A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR. Well, here it is – 2016.  2015 was about the shortest and the longest year ever, and I am very glad to see the last of it. It started with me having a bad cold that lasted at least four weeks.  I wasn’t quite over it when I had three surgeries to correct a problem with an infection, the last surgery was in the hospital.  While there, I had a major reaction to antibiotics (I’m allergic to all of them but we tried because it was necessary.) All of this resulted in a thyroid storm that I’m not sure has resolved yet.  Then, one more surgery on my hand, the death of my 93 year old mother, the serious injury of one of my brothers resulting in the loss of his leg, various expensive problems with an aging house, a major computer crash, etc. STRESS.

I could go on, but it’s just boring. This is not the sort of year upon which I care to reflect at the beginning of a new one.  The good news is that, as usual, God is making or can make good come out of it, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. I am still trying to recover my energy. Several thoughts have been running through my head for this writing, but none have really stuck, so we’ll see what happens.  It could go several ways.

I was asked to consider doing something to which I was rather resistant.  I told the person asking that but was asked to pray about it.  I pondered and prayed and while just going about my business, I heard God say, “Just do it.”  Kind of pushy, I thought, but then I was resistant and God is God.  So, this and a couple of other things for the next year are in the works and up in the air. I know that God is in charge of these, so I’ll go along for the ride.  Not much to reflect on here. Only waiting.

Or speaking of resolutions, which I wasn’t, but a Facebook post said, (Ok, so I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I have a couple of pages on which I try to post “Good News” to counteract all the bad). Anyway, the post has a dog asking the cat, “What is a New Year’s resolution?” The cat’s answer was, “It’s a To Do List for the first week in January.” Isn’t that the truth?  I’ve pretty much given up on most resolutions except for maybe this one.

But then, I read these on a blog by Ron Edmondson. He called his article “Seven New Year Resolutions which could Change the World.” Here are four of them along with some of his commentary.

“Let’s resolve to begin every day with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.…What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing?

“Let’s resolve to return evil with good…. (Pray for our enemies – Donna’s commentary)

“Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others….Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook…Let’s act like people – real people – may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (Say around 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 “Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak. Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. It’s also hard to hear from God. It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak….

“Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.”

Thank you, Ron. These are New Year’s resolutions I can believe in and perhaps even do.

Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath. ~ Psalm 116:2

 

 

 

There’s still more

Today is the second day of Christmas so we are still contemplating the joy and celebrating the season.  Aren’t we?  The shepherds have left the stable but there are still ten more days to stay there and adore God who was born into human flesh to live with and in us.  But, perhaps, you have just breathed a huge sigh of relief, murmuring a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God that it is over. Maybe the tree is already at the curb or in the box.

Most of us are a bit—or even a lot—tired of all the preparations and church services, no matter how glorious, and want to rest up so we can be ready for the next holiday, New Year’s Eve and the new year.  Yes, 2015 is just a heartbeat away and then we are off again, back to normal whatever that is.

I want to slow down in order to be more aware of what it is God wants for me—what he wants to say—how he wants to use me for his Kingdom.  But, it is hard to stay in the moment or even the day which I am in.  Most of us are busy thinking about the next hour or the next day the moment we get out of bed, or at least by the time we have had our first cup of coffee. We forget to enjoy and celebrate where we are in this “now” moment we have been given.  We forget to come and adore Jesus. I want to do this.

This meditation from Max Lucado causes me to pause:

“One’s imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? The innkeeper and his family were so busy. The day was upon them. The day’s bread had to be made. The morning’s chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred. God had entered the world as a baby.

Meanwhile the city hummed. Merchants were unaware that God had visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he’d just sent God into the cold. Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival—missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it simply because they weren’t looking. Not much has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?”

We can almost excuse the merchants and inn-keepers because they weren’t expecting God to come as a tiny baby born to peasants.  But, we have heard the story Advent after Advent and Christmas after Christmas. We are apprentices of Jesus and he has made a difference in us.  We know that a life-shattering, world-changing event took place that night and it will never ever be the same.  Let us not rush head-long back into normal but slow awhile to honor Jesus by spending time with him and paying attention.  Help us, Lord, we are addicted to busy.

“Here in this place the new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away;

see in this space our fears and our dreamings brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in, the lost and forsaken, gather us in, the blind and the lame;

call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.” ~ Marty Haugen

May the next ten days of the Christmas season bring you joy and the awareness of God with you.  Stay blessed. ~ Donna

It’s Time!

“Love caused your incarnation; love brought you down to me. Your thirst for my salvation procured my liberty. Oh, love beyond all telling, that led you to embrace in love, all love excelling, our lost and fallen race.”—ELW, #241

Jesus loves us and there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it.  Nothing we can do will change this fact.  I’ve said it many times, and will most likely continue to, because it is so true.  Christmas shows us this. We often tend to split the Bible into two stories, the Before Jesus story and the After Jesus story, but in reality, the Bible is all the Jesus story.  Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal Bishop and author (also the writer of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem”) who died in 1893 says, It was not suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation …Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of his time, did Jesus come.”

God loved us so much that he wanted us to be able to re-connect with him. From the beginning, the plan was for Jesus to come and live with us when the time was right and all was prepared.  But, in the meantime, he missed us and longed for that restored relationship.  Once in prayer, I was given a sense of that longing.  It was intense and brought tears to my eyes that would not stop flowing.  I can’t describe it because there are really no words and when I try, even to myself, the tears come.  The best I can do is to say that it was a feeling of longing, aching, loving and missing all in one. A feeling of the Lover separated from the beloved, multiplied many times over.

