A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Love Stories

If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” – Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry

Have I told you lately that God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it? Absolutely nothing! That’s it! If I haven’t, I have been remiss in my duty and this can serve as a reminder. Maybe it is me that I need to remind. I need to hear it some days. Right now, that’s every day. The days when I feel unlovable and bored with myself are the hardest. I felt achy and crabby earlier along with feeling a bit unsettled and disconnected. I had to remind myself that this is only feelings and not actually true. I had a class to attend, today, and I had to drag myself around to get dressed. I wanted to crawl back into bed, but I knew I would feel better if I got with it and made myself go. I did. It did. I needed to hear that Jesus loves me no matter what I feel like or how I act.

A section of the Conformation classes that I taught at Trinity a few years ago comes to mind. I had been asked to teach one of the components of the class and I chose Scripture. I had something to say about this. I titled this class “The Bible: A Love Story.” The young people in the class have now graduated from high school and some are off to college. The adults are still around. Several have said that this class was a turning point for them and one of the adults said to me recently, “The Bible is a love story, you know.” Yes!!! I know.

We discussed, from the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer – Page 853, the section – “The Holy Scriptures.” We also discussed that God did not dictate the Bible word for word. It is a compilation of stories. It is a record of human beings growing understanding of who God the Creator is. We believe that the authors who wrote the stories down were inspired by God as well as were the books chosen to be included in the Bible. These stories have something to tell us. The Old Testament stories point to Jesus, and the New Testament talks about Jesus in the flesh – about the stories he told and the works that he did. Jesus told about love. He said that the 10 commandments – the Law – is summarized by loving God and loving neighbor and then he showed his followers what that looks like. Jesus said that if we want to know what God is like we should pay attention to himself and what he does. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. Jesus also said that he and the Father are one. The Bible also tells us about the forming, spreading and growing Church. Philip Yancey says, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back.” Stories. Love stories. Many stories. Stories like we could tell.

So, you might ask, why do I believe this about the Bible. The answer is because that has been my experience of God, too. You know that I did not always believe that God was love. I fell into the Old Testament thought that God was an angry God and would punish us (me) if we didn’t toe the line. It took some time the be taught by God that this is not true. You have heard these stories before, I imagine, because they were all turning points for me. I tell them often.

I was in my late teens and early 20s when the change began to happen. The first major story was when God miraculously healed our new-born baby daughter. Doctor’s couldn’t do anything for her though they tried, I had a come to Jesus moment with God, people prayed for her and at that moment, she was healed. I know it was a miracle. The doctor (a hardened army colonel of many years) said it was a miracle, but I already knew that. From this, I learned that God hears me and answers my prayers. There is the story about God finding an earring that I had lost and dropping it on my bed with the back still attached. If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask me about it. From this I learned that God cares about what I care about. The third story, and there are many more, came when I was studying 12 step programs and read that I needed to make “a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood God”. I had always thought that step said to turn my life over to the will of God and since I was just learning about his love, I didn’t know if I could do that. But the CARE of God. He had been showing me that he cares. I could take a chance on that. Stories. I call them “touch stones.” Stories that I can look back on and see that God has always been in my life and has always loved me. He always will and there is nothing I can do about it.

I had the Conformation classes write their own love stories about God. They can also look back during times of unsureness and confusion and remember, it’s a love story. If you haven’t written about your own love stories, it might be a good Lenten exercise.

What does it mean to me now that I’m going through this new trial of having untreatable cancer? Well, God still loves me. He is still with me. He wants to spend time with me. He wants to love on me. He wants me to share stories.

Peace and Good,
Donna

 

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MEDITATION – MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 12:1-11

 What does Jesus do the day after he was proclaimed King at the procession into Jerusalem?  It is different now, but Jesus goes about business as usual.  He attends a dinner party in his honor at the home of Lazarus, and while they are eating, Mary pours costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair.  Judas, the one who was about to betray Jesus, is upset because the perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor, or so he says.  Jesus defends Mary.  “Leave her alone,” he says.  “She bought it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 They are all confused, except for Mary, maybe.  She seems to be aware that something much bigger is happening here. She bought perfume for Jesus’ burial and she used it, today, at this dinner party. Why? He did raise her brother Lazarus from the dead.  Does that help her believe Jesus’ story about dying and rising again in three days?

