A FRIDAY MEDITATION – With Gratitude

 

All day long I hope in Your goodness.

Remember Your love,

The love that You promised long ago.

And the kindness that you

Gave from of old.

 

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

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

~ Tim Manion, “I Lift Up My Soul

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

For delicious meals brought in

 

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

 

Feeling better and stronger some days

 

Being able to do a few household chores

 

Being able to sing a bit more

 

My voice is stronger

 

Good day with Soul Friends

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 Peace and Good, Donna

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It would be easy

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. ~ Psalm 3:3

If things keep continuing as they have been the last four months, I’m going to need to rename A Friday Meditation to A Saturday Meditation. Friday appears to be taken over by the medical people in my life for the moment.

It’s been almost five weeks since I had the serious septic shock episode. I am, finally, feeling a bit stronger. The pain in my back is lessening and my stamina (what stamina?) is increasing by micro amounts. But it is increasing, and I thank God for that.
This has been a challenge on so many fronts.

It would be easy to feel discouraged.

It would be easy to fear starting my cancer meds again even though it is a smaller dose.

It would be easy to worry if the medicine will do anything, now, in this dose even when the larger dose was helping.

It would be easy to be afraid of having another serious episode of something.

These are all within the realm of possibility, but if and when I do go there in my mind, I am nowhere near the present moment where I want to remain. I forget who holds the reigns on this journey. I forget that I am to hold on to his garment, and I lose my peace. I don’t like to lose my peace because I am likely to find myself in the middle of all of the “Why doesn’t God….” or “Why does God…” questions which just aren’t helpful to me.

What is helpful is to remember that Jesus is about loving and about healing. He was about it while he was on earth and he is about it still. He still works what we call miracles and he works through his body on earth the church and those who make up the church if we let him. He works through the doctors that he has called into that ministry. For me, he has already done many healings and savings over the last four months. I remember those and replace my worries with Himself.

Today is the feast day of St. Jude, one of the twelve apostles. Traditionally, he has been called the saint of lost causes or last resorts by those who add saints to their prayer chain and ask them to pray for us in our need. Jude is rather a favorite of mine because of an incident that happened over 20 years ago. Many of you know this story, but it is worth repeating here, I think.

I was on my yearly retreat to Sacred Heart Retreat House. On the grounds there is a statue of St. Jude. I would walk out every year and pray there. I was concerned for a son. This day was the last day of the retreat and I was particularly concerned. As I stood there, a blue bird landed on the base of the statue. He cocked his head one way or another, several times, as he looked at me. Then he said, “With Jesus there are no lost causes.” I have never, either before or since, seen a bird like that there. Only that day. When I got home I learned that our son had killed himself. But I knew that he was not lost. God has him. I remember this story on St. Jude’s day and many other days as well. And Jesus has me. And you.

A few weeks ago, I told about a dream I once had. An image dream of a broken flower pot on the floor behind a bare altar. Dirt was scattered around from the broken pot but a vine was growing from it and climbing up the altar. I haven’t come across the meditation I wrote but I did have a couple notes in my journal. I reflected that the vine was me climbing out of messy brokenness onto the altar where there is regularly bread and wine served – Jesus body for my body. At one time in my life having communion twice a week meant I could make it through the week without hiding in my basement afraid. If I didn’t, I couldn’t. Jesus body saved my body.

Over the last few weeks, as I have thought about this image, I saw the vine as the “Vine” – Jesus. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5

The two vine images out of dirt and brokenness becomes one in our brokenness. We are not lost. We are not alone. Jesus broken body is with us in our mingled brokenness and at this place we become his body for the world that is in need and pain.

These stories actually do speak to me when I find myself in worry mode. Jesus has been present in so many ways and so whatever transpires, he will be there and I will hang on to him.

“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’ But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’” ~ Henri Nouwen

Grace & Peace, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDATION – Body of Christ

We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, mighty to save
You are the love song we’ll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name
Be Unto Your Name ~ Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler

It has been almost two months since I have written a Friday Meditation, and even though I started on Friday, it’s Saturday. Again. Many of you have had updates on my health, others of you have not. The news has been good. I’ll share some of it from time to time. I have planned to write. I sit and stare but nothing comes, so I take a nap. I have been very self-focused. Much time, at least in the first weeks, was taken up with doctor’s appointments and procedures, but you already knew that. I just read over the last two meditations that I wrote. I have wondered if I would be able to get back into this discipline of writing. This is rather long but it’s been eight weeks or so. What can I say? Apparently a lot.

I have managed to stay in the moment, mostly, and not go down the “what if” rabbit trails. I breathe in Jesus, and tell the Enemy to get lost when he tempts me to despair. Right now, with the exception of my stamina, I’m fine. I feel good and I don’t intend to get derailed by what might be. Or what was. I count my blessings and look at my gratitude list. Big list. Here is part of it?

I’m grateful for the medical study that I chose to be part of so that the cancer drug I’m taking might be developed for its next generation. I had a stipulation that I would do it if the people from Anchuitz Medical Research would come up to get the biopsies and take them back to Denver. I didn’t want to drive all that way at this time. OK. Ever. My doctor convinced them to come.

