A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A blessing year

Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something that needs our love.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

There are so many images and thoughts coming to mind today.  I don’t know how or if they will fit together. We will begin a new year in two days.  I hope and pray that it will be a much less chaotic year than this passing one.  I think if I were asked what I wish for this next year, I would be likely to answer, as many contestants in beauty pageants do when asked, “World Peace.”  An aside – my granddaughter tried to get her daughter, then two, to answer this way when asked what she wanted for Christmas.  I don’t know that she ever convinced her to say it. But seriously, isn’t that what we all want?

Perhaps, though, we could answer that we want a year of blessing.  We, in our congregation, have been studying about the power of blessings. We have had teachings and sermons about this. Our Sunday book study read and discussed Russ Parker’s Book, Rediscovering the ministry of Blessing. So did Trinity’s chapter of The Brotherhood of St. Andrew.  I recommend it, highly.

Early in our presidential campaigns, I suggested that we bless both of our candidates whether we liked them or not. I believe that those blessings meant something.  I believe that blessings have power. I believe that is what we need to do.  I believe it makes a difference.

Another aside – In a few days, we will have a new president.  Some of us are delighted and some of us are not. That doesn’t matter. We are told in the Bible to pray for our president – 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” See, World Peace!

Back to blessings, should we not also be giving blessings to our president? Some of us are delighted by this prospect.  Some of us are not. It doesn’t matter.  We just do it.  I have been since the election. My blessings for our president are especially for wisdom, for a discerning heart, and whatever else enters my mind at the time.  Will it make a difference?  I believe so.  I know it will in me. Giving blessing changes a person. (btw – the person we bless doesn’t have to be present.)

Giving blessing could bring light out of the deepening darkness of our world. It may be a tiny light, but it is light nevertheless. Of course, maybe it’s a flood lamp.  Years ago, we took a trip and went into a cave.  Once there, the guide turned out the lights. Talk about darkness.  After a few minutes, he lit a match.  One tiny match.  So much light, you wouldn’t believe. If we lit several matches, can’t you just imagine…

Barbara Brown Tayler tells a story about blessing in her book, Altars in the World. Briefly, she told of a friend of hers who had a nightmare so frightening that he didn’t sleep well for years.  He didn’t have it every night, but he feared that he would. In the dream, “a malevolent being showed up at the door of her friend’s house wanting something.”  Every time he tried to find something to kill it or try to kill it, every time he killed it, the monster got larger.

“On night, in the dream, it occurred to him that what the demon wanted from him was his blessing.”  That was the only thing that would end its agony and make it leave. So, in fear and trembling, he opened the door and began blessing the creature.  Once was not enough.  He had to say it repeatedly in as many ways that he could think to bless. Barbara writes, “It was as if the demon could not get enough…It was as if no one had ever blessed it before.”  Her friend finally said for the hundredth time. ‘I bless you in the name of the Christ, now go in peace.’ Making a sound like a kitten, the demon turned around and never came back.”

We all need blessing.  Every one of us. We all have our own inner monsters.  How healing would it be if we were to bless each other?   Perhaps, the demons inside of us would go away, too.

We can use Fr. Nigel’s blessing for a starter.

May you be filled with the very love of the Lord. May your heart be at peace.  May your Soul be content.  May your body and mind be without pain. May worry be a thing of the past.  May you have abundant life in and through our Lord.  May his healing Grace rest on your shoulders.  Amen. ~ Fr. Nigel W. D. Mumford+

Grace and Peace to you. Have a blessed and blessing New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Let it be so

When does an ordinary life become extraordinary? A mundane day become revolutionary? A moment in time change history? When God enters in, forgives sin, allows us to begin again. When we repeat those words of Mary – ‘May it be to me as you say’ ~ John Birch

Sometimes, when I read and pray with the Bible, I try to put myself in the story.  I try to notice what is going on, who the characters are, what the air is like, etc.  This meditation becomes part of my prayer and sometimes it takes on a life of its own, such as this time.

“As I sat in prayer this morning, suddenly (why is it always suddenly) a stranger stood before me, ‘Hello, Donna, chosen by God. God has sent me to tell you that he wants you to bear his Son. His Kingdom will be forever, and he will save his people from themselves!  You will call him Jesus.’

‘Huh? What? Who are you? You are scaring me.  And what are you talking about? Are you nuts?’

‘Don’t be afraid, chosen one. I am the angel, Gabriel, and God sends me to bring messages to people.   He has been waiting for you.  He so loves you and he wants you to be the mother of his son.’

