A FRIDAY MEDITATION (a bit late) – What clutter?

Simply Jesus Son of Man.  Simply Jesus spotless lamb.

Simply Jesus dying to save. Simply Jesus empty grave.

Simply Jesus coming to reign. Simply Jesus we’ll proclaim.

Simply Jesus Living Word. Simply Jesus says it all.

Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord. ~ Paul Kyle

Yesterday, writing day, I tried all afternoon to come up with something to write about.   It is amazing that a person can sit in front of a computer screen for half a day and come up with nothing.  Well, not exactly “nothing” but nothing that hangs together.  Just one disjointed sentence after another.  Clutter. (I’ve been thinking too much lately.  Classes, trainings, writing, etc. Thinking hard is not my first love—not my personality type.  Intuition is very strong on my NT part of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). After being involved with many thinking activities, I’m a bit drained and cluttered in my head.

Spring is when we usually try to clean up and declutter things.  It’s a good time to go through our stuff (Is it called stuff for a reason?) to see what can be donated to the youth group garage sale or the clothing bank. Getting rid of clutter makes more space in our homes and affects our spirit space, also.  My 93 year old mother is trying to go through years of accumulated things because she needs to be in a smaller place but she wants to sort stuff first. There may be hidden treasures and she did find a picture of my father from when he was around 20 years old.  I had never seen it so I was delighted.  (Aside.  Did you know that there is a new app called “egg-minder” for your smart phone?  We need to buy this little tray to hold our eggs in the frig and it will keep track of how many eggs are left so when we’re at the grocery store, we can check our phone to see if we need to buy eggs.  Just saying’.) Clutter.

Decluttering home, head and heart can be a great spiritual exercise. It calls us to simplicity of life.  Our surroundings affect our openness to God. “Too much” is actually claustrophobic and tiring.  Clutter around us can hinder us in running the race to which we are called (to be apprentices of Jesus). Why do we always need more—more stuff, more energy, more time, more money, or more accomplishments? Why? What are we really wanting?  What makes us accumulate stuff in our heads, homes, and hearts instead of leaving open space so that we can notice God?  Good questions.

In Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus tells us that we are not to store up treasures on earth, but in heaven—that we cannot be devoted to both– “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

What is it that gets in the way of single-mindedly following Jesus?  What controls us? Where is our clutter? My clutter? How can I know when I’ve run up against such attachments in my life?  One way—when I consider a possession, I can ask myself what would happen if I no longer had it.  If I don’t think I can go on without this I may have attached myself to something that is not God.  It is then that my focus gets out of whack. So what can I do with this?  Being aware I have a problem is the beginning.  Life is complicated, Jesus is the answer, and so what will I do in addition to cleaning closets and donating unneeded stuff.  Stay tuned.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Where’s the music?

“Some say love it is a river that drowns the tender reed. Some say love it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.  Some say love it is a hunger an endless aching need. I say love it is a flower and you it’s only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance.  It’s the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give and the soul afraid of dyin’ that never learns to live. 

“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” – Amanda McBroom

This week, I wonder where my inner music went.  Usually, some song is in my head.  I just noticed, the last few days, there was none and I wonder.  Why not?  In prison ministry, the female residents loved this song made popular by Bette Midler.  They always wanted to sing it.  They know about broken.  They know about abuse. They know about things we don’t really want to know about. They know firsthand the things that are awful. They were trying to have hope.  They were trying to find God.  That’s why we were there.

Why do I have the news as my homepage on the computer?  Depressing.  ISIS. Horrible. Acts of Evil.  Shootings everywhere, even in our own neighborhoods.  People homeless and starving.  Children abused and killed, etc. The planet is being abused and could be beyond recovery, etc.  Do I even want to know this?  No!!

Why don’t I have something uplifting as my homepage?  Why?  Because I have to know.  I need to be aware.  How will I know what needs prayer?  God loves the evil doer but hates the evil they do and the darkness that evil brings. God calls us to pray for our enemies, and to do good to those who hate us; even when we are furiously angry with them; even when our heart hurts; we feel sick to our stomachs and even when we are afraid.  How do we spread light in these desperately dark places?  It is too big.  How do we live within the Kingdom of God so that Jesus and his Kingdom are visible?

