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 – 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 – With Gratitude

 

All day long I hope in Your goodness.

Remember Your love,

The love that You promised long ago.

And the kindness that you

Gave from of old.

 

Refrain: To You, Yahweh, I lift up my soul O my God.

To You, Yahweh, I lift up my soul, O my God.

~ Tim Manion, “I Lift Up My Soul

 

 

 

I just don’t know what to write about anymore. I have a hard time getting my mind to focus. The thoughts that go through my head are full of me.  I’m being so self-focused. How do I feel today? I can’t seem to concentrate or meditate.  Sometimes I’m a bit afraid and I need to give myself a good talking to. People ask how I am and all I know to say is, “I’m hanging in there.” Or “I’m ok.” And I am ok, even when I’m not. This meditation is days late and I had it mostly ready on Friday of last week. I just couldn’t finish it.

 

 When a person is seriously ill, all of one’s days seem to be the same.  Or at least it seems so to me. I can plan to do a certain thing, but I may not feel well enough to do what I plan. Or I might have a doctor’s appointment somewhere.  In the last four months, I have been in the hospital four times and in ER three or four as well. I have said, often, that I try to stay in the moment because that is the place I really live.  I don’t live in yesterday and I don’t live in tomorrow, but really living today is, many times, difficult.

 

I had an appointment with the cancer nurse about two weeks ago and she told me that the doctor is not going to give me the cancer drug again. That’s good because we’ve tried it twice.  I have had two episodes of septic shock while taking it – the second episode was the very day that I restarted it. My last two hospital stays were because of serious reactions to that medication and those episodes have really sapped my energy. The first one nearly killed me. My life now, for sure, is in the hands of God, but then, life really is anyway, isn’t it? I continue to hang tight to the hem of Jesus’ garment. But there are other things I can do.  God things. Jesus things.

 

 I can, and have decided to, take something from each day that comes.  I can focus on where I have noticed the presence of Jesus this day. What has God given to me? What joy? What insight? What sense of his presence? What God moment? What gratitude? What event took place? Perhaps a disappointment. What did God teach me through that disappointment? When in this day was I closest to God? When did I feel far from God or did I? Where did I see light today? When did I give it? For what was I grateful today? Most grateful? In our evening prayer I can, and did, talk this day over with Jesus.

 

Part of this exercise is called the Examine of Consciousness (awareness). This is NOT the Examination of Conscience used for preparation before making a confession. The Examine was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola but I have added some of my own questions for reflection.

 

These last two weeks I’ve been trying to deliberately be more aware of God in my day. Since Thanksgiving was yesterday, my main focus for the week has been on gratitude and giving thanks. Sometimes, when a grateful thing happens, I send myself a note so that I don’t forget these things at the end of the day and can list them.

Included in my list for the last two weeks of gratitude are thanksgivings for the many prayers being said for my healing and for comfort for my family

For delicious meals brought in

 

For a warm fire on a cold, grey day, watching the flames and feeling God’s presence

 

Feeling better and stronger some days

 

Being able to do a few household chores

 

Being able to sing a bit more

 

My voice is stronger

 

Good day with Soul Friends

 

I walked around the block.  Ok, it’s a long block. Without backup.  First time in awhile.

 

 See how much better I feel after just listing some of my grateful things.  I thank God for them and you. If you want to know more about the Examine, let me know,

 

 When you’re looking for JOY, you will always find it hiding in your GRATITUDE ~ unknown

 

 May you find many grateful things the rest of this Thanksgiving week for which you want to thank God. 

 

 Peace and Good, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Rule or Law?

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own … Richard Foster, “Life with God”

I read the other day in the news that scientists or archeologists have found evidence, in Morocco, I think, of homo sapiens 100,000 years older than the oldest found so far. Wow!! That boggles my mind. How many years is that? More than I can fathom. I thought you might like to know just in case you missed that news segment.

I have been sitting here on this gloomy day trying to get a clue of something I would like to write. Nothing comes to mind. It has been a busy week and I am a bit tired. That might have something to do with it, but writing for me is a spiritual discipline; it helps me voice what is going on inside myself. As a very strong introvert, things I’m thinking about may not be thought through. They just hang out inside until I get tired of them. So, what is going on? I’m rather bored with myself today.

Politics – I don’t want to write about that.

This week at our meeting, St. Anne’s chapter of the Daughters of the King will be reviewing and sharing our personal rule of life. What spiritual disciplines do we practice, now? Are they working for us? Does something need tweaking? Do we need a pause button? How is our Sabbath practice? You get the idea.

When I began to have a rule of life many years ago, I used one that was given to us at Cursillo. The components of this rule were three – Prayer, Study, and Action. This rule was to be lived in community – the Church – and reinforced by meeting together in a small group to check how we all were doing. We need a rule to regulate our spiritual lives. It is not a law which we are bound to follow and perhaps get wrong. Shame. Our rule is to open space for God and help us serve others. Love God and love our neighbor – Jesus said this is what it’s all about.

My rule of life changes every so often, but it always includes those above. It is based on the Rule of St. Benedict which I might write about another time. The Daughters have a rule of prayer and a rule of service, and though not one of our rules we have a focus of evangelism – spreading the good news by telling our story and praying for the spread of the Kingdom of God. Our disciplines for our spiritual growth are based on the Baptismal Covenant.

I believe everyone needs a rule or a way of life if they are serious about growing spiritually. It is so easy to drift. I need to guard drifting in my own life. As a spiritual director, one of the things I do is help people decide what to do to open that God space and strengthen prayer and ministry in their lives as well as I need to do in my own. We are fortunate to have a corporate Way of Life for our congregation. It strengthens our community life and is a good place to begin.

It always happens. I think I have a handle on this and somebody interjects another element – not to the Trinity Way – but to my way. It went like this, “Keeping your body in shape is a spiritual discipline. It’s not just about losing a few pounds, wanting to live longer, or trying to look nicer. ~ Richard Warren

Then why? I want to know.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Well, there are times when some people stop preaching and go to meddling. So, what to do…. I have been rather lax lately. I have been low energy and not feeling top notch. Do you suppose that not exercising might have something to do with it? My diet is not always great and I need to make some doctor’s appointments. I most definitely need to add this piece to my rule of life. The last few days, I have reintroduced stair climbing into my exercise routine. Whew!! Well, it is my exercise routine all by itself at the moment. I have some work cut out for me.

It is well and good, Lord, if all things change, provided we are rooted in you. If I go everywhere with you, my God, everywhere things will happen for your sake, that is what I desire. ~ St. John of the Cross

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)