A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Listening

A FRIDAY MEDITATION
June 1, 2018

“But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”—Psalm 31:14-15

I woke up yesterday morning and decided I was going to feel sorry for myself for the day. I didn’t feel particularly well. I was achy and shaky and didn’t have any energy. I whined inside myself for a while about the things I can’t manage to do, now. Things that brought me life, like singing, especially in choir, serving at receptions, teaching – I had a couple of classes that I wanted to do. I have a hard time keeping to a schedule. I feel useless, weak and uninspired. Etc. Whine.

I was reminded of something one of my granddaughters said once: “She needs her some Jesus.” I do. I need me some Jesus. I need lots of Jesus. I need to get myself to church for the healing service and spend time in community with other Christians – Jesus with skin on. Now to get dressed and see if I can get my shaky self down there. (I did. Thanks for the boost, Jesus.)

Feeling sorry for myself is a choice I can make any time, but it takes me out of the moment. I deliberately chose it for a few minutes – Okay, maybe an hour – I try hard not to let that happen. As I have said before, practicing gratitude to God for the gift of himself and for his gifts in my life helps me stay focused on where I need to be.

My Facebook page reminded me that, in the past week, I had the 28th anniversary of my graduating from St. Thomas Seminary having received a Certificate of Pastoral Ministry with concentration in Spiritual Direction. With that two years of training, 2 years at Aims studying Psychology and Counseling, a year in between that and the program, in addition to the years that I had been listening to people tell their stories before I even knew that there was such a thing as Spiritual Direction, I have been providing spiritual direction for over 35 years. Wow! That’s a long time. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed and how much I have enjoyed it. I don’t intend to stop until I have to.

Mostly, spiritual direction is a ministry of listening. Listening to a person’s God stories. Listening, myself, for God in their stories. Helping them see God there and helping them find blocks in themselves that prevents their seeing, hearing and transformation. Strangely, or maybe not so much so, this helps me find my own blocks. I am so grateful for this most joyous gift. I believe it to be a gift of the Holy Spirit that was built into me from the beginning though I didn’t know it until the fullness of time. Some of our spiritual gifts are like that. Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner. We just need to find that intersection.

How did I know that this was what God had called me to do? I didn’t know. As I said, I grew into it. I had planned to become a nurse. Healing was important to me. Then, I believed that maybe it was being a family counselor and began that track. During all these times, I listened to stories. Finally, 31 years ago, a friend who was attending St. Thomas seminary, discovered that the seminary had a program for spiritual directors. She called me and told me that she believed I should take it. When she wrote my recommendation letter, she wrote that “Donna is always asking, ‘I wonder what God is doing in this’ or ‘where is God in this’” Guilty. So, the rest is history. I almost didn’t go because of some family situations where I needed to be more available at home. I called my advisor and told her that I wasn’t going to take the program. A year later life stabilized, and I felt the tug. I called and told her that I wanted to reapply. She said that she would take my application out of my file. She had kept it because she knew I would be back.

So, why this story, today? Well, basically, its what happened this week. My life as a sick person can become very dull and boring if I let it. But also, this is how God often works in our lives. If we are listening, we can hear the call. We can find our Holy Spirit gifts. They stir something in us and usually won’t turn us loose. I am grateful for this.

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness? Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder? And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

[Chorus:]
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

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Many Gifts

 

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” ~ 1Corinthians 12: 4-7

I have found that when I spend a lot of time staying in my home as I have been recently, there is little that is different for me to reflect upon. However, in going over my week this, several things stand out to me. For one, this was Christmas Week. It started with the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve on the same day. I’ve been confused about what day it is all week.

We did get out of the house for dinner on Christmas Eve. We went to our son’s house for tacos. Their whole family was there which made a houseful of 20 people from three years old up to us. What a great evening catching up, helping, and eating. Our son took a family photo. Trying to get 20 people in one shot and making it is a great talent, indeed.

On Wednesday, our great-granddaughters and their mother came for lunch. We don’t see them much now that they are both in school, so it was a great joy. Spending time with them was always a source of meditation and reflection for me. Since they were here, I’ve been thinking once again, about how different they are.

The youngest is almost six always has something to say. I think that is why she calls our prayer room the “talking room”. It’s because it has chairs in it she informs me. She is quite a conversationalist and she often will answer questions addressed to her sister. She will do any activity if people are involved, and she can talk to them.

The older is just now ten. She is the quiet one, but she will join the conversation when asked a question, she just doesn’t volunteer information. She would rather be in her room reading a book. When asked what she got for Christmas or her birthday, the answer is always books. She reminds me of me. Or who I used to be.