This prayer helps me.  I visualize my heart space—the space where God dwells within.  I don’t actually know what it looks like but I know how it feels.  I put these enemies in that space with God.  I pray for his light to surround and fill each one.  I pray for evil to be banished.  I pray they may know that God loves them.  Brennen Manning said, “Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.” So I hold them there and then, I look to see what I can do to bring light into the situations in front of me as God leads.

Sunday is Pentecost, the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit who gave power to the disciples of Jesus to make a difference and to proclaim the Good News.  That same Holy Spirit is with us today for the same reason.  Pentecost reminds me to ask God for a fresh infilling of the Spirit, because I run out of gas. I run out of hope.  I run out of music.  I need all of that to do my part in the Kingdom of God to make him visible to a hurting world. Join me.  It takes all of us.   Come Holy Spirit.  Come.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – One of those days

Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love!

Hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, praising thee, their sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the gloom of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day.

~ Henry van Dyke, 1852-1922

Today has been one of those days.  Of course, what else could it be?  It is today. The grey, damp and rainy weather is getting to me.  My fibromyalgia is telling me all about it.  Stiff and sore. Fuzzy headed which we all, lovingly, call fibro-fog, etc.  There was, in the past, a funny picture on the Fibromyalgia Facebook site that said:  “So the bills are washed, laundry is paid, clothes are in the oven, and the last load of dinner is in the dryer.  Looks like my to-do list is complete.”  Funny!  Except it is all rather real.  I have found the tomatoes in the frig, the probiotics in the cupboard, the washer and/or the dryer ready to do their thing, with clothes in various stages waiting, but I haven’t started the machines.  I thought I did. I keep dropping things, I left the garage door open for three hours and I stand staring into the closet or the cupboard trying to think why I’m doing that.  You just have to laugh. Or I do.

The problem today, of course, is that I am supposed to write something.  I keep trying to do that even when I can’t think of anything profound to say.  Since I am all achy and rather down, I’ve tried to be positive.  I’ve asked friends on Facebook to send any extra sunshine they may have my way.  They are trying to find some and my husband said he ordered 50 pounds of it from Amazon – it’s supposed to be here on Tuesday.

Well, enough of that.  One thing I can do is remember who I am and who God is.  I can make a list of blessings, practice some gratitude and give thanks.  Someone, I can’t remember who, said that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. Very true.

In a very few minutes, I thought of and listed the following:

“Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for chasing me down all the days until I noticed you and came to know you are Love.

Thank you for the rain although, just sayin’, I could use a break.

Thank you, Lord, for walking with me, holding me and guiding me.

Thank you for bringing me into a loving spirit-filled community with whom to fellowship, to worship and to work for your Kingdom.

Thank you for soul friends.

Thank you for all my many friends.

Thank you for my family, for giving me the most loving husband, for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Thank you for my mother, my brothers, my sisters, nieces and nephews, etc.  Such a huge clan.

Our home.  We have one. It fits us.  It’s nice.  Thank you.

The cleaning ladies came the other day and everything’s almost squeaky clean.  We do live here after all, so they will need to come back. Thanks for cleaning ladies (and men).

For healing.  Thank you for that. Praise you.

Thank you for the gift of yourself, Jesus.  I am so, so very grateful.”

A few minutes of practicing gratitude and praying thanksgiving to God and I feel so blessed. And uplifted. And grateful.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Now if I can just remember where I put that thing-a-ma-jig.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Stories and More

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27

I love to hear conversion stories, continuing conversion stories, and stories of transformation. Some have been accompanied with signs and wonders and some are quiet, gentle stories.  Many are very emotional.  I have a passion for spiritual formation and ongoing transformation so I get excited about this and as a spiritual director I am blessed to hear about some.

My conversions have never been emotional or spectacular. When I was about 5 years of age, I had an experience of God while lying in the yard watching clouds go by overhead. I felt connected and peaceful, but that was it. I gave my life to Jesus many times.  We had altar calls on Sunday nights and many times I went forward.  People cried when they accepted Jesus, so I tried to squeeze out a tear or two because I believed it was expected, but there was really no emotion involved. I was never sure anything had happened or if I had “done it” right.

