A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Signs and Wonders

 

 “When he [the royal official] heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” ~ John 4: 47-48

This scripture caught my attention.  Suddenly, it was like I was seeing it with new eyes.  I had always assumed that Jesus’ comment to the official was a rebuke that we should believe without having to see miracles.  But, Jesus decided to heal the son, anyway.  And the official, along with his whole household, believed.  So, the thought came, “What if Jesus was saying that unless we see signs and wonders, it is difficult, if not impossible, to believe.”

Gospel lessons this week point to this.  Mark 7 tells about Jesus healing a deaf man with speech problems.  Afterwards, Jesus ordered those standing around not to tell anyone, (yeah right), but the more he ordered them, the more they told the story.

John 5 relates the story of Jesus healing a man lying by a healing pool. Jesus asks him if he wants to be made well then told him to stand up and walk. He did.  The crowd who observed this, and the man himself, began to tell of Jesus healing of him to anyone who would listen. God’s story spreads.

In John 6, Jesus feeds 5000 people with a boy’s lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. The large crowd had been following him because they saw the signs in the healings he was doing. The Bible says, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’”

Later, some of the crowd from the picnic look for Jesus. When they catch up with him, they ask how he got there.  Jesus, not answering, said, “…truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Then he preaches another sermon.

So, what if…..we need to see signs and wonders.  Perhaps it is not a sign of unbelief to want them but a pointer to the Kingdom of God.  What if we need this outer experience of God as well as the inner experience of God.  What if telling the stories of these signs in our own lives is part of our evangelism—part of telling the story.

I’m teaching a spiritual formation class on the Bible as God’s great love story for the humans he created and their unfolding understanding of that relationship.  We will, also, work with our own stories – past events in our lives to become more able to see where God is in them.  Not all stories have signs and wonders, but some do.  We can recall them when we wonder where God is or if he really cares.  These are our Gospel stories to share with others.

I have many stories but this is, hopefully, not a book, so I’ll only share two of my biggies.  Condensed, the first is about the healing of our daughter when she was five days old.  She had developed internal bleeding and doctors did not know why. She was moved about 50 miles from one hospital to another by ambulance. Doctors decided that if the bleeding did not stop in a few hours, they would have to do exploratory surgery.  I did some major wrestling with God all that night and, as the next day was Sunday, we called our church although they did not really believe miracles happened anymore. We asked for prayers, so they prayed, and at that instant our daughter was healed.  The military doctor said it was a miracle.  It was.  Signs and Wonders. The church came to believe that God still does miraculous healing and I came to believe that God hears my prayers.  The story spreads.

Second:  I had lost a special earring that my husband had given me.  I know I was wearing it that morning because I kept touching it.  One such time, I found it gone.  I looked around my desk.  In the wastebasket.  In the bathroom.  In my car. No earring.  I prayed that God would show me where it was but….  Dave was away on a business trip so I had been reading late in bed that night.  I needed to go to sleep but first I went to the bathroom.  When I came back to bed, I noticed something shiny on the blankets.  I picked it up and there it was – my earring.  How could this be?  Had I not worn it to work?  Had it fallen into my clothes, etc.? But then I noticed that the back that holds the earring on was still there……God brought the earring to me.  You may find this hard to believe, and sometimes I wonder myself.  We all find it hard to understand signs and wonders from time to time.  What did I learn about God?  I learned that God cares about things I care about—even little things.  It is a love story, after all.

And the stories continue….   What are yours?

The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt. ~ Frederick Buechner

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Be

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. ~ Psalm 62:5-6 

A Journal note from a few days ago.  I had been sitting and….

“God”, I say, “I think you have a big job ahead with me.  It will take a long time, I believe, to get me to where you dream of me to be.”

God:  “I have all the time in the world.”  He smiles.

Me: “You are a funny God.  I like your jokes. You make me laugh.” I feel God’s touch.

It’s been one of those days. I have sat here since early morning, with a break or two to play Sudoku and check my email. (And eat) My mind feels numb. Tired maybe.  Yes? I read, in my procrastinating time, a couple of poems – one of them a song.  I am not a poet but sometimes someone else’s sneaks into my soul and expands there while I read.

This by Kathie Hempel: “The blank page both beckons and mocks for who am I to think I can take on such a call?

Many thoughts scream, yet seem nothing new will ever escape from this word-laden spider web.

