A FRIDAY MEDITATION – “Why?” is the Question

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG)

We have all been aware of the smoke in the air around us caused by the fires in the western states. Monday, a friend and I went to Ft. Morgan for a meeting.  It was a very hazy day so on the way home, we couldn’t see the mountains.  Usually, they beckon us to come closer as we travel the prairie; they assure me that I am going in the right direction – toward the mountains – toward home. I love seeing them and when I can’t, I may get disorientated. I don’t know exactly where I am or if I am going the wrong way.

I was reminded of the above scripture from 1 Corinthians (the Love Chapter).  The older King James Version, with which I grew up, says in verse 12, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Life is like this. There are many times that we try to discern what God is doing, especially when it has been difficult, but it’s not to be. What do we do when life keeps piling up on us and we can’t figure out what’s going on?

I am sometimes tempted to, and sometimes actually do, ask the question, “Why?” and “What have I done wrong that God should allow all this difficulty in my life?  I know that has nothing to do with it, but…? I think of the story in the book of Job.  The book has 42 short chapters, where Job and his friends wrestle with this question. There isn’t a great answer.  Read it for yourself, sometime, and see what you think. God knew who Job was – a good and faithful man, and yet bad things happened. Why? I used to think that maybe God wanted Job to know that he was faithful, but I’m starting to believe that God wanted Job to depend upon God alone and not on how good and righteous he was, and maybe because working through this would be transformative for Job. My son posted on Facebook the other day, “I believe that if bad things didn’t happen to good people, we wouldn’t have the positive traits of compassion and empathy.” And then, there’s that.

What have I learned from this so far – all that has been happening in my life this past year? I’m learning that I can’t make it on my own steam. I can’t really figure out the “why?” and I can’t fix or even change most of it. I can only depend on God. I have to do this. There is no real choice. I hang onto the fact that God knows what he’s doing. I may not see where I am or where I’m going but I know and trust the One who leads and holds the way. Romans 8:28 assures me that all things will work out for good for all of us. I just need to stay with this until the fog (or the smoke) clears – and then beyond.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says  the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – God’s in the Pew?

“When we discover the secret of being inwardly at worship while outwardly at work, we find that the soul’s silence brings us to God and God to us.” ~ Brent Bill

Yesterday at the healing service while some had gone to the altar rail for prayers, I sat quietly in prayer for those and a few others.  I was dealing with a couple of things that had really upset me, so when I felt someone beside me in the seat that had been vacated, I was a bit startled.  The empty seat was next to the wall and it would have been next to impossible for anyone to get to that seat without me knowing about it. I wondered how that had happened when I suddenly realized that it was Jesus whose presence I felt.

He knew my inner turmoil and I felt him take my hand. I was wrapped in love. We sat together until I heard our priest say, “The peace of the Lord be with you.” Without really thinking I said, “The peace of the Lord be with you…uh…Lord.” I giggled, silently of course, but it was there inside me wandering around and filling me with laughter. What on earth does it mean to say, “The Peace of God be with you, God?”  How can it even be possible to pass the peace to God when God is our peace—Father, Son and Spirit—our peace.  Jesus smiled at my amusement and my wonderment.  My seatmate returned and the service continued.

Well, what does a person do with all this when she has just passed the peace to God? I have no idea.  Enjoy the moment comes to mind.  Realize that we are not alone in our stumbling, struggles and pain – that’s a good one to remember. Jesus has a sense of humor in case we didn’t know or forgot. And praise, definitely. I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth. My soul will glory in the Lord; let the poor hear and be glad. Magnify the Lord with me; and let us exalt his name together. – Psalm 34:1-4

And pray. “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”—C. S. Lewis

You know by now that one of my favorite ways to pray is Centering Prayer.  I pray with words, too, when they are required but I try, twice each day, to pray in silence.  Rich Lewis, a writer for Contemplatives Today, is writing a series on Centering Prayer.  Some of his answers to the question “Why do I center?” fit me as well.

“I center because I love God. I center to let go of my worries, anxieties, fears, things that are bothering me. When I center, I am sitting with God; I do not think words need to be said. I sit with God to love God and be loved by God. I believe God is praying in me in ways that I do not know…..I sit to let God act in me. I sit to be refreshed. I sit because it slows me down…I learn to make better decisions; sometimes silence is the best action.”

And, lastly, one of the reasons why I use Centering Prayer is that it helps me “Pay Attention.” That’s about all I know that I can do when I have just passed the peace to God.

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” ~ Mary Oliver

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Vow of Stability

Lead me Lord, lead me by your Spirit, make your will clear for my future.
For it is You LORD, You the wounded healer,
who makes my heart sing and my feet dance for joy.
Fill me Lord, fill me with your Spirit – Spirit of love, Spirit of joy and peace.
Be my rock, be my rock of refuge, of courage and strength for my journey.
Heal me Lord. Heal me by your Spirit, my every need and want.
For it is You LORD, You the wounded healer,
who makes my heart sing and my feet dance for joy. 

