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

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Creation Sings

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It’s still Advent

 

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

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

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

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

~ THE HYMNAL 1982

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Grace and Peace,

Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Let it be so

When does an ordinary life become extraordinary? A mundane day become revolutionary? A moment in time change history? When God enters in, forgives sin, allows us to begin again. When we repeat those words of Mary – ‘May it be to me as you say’ ~ John Birch

Sometimes, when I read and pray with the Bible, I try to put myself in the story.  I try to notice what is going on, who the characters are, what the air is like, etc.  This meditation becomes part of my prayer and sometimes it takes on a life of its own, such as this time.

“As I sat in prayer this morning, suddenly (why is it always suddenly) a stranger stood before me, ‘Hello, Donna, chosen by God. God has sent me to tell you that he wants you to bear his Son. His Kingdom will be forever, and he will save his people from themselves!  You will call him Jesus.’

‘Huh? What? Who are you? You are scaring me.  And what are you talking about? Are you nuts?’

‘Don’t be afraid, chosen one. I am the angel, Gabriel, and God sends me to bring messages to people.   He has been waiting for you.  He so loves you and he wants you to be the mother of his son.’

‘Well, I do love God.  Always.  But have God’s Son.  What does that even mean?  I’m a virgin. Have you any idea what my mother would say.  She will lock me up with this crazy story.’

‘Donna, this baby is the Promised One who will save the people from themselves and show them the way to live.  You know, they keep getting it wrong.’

‘Do you mean the Messiah?  Is that who you’re talking about?’

‘Yes! God has been waiting for you. This is your part.’

‘Oh, boy! Hmm.  Holy cow!  Are you serious? Really? You can’t be serious.  Can you?’

‘I am serious.’

‘Ah yes, then, may it be to me as you say.’”

This is a simple story to bear such holy weight, isn’t it?  It reminds us of the One for whom we wait.  We have been waiting in Advent.  We are waiting to celebrate Jesus‘ birth and we wait for his coming again.  We wait for the Kingdom of God and for all to be restored.  At this moment, we live in the ‘between’ times – between his birth and his return. He has called us, his followers, to be his Body on earth until then. We who are baptized are re-membered, as we receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion, to become his Body here on earth.  We are to fill the gap. We are to bear Jesus into the world, to tell the story, to do those things he did, show his love to others, to carry forth his light into the darkness and to participate in spreading God’s kingdom on earth. What an amazing and holy commission this is.

So, we wait.  God waits.  You, O highly favored one – God’s chosen – what is your part in bringing forth Jesus into the world?  And what is mine?  Will we say with Mary, “May it be done to me as you say?” Lord, grant us the Grace to answer, “Yes.”

Have a very Merry Christmas.  Stay Blessed favored one. Come Lord, Jesus!

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” – Meister Eckhart