A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Listening

A FRIDAY MEDITATION
June 1, 2018

“But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”—Psalm 31:14-15

I woke up yesterday morning and decided I was going to feel sorry for myself for the day. I didn’t feel particularly well. I was achy and shaky and didn’t have any energy. I whined inside myself for a while about the things I can’t manage to do, now. Things that brought me life, like singing, especially in choir, serving at receptions, teaching – I had a couple of classes that I wanted to do. I have a hard time keeping to a schedule. I feel useless, weak and uninspired. Etc. Whine.

I was reminded of something one of my granddaughters said once: “She needs her some Jesus.” I do. I need me some Jesus. I need lots of Jesus. I need to get myself to church for the healing service and spend time in community with other Christians – Jesus with skin on. Now to get dressed and see if I can get my shaky self down there. (I did. Thanks for the boost, Jesus.)

Feeling sorry for myself is a choice I can make any time, but it takes me out of the moment. I deliberately chose it for a few minutes – Okay, maybe an hour – I try hard not to let that happen. As I have said before, practicing gratitude to God for the gift of himself and for his gifts in my life helps me stay focused on where I need to be.

My Facebook page reminded me that, in the past week, I had the 28th anniversary of my graduating from St. Thomas Seminary having received a Certificate of Pastoral Ministry with concentration in Spiritual Direction. With that two years of training, 2 years at Aims studying Psychology and Counseling, a year in between that and the program, in addition to the years that I had been listening to people tell their stories before I even knew that there was such a thing as Spiritual Direction, I have been providing spiritual direction for over 35 years. Wow! That’s a long time. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed and how much I have enjoyed it. I don’t intend to stop until I have to.

Mostly, spiritual direction is a ministry of listening. Listening to a person’s God stories. Listening, myself, for God in their stories. Helping them see God there and helping them find blocks in themselves that prevents their seeing, hearing and transformation. Strangely, or maybe not so much so, this helps me find my own blocks. I am so grateful for this most joyous gift. I believe it to be a gift of the Holy Spirit that was built into me from the beginning though I didn’t know it until the fullness of time. Some of our spiritual gifts are like that. Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner. We just need to find that intersection.

How did I know that this was what God had called me to do? I didn’t know. As I said, I grew into it. I had planned to become a nurse. Healing was important to me. Then, I believed that maybe it was being a family counselor and began that track. During all these times, I listened to stories. Finally, 31 years ago, a friend who was attending St. Thomas seminary, discovered that the seminary had a program for spiritual directors. She called me and told me that she believed I should take it. When she wrote my recommendation letter, she wrote that “Donna is always asking, ‘I wonder what God is doing in this’ or ‘where is God in this’” Guilty. So, the rest is history. I almost didn’t go because of some family situations where I needed to be more available at home. I called my advisor and told her that I wasn’t going to take the program. A year later life stabilized, and I felt the tug. I called and told her that I wanted to reapply. She said that she would take my application out of my file. She had kept it because she knew I would be back.

So, why this story, today? Well, basically, its what happened this week. My life as a sick person can become very dull and boring if I let it. But also, this is how God often works in our lives. If we are listening, we can hear the call. We can find our Holy Spirit gifts. They stir something in us and usually won’t turn us loose. I am grateful for this.

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness? Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder? And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

[Chorus:]
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You laid down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – In All Circumstances?

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Last Friday was my birthday.  I was going to write this then, but it wasn’t ready.  I had far more to ponder before it would come together. Ten months ago, I did not know if I would be here for this birthday. Of course, we really don’t know if we will be here on any particular day, but we assume for the most part that we will.  Anyway, I am grateful for this gift because that is what my life is. I am grateful for this birthday.

