A FRIDAY MEDITATION, Part One – Who Am I Really?

“I believe there is within us this image of God…There is something deep within us, in everybody,that gets buried and distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us. But it is there as a source of insight and healing and strength.” ~ Frederick Buechner

Who am I really? Who was I created to be before life happened? What is the passion for service that God put within me before I was born and before the world took me over? What was his dream for me? These aren’t rhetorical questions, nor are they really questions that totally came to me out of the content of last week’s retreat. But they did start floating to the surface when I was reading a book while there (Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation), a very worthwhile book in my opinion. Have there been life clues to these answers over the years?

I have always been contemplative. I loved silence and solitude. I still do. I never minded being alone and often resented interruptions. I grew shy and very introverted. I was blessed by growing up in a time when there were few distractions. I loved being outside, and about age two or three, my getaway place was under a bush with weeping leafy branches to hide and comfort me. When I was in my teens my sanctuary place was high in a cherry tree where I could be alone.

I loved reading. I fell downstairs twice in one of our houses because my mother had called me and I couldn’t bear to stop reading before I got to the bottom. My grandmother taught me about imagination. She made up stories and played “Movie Theater” with me. Outside, we would look at a blank wall of a shed while she told an imaginary story. I saw the images play out on that wall. She and I saw an actual movie about a polio victim when I was seven. A nurse would rub her legs to help her. Grandma would rub mine because I had horrible leg aches at night. Then I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. Through, at least, first grade, I liked to play school. Sometimes I was the teacher and sometimes the student. Once, on a rainy school day, I gathered some classmates and put together a play – mostly ad lib. Our teacher let us perform it. I was both playwright and director and also one of the actors (overachiever? Maybe.)

I always loved singing and began singing in adult choir when I was ten. I sang in school chorus as long as I was allowed. I need music. It heals me. I know something is wrong when I can’t find it singing around inside me. Also at ten years old, my other grandmother gave me a book for my birthday – “Ann of Bethany.” Ann was a young girl who happened to be at the well when Mary, Joseph and Jesus were on their way to Egypt. When Mary got down from the donkey to get a drink of water, Ann was allowed to hold Jesus. I acted out this story over and over with my doll behind my father’s recliner. I draped a blanket over that and another chair to make my alone place – my sanctuary of solitude – to live with this story. I wanted to always hold Jesus and carry him with me.

So who am I really? What are the clues and the passions from these life stories that might connect me to God’s dream for me? Has the world and the expectations of me by others blinded me to my call? Stay tuned……Next week.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner

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I Stand Convicted

“You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel.” ~Matthew 5:43-44 (The Voice)

I get irritated with people, and groups, like Kim Davis—people who take a few verses out of the Bible and use it to promote their own theory or their own desires without taking into account the whole of scripture to see what it tells us about God.  Reading only a few verses to get an understanding of God will totally get us off track.  I get mad at hateful things being done to each other in the name of God.  I’m not going to list any of them because you probably have your own list and I would be mad at them, too. I get downright irate with the press who report and sensationalize such incidents that helps give Christians a bad name and turns people away from God.  Some people say, “I can’t believe in a God who does, condones or orders this kind of behavior.”  Well, “I can’t either.” I have heard it said that God needs a new PR department, and yes, he does.

In the middle of my latest fuming, God breaks in, “Feeling a bit judgmental today are you?” (Deep breath required) I hear and stand convicted. Is their sin of judging others worse than my own in judging them? “You without sin cast the first stone” Jesus says. “Pray for your enemies,” and, I insert, those we perceive to be our enemies.  My prayer list grows long. In my judgement of others, which tells me more about myself than it does about them, I have to ask, “How am I keeping people away from God? Would people be attracted to and want to follow Jesus, the One that I say I know, by watching and listening to me?”

When I worked in prison ministry, we had a sort of motto—“Listen, Listen.  Love, Love.” That was what we were called to do there, and most likely still are in our everyday lives.  Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people you have no time to love them.” Many of those I find myself judging are doing the best they know. They may be judging others based on the God they have come to understand. The Eleventh Step of AA’s Twelve Steps says, [We] “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” How sad it is when we understand God to be a vengeful, punishing God. Do I ever contribute to that misunderstanding? I pray not.

Is it possible for us to listen to the fear that resides underneath a person’s behavior?  Can we (I) listen and love without judging? Do I show the God of Love to others—the One in whom I say I believe. Jesus loves all of us.  He loves those that we don’t love and those we don’t want to love.  Jesus loves them.  He loves you, each and every one of you—including me (are you ready for it?) and there is nothing at all that you can do about it.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing, Jesus said from the cross.”   Forgive me, also, Lord of Love; there are many times I don’t know what I’m doing, either.

Grace and Peace – Donna

I Remember

There is a light in the world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness one may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways. ~ Mother Teresa

This, “September 11”, is a solemn day.  It is one of those days when we remember, if we were old enough, exactly where we were and what we were doing at the time. I was watching morning news when the report broke in of the first plane slamming into the world trade center.  We were switched to national news and watched, live, as the second plane followed.  I saw it coming.  I still can. I hoped and prayed that it was flying behind the building and that the first plane was an accident.  But it didn’t and it was not.  My granddaughter was getting ready to go to school and she looked at us, her grandfather and me.  We could not speak. The images were written on all our minds with indelible ink.

