A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Birthday Reflections

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble… A person’s days are determined;     you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” – Job 14:1, 5

Birthday Reflections

I’ve tried not to think about this day for a while.  Age is just a number they say.  But it is a real number. If I don’t say it aloud, maybe it isn’t so. A young delivery man called me “Miss”.  Maybe he needs glasses or maybe he’s from the south.  Since this is a milestone birthday, it is a good time to stop and evaluate. To reflect. To discern.  At this time of life, am I doing those things God desires for me to do? You know – things done and left undone. Is it time to let some things go? If so, which things.  What brings me life?  What does not?

I did not write a meditation last week because I was leaving for the Daughters of the King Retreat.  The retreat is usually a working retreat for me, and although wonderful and fun filled, I didn’t have the time or the space to reflect on these questions. I will probably need to go away for a few days to have that without distractions.

A few old age jokes come to mind.  I might as well laugh.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ― Att. Mark Twain

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” ― Ellen DeGeneres (Love this.)

“When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.” ― George Burns

“When I was born, rocks were still soft.” – My husband

And then, though it is not a joke, this quote from Parker Palmer, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” So, there it is. Reflection time calling.

God spoke to me in many ways this week.  A birthday week, especially when it’s a mile stone birthday, is a good time to make a sacramental confession.  Confession is healing to the soul and I do that here if my confessor comes. This year she did and I heard the words, “You are forgiven.”  She gave me a sort of penance.  First, she said, “Out of great pain comes great love. You embody this.”   I know it is true – that from brokenness comes the gift of love – but I don’t always see it in me.  Then she said to look for happy things to do, because she thinks I am depressed.  Really?? I wonder what gave her that idea.  She reads my writings, maybe that’s it.  Or maybe it was the tears. What kind of penance is that, anyway?

Happy things. I think I’ve forgotten how to do happy things.  Recently, there has been too many disappointments, too much pain, too much sadness, etc. It wears me out.  I already had a lighter feeling, and I started to pay attention.  God provided some moments.

One woman said that if I lived closer, she would recruit me for her singing group.  I don’t and I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to sing, anyway, but that was fun and encouraging.

One woman said she liked my shoes and they look like dancing shoes. They do.  I like them, too.

Our group stopped for lunch on the way home.  While waiting for the food, I went to the restroom.  The music that was being played, I think, was by Neil Diamond.  I have no idea now what song it was but It made me happy.  Maybe, I was dancing on the way back to the table, I don’t know, but my eye caught the eye of a young man sitting at a table.  He was about 21, I guess, because he was drinking a beer with his meal.  I doubt he was much older and he was singing the same song under his breath.  As our eyes met, he smiled and nodded his head.  I gave him thumbs up.  A strange connection happened as we responded to the song.  It was spontaneous and delightful.

My birthday week is over, but I still need to take time for discernment and reflection.  I will try to pay attention to happy things and seek happy things to do. Are the times of darkness and pain worth it?  Yes. They are, but only if I look for the gifts of love and growth that come from them.

In the beginning O God you shaped my soul and set its weave.

You formed my body and gave it breath.

Renew me this day in the image of your love.

O great God, grant me your light.

O great God, grant me your grace.

O great God, grant me your joy this day.

And let me be made pure in the well of your health.

~ Celtic Prayers from Iona – J. Phillip Newell

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Anything Can Happen…

 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the Gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. John 4:10

 

 “Those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Those who have eyes to see, see this scene. Anything can happen at a well.” – John Shea, STORIES

 

Today, while reading the Gospel Lesson for this coming Sunday – John 4:5-42, a story, The Woman at the Well, by John Shea came to mind.  It is a wonderful story of the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman who comes to the well, alone, for the day’s water.  She didn’t come with the others because she was living with a man not her husband and had already been married to five.  She was considered a sinner which caused her to be ostracized by the other women. She didn’t want the humiliation of going to the well with them.

 

I wanted John Shea’s story be my Friday Meditation, but it is four pages long, over 1600 words, and I don’t have permission to include it here.  Bummer.  It is a beautiful story.  However, since it impressed itself upon me this morning so strongly, I should pay attention.  