 

The Saturday before, I spent about five hours in the ER.  I was sent there because of a persistent bad cough and the doctor believed there was fluid buildup on my lung.  When the ER doctor gave me an ultrasound, he couldn’t find enough fluid to cause that much problem.  So, there were other tests including a CT scan that was administered by a friend. Another gift from God, I believe, that helped me see and know his love and hers.  There was something (they don’t know what) that was mostly occluding the lung tumor, so they couldn’t see it well.  They are assuming that it has grown and that it was causing the problem with my cough. I didn’t mention the fact that I had been praying for God to put some sort of bubble around the tumor to keep it contained. I’m chicken, I guess. I am now on some different drugs that has stopped the coughing.  Thank God.

 

This was not terrific news for us and we are still praying for a miracle.  God is sometimes a last-minute God. We have seen that before.  However, I need to prepare because as the psalmist in Psalm 31 tells God, he knows that his times are in God’s hands and in Psalm 39 he tells God he knows that his days are numbered. Ours all are. My life is still in God’s hands. I’m scared, sometimes, but don’t tell anyone because I try to be and act more brave than I am, occasionally. Recently, I ran across a Snoopy cartoon where Charlie Brown says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” And Snoopy, wisely, says, “True, but on all the other days, we will not.” So how do we not on other days?

 

I really try to stay in the moment.  When I find myself afraid, I remember that right at this moment, I am alive and, mostly, don’t feel too bad. I would like a bit more energy. On these alive days, I am too live my life serving and loving God and others. So, I take a deep breath and go on.

 

I have another confession, and this really does go along with what I’ve already written, so hang on.  I have been having trouble with my gratitude.  I’m grateful for the same things – family, friends, home, food, etc., but why not, right???  However, though I know they are gifts, I often take them for granted.  Something needs to change because I quit making a gratitude list. I had to do better than this.

 

I started reading a brand-new book by Diana Butler Bass (Grateful – The transformative power of giving thanks) She said that some of the things we put on our list, though gifts, are partly privilege. We work hard.  We are able to get things. We sometimes forget that being able to do that is Gift. But, how are we grateful for things we consider bad or that really are bad?  I do not believe that God gave me cancer.  God does not will illness.  But the world is broken and evil, also, exists.  God wills healing but sometimes it doesn’t happen.  What if my number is coming up sooner than later? How can I be grateful in all circumstances? Well, I changed my gratitude list to add some different things.  I am still grateful for the above as well.  Some of things I thank God for are:  Our Trinity community – a piece of the Kingdom of God on earth; the gift of another day; for God holding me when I had a rocky day and couldn’t go to work as I had planned. I’m thankful that I had the energy to make an apple pie (mostly) and for my husband who finished it when I ran out of steam.

 

I thank God for a good physical therapy session for my sore back; that I was able to go to a Vestry meeting at church; my daughters successful medical procedure and for the most part, I feel OK. There are more that I put on my list but ‘space’ you know.  It’s amazing what can be found to thank God for when things are the “bad times”.   Listing them, helps me stay in the moment and remember Snoopy’s wise words. “But on the other days we will not.”  We “Practice Gratitude” in all circumstances.

 

Do you remember my story of my prayer where Jesus was sitting away from me wearing a black belt which gave my cause to giggle?  Just this week while I pray, the image has changed to one of him holding me and me holding him. What bad times?

 

A friend, a couple of days ago, posted a song on Facebook which was what I so needed for that day – I Am, by David Crowder.  Here’s part of it. I had a little cry while it played.

 

There’s no space that His love can’t reach.

 

There’s no place where we can’t find peace

 

There’s no end to Amazing grace

 

Take me in with your arms spread wide

 

Take me in like an orphan child

 

Never let go, never leave my side.

 

(Chorus) I am…holding on to you. I am holding on to you

 

In the middle of the storm, I am holding on.  I am.

 

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDATATION – Resurrection

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? …While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”—Luke 24:36-37

Easter was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect. Trees and flowers were blooming. Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, alleluias!! “The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.” Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!” Communion. Jesus. All creation sings along. So, why do we have doubts, today?

The disciples had this problem. 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? What’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous: “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?”