~ Finian’s Readings, Celtic Daily Prayer

This prayer has been wondering around in my mind and spirit for the last two weeks.  I keep coming back to it because I need it.  I have been reading meditations and scripture hoping to be inspired to write something for most of the day and I wonder if, after five years of monthly and weekly writings and meditations, I have nothing else to say. There are two reasons why I won’t quit, now, even if I don’t feel inspired.  One is that writing helps me to process where I am in my spiritual life, and two, a person is not really able to discern whether God is leading them into or away from a particular thing when there is turmoil and/or dryness in one’s life.

I found this reading about stability from Joan Chittister’s book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily. Stability is one of the vows Joan follows in her life as a Benedictine nun. It reminds me of my intention to stay put while I wait.

“Stability says that where I am is where God is for me. More than that, stability teaches that whatever the depth of the dullness or the difficulties around me, I can, if I will simply stay still enough of heart, find God there in the midst of them…a vow of stability is…designed to still the wandering heart. …when this…all seems irritating and deficient beyond the bearable…that is precisely the time when the spirituality of stability offers its greatest gift. Stability enables me to outlast the dark, cold places of life until the thaw comes and I can see new life in this uninhabitable place again. But for that to happen I must learn to wait…[Stability] says that we have an obligation to see things through until we have done for them what can be done, and, no less important, until they have done for us what can be done for us…Stability says that we will stay with the humdrum if only to condition our souls to cope with the unfleeable in life…It is not easy to continue the hard work of being here when everything around us says go there where it will be easier…it would be so much simpler just to quit. But the question becomes, what will happen to me as a person…if I don’t persist, if I don’t see this through?…In the first place, I will certainly fail to learn a great deal about myself…[and] in the second place, I will lose the opportunity to grow.” ~ Joan Chittister, OSB

Stability is really more about a place than a state of life, but it fits when I am tempted to quit (or if you are) when I am fairly certain that I am where I need to be, doing what I feel called to do. You may still get some reruns from me for a time.

Be my rock, be my rock of refuge, of courage and strength for my journey.
Heal me Lord. Heal me by your Spirit, my every need and want.
For it is You LORD, You the wounded healer, 
who makes my heart sing and my feet dance for joy.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Slow down?

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water. ~ Psalm 63:1

I’m bored with myself.  Truly. There has been too much that keeps me self-focused, and I’m very tired of that.  I feel, and not only feel but am, very scattered.  I can’t get my mind to quit racing like a runaway truck in the mountains on l-70 looking for the emergency escape ramp.  I saw a truck that had used this once.  Because of the change in momentum, it had turned over and spilled all of it innards.  Mars candy bars!  Chocolate!  I really should have stopped to see if the driver needed help picking up, right?

Wednesday – A day in my life – one of those. I have started making more lists to keep me on track.  Usually, I send myself an email from my phone because it is always with me and I probably won’t lose my list.  But today, I wrote my list on a small yellow pad.  I was rushing around like crazy, trying to do a few more things (start laundry, start dishwasher, etc.) before I left for the office, and I wanted to remember what I needed to do later. Writing a phone email slows me down.  Hmm.

Escape ramp #1 – Awareness check – I had one more note to add to my list so I went to my note box (a note BOX– really??) and I couldn’t find the list.  I had just written it.  I looked everywhere I had been, but it wasn’t anywhere—one sure sign of stress I think. An image popped into my mind of wadding up a piece of yellow paper and throwing it into the trash. And sure enough, there it was. I wrote it and then, immediately, tossed it.

There two possible morals to this story. First, the stuff on the list doesn’t need doing – doubtful, or I don’t want to do them – probably, but I’ll check – hmm, some of each. Second, I’m not being mindful. I am crazy doing and not being aware.  A third possibility just came to mind. Perhaps, I feel like chucking it all in the trash. A thought.  I’m going with the second.

This is a rather humorous story, but a serious problem, not only for everyday life but, also, for my intimate relationship with God. I know why I am scattered and unaware at the moment and I don’t want to live in this space. What to do?  Last week I wrote that silence, solitude, meditation and soul friends are a big help, always, but especially now.  I had a wonderful meeting with soul friends on this Wednesday. Meditation is difficult because of my racing mind.  A question: Did Jesus have this problem?  He seemed so focused. He did often go away from the crowd to a quiet place to pray and regroup – silence, solitude, prayer. Maybe that’s why. Don’t we all need this?  Don’t we all have times like these?

Escape ramp #2 – The power went out – the garage door wouldn’t open. I couldn’t finish getting ready for work and I couldn’t get the car out of the garage. Maybe this is a “slow down” and that did get my attention. Prayer and meditation required. The power came back on and I did get to work.  Lesson noted.

We can simply want our situation solved — when God simply wants to be our answer.” Ann Voskamp