They helped grandpa (papa) fix lunch – home made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – one of their favorites and, come to think of it, one of mine. The youngest gets right in there to help. I’m sure she gave papa a few tips on cooking. The oldest would be happy to help but she needs to be encouraged and invited to join in which she eventually was and did. It was so much fun watching them help papa with cooking, serving, and cleaning up. Such different gifts but what they do fits together so well.

God loves diversity. It has been said that he created no snowflake like the other nor did he create any two us the same. Not even identical twins. Each of us is unique. Each of us has different gifts. Some may be similar, but they are not exactly so. Our gifts equip us to do what God calls us to do.

On our Advent Quiet Day, Fr. Jack reminded us that Jesus gives tasks to his Church to be done by the Church. He reminded us that we each have gifts, uniquely ours, to help with those tasks. He asked us if we were aware of what God’s call is on our lives (it does not always stay the same), and if we knew what our gifts are and where God wants us to use them – in the Church or the World. Sometimes, maybe, both.

I have had many different “calls” on my life but they have mostly been about helping people know God loves them. I have always been in Choir. Well, since I was ten. I was a mom. Military wife. Church School teacher. I was a church secretary and parish administrator. I have worked in a lawyer’s office as secretary as well as doing some paralegal work. I was in a music ministry traveling around group. I worked in prison ministry as music leader, table leader, talk giver, and eventually as Spiritual Advisor. Now, I am mostly working in the Church as spiritual director, writer, and occasional teacher which surprised me. Most of these to help people grow closer to God. I think that this is probably my last call. But I have been surprised before. There were a few things I wanted to be called into, but I can’t even remember what most were. I even considered ordination for a while. That was not God’s call.

How do we know what God is calling? Discernment is part of the answer. St. Ignatius, who discovered and developed a method of discernment, starts with asking, “What do you really want? What is your passion.” I’ll write some more about that next week, God willing.

In the meantime, start with looking at your life. What has God called you to do so far? Do you know? Do you love it?

This is nearly the end of 2018, though I can’t believe it.

I wish you a Happy, Spirit Filled New Year.

Stay Blessed,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Breathe

 

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

Your holy presence living in me.

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

Your very Word spoken to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Good Day

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

I’m feeling overwhelmed today
With Jesus

Me

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

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

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

Loved
Forgiven

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

I am so grateful
Sing

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

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

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

Play
Need to
Important Spiritual discipline
And Sabbath time

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

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

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

Brings joy
In the Lord
I am grateful

In Love

Come join the dance

Overwhelmed today
With Jesus

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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – What’s Up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Power from Above

“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.” ~ Luke 24:48-49

This coming Sunday is Pentecost which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church and, therefore, to you and me. Perhaps, I should say something about this – but what?

This story comes to mind. It is a witness story of Jesus and his story with me. I had been a spirit filled and released apprentice of Jesus for some time so I was no stranger to what the Spirit will and can do in, to, with and through a person. However, I was a newly certified spiritual director when this event took place.

I was asked to lead a weekend retreat for a women’s group from another church. I believe in doing my homework, so I prayed and tried to prepare.  Absolutely nothing came to me.  I jotted down a note or two, but…! When time came to leave for the retreat, I grabbed a couple of books thinking I could always read something and let them spend time meditating. This was not a silent retreat, so this could be very interesting.

When I walked into the retreat place, the music team was practicing a song I love, so perhaps, everything would work out. I had brought along a couple of parishioners from our church who would be praying for me. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but we did begin with music. We sang.  The woman who put together the retreat said things.  I probably had a few introductory remarks. The first thing I do remember, other than music, was the prayer stations we had. The two ladies I brought with me manned one of them.

What followed, I remember with great clarity. I wrote it down. I hadn’t planned to go for prayers, but I felt a little God nudge. I would wait until the station which my friends manned was empty.  (Because the other ladies might be intimidated praying for the leader, perhaps. Hmm, bit of ego there it seems. Not one of my better thoughts.) The real reason – I am introverted and I was scared because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t want to walk across the room where people could watch me. Jesus did not agree with my plan and told me to go there, anyway. Ok, then…

I did and I asked for something, probably. The instant their hands touched me, I was on the floor. This happening is sometimes called “slain in the Spirit” but I prefer “resting in the Spirit” – it’s not as violent sounding.  Whichever – I felt very much at peace and held as I lay there.  Of course, every eye in the room was focused on my prone body. So much for introversion – just sayin’. I could hear my friends telling folks that I was alright. This has happened to me only once and in retrospect, I don’t think it was really for me anyway, or at least only partly.

I got up from the floor and returned to my seat beside the woman in charge. She said, “Interesting.  I doubt if the ladies know what happened.”  WHAT!! The name of the group, being what it was, led me to believe that they would know about these things. I must explain it. So, I talked about the Holy Spirit, about spiritual gifts, about resting in the Spirit, about tongues, about healing and, most likely, other Jesus things as well.

