A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It would be easy

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. ~ Psalm 3:3

If things keep continuing as they have been the last four months, I’m going to need to rename A Friday Meditation to A Saturday Meditation. Friday appears to be taken over by the medical people in my life for the moment.

It’s been almost five weeks since I had the serious septic shock episode. I am, finally, feeling a bit stronger. The pain in my back is lessening and my stamina (what stamina?) is increasing by micro amounts. But it is increasing, and I thank God for that.
This has been a challenge on so many fronts.

It would be easy to feel discouraged.

It would be easy to fear starting my cancer meds again even though it is a smaller dose.

It would be easy to worry if the medicine will do anything, now, in this dose even when the larger dose was helping.

It would be easy to be afraid of having another serious episode of something.

These are all within the realm of possibility, but if and when I do go there in my mind, I am nowhere near the present moment where I want to remain. I forget who holds the reigns on this journey. I forget that I am to hold on to his garment, and I lose my peace. I don’t like to lose my peace because I am likely to find myself in the middle of all of the “Why doesn’t God….” or “Why does God…” questions which just aren’t helpful to me.

What is helpful is to remember that Jesus is about loving and about healing. He was about it while he was on earth and he is about it still. He still works what we call miracles and he works through his body on earth the church and those who make up the church if we let him. He works through the doctors that he has called into that ministry. For me, he has already done many healings and savings over the last four months. I remember those and replace my worries with Himself.

Today is the feast day of St. Jude, one of the twelve apostles. Traditionally, he has been called the saint of lost causes or last resorts by those who add saints to their prayer chain and ask them to pray for us in our need. Jude is rather a favorite of mine because of an incident that happened over 20 years ago. Many of you know this story, but it is worth repeating here, I think.

I was on my yearly retreat to Sacred Heart Retreat House. On the grounds there is a statue of St. Jude. I would walk out every year and pray there. I was concerned for a son. This day was the last day of the retreat and I was particularly concerned. As I stood there, a blue bird landed on the base of the statue. He cocked his head one way or another, several times, as he looked at me. Then he said, “With Jesus there are no lost causes.” I have never, either before or since, seen a bird like that there. Only that day. When I got home I learned that our son had killed himself. But I knew that he was not lost. God has him. I remember this story on St. Jude’s day and many other days as well. And Jesus has me. And you.

A few weeks ago, I told about a dream I once had. An image dream of a broken flower pot on the floor behind a bare altar. Dirt was scattered around from the broken pot but a vine was growing from it and climbing up the altar. I haven’t come across the meditation I wrote but I did have a couple notes in my journal. I reflected that the vine was me climbing out of messy brokenness onto the altar where there is regularly bread and wine served – Jesus body for my body. At one time in my life having communion twice a week meant I could make it through the week without hiding in my basement afraid. If I didn’t, I couldn’t. Jesus body saved my body.

Over the last few weeks, as I have thought about this image, I saw the vine as the “Vine” – Jesus. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5

The two vine images out of dirt and brokenness becomes one in our brokenness. We are not lost. We are not alone. Jesus broken body is with us in our mingled brokenness and at this place we become his body for the world that is in need and pain.

These stories actually do speak to me when I find myself in worry mode. Jesus has been present in so many ways and so whatever transpires, he will be there and I will hang on to him.

“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’ But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’” ~ Henri Nouwen

Grace & Peace, Donna

 

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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 – Birthday Reflections

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble… A person’s days are determined;     you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” – Job 14:1, 5

Birthday Reflections

I’ve tried not to think about this day for a while.  Age is just a number they say.  But it is a real number. If I don’t say it aloud, maybe it isn’t so. A young delivery man called me “Miss”.  Maybe he needs glasses or maybe he’s from the south.  Since this is a milestone birthday, it is a good time to stop and evaluate. To reflect. To discern.  At this time of life, am I doing those things God desires for me to do? You know – things done and left undone. Is it time to let some things go? If so, which things.  What brings me life?  What does not?

I did not write a meditation last week because I was leaving for the Daughters of the King Retreat.  The retreat is usually a working retreat for me, and although wonderful and fun filled, I didn’t have the time or the space to reflect on these questions. I will probably need to go away for a few days to have that without distractions.

A few old age jokes come to mind.  I might as well laugh.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ― Att. Mark Twain

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” ― Ellen DeGeneres (Love this.)

“When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.” ― George Burns

“When I was born, rocks were still soft.” – My husband

And then, though it is not a joke, this quote from Parker Palmer, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” So, there it is. Reflection time calling.

