A FRIDAY MEDITATION- Need a Break?

Solitude will do its good work whether we know what we are doing or not. – Ruth Haley Barton

As you have probably already noticed, this isn’t Friday. I started this meditation yesterday but I was not able to finish it. Below is how it began.

“In a month, or four weeks, we will have access to our new house. I am excited, so it doesn’t make sense that I should feel so …… whatever. When I try to understand where this sense of gloom is coming from, I can find no reason for it. Maybe it’s because my husband and I take turns getting colds. Maybe it’s the crazy spring weather which gives me body aches and keeps me inside out of the sun of which there is not much, anyway. To top it off, I’ve missed the spring retreat because of having muscle spasms in my back. Whine. Sigh. Darn. I knew something was out of kilter because I wanted to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down and I managed to do it for the most part. What’s up with this?”

So, yesterday and so far today, all I’ve really been able to do is sit, stretch, read, pray, be still and enjoy some well needed solitude. Hum. Well. In the process I read an article by Dr. David Benner that included this:  “…spiritual teachers have always taught the importance of awareness. Hasidic Jews tell a story of a young man who approached Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael one afternoon. “Rebbe,” the young man asked with great seriousness, “what is the way to God?” The rebbe looked up from his work and answered: “There is no way to God, for God is not other than here and now. The truth you seek is not hidden from you; you simply do not notice it. It is here for you if you will only awake.

“This is the truth that has been proclaimed by all the great Christian mystics across Christian history. And it is the truth taught from cover to cover of the Bible. In his Areopagus sermon, Paul declares that God “is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:27–28). God is closer than our next breath. Job even reminds us that not only is God the source of each breath, but each breath also is God’s breath (Job 27:3). How much more intimate could our relationship with God be? God is not absent. It is we who fail to notice divine presence. It’s all a matter of awareness.”

Now, I don’t think that I’m really bad about being aware of God, but there are certainly times when I am not. I’ve been stressed enough lately that I know I’ve missed Jesus in the face of others or in situations where I find myself…in the eyes of a woman in the lobby (narthex) at church, in the care of our loving hostess during our time of transition, in the love of my husband, and in your faces my dear brothers and sisters, in scripture or in an article I might just happen to read. I could go on. So how about today…when I am not where I had planned and wanted to be. Where is God’s face today? I know that God doesn’t give us backaches or any number of other maladies, but he certainly uses them to get our attention. He may keep telling us we need a break when we begin to miss his face, but we (OK, I) tend to ignore that until I have no other choice but to notice. Today, I’m taking a break.

Where are you aware of Jesus today?

“Be still and know that I am God.”

A FRIDAY MEDITATION- Astonished Much?

The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. ~ John 5:20

Today was much like most other days – get up; coffee; pray; coffee; breakfast; go to work; coffee; errands, etc.  Except today is different because once a month I have two articles to write in the same week.  Today, I must write a meditation, like I hope this will be, and also a longer article for the church’s newsletter. It is always a different day when I do this and I sometimes can’t think of things to write.

But, I remember a word from last Sunday’s sermon. From my perch high up in the rafters (choir loft) on Sunday mornings, I don’t always hear every word of it (I listened to it later from the web page – good one by the way), but today I remember the word “astonish”.  I think about that word and realize that I have to catch my breath when I meditate on it.  It’s that kind of word.

I had to run an errand in the middle of writing and the glory of the blooming trees caught my attention and my breath.  I had to try to keep my eyes on the road.  The white and pink blossoms midst the green of evergreens and new growth were breathtaking.  I was astonished that they made it through all of the heavy, wet snow last week still looking as they do. It’s that kind of day.

I looked up the word on Bible Gateway, NRSV version, and found “astonished” was used 22 times, 13 in the New Testament, and most of those were in reference to something Jesus had done.  Astonished is a verb – to astonish.  Oops, sorry – English major writing.

So, when has Jesus astonished me?  Many, many times when I think about it. The first time I really remember being astonished by Jesus was when our 5-day old daughter was instantaneously healed by prayer – ours and the church’s.  She was most likely dying.  I learned God hears my prayers.  Yes!!

Once I had lost a favorite erring, so I prayed Jesus would help me find it.  Not only did I find it, but I found it on my bed with the back still on the post.  I had been wearing it most of the day. I could hardly breathe.  I learned that God cares about the little things I care about.

I could tell so many stories that wow me while following Jesus. Healings – yes.  Finding lost things – yes. And guidance things over and over again even before I knew it was God – yes!  The recent on-going “astonished” has to do with how our house was sold and how we found a new one (I can’t wait to get into it). I knew it had to be God. Several times, when I got a bit antsy and tried to hurry things up (how human is that?), I heard Jesus laugh.

About moving to Greeley – He just said, “Go!” and then he said, “Stay!”  There is no space to describe this, today, but my life has changed so much since then, and I know it is Jesus’ doings.  When I really think about it, it’s another breath catcher, and this is only a part of the whole. There is still more astonishing things to come, I imagine, if I stay aware enough to see them. Thank you, Jesus.

How about you? How have you been astonished by Jesus, lately?

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Changes and Doubts

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? … Luke 24:36-38

The weather has been just about perfect the past few days, hasn’t it?  Trees and flowers are blooming, clapping their hands with joy and singing alleluias!!  The birds join in.  Listen! We hear it softly at first. “The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia.”  Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!”  All creation sings along.  So, why do we have doubts, today?

