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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 – Love Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and Good,
Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Fear Not!

 

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

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

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

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

Me: mmm…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tired. It’s about time for my nap.

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

Peace & Good,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – 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 – Broken Bread

Holy Mother, where are you? Tonight I feel broken in two.
I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky. Holy mother, can’t keep from crying.
Oh I need your help this time. Get me through this lonely night.
Tell me please which way to turn to find myself again.
Holy mother, hear my prayer. Somehow I know you’re still there.
Send me please some peace of mind; Take away this pain.
~ Stephen Bishop, Eric Clapton

I try to spend Friday mornings in prayer, reading and meditating in preparation for writing. Some days nothing really grabs me. I may try to write about what comes to me, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Other days there is way too much. It was another YouTube morning for my prayer time because my mind just would not quit talking to me.

Music pulls from me all of the unacknowledged or ignored longings in my soul, pain, fears, disappointments, etc., but also praise, joy, surprise, laughter or even dancing. I have listened to the song, “Holy Mother”, several times this week. It has stirred up many different emotions in me. Today, with all due respect to Stephen Bishop and Eric Clapton, I found that in my mind, I was singing “Holy Jesus, hear my prayer.” Hopefully, they won’t mind if I don’t sing too loudly.

Perhaps the reason that this song touched me so deeply was because of the long, deep winter within me.. Perhaps, it was because, in this particular rendition on YouTube, it was sung by Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti – wow!!! Or maybe it was because I didn’t sleep well. God knows.

It’s interesting that many gospel stories about Jesus involved broken bread, both before and after the crucifixion, and it is often within these acts that people recognized Jesus as the One they were seeking – the Messiah.

In the reading today, John 6:1-15, Jesus fed a large crowd with five loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. After everyone had eaten their fill, there were twelve baskets full of leftovers that Jesus wanted gathered so that nothing would be lost. Another translation says that the leftovers picked up were broken pieces. Jesus is very fond of broken things. After this, the people said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” and they wanted to make him king.

The next day, after the fish sandwiches, that same crowd realized that Jesus was crossing the lake, and went ahead of him to the other side to catch him in his escape attempt in the fishing boat. Jesus told the crowd that they were only looking for him because he provided bread for them to eat when they had none. Then, he said an astonishing thing – “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.” ~ John 6:35. Of course they didn’t get it.

Again, at supper with his twelve disciples on the night before he was arrested and killed – you remember this, I’m sure, just recently on Maundy Thursday – Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Broken bread once again for broken people, including Judas who would betray him that very night. They didn’t understand any of this, either.

There are other bread stories but I am only going to relate one more, briefly. It is from the Gospel lesson for Sunday. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he appeared to two disciples walking home from Jerusalem. They were lost and confused as they walked and they didn’t recognize Jesus even though there were rumors of his resurrection. Upon arriving home, in good southern or maybe northern hospitality, they asked Jesus to stay with them for dinner. Luke 24:30-31 says, “When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” In broken bread the broken people saw Jesus.

These readings remind me of the time when I was so broken. When I took this broken bread of communion twice a week, I could make it through the week. When I didn’t because of what ever, I couldn’t. There is power in that broken bread. There is Jesus in it. I don’t understand it, either, but I believe it because I’ve experienced it. Jesus is so very fond of the broken.

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
~ Phil Wickham

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

 

 

MEDITATION – MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 12:1-11

 What does Jesus do the day after he was proclaimed King at the procession into Jerusalem?  It is different now, but Jesus goes about business as usual.  He attends a dinner party in his honor at the home of Lazarus, and while they are eating, Mary pours costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair.  Judas, the one who was about to betray Jesus, is upset because the perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor, or so he says.  Jesus defends Mary.  “Leave her alone,” he says.  “She bought it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 They are all confused, except for Mary, maybe.  She seems to be aware that something much bigger is happening here. She bought perfume for Jesus’ burial and she used it, today, at this dinner party. Why? He did raise her brother Lazarus from the dead.  Does that help her believe Jesus’ story about dying and rising again in three days?

 We are confused with the rest.  What does Jesus mean by these words?  Burial?  What burial?  What he said before about his dying – could that be true? But he is the King; he can’t die now. Doesn’t he care about his people?  Doesn’t he care about the poor anymore?  Something has changed.  But what? Why?  We don’t understand.  Is it all about Jesus, now?

 Is it? 

 “Simply Jesus Son of Man – Simply Jesus spotless lamb….

…Simply Jesus Living Word – Simply Jesus says it all.

Jesus Christ our Lord – Jesus Christ is Lord.”—Paul Kyle

 (dlw 2013)