I thank God that we received a grant to pay for my cancer drug. It is unbelievable how much it costs and I don’t know how we could have done it.

I went on a retreat two weeks ago. When I asked how much I owed, I was informed that it had been taken care of. Thank you.

A framed picture of the woman touching Jesus’ robe given to me by my son.
For all the many, numerous prayers offered on our behalf and for my healings.
For the gift cards, cards and flowers, notes, texts, email, etc.

For having very little, if any, pain after surgery to remove part of my colon and repositioning of my plumbing. That a previously diagnosed Stage 4 colon cancer was a stage 2a by the time it was removed so it requires no further treatment. And they were able to do the whole thing by using a robot. Who knew???

A tiny brain tumor was zapped away by one treatment of a very localized burst of radiation in less than 20 minutes not counting preparation.

And those things I’ve been asked not to share. Thank you.

And did I mention all the many prayers?
Thank you, Jesus for your body on earth with skin on.

I could go on, and I will from time to time. The cancer nurse asked if I have a support system to help me through this. There are groups I could join. Of course my answer was a resounding yes. Yes, I have a support group. So many people all over are praying. I have my family and many friends who would drop anything and listen to me all night if the need arose. And, because it’s who I am, I said my Church. She said, “Your church…..” like she had never heard such a thing before. How sad. But it is so true. My family, friends from all over, and my church: all of you – the Body of Christ. Jesus with skin on. I am so grateful.

I remember a dream from several years ago. Actually, my son reminded me of it, recently. I went to an old journal to look it up. This happened shortly before New Year’s Day, 1997. “I was walking around something. It appeared to be an altar in a church. There was nothing on it – no cloth or covering. Then I noticed tiny green succulent type leaves clinging to it. Behind the altar was a terra cotta flower pot. It had broken on the floor and my sense was that it had fallen off of the altar. Dirt, potting type soil, was scattered around and the plant, a vine, was growing from it and climbing up from the dirt to the top of the altar and clinging there. It really was an image and not a long process dream. My only thought, at that time, was “Hmm.” A friend drew a picture for me of the dream image.”

As the next day was New Year’s Day, we had a service at church that included communion. It was a very small service, only three of us, and I had found myself reflecting on that dream. The words, “do not neglect meeting together?” from Hebrews 10 and then the words, “Breaking of the Bread.” I believed that was a message for our church – not to neglect our relationship with Jesus which includes his body, the community of the church and the bread from the altar which we receive so that we become his body with skin on.

I thought quite a bit about brokenness. The pot I live in. Scatteredness. And healing. Climbing back on the Altar where the Broken Bread is and what God has transformed in me from that. Next week, I’ll give you some personal examples from that time and also share with you what my reflections on that dream are today. If you like, you may reflect on it, also. See what it says to you, personally. And be assured, that you are the Body of Christ – Jesus with skin on. You have shown Jesus to me in so many, many ways in the last two months. I know it’s true.

Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name. ~ Chorus

 

I love you. Stay tuned and stay Blessed,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Praise and Thanksgiving

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! ~ Psalm 150

Well, I am late again with A Friday Meditation. Something keeps getting in my way of getting it done on time, but I did want to write to you this week, because it is unlikely that I will be writing the next two weeks because of having surgery.

Morning gratitude:

I am grateful that my application to switch medical insurance over to Kaiser this year was messed up by the provider because I love my medical team at UCHealth. Well, love might be a little strong, considering.

I am so grateful for my medical team. Even though they seldom tell me good news. They are working for my best.

I am grateful for a friend who showed me that there is still good news in the midst of bad. Light still shines in the darkness!

Morning gripe:

So many doctors. So many procedures. I feel violated and that my body is not my own. It’s as if I have no say about what is being done to it and am required to let the assault continue. I really do need to do something other than going to the doctors and the hospitals, or staying home because I am not feeling well at the time. Hubby takes me to lunch often to get me away from the house and to tempt me to eat enough protein. He is a good man. I love him. And I do have a say.

The Morning Prayer Gospel lesson (Mark 5:21-43) is one that I have been holding on to for two or three weeks. It includes the story of the woman with the twelve-year hemorrhage who comes up behind Jesus and touches his clothes believing if she does so she will be healed. She is. Jesus tells her that her faith as made her well. I have adopted the image of hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe when I am feeling a bit lost.

The other story in this passage tells about Jesus raising the Pharisee’s twelve year old daughter from the dead. The father had received word while they were on the way that his daughter had died. Jesus said, “Do not fear; only believe.” The people had already started mourning by the time they arrived at the house. Jesus said to them that the child was only sleeping and he told her to get up. She did. This is a passage of scripture that is full of hope and healing. “Do not fear; only believe.” I repeat this to myself several times a day as well as staying tightly attached to Jesus.

When I remember the images in this story and listen anew to the words of Jesus, I am able to get back to grateful. “Practice Gratitude” is Element #7 in the Trinity Way of Life. This element is there for a reason. The reason is that we need to express our gratefulness to God no matter what is happening in our lives. Doing so helps us to see the light shining in the darkness even if it is very dark. Practicing Gratitude helps us remember that there is a God and we are not God. Practicing Gratitude reminds us who we are. We know how to do this.

