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 – ER Trip

But you O Lord are a shield for me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” – Psalm 3:3

This is not really a meditation. It is more of a reflection of my life at the moment and I want to share it with you. Things will change for me and my writing may be sporadic along with other things that I do. It is definitely ironic that I would write about breathing three weeks ago – ironic that I suggested we pause, take a deep breath and breathe in God – because two days later, early Sunday morning, I went to the ER with sharp chest pains. I had been having pain for a few days which I thought was bursitis. The sharp pains made me wonder if I was having a heart attack, so I asked my husband to take me to the hospital for what I thought would be some pain medication for bursitis.

By the way, if you mention that you are having chest pain when you go to the ER, everything speeds up, immediately. X-rays, blood tests, scans of various kinds. My bursitis pain turned out to be an inoperable, seed bearing lung cancer with fluid around the lung causing the pain. There are other cancers as well – brain tumor, perhaps thyroid, etc. I am still having tests to determine what all is going on. So, I spent the ensuing weeks in shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the words I was hearing. Neither could my family and friends. I have been unable to write since then because I couldn’t put words together. I’m still not good at it. But, again, writing is a spiritual discipline for me whether I write well or not.

There is much I don’t know.

Why? What caused this? I was a low cancer risk person. I had all my physicals. Recently. Why didn’t we see? Why questions are not really helpful because we cannot see the big picture and most often there are no answers.

I am reminded of this quote by Ann Lamott. I love it and it makes me laugh which is important at a time like this. “The first thing I am going to ask God when we meet face to face is, ‘What on EARTH could you have been thinking?’. And He or She will know exactly who I am talking about, the many way-too-young who have died or had serious pain so far, in my 60 years here. Who have been raised by closet psychotics? ‘What was THAT all about?”’ God will say what God said to Job—‘I’m God, and I don’t have to explain. Plus, there is a zero chance you would understand. No offense. Rock on.’” God’s ways are not our ways.

The Job story tries to understand and explain why bad things happen to good people. A piece of the Job story that I particularly enjoy happens after days and days of Job and his rather unhelpful friends, who had stopped listening and gone to meddling, trying to figure it out. They said Job must have done something to cause God to bring this upon him. Job knew he had been faithful. For him, the situation was just very hard to understand. Finally, God comes rolling up in a whirlwind. He is fond of wind and whirling. God chastises Job’s friends for sullying God’s reputation. How dare they say that God brought this upon Job? Then He takes on Job. Read this story sometime when you have an hour or two. It is worth it. God, in the past asked me some of the same questions that he asked Job when I took him to task about what he was doing. I’ve really stopped asking what he is up to because I probably wouldn’t understand it either.

This I do know. I sent this out with a prayer request update a couple of days after my ER trip. “I know that ultimately God wins. God does not cause disease. Disease is from the evil one. [Sometimes with the help of our own bad choices.] I know that God is good and I will not give in to despair. I know that God loves us/me and there is nothing we can do about it. [I say this so often I’m starting to be quoted.] I know that I will fight evil back as long as I can wherever I can.”

We know that much of what Jesus did was heal people from disease. One scripture says that on one day he healed all of those who came to him. God does not always change circumstances but he is always with us in them. The Church Mouse Meme says, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given.” So true.

My spiritual journey now is to try to stay in the moment, which I should do anyway since the moment is all we really have. I will try to practice the awareness of God’s presence. Breathing in his presence just got a lot more intentional and personal. I confess that I do have moments of panic when I get scared and hold my breath causing me to forget to stay where I have pledged to stay. The perimeters of my journey have greatly changed. I ask for your prayers for me and my family. I’m praying for a miracle and hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Power from Above

“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.” ~ Luke 24:48-49

This coming Sunday is Pentecost which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church and, therefore, to you and me. Perhaps, I should say something about this – but what?

This story comes to mind. It is a witness story of Jesus and his story with me. I had been a spirit filled and released apprentice of Jesus for some time so I was no stranger to what the Spirit will and can do in, to, with and through a person. However, I was a newly certified spiritual director when this event took place.

I was asked to lead a weekend retreat for a women’s group from another church. I believe in doing my homework, so I prayed and tried to prepare.  Absolutely nothing came to me.  I jotted down a note or two, but…! When time came to leave for the retreat, I grabbed a couple of books thinking I could always read something and let them spend time meditating. This was not a silent retreat, so this could be very interesting.

When I walked into the retreat place, the music team was practicing a song I love, so perhaps, everything would work out. I had brought along a couple of parishioners from our church who would be praying for me. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but we did begin with music. We sang.  The woman who put together the retreat said things.  I probably had a few introductory remarks. The first thing I do remember, other than music, was the prayer stations we had. The two ladies I brought with me manned one of them.

