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

 

Advertisements

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – In All Circumstances?

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Last Friday was my birthday.  I was going to write this then, but it wasn’t ready.  I had far more to ponder before it would come together. Ten months ago, I did not know if I would be here for this birthday. Of course, we really don’t know if we will be here on any particular day, but we assume for the most part that we will.  Anyway, I am grateful for this gift because that is what my life is. I am grateful for this birthday.

 

The Saturday before, I spent about five hours in the ER.  I was sent there because of a persistent bad cough and the doctor believed there was fluid buildup on my lung.  When the ER doctor gave me an ultrasound, he couldn’t find enough fluid to cause that much problem.  So, there were other tests including a CT scan that was administered by a friend. Another gift from God, I believe, that helped me see and know his love and hers.  There was something (they don’t know what) that was mostly occluding the lung tumor, so they couldn’t see it well.  They are assuming that it has grown and that it was causing the problem with my cough. I didn’t mention the fact that I had been praying for God to put some sort of bubble around the tumor to keep it contained. I’m chicken, I guess. I am now on some different drugs that has stopped the coughing.  Thank God.

 

This was not terrific news for us and we are still praying for a miracle.  God is sometimes a last-minute God. We have seen that before.  However, I need to prepare because as the psalmist in Psalm 31 tells God, he knows that his times are in God’s hands and in Psalm 39 he tells God he knows that his days are numbered. Ours all are. My life is still in God’s hands. I’m scared, sometimes, but don’t tell anyone because I try to be and act more brave than I am, occasionally. Recently, I ran across a Snoopy cartoon where Charlie Brown says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” And Snoopy, wisely, says, “True, but on all the other days, we will not.” So how do we not on other days?

 

I really try to stay in the moment.  When I find myself afraid, I remember that right at this moment, I am alive and, mostly, don’t feel too bad. I would like a bit more energy. On these alive days, I am too live my life serving and loving God and others. So, I take a deep breath and go on.

 

I have another confession, and this really does go along with what I’ve already written, so hang on.  I have been having trouble with my gratitude.  I’m grateful for the same things – family, friends, home, food, etc., but why not, right???  However, though I know they are gifts, I often take them for granted.  Something needs to change because I quit making a gratitude list. I had to do better than this.

 

I started reading a brand-new book by Diana Butler Bass (Grateful – The transformative power of giving thanks) She said that some of the things we put on our list, though gifts, are partly privilege. We work hard.  We are able to get things. We sometimes forget that being able to do that is Gift. But, how are we grateful for things we consider bad or that really are bad?  I do not believe that God gave me cancer.  God does not will illness.  But the world is broken and evil, also, exists.  God wills healing but sometimes it doesn’t happen.  What if my number is coming up sooner than later? How can I be grateful in all circumstances? Well, I changed my gratitude list to add some different things.  I am still grateful for the above as well.  Some of things I thank God for are:  Our Trinity community – a piece of the Kingdom of God on earth; the gift of another day; for God holding me when I had a rocky day and couldn’t go to work as I had planned. I’m thankful that I had the energy to make an apple pie (mostly) and for my husband who finished it when I ran out of steam.

 

I thank God for a good physical therapy session for my sore back; that I was able to go to a Vestry meeting at church; my daughters successful medical procedure and for the most part, I feel OK. There are more that I put on my list but ‘space’ you know.  It’s amazing what can be found to thank God for when things are the “bad times”.   Listing them, helps me stay in the moment and remember Snoopy’s wise words. “But on the other days we will not.”  We “Practice Gratitude” in all circumstances.

 

Do you remember my story of my prayer where Jesus was sitting away from me wearing a black belt which gave my cause to giggle?  Just this week while I pray, the image has changed to one of him holding me and me holding him. What bad times?

 

A friend, a couple of days ago, posted a song on Facebook which was what I so needed for that day – I Am, by David Crowder.  Here’s part of it. I had a little cry while it played.

 

There’s no space that His love can’t reach.

 

There’s no place where we can’t find peace

 

There’s no end to Amazing grace

 

Take me in with your arms spread wide

 

Take me in like an orphan child

 

Never let go, never leave my side.

