A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Rule or Law?

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own … Richard Foster, “Life with God”

I read the other day in the news that scientists or archeologists have found evidence, in Morocco, I think, of homo sapiens 100,000 years older than the oldest found so far. Wow!! That boggles my mind. How many years is that? More than I can fathom. I thought you might like to know just in case you missed that news segment.

I have been sitting here on this gloomy day trying to get a clue of something I would like to write. Nothing comes to mind. It has been a busy week and I am a bit tired. That might have something to do with it, but writing for me is a spiritual discipline; it helps me voice what is going on inside myself. As a very strong introvert, things I’m thinking about may not be thought through. They just hang out inside until I get tired of them. So, what is going on? I’m rather bored with myself today.

Politics – I don’t want to write about that.

This week at our meeting, St. Anne’s chapter of the Daughters of the King will be reviewing and sharing our personal rule of life. What spiritual disciplines do we practice, now? Are they working for us? Does something need tweaking? Do we need a pause button? How is our Sabbath practice? You get the idea.

When I began to have a rule of life many years ago, I used one that was given to us at Cursillo. The components of this rule were three – Prayer, Study, and Action. This rule was to be lived in community – the Church – and reinforced by meeting together in a small group to check how we all were doing. We need a rule to regulate our spiritual lives. It is not a law which we are bound to follow and perhaps get wrong. Shame. Our rule is to open space for God and help us serve others. Love God and love our neighbor – Jesus said this is what it’s all about.

My rule of life changes every so often, but it always includes those above. It is based on the Rule of St. Benedict which I might write about another time. The Daughters have a rule of prayer and a rule of service, and though not one of our rules we have a focus of evangelism – spreading the good news by telling our story and praying for the spread of the Kingdom of God. Our disciplines for our spiritual growth are based on the Baptismal Covenant.

I believe everyone needs a rule or a way of life if they are serious about growing spiritually. It is so easy to drift. I need to guard drifting in my own life. As a spiritual director, one of the things I do is help people decide what to do to open that God space and strengthen prayer and ministry in their lives as well as I need to do in my own. We are fortunate to have a corporate Way of Life for our congregation. It strengthens our community life and is a good place to begin.

It always happens. I think I have a handle on this and somebody interjects another element – not to the Trinity Way – but to my way. It went like this, “Keeping your body in shape is a spiritual discipline. It’s not just about losing a few pounds, wanting to live longer, or trying to look nicer. ~ Richard Warren

Then why? I want to know.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Well, there are times when some people stop preaching and go to meddling. So, what to do…. I have been rather lax lately. I have been low energy and not feeling top notch. Do you suppose that not exercising might have something to do with it? My diet is not always great and I need to make some doctor’s appointments. I most definitely need to add this piece to my rule of life. The last few days, I have reintroduced stair climbing into my exercise routine. Whew!! Well, it is my exercise routine all by itself at the moment. I have some work cut out for me.

It is well and good, Lord, if all things change, provided we are rooted in you. If I go everywhere with you, my God, everywhere things will happen for your sake, that is what I desire. ~ St. John of the Cross

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – What’s Up?

Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I have been thinking about discernment. Particularly mine. I want to discern if the things that I have been doing are still what God wants me to continue, or if he has something else in mind for me now that I am older and my energy is less. I have a wee tiny niggling in the back of my mind that he has a little something, but maybe not. He may still be just fine with what I am doing.

As a spiritual director, I often get the questions: How do I get still? How can I listen and Pay Attention to God? How can I see Jesus? How do I discern God’s will? All are great questions.

Discernment of God’s will, or any discernment for that matter, is a process. Finding God’s will requires a real desire to know it and a commitment to follow God’s direction when we find it. If we put stipulations on what we will do or not do, we will not get discernment. Unless, of course, like St. Paul, we get knocked off our ride and blinded for a few days. That’s a new way of seeing. We can’t limit God to certain ways of communication.

