A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Creation Sings

 

Creation sings the Father’s song; He calls the sun to wake the dawn
and run the course of day, till evening falls in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow: His breath upon this spinning globe;
He charts the eagles flight, commands the newborn baby’s cry.
Refrain: Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing: “Hallelujah!”
Fill the earth with songs of worship, tell the wonders of creations King.
—Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townsend

It’s the third week of Advent and my tree and house decorating are coming along. There’s plenty of time. Wait! I realize that we don’t have a fourth week of Advent this year. The fourth Sunday and Christmas Eve are the same day, so Advent is shortened. I’m honestly disappointed about that. Now, I’ll have to hurry through preparations that I usually have an extra week to accomplish. The tree is about half done – the star is atop the tree but not yet lit. That happens after church services on Christmas Eve. Greenery still needs spread around, and a few things need wrapped. How do I do this without getting into hurry mode? Just do it, comes to me. If everything is not done, so be it.

After prayers on Thursday morning, I sat in my prayer room and watched the snow fall. I practiced being present to the moment not thinking about past or future or even the rest of the day. I was just being there waiting for the morning light. Sometimes the snow fell straight down and sometimes it swirled around with the wind. I continued to sit there after the light came and people began to move about outside.

Today, I decided to practice the awareness exercise, again, while watching the morning break into light. The light was just beginning to show up. Staying in the moment requires some staying in the moment. I need that in my life right now because my mind tends to jump from the past to the future without stopping to consider what is right in front of me much of the time.

The sun is not yet up as I look out my prayer room window, but there is a faint peachy glow in the part of the eastern sky that I can see. There are no clouds to catch the glow.

The HOA has shoveled the public sidewalks but not our driveways and walks to our front door (I hope they do that soon. Then I remember they only do that when we have over two inches of snow.) Oops! Out of the moment there. At least I am aware of that.

I look at the trees. They all or most got trimmed this week. Their branches are black etchings against the brightening sky. I look at my poor little tree. Apparently, it has been there for several years, but it hardly grows. It mostly looks like a tall skinny stick. There are three of what could be called side branches with a twig or two coming from them. I thought it might do better this year because I put the blessed dirt from “dirt Sunday” (Rogation Sunday) around it. It did get a little taller and have more twigs coming from the trunk and more leaves on it this summer. However, the strong wind we had in early fall blew all the little twigs off it, so we are more or less back where we started. I think the HOA should replace it. Oops again. Back to the moment although there might be a meditation with some accompanying scripture verses here.

The air seems still but then I notice that there must be tiny wee gusts of moving air as the steam coming out of roof vents is dancing around. There is an airplane high in the sky with a little contrail following. The pastel peach of the sky is brighter.

I feel the presence of God sitting with me and we watch the growing light together.

My husband wakes up and comes into the room. The sun pops out and it looks like a blue sky, cold day is ahead. The snow is all sparkly as if diamond dust had been sprinkled around. Peace abounds.

So, why did I write about this. Two reasons. One, I knew I was going to write down the results of this prayer exercise after I finished because that helps me focus. Two, I wanted to explain to you what I’m talking about in staying in the moment and awareness. It is noticing what’s here with me right now, because I don’t live in the past, or shouldn’t, and the future isn’t here yet. Another reason is that I needed to write something. Ok. So that’s three or four reasons, but I wasn’t counting.

I found an article in my files and I have no idea who wrote it. I don’t think it was me, but I am going to share it with you.

Being present means you are in touch with reality as it is. Reality is what exists now in the form of this moment, everywhere. Your mind can remember the past and contemplate the future, but neither are real, nor are your mind’s ponderings accurate reflections of either.

The present is the only moment in which you actually exist. All things and all change happen in the present.

Therefore, to be present means to let go of your intense focus on the mind and instead be exactly where you are as you are. When you are present you can feel your own presence [and the presence of God]. You are here, attentive, silent, listening and waiting but with complete relaxation and surrender.” ~ Unknown

Merry Christmas to you. May your day be filled with awareness and blessing.
Donna

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Listen!

