What’s my response?

Can you believe it?  Palm Sunday is in two days – and then Holy Week.  Time seems to move so rapidly these days.  That’s one of the reasons I like Centering Prayer.  There are times when, at prayer, the world seems to stop for a bit while I am consciously being still with God. I need this time.  Early this week, as I sat down to pray, I felt stressed.  I haven’t quite recovered from all the turmoil of the last few months.  I murmured, “I so need you, Jesus.  I really do.”  Bubbling up from somewhere inside me I hear, “I so need you, too.” What was that?

We know, as Teresa of Avila says, that Jesus needs us to be his earthly hands and feet, but I don’t really think this was what Jesus was trying to say. I understand hands and feet, but God who created everything from nothing but his Breath and his Word needs me “just because” is hard to wrap my mind around.  Jesus loves me, yes. Chases after me, yes, but needs me (?) So, I ponder.

St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”  Someone said that if God stopped thinking about us, you or me, even for a minute, we would cease to exist.  I often say, “God loves you (us) and there is nothing you can do about it.”  And, it is true that he asks us to be his presence in the world – God with skin on. But I still think there is more. He could have scrapped the whole people project from the beginning and at any time after the Garden rebellion, but he didn’t.  He wants, loves and needs us whether we can wrap our mind around that or not.   Have you ever considered that Jesus wants to spend time with you; that he wants you to be with him—to sit together, to visit together and to love—only to be and not do anything else for the moment?  Awesome!

Does this have anything at all to do with Holy Week?  Maybe it does. There are scriptural accounts. Many times Jesus asked his apprentices (disciples) to come away with him and rest.  But in the Garden, the night he was arrested, he has taken them to be with him.  Matthew 26: 36ff gives the story.  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?’”  Twice more, Jesus came to be with them but they were asleep.

These next few days, beginning with Palm Sunday, give us the opportunity to be present to Jesus on his journey to the cross. The Church provides the lovely gift of Holy Week services—beautiful liturgies to help us be intentionally present to Jesus.  We attend these to re-member his real presence with us, to remember his suffering and sacrifice for us, but also because he wants those he loves to be near him.  If we listen, we might hear him say, “Could you stay awake with me one hour? I so need you.  I really do.” Have you considered how you will respond to that question?  Have I?

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Spring Singing

I need thy presence every passing hour; what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me. ~ Henry Frances Lyte (1793-1847)

The birds were singing this morning while it was still dark.  It was joyful music.  They know, I imagine, that spring will arrive later today.  I might sing, too, once I wake up.

Later I sat in my prayer chair where the sun came through the window and touched my face.  With my eyes closed, all I could see was orangey brightness and feel the healing warmth on my face.  I sensed God in the brightness and thought about the Sonshine.  My soul responds as I feel a bit of the winter darkness lifting.  How I need that; it has been a rough winter for me.

Later still, while at my computer, I see a big fat yellow cat wandering around my back yard.  It looks like she may be looking for a place to birth babies. Squirrels are scampering in the trees and the birds are still singing but not as loudly. The sky is bright blue and daffodils are budding. I just went to look and maybe tomorrow they will bloom. The trees have been budding for weeks.  Later today, it will be warm enough to sit out in the sun.  I am reminded of this verse from the Song of Solomon, “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” (Vs. 11-12).  Of course we know that March and April are our most snowy months, and here in semi-arid land we want rain, just not all at once so that it floods. We are a particular people.  But spring is springing and I, for one, am so very grateful.  Thank you Lord.

As I consider the orange glow of the sun and of the Son, I know that I must pay attention to both. The sun is so good for my body, especially my mood, but the Son, Jesus, is absolutely necessary for my growth. I have been reminded over the last few months that there is very little that I have to do with my spiritual growth and transformation, or with my circumstances for that matter.  I can’t fix much, and some things I am unable to change at all.  God knows, I try.  My spiritual practices, especially prayer and community help the most.  I really can’t do without either.  In prayer, I’m finding that sitting in silence, or at least as much silence as I can manage with my introverted, over-active mind trying to intrude, being still with God in silent prayer changes me the very most. For part of the time these last few weeks, being still with God was about all I could manage. Hanging on is my job.

This psalm for today certainly seems to fit:

Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the caverns of the earth, and the heights of the hills are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands have molded the dry land. 

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice! ~ Psalm 95:1-7

Donna

I need solitude!

Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation. – Ann Voskamp

Easter is in three weeks so we are half-way through Lent.  Wow!  I feel like I haven’t even started.  I’m not doing any of the things I sat out to do, except that my husband and I are saying Evening Prayer together and adding three more minutes to our paying attention prayer that Fr. Jack suggested we all do during Lent.

