A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Practice Gratitude

 

“… I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”  ~ Psalm 88:13

 

I woke up one day this week afraid that I’m trying to kid myself and I’m not going to get well.  I wonder if this cough that’s plaguing me is really the cancer taking over rather than simple allergies.  Some days it’s hard to act healed.

 

My eye catches the picture of the woman touching the hem of Jesus robe that is hanging on the wall across the room from my prayer chair. I’m going to grab hold and hang onto his robe today. I think I had better tie myself to it in case my arms and hands get tired of hanging on.  Then he can just drag me along with him because I’m not giving up.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” ~ Anne Lamott

I try but the state of my health tells me how many fears I still have.  These are old fears.  I thought they were healed and gone.  Why are they here now? I’m afraid of so many things still – Travelling in a car, train, or airplane. War. Homelessness – I’ve been there a couple of times. Hunger – here also, not being loved, death and dying, drowning – I almost did or at least I thought so, not being able to breath. etc. These fears rear their ugly heads. I’m a died in the wool scaredy cat, it seems. What do these fears have in common? What are they saying to me?

After sitting with my questions for a few minutes, I realize that they all have to do with control or, rather, feelings of not being able to control things. I didn’t know these were still there. This is a biggie. I certainly need to stay tucked inside the hem of Jesus’ robe. All these negative thoughts, my anxiety, etc. are, most likely, from the evil one who would try to cause me to give up on trusting God.

So, what to do? The cure or antidote to these fears is most likely gratitude and giving thanks to God. Gratitude gets us out of ourselves. But, as our Trinity Way of Life says, we need practice.  If we don’t practice, we forget.  Or maybe it’s just me. I forget.

Today, among other things, I am grateful for the gift of life, meeting and lunch with soul friends, for the many pray-ers who pray for me and others. There are so many more things to thank God for.  To be grateful for.  I’m thankful for the new snow.  Not only because it brings much needed moisture, but also because it is beautiful.  I checked on it when I was up walking around in the middle of the night. As it came down and lay on the ground, some of the flakes sparkled and twinkled like diamonds as they caught light from surrounding street lights. It was like they were lit from within by God light.  Perhaps, they were.

Thank you, Creator Father, that you are with me and I am in you.

Thank you, Jesus, that you hold my hand and carry me in your robe.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you give power to heal and courage to keep going forward.

Thank you, God who holds our fears and carries us when it is difficult to walk.

Thank you for those in community with me who come along side.

Help me be aware of your presence. Always.

 

The last few days during my prayer time, I have imagined myself with Jesus surrounding me.  It was like I was inside him, somehow. Jesus said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one…”  ~ John 17:20-22.  In my image there was always a black line attached to him, somehow, and going around me.  It was just there, and I didn’t pay any attention to it really.   Finally, I asked myself what that line was doing there and the words “black belt” came to me. Jesus is wearing a black belt??? Maybe it’s mine. I need to meditate on this one for a bit longer.

 

“There is no amount of darkness that can extinguish the inner light. The important thing is not to spend our lives trying to control the environment around us. The task is to control the environment within us. ~Joan Chittister, OSB

 

Peace & Good, Donna

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Love Stories

If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” – Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry

Have I told you lately that God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it? Absolutely nothing! That’s it! If I haven’t, I have been remiss in my duty and this can serve as a reminder. Maybe it is me that I need to remind. I need to hear it some days. Right now, that’s every day. The days when I feel unlovable and bored with myself are the hardest. I felt achy and crabby earlier along with feeling a bit unsettled and disconnected. I had to remind myself that this is only feelings and not actually true. I had a class to attend, today, and I had to drag myself around to get dressed. I wanted to crawl back into bed, but I knew I would feel better if I got with it and made myself go. I did. It did. I needed to hear that Jesus loves me no matter what I feel like or how I act.

A section of the Conformation classes that I taught at Trinity a few years ago comes to mind. I had been asked to teach one of the components of the class and I chose Scripture. I had something to say about this. I titled this class “The Bible: A Love Story.” The young people in the class have now graduated from high school and some are off to college. The adults are still around. Several have said that this class was a turning point for them and one of the adults said to me recently, “The Bible is a love story, you know.” Yes!!! I know.