The dew of the web drips of promise and tears as I long to write something meaningful and inspiring. I mean, that’s what writers do is it not? However, I do not feel worthy.”

And a song by Neil Diamond: “BE”

“Lost – On a painted sky where the clouds are hung for the poet’s eye you may find him If you may find him

There – On a distant shore by the wings of dreams through an open door you may know him If you may

Be – As a page that aches for a word which speaks on a theme that is timeless and the one God will make for your day

Sing – As a song in search of a voice that is silent and the sun God will make for your way

And we dance to a whispered voice overheard by the soul undertook by the heart and you may know it – if you may know it

While the sand would become the stone which begat the spark turned to living bone

Holy, holy; Sanctus, Sanctus”

And by Henri Nouwen: “Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness.” ~ Henri Nouwen

So, what does all this say to me, today?  These things that feed my soul when there seems to be nothing to write?  Even though, the bright sun the last few days sends streams of water trickling into the streets.  Even though, hope seems to be lurking around the corner for warmer days ahead.  Even though I had two mornings of mostly solitude and silence in my office this past week.  No words come.  Nothing brilliant to put on a page.  Nothing hugely inspiring to add to your week.  Maybe that’s the point.

Yes, God has a big job ahead somedays.  He probably appreciates my silent mind while he does his work. And after all, God has all the time in the world.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Let it Be

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak mid-winter, long ago. ~   Hymnbook 1982 

Isn’t that quote a Christmas song, has she lost it?  You may ask.  No, I’m not crazy but I just read an article which said that the Meteorological Winter is December, January, and February, so on January 15, we are smack dab in mid-winter. The song fits.

I don’t care for winter anyway– actual winter or spiritual winter.  My bones hurt, it’s too dark, I have a tendency to depression and, even when the sun is shining, it’s been so cold that going out in it is not a benefit for me.  There are places in our yard and street still buried deep in snow.  After some thawing yesterday, I finally see a few patches of bare ground in the back yard. And did I mention that we are ONLY in midwinter?  I long for spring, but patches of bare ground bring hope.

Winter and periods of darkness are necessary for us.  I saw this quote recently, “Sometimes, when you’re in a dark place, you think you have been buried, but actually, you have been planted.” I don’t know who wrote it but it causes me to pause.  Seeds need to have a period of darkness in order to grow and be healthy. This is also true for our spiritual growth. Without times of darkness and quiet, we will cease to grow strong. Do I enjoy this?  Nooo!! But at least I’m beginning to understand it.  A bit.

This week I had lunch with a friend I don’t often see.  Occasionally, we are able to catch up with each other.  We have both had a difficult year from which we are struggling to recover. She is trying to give her decisions and her healing process to God.  So am I. She said the way she has been praying, recently, came from Jesus’ first miracle story, the making of wine at a wedding.  Actually it came from Mary’s request. Mary told Jesus one thing only, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). My friend had been reflecting on how Mary only stated the need and then left the situation in the hands of Jesus. She trusted that Jesus had it covered and she didn’t need to tell him what to do.

Today, the Gospel lesson (John 2:1-12) from Morning Prayer included this story.  Hmm…. Mary is an inspiration, isn’t she?  When told, earlier, by the angel that she was to bear the Son of God, although not really understanding, she said, “Let it be so, as God wills.” Her simple acceptance of God’s will for her shows her relationship with Him. “They have no wine,” is a simple prayer request stating her need. How would our prayers be if we accepted God’s will so completely and stated our needs so simply?  Would our darkness be lighter?

I have a couple of things that are up in the air.  I would like resolution. I want to know what’s up because of my basic, not totally healed, insecurity.  I get a bit anxious when I have situations that require decisions which will change my life, but I can’t make anything happen, yet. It’s out of my control and patience is not my strong suit some days. What if I only said “I need/they need (or want)__________” and “Be it to me as God wills” then go about my daily stuff realizing that God is working for my good whatever that is.  Can’t hurt to give it a try, can it?

“What can I give him, poor as I am? if I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;  if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him—give my heart.

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – You’re Not Alone

Taylor Caldwell wrote, “I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”—Taylor Caldwell

Although it is not Christmas any more and I don’t feel alone, for some unknown reason today, I started thinking about an incident that happened when I was about four years old. I have written about it before because it made an impression on me and is a favorite memory.  Maybe it has to do with the star followed by the wise men I don’t know. I haven’t thought of this story for quite some time, so I looked for it in the archives. I want to share it again, today.