What followed, I remember with great clarity. I wrote it down. I hadn’t planned to go for prayers, but I felt a little God nudge. I would wait until the station which my friends manned was empty.  (Because the other ladies might be intimidated praying for the leader, perhaps. Hmm, bit of ego there it seems. Not one of my better thoughts.) The real reason – I am introverted and I was scared because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t want to walk across the room where people could watch me. Jesus did not agree with my plan and told me to go there, anyway. Ok, then…

I did and I asked for something, probably. The instant their hands touched me, I was on the floor. This happening is sometimes called “slain in the Spirit” but I prefer “resting in the Spirit” – it’s not as violent sounding.  Whichever – I felt very much at peace and held as I lay there.  Of course, every eye in the room was focused on my prone body. So much for introversion – just sayin’. I could hear my friends telling folks that I was alright. This has happened to me only once and in retrospect, I don’t think it was really for me anyway, or at least only partly.

I got up from the floor and returned to my seat beside the woman in charge. She said, “Interesting.  I doubt if the ladies know what happened.”  WHAT!! The name of the group, being what it was, led me to believe that they would know about these things. I must explain it. So, I talked about the Holy Spirit, about spiritual gifts, about resting in the Spirit, about tongues, about healing and, most likely, other Jesus things as well.

So, the retreat continued.  I read something from the book I brought.  There was laughter. We had more singing, a break, and another evening session. Then, it was time for prayer again. A woman, that I knew from this congregation, who had MS, came up to my station using a walker. She had been in a wheel chair. She said, “I want all that the Holy Spirit wants to give me.” Alright!!  I prayed for the Holy Spirit to do just that and she started to fall.  I grabbed her and lowered her to the floor.  Her friend was concerned but I assured her that she would be fine.  I kept my eye on her as we prayed for others.  When she started to stir, I went to her.  She said that her legs were burning and she had had no feeling in them for a long time.

My first thought – I am so very proud of this – was, “Oh, no.  God wants to heal her.” Isn’t that great? I really trusted God, but I wasn’t sure of me. I had to continue, however. I was the retreat leader.  Or so I had thought. I turned to the ladies and told them that God wanted to heal Bernice, and I asked others who felt comfortable praying for healing to join me in laying hands on her. It’s better that way, anyhow.  More community like. We prayed, she got up from the floor and started walking around.  Her friend’s jaw hit the floor – probably others as well –  as we watched her dance around.  The word was that Bernie didn’t sit down all night. The last I heard, she hasn’t yet.

I certainly would not have planned the weekend this way, but God had his dreams for this congregation, so he took over.  I was called to be there as part of it and I am still amazed.  God can do some pretty good work through scaredy-cats.  Even introverted ones. Sometimes, he lets them know.

Two years ago, at convention, I ran into a woman from that group. She told me that I had no idea what had happened after that weekend. There had been all kinds of confusion and dissension in that congregation about gifts of the Spirit and whether you needed to speak in tongues to show that the Spirit had filled a person. It was tearing the congregation apart. After this weekend, it all went away.  There was healing in the congregation as well. Wow!! Thank you, Jesus!!

I don’t know how to end this writing and it’s already long…so, be not afraid.  God does have his dreams and his ways.  “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” ~ Esther 4:14

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:8

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Unbind Him…

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” ~ John 11:43-44 (NIV)

Having said this, he called loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, bound head and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth.  “Untie him, “Jesus told them, “and let him go free.”  ~ John 11:43-44 (NAB)

This story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead is part of the reading for our service this coming Sunday.  It is a favorite of mine, first, because it is shocking.  Can you really imagine what those standing around thought, not to mention Lazarus’ family?  Raising of the dead had happened before by some of the prophets whose stories are in the Old Testament, but this man, Jesus, was a man that they knew – probably some of them since he was born.  People in their circle did not bring people back to life. It changed their perspective and direction.

The second reason is that this fragment of scripture did the same for me.  The first of the verses written above is the one we will hear on Sunday.  The second one under it was one I read over 30 years ago, and the part that grabbed me was, “’Untie him,’ Jesus told them, ‘and let him go free.’” This translation is from the New American Bible (NAB).  The revised version of the NABRE reads, “Untie him and let him go.”  The word “Free” made a difference to me.  When I read these words, it seemed as if Jesus was saying to me, “You, Donna, unbind them and let them go free.”

I took those words seriously as a command to me – marching Orders.  I had been contemplating a direction for my life and becoming a counsellor appealed to me.  Wouldn’t that help me do this? Unbind them?  So, I began and enrolled in college.  I loved my psychology and counselling classes and had finished those when I heard a different call.  I enrolled in a program at St. Thomas Seminary and received a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry with concentration in Spiritual Direction. The classes I took in counselling and psychology helps. Who would have thought?  Not me! But walking with others on their spiritual journey can be one way of unbinding – helping a person notice where God is in their life and finding blocks that get in the way of this.