 

 She could see him sitting on a ledge of the well from the distance.  It seemed as if he was waiting for her.  He appeared to be a traveler, not a Samaritan, and she considered turning around to go back to the village.  But, of course, he could catch her if he wanted to. Although she was panicky, she could tell he was a Jew and would probably walk away as she approached. If not, she knew how to make him leave.  She had practice.

 

  I’m thirsty,” he said.

 

 Well, it was certainly hot enough. “Who isn’t”, she said.  But he asks her to give him a drink. Jews don’t ask for a drink from a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman, so she thinks he is probably not right in the head, but she draws water and gives him one.  He says to her, “If you would ask me, I would give you living water.” I’m not going to relay the whole story but you might want to review it again for yourself. Or pay close attention when it is read on Sunday at church.

 

 Shea’s story is such a tender love story. If you ever get a chance to read it, do.  There is a bit of word sparing between the two when she asks Jesus how he plans to fetch such water since he has no bucket. Jesus draws her in. He says, “Yokes and buckets are always the problem, aren’t they?” He asks about her husband, says he knows that she has had five and this man is not her husband.  Here it comes.  Now he will insult her.  Just as she was starting to enjoy herself and feel somewhat at ease. But he doesn’t. They spar some more and she says, “You are very hard to get rid of,” but she is not sure that she wants him to go. “Everyone says that,” he replies.

 

 She tries one more time. By talking about the temple, he will finally spurn me, she thinks.  But he caught hold of her hand and said, “God is not on the mountain, but in your thirst.  God is not in the Temple, but in the scream of your spirit, and it cries to me.  Ask me, ask me for a drink.”

 

 Who is this man?  Not just another man.  I don’t ask.” She said, but…such yearning… “Even without a bucket—if you ask me, I will give you living water.” (Some of this is in John Shea’s words and some in mine.)  Finally, she whispered, “Give me a drink.” He does and after some tender words back and forth between them, she leaves and runs to the village where she relates the story to the villagers. She couldn’t wait to tell it.

 

I am always changed by an encounter with God. Always. We all are. This story speaks to the hungering deep in me. Maybe that is why it is recorded in the Bible.  So many times, I need a fresh drink of living water.  Jesus wants to give it.  According to Shea, and in my own experience, he woos me.  He woos us. He doesn’t go away and he doesn’t give up trying to draw us to him, into his arms, so that he can refresh us. Yokes and buckets are so often the problem, but Jesus is so very hard to get rid of.  And I’m so grateful.

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -It’s Curtains

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord – Jeremiah 9:23-24

I will be so happy when this election is over.  The campaigns are making my stomach churn and hurt. There is so much anger, hatred and fear out there and it’s hard to be inspired by any of it. Or inspired at all.  I don’t want to talk about it and, by this time next week, it will be over. Please God. How shall apprentices of Jesus behave in times like these.  These are important times.  These are life-changing times.  All of us want life to be better than it is right now.  Violence is erupting everywhere with the promise of more to come.  And sometimes a writer who tries to follow Jesus must say something.

An incident that happened yesterday caused me to pause and discover that if you can get people to talk about their fears and truly listen to the desires of their hearts, you might find that even though we are on opposite sides of the political fence, we basically want the same things. We just disagree on how to get there. To listen well, I have to put my fears, anger and even hatred – oh how I wish I didn’t have those – into the hands of Jesus.

Even though this will make Friday Meditation a bit too long, I want to share with you a bit of a meditation by Terry Hershey that I read today.

“Every Christmas I used to go home to west Tennessee. (Fred Craddock tells the story.)  An old high school chum of mine, I called him Buck, had a restaurant in town, every year it was the same.  I’d go to the restaurant, ‘Merry Christmas Buck,’ I’d say, and he would give me a piece of pie and a cup of coffee for free.  Every year it was the same. I went in, ‘Merry Christmas, Buck.’

But this year he said, ‘Let’s go somewhere for coffee.’  ‘What’s the matter?  Isn’t this a restaurant?’ He said, ‘Sometimes I don’t know.  Sometimes I wonder.  Let’s go.’ So we went for coffee.  We sat there and pretty soon he said, ‘Did you see the curtain?’I said, ‘Buck, I saw the curtain.  I always see the curtain.’