“You know that I loved, loved, LOVED! Grandma Thomas. Many times she lived with us and when she didn’t, I always wanted to go be with her.  One evening, after dark, I really needed to see her so I convinced my parents that I needed to go spend the night. This was before we had telephones so we couldn’t call to let her know that I was coming.  We didn’t have to ask if it was ok because it always was.  So, I “packed” an extra dress and dad took me to her house about five or ten minutes away by car.

“When we arrived, no one was home and the house was dark.  In those days, there was not much light to get in the way of seeing the stars and there were thousands of them to see that night.  I love looking at stars so I sat down on the front steps to observe them.  Dad said we would have to go home, but I imagined that grandma would come soon and I wanted to stay.  After a few minutes, when she did not come, dad said we had to go.  Somehow, I convinced him to leave me on the steps of her front porch and he drove off down the long lane.

“While I sat waiting for her to come, I watched the twinkling stars and I didn’t feel lonely. I began to be a bit chilly since I hadn’t brought a sweater, so for warmth, I put on my extra dress over the one I was wearing. I really didn’t mind being alone, but in a few minutes, I saw a car coming down the lane.  It was my father who had never intended to actually leave me there by myself.  He was just out of my sight.  I couldn’t see him but he could see me and thought I would be ready to go home.  I wasn’t, but he made me go.  I was only four years old, after all.  That sleepover was a bust.

“Jesus is like this.  He loves us too much to ever leave us alone. Even when we are in dark places and think he has, or he has forgotten us, he hasn’t.  Christmas has told us that Jesus brings the light with him that we need to see our way.  If you are like me there are times, a minute or two anyway, where you don’t want to leave the place where you are.  But I know that God has better paths on which he invites me to travel than anything I can imagine, and so I, and probably you, go.” – 2013

We are now in the Epiphany season when we celebrate the wise men, following a star, coming to see Jesus at his home. The Covenant that belonged to the Jewish people alone, has been extended to the gentiles, to everyone, to us, as the light of Christ spreads out into the world. Jesus has no one out of his sight, ever, and he loves us, everyone.

Be blessed as you follow the star. Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR. Well, here it is – 2016.  2015 was about the shortest and the longest year ever, and I am very glad to see the last of it. It started with me having a bad cold that lasted at least four weeks.  I wasn’t quite over it when I had three surgeries to correct a problem with an infection, the last surgery was in the hospital.  While there, I had a major reaction to antibiotics (I’m allergic to all of them but we tried because it was necessary.) All of this resulted in a thyroid storm that I’m not sure has resolved yet.  Then, one more surgery on my hand, the death of my 93 year old mother, the serious injury of one of my brothers resulting in the loss of his leg, various expensive problems with an aging house, a major computer crash, etc. STRESS.

I could go on, but it’s just boring. This is not the sort of year upon which I care to reflect at the beginning of a new one.  The good news is that, as usual, God is making or can make good come out of it, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. I am still trying to recover my energy. Several thoughts have been running through my head for this writing, but none have really stuck, so we’ll see what happens.  It could go several ways.

I was asked to consider doing something to which I was rather resistant.  I told the person asking that but was asked to pray about it.  I pondered and prayed and while just going about my business, I heard God say, “Just do it.”  Kind of pushy, I thought, but then I was resistant and God is God.  So, this and a couple of other things for the next year are in the works and up in the air. I know that God is in charge of these, so I’ll go along for the ride.  Not much to reflect on here. Only waiting.

Or speaking of resolutions, which I wasn’t, but a Facebook post said, (Ok, so I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I have a couple of pages on which I try to post “Good News” to counteract all the bad). Anyway, the post has a dog asking the cat, “What is a New Year’s resolution?” The cat’s answer was, “It’s a To Do List for the first week in January.” Isn’t that the truth?  I’ve pretty much given up on most resolutions except for maybe this one.

But then, I read these on a blog by Ron Edmondson. He called his article “Seven New Year Resolutions which could Change the World.” Here are four of them along with some of his commentary.

“Let’s resolve to begin every day with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.…What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing?

“Let’s resolve to return evil with good…. (Pray for our enemies – Donna’s commentary)

“Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others….Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook…Let’s act like people – real people – may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (Say around 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 “Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak. Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. It’s also hard to hear from God. It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak….

“Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.”

Thank you, Ron. These are New Year’s resolutions I can believe in and perhaps even do.

Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath. ~ Psalm 116:2