A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Way of Life

 

“Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.  Discipline means that somewhere you’re not preoccupied.  In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. ~ Henri Nouwen

Last week I wrote about our Baptismal Covenant wherein I had discovered a Rule of Life built into it. It’s a simple rule of life, but not necessarily simple to live.  Part of the reason for this problem is that we don’t actually plan on how to we are going to execute it.

This week is a about the “whats” and the “how-tos”.  If we only have a rule that we aren’t tending, it will soon become pushed into the “sometime I might do this” part of our lives.  What to do and how to do it, specifically and personally, is what a rule is about.  The elements of the way are only an outline. What will I/we choose to do in each element and how will I personally live this out in my life is the question. Since what I am writing about this week is a continuation of what I wrote before, and if you haven’t a clue and really want to know what I’m talking about, let me know.

Whichever rule you choose will work if there are elements in it that help us carry out our promises made at our Baptism, grow spiritually, and become transformed into the image of Jesus. I often prefer to use the word “Way” rather than the word “Rule” because Rule sounds so much like law when all it really means is a way to measure and a way to grow in loving God and loving our neighbor. 

 I am a closet Benedictine, so when I began a way of life, I chose the method used by Cursillo printed on their Rule of Life Card. This is a modified Benedictine rule.  St. Benedict’s Rule was divided into regular daily periods of communal and private prayer, sleep, spiritual reading which is mostly scripture, and manual labor, which in modern times was modified into other forms of work that we do. In that case, we should probably add exercise to our way.  There was no need for that in Benedict’s time. I like that Benedict added sleep to his Rule.  I’m thinking of adding it to mine. Although, what Benedict called for here may be close to what I get when I don’t think I’m getting much.

 This rule includes Piety (Seek Holiness – prayer); Study (Learn the Story); and Action (Evangelism – Tell the story, Serve Others, etc.) There is a Check-in (accountability) method used in small groups – How is this way working for you and what action have you done to spread the Kingdom of God that you planned to do in the past week? It is strongly suggested that you share this plan and the results of it in your life with a spiritual director. This whole way (or rule) is to take place within the context of community (continue in the Apostle’s Teaching, the breaking of bread and in the prayers).

 How did I make my way specific? I already was receiving Holy Communion twice a week when it was available. I began making sacramental confessions from time to time.  I spent time in prayer, quite often reading those from the Book of Common Prayer.  I read some scripture, often it was the Bible verse at the top of a meditation from “Forward Day by Day” that was my daily reading. It took me some time before I was very faithful in the reading and study of the Bible. My action and service to others varied and usually took place in a group.  I met with a small group, weekly, to pray and to share how I have been accountable to my plan and to God. It is permissible to start small with your “Rule” and let it grow in you.

I had a way to go, and let me tell you a secret.  I still do. I have grown, and continue to grow, and how I follow my “way”, now, is quite a bit different than it was, but it is also quite a bit the same.  That’s what 40 or 50 years of being reasonably faithful will do to a person. Several, well many, years ago, I added play to my rule of life.  I had almost forgotten about that.  See, we need diligence. I will need to figure what I can do about this.  Deliberately planning what I will do in each element of my rule and planning when I will do what I have chosen is the key. My rule, at this time of my life, is a combination of the Trinity Way of Life, Daughters of the King’s, and my old sort of Benedictine Rule. They mesh well.

What will you choose for your way of life? It might very well be the Trinity Way.  It may be another one. If you are just starting out, don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember that Fr. Jack told us to start out in “Pay Attention (prayer)” by spending 10 seconds, yes – that’s right 10 seconds, paying absolute attention to God.  Do the same with the other elements of your way.  If you need some help getting started, give a holler. You will be amazed at what this does.