Discernment isn’t a decision-making process and what God has in mind for us isn’t always easy to discern. He doesn’t often write his desires for us on a wall or on auto-correct, although he has been known to do so. He has as many communication skills as he wants to use, so prayer is essential. However, there are other helps. Part of my job as a spiritual director is to accompany people during their discernment process – help them ask the questions they need to ask and discover the blocks they may have to hearing God’s will and carrying it out.

Thomas Green in “Weeds among the Wheat” has a suggestion I find most useful, which is to give God what Tom calls a “blank check.” We need to be willing for God to write on that check what he desires to give us. This helps us become willing to find God’s way rather than being willful and wanting our own way. And did I mention prayer?

Frederick Buechner writes – “Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” which means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self-interest.…. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet.” ~ “Wishful Thinking”

“Gladness” or “Passion” is very important in discernment. What is it that gives you life? Passion for God’s call gives energy so if it is lost in what we’re doing perhaps God is calling us to something new. Although, there are other reasons that passion or gladness might be lost, burnout and/or depression, for example, so this needs discernment, also.

If, in our process we hear from God, as a friend of mine often does, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, we are most likely already doing what God has in mind for us now. In which case, we continue on continuing on.

As usual, I have a story. Many years ago, I was reading the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus directions to his friends, “Unbind him and set him free” (John 11:44b) jumped off the page for me. I believed God was speaking and after some prayer, I enrolled at Aims and started taking psychology and counselling classes. I planned to become a family counselor. I had no idea that God had a slightly different calling than I thought, though the classes I took are very useful. They give me another eye through which to see as I offer spiritual direction, even though spiritual direction is not counselling. A friend who was attending St. Thomas Seminary called me and said there was a program for spiritual directors there and that I should take it because I was always asking what God was doing in any situation. So, what was the process.

First –Prayer was the most important part of my process. I had a niggling sense that I needed to be doing something to “unbind and set free”. And I wanted more than anything else to want what God wanted. Then I took a step of faith and began. I had a sense of where I was heading, but it wasn’t complete – only the first step. And then, more prayer.

Occasionally, God’s call comes in a blazing bush. I have had a few. There is hardly any room for doubt, but the call still needs some discerning. Thomas Green says that discernment isn’t possible if you already know what you are to do, but I don’t always trust my hearing. Most often, there is peace when the discernment is finished. So for now…

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. – Proverbs 16:1 (MSG)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Way of Life

 

“Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.  Discipline means that somewhere you’re not preoccupied.  In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. ~ Henri Nouwen

Last week I wrote about our Baptismal Covenant wherein I had discovered a Rule of Life built into it. It’s a simple rule of life, but not necessarily simple to live.  Part of the reason for this problem is that we don’t actually plan on how to we are going to execute it.

This week is a about the “whats” and the “how-tos”.  If we only have a rule that we aren’t tending, it will soon become pushed into the “sometime I might do this” part of our lives.  What to do and how to do it, specifically and personally, is what a rule is about.  The elements of the way are only an outline. What will I/we choose to do in each element and how will I personally live this out in my life is the question. Since what I am writing about this week is a continuation of what I wrote before, and if you haven’t a clue and really want to know what I’m talking about, let me know.

Whichever rule you choose will work if there are elements in it that help us carry out our promises made at our Baptism, grow spiritually, and become transformed into the image of Jesus. I often prefer to use the word “Way” rather than the word “Rule” because Rule sounds so much like law when all it really means is a way to measure and a way to grow in loving God and loving our neighbor. 

 I am a closet Benedictine, so when I began a way of life, I chose the method used by Cursillo printed on their Rule of Life Card. This is a modified Benedictine rule.  St. Benedict’s Rule was divided into regular daily periods of communal and private prayer, sleep, spiritual reading which is mostly scripture, and manual labor, which in modern times was modified into other forms of work that we do. In that case, we should probably add exercise to our way.  There was no need for that in Benedict’s time. I like that Benedict added sleep to his Rule.  I’m thinking of adding it to mine. Although, what Benedict called for here may be close to what I get when I don’t think I’m getting much.