 We are confused with the rest.  What does Jesus mean by these words?  Burial?  What burial?  What he said before about his dying – could that be true? But he is the King; he can’t die now. Doesn’t he care about his people?  Doesn’t he care about the poor anymore?  Something has changed.  But what? Why?  We don’t understand.  Is it all about Jesus, now?

 Is it? 

 “Simply Jesus Son of Man – Simply Jesus spotless lamb….

…Simply Jesus Living Word – Simply Jesus says it all.

Jesus Christ our Lord – Jesus Christ is Lord.”—Paul Kyle

 (dlw 2013)

A PALM SUNDAY MEDITATION

The end is beginning. Or is it the beginning that is ending? The lessons we read today are filled with images—with contrasts.  At first we cry, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  When the Pharisees told Jesus to stop the palm-waiving disciples who were crying, “Hosannas”, he told them that if they didn’t cry out, the stones would have to do it.  Jesus must be proclaimed King on this day.  The coming events must take place.  They were planned from the beginning, and Jesus has chosen to take this path.

Then we read, and also cry, “Crucify, crucify him!” Must we always betray and get rid of that which we do not understand? It happened then and it happens today.  And so, we watched him die.  Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”    A Holy Week hymn says, “Who was the guilty?  Who brought this upon thee?  Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.  ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:  I crucified thee.”

 “But we did not crucify Him,” we say, “they did—a long time ago.”  If not then, how about today?

 We are sorry, Lord. We repent.  Please hear our prayer.

 “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.”—The Book of Common Prayer

 Blessed are you, Jesus, who comes in the name of the Lord.

  (dlw 2013)

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Suddenly…

To You, Yahweh, I lift up my soul, O my God.

Yahweh, show your ways to me. Teach me your paths and
keep me in the ways of your truth for you are the God that saves me.

All day long I hope in your goodness.
Remember your love, the love that you promised long ago,
and the kindness that you gave from of old.

~ Tim Manion, 1976 (From Psalm 25)

“And, suddenly….”

Advent begins this coming Sunday.  How is that possible?  It would be nice if everything would just slow down.  Advent is a good time to do that, but why would we want to? There’s so much to do?  Well, for one, we would be able enjoy Christmas when it comes, but a major reason for me is that when I am rushing around like crazy, I might miss the “suddenlys” that happen when I am not really paying attention, and I don’t want to do that.

God shows up in the suddenlys and life changes – he suddenly does a new thing. We live life doing what we are doing, and suddenly….!

Suddenly, an angel appears to Zachariah and says, “You will have a son….”

Suddenly, and angel appears to Mary and says, “I have news for you, you lucky girl.  God has chosen you….”

Suddenly, the baby John jumps in his mother’s womb when he recognizes the Messiah in Mary’s.

Suddenly, angels appear in the heavens singing, “Glory to God in the Highest….”

Suddenly, a star appears over a manger.

Suddenly, there is a cross, where Jesus hanging says, “Father, forgive….”

Suddenly, on a Sunday, a stone blows away from the door of a tomb and….

Suddenly, a mighty wind fills a room and scared apprentices are changed….

Suddenly, life is changed never to be the same.  God is like that.

The burning bush in the Old Testament was one of those “suddenlys”, too.  You know that story but let me share a more modern one.  I was one of the spiritual directors on a weekend when a table leader came to get me.  She wanted me to hear a story.  One of the women had been wrestling with a calling she felt was from God, but she wasn’t sure.  Someone at the table asked her if she was waiting for a burning bush.  When those at the table looked out of the window, suddenly….a bush was on fire.  This bush wasn’t burning up, either.  The reflection on the window in the room, of the fire in the fireplace, made it appear that the bush outside was burning.  The really odd thing was that where ever I stood in the room, the lit bush was still visible.  Unusual!  Out of the ordinary!  Strange!  The woman answered God’s call.  Her life changed and has never been the same.

