A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Let it be so

When does an ordinary life become extraordinary? A mundane day become revolutionary? A moment in time change history? When God enters in, forgives sin, allows us to begin again. When we repeat those words of Mary – ‘May it be to me as you say’ ~ John Birch

Sometimes, when I read and pray with the Bible, I try to put myself in the story.  I try to notice what is going on, who the characters are, what the air is like, etc.  This meditation becomes part of my prayer and sometimes it takes on a life of its own, such as this time.

“As I sat in prayer this morning, suddenly (why is it always suddenly) a stranger stood before me, ‘Hello, Donna, chosen by God. God has sent me to tell you that he wants you to bear his Son. His Kingdom will be forever, and he will save his people from themselves!  You will call him Jesus.’

‘Huh? What? Who are you? You are scaring me.  And what are you talking about? Are you nuts?’

‘Don’t be afraid, chosen one. I am the angel, Gabriel, and God sends me to bring messages to people.   He has been waiting for you.  He so loves you and he wants you to be the mother of his son.’

‘Well, I do love God.  Always.  But have God’s Son.  What does that even mean?  I’m a virgin. Have you any idea what my mother would say.  She will lock me up with this crazy story.’

‘Donna, this baby is the Promised One who will save the people from themselves and show them the way to live.  You know, they keep getting it wrong.’

‘Do you mean the Messiah?  Is that who you’re talking about?’

‘Yes! God has been waiting for you. This is your part.’

‘Oh, boy! Hmm.  Holy cow!  Are you serious? Really? You can’t be serious.  Can you?’

‘I am serious.’

‘Ah yes, then, may it be to me as you say.’”

This is a simple story to bear such holy weight, isn’t it?  It reminds us of the One for whom we wait.  We have been waiting in Advent.  We are waiting to celebrate Jesus‘ birth and we wait for his coming again.  We wait for the Kingdom of God and for all to be restored.  At this moment, we live in the ‘between’ times – between his birth and his return. He has called us, his followers, to be his Body on earth until then. We who are baptized are re-membered, as we receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion, to become his Body here on earth.  We are to fill the gap. We are to bear Jesus into the world, to tell the story, to do those things he did, show his love to others, to carry forth his light into the darkness and to participate in spreading God’s kingdom on earth. What an amazing and holy commission this is.

So, we wait.  God waits.  You, O highly favored one – God’s chosen – what is your part in bringing forth Jesus into the world?  And what is mine?  Will we say with Mary, “May it be done to me as you say?” Lord, grant us the Grace to answer, “Yes.”

Have a very Merry Christmas.  Stay Blessed favored one. Come Lord, Jesus!

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.” – Meister Eckhart

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Watch Therefore

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  Watch, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” ~ Mark 12:35-37 

Happy New Year!  Where did the year go?  I have no idea.  But no, it’s not January 1; it is still November. The Church begins its new year on the First Sunday of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The scripture lessons this year are more about the Second Coming of Jesus than they are about his birth.  It’s much easier to write about birth stories, since I know something about that, than it is to write about the Second Coming of Jesus of which I have had little direct experience.

Birth stories are more about waiting and the second coming is more about watching. Waiting for birth is about preparation for new life.  Birth pangs will tell us when it’s time.  Watching has a different feel.  As I sit here, I’m trying to get in touch with that difference. Watching is about paying attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us.  In giving birth, we know for what, even if not exactly for whom, we prepare.  Paying attention – watching – is about noticing the signs of Jesus’ coming again.  We’ve never done this before. For what do we watch? How do we prepare?  How will we notice? How is it different? Maybe the work of Advent this year is reflecting on those questions. Today, I have been looking through some books of Advent meditations.  I am trying to decide which I will use this season.  I read this from Preparing for Jesus, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

“For nearly one thousand five hundred years Christians have spent the days of Advent not in passive inaction, but in activities strenuous and profitable; they have prepared themselves by scrubbing and cleaning their lives, by examining and repairing their souls—even as people generally prepare themselves body and home to receive a visitor of ineffable importance.

“Who is coming? Who awaits him? And when will he get here? And how shall the people prepare?” 

“The Son of man, He is coming.  Jesus.  That One, Him.”

“And we are the people who await him.  You and I. Since it was for us he died, we are the ones who wait in love.  And since he ascended to heaven with promises to return, we wait in faith—for the next and final Advent, Jesus will take us as friends, as brothers and sisters into his house forevermore.