Henri Nouwen writes, “It is Advent again. In his sermon this morning, Oscar Uzin said: ‘Be alert, be alert, so that you will be able to recognize your Lord in your husband, your wife, your parents, your children, your friends, your teachers, but also in all that you read in the daily papers.’ The Lord is coming, always coming, Be alert to his coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord.’” ~ “Gracias! A Latin American Journal

Henri also writes, “The word ‘listening’ in Latin is ‘obedire’, and ‘audire’ means ‘Listening with great attention.’ That is where the word ‘obedience’ comes from. Jesus is called the obedient one, that means the listener. The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is ‘surdus.’ If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word ‘absurd’ comes from. So, it might be interesting to note that somebody who is not listening is leading and absurd life. ~ “Discovering Our Gift Through Service”

In our Trinity Way of Life, we call being alert and listening, “Pay Attention.” We can not only spend a period each day focusing on God alone in prayer, being with him and listening for his voice if he speaks, we can become alert to God working in circumstances and people around us. Walt Whitman said, “I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God’s name.” But it is hard to be alert and aware of all the ways God speaks to us unless we have that connection with him through prayer.

It is so easy, isn’t it, to get disconnected. We get sick. We get especially busy. We have company. We are company. Right now, we have that shopping, cleaning, wrapping, baking, decorating, planning the big meal stuff to do, don’t we? We’ll have our quiet time later. Why are we doing all this again? But sometimes later never comes. We’re tired. We are out of our accustomed place for praying. Other people are still here. Little by little, we stop being alert and in touch.

At the Quiet Day at the beginning of Advent, Fr. Jack asked, “How is your connection with God going? Does it need to be renewed?” My answer to this question was, “Yes”. That is often my answer. It’s not that I feel disconnected, exactly. It’s just that I don’t sense the closeness, now, that I often do. Finding out that I am so sick was a major shock. My illness had been going on for some time, but I was just beginning to feel that something was wrong and had made appointments with the doctors. So much else had been going on in my life that I wasn’t paying attention to my body. Ending up in the ER in great pain and being diagnosed with probable cancer in three places and perhaps more hit like a ton of bricks. I was stunned. Why had I not known?”

I knew that God was with me, always, but my feelings turned off. I disconnected in a way. I think I am starting to come out of that, but the relationship needs a little TLC. Our Renewal Weekend the end of August came at a good time for me as Fr. Russ Parker came with his words of blessing, healing, and listening. I so need all of that.

For the last several weeks, I have been waking up at 1 am. Absolutely wide awake. I’ve tried to go back to sleep but I am not able to do it. I am totally alert to something. It dawned on me one night that, just perhaps, God might be calling me to spend some time with him. Maybe he has something to say. So, for the last week or so, I have been getting up, at 1 a.m., going to my prayer chair and becoming still – listening. I haven’t heard any particular words, but I have become more aware of his presence sitting there in the semi-dark. I believe that we are renewing our relationship. Words may come later. His presence is enough.

Advent is a great time for reconnecting. So is Lent. So is Sunday. So is right now. So is tonight. So is 1 o’clock in the morning. We get to choose to pay attention.

Lord, help us to rein in all the distractions that bombard us daily. Let us pay our full attention to you. Let us truly listen to your requests. Keep us from the shortsighted absurdity of bestowing our attention on the wrong things. Amen. ~ Henri Nouwen

Grace and Peace,
Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It’s still Advent

 

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod:

Prepare in the desert a highway, a highway for our God!

The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills brought low;

make straight all the crooked places where the Lord our God may go!

~ THE HYMNAL 1982

This past year has gone way too fast. Faster than any year that I can remember.  Of course, I have been sick since August and didn’t feel very well for the first part of the year.  I was sick then, but I didn’t know it as I had not been diagnosed.  Being sick has taken up a lot of my time and energy. I travel through time much slower than I am accustomed to travel. I’m even trying to draft my writing on a yellow pad rather than my computer. It’s slower and will, maybe, help with my concentration. I’ll see.

We are mostly through the first week of Advent, the beginning of the Church year, and rapidly approaching Christmas. Most people have finished their decorating.  Parties are taking place. We frantically try to keep up with it all – the shopping, wrapping, finish decorating, meal planning, baking, cooking, cleaning, choir and pageant practice, etc.  The world is already celebrating Christmas while the Church is preparing for the royal birth.  Preparing is what Advent is about. And, it’s true, all that shopping, wrapping, etc., has become part of it for many of us. We’re preparing, aren’t we? Maybe or maybe not.