God spoke to me in many ways this week.  A birthday week, especially when it’s a mile stone birthday, is a good time to make a sacramental confession.  Confession is healing to the soul and I do that here if my confessor comes. This year she did and I heard the words, “You are forgiven.”  She gave me a sort of penance.  First, she said, “Out of great pain comes great love. You embody this.”   I know it is true – that from brokenness comes the gift of love – but I don’t always see it in me.  Then she said to look for happy things to do, because she thinks I am depressed.  Really?? I wonder what gave her that idea.  She reads my writings, maybe that’s it.  Or maybe it was the tears. What kind of penance is that, anyway?

Happy things. I think I’ve forgotten how to do happy things.  Recently, there has been too many disappointments, too much pain, too much sadness, etc. It wears me out.  I already had a lighter feeling, and I started to pay attention.  God provided some moments.

One woman said that if I lived closer, she would recruit me for her singing group.  I don’t and I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to sing, anyway, but that was fun and encouraging.

One woman said she liked my shoes and they look like dancing shoes. They do.  I like them, too.

Our group stopped for lunch on the way home.  While waiting for the food, I went to the restroom.  The music that was being played, I think, was by Neil Diamond.  I have no idea now what song it was but It made me happy.  Maybe, I was dancing on the way back to the table, I don’t know, but my eye caught the eye of a young man sitting at a table.  He was about 21, I guess, because he was drinking a beer with his meal.  I doubt he was much older and he was singing the same song under his breath.  As our eyes met, he smiled and nodded his head.  I gave him thumbs up.  A strange connection happened as we responded to the song.  It was spontaneous and delightful.

My birthday week is over, but I still need to take time for discernment and reflection.  I will try to pay attention to happy things and seek happy things to do. Are the times of darkness and pain worth it?  Yes. They are, but only if I look for the gifts of love and growth that come from them.

In the beginning O God you shaped my soul and set its weave.

You formed my body and gave it breath.

Renew me this day in the image of your love.

O great God, grant me your light.

O great God, grant me your grace.

O great God, grant me your joy this day.

And let me be made pure in the well of your health.

~ Celtic Prayers from Iona – J. Phillip Newell

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Broken Bread

Holy Mother, where are you? Tonight I feel broken in two.
I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky. Holy mother, can’t keep from crying.
Oh I need your help this time. Get me through this lonely night.
Tell me please which way to turn to find myself again.
Holy mother, hear my prayer. Somehow I know you’re still there.
Send me please some peace of mind; Take away this pain.
~ Stephen Bishop, Eric Clapton

I try to spend Friday mornings in prayer, reading and meditating in preparation for writing. Some days nothing really grabs me. I may try to write about what comes to me, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Other days there is way too much. It was another YouTube morning for my prayer time because my mind just would not quit talking to me.

Music pulls from me all of the unacknowledged or ignored longings in my soul, pain, fears, disappointments, etc., but also praise, joy, surprise, laughter or even dancing. I have listened to the song, “Holy Mother”, several times this week. It has stirred up many different emotions in me. Today, with all due respect to Stephen Bishop and Eric Clapton, I found that in my mind, I was singing “Holy Jesus, hear my prayer.” Hopefully, they won’t mind if I don’t sing too loudly.

Perhaps the reason that this song touched me so deeply was because of the long, deep winter within me.. Perhaps, it was because, in this particular rendition on YouTube, it was sung by Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti – wow!!! Or maybe it was because I didn’t sleep well. God knows.

It’s interesting that many gospel stories about Jesus involved broken bread, both before and after the crucifixion, and it is often within these acts that people recognized Jesus as the One they were seeking – the Messiah.

In the reading today, John 6:1-15, Jesus fed a large crowd with five loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. After everyone had eaten their fill, there were twelve baskets full of leftovers that Jesus wanted gathered so that nothing would be lost. Another translation says that the leftovers picked up were broken pieces. Jesus is very fond of broken things. After this, the people said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” and they wanted to make him king.

The next day, after the fish sandwiches, that same crowd realized that Jesus was crossing the lake, and went ahead of him to the other side to catch him in his escape attempt in the fishing boat. Jesus told the crowd that they were only looking for him because he provided bread for them to eat when they had none. Then, he said an astonishing thing – “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.” ~ John 6:35. Of course they didn’t get it.

Again, at supper with his twelve disciples on the night before he was arrested and killed – you remember this, I’m sure, just recently on Maundy Thursday – Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Broken bread once again for broken people, including Judas who would betray him that very night. They didn’t understand any of this, either.