So, the retreat continued.  I read something from the book I brought.  There was laughter. We had more singing, a break, and another evening session. Then, it was time for prayer again. A woman, that I knew from this congregation, who had MS, came up to my station using a walker. She had been in a wheel chair. She said, “I want all that the Holy Spirit wants to give me.” Alright!!  I prayed for the Holy Spirit to do just that and she started to fall.  I grabbed her and lowered her to the floor.  Her friend was concerned but I assured her that she would be fine.  I kept my eye on her as we prayed for others.  When she started to stir, I went to her.  She said that her legs were burning and she had had no feeling in them for a long time.

My first thought – I am so very proud of this – was, “Oh, no.  God wants to heal her.” Isn’t that great? I really trusted God, but I wasn’t sure of me. I had to continue, however. I was the retreat leader.  Or so I had thought. I turned to the ladies and told them that God wanted to heal Bernice, and I asked others who felt comfortable praying for healing to join me in laying hands on her. It’s better that way, anyhow.  More community like. We prayed, she got up from the floor and started walking around.  Her friend’s jaw hit the floor – probably others as well –  as we watched her dance around.  The word was that Bernie didn’t sit down all night. The last I heard, she hasn’t yet.

I certainly would not have planned the weekend this way, but God had his dreams for this congregation, so he took over.  I was called to be there as part of it and I am still amazed.  God can do some pretty good work through scaredy-cats.  Even introverted ones. Sometimes, he lets them know.

Two years ago, at convention, I ran into a woman from that group. She told me that I had no idea what had happened after that weekend. There had been all kinds of confusion and dissension in that congregation about gifts of the Spirit and whether you needed to speak in tongues to show that the Spirit had filled a person. It was tearing the congregation apart. After this weekend, it all went away.  There was healing in the congregation as well. Wow!! Thank you, Jesus!!

I don’t know how to end this writing and it’s already long…so, be not afraid.  God does have his dreams and his ways.  “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” ~ Esther 4:14

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:8

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – We had hoped

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

I have been taking a mini vacation this week and had not planned to write, today.  However, I finished the Soul Food Article I write for the newsletter, and while filing it, I ran into this meditation from 2013.  It fits, since this scripture was the Gospel Lesson for Wednesday in Easter Week.  Cool, huh? So, I am sharing it again, today.

“I was meditating on one of the scripture lessons this week, Luke 24:12-35, when a fragment of a verse began to get my attention.  “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” “We had hoped.”  These were disciples of Jesus (not part of the eleven) who were returning home to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Jesus.  They had hoped he was the one for whom they were waiting. They were sad and confused.  Some women had said that angels at the tomb, on this third day, said Jesus was alive, but could they believe it? “We HAD hoped.”

“The story is worth reading because it sounds like us.  We have hope in Jesus, but we don’t really know if we can believe all those stories that we have read and heard.  Is Jesus really alive for us?  Will he really redeem and restore all things? Will he help us through this day?  The Bible tells us that it is so.  We have a hope in Jesus for our lives and the life of the world.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,”

“Soon, a tune and words of a praise song started singing itself in me.  It was written by a man from Northern Ireland by the name of Robin Mark.  He wrote it in 1994 after watching a review of the year in a day much like our own when many things were dark and hope seemed long gone.  The song is titled DAYS OF ELIJAH. There are several versions on U-Tube if you want to listen.

“These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord. And these are the days of Your servant Moses, righteousness being restored. These are the days of great trials of famine and darkness and sword. Still we are the voice in the desert crying ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord!’

Behold, He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call Lift your voice, year of Jubilee; Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes.

And these are the days of Ezekiel, the dry bones becoming flesh. And these are the days of Your servant, David, rebuilding a temple of praise. And these are the days of the harvest; the fields are all white in Your world. And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard declaring the Word of the Lord.

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call Lift your voice, year of Jubilee; Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes.”

 “I believe God has a hope, too.  He hopes we will return to his original plan for us—a plan of living in relationship with him and with others.  Jesus tells us that we are to go into the world and proclaim the Good News that he is alive and that we have seen him and know him. God hopes we will be the voice in the desert crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  He hopes we will be the laborers in the vineyard declaring the way.   Jesus hopes we will be his hands and feet in the world today wherever we may be.  Jesus says, “Go! and I will go with you.”

“We say, “For His Sake…I am but one; but I am one.  I can’t do everything; but I can do something. What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.  Lord, what will you have me do?” – Motto, Daughters of the King

“Behold, he comes, dear ones, we have hope.”