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)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -Yes! That!

 

 We have it in us to be Christs to each other and maybe in some unimaginable way to God too – that’s what we have to tell finally. We have it in us to work miracles of love and healing as well as to have them worked upon us. We have it in us to bless with him and forgive with him and heal with him and once in a while maybe even to grieve with some measure of his grief at another’s pain and to rejoice with some measure of his rejoicing at another’s joy almost as if it were our own.” ~ Frederick Buechner

I’ve been reading quotes by Frederick Buechner today. They have been soothing to my soul, because I woke this morning with a sense of doom. I wondered why all of this was present in me today, and after some time, I realized that what I was feeling was almost overwhelming grief.  Tears are very close to the surface, overflowing from time to time as the day wears on. Overwhelming, may not be the right word, but I don’t know what is.  I remember a Rumi quote that I saw, recently. I went inside my heart to see how it was. Something there makes me hear the whole world weeping.” Yes. That’s the feeling. Grief!

I’ve had many things to grieve the last two years. Deaths – My mother, a son-in-law, an ex-son in law whom I loved (both in tragic ways), and the loss of friends. I grieve for loved ones that have been affected by these deaths. The pain of the world. There are other losses, too. I’m good at ignoring these until they pile up. Add to this a cold that I finally got over, a big case of hives that I can’t explain and wham!!  Also, coming up in a few weeks is the anniversary of our son’s tragic death. Of course, seasonal affective disorder has something to do with my mood here at the end of winter.  But I have this every year and that is sadness, not grief. Was there a trigger somewhere?

This quote was on Facebook. I have heard something like it before. It speaks to me. “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ~ unknown. Yes. That.

The place that I am in is my reality for the moment, but there are things that I can do – practice gratitude for one.  I am grateful for many things and it helps to make notes because then I remember. Today, I see a bit of iris blade taking a peek above ground.  I really need to get out in the dirt, do some cleaning up and pruning – always a good thing.  I planned to take a walk before the wind picked up.  It was 75 degrees outside.  I’m grateful for the warmth, not needing my coat for a few days, even knowing that it won’t last. The moon was wondrous last night.

 Every day, I try to post something on my Facebook page, and our church’s, that is inspiring, sending a bit of light into the darkness.  I continue looking for the light of God in what is around me. There it is in the faces of friends, in a man picking up a food box and pouring a cup of coffee because it was very cold outside, in the face of a child talking to me while waiting for church to begin. The light of God is everywhere even in the midst of grief.   

Frederick Buechner says, “It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle. All wise. All-powerful. All-loving. All knowing. We bore to death both God and ourselves with our chatter. God cannot be expressed but only experienced.

In the last analysis, you cannot pontificate only point. A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, “I can’t prove a thing, but there was something about his eyes and his voice. There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross – the way he carries me.”  One of my favorites.

Grace and Peace, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Good News

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. ~
Martin Rinkart 1636

“What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were grateful for yesterday,” a Facebook Meme asks. Even though I have been contemplating this question, and even though this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, and the fact that “Practice Gratitude” is one element in the Trinity Way of Life prompting Charlie Brown, I imagine, to ask, “What if today we were just grateful for everything?” that is not what has been on my mind most of this week, though there are so very many things for which I am grateful. (Diagram that sentence, St. Paul. Your turn.) 

I have been meditating on the Gospel lesson from last Sunday found in Luke 21:5-19 (NRSV). Jesus and other worshipers are standing around after the service admiring the temple and Jesus tells them that it will eventually be torn down and that all types of cataclysmic events will take place. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. ***This will give you an opportunity to testify. *** So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” 

There is more to that passage than I have used, but I began to think about why bad things happen to us.  There are all sorts of reasons, but I’ve not often considered that they give us an opportunity to testify.  If we pay attention to our stories, we will, most often, have some “Good News” to share. God has given much to me as I have worked out, in fear and trembling, some seriously awful events in my life.  I have, after a period of time and reflection, found new spiritual growth, new wisdom, and new understanding through these events and they have given me good news about God’s workings to share. 

I’ve never been thrown into prison, but I spent many years working with the Kairos prison ministry.  Talk about bad things happening to people – I’ve heard it all.  Most of the stories, I believed because I am reasonably good about discerning a con job.  I, by a turn of events, was the first non-ordained Spiritual Advisor for Kairos Colorado, so there were many opportunities to share Jesus’ story and the ways the “bad” things in my life had changed me with God’s help and healing.  As Spiritual Advisor, I only had about 15 minutes with each person to listen to their story, share Jesus’ story and pray for them. My personal goal was to give each person who came to me a bit of Jesus to hold on to, a bit of His love to ponder, and some hope for their story.  In. 15. Minutes. God worked some amazing miracles in that time constraint. 

An aside (I’m not making light of these programs, just wanting to share a story) – One weekend my husband, Dave, was working with Kairos and I was taking an Al-anon family seminar at Harmony Ranch in Estes Park. Someone asked one of our daughters what her parents were doing that weekend.  With a perfectly straight face, I am sure, she told them that her dad was in prison and her mother was in rehab. See what I had to live with.  No wonder I’m the way I am.  