Bless the Lord, O my Soul, O my Soul.  Worship his holy name.Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship your holy name. ~ Matt Redman

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -It’s Curtains

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord – Jeremiah 9:23-24

I will be so happy when this election is over.  The campaigns are making my stomach churn and hurt. There is so much anger, hatred and fear out there and it’s hard to be inspired by any of it. Or inspired at all.  I don’t want to talk about it and, by this time next week, it will be over. Please God. How shall apprentices of Jesus behave in times like these.  These are important times.  These are life-changing times.  All of us want life to be better than it is right now.  Violence is erupting everywhere with the promise of more to come.  And sometimes a writer who tries to follow Jesus must say something.

An incident that happened yesterday caused me to pause and discover that if you can get people to talk about their fears and truly listen to the desires of their hearts, you might find that even though we are on opposite sides of the political fence, we basically want the same things. We just disagree on how to get there. To listen well, I have to put my fears, anger and even hatred – oh how I wish I didn’t have those – into the hands of Jesus.

Even though this will make Friday Meditation a bit too long, I want to share with you a bit of a meditation by Terry Hershey that I read today.

“Every Christmas I used to go home to west Tennessee. (Fred Craddock tells the story.)  An old high school chum of mine, I called him Buck, had a restaurant in town, every year it was the same.  I’d go to the restaurant, ‘Merry Christmas Buck,’ I’d say, and he would give me a piece of pie and a cup of coffee for free.  Every year it was the same. I went in, ‘Merry Christmas, Buck.’

But this year he said, ‘Let’s go somewhere for coffee.’  ‘What’s the matter?  Isn’t this a restaurant?’ He said, ‘Sometimes I don’t know.  Sometimes I wonder.  Let’s go.’ So we went for coffee.  We sat there and pretty soon he said, ‘Did you see the curtain?’I said, ‘Buck, I saw the curtain.  I always see the curtain.’

Now what he meant by curtain was this: they have a number of buildings in that little town that are called shotgun buildings (we saw them in New Orleans).  They’re long buildings with two entrances, front and back.  One is off the street, one is off the alley.  In Buck’s restaurant and other restaurants in town, the entrances were separated by a curtain, with a kitchen in the middle.  If you were white, you came in off the street.  If you were black, you came in off the alley.

He said again, ‘Did you see the curtain?  The curtain has to come down.”Good, bring it down.’ He said, ‘That’s easy for you to say.  Come into town once a year and tell me how to run my business.’ I said, ‘Okay, then leave it up.’ He said, ‘I can’t leave it up.’ ‘Well then, take it down.’ ‘I can’t take it down.’  

After while he said, ‘If I take that curtain down, I lose a lot of my customers.  If I leave the curtain up, I lose my soul.’  (Moment of silence)”

So, what to do – I remember that God told me at the beginning of this process to bless both candidates. Have I been good about doing this?  Um, not consistently, but I have a few more days.  In addition, I need to add blessings for those with whom I disagree and who disagree with me.  That is one thing that a follower and apprentice of Jesus can do. Another is to set aside my own fears and listen well. I might bring some light into the darkness and the curtains might start to come down and the love of Jesus begin to shine.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Blessings not Cursings

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. ~ Prayer for Social Justice, The Book of Common Prayer

Ugh. I wasn’t going to write about this – the political stuff running rampant – the hateful, fearful rhetoric surrounding the political campaigns which will most likely continue for some time.  I wasn’t going to do it. But what is a follower of Jesus to do about this? How do we respond? How do I respond?

“Bless instead of curse.”

The phrase wanders around in my head as I sit with the question.  We know that we are to pray for our leaders no matter who gets elected.  Even when it’s hard.  Even when we don’t want to. I think it was Frederick Buechner who said, “Go where your best prayers take you.”  If we do that where will we go?  What will we do?  What will I do? Does it not depend upon what our best prayers say?

“Bless instead of curse.”