 This rule includes Piety (Seek Holiness – prayer); Study (Learn the Story); and Action (Evangelism – Tell the story, Serve Others, etc.) There is a Check-in (accountability) method used in small groups – How is this way working for you and what action have you done to spread the Kingdom of God that you planned to do in the past week? It is strongly suggested that you share this plan and the results of it in your life with a spiritual director. This whole way (or rule) is to take place within the context of community (continue in the Apostle’s Teaching, the breaking of bread and in the prayers).

 How did I make my way specific? I already was receiving Holy Communion twice a week when it was available. I began making sacramental confessions from time to time.  I spent time in prayer, quite often reading those from the Book of Common Prayer.  I read some scripture, often it was the Bible verse at the top of a meditation from “Forward Day by Day” that was my daily reading. It took me some time before I was very faithful in the reading and study of the Bible. My action and service to others varied and usually took place in a group.  I met with a small group, weekly, to pray and to share how I have been accountable to my plan and to God. It is permissible to start small with your “Rule” and let it grow in you.

I had a way to go, and let me tell you a secret.  I still do. I have grown, and continue to grow, and how I follow my “way”, now, is quite a bit different than it was, but it is also quite a bit the same.  That’s what 40 or 50 years of being reasonably faithful will do to a person. Several, well many, years ago, I added play to my rule of life.  I had almost forgotten about that.  See, we need diligence. I will need to figure what I can do about this.  Deliberately planning what I will do in each element of my rule and planning when I will do what I have chosen is the key. My rule, at this time of my life, is a combination of the Trinity Way of Life, Daughters of the King’s, and my old sort of Benedictine Rule. They mesh well.

What will you choose for your way of life? It might very well be the Trinity Way.  It may be another one. If you are just starting out, don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember that Fr. Jack told us to start out in “Pay Attention (prayer)” by spending 10 seconds, yes – that’s right 10 seconds, paying absolute attention to God.  Do the same with the other elements of your way.  If you need some help getting started, give a holler. You will be amazed at what this does.

Bless the Lord, O my Soul, O my Soul.  Worship his holy name.Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship your holy name. ~ Matt Redman

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Counting Dewdrops

Moving isn’t for sissies, either.  It’s very hard work.  Not only the packing but the unpacking, and since I hadn’t seen anything for three months, filled with wondering what I’m going to do with that piece of furniture (or whatever) that I forgot I had.  Then there are the little things that I still haven’t found like my summer shoes and, still, the kitchen knives. I also found out that I’m much older than I was the last time I did this moving thing and I don’t have another move left in me. I have a hard time sleeping and quieting myself in prayer.  All manner of things to do crowd in on me. I didn’t write A Friday Meditation for two weeks because I was so overwhelmed and without words.

For some strange reason today, I remembered a story about our grandson, Zac, who along with his two sisters lived with us for 10 months.  I’ve written about this before. Zac was in the second grade, had ADHD, and would hardly ever walk to school by himself or even with his sisters.  On one particular morning, he refused to go, so I walked with him but I was not happy.  He only had to go three blocks.  As we walked along—Zac happy as a little clam and me fuming inside—he stopped and asked, “Grandma, did you ever notice how sparkly the grass is in the morning after it rains at night?”

I was brought up short and had to admit that I hadn’t noticed anything, at least on this particular day.  I was busy being irritated which distracted me from what I might see. So we talked about sparkly grass and walked on. When Zac came home, we talked about why he would not walk by himself to school but had absolutely no trouble getting home.  He told me that he was afraid that he would get busy looking at things and he would be late or not get to school and be in trouble.  It didn’t matter so much on the way home, because he knew he would get home.  But going, he was afraid that he would lose his focus and not complete his mission.

My focus has been on the difficult areas in my life, recently, and not that of paying attention to the dew on the grass—the gratitude things—gifts from God things that I walk past without noticing because I’ve been focused on what I have to do that I think is important.  It is then that I, maybe not you, lose gratitude and the awareness of Jesus in my life.

So, a few dew drops on the grass time:

Once during prayer recently, I kept feeling that I was being rocked in a swing!

Before we moved in, we brought breakfast to our new house and ate it on our patio.  I added a white table cloth (left by the previous owner) to our table that was a bit dirty and I didn’t have a rag.