What else is going to change? Why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives? Did he not say that he would? We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting. But, it doesn’t keep him away. Nor do ours. What are your doubts today? What are mine? Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me? Because, resurrection changes things. Alleluia!

Peace and good, Donna

(April 25, 2014)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION: GOOD FRIDAY

 

John – Chapters 18 & 19

 

What can one say on Good Friday that has not already been said?  The story is very familiar to all of us and there are so many great meditations already written, why should I write another? Well, for two reasons—because I can, but really because in order to get into the story, I need to meditate on it. Writing helps me do this.

 

Our children hated Good Friday.  They thought it was gruesome, so they didn’t want to go to church that day to be reminded.  An old Johnny Hart cartoon comes to mind—actually, I saw it again on Facebook and that reminded me.  Person 1 says: “I hate the term ‘Good Friday!’”  Person 2: “Why?”  P1. “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” P2. “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” P1. “Good.”  P2. “Have a nice day.”

 

Perhaps, Person 2 should say, “Have a Good day.” It doesn’t really look or feel like a good day, though, does it? A Good day almost requires standing on the other side of the cross from where the disciples are standing, and that’s not where we are today.  Jesus and his disciples are in a garden.  He has asked that they stay awake and pray for him and for themselves, but they couldn’t stay awake. They will fail again, today.  Watch as the story unfolds. 

 

Judas brings soldiers and police to the garden where he knows Jesus is so they can arrest him.  Was that a glance between Judas and Jesus?  Even though, Jesus knows what is happening, this must be a blow. We, his disciples have no clue.  What are we thinking, now?  We don’t understand all of his teaching, but we have seen the works of God that Jesus has done.  Are we wrong about Jesus being the Messiah?  Why is he being arrested? Why doesn’t he stop this?  Peter, again, takes matters into his own hands, draws his sword and cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus rebukes him and says something about drinking from a cup his Father has given him.  What cup?

 

These, and more, are the stories of today—humiliation stories, rejection stories, abandonment stories, stories of torture, ugly stories. The disciples run away, Peter denies knowing him, the Jewish leaders that he had hoped to turn around rejected him.    But, Jesus’ love and purpose transcends his disappointment and pain.  Unconditional love has a way of doing that. This is the story of Love.  And this is our story.

 

Questions:  When can’t I stay awake and go to sleep instead of spending time with Jesus?  When do I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God’s purpose to unfold?  Will I ever be able to love like this?

 

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?

 

Died He for me, who caused His pain—for me, who Him to death pursued?

 

Amazing love!  How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

 

Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? – Charles Wesley

 

 

 

djw 2015

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Come Away With Me

Gracious God ~ Eternal Life, we thank and praise you for this glorious time of spring.
As new life emerges to replenish the earth in beauty, grant that we also may awaken from the depths of darkness into your eternal light, to live as beacons of hope and keepers of peace. In gratitude and faith, we pray . . . Amen. ~ Morning Prayers of Anna Lin

In prayer and meditation this afternoon while praying about what to write, my archives popped into my mind. I think this writing from three years ago is appropriate for today as well.

“Can you believe it? Palm Sunday is in two days – and then Holy Week. Time seems to move so rapidly these days. That’s one of the reasons I like Centering Prayer. There are times when, at prayer, the world seems to stop for a bit while I am consciously being still with God. I need this time. Early this week, as I sat down to pray, I felt stressed. I haven’t quite recovered from all the turmoil of the last few months. I murmured, “I so need you, Jesus. I really do.” Bubbling up from somewhere inside me I hear, “I so need you, too.” What was that?

We know, as Teresa of Avila says, that Jesus needs us to be his earthly hands and feet, but I don’t really think this was what Jesus was trying to say. I understand hands and feet, but God who created everything from nothing except his Breath and his Word needs me “just because” is hard to wrap my mind around. Jesus loves me, yes. Chases after me, yes, but needs me (?) So, I ponder.