Does that mean that I am not get caught up in hateful speech no matter what we believe or about whom we believe it? I think so, even though I may not agree with what they do or say. Recently, I have been praying for God to bless our presidential candidates. I pray that God will touch each of them with his holy spirit and guide them in the days to come.  I pray for God’s will to be done in their lives. The Book of Common Prayer gives this prayer, “O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders [and potential leaders] of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.” The people are to respond, “Lord keep this nation under your care.”  Or we can say, “Amen.” We can start here.

“Bless instead of curse.”

Today while praying I heard God say, “Now you bless them?” Oh! That puts a different slant on things, doesn’t it? What is an apprentice of Jesus to do, here? Does it just mean that I/we say, “Bless so and so?” Donald and Hillary in this case and it is this case. How do I do this? Jesus not only said bless and not curse, but do good to them, also.  What does that mean?  It doesn’t mean, “Bless your little heart, you pour little misinformed one.”  But I believe it means that I am to bless them with all good. Oh boy, do I have my work cut out for me. Maybe you, do too.

Will blessing make a difference in the outcome? I hope so. I pray so. I believe that’s why God said so. But I know it’ll make a difference in me.

“I bless you with knowing the joy of the Lord that is your strength.

I bless you with knowing joy in his faithfulness in profound and life-giving ways.

I bless you with remembering times when he showed you his faithfulness.

I bless you with enlarging your spirit to know profoundly and deeply that your Father is pleased with you.

I bless you with receiving the truth of your identity, legitimacy and birthright.

I bless you with knowing who you are in your Father’s eyes and in drinking deeply of the joy that he has in who you are.” ~ Sylvia Gunter, Blessing Your Spirit

Grace and Peace, Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Dependence Day

I had not intended to write anything today because I’m on a moving into my house break, but I ran onto this which I wrote last year for Independence Day.  It is only four days after and I think it works as a repeat.
“’You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.’—Galatians 5:13

“Today is the called the birthday of the USA. We celebrate our independence from England, declared by 13 American colonies named the United States of America, on July 4, 1776. The Revolutionary War began in 1774 and lasted until 1783. Those who left England left for various reasons, but many to escape religious persecution.

“William Penn, an English Quaker, left England in 1682 and founded Pennsylvania with a land grant that was owed to his father, then deceased. His goal was to create a colony that allowed for freedom of religion in order to protect himself and fellow Quakers from persecution. An aside – my sixth great-grandfather, Richard Linville, his wife and two sons left their home in Sussex Co., England in 1682/3 to join this colony. Penn called Pennsylvania the ‘holy experiment’ and wrote a constitution that would limit the power of government. This constitution had many of the rights that would eventually be granted the citizens of the US through its constitution.

“I have been meditating on independence/dependence and freedom/oppression for the last day or two. Independence appeals to Americans. We take it so far these days that we have become separated from our fellow citizens in so many ways. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone. Ever. I am blessed to be an American and there is so much I could reflect upon, but I don’t want to focus on this. I want to focus on Jesus.

“Jesus turns it all upside down. Jesus calls us to total dependence on him. He says, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.’—John 15:5. Someone said, ‘Far from being self-reliant, we are totally and eternally dependent on the One who died to set us free. Every day is our ‘dependence day.’” I like that. We celebrate it every Sunday.

“God’s ‘holy experiment’ calls us to a whole new way of living. He also gave us a ‘constitution’: “You shall have no other God’s…etc.” These 10 commandments tell us how to live in the new society. Jesus summed them up when we told us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This new colony is a new Kingdom, and we have a new King.
“The Daughters of the King pray every day for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom. I do that, but I have learned over the years, especially after Jesus told me, that the spread of his Kingdom requires me to actively work in the spreading of it as well. The Holy Spirit will give us the power to do this in the ways that Jesus calls us. I have a friend whose entire Rule of Life is: “Love God; Love my neighbor.” It’s simple. He does what is in front of him as he spreads the Kingdom.

