

I get anxious if there is no apparent plan. I want to be prepared. I want some control. Well….did you know that trains do not run on schedule? Ever? They are not just a little late; they are hours late. After finally boarding, I realize there are feelings running around inside me—anxiety about when we will get to our destination, fear about not having any control over the speed of the train, over the track; over people that I do not know riding along, etc.— I’ve interesting past experiences. The train stops in a tunnel with our car and a few others inside; I feel mild panic. Where is God, and what purpose does he have for all this? After a few deep breaths and a bit of centering, I begin to feel the presence and peace of Jesus. It’s a test, quite literally for the train, but also for me. It passes. I hope I do.

Observing, I see Jesus in lonely people wanting to visit. God calling? I see a beautiful creation from my window. We travel slowly enough so I can take photos. A God gift. By the way, I’m not able to study or read on the train, as planned, because it’s affecting my balance. I can only look and enjoy. Hmm.

When we finally arrive to be with family, I see Jesus in the miraculous healing of my mother. I see his provision when the car we had reserved for late arrival has been rented out and there is not a single car rental in town. My sister lends hers. There is new bonding in my family as we spend time together sharing stories and presence. Grace indeed. Healing. Awesome. Wonder-full.

My spiritual practices continue with a very late return train. Sigh. Our fellow travelers are a car full of students. It could be noisy. Why God? I remember the meditation by Philip Yancey partially quoted above. I’m reminded that prayer and presence can change the atmosphere where an apprentice of Jesus is. I pray for peace in our car. Given. Thank you.

I see Jesus in the hungry. He’s always there. Two young men (those I thought might be a problem) have been talking together. They have been on the train since California, are hours late and have had no food. Since train food is expensive, we bring our own. We have a bit more than a few fish and a little bread. Well, a lot more, actually, because that is who I am. I begin to feel a nudge. There isn’t enough to feed a whole car and I’m not sure I want to test that theory, but I know these two men are in my bundle so I fix a couple of bags of cheese, nuts and grapes which we give to them. One believes that we must be getting off. I respond that we aren’t but we have more than enough. One of them empties our lunch trash. Yes, I see God.

We were on the return train for 12 hours, but our reserved motel room was still available. Extra spiritual disciplines practiced! Why, all these circumstances? Why was I there in these? Because Jesus was, I believe.

~ Donna