A FRIDAY MEDITATION: GOOD FRIDAY

 

John – Chapters 18 & 19

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

djw 2015

 

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A MEDITATION: Wednesday in Holy Week

John 13:21-32

This passage, from the Gospel at the Eucharist today, has been discussed, meditated upon and discussed even again. Today, once more, we wonder.

“At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’……. ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘…the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ When he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’…. So, after receiving the piece of bread, [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night.” It is interesting, I think, that the writer of John makes the point that it was night. Is he trying to say that Judas was walking in darkness rather than light when he left the table?

What was Judas’ motive? Some say, he may have been trying to save Jesus’ life from crowds that were becoming agitated and likely to become violent. Others say that he was trying to force Jesus into His role as King over Israel and so overthrow the Romans. Some Orthodox churches call Judas a saint because he was the one who did what had to be done. None of these reasons or motives make any difference to the fact that Judas betrayed his Lord. Jesus wasn’t meeting Judas’ expectations. Whatever reason Judas had when he took the bread from Jesus, the tempter came, and Judas made his decision.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”—v. 31-32

The time has come, and Jesus knows it. God is using what Judas is doing for his own purpose and Judas has no clue. These events would happen with or without Judas, but what sadness that it was a friend that brought it about.

I ponder. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us bread and says, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And, often, we betray him, too. When? Like Judas, when the tempter comes to us and we take matters into our own hands—when we tell Jesus that we’ll take it from here, we’d rather do it ourselves—when he isn’t working fast enough for us—when he is not the Messiah we want—when we want to do things according to our plan rather than waiting for his, etc. When we don’t live according to his teachings. When we distort his image. We know when.

Lord, often, we don’t know what we do, either. We confess the times we betray you. We are sorry. Please forgive us. Amen.

(dlw 2015)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – No Disconnect

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Beloved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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