A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Listening

A FRIDAY MEDITATION
June 1, 2018

“But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”—Psalm 31:14-15

I woke up yesterday morning and decided I was going to feel sorry for myself for the day. I didn’t feel particularly well. I was achy and shaky and didn’t have any energy. I whined inside myself for a while about the things I can’t manage to do, now. Things that brought me life, like singing, especially in choir, serving at receptions, teaching – I had a couple of classes that I wanted to do. I have a hard time keeping to a schedule. I feel useless, weak and uninspired. Etc. Whine.

I was reminded of something one of my granddaughters said once: “She needs her some Jesus.” I do. I need me some Jesus. I need lots of Jesus. I need to get myself to church for the healing service and spend time in community with other Christians – Jesus with skin on. Now to get dressed and see if I can get my shaky self down there. (I did. Thanks for the boost, Jesus.)

Feeling sorry for myself is a choice I can make any time, but it takes me out of the moment. I deliberately chose it for a few minutes – Okay, maybe an hour – I try hard not to let that happen. As I have said before, practicing gratitude to God for the gift of himself and for his gifts in my life helps me stay focused on where I need to be.

My Facebook page reminded me that, in the past week, I had the 28th anniversary of my graduating from St. Thomas Seminary having received a Certificate of Pastoral Ministry with concentration in Spiritual Direction. With that two years of training, 2 years at Aims studying Psychology and Counseling, a year in between that and the program, in addition to the years that I had been listening to people tell their stories before I even knew that there was such a thing as Spiritual Direction, I have been providing spiritual direction for over 35 years. Wow! That’s a long time. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed and how much I have enjoyed it. I don’t intend to stop until I have to.

Mostly, spiritual direction is a ministry of listening. Listening to a person’s God stories. Listening, myself, for God in their stories. Helping them see God there and helping them find blocks in themselves that prevents their seeing, hearing and transformation. Strangely, or maybe not so much so, this helps me find my own blocks. I am so grateful for this most joyous gift. I believe it to be a gift of the Holy Spirit that was built into me from the beginning though I didn’t know it until the fullness of time. Some of our spiritual gifts are like that. Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner. We just need to find that intersection.

How did I know that this was what God had called me to do? I didn’t know. As I said, I grew into it. I had planned to become a nurse. Healing was important to me. Then, I believed that maybe it was being a family counselor and began that track. During all these times, I listened to stories. Finally, 31 years ago, a friend who was attending St. Thomas seminary, discovered that the seminary had a program for spiritual directors. She called me and told me that she believed I should take it. When she wrote my recommendation letter, she wrote that “Donna is always asking, ‘I wonder what God is doing in this’ or ‘where is God in this’” Guilty. So, the rest is history. I almost didn’t go because of some family situations where I needed to be more available at home. I called my advisor and told her that I wasn’t going to take the program. A year later life stabilized, and I felt the tug. I called and told her that I wanted to reapply. She said that she would take my application out of my file. She had kept it because she knew I would be back.

So, why this story, today? Well, basically, its what happened this week. My life as a sick person can become very dull and boring if I let it. But also, this is how God often works in our lives. If we are listening, we can hear the call. We can find our Holy Spirit gifts. They stir something in us and usually won’t turn us loose. I am grateful for this.

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness? Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder? And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

[Chorus:]
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You laid down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

 

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A FRIDAY MEDATATION – Resurrection

Resurrection changes things.

Jesus himself appeared and stood among the eleven and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? …While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”—Luke 24:36-37

Easter was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect. Trees and flowers were blooming. Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, alleluias!! “The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.” Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!” Communion. Jesus. All creation sings along. So, why do we have doubts, today?

The disciples had this problem. Only a few had witnessed the crucifixion, but there were witnesses. Mary, and some of the other women, had been there and seen it all. Mary had stayed by his tomb, and she said that she had seen him alive. Others saw the stone had been rolled away and angels told them Jesus was no longer dead but had risen as he had said he would. There were rumors that he had appeared to others, too. But could it be true? What’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous: “Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Because you were dead, that’s why! Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead. May I say it again? Dead. Not resting. Not stunned. You had passed on, ceased to be, expired. You were bereft of life, you had kicked the bucket, you had shuffled off this mortal coil. You were dead and buried, and we were never going to see you again. That’s what death means, you know. It means separation. It means all last chances are gone. It means there’s no chance for anything to be any different between us.

“And now here you are, and it’s not a delusion, and you’re not a ghost, and you’re eating a friggin’ fish. So, forgive me if I’m a little wigged out here, but that’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s supposed to go in a certain direction. It’s supposed to allow for no revisions. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, what’s gone is gone, what’s dead is dead.

“I’ve got to tell you, Jesus, you have broken those rules so badly I don’t even know where to put them anymore. I don’t think there’s any charity that would take them, you’ve messed them up so badly. And now that those rules about the past and the future, death and life, you and me, are in the rubbish, I’ve got to ask you, what else are you going to change?”

What else is going to change? Why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives? Did he not say that he would? We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting. But, it doesn’t keep him away. Nor do ours. What are your doubts today? What are mine? Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me? Because, resurrection changes things. Alleluia!

Peace and good, Donna

(April 25, 2014)

A MEDITATION ON EASTER SUNDAY

 

Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been.  One asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

They have taken …my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was him.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary…(and he says, “Your Name.”)

Go tell my disciples….John 20:11-18

 

Love has won!! Alleluia!  Alleluia!!  Alleluia!!! 

 

dlw 2015

 

A MEDITATION FOR HOLY SATURDAY

 

 

Love is in the tomb.

Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified. This is the only day of the year when there is no reserved sacrament. No communions will be offered and no sacraments can be consecrated. (Until after sundown which, traditionally, is Sunday.) This day is for remembrance that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.

For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is sadder still. All their hopes are crushed. Not only that, a dear friend has been savagely killed and they weren’t able to stay awake with Him as He asked at the last. Some have betrayed him, too, and their grief is intense. What will they hang on to, now? How can they remember Him? How can we? Love is in the tomb, today.

One Disciple’s Lament

Oh God! God! They have killed him. They killed my Lord. Why? Why? He was so gentle. He was the one—the Messiah. How could they not know? Our Hope is gone. Were we all wrong? No! I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I cannot bear those images. My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop my crying. Sobs come from the depths of me and tears continue to run down my face like rivers. Oh, his dear face. Blood! He cried out to you, O God. He forgave those who did this. He forgave me, too. He healed me with his love and now he is gone. There is a hole in me. How can I go on?

I can’t go on without him. Why? Why? If I could only touch him. And they beat him again and again! If I had not been there to see, but I had to go and stay. I had to. He felt abandoned by you and betrayed by his friends. Why did you not save him? Why? He loved you. I cannot betray him nor abandon him, now. He said it is finished. Finished? How can it be finished? I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone. I feel abandoned, too, but I stay here in this place where he is buried as much as I can. I can’t do this. I can’t. I am lost. We are all lost.

Never again will I see his face, know his love, nor hear him call my name….

Love is in the Tomb, today.

(djw 2015)

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION: GOOD FRIDAY

 

John – Chapters 18 & 19

 

What can one say on Good Friday that has not already been said?  The story is very familiar to all of us and there are so many great meditations already written, why should I write another? Well, for two reasons—because I can, but really because in order to get into the story, I need to meditate on it. Writing helps me do this.

 

Our children hated Good Friday.  They thought it was gruesome, so they didn’t want to go to church that day to be reminded.  An old Johnny Hart cartoon comes to mind—actually, I saw it again on Facebook and that reminded me.  Person 1 says: “I hate the term ‘Good Friday!’”  Person 2: “Why?”  P1. “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” P2. “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” P1. “Good.”  P2. “Have a nice day.”

 

Perhaps, Person 2 should say, “Have a Good day.” It doesn’t really look or feel like a good day, though, does it? A Good day almost requires standing on the other side of the cross from where the disciples are standing, and that’s not where we are today.  Jesus and his disciples are in a garden.  He has asked that they stay awake and pray for him and for themselves, but they couldn’t stay awake. They will fail again, today.  Watch as the story unfolds. 

 

Judas brings soldiers and police to the garden where he knows Jesus is so they can arrest him.  Was that a glance between Judas and Jesus?  Even though, Jesus knows what is happening, this must be a blow. We, his disciples have no clue.  What are we thinking, now?  We don’t understand all of his teaching, but we have seen the works of God that Jesus has done.  Are we wrong about Jesus being the Messiah?  Why is he being arrested? Why doesn’t he stop this?  Peter, again, takes matters into his own hands, draws his sword and cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus rebukes him and says something about drinking from a cup his Father has given him.  What cup?

 

These, and more, are the stories of today—humiliation stories, rejection stories, abandonment stories, stories of torture, ugly stories. The disciples run away, Peter denies knowing him, the Jewish leaders that he had hoped to turn around rejected him.    But, Jesus’ love and purpose transcends his disappointment and pain.  Unconditional love has a way of doing that. This is the story of Love.  And this is our story.

 

Questions:  When can’t I stay awake and go to sleep instead of spending time with Jesus?  When do I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God’s purpose to unfold?  Will I ever be able to love like this?

 

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?

 

Died He for me, who caused His pain—for me, who Him to death pursued?

 

Amazing love!  How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

 

Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? – Charles Wesley

 

 

 

djw 2015

 

A MEDITATION, Maundy Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dlw 2015

A MEDITATION: Wednesday in Holy Week

John 13:21-32

This passage, from the Gospel at the Eucharist today, has been discussed, meditated upon and discussed even again. Today, once more, we wonder.

“At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’……. ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘…the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ When he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’…. So, after receiving the piece of bread, [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night.” It is interesting, I think, that the writer of John makes the point that it was night. Is he trying to say that Judas was walking in darkness rather than light when he left the table?

What was Judas’ motive? Some say, he may have been trying to save Jesus’ life from crowds that were becoming agitated and likely to become violent. Others say that he was trying to force Jesus into His role as King over Israel and so overthrow the Romans. Some Orthodox churches call Judas a saint because he was the one who did what had to be done. None of these reasons or motives make any difference to the fact that Judas betrayed his Lord. Jesus wasn’t meeting Judas’ expectations. Whatever reason Judas had when he took the bread from Jesus, the tempter came, and Judas made his decision.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”—v. 31-32

The time has come, and Jesus knows it. God is using what Judas is doing for his own purpose and Judas has no clue. These events would happen with or without Judas, but what sadness that it was a friend that brought it about.

I ponder. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us bread and says, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And, often, we betray him, too. When? Like Judas, when the tempter comes to us and we take matters into our own hands—when we tell Jesus that we’ll take it from here, we’d rather do it ourselves—when he isn’t working fast enough for us—when he is not the Messiah we want—when we want to do things according to our plan rather than waiting for his, etc. When we don’t live according to his teachings. When we distort his image. We know when.

Lord, often, we don’t know what we do, either. We confess the times we betray you. We are sorry. Please forgive us. Amen.

(dlw 2015)