‘Well, I do love God.  Always.  But have God’s Son.  What does that even mean?  I’m a virgin. Have you any idea what my mother would say.  She will lock me up with this crazy story.’

‘Donna, this baby is the Promised One who will save the people from themselves and show them the way to live.  You know, they keep getting it wrong.’

‘Do you mean the Messiah?  Is that who you’re talking about?’

‘Yes! God has been waiting for you. This is your part.’

‘Oh, boy! Hmm.  Holy cow!  Are you serious? Really? You can’t be serious.  Can you?’

‘I am serious.’

‘Ah yes, then, may it be to me as you say.’”

This is a simple story to bear such holy weight, isn’t it?  It reminds us of the One for whom we wait.  We have been waiting in Advent.  We are waiting to celebrate Jesus‘ birth and we wait for his coming again.  We wait for the Kingdom of God and for all to be restored.  At this moment, we live in the ‘between’ times – between his birth and his return. He has called us, his followers, to be his Body on earth until then. We who are baptized are re-membered, as we receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion, to become his Body here on earth.  We are to fill the gap. We are to bear Jesus into the world, to tell the story, to do those things he did, show his love to others, to carry forth his light into the darkness and to participate in spreading God’s kingdom on earth. What an amazing and holy commission this is.

So, we wait.  God waits.  You, O highly favored one – God’s chosen – what is your part in bringing forth Jesus into the world?  And what is mine?  Will we say with Mary, “May it be done to me as you say?” Lord, grant us the Grace to answer, “Yes.”

Have a very Merry Christmas.  Stay Blessed favored one. Come Lord, Jesus!

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” – Meister Eckhart

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Ready for Jesus?

God is coming! God is coming!  All the element we swim in, this existence, echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it? – Walter Wangerin, Jr.

  I woke up this morning. That’s good.  However, I have come down with a bad cold.  Not good.  Why do I have a tendency to do this at this time of year?  Maybe it’s the cold weather.  I have too much to do to get ready for Christmas.  It seems that there is always so much more to do than I have the time to accomplish.  That is not good for an apprentice of Jesus. He does not want us to be so stressed.  I think that this all means that I am trying to do more than what needs doing. Sigh. But as long as I don’t run out of Kleenex and cold pills, I may be able to write this meditation.

I remember reading a meditation by Sharon Jaynes a few years ago, where she says, “It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter—‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ At the bank drive through window—‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ At the doctor’s office—‘Are you ready for Christmas?’”

               Well, my answer to that is always, “Nope. No way.”  I usually say that Christmas isn’t here until the 25th of December and I have 12 days after that, until Epiphany, to celebrate and finish up all that I have not managed to get done. (However, I still don’t get done.)  I am trying to simplify this year.  I always say that, too. What does “ready” mean? 

               Sharon said that a voice spoke to her in a dream and asked, “Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?” She said she would rephrase the question and ask, “Am I ready for Jesus?”  That puts the whole thing in perspective doesn’t it?  Are we ready for Jesus?  Am I?  Our Advent meditations and antiphons say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”  We aren’t only remembering the yearning of the Jewish people.  This is our yearning, too.  We are not only asking for Jesus to come at the end of time, which he will and we long for that. But, what we need, desire, and for which we pray is for Jesus to come, today, now.  We need Him to come into our hearts and lives.  Are we ready for Jesus to take over?  Transform us? Use us to spread His Kingdom?  Use us to accompany each other on the journey?  Use us as His hands and feet in a dark and hurting world?  Use us as light so that others can find the way?  Are we ready for this? If so, all we need to do is say, “Yes, Jesus, I am ready.  I am ready for Christmas.  Come.  Come, Lord Jesus.’”

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.  We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.  We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.  We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.  We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.  To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” ~ Henri Nouwen

Have a Blessed, Peace filled Christmas beaming with the Light and Love of Jesus. 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Log in My Eye

We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything–in people and in things and in nature and in events… The only thing is we don’t see it… I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. – Thomas Merton 

Over the last month, I have had cataract surgery in both eyes.  It has been a process, for sure, but the results are going to be great.  I just had my one week check-up on the second eye and everything is going well. As soon as I get my balance working better (another story), I will be better than new. 

Friends who have had this done told me that I would be amazed at the colors and how beautiful everything looks after the cataract is removed.  I don’t notice any difference in the colors – they hadn’t really changed for me. But now, I was able to read street signs again right after the first cataract was removed and the patch came off. Also, I could see a long way down a street on which I was traveling. Good news! One morning I was standing in the driveway looking at the leafless trees. Every little twig on them stood out with great clarity against the winter sky. It was absolutely stunning. I had not realized what I had been missing.