 

(Chorus) I am…holding on to you. I am holding on to you

 

In the middle of the storm, I am holding on.  I am.

 

 

 

 

 

A MEDITATION, Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17, 31b-35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Traditionally in the Christian Church, this day is known as Maundy Thursday. Three main events take place on this night before the Passover festival – Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist [Holy Communion], and his giving the “new” commandment of love. The scripture lessons for the day and the church services which will be celebrated, bring these to mind. As we begin this day, Judas has plans to betray Jesus and he, with the remaining disciples, are beginning their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest, though the disciples don’t know that it is.

“Jesus got up, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel.” In this culture, foot washing was done by slaves. Peter can’t handle this and objects. He says, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” … “Never.” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.… Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus washed their feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood. He says, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” … Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…” He will give another example, but that is tomorrow’s story.

Today we will wash one another’s feet as a reminder of our being servants to each other.

Reflections: How does Jesus wash your feet? How do others? In what ways do you wash other’s feet?

After washing, Jesus’ puts on His robe. He tells his friends that He is going away, soon, and they can’t come with Him this time. Then He says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This Great Commandment is Jesus’ dream for his friends. That includes us.

Reflection: How are you doing with this? Loving each other? How am I?

In I Corinthians 11:23-26, the apostle Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words at this common meal – the Last Supper, “that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” These are the words that are still used today in our common meal, the Eucharist.

Thoughts: Do this in remembrance of me…re-member me…the Body of Christ for us, the body of Christ, to become and reflect the Body of Christ to each other and the hurting world. “Do this and re-member me.” Make him visible. Jesus with skin on serving others. This is Jesus’ dream for us. Don’t the events taking place during this Last Supper all say the same thing? I believe Jesus just might be serious about this.

After this meal, Jesus and his disciples leave for the Garden where Jesus prays and the disciples sleep. Stay tuned.

As you read, pray and attend services today, imagine yourself as a disciple in these stories and events. What are your thoughts and feelings as you accompany Jesus and as you listen to him? These next few days of our journey with Jesus are intense and we need to pay attention, be aware, and not let them pass by lightly.

dlw 2015

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Come Away With Me

Gracious God ~ Eternal Life, we thank and praise you for this glorious time of spring.
As new life emerges to replenish the earth in beauty, grant that we also may awaken from the depths of darkness into your eternal light, to live as beacons of hope and keepers of peace. In gratitude and faith, we pray . . . Amen. ~ Morning Prayers of Anna Lin

In prayer and meditation this afternoon while praying about what to write, my archives popped into my mind. I think this writing from three years ago is appropriate for today as well.

“Can you believe it? Palm Sunday is in two days – and then Holy Week. Time seems to move so rapidly these days. That’s one of the reasons I like Centering Prayer. There are times when, at prayer, the world seems to stop for a bit while I am consciously being still with God. I need this time. Early this week, as I sat down to pray, I felt stressed. I haven’t quite recovered from all the turmoil of the last few months. I murmured, “I so need you, Jesus. I really do.” Bubbling up from somewhere inside me I hear, “I so need you, too.” What was that?

We know, as Teresa of Avila says, that Jesus needs us to be his earthly hands and feet, but I don’t really think this was what Jesus was trying to say. I understand hands and feet, but God who created everything from nothing except his Breath and his Word needs me “just because” is hard to wrap my mind around. Jesus loves me, yes. Chases after me, yes, but needs me (?) So, I ponder.

St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Someone said that if God stopped thinking about us, you or me, even for a minute, we would cease to exist. I often say, “God loves you (us) and there is nothing you can do about it.” And, it is true that he asks us to be his presence in the world – God with skin on. But I still think there is more. He could have scrapped the whole people project from the beginning and at any time after the Garden rebellion, but he didn’t. He wants, loves, and needs us whether we can wrap our mind around that or not. Have you ever considered that Jesus wants to spend time with you; that he wants you to be with him—to sit together, to visit together and to love—only to be and not do anything else for the moment? Awesome!

Does this have anything at all to do with Holy Week? Maybe it does. There are scriptural accounts. Many times, Jesus asked his apprentices (disciples) to come away with him and rest. But in the Garden, the night he was arrested, he has taken them to be with him. Matthew 26: 36ff gives the story. “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?’” Twice more, Jesus came to be with them, but they were asleep.