You might want to refresh your memory by re-reading that scripture from Luke.  Questions to be used for your meditation might be: What did Jesus do with the “bad” events and hard times that have happened in my life?  What is the “Good News” story that I could tell about Jesus in my life? How has he healed me?  How has he loved me? How have I been transformed by God’s working through this event? Maybe you have some questions of your own. God does not waste any part of our lives.  He doesn’t ignore the bad and only use the good or the times we think we are good.   

Remember – Jesus loves you and there is nothing at all that you can do about that. 

This is something for which we can be grateful. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Meditating,

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Revolution

In Christ alone 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, may All in All.  Here in the love of Christ I stand.~ Stuart Townend, Keith Getty

Wow!! There has been entirely more than enough emotional content to process for me over the last two years and now add this. Two or three years ago – I don’t remember, I predicted a revolution in our country. I didn’t tell many people, but I kept feeling that this was going to happen. I believed it was a message from God, but I didn’t have any urgency that I should run out through the streets with this nor shout it from the housetops. I thought it was so I would be aware. I didn’t know when this would happen, what would bring it about, or how it would look, but the message kept returning. The last few days of the presidential campaign, I also had a niggling thought that the election would turn out the way it did. And there you have it – history repeats itself. Revolution!

Revolutions are most often violent and bloody. They are always messy. There is almost always an imbalance of power. There are levels of fear, frustration and anger that fuels this. There is a belief that some people are being ignored by the Power and a strong feeling that there aren’t any other ways to even things out and give balance. America has previously had its share of revolution – the American Revolution, Indian uprisings, the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, etc. Along with this, as often happens, we have civil war – brother against brother, family against family, friend against friend. All of us are somewhat afraid and many of us are angry. Revolutions are divisive.

So are you ready for the question? Several people have asked me a similar question over the past three days. It is, “What is a follower and apprentice of Jesus to do in times and situations like these?” What is our response to be?

If we are followers and apprentices of Jesus, we are to do what the master did. This comes to mind – Jesus read this aloud in the synagogue and said it was about him. (From Luke 4:18-19) – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” If these are Jesus’ marching orders, then they are ours as well.

In the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5, 6, 7. – Jesus tells us to be salt and light, don’t retaliate, turn the other check, pray always, love and pray for your enemies, forgive, don’t be anxious or afraid. The Gospels tell us how Jesus carried this out as he modeled it for us.

Then, from our Baptismal Covenant – we, or our parents and godparents for us, promised to do these things:

“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?”

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

The answer to each is, of course – “I will, with God’s help.”

An article I read this morning asked the question, “Where are the peacemakers?” For this, we should look in the mirror. This is our calling. We can NOT hate or create violence in the name of Jesus. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

So once again, history repeats itself but God does bat last.

Whether we celebrate the results of this election or mourn, we will need to listen to one another. And that will lead to our reaching out, as the Body of Christ to all those who need us in every corner of the land. – The Episcopal Café

For His Sake – Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – And Yet…

Hear my cry, O God and listen to my prayer.  I call upon you from the ends of the earth with heaviness in my heart; set me upon the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.  I will dwell in your house forever; I will take refuge under the cover of your wings. ~ Psalm 61:1-4

As usual over the last few weeks, I have no words. There is nothing really to say.  A thought will come and I think I could write and then it disappears somewhere.  Nothing coherent makes its way to consciousness. The stressors of the last two years have just about done me in, and they continue.  I’m not going to list them here this time. Because….well, because. Many of you will understand that because you have had your own troubles.

There are tears behind my eyes that occasionally make their way to the front of them.  There is such sadness in the world.  Terrible things are happening.  Terrible things have happened in my own family as well and maybe yours, too. The mystic and poet, Rumi, wrote, “I went inside my heart to see how it was. Something there makes me hear the whole world weeping.”

I asked Jesus. I feel his tears fall on my hands and face. His cry rings out, “Jerusalem. Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” ~ Matthew 23:37

Barbara Brown Taylor asks, “So I wonder… Where do we go and what do we draw upon when life is bigger than we are?” We know the answer to that question don’t we? There is “Even so” “And yet.”  There is always an “and yet,” GOD IS GOOD. And the end of the story promises that God WINS.

If I can put life into words it helps me get a handle on it.  Writing does that for me even when it is rather incoherent. It helps me find words that I might not even be able to utter out loud.  I can find my voice in writing and it helps get the sadness and heaviness out. The world at times seems hopeless but friends who listen, to and with unspoken words, are precious.  God does that.

There are so many blessings.  I am grateful for many things and God’s goodness, too, brings tears behind my eyes. I love my family – my husband and children, grandchildren great-grandchildren. I love my new home.  I love my church community.  I have lovely friends. A ministry that brings me joy. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving abound. Being grateful brings hope even when much around us seems to be falling apart. Counting daily blessings, even if or especially if, we have to look for them, brings gratitude and a measure of joy. Life is difficult, but also wonderful.

Frederick Buechner reminds us that “we have it in us to be Christs to each other and maybe in some unimaginable way to God too….We have it in us to work miracles of love and healing as well as to have them worked upon us  We have it in us to bless with him and forgive with him and heal with him and once in a while maybe even to grieve with some measure of his grief at another’s pain and to rejoice with some measure of his rejoicing at another’s joy almost as if it were our own.” Yes!!

A friend sent this:

“Grief is a language without words and so it is untouched by words. Does it help to know that my prayers for you are often wordless, too?  And shaped like tears.”