Standing in the middle of the driveway, pondering clarity and how something in the eye blocks vision was an eye-opening experience.  (No real pun intended…well, maybe.)  I was relating this story to my husband when the following verse came to mind.  I remember it best from the old King James Version of the Bible with which I was raised.  It says, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “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.”  That started a meditation which led to this from Matthew 7:3ff, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?” Yikes. 

When my spiritual eyes get clouded over with whatever, isn’t it likely that I don’t always see the face of Jesus in the places that he is, which is everywhere, including in your face?  Aside from the usual being human, that is, what have I missed and what has shrouded my eyes, recently? 

Being overwhelmed with what life has brought me this year has contributed to this, I believe.  I have been feeling pretty insecure and somewhat disconnected. I’m a bit off balance in more ways than one. Throw in a heavy duty case of introversion at the moment, which I can work around most of the time, and there I go. 

Wretched [female] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Romans 7:24-25a.  Of course! One of the reasons Jesus came was to help remove the barrier between us.  Our spiritual disciplines can help us notice the ways he does this.  As you probably know, I usually try to spend two periods, each day, of 20 minutes each in silent prayer.  It is not going well at the moment.  I absolutely cannot get my mind to slow down. I need lots of help, Lord. Well, ask and you receive.  I read that in a Book, somewhere.  I am also reading a book, Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, by J. Brent Bill. He recommends taking 5 minute periods of time each day, as needed, to be still, breathe, and listen for God’s voice. To Pay Attention, if you will.  If I take all of these as needed moments, I might also be able to stumble through this with grace. Join me if you have any “as needed” moments.  The film may fall from eyes as we sit and as we wait.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Just Waiting

I’ve learned how much the Advent season holds, how it breaks into our lives with images of light and dark, first and last things, watchfulness and longing, origin and destiny. ~ Kathleen Norris

What is Advent anyway?  An advent is about something or someone coming/arriving. The “Advent” of the Church year that we are experiencing now is about waiting.  It’s about darkness. It’s about lament. It’s about rescue. About hope. About preparing for the coming of light. About birth.  About rejoicing.  About Hallelujah. About Jesus. About Holy Spirit Power.  About suffering and sacrifice.  About Revolution.  About the Kingdom of God.  Did I say about waiting? Yes.

I know a great deal about waiting.  Most of us do when we think about it.  I am a mother who gave birth to five children.  The waiting was hard – especially for the first one when, even though I was expecting, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t even really know when to expect the arrival of the little person. There were many questions.  What will he/she be like?  Boy or Girl?  Will I be able to handle this responsibility?  Will I be able to wake up in the night for whatever is expected of me? Etc.

This year has been one of waiting as well.  We were moving into a different house.  We thought we knew which one, but we were never completely sure it that we had it right.  Interim arrangements for living had to be made while we waited.  Should we look elsewhere?   We tried even that.  We waited.  We expected.  We prayed.

We lost family members and friends with whom we waited as did they. We suffered through presidential campaigns. Aren’t we still.  We thought we were done with that.  We waited.

We ask, “Where is God?”

We pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus. When will you return?”  We wait. We hope. We pray. But we would like to avoid the hard work of waiting.  We would even like to avoid the hard work of looking for God where he is, even now, in the world.

Advent is a season in which, while darkness grows-and we can observe that, we are called to stay awake.  But, like the disciples waiting while Jesus prayed in the garden, the temptation to sleep – both literally and figuratively – is strong.  We often would rather not notice. However, the call of Advent is to “Wake Up”, to pay attention, to notice the Kingdom of God in our midst, to help in creating it where we are in whatever little (or big) ways we are called, even when we can’t see that it is helping.  This reminds me of this quote by Winn Collier. He said, “I’ll do the waiting the watching, God, and you do the Adventing.  I assume you’ll do it on your own schedule – that seems to be the way it works.” True. Right?  Let God do it.

So in the meantime – the Advent time – what, specifically, do we do to help usher in the Kingdom of God in fullness? For each of us, I don’t know.  We continue our preparations to celebrate Christmas, but not at the expense of our Advent.  We watch and pray.  We pay attention and God will show us – will tell us.  I find that when I do this, it is usually small assignments that I am given such as – Talk to that person in the church lobby on Sunday Morning.  Pay attention to someone who looks like they need help. Smile at the harried cashier in the store. Pray for those on the prayer list.  Look around.  Pay attention. Spend time with God.

Teresa of Calcutta says, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”  “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”  “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  And this one, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” She is a good example for us this Advent.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. ~ Romans 13:11-12a