I was finally baptized when I was 24. I never expected anything to happen. I hadn’t been told that there could be.  Baptism was a choice I made because Jesus told us we needed it, and it made me part of the Christian Community which by this time, I really needed.  It was about this time in my life that I became afraid of God and was suffering from depression and panic attacks.  Emotions were scary, and I tried to keep them under wraps so they didn’t get away from me. God really was after me, but not for the reasons I thought. It took some transformation before I realized he was chasing me because of Love.

In my 30s, I had prayers for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said we were to do this. Many people received this accompanied by signs and wonders.  Not me.  Once again, I thought nothing had happened. There was no Holy Spirit fire that landed on my head, no ecstatic utterances such as speaking in tongues and I didn’t feel any release of anything. Why?  Oddly enough, though, I began to want to read the Bible all the time.  I wanted to be more involved in the Christian community.  I became very interested in reading books about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus, and about healing—everything I could get my hands on.

I was concerned about the speaking in tongues issue though.  Early on in life, I was taught that this was from the devil and not from God.  But people were saying that speaking in tongues was the sign that you had really been baptized in the Spirit.  I trusted them so I asked for prayer.  I didn’t spontaneously start speaking, no words formed on my tongue or in my mind, ever. What was wrong with me?  Finally months later, I said, “Ok, God.  I’m going to speak, so I hope you know what I am saying, ‘cause I don’t.”  The rest is history.  I still find this a very helpful way to pray when I don’t know what to pray.

Emotional or not, God has continually worked in my life.  Transformation and spiritual growth happens when I stay attached to the Vine. We can cooperate, but we can’t transform ourselves.  A quote someone said, “We are utterly dependent upon Jesus Christ, our ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, & Friend for genuine spiritual transformation.”  Very true. It is an ongoing process.  Apparently, God is doing a new thing in me, because on retreat last weekend, I cried most all of Saturday.  Tears falling all day. Emotions surfacing.  A word appearing before me.  A card received.  But that’s another story. For another day.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Why doubt?

Resurrection changes things.

Jesus himself appeared and stood among the eleven and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?…While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”—Luke 24:36-37

Easter is always a beautiful day.  This year wasn’t any different.  Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, baptism, alleluias!!  “The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia.”  Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!”  Communion.  Jesus. Community. All creation sings along.  So, why do we have doubts, now today?

The disciples had this problem.  Only a few had witnessed the crucifixion, but there were witnesses.  Mary, and some of the other women, had been there and seen it all.  Mary had stayed by his tomb, and she said that she had seen him alive.  Others saw the stone had been rolled away and angels told them Jesus was no longer dead but had risen as he had said he would. There were rumors that he had appeared to others, too. But could it be true?  What’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection, last year, from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous:   “Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Because you were dead, that’s why! Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead. May I say it again? Dead. Not resting. Not stunned. You had passed on, ceased to be, expired. You were bereft of life, you had kicked the bucket, you had shuffled off this mortal coil. You were dead and buried, and we were never going to see you again. That’s what death means, you know. It means separation. It means all last chances are gone. It means there’s no chance for anything to be any different between us.

“And now here you are, and it’s not a delusion, and you’re not a ghost, and you’re eating a friggin’ fish. So forgive me if I’m a little wigged out here, but that’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s supposed to go in a certain direction. It’s supposed to allow for no revisions. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, what’s gone is gone, what’s dead is dead.

“I’ve got to tell you, Jesus, you have broken those rules so badly I don’t even know where to put them anymore. I don’t think there’s any charity that would take them, you’ve messed them up so badly. And now that those rules about the past and the future, death and life, you and me, are in the rubbish, I’ve got to ask you, what else are you going to change?”— (underline, mine)

What else is going to change?  Why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives?  Did he not say he would?  We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting.  But, it doesn’t keep him away. Nor do ours.  What are your doubts today?  What are mine? Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me?  Because, resurrection changes things.  Alleluia!