A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Stressed Out?

“She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” ~ Mark 5: 27-29a

As most of you know, the first half of this year has not gone well for me. The second half hasn’t gone any better with my mother’s death and a very ill nephew. I haven’t really had the time or energy to get my summer sun fix for my Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I usually count on this to get me through the winter, but when I have planned on setting outside for 30 minutes, something else happens.

Just for grins, I decided to take the “stress point” quiz. I knew the points would be high, but I didn’t realize how high – around 500 points. 300 to 600 points in one year, of which there’s only been half, gives a person an almost certain chance of becoming ill, which by the way, adds more stress points. I didn’t count the other stressful things going on in my life, such as the garage door breaking twice, patio chairs stolen from the back yard – two separate times—my new glasses aren’t right and will need to be remade, and the car air conditioning broke while we were out of town. There are more, but I won’t bore you. Most of them cost money to fix.  Add a personal issue or two and I could add more points – all of these in the last two months.  I didn’t count these in the quiz because there was no place for it.  Each is a little thing but they’ve added up until I am totally bone dry and panicky.  So, no hope, right?  Wrong!

How does a person counteract this much stress or even a lesser amount?  Well, I can curse and whine of which I have done my share.  It hasn’t changed anything, and has just caused more irritation to me and the one with whom I live.  Perhaps, a few others of you, as well.  So sorry. I can step up my exercise program and try to get more sun, but that will only go so far. What is a body to do?

The above scripture verses have appeared several times in the last few weeks in the meditations I read and in the Bible as well.  “If I can touch him, even the hem of his robe, I will be healed.”  That’s says something to me.  How can I touch him?  It is more than just talking to him as I run around like a crazy woman.  That is good but it doesn’t fill up the holes in my soul.  It doesn’t heal the hemorrhaging that drains life from me.  What I need, and which once again I have let slip a bit, is quality time with my maker and the one who loves me like no other—the one who knows exactly what I need.

Quality time, for me, is silent prayer—Centering Prayer, solitude, and praying with the Bible – Lectio Divina—listening for God as I read. I need a lot of this in the next few months to cancel out those stress points.  Meeting with my Soul Friends will keep me accountable to this.

“Like the woman at the well, I was seeking for things that could not satisfy. And then I heard my Savior speaking—‘Draw from my well that never shall run dry.’

Fill my cup, Lord; I lift it up Lord; Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.  Bread of Heaven feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.” ~ Richard Blanchard

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Remembering Mom

Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die. ~ Mary Elizabeth Frye

This is the last line of a poem found in my mother’s things and played as a song at her funeral.  How do I even begin to write on my reflections of the last week?  There are so many thoughts and pictures. Where do I start? Where did I see signs of the Kingdom of God?

When we arrived home in Grand Junction – is it still home after this many years? I have a sign hanging my living room that says, “Home is where they love you.” So, yes. Home. One of them. Flurry of activities.  Things to be done before mom’s funeral.  Papers to sign, etc.  Cleaning out our mom’s and brother’s home – a rental – while everyone was there. Most everyone scurrying. Family meals – parties. More family arriving.  Will heaven be somewhat like this without the cleaning and paperwork?

A young nephew with impish grin and carrot hair kept deliberately running into me and poking me. Older nephews, too.  Nieces as well.  Brothers, Sisters, friends and relatives of relatives. Hugs. A few tears. Family healing happening.  Kingdom things.

At the viewing of her body, I stood with her for a time. I remembered photos. Dad was away at war so there are many pictures of the two of us together that she sent him. Looking at her, I had the strongest impression – I couldn’t shake it – that she was going to wink at me. If she does, I thought, I will freak out.  But then I realized that she was winking at me from the other place, so close, so present, so surrounding us, but of which we are seldom aware. She winked at me, with a crazy grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye.  She loves us. She is ok and strong again.  I shared this.  Her pastor talked lovingly of her and her faith.  He urged us to follow her example of loving Jesus and caring for others.  He said that to God each of us was his favorite.  Mom and grandma were both like that.  How can there be this many favorites?  With God’s love, only.

Flowers covered her casket.  Many of us brought a blossom home. Two parties afterwards.  One was lunch at her church of many years, prepared by her church family and friends.  Another was at evening when we gathered for supper and sharing.  We passed around pictures, took more, hugged, kissed and loved.  We may not ever be here, all of us together, again on this earth.  Family members who had been estranged, some for years, began healing. There was forgiveness. More signs of God’s kingdom.  It will be like this, finally, but how wonderful, how awesome, to be part of it now.