These next few days, beginning with Palm Sunday, give us the opportunity to be present to Jesus on his journey to the cross. The Church provides the lovely gift of Holy Week services—beautiful liturgies to help us be intentionally present to Jesus. We attend these to re-member his real presence with us, to remember his suffering and sacrifice for us, but also because he wants those he loves to be near him. If we listen, we might hear him say, “Could you stay awake with me one hour? I so need you. I really do.” Have you considered how you will respond to that question? Have I?” (dlw March 27, 2015)

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
~ Marty Haugen, b. 1950

Grace & Peace dear ones,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Many Gifts

 

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” ~ 1Corinthians 12: 4-7

I have found that when I spend a lot of time staying in my home as I have been recently, there is little that is different for me to reflect upon. However, in going over my week this, several things stand out to me. For one, this was Christmas Week. It started with the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve on the same day. I’ve been confused about what day it is all week.

We did get out of the house for dinner on Christmas Eve. We went to our son’s house for tacos. Their whole family was there which made a houseful of 20 people from three years old up to us. What a great evening catching up, helping, and eating. Our son took a family photo. Trying to get 20 people in one shot and making it is a great talent, indeed.

On Wednesday, our great-granddaughters and their mother came for lunch. We don’t see them much now that they are both in school, so it was a great joy. Spending time with them was always a source of meditation and reflection for me. Since they were here, I’ve been thinking once again, about how different they are.

The youngest is almost six always has something to say. I think that is why she calls our prayer room the “talking room”. It’s because it has chairs in it she informs me. She is quite a conversationalist and she often will answer questions addressed to her sister. She will do any activity if people are involved, and she can talk to them.

The older is just now ten. She is the quiet one, but she will join the conversation when asked a question, she just doesn’t volunteer information. She would rather be in her room reading a book. When asked what she got for Christmas or her birthday, the answer is always books. She reminds me of me. Or who I used to be.

They helped grandpa (papa) fix lunch – home made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – one of their favorites and, come to think of it, one of mine. The youngest gets right in there to help. I’m sure she gave papa a few tips on cooking. The oldest would be happy to help but she needs to be encouraged and invited to join in which she eventually was and did. It was so much fun watching them help papa with cooking, serving, and cleaning up. Such different gifts but what they do fits together so well.

God loves diversity. It has been said that he created no snowflake like the other nor did he create any two us the same. Not even identical twins. Each of us is unique. Each of us has different gifts. Some may be similar, but they are not exactly so. Our gifts equip us to do what God calls us to do.

On our Advent Quiet Day, Fr. Jack reminded us that Jesus gives tasks to his Church to be done by the Church. He reminded us that we each have gifts, uniquely ours, to help with those tasks. He asked us if we were aware of what God’s call is on our lives (it does not always stay the same), and if we knew what our gifts are and where God wants us to use them – in the Church or the World. Sometimes, maybe, both.

I have had many different “calls” on my life but they have mostly been about helping people know God loves them. I have always been in Choir. Well, since I was ten. I was a mom. Military wife. Church School teacher. I was a church secretary and parish administrator. I have worked in a lawyer’s office as secretary as well as doing some paralegal work. I was in a music ministry traveling around group. I worked in prison ministry as music leader, table leader, talk giver, and eventually as Spiritual Advisor. Now, I am mostly working in the Church as spiritual director, writer, and occasional teacher which surprised me. Most of these to help people grow closer to God. I think that this is probably my last call. But I have been surprised before. There were a few things I wanted to be called into, but I can’t even remember what most were. I even considered ordination for a while. That was not God’s call.

How do we know what God is calling? Discernment is part of the answer. St. Ignatius, who discovered and developed a method of discernment, starts with asking, “What do you really want? What is your passion.” I’ll write some more about that next week, God willing.

In the meantime, start with looking at your life. What has God called you to do so far? Do you know? Do you love it?

This is nearly the end of 2018, though I can’t believe it.

I wish you a Happy, Spirit Filled New Year.

Stay Blessed,
Donna