Why am I writing about this today, and what, if anything, does it have to do with a Friday Meditation.  Just this, if Jesus’ command was to remove the grave clothes so Lazarus could go free, isn’t it possible that this might still be a command for us? Thinking……

I have gone through my own unbinding process.  It takes a lifetime, I’m beginning to think, and it has required inner healing, much prayer, community, Eucharist, and small groups of people with whom to pray and share, as well as a spiritual director of my own.  From time to time, it has required professional counselling.  A lot of removal of grave clothes happened. There are some scars still in evidence, and they will probably remain. Scars are reminders of how much healing there has been.

I’m sure that you can recall your own stories when you think about it.  Maybe you still have a few places that tie you down.  But all is not lost. Jesus still has his ways of unwrapping us. Then our healing – our spiritual freedom becomes a gift that we can offer to others.  There are many ways to serve in each little thing we do to help others.  Maybe you work with the food distribution.  Perhaps you go on trip to Juarez to help those who live at the dump.  Maybe you serve at the Cold Weather Shelter, or the clothing bank, or Meals on Wheels.  Maybe you visit the sick or sit with the elderly.  Maybe you give rides to those who have no way of getting to where they need or would like to be. Maybe you just listen to others.  Listen to that. Just listen??? Having someone listen to you is a wonderful, healing thing. Whatever you do or how small you think it is, it could be a very big deal to another. In so doing, and as you travel your own journey, smelly rags begin to come off. Then you and the person you touch may begin to walk again in the freedom of the love of Jesus.

SERVE OTHERS – #3, Trinity Way of Life

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Out of the depths, I cried…

Holy Spirit(Part 2)

With my voice I cry to the LORD; with my voice I make supplication to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, you know my way. ~ Psalm 142:1-3

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised…” –  Luke 24-49

This IS a tough assignment. I’m a little nervous now that I know God uses autocorrect.  No telling what he will say.  Maybe I wasn’t listening very well.  In case you don’t remember or didn’t read last month’s SOUL FOOD, with a little help from said Autocorrect, God asked me to tell my story with the Holy Spirit.  Since the Spirit was active in my life before I ever knew the Spirit existed, it’s a long story so I’m writing it in installments.

When I left off last month, we were living in El Paso, Texas where Dave was stationed.  We had three small boys by then, and had decided that we wanted them to learn about Jesus in church and that we needed to take them. We returned to the church of our childhoods even though, we were beginning to believe that God was not the waiting-until-you-sin-so he-can-punish-you God. Toward the end of our time in Texas, Dave had the opportunity to have a family accompanied tour in Italy for four years.  At the same time, he found that there was an opportunity for the Army to send him on a two-year assignment to CU Boulder to finish the degree he had started before we got married.  For some, then unknown, reason, I felt strongly that the Colorado University thing was going to happen so Dave turned down the Italy tour before he knew if he might be offered the school option.  We couldn’t wait to see.

Boulder was enjoyable.  We lived in campus housing and there were many little children around for our boys.  We learned what community meant here.  Although there was much community in the military, it wasn’t what we would come to know in our university experience. Half way through this two-year assignment, we had a daughter. You have heard this before, but it belongs in my story now because it was a turning point.

When Kim was born, she was tiny but perfect.  However, before we got out of the hospital, she started having jaundice. She had two blood transfusions and needed to be monitored. My hospital stay was over, but I had to leave Kim there. That evening she began to have blood in her stool and they couldn’t find the cause.  The bleeding was getting worse.  Doctors decided that she needed to go to the military hospital, Fitzsimons, in Denver, so they took her by ambulance in the middle of the night. This was a few days after the big flood in 1965 and many roads were impassible. My doctor wouldn’t let me make the trip and anyway, I had three small boys at home.  I spent my night in prayer (You could call it that.)  I, alternately, begged God to heal Kim, but I didn’t believe God did that, anymore, and I begged him not to let her die.  Sometimes, I yelled at him.  It was a very long night.

Dave managed to get home that next morning – parents weren’t allowed to stay with children at the military hospital – and he informed me that they would do exploratory surgery at Noon if there was no improvement.  This was Sunday, so Dave called the pastor to tell him that we were going to stay home by the phone and asked them to pray.  For what, I wonder. Anyway, the members of the church stopped in the middle of the service and prayed for Kim, our little 5-pound daughter.  They didn’t believe that God healed, either. Then.  I imagine they prayed for the doctors and such.  At the very moment of that prayer, the bleeding stopped.  Maybe Kim managed to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.  The bleeding did not just slow down, it stopped. Instantly.  The tough military doctor called it a miracle.  We did, too. And the people from the church as well.