And then there is praise. I used to have lots of trouble trying to understand the difference between praise and thanksgiving, but they are two separate spiritual exercises. They do resemble each other, however, and both are necessary to our spiritual health. Like expressing thanks, offering praise to God reminds us that we are not God. In offering thanks, we acknowledge to God what he is doing for us and what he has given us. When we praise God, we acknowledge and express who God is and not what he does.

A simple grace gives both. “God is great, God is good and we thank him for our food.”

Over and over words from the last few weeks – God, you are all good. You are all Love. You are creator. You are healer. And so on.

Thank you (practicing) for being in my life moment by moment. Thank you for being light to my darkness. Thank you for providing a hem to hang on to, and for saying, “Do not fear; only believe.”

You are God, and we praise you.
You are Lord, we acclaim you.
You are Eternal Father – All creation worships you
All creation worships you. Amen. – Unknown

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Good Day

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”
– Psalm 63:1

I’m feeling overwhelmed today
With Jesus

Me

A child of God and inheritor of God’s Kingdom
Not only inheritor but
Resident now in this very present

Called to become
More like Jesus
Gifted with Holy Spirit who gives power
Enables my becoming
And power for doing what God desires
Strengthens the presence of his Kingdom on earth today

Unbind them and set them free, he tells me
My mission statement
May it be like his

Loved
Forgiven

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
—Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

I am so grateful
Sing

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving…. For the Lord hears the needy.” ~ Psalm 69:30,33

Dance with joy (Don’t know how)
Jesus doesn’t mind
My dancing partner
Leads

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” ~ Psalm 30-11

Play
Need to
Important Spiritual discipline
And Sabbath time

“What did you see today that was beautiful? Remember it. Savor it. Thank God.” ~ Fr. James Martin, SJ

Blue sky, birds
Children – Mine
Family
Peach pie
Practicing Gratitude

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” ~ 100:4

Brings joy
In the Lord
I am grateful

In Love

Come join the dance

Overwhelmed today
With Jesus

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Sounds of Silence

Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee. I asked you to surrender your life.” ~ Eugene Cho

“Pay Attention,” the first element of the Trinity Way of Life, is about prayer. Especially prayer to listen for the voice of God.  As a corporate Lenten discipline, we, if we choose to accept it, are to focus on listening to God through all of the eight elements of the Trinity Way. We are listening specifically for God’s vision for us — His desires for us as a community.

Listening to God can be difficult because we have so many distractions, but it gets somewhat easier the more we practice.  I say somewhat, because there are days, or periods of days, when the distractions take over.  Yet I try. I will most likely say more about this later, but for today, I ran across a meditation that I wrote four years ago during one of these periods.  I decided to send  it again today. Also, I was talking with a couple of friends about being still and quiet this week so it seems appropriate.

By the way, wasn’t the rain last night wonderful? We really needed it. We are grateful.

“Listen to this song: Jesus.  Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.  Jesus.

“I wish you could hear this simple meditative song because I think it is beautiful, but sometimes we can hear with our hearts what we cannot hear with our ears.  There are other verses, I think, “He died….”  “He rose….”  “He lives….”  Maybe that is one of them.  I can’t exactly recall nor do I remember who wrote this.  Maybe you have heard it, too. And maybe you remember.

“This song came to me, yesterday, [and today] when I couldn’t still my mind for even ten seconds in my prayer chair.  There are times when there is too much stuff on my mind and it darts back and forth between things.  Prayer/work/emotions/physical pain/what’s for dinner.  Prayer/work. We struggle with the story of Mary and Martha – between prayer and work.  When Martha complains that Mary isn’t doing her part, Jesus said, ‘…there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ We have tried to make sense of this.  What does this mean? How would we do this? Why?

“It is all about Jesus. Isn’t it?  We who are apprentices of Jesus know this and yet we also know that we are Jesus’ hands and feet in the world.  It’s Prayer and Service.  And, without “at least” ten seconds of listening prayer, without this conscious connection with Jesus, we might miss what work it is he has for us to do.  We might spin our wheels doing our own thing or what we think Jesus wants us to be doing.  When we listen, when we hear, when we follow, the work that we then do becomes prayer.

“Some days your mind is probably like mine and it won’t be shut up.  Then, how can we be still and listen?  There are ways that may help. This song came to me.  Some focus on their breathing to quiet their minds. Some use prayer beads—rosary or other.   Some use a single word to quiet their minds such as ‘Jesus, Peace, or Love or, …etc.  Others use the Jesus Prayer; ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  Or perhaps the Kyrie ‘Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord have mercy.’ What we choose is repeated until we are still. [I repeat this word in my mind rather than saying it aloud.  Aloud for me is a distraction.]

“The words and melody, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus’, started to float in between and around the many thoughts, concerns and feelings darting around in my head.  Soon there was only, ‘Jesus.’ Finally,…  Still.

“’Be still and know that I am God.’—Psalm 46:10

“’Be still and know.’ ‘Be still.’” – (dlw 12 April 2013)

Listen. I hear His voice in the sounds of silence.

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