Why is it?

Why is it that after some experiences of God, you find yourself in a slump? You know the experience was God. It changes you. So why? Why do you want to chuck everything and spend all your time on Ancestry.com looking for ancestors or something? Or, maybe it’s just me. But why? What happens? I consider:

  • Is it Satan?
    Is it circumstances in life?
    Is it disappointments?
    Is it fighting with temptations of various sorts?
    Is it because of being sick and out of energy?
    Is it burn out?
    Where did God go? Where is my Love?
    Is it because I’m not trying hard enough to stay in touch?
    Do I not want to try anymore?
    Or is it something else?
    I question myself – What do you think you’re doing anyway? Writing and teaching and such?
    Who do you think you are?
    Am I working on the wrong things?

Then I remember the Jesus story. You remember, don’t you? Jesus has just been baptized and, as he comes up out of the water, the sky opens and the Holy Spirit like a dove descends and lights upon him and stays. A voice from heaven (the voice of the Father) says, “You are my son and I love you. In you, I am well pleased.” That is quite a God experience isn’t it? A person could go for a long time on that. But there is a “and then.”

And then the Holy Spirit leads Jesus, or drives Jesus, out into the wilderness. Into the desert. Why? To be tested, tempted, perhaps even trained by Satan, the Tempter. After the experience of God comes the temptation to be something other than the person God has dreamed for me to be. I lived in the desert for a time. Silence is in the desert, but you can begin to hear the wind when you are still. Perhaps it is the wind of the Spirit. There are many voices that cause me to forget that I am loved. That I am good. That God is pleased with me. But listen – you can hear it, too. There is the still small voice of God, the voice of sheer silence, which reminds us of the truth.

What does this say to me on days like this? On days when I would rather go sun soaking if there just happened to be any sun, or days when I would rather do anything else? On those days when God seems to be taking a nap? When someone in spiritual direction asks me that question, I tell them to keep doing the spiritual practices that they have been doing. Sit in the desert wherever it is, in your prayer chair where you always go, and listen to the silence. Pay attention. Read the story. God is never gone. We can never get away, even on those times when we might wish it. We are in a love relationship, and it might just be that God is working deep within us where we, not being God, can’t perceive him. But our transformation will happen, and in time, sheer silence will speak. Listen. “You are my child. I love you. With you, I am very pleased.

In deepest night, in darkest days,
when harps are hung, no songs we raise,
when silence must suffice as praise,
yet sounding in us quietly
there is the song of God.
~ Susan Palo Cherwien (ELW-699 vs.1)

Go Home

Then He went Home. ~ Mark 3:19

The verse above is a fragment from the readings this past Monday from Mark 3:7-19.  It is not an unusual story in the life of Jesus.  He was busy wandering around with his disciples healing many diseases of the crowds that pressed around him. Unclean spirits were shouting out proclaiming him as the Son of God, and he ordered them stop. Nothing unusual.  Next, Jesus takes some of the disciples with him up the mountain and appoints twelve of them to be with him, to be sent out to proclaim the good news, and to cast out demons.  He called them Apostles. Nothing unusual here, either.   “Then he went home” the scripture says.  The words practically jumped off the page.  I need to ponder why they have.

The flu or a bad cold caught up with me this week.  I usually am pretty immune to these, but not this time.  I didn’t run fast enough or I ran too fast. Probably the latter.  But now, I have pondering time.  Who knew a pilgrimage was involved with these four words?

After the conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, I began re-reading Paula D’Arcy’s book – GIFT OF THE RED BIRD.  This book speaks to me. Paula tells of her recovery from the death of her husband and infant daughter in a car accident.  She was pregnant with another child at the time and both Paula and the unborn child survived.  After she was somewhat emotionally and spiritually healed, she was asked to hold conferences, retreats, etc., to share her story with others. She had a frantic schedule but she continued until she finally came down with mono with which she was sick for eight or nine months.  She had time to think about who she was created to be and what she was doing. Not all of her doing bubbled up from her deepest self in God but was what she thought she needed to do because she had been asked and the opportunity was there.