“’N. T. Wright wrote, “The final kingdom, when it comes, will be the free gift of God, a massive act of grace and new creation. But we are called to build for the kingdom. Like craftsmen working on a great cathedral, we have each been given instructions about the particular stone we are to spend our lives carving, without knowing or being able to guess where it will take its place within the grand design. We are assured, by the words of Paul and by Jesus’s resurrection as the launch of that new creation that the work we do is not in vain.’  Happy ‘Dependence Day’” ~ dlw July 4, 2015

A FRIDAY MEDITATION- Astonished Much?

The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. ~ John 5:20

Today was much like most other days – get up; coffee; pray; coffee; breakfast; go to work; coffee; errands, etc.  Except today is different because once a month I have two articles to write in the same week.  Today, I must write a meditation, like I hope this will be, and also a longer article for the church’s newsletter. It is always a different day when I do this and I sometimes can’t think of things to write.

But, I remember a word from last Sunday’s sermon. From my perch high up in the rafters (choir loft) on Sunday mornings, I don’t always hear every word of it (I listened to it later from the web page – good one by the way), but today I remember the word “astonish”.  I think about that word and realize that I have to catch my breath when I meditate on it.  It’s that kind of word.

I had to run an errand in the middle of writing and the glory of the blooming trees caught my attention and my breath.  I had to try to keep my eyes on the road.  The white and pink blossoms midst the green of evergreens and new growth were breathtaking.  I was astonished that they made it through all of the heavy, wet snow last week still looking as they do. It’s that kind of day.

I looked up the word on Bible Gateway, NRSV version, and found “astonished” was used 22 times, 13 in the New Testament, and most of those were in reference to something Jesus had done.  Astonished is a verb – to astonish.  Oops, sorry – English major writing.

So, when has Jesus astonished me?  Many, many times when I think about it. The first time I really remember being astonished by Jesus was when our 5-day old daughter was instantaneously healed by prayer – ours and the church’s.  She was most likely dying.  I learned God hears my prayers.  Yes!!

Once I had lost a favorite erring, so I prayed Jesus would help me find it.  Not only did I find it, but I found it on my bed with the back still on the post.  I had been wearing it most of the day. I could hardly breathe.  I learned that God cares about the little things I care about.

I could tell so many stories that wow me while following Jesus. Healings – yes.  Finding lost things – yes. And guidance things over and over again even before I knew it was God – yes!  The recent on-going “astonished” has to do with how our house was sold and how we found a new one (I can’t wait to get into it). I knew it had to be God. Several times, when I got a bit antsy and tried to hurry things up (how human is that?), I heard Jesus laugh.

About moving to Greeley – He just said, “Go!” and then he said, “Stay!”  There is no space to describe this, today, but my life has changed so much since then, and I know it is Jesus’ doings.  When I really think about it, it’s another breath catcher, and this is only a part of the whole. There is still more astonishing things to come, I imagine, if I stay aware enough to see them. Thank you, Jesus.

How about you? How have you been astonished by Jesus, lately?

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – I’ll take the chance

“Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord’s surprise visits.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Happy Easter.  Christ is Risen!! It was a wonderful day, wasn’t it?

As some of you may have noticed, I didn’t send out A Friday Meditation last week.  I planned to and I wrote one.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to finish it. But, I’ll try again.

The Easter season celebrates the time that Jesus showed His risen self to the disciples.  It was always a surprise visit because they were not expecting him to show up.  They didn’t really understand what he was saying when he told them that he would be back in three days, so it took a minute or two for them to recognize him.

I can relate, even today, though I expect him to show up.  Let me explain. The choir sings at both of our Sunday services on Easter. As a member, I hoped to make it through both services since whatever illness it is that I keep fighting had me pretty worn out. I was doing OK when I went down the stairs from the choir loft at the second service to receive Communion.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a family of four wandering around the Narthex (lobby).  The father was looking in to the sanctuary through the windows in the closed doors.  I said hello.  I looked at them and they looked at me.  I thought she was going to say something, but she didn’t and I didn’t.  The rest of the choir came down, and the service continued.