The disciples had this problem, too.  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?  Maybe so.  Then what’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous about two years ago. So much so that I am going to repeat it.: “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, indeed? I’ve had many changes in my life this year.  I know Jesus has been involved in them. I’m sure in your changes, too. So, 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.  Their doubts didn’t keep him away. Nor do ours.  What are our doubts today?  Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me?  Because, resurrection changes things.  Alleluia!

Come, young and old from every land – Men and women of the faith;
Come, those with full or empty hands – Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing – Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age: “Our God is all in all”!

~ Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Play dates

God comes to us disguised as our life. Failure to be open to the flow of our life means we miss the opportunities for growth and awakening that life inevitably brings us. ~ David Benner

What a great day.  The sun has been glorious and the sky has been so blue.  Just what my weary self has needed.  Also, today, I had a play date. A play date on a writing day?  Yes.  Writing is not a rule unless I impose it upon myself which I usually do.  It went like this….when my husband got home from a meeting, he had a bunch of errands to run, Friday being his errand day.  But today, he asked if I wanted to tag along, and for some unknown reason, well God probably knows, I said yes.  It didn’t take me long to answer, either, which is rare for an introvert.

First on his list was a haircut, so I got one, too.  Much better, if I do say so, for both of us.  Then a multitude of other errands and lunch, after which, we accomplished a few more.  What kind of a play date is that, perhaps you’re asking, and you should.  Because, it was a change of routine, which is healthy for our souls from time to time.  We were in and out of the car so there was time for walking and time for getting sun on my face which is good for me.  I smiled at other walkers, shoppers, and clerks to see who would smile back and who would look at me like they were wondering what the heck my problem was.  I’m happy to report there were not many of those. We ran into friends.  And my husband and I took time to talk.  Nothing really serious – just talked and laughed.  I had fun and my spirits were and are lifted.  It was that kind of play date.

“Play” is part of my stated personal Rule of Life and I recommend it to those who come to me for spiritual direction if they are getting too serious and are not having fun. I believe that we need times away from our regular routine.  I love the work I do; I have fun doing it, but it’s not a change. I think Jesus was fond of play.  He made extra wine at a wedding, at least once.  He got together with his friends for fish fries, and picnics.  I can see him dancing at parties.  One time, at least, he and his disciples were accused of eating and drinking instead of fasting like John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees. I can hear him laughing.  He took time for that.  Shouldn’t we?

If play is part of my spiritual discipline, why have I not been doing it?  Good question.  I have been so serious about all the things I need to do that I forgot, actually, to have fun.  I forgot to plan times for it. Occasionally, it might spontaneously appear, like today.  I used to garden, but it isn’t so easy for me now since knee surgery.  And camping, although Motel 8 is my idea of camping, or at least a small mountain cabin.  I loved floating on rafts on the lake while looking around at all that God had made, and we, my husband, relatives and friends would laugh like crazy – dinner parties, also.  Love those.  When did I forget to have fun?  Another good question. I might need to make a “fun” list.  Maybe you could use one, too. It’s good for our souls, you know.

“My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?”

~ Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – I’ll take the chance

“Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord’s surprise visits.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Happy Easter.  Christ is Risen!! It was a wonderful day, wasn’t it?

As some of you may have noticed, I didn’t send out A Friday Meditation last week.  I planned to and I wrote one.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to finish it. But, I’ll try again.

The Easter season celebrates the time that Jesus showed His risen self to the disciples.  It was always a surprise visit because they were not expecting him to show up.  They didn’t really understand what he was saying when he told them that he would be back in three days, so it took a minute or two for them to recognize him.

I can relate, even today, though I expect him to show up.  Let me explain. The choir sings at both of our Sunday services on Easter. As a member, I hoped to make it through both services since whatever illness it is that I keep fighting had me pretty worn out. I was doing OK when I went down the stairs from the choir loft at the second service to receive Communion.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a family of four wandering around the Narthex (lobby).  The father was looking in to the sanctuary through the windows in the closed doors.  I said hello.  I looked at them and they looked at me.  I thought she was going to say something, but she didn’t and I didn’t.  The rest of the choir came down, and the service continued.

As I sat in the loft after communion, a light bulb came on as I started thinking about that family.  What did they want or need?  Had they wanted to come to the service, but since it was pretty full, the doors were shut and they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t?  Did they need some help? I don’t know because I didn’t ask.  The thought struck me, “I just passed Jesus in the narthex and didn’t stop because I was on my way to communion.”  I was too focused on myself to stop and see what was needed. I was absolutely horrified when I realized this. I didn’t do it deliberately, but I wasn’t being aware.  I wasn’t “paying attention.” Sigh.

I am sorry and I prayed for forgiveness, but the scene hasn’t left me. This probably means that I’m having another growth opportunity.  Jesus works this way by turning our mistakes into a learning experience. This has happened to me before and it has changed me – transformed me, actually. I don’t know how I will be changed this time, but I know that I will – in awareness, I hope.

I have one more Easter story about a conversation my granddaughter had with her four-year old daughter – my great-granddaughter and God-daughter, Sarah.  Sarah: “Jesus died and came alive again.”  Mommie:  “Yes…?”  Sarah: “So, I think I’ll die.”  Mommie:  “No! You don’t need to die because Jesus rose again.”  Sarah:  “Well, I think I’ll chance it.”

Children put things so well. After I caught my breath from the shock of hearing this from a four-year old – I wondered what she was thinking – I remembered that we all must die to our ego-centered selves so that Jesus can be resurrected in us and so that we can be transformed into his image.  Thanks be to God.  It’s hard but I think I’ll chance it. I need to.