There are other bread stories but I am only going to relate one more, briefly. It is from the Gospel lesson for Sunday. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he appeared to two disciples walking home from Jerusalem. They were lost and confused as they walked and they didn’t recognize Jesus even though there were rumors of his resurrection. Upon arriving home, in good southern or maybe northern hospitality, they asked Jesus to stay with them for dinner. Luke 24:30-31 says, “When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” In broken bread the broken people saw Jesus.

These readings remind me of the time when I was so broken. When I took this broken bread of communion twice a week, I could make it through the week. When I didn’t because of what ever, I couldn’t. There is power in that broken bread. There is Jesus in it. I don’t understand it, either, but I believe it because I’ve experienced it. Jesus is so very fond of the broken.

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
~ Phil Wickham

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
–Book of Common Prayer

 

 

HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION – Love is in the Tomb, Today

A HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION

Love is in the tomb, today.
Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified. He has died. This is the only day of the year when there is no reserved sacrament. No communions will be offered and no sacraments can be consecrated. (Until after sundown which, traditionally, is Sunday.) This day is for remembering that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.
For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is a sadder day, still. All their hopes are crushed. Not only that, their dear friend has been savagely killed and they weren’t able to stay awake with him as he asked at the last. Some have betrayed him, and abandoned him, too, and their grief is intense. What will they hang on to, now? How can they remember Him? How can we? Love is in the tomb, today.

One Disciple’s Lament

Oh God! My God! Why have you forsaken us? They killed him. They have killed my Lord. Why? Why? When he was so kind and gentle? He was the one—the Messiah. How could they not know? Our Hope is gone. Were we all wrong? No! No! He was! I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I can’t bear those images. I wanted to run away. My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop crying. Sobs come from the depths of me and tears run down my face like rivers.
Oh, his dear face. Blood! So much blood! He cried out to you, his father, God. And he forgave those who did this. How? He forgave me, too. He healed me with his love and now he is gone. There is a hole in me. How can I go on? Where will I go? Where will any of us go?
I can’t go on without him. If I could only touch him one more time. Maybe…? Why? They beat him again and again. If I had not gone there to be with him, but I had to go. I had to stay. I had to. He felt abandoned by you and betrayed by his friends. Why did you not save him? Why? He loved you. I will not abandon him, now. He said it is finished. Finished? What is finished? How can it be finished? I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone. I feel abandoned, too, but I am staying here in this place where he is buried. Help us. I am lost. We are all lost. How can I live without him. How can any of us?
Never again will I see his face, know his love, or hear him call my name….Love is in the Tomb, today.

(dlw 2014 – revised 2017)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Anything Can Happen…

 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the Gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. John 4:10

 

 “Those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Those who have eyes to see, see this scene. Anything can happen at a well.” – John Shea, STORIES

 

Today, while reading the Gospel Lesson for this coming Sunday – John 4:5-42, a story, The Woman at the Well, by John Shea came to mind.  It is a wonderful story of the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman who comes to the well, alone, for the day’s water.  She didn’t come with the others because she was living with a man not her husband and had already been married to five.  She was considered a sinner which caused her to be ostracized by the other women. She didn’t want the humiliation of going to the well with them.

 

I wanted John Shea’s story be my Friday Meditation, but it is four pages long, over 1600 words, and I don’t have permission to include it here.  Bummer.  It is a beautiful story.  However, since it impressed itself upon me this morning so strongly, I should pay attention.  

 

 She could see him sitting on a ledge of the well from the distance.  It seemed as if he was waiting for her.  He appeared to be a traveler, not a Samaritan, and she considered turning around to go back to the village.  But, of course, he could catch her if he wanted to. Although she was panicky, she could tell he was a Jew and would probably walk away as she approached. If not, she knew how to make him leave.  She had practice.

 

  I’m thirsty,” he said.

 

 Well, it was certainly hot enough. “Who isn’t”, she said.  But he asks her to give him a drink. Jews don’t ask for a drink from a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman, so she thinks he is probably not right in the head, but she draws water and gives him one.  He says to her, “If you would ask me, I would give you living water.” I’m not going to relay the whole story but you might want to review it again for yourself. Or pay close attention when it is read on Sunday at church.

 

 Shea’s story is such a tender love story. If you ever get a chance to read it, do.  There is a bit of word sparing between the two when she asks Jesus how he plans to fetch such water since he has no bucket. Jesus draws her in. He says, “Yokes and buckets are always the problem, aren’t they?” He asks about her husband, says he knows that she has had five and this man is not her husband.  Here it comes.  Now he will insult her.  Just as she was starting to enjoy herself and feel somewhat at ease. But he doesn’t. They spar some more and she says, “You are very hard to get rid of,” but she is not sure that she wants him to go. “Everyone says that,” he replies.