I don’t know why those four words from the Bible passage above had such an impact on me.  Other translations don’t say the same.  Some translations say that Jesus went into a house in his hometown.  Those words really segue into another story, but they brought me up short and I have learned to pay attention to that.  Maybe, coming home helps us to return, somehow, to our roots and to ourselves so we can remember who we really are.  Jesus, in the story above, goes home when he finishes the day’s work. Maybe this returning, along with constant prayer, helps ground him in some way. Maybe it helps him remember who he is. Returning home in prayer grounds us.  It is from this rest and time spent with God that we know what we are called to do. Going home appears to be more than a place to hang your hat and sleep.

I need to pay better attention, and I did get the picture. I have changed a thing or two and am in the process of re-evaluating some others.  I could be out of touch with me – who am I now?  Who is the person God created me to be for a time such as this?  There are many opportunities to serve God, many opportunities to be Jesus’s hands and feet, and not all of them, by any means, have my name attached to them.  Which ones do?  Which ones bring me home? A friend called, today, to read a meditation to me from a couple of days ago.  She worries about me.  It said basically what I was hearing already. Pay Attention. Slow down. Rest. Find your deepest self.

Richard Foster says that coming to prayer is like coming home.  “Nothing feels more right, more like what we are created to be and to do.”~ PRAYER, Finding the Hearts true home.

I agree.

Follow Me!

“Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” ~ Mark 2:13-14

Last weekend, I went to a spirituality conference hosted by Spiritual Direction Colorado.  This conference, for me, was amazing and totally worth attending. I still don’t have many words to describe it.  The speaker, Paula D’Arcy, was someone I really wanted to hear after reading a book she wrote several years ago about when she and her family were in a car accident in which her husband and small daughter were killed.  The book tells how she walked out of the darkness being led by God and encouraged by friends.

The music – an Indian flute, two guitars, piano and two singing voices – was wonderful. The voices were not intrusive and it led me into silence and prayer every time.  I believe that was its design.  Paula was everything I had hoped.  As we left the conference, I knew that I had not attended because I wanted to go, only, but because I had been called there by God.  I also knew that I had said “Yes.” to God for something that I do not know.  The sense that I have, after some reflection, is that this “yes” is not to something new in ministry but to deeper awareness and growth in love. I know that it profoundly touched me.

So, what to do?  I don’t think “do” is the point. Awareness is a being thing, not a doing activity. We are led by God, but a leader requires a follower, and in this case, more of a follower who is being carried or towed toward the light of Jesus.  As we are towed we not only follow the light but we also carry the light.  “Follow me,” Jesus says in the gospel lesson from Morning Prayer, today. His disciples did, then, and we try today.  That is our intent.

We are still in the Epiphany Season which began on January 6 with the Feast Day of Epiphany. We celebrate the coming of the wise men or magi.   A star caught their attention that night in the desert. It must have been bright enough to seem worthy of a pilgrimage.  When they came from the East following a star, they only had a sense that a new king was born – a king so important that they were willing to travel from a far distance to worship him.  I doubt that they knew what the impact would be from this act of worship or even that this baby King was God. I doubt that Levi, or the rest of Jesus disciples, knew what the impact of following Jesus would be.  But we know.

How can we follow the star that will lead us to Jesus?  How can we see it in the first place? Awareness is the key. How can we become more aware of God in the everyday, ordinary days of our lives?  Examen of consciousness is a Christian practice to help us become aware and it is simple. All we have to do is take a few minutes at the end of every day to review the events of that day asking God to show us evidence of his presence that we might have missed. As we reflect on every aspect of our day, we ask God, “Show me where you were present today in the ordinary things of my life? We write them down so we won’t forget. And with practice, we begin to see him every day more and more.

As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold;

as with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright;

so most gracious Lord, may we evermore be led to thee. ~ The Hymnbook, 1982

Too busy not to pray

Dark and cheerless is the morn unaccompanied by thee;

joyless is the day’s return, till thy mercy’s beams I see,

till they inward light impart glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

~ Hymnbook 1982, (vs.2)

In a few hours, I will be leaving for the Spiritual Direction Colorado convention.  I’ve been rushing around like crazy getting ready and am tempted to put off my quality time with God, at least for an hour or two.  I do talk to him all during the day, and I try to listen, so it will be OK this time, right? But that will be different from sitting down and just being with him.  We have a date and he doesn’t get my full attention for more than a minute or two, no matter how much I try, unless I keep that appointment.

Some random thoughts go through my head as I rush around:

A scripture verse from today’s lessons in John 5 – Jesus said, “Do you want to be made well?” – (vs.6)

I better go down to the basement and get the suitcase.  What clothes do I need?