A new neighbor who took a delivery left on our porch to her house so it wouldn’t get wet in the rain. Or the neighbor who picked up our trash bags, left at the curb, and put them in extra cans he had – then told us to keep them until we got our own.

A note, with a smiley face, that was packed with our dishes that said they loved us and signed “Your Dishes” maybe helped by loving friends who packed our stuff (and I do mean stuff) to prepare for moving.

And flowers – those given while we were in transition, those brought to the new house in pots from friends, and those already planted around the house that I didn’t know about but are now blooming.  I love those God surprises.

A meeting and lunch today with soul friends. Little dew drops of the awareness of God’s love and presence. Just remembering raises my spirit and brings my focus back to gratitude.

Thank you, Lord. And thank God for all of you.

Blessings, Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION- What Then?

Let me not be afraid to linger here in your presence with all my humanity exposed. For you are God …you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures. ~ Teresa of Avila

Sometimes, something so tragic happens in life that you never ever saw coming even when you have been imagining all kinds of other scenarios. It knocks you off your foundation and nothing makes sense. Thinking is almost impossible. You can barely catch your breath and you may find yourself staring into space and holding it as if that might undo the situation. The scene appears in your thoughts and your dreams as if the script is trying to rewrite itself. Yet there is nothing that can be done to fix it. What do you do then? When you’re numb?

That has been this week and I want a do-over for it. I don’t want my daughter to have to go through this. I don’t want Jon’s children to need to deal with this. Nor friends. Suicide is a terribly sad thing to have happen, so they’ll have to. I alternate between sadness and anger. But I haven’t asked God why he let this happen. Not for years. I could only accuse him of allowing free will. Many times in the past, I may have asked this, but no longer. We can only choose to love if we have the choice. I will ask God how he feels but he is crying at the moment. He cries for loss and he cries for the pain. Ours but also Jon’s. I cry with him and them.  How about our anger? I think God is angry and also saddened when we hurt each other. How far from the Kingdom can we get? Maybe God is disappointed. I am. Why did Jon do this?

So, what are we (I mean “I”) to do until the shock starts to wear off? Until I can breathe again?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Crazy scripture of the day from Bible Gateway)

Give thanks in all things! Even this? Even when I don’t feel it?  Even when I don’t want to?

Yes…”Songs on rare sunshiny days but not when skies are cloudy will not make a life of gratitude…What if I gave thanks in the trouble because the trouble is a gift that causes me to turn? What if I loved not for His goods but for His love itself that is goodness enough? – Ann Voskamp

What if I give thanks because God is with me (with us) in the trouble and we are not alone?

What if I give thanks because Jesus loves me (and them) and there is nothing that can change that – not even when I’m shocked and numb?

What if I give thanks that God comes with skin on when I’m not really able to feel his presence? ( Nor they).

What if I give thanks…..?

What if I…what about then?

Even then.  In all things.  Give thanks!

Christ, I call upon your Name. I am never alone, never without help, never without a friend, for I dwell in You and You in me! ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me.’ Amen ~ David Adam.

Grace and Peace,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – I’ll take the chance

“Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord’s surprise visits.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Happy Easter.  Christ is Risen!! It was a wonderful day, wasn’t it?

As some of you may have noticed, I didn’t send out A Friday Meditation last week.  I planned to and I wrote one.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to finish it. But, I’ll try again.

The Easter season celebrates the time that Jesus showed His risen self to the disciples.  It was always a surprise visit because they were not expecting him to show up.  They didn’t really understand what he was saying when he told them that he would be back in three days, so it took a minute or two for them to recognize him.

I can relate, even today, though I expect him to show up.  Let me explain. The choir sings at both of our Sunday services on Easter. As a member, I hoped to make it through both services since whatever illness it is that I keep fighting had me pretty worn out. I was doing OK when I went down the stairs from the choir loft at the second service to receive Communion.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a family of four wandering around the Narthex (lobby).  The father was looking in to the sanctuary through the windows in the closed doors.  I said hello.  I looked at them and they looked at me.  I thought she was going to say something, but she didn’t and I didn’t.  The rest of the choir came down, and the service continued.

