A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Not Today

 

LORD, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

You discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

Behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

And lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

It is high; I cannot attain it. ~ Psalms 139:1-6

 

 You know that, especially since I’ve been sick, I talk about a lot about staying in the moment.  I know that this moment is all I can count on.  I can’t change the past though I have memories of it both good and bad. I can only project the future and perhaps do some minor planning. Perhaps I may have some influence on it.  God is everywhere, past, present, and future but for the most part he is present to me today. Right now. Today, in the everyday events of my life, God is present.

 

 It would be easy to think that if God is present with us in our day, and if we can stay focused, this should be a great day.  We can hang on to the hem of his robe. We know he wants to heal us. We can relax into that right? But what if this day totally stinks. What if the only thing we can think to say to God, in our present awareness, is “What’s up with this? I thought you were my friend. I thought you loved me.” God listens to our rants but he rarely provides an answer. Some things are a mystery. As I have said before, these are mysteries not to be solved but to be lived.  God has lots of these and he has things to teach us that we need to know, so we trust, at least part of the time that God knows what he is doing and march on.

 

 Let me share a recent day or series of days, really.  It was a stinky day and yet…I’ve been trying to make sense of it for days and it finally started to come together on Wednesday. This happened on Monday, September 25. I had a meeting at the office with two Soul Friends. We had been trying to have this meeting for three months or since I became ill.  I didn’t feel on top of things but I didn’t want to reschedule.  We hadn’t even started our meeting when I became violently sick. I knew I would need meds for nausea and vomiting as well as an ambulance.  I asked my friends to call my husband to come get me. Then it got weird.

 

 Dave got the wheel chair to take me to the car because I couldn’t stand. We got home, the ambulance came and I was in the hospital for five days with septic shock most likely caused by my cancer medication. They told Dave that I was very near death and none of them really expected me to make it. One doctor came into my room that night and said, “Good luck, tonight.”  I thought that a very strange thing for a doctor to say to a patient.   What none of them knew, and what I find difficult to describe, was that I had already made it.

 

 So, let me back up to when I left the church in a wheel chair.  The light was strange and I hadn’t really been able to describe it until now. I’m still not sure that I can. There seemed to be a focal point of very intense white light with rays of blue light radiating from it. It filled my whole vision. The light itself seemed like a star. The star was flashing or pulsating in some way but that image isn’t entirely right, either.  I was being propelled toward it by a force.  My hands were stretched out ahead of me as if I were trying to stop the forward motion. Then there was a greater force that grabbed me back from the light. I saw nothing, I just felt the forward motion jerk to a stop. This great force was loving and powerful. God? The power of a loving God? The power of prayer by His warriors? The power of love? All the above?

 

 Was this light the light that others have mentioned in near-death experiences? Dave and I have talked about some of this.  I remember bits and pieces of what went on around me in ICU.  There was much I do not. My blood pressure was hardly detectable. They didn’t know if they could bring me back.  They didn’t know that God had already made the decision. It was not my day to go.  Not this day.

 

  Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day

For darkness is as light with you. ~ Psalms 139:7-12

 

 

 

Peace and Good,

Donna

 

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A FRIDAY MEDATION – Body of Christ

We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, mighty to save
You are the love song we’ll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name
Be Unto Your Name ~ Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler

It has been almost two months since I have written a Friday Meditation, and even though I started on Friday, it’s Saturday. Again. Many of you have had updates on my health, others of you have not. The news has been good. I’ll share some of it from time to time. I have planned to write. I sit and stare but nothing comes, so I take a nap. I have been very self-focused. Much time, at least in the first weeks, was taken up with doctor’s appointments and procedures, but you already knew that. I just read over the last two meditations that I wrote. I have wondered if I would be able to get back into this discipline of writing. This is rather long but it’s been eight weeks or so. What can I say? Apparently a lot.

I have managed to stay in the moment, mostly, and not go down the “what if” rabbit trails. I breathe in Jesus, and tell the Enemy to get lost when he tempts me to despair. Right now, with the exception of my stamina, I’m fine. I feel good and I don’t intend to get derailed by what might be. Or what was. I count my blessings and look at my gratitude list. Big list. Here is part of it?

I’m grateful for the medical study that I chose to be part of so that the cancer drug I’m taking might be developed for its next generation. I had a stipulation that I would do it if the people from Anchuitz Medical Research would come up to get the biopsies and take them back to Denver. I didn’t want to drive all that way at this time. OK. Ever. My doctor convinced them to come.