Oh, I almost forgot.  There was a Mason jar found among mom’s things as we were cleaning.  It was filled with keys and labeled, “Doors I have known.”  We laughed about that.  So funny, like her. I ponder those keys and the doors wondering what doors they fit.  Where did they take her? Maybe a key to the Kingdom. The last morning, as we turned north to get on the I-70 ramp, a rainbow greeted us. So beautiful.  God and his promises – a wonderful sign.

Phillip Yancey wrote, today, in GRACE NOTES, “I believe not so much because the invisible world impinges on this one but because the visible world hints at a lack of completion….Love, too, is why I believe.  At the end of life, what else matters?  ‘Love never fails,’ Paul wrote.  ‘It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’  He could only be describing God’s love, for no human love meets that standard of perfection.”

Sometimes, human love comes close.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Signs of the Kingdom

Monday was a strange day. When I woke, I had a strong feeling that I needed to get ready to go to Grand Junction. I have been trying to discern the timing for this trip because my 93 year-old mother had gradually been going downhill.  But, when I prayed for her each day, I heard that I should wait.  Other things needed to happen first.  I was trying to listen, so on this day, I had a meeting and then planned to go home and pack.

In prayer, I heard, “Look for visible signs of the Kingdom of God.”  I’ve been daily looking for blessings even though sometimes the blessings noted were the usual of family, friends, shelter, etc.  Looking for the Kingdom was a new suggestion and something that really made sense because it is so easy to see all the trouble and signs of “not Kingdom” in the world every day

Leaving for work, I found that the garage door would not close, so I needed to rearrange a few things in order to make sure someone was home for the fixer of such messes.  I did mention to God that I didn’t think this was a Kingdom of God sign, but then really, who knows?  It wasn’t murder and mayhem.

My morning meeting was with my spiritual direction supervision group.  I shared with the other two directors my sense of needing to go to mom’s and God’s suggestion of noticing the Kingdom of God.  We talked about how that might look and we prayed together – a Kingdom sign.

When the meeting was over, I had a message to call my husband at home.  My mother was being transferred from the hospital to hospice.  She had had a bad night and they couldn’t stabilize her.   This explained my discernment that I needed to go over the mountain.  When I got home, I was talking with my husband about what was going on and looking at text messages from my two sisters who were with mom waiting for the transfer.  One sister had gone to the hospital to bring mom home. Then I got the text, “In the blink of an eye, she’s gone.”  Oh…

One of the scripture readings from Monday morning was from Mark 1 about the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Verse 31 says, “He [Jesus] came and took her by the hand and raised her up.” I planned to meditate more on this story and maybe write about it.

I have a wonderful supportive, praying church community, who within in minutes were sending prayers, love, offers of help and blessing.  I so often see God’s kingdom through you.  Thank you and bless you.

Stories of Mom – She had ordered lunch and was laughing and talking with my sisters about camping trips and her famous peach cobbler while they waited for hospital discharge papers and the transfer to hospice when in mid-laugh, she died.  Jesus “came and took her by the hand and raised her up.”  Thank you Lord.

When the hospice lady came with the discharge papers she said, “I guess she had discharge plans of her own.”  My sister said, “I thought I came (to the hospital) today to take her home. Apparently, God had the same plan.”

We, my siblings and I, have talked.  Mom would want this way of going rather than any other unless, possibly, while sitting down in her iris bed.  She is probably tending the iris in heaven today and planning the next flower bed.

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die. And everyone who has life, and has committed himself to me in faith, shall not die for ever.
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my awaking, he will raise me up; and in my body I shall see God.” – The Book of Common Prayer

Rest in Peace, Mom. I love you.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Furious Love Story

You’re the Word of God the Father from before the world began.
Ev’ry star and ev’ry planet has been fashioned by Your hand.
All creation holds together by the power of Your voice.
Let the skies declare Your glory; Let the land and seas rejoice!
You’re the Author of Creation; You’re the Lord of ev’ry man;
And Your cry of love rings out across the lands. ~
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

I’m am putting together a spiritual formation class for fall about the love story in the Bible, and many thoughts and stories have presented themselves to me – my story within God’s story.  Three of these stand out from the rest.  They are numinous stories which means that there is a strong sense of the divine within them. Numinous stories have a sense of the mysterious, holy, or spiritual quality about them, according to the dictionary and according to the persons who have experienced them.  These stories stay with us and they are easy to remember, emotional content and all.  