For me, it would be “not”.  I would just get it all done, and Christmas would be over.  What is it I was preparing for?  Has the prep time just been more chores piled on top of my regular routine?  I don’t believe the season is supposed to be like that. Did I – did we ever slow down enough to feel the excitement of Jesus’ coming into the world.  Did we take time to prepare for him?  Did we ever sit like Mary and ponder what this all means to us? All of the busy work and my soul begins to feel empty.

 

Many years ago, I don’t remember when it began, I decided Advent was going to be different.  I wanted to slow down my preparations and take time to enjoy the season. On the first Sunday of Advent, we put up the tree.  Our trees have grown in a factory for many seasons rather than in a forest or tree farm. No theological reason for that.  I’m just allergic to evergreens when I touch them.  Anyway, our tree is up now.  It’s not decorated because I start that the second week of Advent. It did, however, grow with lights already on it which I would have put on the second Sunday. The decorating of the tree and of the house will be finished on Christmas Eve. 

 

My Advent candles are out, of course, and we light them every evening.  Tomorrow, I’ll dig out the nativity set. I’ll set out the manger, empty of course, except for a turtle, a Cursillo chicken, and a few farm animals.  I would put out the spider, so it could decorate with its webs, but it is bigger that the baby Jesus, so I decided against it. The shepherd is out on the hills watching the sheep and the Magi are far, far away. On Christmas Eve during the day, Mary and Joseph arrive.  Jesus is in a small covered dish on the shelf below the nativity set.  He will arrive in the manger after Christmas Eve Mass and the shepherd and other animals will move in to adore him. The angel that has followed Mary and Joseph is now in the barn with them.

 

I bake very little anymore, because trust me, I would eat most of it.  After losing 60 pounds almost ten years ago, I decided to bake all those cookies was not in my best interest. As for Christmas gifts, it is possible some of them might show up on Epiphany.  That is when Jesus received some of his so it’s traditional. I love how we have been doing our decorating and all the rest of our preparations.  It isn’t so hectic, and it gives me time to ponder. I have time to prepare my spirit for the coming of the Lord anew in me. What new thing is he trying to show to me? How is he trying to transform me? Maybe he is just enjoying me spending time with him. I’m enjoying it. It helps me stay in the moment.  It helps me listen. And I do not miss all the craziness.

 This year, as I do most of them, I start Advent by attending a Quiet Day at our Church.  Fr. Jack told us the day was for us to be able to have a renewing encounter with God, and he gave us questions to ponder to help us.  I plan to use them in my quiet time each day and by Christmas, I hope to have some of the answers.  Perhaps I will share some with you.

 

 So, if you haven’t finished all your preparations for Christmas, remember that Christmas doesn’t start until December 25. You still have time.  Take some of that time for a renewing encounter with God.  You can be refreshed rather than frazzled when you get to Christmas Day. And have a Merry and blessed Christmas.

 

Grace and Peace,

Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Again Suddenly

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth ~ John 1:1-2, 14

“And, suddenly….”

Advent begins this coming Sunday. How can that be? It would be nice if everything could slow down a little. Advent is a good time to work on slowing down, but why would we want to do that? For one, we would be able enjoy Christmas when it comes, but a major reason for me is that when I am rushing around like crazy, I might miss all of the “suddenlys” that happen when I am not really paying attention, and I don’t want to do that.

God shows up in the suddenlys and life changes – he suddenly does a new thing. We live life doing what we are doing, and suddenly….!

Suddenly, an angel appears to Zachariah and says, “You will have a son….”

Suddenly, and angel appears to Mary and says, “I have news for you, you lucky girl. God has chosen you….”

Suddenly, the baby, John, jumps in his mother’s womb, when he recognizes the Messiah in Mary’s.

Suddenly, angels appear in the heavens singing, “Glory to God in the Highest….”

Suddenly, there is a cross, where Jesus hanging says, “Father, forgive….”

Suddenly, on Sunday, a stone blows away from the door of a tomb and….

Suddenly, a mighty wind fills a room and scared apprentices are changed….

Suddenly, life is changed never to be the same. God is like that.