I thank God that we received a grant to pay for my cancer drug. It is unbelievable how much it costs and I don’t know how we could have done it.

I went on a retreat two weeks ago. When I asked how much I owed, I was informed that it had been taken care of. Thank you.

A framed picture of the woman touching Jesus’ robe given to me by my son.
For all the many, numerous prayers offered on our behalf and for my healings.
For the gift cards, cards and flowers, notes, texts, email, etc.

For having very little, if any, pain after surgery to remove part of my colon and repositioning of my plumbing. That a previously diagnosed Stage 4 colon cancer was a stage 2a by the time it was removed so it requires no further treatment. And they were able to do the whole thing by using a robot. Who knew???

A tiny brain tumor was zapped away by one treatment of a very localized burst of radiation in less than 20 minutes not counting preparation.

And those things I’ve been asked not to share. Thank you.

And did I mention all the many prayers?
Thank you, Jesus for your body on earth with skin on.

I could go on, and I will from time to time. The cancer nurse asked if I have a support system to help me through this. There are groups I could join. Of course my answer was a resounding yes. Yes, I have a support group. So many people all over are praying. I have my family and many friends who would drop anything and listen to me all night if the need arose. And, because it’s who I am, I said my Church. She said, “Your church…..” like she had never heard such a thing before. How sad. But it is so true. My family, friends from all over, and my church: all of you – the Body of Christ. Jesus with skin on. I am so grateful.

I remember a dream from several years ago. Actually, my son reminded me of it, recently. I went to an old journal to look it up. This happened shortly before New Year’s Day, 1997. “I was walking around something. It appeared to be an altar in a church. There was nothing on it – no cloth or covering. Then I noticed tiny green succulent type leaves clinging to it. Behind the altar was a terra cotta flower pot. It had broken on the floor and my sense was that it had fallen off of the altar. Dirt, potting type soil, was scattered around and the plant, a vine, was growing from it and climbing up from the dirt to the top of the altar and clinging there. It really was an image and not a long process dream. My only thought, at that time, was “Hmm.” A friend drew a picture for me of the dream image.”

As the next day was New Year’s Day, we had a service at church that included communion. It was a very small service, only three of us, and I had found myself reflecting on that dream. The words, “do not neglect meeting together?” from Hebrews 10 and then the words, “Breaking of the Bread.” I believed that was a message for our church – not to neglect our relationship with Jesus which includes his body, the community of the church and the bread from the altar which we receive so that we become his body with skin on.

I thought quite a bit about brokenness. The pot I live in. Scatteredness. And healing. Climbing back on the Altar where the Broken Bread is and what God has transformed in me from that. Next week, I’ll give you some personal examples from that time and also share with you what my reflections on that dream are today. If you like, you may reflect on it, also. See what it says to you, personally. And be assured, that you are the Body of Christ – Jesus with skin on. You have shown Jesus to me in so many, many ways in the last two months. I know it’s true.

Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name. ~ Chorus

 

I love you. Stay tuned and stay Blessed,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – ER Trip

But you O Lord are a shield for me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” – Psalm 3:3

This is not really a meditation. It is more of a reflection of my life at the moment and I want to share it with you. Things will change for me and my writing may be sporadic along with other things that I do. It is definitely ironic that I would write about breathing three weeks ago – ironic that I suggested we pause, take a deep breath and breathe in God – because two days later, early Sunday morning, I went to the ER with sharp chest pains. I had been having pain for a few days which I thought was bursitis. The sharp pains made me wonder if I was having a heart attack, so I asked my husband to take me to the hospital for what I thought would be some pain medication for bursitis.

By the way, if you mention that you are having chest pain when you go to the ER, everything speeds up, immediately. X-rays, blood tests, scans of various kinds. My bursitis pain turned out to be an inoperable, seed bearing lung cancer with fluid around the lung causing the pain. There are other cancers as well – brain tumor, perhaps thyroid, etc. I am still having tests to determine what all is going on. So, I spent the ensuing weeks in shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the words I was hearing. Neither could my family and friends. I have been unable to write since then because I couldn’t put words together. I’m still not good at it. But, again, writing is a spiritual discipline for me whether I write well or not.

There is much I don’t know.