We discussed, from the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer – Page 853, the section – “The Holy Scriptures.” We also discussed that God did not dictate the Bible word for word. It is a compilation of stories. It is a record of human beings growing understanding of who God the Creator is. We believe that the authors who wrote the stories down were inspired by God as well as were the books chosen to be included in the Bible. These stories have something to tell us. The Old Testament stories point to Jesus, and the New Testament talks about Jesus in the flesh – about the stories he told and the works that he did. Jesus told about love. He said that the 10 commandments – the Law – is summarized by loving God and loving neighbor and then he showed his followers what that looks like. Jesus said that if we want to know what God is like we should pay attention to himself and what he does. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. Jesus also said that he and the Father are one. The Bible also tells us about the forming, spreading and growing Church. Philip Yancey says, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back.” Stories. Love stories. Many stories. Stories like we could tell.

So, you might ask, why do I believe this about the Bible. The answer is because that has been my experience of God, too. You know that I did not always believe that God was love. I fell into the Old Testament thought that God was an angry God and would punish us (me) if we didn’t toe the line. It took some time the be taught by God that this is not true. You have heard these stories before, I imagine, because they were all turning points for me. I tell them often.

I was in my late teens and early 20s when the change began to happen. The first major story was when God miraculously healed our new-born baby daughter. Doctor’s couldn’t do anything for her though they tried, I had a come to Jesus moment with God, people prayed for her and at that moment, she was healed. I know it was a miracle. The doctor (a hardened army colonel of many years) said it was a miracle, but I already knew that. From this, I learned that God hears me and answers my prayers. There is the story about God finding an earring that I had lost and dropping it on my bed with the back still attached. If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask me about it. From this I learned that God cares about what I care about. The third story, and there are many more, came when I was studying 12 step programs and read that I needed to make “a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood God”. I had always thought that step said to turn my life over to the will of God and since I was just learning about his love, I didn’t know if I could do that. But the CARE of God. He had been showing me that he cares. I could take a chance on that. Stories. I call them “touch stones.” Stories that I can look back on and see that God has always been in my life and has always loved me. He always will and there is nothing I can do about it.

I had the Conformation classes write their own love stories about God. They can also look back during times of unsureness and confusion and remember, it’s a love story. If you haven’t written about your own love stories, it might be a good Lenten exercise.

What does it mean to me now that I’m going through this new trial of having untreatable cancer? Well, God still loves me. He is still with me. He wants to spend time with me. He wants to love on me. He wants me to share stories.

Peace and Good,
Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Fear Not!

 

Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side,
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
~ Catharina von Schlegel

I woke up this morning about 12:30 and knew it was one of those nights when I would have to spend two or three hours awake before I could take, maybe, a two-hour nap. I prayed for awhile. I thought about things like coffee and eternity. I talked to God about them.

Me: eternity seems so scary in a way. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. What will that be like? Who will I be? There is no time in eternity. It’s forever. No time! There is no time in eternity. Time is only now. How do I even think about that?

God: That’s one of the reasons you need to stay in the moment instead of wandering all over the place. It’s practice for eternity. Among other things.

Me: mmm…

Thoughts: Is it time to quit writing? I have such a block right now. I ask God. I hear nothing. I need help.

I read the Gospel for today. I like to reflect on them a bit each day. This speaks to me. “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” ~ Mark 4:35-41

Jesus is tired. He has had a long day with the multitudes, healing, preaching, and teaching. He may have cooked lunch too, and he needs a nap. He probably has plans to spend a long time talking with his father tonight. But the disciples are afraid of a violent storm that has come up while they were crossing the lake, so they wake him. “Peace!”, he commands. “Be still. Why are you afraid? Don’t you have faith?” I imagine the disciples hemming and hawing a bit. “But the storm”, they say. “it’s huge.” I imagine Jesus saying, “I’m here. Fear not.”

There are four or five things that I want to be able to attend today and tomorrow. I wonder if I will have the stamina to do them all. Back to one moment at a time. Staying there. Hard.

All those prayer lists – I need to find a better way to pray for all those for whom I have promised to pray. Yep. Think about that.

Maybe, I should do part of the Examine while I’m just lying here in this recliner.

1. Pray for God to show me my day. What were my faults? Where have I done wrong? What do I need to change? (Quit being so crabby.) There is fear and anxiety tonight. Where did I do good? Mmm? For what during the day am I grateful?