St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Someone said that if God stopped thinking about us, you or me, even for a minute, we would cease to exist. I often say, “God loves you (us) and there is nothing you can do about it.” And, it is true that he asks us to be his presence in the world – God with skin on. But I still think there is more. He could have scrapped the whole people project from the beginning and at any time after the Garden rebellion, but he didn’t. He wants, loves, and needs us whether we can wrap our mind around that or not. Have you ever considered that Jesus wants to spend time with you; that he wants you to be with him—to sit together, to visit together and to love—only to be and not do anything else for the moment? Awesome!

Does this have anything at all to do with Holy Week? Maybe it does. There are scriptural accounts. Many times, Jesus asked his apprentices (disciples) to come away with him and rest. But in the Garden, the night he was arrested, he has taken them to be with him. Matthew 26: 36ff gives the story. “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?’” Twice more, Jesus came to be with them, but they were asleep.

These next few days, beginning with Palm Sunday, give us the opportunity to be present to Jesus on his journey to the cross. The Church provides the lovely gift of Holy Week services—beautiful liturgies to help us be intentionally present to Jesus. We attend these to re-member his real presence with us, to remember his suffering and sacrifice for us, but also because he wants those he loves to be near him. If we listen, we might hear him say, “Could you stay awake with me one hour? I so need you. I really do.” Have you considered how you will respond to that question? Have I?” (dlw March 27, 2015)

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
~ Marty Haugen, b. 1950

Grace & Peace dear ones,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – No Disconnect

 

 

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10: 25

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. ~ Matthew 18:20

So, let me try this again. The last two Meditations that I have written have been lost somewhere in the bowels of the computer. Maybe they didn’t need to be read. Let’s see what happens with this one.

This week, I met with my two soul friends for our monthly “Check In”. As you know, or may not, “Check In” is one of the spiritual disciplines in our Trinity Way of Life – Element #6, to be exact. Those who practice this discipline plan to meet regularly to talk and then to pray about one’s spiritual life, which usually includes life in general, so as to be accountable to one or two other people for our spiritual lives. Topics often include how it is going in our life with God and/or with us and our neighbor? Are we growing in Jesus-likeness? Do we need to work on forgiveness, etc.? Are we stuck? If so, what is getting in the way of our growing? How do we get back on track? My check-in group meets once a month, though we are in contact almost daily. This group always, always raises my spirits.

This month, I shared a dream that I had the night before. It was one of those dreams that makes an impression that is not easy to forget as it hangs around the edges of consciousness and demands attention. I know that I need to pay attention to those dreams because they always have something to tell me. The dream was this: “I was at a conference, I believe. Probably a women’s conference. There is one coming up in a couple of months, so perhaps that is what triggered me. I had brought a bunch of new sandals and we were asked to put our shoes in a pile on the floor in the middle of the room. At the end of the day we were to go get our shoes. All of mine were missing. I spent some time looking around but none of them were anywhere around. There was more to the dream, but I don’t remember it. I don’t think that is was important to the plot.

When I talked about this dream with my friends, I had some ideas about its meaning. I thought that it had something to do with my feeling of being disconnected from myself, my ministry and from God. It had a sense of urgency to it especially when I was trying to find my shoes. When I got home I looked up the symbol of “shoes” in my dream book. Now, I don’t put much faith in the dream book, but sometimes it gives me a hint, that I know to be true, about what is going on within. This is what it said ~ “SHOE: Grounding. Things which protect you on your journey through life. Do not judge another until you have walked in his or her shoes. Wearing to many shoes? Filling too many roles.”

I think the first part of this applies to the dream I had. I was thinking along those lines but just hadn’t put it together yet. “Grounded” is more what I feel I’m lacking at the moment because of all that has gone on with me the last seven months, than that I feel disconnected. The fact that I’m having trouble writing, that I can’t sing, that I sometimes have to reschedule appointments with people for spiritual direction, and that it takes me two or three hours to get ready every morning might account for some of it. This needs further prayer and pondering.