Why? What caused this? I was a low cancer risk person. I had all my physicals. Recently. Why didn’t we see? Why questions are not really helpful because we cannot see the big picture and most often there are no answers.

I am reminded of this quote by Ann Lamott. I love it and it makes me laugh which is important at a time like this. “The first thing I am going to ask God when we meet face to face is, ‘What on EARTH could you have been thinking?’. And He or She will know exactly who I am talking about, the many way-too-young who have died or had serious pain so far, in my 60 years here. Who have been raised by closet psychotics? ‘What was THAT all about?”’ God will say what God said to Job—‘I’m God, and I don’t have to explain. Plus, there is a zero chance you would understand. No offense. Rock on.’” God’s ways are not our ways.

The Job story tries to understand and explain why bad things happen to good people. A piece of the Job story that I particularly enjoy happens after days and days of Job and his rather unhelpful friends, who had stopped listening and gone to meddling, trying to figure it out. They said Job must have done something to cause God to bring this upon him. Job knew he had been faithful. For him, the situation was just very hard to understand. Finally, God comes rolling up in a whirlwind. He is fond of wind and whirling. God chastises Job’s friends for sullying God’s reputation. How dare they say that God brought this upon Job? Then He takes on Job. Read this story sometime when you have an hour or two. It is worth it. God, in the past asked me some of the same questions that he asked Job when I took him to task about what he was doing. I’ve really stopped asking what he is up to because I probably wouldn’t understand it either.

This I do know. I sent this out with a prayer request update a couple of days after my ER trip. “I know that ultimately God wins. God does not cause disease. Disease is from the evil one. [Sometimes with the help of our own bad choices.] I know that God is good and I will not give in to despair. I know that God loves us/me and there is nothing we can do about it. [I say this so often I’m starting to be quoted.] I know that I will fight evil back as long as I can wherever I can.”

We know that much of what Jesus did was heal people from disease. One scripture says that on one day he healed all of those who came to him. God does not always change circumstances but he is always with us in them. The Church Mouse Meme says, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given.” So true.

My spiritual journey now is to try to stay in the moment, which I should do anyway since the moment is all we really have. I will try to practice the awareness of God’s presence. Breathing in his presence just got a lot more intentional and personal. I confess that I do have moments of panic when I get scared and hold my breath causing me to forget to stay where I have pledged to stay. The perimeters of my journey have greatly changed. I ask for your prayers for me and my family. I’m praying for a miracle and hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Breathe

 

This is the air I breathe. This is the air I breathe.

Your holy presence living in me.

This is my daily bread. This is my daily bread.

Your very Word spoken to me.

And I, I’m desperate for you. And I, I’m lost without you.

This is the air I breathe. Your holy presence living in me. ~ Michael W. Smith

This morning when I went to pray, this song kept  wandering through my mind. It is a beautiful praise song and it says something about our relationship with God. Because, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters – Genesis 1:1-2. The word for spirit is the same word that is used for breath. God’s breath blew across the waters as he brought life to the majestic universe that he was creating from nothing. Apparently, when the story in Genesis begins, he had already created the water and something representing the earth to hold it. We are all born from water into form and then we begin to breath.

An aside of sorts – A year or so ago, I thought about the spirit blowing over the water as I said my before bedtime prayer.  What was it like before there was nothing?  Nothing but God?  God? I tried to imagine this and I really couldn’t.  Suddenly, I saw a deep night navy sky studded with millions upon millions of stars. I could imagine this, because I had seen such skies before. I tried for a minute to imagine what it was like before such a sky was created, but….  As I looked at the stars, a round section in the center of the sky moved. It shimmered like water with a pebble being thrown into it. It took my breath away.  Was it God’s breath hovering over me that caused this experience?  I realized that this was as close as I could get to imagining before creation.  Then I realized that God had just blown me a good night kiss and my breath returned.  He might have said something like, “Crazy little girl child thinking she could imagine such a thing. Really nice try, though.”

But back to the creation story – “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being – Genesis 2:7. The creation continues.

And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them (his disciples) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit – John 20:22.  Yes.  We need this, too.

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last – Mark 15:37. Or “gave up his spirit”  John 19:30. This was voluntary, His spirit returned to his Father then returned to his body at his resurrection. After some additional teaching and after reassuring his stunned followers that he was alive and would be with them always, he left again. How can this be?  