Sometimes, a “suddenly” comes to me when I am reading the Bible.  Sometimes, it comes when I read a spiritual book.  The voice of God jumps from the page.  Sometimes, while in the shower, He speaks.  Sometimes, I realize that the words a person is speaking to me have suddenly become the voice of God.  Often, creation speaks – like a burning bush.  Of course God is with us all the time, but when I am very busy, I could miss seeing him.  I might assume that what I hear or see is just an ordinary happening.  I have to choose how I will respond, because these “sudden” appearances of God have all changed my life in one way or another.  I want to notice and Advent is a good time for that. It’s good to slow down in the middle of everything as we prepare for Christmas to pay attention to those happenings around us. Who knows what we will see. I hope to do this. How about you?

Come, Jesus, we’re waiting and watching for you.

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Does it Really Matter?

“Now thank we all our God, with heart, and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices; who from our mother’s arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” ~ Hymnbook 1982

There are so many thoughts wandering around my mind today that I can’t seem to choose one or make them fit together in order to write.  I feel like Ann Lamott, author of the book, “Help, Thanks, Wow”, when she says, “My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.” That’s a good idea.  I’m sure I could really get lost in there, today, but I think I will choose to write about gratitude since it is November.                                                             

A fragment of today’s lessons caught my attention, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’” ~ Matthew 16: 18-19. The last part really grabbed me. Even though, I’m pretty sure this was not what Jesus meant when he spoke, I read several meditations this week stating that all things are connected in the world of spirit. All of our thoughts and words of gratitude, peace, and love, along with our prayers, can help change the world into the promised Kingdom of God on earth.  Our thoughts, words, etc. of anger, judgement and hate will be loosed into the world, also. Even our thoughts have power.  What we do, say and even think, matters. God help us. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So, what does this have to do with gratitude? I said that I’m having trouble fitting my thoughts together.  It’s a good thing I need to write. I read an interesting article from the field of neuroscience about what gratitude does for the person who is grateful—who looks for and finds those things each day for which they are, and who thinks on these things. It said that having gratitude makes changes in the brain chemistry that brings feelings of peace and well-being to him or her.  Also, I believe that being grateful reminds us that there is a God and it’s not us.  Moral – if you are down in the dumps, look for and find that for which you are grateful and thank God for it. See what it does for your spirit.

Today, I am grateful for God’s Grace. Love. Freedom. Family. Friends. Blue sky.  Sun.  Jesus.  Forgiveness.  Shelter.  Kingdom signs:  A policeman bought shoes for a homeless, shoeless, man. A neighborhood in Denver got together to rent a house for a panhandler and his family who were living in a motel.  They are now working on getting together enough money to pay the rent for a whole year. Those who work to feed the hungry of our town and all who help those with limited options.  Thank you, Jesus. Just writing about it helps.

For what are you grateful, today.  What did you see today that was beautiful? Remember it. Savor it.  Thank God for it.

”Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Stories and More

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27

I love to hear conversion stories, continuing conversion stories, and stories of transformation. Some have been accompanied with signs and wonders and some are quiet, gentle stories.  Many are very emotional.  I have a passion for spiritual formation and ongoing transformation so I get excited about this and as a spiritual director I am blessed to hear about some.

My conversions have never been emotional or spectacular. When I was about 5 years of age, I had an experience of God while lying in the yard watching clouds go by overhead. I felt connected and peaceful, but that was it. I gave my life to Jesus many times.  We had altar calls on Sunday nights and many times I went forward.  People cried when they accepted Jesus, so I tried to squeeze out a tear or two because I believed it was expected, but there was really no emotion involved. I was never sure anything had happened or if I had “done it” right.

I was finally baptized when I was 24. I never expected anything to happen. I hadn’t been told that there could be.  Baptism was a choice I made because Jesus told us we needed it, and it made me part of the Christian Community which by this time, I really needed.  It was about this time in my life that I became afraid of God and was suffering from depression and panic attacks.  Emotions were scary, and I tried to keep them under wraps so they didn’t get away from me. God really was after me, but not for the reasons I thought. It took some transformation before I realized he was chasing me because of Love.