So, what do I do about this aside from prayer and pondering? Not to neglect meeting together comes to mind. That has to do with meeting in my small group and meeting together with the larger community. I need to show up. I need to take Holy Communion. I need to pray with others. And I need to remember my history with God. I need to remember other times I have felt this way. These feelings don’t last forever even though they seem as if they will. I need to remember that there is no way I can really be disconnected from God even when it seems so. When I check in with my soul friends, and when we share our lives and pray together, they help me remember. When I am in community with others, I remember. My experience with God in the past has shown that when I have felt disconnected, the Holy Spirit has been working deep inside of me and I come out of the darkness having grown more grounded rather than less. Thanks be to God.

And now, because I haven’t been singing much, I finish with a song which lifts my spirits, too:

In Christ alone my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground; firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All. Here in the love of Christ I stand.” (Stuart Townend, Keith Getty)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Beloved

“There is that voice…that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’ It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: ‘You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody – unless you can demonstrate the opposite.’” ~ Henri Nouwen

While praying over the past few days, I have come to realize that since I have been ill, I’ve uncovered somewhere buried inside, a state or maybe it’s an emotion. Perhaps just a thought pattern. A whatever that I thought had been healed and gone away. I’m feeling very disjointed. Also, insecure, and unsure of myself. Is that the same thing?

Since I was diagnosed in July with cancer for which there is no treatment I can tolerate (except prayer, of course, and I pray for a miracle every day) my life has changed in so many ways. Things I have done that bring me joy, I can’t do any more or at least not in the same way. I don’t know who I am right now.

What things? You might ask. I can’t sing in the choir anymore. I have done so since I was 10 years old – many, many years! Singing was part of my worship; even the practice was worship. A member of the choir was part of who I was and am not now.

Writing is more difficult. It has never been difficult for me. I never planned on being a writer but apparently it was part of God’s plan for me. Yes, occasionally, I had writers block for a day or so, but now it might be a week or more before I can put thoughts together on paper. I had written a meditation for last Friday, but a computer glitch did not save it and totally deleted what I had written. Probably, it didn’t need to be said.

Spiritual Direction is my calling. Sometimes and on certain days, I need to reschedule appointments because I don’t feel good enough to listen well. What if it happens that I can’t do it anymore? I have been a spiritual director for about 34 years and been certified for 28. Who will I be if I can’t do this? And there’s more.

All this change, to which I haven’t yet become accustomed, causes me to feel insecure. Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself. Probably. Mostly, the inner voices I hear that Henri Nouwen mentions in the quote above are my own. Henri says later, in his book “Life of the Beloved”, “…the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection…I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation.” Me, too – I do that. Especially, now.

So, what is the reality? Who am I now? I know that I am not what I do, but my being is wrapped up in that. So, who am I really? The answer to that, obviously, is “God’s Beloved.” Any other answer is the lie of the enemy who would like to sidetrack us.

Ann Voskamp writes in her book, “Be the Gift”, “Maybe is isn’t enough to believe in Jesus – maybe I have to believe that Jesus believes enough in me to choose me…If Christ has chosen me, if He’s the only One who has ever loved me to death – can He not believe in me? Can I believe Jesus believes in me – because He is in me?”

I love this quote by Anne Lamott – “I have never said that I am a good Christian. I just know that Jesus adores me and is only as far away as His name. I say, ‘Hi, Lord,’ and He says, ‘Hello, darling.’ He loves me so much He keeps a photo of me in His wallet. If I were the only person on earth, he still would have died for me.”

Anne knows she is Jesus’ favorite. I am, too. So are you. My maternal grandmother taught me about this. Not in words but in deeds. I was her favorite. So was every single one of her many, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. I didn’t know that. None of us did until much later in life when we all were talking about her and how each of us knew we were her favorite. Her chosen one. God is like that, or I should say that grandma was an image of God. I am so grateful.

“Dear God, I so much want to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that you are saying: ‘Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of you heart will be fulfilled.’ Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love. Amen.” – Henri Nouwen