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled those disciples with new life and power. Filled once again with the breath of God, a new restored creation began – the Church, the Body of Christ including you and me, is reassigned the mission of spreading God’s Kingdom on earth by loving God and neighbor and doing those things that Jesus did. We have that same original mission and the same breath of the Holy Spirit enables us to do the piece of work that we are called most specially to do.

Henri Nouwen writes, “Being the living Christ today means being filled with the same Spirit that filled Jesus. Jesus and his Father are breathing the same breath, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the intimate communion that makes Jesus and his Father one. Jesus says: ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ (John 14:10) and ‘The Father and I are one’ (John 10:30). It is this unity that Jesus wants to give us. That is the gift of his Holy Spirit. Living a spiritual life, therefore, means living in the same communion with the Father as Jesus did, and thus making God present in the world.”

My thoughts: What if the very air around us is the breath of God still creating. What if every time we breathe we breathe in God?  What if I try to comprehend what that would be like?  Once again, I most likely can’t.  But here is what I/we can do:  Every time we need a pause because things are crazy – pause, take a deep breath.  Imagine that we are breathing in the Holy Spirit.  Imagine it.  When we say our daily prayers – pray, breathe.  Know that Jesus is breathing into you.  Whenever we need a deep breath…. Yes.

You are the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me.  My daily bread-your very word. I’m desperate for you.  I’m lost without you. Breathe. (Paraphrased sort of).

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Rule or Law?

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own … Richard Foster, “Life with God”

I read the other day in the news that scientists or archeologists have found evidence, in Morocco, I think, of homo sapiens 100,000 years older than the oldest found so far. Wow!! That boggles my mind. How many years is that? More than I can fathom. I thought you might like to know just in case you missed that news segment.

I have been sitting here on this gloomy day trying to get a clue of something I would like to write. Nothing comes to mind. It has been a busy week and I am a bit tired. That might have something to do with it, but writing for me is a spiritual discipline; it helps me voice what is going on inside myself. As a very strong introvert, things I’m thinking about may not be thought through. They just hang out inside until I get tired of them. So, what is going on? I’m rather bored with myself today.

Politics – I don’t want to write about that.

This week at our meeting, St. Anne’s chapter of the Daughters of the King will be reviewing and sharing our personal rule of life. What spiritual disciplines do we practice, now? Are they working for us? Does something need tweaking? Do we need a pause button? How is our Sabbath practice? You get the idea.

When I began to have a rule of life many years ago, I used one that was given to us at Cursillo. The components of this rule were three – Prayer, Study, and Action. This rule was to be lived in community – the Church – and reinforced by meeting together in a small group to check how we all were doing. We need a rule to regulate our spiritual lives. It is not a law which we are bound to follow and perhaps get wrong. Shame. Our rule is to open space for God and help us serve others. Love God and love our neighbor – Jesus said this is what it’s all about.

My rule of life changes every so often, but it always includes those above. It is based on the Rule of St. Benedict which I might write about another time. The Daughters have a rule of prayer and a rule of service, and though not one of our rules we have a focus of evangelism – spreading the good news by telling our story and praying for the spread of the Kingdom of God. Our disciplines for our spiritual growth are based on the Baptismal Covenant.

I believe everyone needs a rule or a way of life if they are serious about growing spiritually. It is so easy to drift. I need to guard drifting in my own life. As a spiritual director, one of the things I do is help people decide what to do to open that God space and strengthen prayer and ministry in their lives as well as I need to do in my own. We are fortunate to have a corporate Way of Life for our congregation. It strengthens our community life and is a good place to begin.

It always happens. I think I have a handle on this and somebody interjects another element – not to the Trinity Way – but to my way. It went like this, “Keeping your body in shape is a spiritual discipline. It’s not just about losing a few pounds, wanting to live longer, or trying to look nicer. ~ Richard Warren

Then why? I want to know.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Well, there are times when some people stop preaching and go to meddling. So, what to do…. I have been rather lax lately. I have been low energy and not feeling top notch. Do you suppose that not exercising might have something to do with it? My diet is not always great and I need to make some doctor’s appointments. I most definitely need to add this piece to my rule of life. The last few days, I have reintroduced stair climbing into my exercise routine. Whew!! Well, it is my exercise routine all by itself at the moment. I have some work cut out for me.