As I sat in the loft after communion, a light bulb came on as I started thinking about that family.  What did they want or need?  Had they wanted to come to the service, but since it was pretty full, the doors were shut and they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t?  Did they need some help? I don’t know because I didn’t ask.  The thought struck me, “I just passed Jesus in the narthex and didn’t stop because I was on my way to communion.”  I was too focused on myself to stop and see what was needed. I was absolutely horrified when I realized this. I didn’t do it deliberately, but I wasn’t being aware.  I wasn’t “paying attention.” Sigh.

I am sorry and I prayed for forgiveness, but the scene hasn’t left me. This probably means that I’m having another growth opportunity.  Jesus works this way by turning our mistakes into a learning experience. This has happened to me before and it has changed me – transformed me, actually. I don’t know how I will be changed this time, but I know that I will – in awareness, I hope.

I have one more Easter story about a conversation my granddaughter had with her four-year old daughter – my great-granddaughter and God-daughter, Sarah.  Sarah: “Jesus died and came alive again.”  Mommie:  “Yes…?”  Sarah: “So, I think I’ll die.”  Mommie:  “No! You don’t need to die because Jesus rose again.”  Sarah:  “Well, I think I’ll chance it.”

Children put things so well. After I caught my breath from the shock of hearing this from a four-year old – I wondered what she was thinking – I remembered that we all must die to our ego-centered selves so that Jesus can be resurrected in us and so that we can be transformed into his image.  Thanks be to God.  It’s hard but I think I’ll chance it. I need to.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION ~ Don’t be afraid.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”—Jeremiah 29:11

After another long day of doing “moving stuff”, I went archive diving for a meditation.  This one seems to fit where I am today.

“Jesus told me that he needs to give me more interior space, so I need to let go of these fears. “Another layer is coming off,” I heard. This may be harder than making space in my home. I pray about “insecurity.”  Jesus is showing up beside me on this journey in some very surprising and tangible ways.  I had thought my insecurity “issues” were mostly healed, but any of us may have this issue at times.  [With future home plans still up in the air, these issues resurface.]

“Without much detail, I was born by forceps delivery, five months after Pearl Harbor.  It was revealed to me in prayer that I didn’t believe that the world was safe, picked up from my mother while in the womb, most likely.  [We moved to Colorado when I was one] and between the ages of seven and 13, we moved at least seven times.  I had to start over in meeting new people, going to new schools, churches, etc.   One summer, we were homeless.  Not living on the street homeless, but we did not have a home. [Sort of like today] My parents were without jobs.  Our large family had to split up in order to live with friends.  Even though I stayed with my best friend, it didn’t help much when, eventually, we were asked to leave. It was very embarrassing for a sensitive, shy introvert of 12. The rootlessness continued after we married and Dave went into the military. After that, we lived in Longmont for 21 years which I planned to be our last move. God had other plans [as usual] so I have become more or less accustomed to the nomadic life.

“Insecurity creeps in, occasionally, when my life changes. I begin to wonder where I fit, etc., but I have learned that, in Jesus, I will soon find my footing.  God has used these experiences to mold compassion within me and without them I would not be who I am today… I have a picture [in my mind] of sitting under a tree with a path to either side. “Give me Jesus” I pray. He comes to sit with me [because] we are in this together.

“Did Jesus have insecurity, too, on his journey to the cross? He was like us in all ways but sin. The Bible doesn’t record this directly, but were his fears expressed when he was in prayer?  Many times Jesus was in conflict with the religious authorities. His family thought he was crazy. When he started to understand that he was headed toward the cross, did he wonder if he understood his mission correctly?   Did he wonder if he was on the right path and express this to his father? “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” Mark 1:35.  Was it then?

“There are many times where situations may cause insecurity in the life of an apprentice of Jesus—well, maybe not you—but he has been there before and will guide us through.  Hang on tight and Pay Attention.” [My early morning centering prayer keeps me grounded and helps me to pay attention most days. I have learned not to be without it. With it I’m not so uptight and it calms my insecurity, even today.]

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”—Joshua 1:9