 

 She tries one more time. By talking about the temple, he will finally spurn me, she thinks.  But he caught hold of her hand and said, “God is not on the mountain, but in your thirst.  God is not in the Temple, but in the scream of your spirit, and it cries to me.  Ask me, ask me for a drink.”

 

 Who is this man?  Not just another man.  I don’t ask.” She said, but…such yearning… “Even without a bucket—if you ask me, I will give you living water.” (Some of this is in John Shea’s words and some in mine.)  Finally, she whispered, “Give me a drink.” He does and after some tender words back and forth between them, she leaves and runs to the village where she relates the story to the villagers. She couldn’t wait to tell it.

 

I am always changed by an encounter with God. Always. We all are. This story speaks to the hungering deep in me. Maybe that is why it is recorded in the Bible.  So many times, I need a fresh drink of living water.  Jesus wants to give it.  According to Shea, and in my own experience, he woos me.  He woos us. He doesn’t go away and he doesn’t give up trying to draw us to him, into his arms, so that he can refresh us. Yokes and buckets are so often the problem, but Jesus is so very hard to get rid of.  And I’m so grateful.

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grief Does

“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

In the midst of life we are in death; BCP-p.493

It happens every year.  You would think I would recognize it when it begins, but I don’t. I start to feel gloom and maybe doom and I’m not sure why. Nothing has really happened. It is very near the end of winter and I have Seasonal Affective Disorder but I don’t think it’s that.  It’s more intense.  I know I haven’t been out in the sun enough. But…

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” ~ Psalm 42:11

And then it hits me.  Grief does.  Every year it sneaks up on me and every year it takes some time to understand why I’m feeling so gloomy and so helpless. And then it dawns on me.  It’s March. It’s been 22 years since our son killed himself. His birthday is the end of March, and he died on April 6.  His funeral was the day before Palm Sunday. Usually, this depression comes very close to Holy Week, so it’s a bit early which is why I didn’t recognize it at first.   It’s been a difficult year – two years really. There has been a lot of loss – Mom, and two sons-in-law, Jon and Mark.  Other things, too. This probably reinforces the deep pain and I often find myself weeping.

I miss him.  Doug.  I do. I miss his sense of humor.  His intelligence. His craziness.  His red-ish hair.  His sparkling eyes.  A small boy running around with a toothpick between his teeth.  He said he was a mosquito. He read, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in fourth grade.  The library let him read most everything.  And his creativity. Once, he and friends refocused the electric eyes for the lights around the school so that they would blink on and off.  The authorities were not amused, but I sort of was. It could have been much worse.  Then the jokes he and his brothers told (and made up) that had us rolling on the floor, almost.  Still do. I miss seeing what he might have become if life had been different. We all miss him.

I feel remorse for my parenting inadequacies.  What if I had done this?  What if I hadn’t done that? This really isn’t helpful. He had issues he couldn’t resolve. I love him.

Grief never completely goes away. It cycles. Something triggers it.  It helped when I heard once that grief is love leftover with no place to put it. But grief still comes.  Sometimes wailing and sometimes creeping up from a corner of one’s heart with the tears in one’s eyes. Love with no place to go.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy hill.” ~ Psalm 3:3-4

One morning, shortly after Doug died, a music box given to me by a friend started to play, “Love Makes the World go ‘Round.” I tried to get it to play by itself again, but it wouldn’t.  I knew, though, that he was ok. God has him.

A thought this morning – why did Jesus cry at the tomb of Lazarus? Did he not know that he was about to bring Lazarus back to life? I’m sure he did because of what he told the disciples before they came to pay their respects. John, in The Bible, didn’t try to explain why. It only states the fact in the shortest sentence in the whole of it, “Jesus wept.” Perhaps he had to feel the loss of a dear friend.  Perhaps it was empathy for the pain of Lazarus’ sisters and friends. For whatever reason this story tells us that Jesus experienced these very human emotions, too.  He knows how we feel.

At the end of our Lenten story we celebrate, on Easter, Jesus’ resurrection.  We have promise of our own to come as well as that of our loved ones. But Jesus wept, and in the meantime, so do I.  And so do you. It is your experience, too. I think it was last year that a friend sent this to me:

“Grief is a language without words; And so it is untouched by words. Does it help to know that my prayers for you are often wordless too? And shaped like tears.”