Don’t I really want this?  Yes.  Don’t I really believe that being still with Jesus is the main thing?  Who was it that said, when asked why he prayed so much, “I’m too busy not to pray”? I don’t know.  Maybe I’m thinking of Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours of each day in prayer.”

Don’t forget the phone charger. Or the checkbook.

Someone said, “We can’t really be like Jesus unless we have a wound.”  I need to ponder this.

Don’t I want to be made well?

If I don’t do what I say is important to me, how will this aching, yearning, hollow-feeling, need for my Love be filled, healed and transformed unless He fill it?  How?  Or is that what drives me to God?  Us to God?

A story by Max Lucado – “I’d had enough of my father’s rules and decided I could make it on my own, thank you very much. I got to the end of the alley and remembered I was hungry, so I went back home! Did Dad know of my insurrection? I suspect he did. Was I still his son? Apparently so. No one else was sitting in my place at the table.

“Suppose someone had asked my father, “Mr. Lucado, your son says he has no need of a father. Do you still consider him your son?” What do you think my dad would have said? He considered himself my father even when I didn’t consider myself his son. His commitment to me was greater than my commitment to him. So is God’s. I can count on him to be in my corner no matter what! And you can too!

“I thank God for this.  I can’t make it on my own.  When I find myself not remembering this, God in his mercy gives me something to deal with that reminds me, in the struggle, that there is absolutely no way I can make it without him every day, without spending quality time with him.” 

God is always here.  I’m the one who moves away.

“Be still and know”, I hear.

“Give me Jesus”, my heart answers.

So somewhat late I go to my prayer chair.

Visit then this soul of mine?  Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!

Fill me radiancy divine; scatter all my unbelief;

more and more thyself display, shining to the perfect day. – (vs.3)

Water in the desert

The Church Mouse says on a Facebook post, “Stop!  Take a second to appreciate the gifts you’ve been given today.  What are they?”

It’s a new year (I actually had to change the date on this meditation—the first time, of probably many, to change 2014 to 2015). Happy New Year to you. God Bless you.

Sometimes when I write, my mind gets too full of words, so I putter a while on Facebook or clean the toilet or something. Yesterday was one of those days, and I never actually got all the words on paper until today.  My husband says I get too legalistic (read uptight) about writing “on time” even when I have no words, need to take a break, or am out of town.  Guilty! So…it’s Saturday. Again.

I have been taking a journey through photo files to look at Christmases Past.  Remembering children little and growing big.  Grandchildren the same.  Great-grandchildren still small.  Remembering friends and family – some living far away and some no longer with us.  I look at houses where we have lived, cars we have driven and journeys we have taken.  Trees we have decorated. Faces looking older.  I look at celebrations of all kinds.  Sad moments, too.  All Gifts. Priceless. Thank you, God.

I wrote last night as I thought about the question from Church Mouse:

Gifts given today (Friday)

Trip to Thornton to visit Granddaughter and Great-granddaughters

Husband got to go because he had the day off.

Snow melting into dry, thirsty ground

Water in the river in January

Sun finally out

Blue sky – Yay!!!

Sugared almonds made by granddaughter

Gift cards to restaurants (they know we like these)

Having a break to lift my winter blahs a bit.  Just what I needed.

Smoked salmon on my salad for dinner with a glass of wine

Leftover Italian sausage and beans for breakfast, this Saturday morning (recipe from a Trinity Alpha Cookbook).

It’s good.  I’m blessed.  I’m very grateful. Thank you, Lord.

Driving, or riding, to Thornton always gives me the gift of something on which to meditate.  It’s like a walkabout in a car.  The gift of snow melting into dry ground and river water in January are not really gifts to me, only, but to all of us.  There is water in a dry land where, often, we have none. But as I meditate on this, scripture verses come to mind.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” ~ Psalm 42:1-2

“Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” ~ Isaiah 35:6

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” ~ John 7:38

There it is – my story.  It might be yours, also.  When I am dry and parched for whatever winter reason, I NEED to spend more time with God – he who is often found in unlikely places.  I long for him because only then is it that I can get up (not good at leaping any more) and sing praises. It is only then that rivers of living water will flow. Yes!  Amen.

Thank you, Church Mouse, for your question.  The list helps.  Thank you, Jesus, for your gifts!!

New Year Blessings ~ Donna