People, believers and non-believers, packed churches looking for answers. Why? How? Where is God? They wanted and needed answers and they needed comfort, reassurance and hope, especially hope. For a few days, we were kinder to each other. We watched as the scope of the horror unfolded and as clean-up began. Then, gradually, we went back to our “regular lives.”

It happened before in America, in 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II.  I don’t remember this day because I was not yet born.  My mother was four months pregnant with me at the time.  Did she remember exactly where she was that day? Were her questions the same as ours on 9/11? Did people wonder where God was? I wish I had asked her, but I never thought to do so.

This could all happen again. Jesus said, in Matthew 24:6ff, “….you will hear of wars and rumors of wars [he should have added “humans being how they are” but he didn’t]; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

“Are there any ANSWERS at all?” we continue to ask. Yes! God gave the answer when Jesus came to earth in flesh. Jesus showed us how we are to live so his Kingdom would begin to be realized. He promised that when the Kingdom of God finally comes in fullness there will be no more tears, no hunger, no homelessness, no war but, instead, peace. God’s promised peace is more than lack of war and turmoil. It is the presence of Love – a love that loves God and all others as we love ourselves – a love that even begins to restore creation.

The Daughters of the King, of which I and many of you are a part, vow to pray for the spread of God’s Kingdom every day.  We pray for this in any way we can, and then, we try to live the Kingdom life to help become the answer to our own prayers and God’s. We try, as best we can, to love as Jesus loves, how he showed us and how he asks us to love. We invite you to join us in our prayer. Let this be our “regular lives”.

In the meantime, we hang on tightly to hope that is given us.  Frederick Buechner wrote at the time of 9/11, “….All we can do is to draw close to God and to each other as best we can, the way those stunned New Yorkers did, and to hope that,.…when all hell breaks loose, there is nothing that happens, not even hell, where God is not present with us and for us.”

Come, Lord Jesus.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Help! We need Jesus.

Lord, we come to You not because you are our last hope, but because You are our first love. 
We’re not waiting to come to You only when we think there’s nothing else we can do.
We’re coming to You before we do anything at all…
~ Ann Voskamp

All day I’ve been trying to come up with something good and uplifting to write about, something to lift my spirits and yours.  My writings go all over the country, now, because someone told me I needed to start a blog – or maybe I should say, strongly suggested.  Because of that, often my meditations may not be as personal as they were when I first began writing them for our local Daughters of the King.

The only thing that comes is not uplifting. The world is broken.  My heart is broken to read about and see all of the horrors, not only on other shores, but in our own country. We so need Jesus. The world needs Jesus. I need Jesus.  I feel helpless. And scared.

Ann Voskamp wrote about an interaction with a young woman whom she had known as a young girl.  She had come home and noticed the cross Ann wears.  She nodded toward the cross and asked, “Is that who you are now?” Without waiting for an answer she said, “Tell me that you care about immigrants who are simply desperate for a safe place to exist or I’m not listening to your Jesus who you’re claiming exists in you.” Then among other statements, “Show me how you love your welfare-dependent, substance-addicted, God-rejecting neighbours as yourself —and maybe I’ll listen to your GodJust— just tell me that you love people different than you, more than you dismiss them — or I’m indifferent to listening to this Jesus who you say you love.”

When touched on a very deep level, vocal prayers are difficult for me.  Prayers come in the form of silence.  That’s OK.  It may be your way, also.  But, prayer is something we can all do; it helps us realize that without Jesus, we can do little to make any real difference.  And without seeing Jesus in us, the world may not see Jesus at all. As many of you know, today our friend, Verlene, wrote two prayers for refugees for our use. Thank you, Verlene.  I feel less helpless with these. She has called the Daughters of the King to a Novena (nine days of prayer for a specific intention). Some add some form of fasting.  I am including these prayers for your use, and if you would like join in the Novena, please do.

“Father God, look with mercy upon those fleeing from the terror and destruction of their home countries, especially children whose lives are in such psychological as well as physical peril. Let this be a time of opportunity for them to learn of your love and provision. Stir the hearts of those in the places to where they have flown in desperation. Let their hearts be moved to compassion and generosity.  You, who fed the 5,000 with only five loaves and two fishes, you who rained down manna and quails in the desert to sustain your wandering people, provide that which is needed for those who seek safety. May those who know you be as lights in the darkness.  May those in need who do not know you find hope and new life in you. We ask in the name of our Savior Jesus.”

“Jesus, you were once a refugee in Egypt when your family fled the murderous tactics of Herod as he destroyed the babies of Bethlehem.  Look with pity upon the plight of today’s refugee families seeking a safer place for their children. Comfort those who mourn the loss of their little ones. Send angels in whatever guise to protect and help. We ask it all for your love’s sake.”

Amen!