I couldn’t concentrate on the meditation books that I had planned on using, so I have been reading books by Anne Lamott (sort of like reading a novel on breaks when I was in seminary).  In very humorous ways, she writes about her life with Jesus, what a mess she was and still is, and her God directed, ongoing transformational process.  She reminds me that I don’t (we don’t) need to have it all together, we just need to stay attached to God and let the Holy Spirit grow us.  It’s a life-long process.  I know this, but I need to hear it again.  And again. Is there something that God is trying to form in me?  As Ann Voskamp says above, Lent is not about “giving up”, but about being transformed into the image of Jesus.  At least it can be.  Silence and Solitude is a very helpful practice for us in transformation. Jesus modeled it often.

There is one event of the last week that really does stand out.   Last Saturday, I had things to write.  I wanted to attend a class.  The house needed cleaning.  And I was still very low on energy.  My cell phone wouldn’t come on that morning which was a minor irritation, and as I was working on the computer before getting ready to go, the power went out.  I heard a big bang and assumed a transformer had blown.  It could be a while.  I realized that with no power, I had no heat, no house phone – no computer, no way to cook, clean, and I could not get my car out of the garage.  I was stuck – no class, no going to the phone store or anything else.  You would think that I would have realized that I needed to “pay attention.” What else did I need?

It was amazing how antsy I was. I had to do something; anything.  Since I couldn’t do what I had planned, I did cross word puzzles and Sudoku for a couple of hours.  I, who am trained and try to help people find solitude in their lives, couldn’t manage to recognize the invitation when it was right there in a dyed in the wool, God-provided, opportunity.  During the week the missed invitation became louder. Being still and spending quality time with God in silence is an important spiritual habit.  “Be still and know that I am God,” the Bible tells us.  Solitude is spending periods of time alone paying attention in prayer, Bible reading, and sometimes with spiritual reading or even walking. It is a time for refreshment, and for transformation.  I am fairly certain, this is what I have been invited to do as my Lenten practice with the time left.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You; to receive the food of Your Holy Word. Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; Shape and fashion us in Your likeness. That the light of Christ might be seen today; In our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us; All Your purposes for Your glory.~ Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Grace & Peace – Donna

Seriously?!?

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”  ~ Job 11:7-9

Seriously?!?

Sometimes Lent seems to come in with a bang.  Just like March – Lion or lamb?  I had Lenten plans, fairly quiet plans.  I wanted to work on getting healthier, exercise more, eat less chocolate – actually, no chocolate – eat better in general.  I was planning to spend more time reading the Bible and trying to work on being more aware of the moment, etc. I had Lenten meditations to read.

The last few months have been hectic.  My mother had been ill, colds and flu were going around.  I managed to get a fairly decent cold with some laryngitis which should have helped with my listening since I had trouble talking.  My brother’s recent serious illness and injuries still are of great concern – miracles have happened – and I thought I was getting through fairly well.  My schedule was busy, but that was about to slow down for a while. I was tired. I really do look forward to Lent so that I can consciously re-evaluate where I am with God, others and myself.

And then, I end up in the hospital with an infection requiring three surgeries in four days.  Seriously? Why?  What’s this about? I was starting to feel like Job, but then I reread the story.  There is a guy who really had serious problems.  I spent a day or two being mad at things that don’t usually bother me.  I was really furious with one or two.  My husband said I was grumpy and I wondered about the wisdom of him telling me that at the moment.  But he was right.  Then God said, “Girl, (he calls me that sometimes.  At least he didn’t call me Donna Jean.) “Girl, if you want your body to heal, you need to calm down. Have some inner peace.”  Okay!  Inner peace.  I’m all for it.  How?

I posted a quote by Henri Nouwen on my Facebook page this morning.  He said, “Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. …Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event….One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.”

How I choose to go through hard times makes a difference.  Jesus has promised to be with us, no matter what we go through, even when we don’t feel like he is. I choose to believe this and I have found it to be true over the years.  Some say God is testing us to see what we are made of, but he already knows the answer to that.  Maybe, we need to know that we can make it with God’s help and with each other’s help – God “with skin on”.  I don’t always know why things happen and I really don’t need to know but I can choose how I respond.

My sister told me yesterday, after telling me about the plans she and her husband are making for their future, “Those are our plans anyway, but you know, God may have different plans for us.”  We have to hold our plans lightly, because God’s plans, though often different from ours, are the plans that hold the promise.  They are the plans that bring the joy.  As Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives…and in my flesh I shall see God.”  Even now.  Today. If I choose it.

Seriously?  Yep. Very seriously.