2. List those things for which I am grateful. – Waking up. Breathing. A new day. Home, family, friends. The presence of God. Community. Some blue sky. Coffee with a friend. Jesus. Freedom from pain right now. Jesus. There are probably more.

Tired. It’s about time for my nap.

Peace! Be still! Fear not! The storm is not too big. I am here with you.

Peace & Good,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Prayer First

I love you, O Lord my strength,
O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.
My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,
My shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
You are worthy of praise. ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I was going to write about discernment of spiritual gifts this past week, as I told you, but as sometimes happens, I am changing that. Last week, I couldn’t write even though I planned to do so and had some notes. I had an appointment with my oncologist that morning when we discussed my latest CT scan. It showed that my lung tumor has grown – I don’t know how much because I don’t think it’s in my best interest to know – and I had to deal with my thoughts and feelings about this even when I didn’t want to.

I haven’t wanted to bother you with my emotional states over the last six months because I don’t always have positive thoughts and feelings that I’m ready to share. None of us do no matter what our faces say. It just so happens that unless I tell it like it is, I can hardly write at all. So, this is a little longer but it’s time.

After the doctor told me the results of the scan, I was depressed. I had been feeling well for quite some time, except for a separate problem with my back which is not cancer according to the doctor. Because of that I had hoped that at the very least the tumor would not have grown and even that it might have shrunk. I didn’t really expect the results, but I was not surprised. It took me three days to get my head around it all. Questions filled my thoughts. What is this going to be like? How long will the process of dying take if that is what’s to be? What is heaven like? I must tell you that I never am comfortable doing something new and different. I always, always have anxiety about it. I like to know what I’m getting into and even though there are indications about it all, there it is. I’m anxious. Or was. I don’t know how long I have, but then we never do, really.

I am still praying for a miracle, even more so now, and imagining my tumor gone and my lungs clear. I pray for the darkness to leave them and to be filled with the light of Christ. I still know that Jesus healed those who came to him for healing. I believe he still does so. My prayers come from that knowledge, however, I have moments of doubt. At those times I need to remember, as I did at the beginning of this, to hang on to the hem of Jesus robe and not let go.

During my prayer time on the third day, Sunday, the words, “ACT HEALED”, impressed themselves on me. Act Healed. Can I do that? Isn’t it rather silly to act healed when obviously the CT scan says otherwise? You might ask. The answer is “Yes”. And “No”. Yes, because it not very real is it? Should I not stay with reality and prepare. No, because acting healed can keep me in the moment. It keeps me from having panic attacks, even minor ones. I stay with how I feel overall instead of counting every little twinge of pain. I remember who loves me. I remember whom I love. It helps me focus on something other than illness. There may be days when this acting might be difficult to carry out, but I’ll try. So far, I’m doing ok. I am sleeping better than I was. I was in the office two days this week. I laugh.

I’m still working on things that need organizing. I am giving away some trinkets and heirlooms to family members and fixing my genealogy program. I want to throw out some old files. These things have needed doing, anyway.

Last Friday – I had intended to write about this last week – the Gospel Lesson from Morning Prayer was the story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:17-27, 38-44). As I read this I was struck by the fact that in this story, Martha is the sister that runs down the road to meet Jesus, even though she rebukes him for not coming in time. Mary is the one who stays behind. I was, for some reason struck by the role reversals from the story when Jesus went to dinner at their house and Mary was the one who sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha was preparing lunch for their guest (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was upset because Mary wasn’t helping, and when she complained Jesus told her that Mary had chosen the better way. I doubt if that seemed fair to Martha. In the Lazarus story, I had always assumed that Mary stayed behind because she was angry with Jesus and wasn’t going to run to him on the road. But as I meditated on this, I remembered that there was a house full of guests who had come to pay respects and she had to be the hostess. Hospitality was at stake.

What do these stories say to me? What does Jesus want me to know here? I think it is that spending time with Jesus is my top priority. First prayer and then work and whatever. Both are necessary. I just need to get them in the right order.

Especially now.

“I have to stay close enough to the Word to hear my Father’s voice.
And in the stillness, our Father’s voice calls and there is a moving back closer to hear Him —we need the person of God more than we need the plan for our life.”—Ann Voskamp

Blessings, Donna

 

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

 

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