The burning bush in the Old Testament was one of those “suddenlys”, too. You know that story but let me share a modern one. I was one of the spiritual directors on a weekend when a table leader came to get me. She wanted me to hear a story. One of the women had been wrestling with a calling she felt was from God, but she wasn’t sure. Someone at the table asked her if she was waiting for a burning bush. When those at the table looked out of the window, suddenly a bush was on fire. This bush wasn’t burning up, either. The reflection on the window of a fire in the fireplace of the room made it appear that the bush outside was burning. The really odd thing was that where ever I stood in the room, the lit bush was still visible. Unusual! Out of the ordinary! Strange! The woman answered God’s call. Her life changed and has never been the same.

Sometimes, a “suddenly” comes to me when I am reading the Bible. Sometimes, it comes when I read a spiritual book. The voice of God jumps from the page. Sometimes, while in the shower, He speaks. Sometimes, I realize that the words a person is speaking to me has suddenly become the voice of God. Often, creation speaks – like a burning bush. Of course, God is with us all the time, but when I am running around like crazy, I could miss seeing him. I might assume that what I hear or see is just an ordinary happening. I need to choose how I will respond, because these “sudden” appearances of God have all changed my life in one way or another. I want to notice, so I must slow down in order to listen and watch for him. How about you?

Come, Lord Jesus.

Donna – [29 NOV 2013]

 

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 – 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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Watch Therefore

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  Watch, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” ~ Mark 12:35-37 

Happy New Year!  Where did the year go?  I have no idea.  But no, it’s not January 1; it is still November. The Church begins its new year on the First Sunday of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The scripture lessons this year are more about the Second Coming of Jesus than they are about his birth.  It’s much easier to write about birth stories, since I know something about that, than it is to write about the Second Coming of Jesus of which I have had little direct experience.

Birth stories are more about waiting and the second coming is more about watching. Waiting for birth is about preparation for new life.  Birth pangs will tell us when it’s time.  Watching has a different feel.  As I sit here, I’m trying to get in touch with that difference. Watching is about paying attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us.  In giving birth, we know for what, even if not exactly for whom, we prepare.  Paying attention – watching – is about noticing the signs of Jesus’ coming again.  We’ve never done this before. For what do we watch? How do we prepare?  How will we notice? How is it different? Maybe the work of Advent this year is reflecting on those questions. Today, I have been looking through some books of Advent meditations.  I am trying to decide which I will use this season.  I read this from Preparing for Jesus, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

“For nearly one thousand five hundred years Christians have spent the days of Advent not in passive inaction, but in activities strenuous and profitable; they have prepared themselves by scrubbing and cleaning their lives, by examining and repairing their souls—even as people generally prepare themselves body and home to receive a visitor of ineffable importance.

“Who is coming? Who awaits him? And when will he get here? And how shall the people prepare?” 

“The Son of man, He is coming.  Jesus.  That One, Him.”

“And we are the people who await him.  You and I. Since it was for us he died, we are the ones who wait in love.  And since he ascended to heaven with promises to return, we wait in faith—for the next and final Advent, Jesus will take us as friends, as brothers and sisters into his house forevermore.

“And when will he get here?  Like any New Year’s Day: at the end and the beginning.  But that Advent to come—the final arrival of Jesus in glory—will itself cause the end of this present age and the beginning of our eternal joy.  When will that be?  Ah, my friend, I do not know.  No one knows its day or hour.  Therefore, Jesus commands us to “Watch.  Stay awake. Get ready. Prepare, prepare—and watch?”

“Finally then, how shall we prepare? In these days, while yet there are days and time, by what activity should we make ourselves ready? Why, by meditating on his first coming—for though the future may be hidden from us the past is not, and the one can teach us the other.

“The story of the birth of Jesus is open before us.  We have a spiritual and holy account of the time when God himself directed preparations for that first coming of his Son into the world.  What God ordains is always good.  Therefore, those preparations may be the perfect pattern for our own this year again, this year too.

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…. 

“Oh Lord, Stir up, we beg you, your power—and come.  Come even now into this season of our meditations, that by your protection we may be rescued from our sins, and saved by your mighty deliverance in order to look forward to your final arrival with the joy that cannot be uttered…  Amen.” 

Bless you in your waiting and in your watching.