Now what he meant by curtain was this: they have a number of buildings in that little town that are called shotgun buildings (we saw them in New Orleans).  They’re long buildings with two entrances, front and back.  One is off the street, one is off the alley.  In Buck’s restaurant and other restaurants in town, the entrances were separated by a curtain, with a kitchen in the middle.  If you were white, you came in off the street.  If you were black, you came in off the alley.

He said again, ‘Did you see the curtain?  The curtain has to come down.”Good, bring it down.’ He said, ‘That’s easy for you to say.  Come into town once a year and tell me how to run my business.’ I said, ‘Okay, then leave it up.’ He said, ‘I can’t leave it up.’ ‘Well then, take it down.’ ‘I can’t take it down.’  

After while he said, ‘If I take that curtain down, I lose a lot of my customers.  If I leave the curtain up, I lose my soul.’  (Moment of silence)”

So, what to do – I remember that God told me at the beginning of this process to bless both candidates. Have I been good about doing this?  Um, not consistently, but I have a few more days.  In addition, I need to add blessings for those with whom I disagree and who disagree with me.  That is one thing that a follower and apprentice of Jesus can do. Another is to set aside my own fears and listen well. I might bring some light into the darkness and the curtains might start to come down and the love of Jesus begin to shine.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION ~ Ouch

Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” ~ John 20:21b-23 (NIV)

I thought I was doing pretty well, stress wise, considering all that has been going on in my life lately. The Friday Meditation was nearly finished, so I decided to run a couple of errands with my husband.  I needed to take a trip to the Xfinity store to get some of my devices to do what I thought they should be doing but wouldn’t.  Also, my phone insisted that I had exceeded its storage capacity and I needed to do something about that.And that was when the trouble began.

I don’t like being talked down to because I think I am fairly intelligent, and to be treated like I don’t know anything about how electronics work just irritated me.  Secretly, between you and me, I don’t know much about how they work but that is totally beside the point. The fix-it man wanted to try removing some things from the phone to give it more storage capacity.  I wanted to know what would happen when he did.  “Nothing,” he said. He asked if I watch movies on my phone.  Like, seriously? The screen is four inches wide.  When I told him that I didn’t he said I wouldn’t need this app.  I told him I wanted it, anyway, because I have some folders I am in the process of removing to my computer. Did he listen?  No!!  Dave touches my shoulder. Later, I realized that app was gone.  No folders. And guess what? There wasn’t enough capacity on my phone to reinstall it.  And maybe…I won’t go into any more details.

Except, I was beginning to lose my cool.  I just finally walked away and let Dave handle everything.  Mainly, because I didn’t want to chew the nice man’s head off and because I was afraid I would cry.  I hate that.  Dave did tell me, when we got to the car, that I had lost my temper which is pretty unusual for me anymore.  I didn’t think I had, really, but when the transaction was finished and we were getting ready to leave, the fixer of phones said that he teaches classes about these things, and I might want to think about taking one sometime.  Oh, boy!! I said nothing, but when I got to the car I realized the pile of folders that I hadn’t had time to store and over 1000 photos of grand-kids, among other things, were missing. I came home and ate a LARGE chocolate bar, reinstalled the app I had wanted left on and recovered the folders.  The photos will come later because I now have enough room to store all of those, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, and whatever else I want.

What is an apprentice of Jesus to do in these situations?   After they’ve blown it? Right now, I’m not sure. I’m not in the forgiving mood, nor do I really want to ask for forgiveness, because I’m having too much fun thinking the nice man is an idiot. Good, huh?  Christ-like, right???  Can I just walk up and say, “Mr. Idiot, please forgive me for being a jerk.” Can I say, “I’m sorry Jesus, please forgive me for not showing your face.”  Maybe.  I want to. “Where’s the joy for you in this?” Julie asks.  I wonder.  Breathe. I feel a little laughter bubbling up. I need me some Jesus. Some conversation. A hug. Breathe, again.  Listen.  Ponder.  Because, as The Message says in verse 23 above, “If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”