My first experience happened when I was between five and seven years old.  Around age seven is when many people have their first experience of the Holy God.  I was lying in the grass at my uncle’s home, where we were staying, staring at the sky.  I felt such peace, love and connection. I was totally aware of that one moment. I could have stayed in that place forever.

Fast forward about 30 years.  We had taken a camping trip to Grand Mesa in western Colorado and had gone for a drive.  I stood in the middle of a meadow a few feet from the edge of an overlook.  There were wildflowers everywhere, mountains around me and the valley below me.  Tears began to flow and I was filled with such yearning, such longing that I couldn’t explain.  It was later that I came to know that this yearning was for God and, also, God’s furious longing for me mingled together.

My third story is recent and I know I’ve it mentioned before.  I had gone to bed, turned out the lights and began to say a nightly prayer asking God to work in me as I sleep while I am less likely to get in the way, when an image of the sky appeared in my vision—the night sky studded with millions of stars—as it appears when there is no interference from city lights. This experience is still very difficult to describe, but as I looked a piece of the sky moved, rippled, and settled back into place.  I knew it was God, but we can’t “see” God who is spirit.  I tried, at that time, to contemplate God before anything was and became so overwhelmed with awe that I was almost terrified and could hardly catch my breath.  Even today as I write, these feelings are still there.  I can only believe that God has shown himself to me and called me into deeper intimacy. I have been forever changed.

There have been many stories in between and around these three, none as dramatic and many of which you have already heard. Why am I talking about these particular stories—these experiences—today?  Well, because I was thinking about them.  Because I’m putting together a class. Because it is the Jesus in you where I see God most clearly, but mainly, dear ones, because I want you to consider your own stories so you can remember and know that God is always inviting you into this furious love affair and is continually communicating love and longing to us – all of us. I want you to become aware of your own love story as it intertwines with God’s story.  If you choose, think back to when you were very young and, then, throughout your life so far.  Ask Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance your stories.  Jot them down and read the love story, especially when you forget that God chose you before you were born.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grateful Day

O my soul, created to enjoy such exquisite gifts, what are you doing? Where is your life going?

~ John of the Cross

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States. We all know that story, so I’m not going to comment on it.  But one of the scripture lessons appointed for this day is interesting. Jesus is speaking, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:43-48

How do we be perfect as our Father is perfect?  What does that mean in this context?  Jesus commands us to pray for, bless, and abstain from cursing our enemies, etc., but how did Jesus treat his enemies?  As Jesus’ apprentices, we need to do likewise.  Jesus seldom responded with violence.  He healed his enemies (Ex. the Samaritan woman, he prayed for them, and he asked his Father to forgive them (from the cross) after being mocked, beaten, and spit on. Read these stories, and others, because I want us to think on these things as we remember our freedom and as we look at situations in our country and in the world. We want to be perfect as our Father is perfect.

I really had planned to meditate on gratitude, and I think it ties in with this lesson for the Fourth of July, so you get two meditations for the price of one.  In 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Reading this whole chapter makes a good meditation.  How, in all circumstances, do we give thanks? How, when the world and our country sometimes appear to be going to “you know where” in a “you know what”? And why should we? Because God will work it out and, ultimately, God wins, so we just do. It’s God’s will for us.

Some of us keep a gratitude journal.  This exercise, done regularly, can pull us out of anger, out of fear, out of darkness, out of depression, and out of dryness.  It can help us notice God’s working and winning in our world.  In our journal, we list those things for which we are thankful every day. Tonight, before we go to sleep, let’s list ten (10) things for which we are grateful.  Don’t use the obvious, family, home, food, etc., until we list ten others.  Noticing the obvious gets us off the hook. After the ten, we can note the things that are always on our list. It’s a grateful thing to do.

Today I am writing:  My freedom, freedom to worship, my soul friends, my knee replacements, a job I love, a loving community, dandelions, bees, surprising new flowers in the yard, dinner with friends, and a bonus, “Ultimately, God wins.” Now, the obvious—my husband, my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, Mom, brothers, sisters, extended family, my home, sunshine, blue sky, etc. Thank you, God. I am so grateful.

Be blessed and stay safe on this Independence Day, dear ones. God loves you.