I learned something about God that day. He does heal today.  He hears my prayers and answers them.  And I learned that he cared for me.  Luke 7 tells stories of Jesus healing and raising the dead causing crowds to follow him everywhere.  John’s (the Baptist) disciples came to ask Jesus, on John’s behalf, if he was the one for whom they were waiting.  Jesus told them to go tell John what they saw – the healings, the raising from the dead, etc. Then he says to the crowd, v. 24, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (…)” I read a meditation where the writer wonders what drew the crowd to follow Jesus around. The writer said that, most probable, it was the healings.  Perhaps so.  It worked for me.

A year later, Dave was to return to active duty. I was talking to a neighbor about church and how I wish there was one who believed that God worked in the world today.  I wanted a God that I could touch, a God who heard my prayers of desperation, a God who responded as I had experienced. She said, “I think you might like my church – St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Boulder.”  Dave took classes in the engineering building across the street from St. Aidan’s, so he went to their chapel and picked up The Book of Common Prayer (1928).  He read: “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.”

Then after the Confession, he read: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 Dave said, “I think we have found what we have been looking for.”  At last!  As Frederick Buechner says, “It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but…the experience of God’s presence.” Yes! A God I could touch who touches me.  Before we left for Ft. Benning, Georgia, we were baptized at St. Aidan’s. My baptism, I believe, is when the Holy Spirit stopped hovering and started seriously meddling in my life.  Did I not somehow say he could…? And there’s more.

“But wait…”

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A blessing year

Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something that needs our love.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

There are so many images and thoughts coming to mind today.  I don’t know how or if they will fit together. We will begin a new year in two days.  I hope and pray that it will be a much less chaotic year than this passing one.  I think if I were asked what I wish for this next year, I would be likely to answer, as many contestants in beauty pageants do when asked, “World Peace.”  An aside – my granddaughter tried to get her daughter, then two, to answer this way when asked what she wanted for Christmas.  I don’t know that she ever convinced her to say it. But seriously, isn’t that what we all want?

Perhaps, though, we could answer that we want a year of blessing.  We, in our congregation, have been studying about the power of blessings. We have had teachings and sermons about this. Our Sunday book study read and discussed Russ Parker’s Book, Rediscovering the ministry of Blessing. So did Trinity’s chapter of The Brotherhood of St. Andrew.  I recommend it, highly.

Early in our presidential campaigns, I suggested that we bless both of our candidates whether we liked them or not. I believe that those blessings meant something.  I believe that blessings have power. I believe that is what we need to do.  I believe it makes a difference.

Another aside – In a few days, we will have a new president.  Some of us are delighted and some of us are not. That doesn’t matter. We are told in the Bible to pray for our president – 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” See, World Peace!

Back to blessings, should we not also be giving blessings to our president? Some of us are delighted by this prospect.  Some of us are not. It doesn’t matter.  We just do it.  I have been since the election. My blessings for our president are especially for wisdom, for a discerning heart, and whatever else enters my mind at the time.  Will it make a difference?  I believe so.  I know it will in me. Giving blessing changes a person. (btw – the person we bless doesn’t have to be present.)

Giving blessing could bring light out of the deepening darkness of our world. It may be a tiny light, but it is light nevertheless. Of course, maybe it’s a flood lamp.  Years ago, we took a trip and went into a cave.  Once there, the guide turned out the lights. Talk about darkness.  After a few minutes, he lit a match.  One tiny match.  So much light, you wouldn’t believe. If we lit several matches, can’t you just imagine…

Barbara Brown Tayler tells a story about blessing in her book, Altars in the World. Briefly, she told of a friend of hers who had a nightmare so frightening that he didn’t sleep well for years.  He didn’t have it every night, but he feared that he would. In the dream, “a malevolent being showed up at the door of her friend’s house wanting something.”  Every time he tried to find something to kill it or try to kill it, every time he killed it, the monster got larger.

“On night, in the dream, it occurred to him that what the demon wanted from him was his blessing.”  That was the only thing that would end its agony and make it leave. So, in fear and trembling, he opened the door and began blessing the creature.  Once was not enough.  He had to say it repeatedly in as many ways that he could think to bless. Barbara writes, “It was as if the demon could not get enough…It was as if no one had ever blessed it before.”  Her friend finally said for the hundredth time. ‘I bless you in the name of the Christ, now go in peace.’ Making a sound like a kitten, the demon turned around and never came back.”

We all need blessing.  Every one of us. We all have our own inner monsters.  How healing would it be if we were to bless each other?   Perhaps, the demons inside of us would go away, too.

We can use Fr. Nigel’s blessing for a starter.

May you be filled with the very love of the Lord. May your heart be at peace.  May your Soul be content.  May your body and mind be without pain. May worry be a thing of the past.  May you have abundant life in and through our Lord.  May his healing Grace rest on your shoulders.  Amen. ~ Fr. Nigel W. D. Mumford+

Grace and Peace to you. Have a blessed and blessing New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Good News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is something for which we can be grateful. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Meditating,