In my 30s, I had prayers for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said we were to do this. Many people received this accompanied by signs and wonders.  Not me.  Once again, I thought nothing had happened. There was no Holy Spirit fire that landed on my head, no ecstatic utterances such as speaking in tongues and I didn’t feel any release of anything. Why?  Oddly enough, though, I began to want to read the Bible all the time.  I wanted to be more involved in the Christian community.  I became very interested in reading books about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus, and about healing—everything I could get my hands on.

I was concerned about the speaking in tongues issue though.  Early on in life, I was taught that this was from the devil and not from God.  But people were saying that speaking in tongues was the sign that you had really been baptized in the Spirit.  I trusted them so I asked for prayer.  I didn’t spontaneously start speaking, no words formed on my tongue or in my mind, ever. What was wrong with me?  Finally months later, I said, “Ok, God.  I’m going to speak, so I hope you know what I am saying, ‘cause I don’t.”  The rest is history.  I still find this a very helpful way to pray when I don’t know what to pray.

Emotional or not, God has continually worked in my life.  Transformation and spiritual growth happens when I stay attached to the Vine. We can cooperate, but we can’t transform ourselves.  A quote someone said, “We are utterly dependent upon Jesus Christ, our ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, & Friend for genuine spiritual transformation.”  Very true. It is an ongoing process.  Apparently, God is doing a new thing in me, because on retreat last weekend, I cried most all of Saturday.  Tears falling all day. Emotions surfacing.  A word appearing before me.  A card received.  But that’s another story. For another day.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION

We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” – Richard Rohr

I went on walkabout this morning and took pictures of what was happening in my garden.  Some things need work to bring out the best in it.  There is new growth every day.  The snowball bush is blooming and the Iris and peonies are budding.  The yellow dandelions are beautiful.  Even the weeds look good.   We had such wonderful rain last week.  These will go on my blessing list today.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a baby squirrel.  He (or she) was perched on the bedroom windowsill, and I crept over to see her hoping she didn’t run away.  She watched me come closer but she didn’t seem nervous.  Maybe the glass between us made her feel secure.  I asked what she was doing today and if she liked the rain. Other things, too, but I don’t remember exactly what.  She kept her eye turned on me and when I stopped talking her little mouth started moving. Her tail twitched a bit.  This happened two or three times.  She would stop and I would talk and when I stopped her mouth moved again.  I wish I knew what she was telling me.  Maybe she was complaining about the rain.  Maybe loving it, or maybe she wanted to know where her mother had got to.  Did she wonder what I said? I told her that she could stay on the sill as long as she wished or needed.  This conversation went on my gratitude list.  Also, it was one of the moments I felt closest to God and felt the most joy, peace, and love in that day.  Probably because I was paying attention.

In the discernment class that I am teaching, there is a spiritual exercise that I have assigned.  It is the Examen of Consciousness (Not the Examination of Conscience to prepare for confession).  This exercise helps us pay attention. It helps us recognize our blessings, helps us be thankful, and keeps us grateful. It helps us recognize the presence of God and helps us catch when we are getting off track. Paying attention to these movements within can help us in discerning God’s will for us. It can help us know when we are following God and when we are moving away from him for whatever reason.  The reason we may be feeling dry is that we are not paying attention to where God is and where he is leading us. This helps us stay connected.

This examen was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and was/is used in discerning God’s will as part of his Spiritual Exercises in a 30 day retreat.  But we are using it in a simple prayer form, alone or with others; perhaps with your family after dinner or before bed.  Following are the steps.

  1. Sit quietly. You may light a candle if desired.
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance the events and moments of the day.
  3. Ask yourself – “For what moment today was I most grateful?” and then, “For what moment today was I least grateful?”
  4. Express your gratitude to God.

Spend time with this, but not more than 15 minutes.

There are other questions that can be used.  Another is, “When today did I feel the most peace, joy and love?” and “When did I feel the least…?” If you are interested in more about this, let me know.

I could try to explain how this relates to talking to squirrels and loving dandelions but I am still working on that.

If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”—C. S. Lewis