It is well and good, Lord, if all things change, provided we are rooted in you. If I go everywhere with you, my God, everywhere things will happen for your sake, that is what I desire. ~ St. John of the Cross

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Good Day

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”
– Psalm 63:1

I’m feeling overwhelmed today
With Jesus

Me

A child of God and inheritor of God’s Kingdom
Not only inheritor but
Resident now in this very present

Called to become
More like Jesus
Gifted with Holy Spirit who gives power
Enables my becoming
And power for doing what God desires
Strengthens the presence of his Kingdom on earth today

Unbind them and set them free, he tells me
My mission statement
May it be like his

Loved
Forgiven

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
—Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

I am so grateful
Sing

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving…. For the Lord hears the needy.” ~ Psalm 69:30,33

Dance with joy (Don’t know how)
Jesus doesn’t mind
My dancing partner
Leads

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” ~ Psalm 30-11

Play
Need to
Important Spiritual discipline
And Sabbath time

“What did you see today that was beautiful? Remember it. Savor it. Thank God.” ~ Fr. James Martin, SJ

Blue sky, birds
Children – Mine
Family
Peach pie
Practicing Gratitude

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” ~ 100:4

Brings joy
In the Lord
I am grateful

In Love

Come join the dance

Overwhelmed today
With Jesus

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – What’s Up?

Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I have been thinking about discernment. Particularly mine. I want to discern if the things that I have been doing are still what God wants me to continue, or if he has something else in mind for me now that I am older and my energy is less. I have a wee tiny niggling in the back of my mind that he has a little something, but maybe not. He may still be just fine with what I am doing.

As a spiritual director, I often get the questions: How do I get still? How can I listen and Pay Attention to God? How can I see Jesus? How do I discern God’s will? All are great questions.

Discernment of God’s will, or any discernment for that matter, is a process. Finding God’s will requires a real desire to know it and a commitment to follow God’s direction when we find it. If we put stipulations on what we will do or not do, we will not get discernment. Unless, of course, like St. Paul, we get knocked off our ride and blinded for a few days. That’s a new way of seeing. We can’t limit God to certain ways of communication.

Discernment isn’t a decision-making process and what God has in mind for us isn’t always easy to discern. He doesn’t often write his desires for us on a wall or on auto-correct, although he has been known to do so. He has as many communication skills as he wants to use, so prayer is essential. However, there are other helps. Part of my job as a spiritual director is to accompany people during their discernment process – help them ask the questions they need to ask and discover the blocks they may have to hearing God’s will and carrying it out.

Thomas Green in “Weeds among the Wheat” has a suggestion I find most useful, which is to give God what Tom calls a “blank check.” We need to be willing for God to write on that check what he desires to give us. This helps us become willing to find God’s way rather than being willful and wanting our own way. And did I mention prayer?

Frederick Buechner writes – “Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” which means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self-interest.…. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet.” ~ “Wishful Thinking”

“Gladness” or “Passion” is very important in discernment. What is it that gives you life? Passion for God’s call gives energy so if it is lost in what we’re doing perhaps God is calling us to something new. Although, there are other reasons that passion or gladness might be lost, burnout and/or depression, for example, so this needs discernment, also.

If, in our process we hear from God, as a friend of mine often does, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, we are most likely already doing what God has in mind for us now. In which case, we continue on continuing on.

As usual, I have a story. Many years ago, I was reading the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus directions to his friends, “Unbind him and set him free” (John 11:44b) jumped off the page for me. I believed God was speaking and after some prayer, I enrolled at Aims and started taking psychology and counselling classes. I planned to become a family counselor. I had no idea that God had a slightly different calling than I thought, though the classes I took are very useful. They give me another eye through which to see as I offer spiritual direction, even though spiritual direction is not counselling. A friend who was attending St. Thomas Seminary called me and said there was a program for spiritual directors there and that I should take it because I was always asking what God was doing in any situation. So, what was the process.

First –Prayer was the most important part of my process. I had a niggling sense that I needed to be doing something to “unbind and set free”. And I wanted more than anything else to want what God wanted. Then I took a step of faith and began. I had a sense of where I was heading, but it wasn’t complete – only the first step. And then, more prayer.

Occasionally, God’s call comes in a blazing bush. I have had a few. There is hardly any room for doubt, but the call still needs some discerning. Thomas Green says that discernment isn’t possible if you already know what you are to do, but I don’t always trust my hearing. Most often, there is peace when the discernment is finished. So for now…

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. – Proverbs 16:1 (MSG)