God loves us!!  God wants us and so he took the form of a helpless baby, born in a barn, in poverty to a human mother into a simple carpenter’s family.  That family had to go into exile so that Jesus would not be killed too soon.  Our rescue, redemption and restoration was born this night.  In the Fullness of Time he comes.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  —John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)

And, so, the story continues.

An Irish Christmas prayer for you.

The Light of the Christmas Star to you

The warmth of home and hearth to you

The cheer and good will of friends to you

The love of the Son and God’s Peace to you.

My love and Blessing also to you.  Merry Christmas.  ~ Donna

The Word became Flesh

Christmas will have arrived before I write to you again. We will be reminded by our celebrations that Jesus—God the Word made flesh—has come into the world.  Light has entered the darkness.  The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom is here, now, and it is up to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make it visible to the world.

Joan Chittister, OSB, writes, “We do not come to Christmas to pretend that the baby Jesus is born again this day. Nor do we pretend that on this day the baby Jesus is born in some mystical way in us. We come to Christmas looking for the signs of Jesus’ presence manifested in our life and age, in us and in the world around us.” 

I believe this is true.  We really want to see the Kingdom, don’t we?  We want to see Jesus and we do see Jesus.  We just might not realize it with all the horror that we see and read about.  In the last few months I have seen, personally, or heard about the following—much of it right around us:

I see a parish hall filled with boxes of food and bags full of Christmas for those who have nothing or little, and I see that same parish hall filled with food boxes each and every month to give to the hungry.  We see Trinity Youth Group go on a mission trip every summer to help those in need. Sunday after Sunday, I see people taking time to pray for those who ask for it at prayer stations. We hear about many answers. I observe people listening to those who need to be heard.

I know of people who drive others to doctor’s appointments and who deliver meals or groceries to those who can’t get out or are not able to fix them for whatever reason. There are people who knit hats for newborns in the hospital; prayer shawls for those who need healing and comfort; and sew lap quilts for those in wheel chairs.  Some serve at the food bank and/or the clothing bank and Meals on Wheels.  I hear prayers instead of curses in heavy traffic or when a driver does something dumb and dangerous, and I hear kind words and see smiles in long lines at the supermarket, etc. etc.

I know people who spent time working in a Mexican dump to help those living there and building a house for a family living at the mission.  Some have sent Christmas presents to the children there instead of buying them for each other.  I see a housing project for the poor in our town that is amazing.  There are people working to provide clean water in places where it is not available. I know some of them.  So do you. I know Daughters of the King who pray with the homeless at the St. Francis Center on Sundays. There are children who forego Christmas and birthday presents for themselves asking that the money that would be spent be used to help others, instead.

These are all, mostly, right in our own back yard, and there are more.  You have your stories, too.  Perhaps these seem like small things compared to the enormous need, but each little flame in the darkness makes it possible to see God’s Kingdom on earth, today.  It is visible if we look around. Some of us pray each day for the spread of the Kingdom throughout the world. We are called to be part of the answer to that prayer.  The darkness has not and will not overcome the light.  Alleluia!!

The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

Happy and Blessed Christmas to you, dear flames.

Donna

Holy Day or holiday?

I will give thanks to Thee O Lord among the people. I will sing praises to Thee among the nations. For Thy steadfast love is great.  It is great to the heavens. And Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Thy glory be over all the earth. ~ Brent Chambers

I had lunch this week with my great-granddaughter and her mother.  She will be three in a few months and just received her first “big girl” bed – a lovely Minnie Mouse bed.  I had to see this because isn’t she  still a baby? How is this possible? We had a great lunch and enjoyed our time together even though Sarah wasn’t feeling quite up to par.  Good day.  Thank you, Lord.

The drive to visit them always gives me pause if I go slowly enough to notice.  It’s not that I drive over the speed limit, it’s that my mind goes 100 miles an hour.  I try to pay attention so that I can see and, sometimes, hear God’s voice. I want to stay present to the moment as that is the only time we really have.  The past leaves only a memory and the present word has not been spoken.  But in this moment, perhaps I will hear.

Today, there is smog around the edges of the landscape.  An outline of snowcapped mountains can be seen through the haze and vegetation is mostly brown.  The fields are bare and a few patches of snow still remain. At times, in our spiritual lives, smog clouds our vision and we feel barren.  1 Corinthians 13:19 says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”   The old King James Bible says that “we see through a glass, darkly.” I think of that dark glass. It and the smog cloud my vision.  But the brown fields, although they look barren, are restfully waiting in order to be fruitful when it is time.  I feel their restful waiting in my own soul as I listen, even though I can’t clearly see.

This week is Thanksgiving, so I think about “holidays.” The holidays, and preparation for them have been rushing toward us since shortly after Labor Day and they won’t end until sometime after January 1st, depending if the home team is playing in the Super Bowl. We tend to rush along with the culture in our busy preparations without ever staying in the moment long enough to enjoy the preparations, the day, or without setting any day apart as a “Holy Day” where we can stop, celebrate, and listen for the voice of God.

Advent begins the following Sunday. We can—I can—if I continue to stay in the moment instead of letting my soul be bombarded with hurry, worry and stress, make “Holy Days” out of “holidays.” I can begin with Thanksgiving Day.  We are having dinner with part of our big family which includes many lovely, busy children.  It’s guaranteed to be crazy even as we pause to thank God in all things for his blessings of this past year.  Even so, I hope to rest in the present moment.  I hope to see God in every face, every child’s smile or cry, every barren field and dark glass. I hope that in my resting soul, I will hear his voice.

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

A restful, blessed Thanksgiving Day be yours, ~ Donna