“And when will he get here?  Like any New Year’s Day: at the end and the beginning.  But that Advent to come—the final arrival of Jesus in glory—will itself cause the end of this present age and the beginning of our eternal joy.  When will that be?  Ah, my friend, I do not know.  No one knows its day or hour.  Therefore, Jesus commands us to “Watch.  Stay awake. Get ready. Prepare, prepare—and watch?”

“Finally then, how shall we prepare? In these days, while yet there are days and time, by what activity should we make ourselves ready? Why, by meditating on his first coming—for though the future may be hidden from us the past is not, and the one can teach us the other.

“The story of the birth of Jesus is open before us.  We have a spiritual and holy account of the time when God himself directed preparations for that first coming of his Son into the world.  What God ordains is always good.  Therefore, those preparations may be the perfect pattern for our own this year again, this year too.

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…. 

“Oh Lord, Stir up, we beg you, your power—and come.  Come even now into this season of our meditations, that by your protection we may be rescued from our sins, and saved by your mighty deliverance in order to look forward to your final arrival with the joy that cannot be uttered…  Amen.” 

Bless you in your waiting and in your watching.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Living Water

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” ~ Revelation 7:17

I read a meditation this past week by Dallas Willard.  He wrote about the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt while on their way to the Promised Land.  The people had been whining about how much better things were in Egypt for miles and miles. They had no water, to make matters worse, and they were blaming Moses for bringing them here.  So, Moses and his brother Aaron went off to pray about this.  God told them to gather everyone together and then to speak to the rock right before their eyes and the rock will pour out its water and the community and the animals can drink.   So Moses did, mostly. (Numbers 20:1-13)

Dallas asked three reflection questions.  If you examine a rock and picture what happened within it when the water flowed, how do you picture that gush of water?  As a drinking fountain spout?  As a waterfall? Spraying Moses?

I thought about this and three incidents from my life came to mind.  Thinking about “spraying Moses” I thought about my baptism.  I was a grown up age 24 when I was baptized.  This had nothing to do with what I thought about baptism, but what I thought about water, dunking specifically. I did not want to be under water. I try not to think about under water.   But sprinkling, pouring, spraying, splashing, that’s another story.  After Jesus was baptized in the river, after God called him his Beloved Son and told him he was pleased with him, what did he do?  I envision Jesus, laughing, splashing water – maybe splashing those around him in his joy and delight. I did none of these, although I’ve see it happen, but I felt clean and new.

Reflecting on “waterfall” I recall my experience of what some call the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  Experience may not be a good word for it, because when people prayed for me to receive this, I experienced nothing noticeable.  I thought that it probably didn’t take when I listened to the stories of others. I expected some big emotional something.  I do, however, most of the time keep a tight rein on my emotions, so in retrospect, it is not really surprising that I didn’t feel anything.  But this changed my life.  I couldn’t get enough of the Bible, praying, and being around the people of God with prayer that healed me, teachings that grew me, community that supported me, and I received gifts for service as well. The waterfall is not often a rushing waterfall, in my case, but more like a gentle shower that soaks me through and through with abundance.

Lastly, while thinking about the “water fountain” which nourishes us with water needed for living, my thoughts go toward the Eucharist – Holy Communion, which I have learned, I cannot live without. This reflection fountain is not actual water, but bread and wine taken in community. Once in a deep, dark period, I found I could make it through the week if I went and received communion twice a week but not if I didn’t.  I still try my best to go twice, at least, because this is still the water of life for me.

What would you notice if you were to reflect on the gush of water from the rock? What would that “water” be? Are you splashing around in it?   Or quietly letting it wash over you? Where is the Water of Life nourishing you today?  Where do you need it? And again, where do I?

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” ~ John 7:38

A FRIDAY MEDITATION ~ Ouch

Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” ~ John 20:21b-23 (NIV)

I thought I was doing pretty well, stress wise, considering all that has been going on in my life lately. The Friday Meditation was nearly finished, so I decided to run a couple of errands with my husband.  I needed to take a trip to the Xfinity store to get some of my devices to do what I thought they should be doing but wouldn’t.  Also, my phone insisted that I had exceeded its storage capacity and I needed to do something about that.And that was when the trouble began.