As I sat in the loft after communion, a light bulb came on as I started thinking about that family.  What did they want or need?  Had they wanted to come to the service, but since it was pretty full, the doors were shut and they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t?  Did they need some help? I don’t know because I didn’t ask.  The thought struck me, “I just passed Jesus in the narthex and didn’t stop because I was on my way to communion.”  I was too focused on myself to stop and see what was needed. I was absolutely horrified when I realized this. I didn’t do it deliberately, but I wasn’t being aware.  I wasn’t “paying attention.” Sigh.

I am sorry and I prayed for forgiveness, but the scene hasn’t left me. This probably means that I’m having another growth opportunity.  Jesus works this way by turning our mistakes into a learning experience. This has happened to me before and it has changed me – transformed me, actually. I don’t know how I will be changed this time, but I know that I will – in awareness, I hope.

I have one more Easter story about a conversation my granddaughter had with her four-year old daughter – my great-granddaughter and God-daughter, Sarah.  Sarah: “Jesus died and came alive again.”  Mommie:  “Yes…?”  Sarah: “So, I think I’ll die.”  Mommie:  “No! You don’t need to die because Jesus rose again.”  Sarah:  “Well, I think I’ll chance it.”

Children put things so well. After I caught my breath from the shock of hearing this from a four-year old – I wondered what she was thinking – I remembered that we all must die to our ego-centered selves so that Jesus can be resurrected in us and so that we can be transformed into his image.  Thanks be to God.  It’s hard but I think I’ll chance it. I need to.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Trust and Obey

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ~ Anne Lamott

I really don’t know what God is up to at the moment.  When I was looking over some past writings, I realized that I never really did the things I had wanted to do during Lent for the last three years.  I plan, but then other stuff happens.  Life happens and I can’t seem to manage to do what I wanted.  Why?

This year, we’ve been in the process of moving out of the house we’ve sold and waiting, still, to get into our new one.  This process has been dragging on and it looks like it will continue for a period of time.  We finally have a house to buy, I believe, but the possession date is three months away. We are staying with a friend for now.  Bless her. Someone asked if I prayed for patience and the answer is a definite NO. When I have, I get too many chances to practice.  But I don’t know why the wait.  Is this the right house?

The thing about discernment is that it always comes with an “I believe this is God’s will for me BUT I really don’t know for sure”.  I believe I heard God’s voice in this house thing.  It sounded like God at the beginning and it still does.  I trust him entirely, but the problem is that I don’t trust me.  I don’t know if I heard God, for absolute certainty, or if I am hearing the sound of my own voice and my own desires. So I take the next step and see what happens with it.  Other doors have been closed and there is still a sense of rightness about this house.  Discernment works that way. So why the long wait?  “You know, God, people will think we’re crazy selling our house, especially since I keep saying that you told me to, before we have a new one in which to go. Don‘t you know your reputation could be at stake here? Or am I afraid that it’s my reputation at stake?”  Well, perhaps, God has a plan for me. What is the lesson here?  What area of growth and transformation are you working within me?

It could be because I hate asking for help.  I don’t want to be a bother or a burden.  I’m okay with asking for prayers on the prayer chain, but in other areas, I want to be able to take care of myself even in times when there is no possible way that I can. I think I grew up this way, so this is probably why I’ve had to ask for help.  It’s about community.  It’s about being the Body of Christ together.  It’s about helping each other stand when life is overwhelming.  I can’t be a body by myself. So, since my husband and I would never be able to do this moving thing without help, we had to ask for some.

Grace upon grace abounds. We had so much packing help that I am still astounded.  I am so grateful for their loving presence, busy hands and strong backs.  I am grateful for prayers of those who were not able to pack.  We all needed those, too. I am filled with gratitude for a lovely place to stay while we wait for our house.  Many thanks to all of you.  You have blessed us. I bless you.  I still don’t know what the long wait is about, but I will take the next step that appears before me and see where it goes.

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand. ~ Psalm 37:23-24