I don’t like being talked down to because I think I am fairly intelligent, and to be treated like I don’t know anything about how electronics work just irritated me.  Secretly, between you and me, I don’t know much about how they work but that is totally beside the point. The fix-it man wanted to try removing some things from the phone to give it more storage capacity.  I wanted to know what would happen when he did.  “Nothing,” he said. He asked if I watch movies on my phone.  Like, seriously? The screen is four inches wide.  When I told him that I didn’t he said I wouldn’t need this app.  I told him I wanted it, anyway, because I have some folders I am in the process of removing to my computer. Did he listen?  No!!  Dave touches my shoulder. Later, I realized that app was gone.  No folders. And guess what? There wasn’t enough capacity on my phone to reinstall it.  And maybe…I won’t go into any more details.

Except, I was beginning to lose my cool.  I just finally walked away and let Dave handle everything.  Mainly, because I didn’t want to chew the nice man’s head off and because I was afraid I would cry.  I hate that.  Dave did tell me, when we got to the car, that I had lost my temper which is pretty unusual for me anymore.  I didn’t think I had, really, but when the transaction was finished and we were getting ready to leave, the fixer of phones said that he teaches classes about these things, and I might want to think about taking one sometime.  Oh, boy!! I said nothing, but when I got to the car I realized the pile of folders that I hadn’t had time to store and over 1000 photos of grand-kids, among other things, were missing. I came home and ate a LARGE chocolate bar, reinstalled the app I had wanted left on and recovered the folders.  The photos will come later because I now have enough room to store all of those, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, and whatever else I want.

What is an apprentice of Jesus to do in these situations?   After they’ve blown it? Right now, I’m not sure. I’m not in the forgiving mood, nor do I really want to ask for forgiveness, because I’m having too much fun thinking the nice man is an idiot. Good, huh?  Christ-like, right???  Can I just walk up and say, “Mr. Idiot, please forgive me for being a jerk.” Can I say, “I’m sorry Jesus, please forgive me for not showing your face.”  Maybe.  I want to. “Where’s the joy for you in this?” Julie asks.  I wonder.  Breathe. I feel a little laughter bubbling up. I need me some Jesus. Some conversation. A hug. Breathe, again.  Listen.  Ponder.  Because, as The Message says in verse 23 above, “If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION ~ Pure Joy

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. ~ James 1:2-4

“Life is difficult,” is the first line of the book, The Road Less Travelled, by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

I agree that life is difficult and it is also challenging and downright hard. I have learned over the years as an apprentice of Jesus that these trials and temptations propel me along the way of growth and transformation.  Do I like it?  No way, but we will have them anyway because we’re human, so I’m learning to hang on and let them do their work in me.  I do think, however, that the last while is a little bit much.  Just sayin’. And a few more challenges are on the horizon in the next two or three months ~ a funeral, the move into our new home, and following that almost immediately, I’ll have to move my office.  I’ll need to call on all the stress management techniques that I have learned over the years.

My “pay attention” word for the month is “Notice.”  This word grounds me and helps me stay in the moment.  My focus isn’t very good at the moment because I am still processing our son-in-law’s suicide and all of the many things surrounding it.  I notice that I am spending a lot of time working Sudoku puzzles.  This is good for my brain, but I am spending much more time than usual.  I’m remembering that when our son, Doug, died I worked jig-saw puzzles all the time for a month or two. What’s with this? Maybe it’s my response to shock. Also, Jon’s suicide coincides in time with Doug’s suicide 21 years ago.  Maybe I have unfinished business in need of healing.

As for considering it “all Joy” I ponder.  I once was asked about the difference between joy and happiness, and I really didn’t have a good answer. Some say that they are the same thing, but I’m beginning to doubt that. I think that happiness is, most often, an emotion that depends on everything running reasonably the way we want. Happiness is fickle.

Joy, on the other hand, though some may disagree, is an attitude that we maintain whether we are happy or not. Attitudes are hard to describe and we choose them. There is an element of hope in joy. There is a sense of contentment. Rick Warren says, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”  And thank him too, as I wrote about last week.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) which grows in us when we spend time, especially silent time, with Jesus.  It’s probably easier for him to do his work in us when we aren’t doing all the talking. I notice that I am not really happy at the moment because horrible things have happened, but there is a deep and deepening sense of trust in God that lets me be content.  Most times. Once in a while.  Maybe the Sudoku helps me be still and let things sort themselves out.  Hmm.

The opening scripture verse from James in The Message says:  “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” – James 1:2-4

I wish you Joy, Donna