A MEDITATION – Tuesday in Holy Week

TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 12:20-36

Our Holy Week journey continues. The scriptures for the day record the events. Some Greeks, in Jerusalem for the festival, came to Philip, one of the disciples. They say to him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

We aren’t told if the Greeks ever saw Jesus but when Philip and Andrew told Jesus about it, his comments seem a bit odd. Its almost as if Jesus was waiting for this event. Perhaps, they did get to see Jesus and the very fact that they, the Gentiles had come precipitated Jesus’ comments. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also…” It is almost as if Jesus is talking to himself. Pondering. Maybe thinking that no one has any idea who he is, not even his friends, knowing they really don’t get it. Thinking that maybe the Gentiles will. I wonder, “Do we?” Do we really get it?

Jesus is wrestling with what he knows is about to happen. He wants his followers to understand. He says, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—`Father, save me from this hour?’ NO, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” Perhaps, Jesus wonders, “WHAT am I doing, again? What am I thinking?” But then he prays, “Father, glorify your name.” A voice comes from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there [maybe including the Greeks] heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said an angel had spoken to Him. The events taking place now were planned from before the beginning. They were never an alternative “Plan B”.

Then Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John says that Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. Now, the time is right. Everything is in place. The crowd responds, “How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” I can almost see Jesus shake his head. He says, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you….”

What are our thoughts as we listen to Jesus today? Do we ask, “Who is this Son of Man?” Do we really understand what he has said to us? Do we know who he is? Is there darkness that clouds our knowing? Do we really want to see Jesus?

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you. I want to see you. ~ Michael J. Smith

(dlw 2015)

Out of the depths, I cried…

Holy Spirit(Part 2)

With my voice I cry to the LORD; with my voice I make supplication to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, you know my way. ~ Psalm 142:1-3

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised…” –  Luke 24-49

This IS a tough assignment. I’m a little nervous now that I know God uses autocorrect.  No telling what he will say.  Maybe I wasn’t listening very well.  In case you don’t remember or didn’t read last month’s SOUL FOOD, with a little help from said Autocorrect, God asked me to tell my story with the Holy Spirit.  Since the Spirit was active in my life before I ever knew the Spirit existed, it’s a long story so I’m writing it in installments.

When I left off last month, we were living in El Paso, Texas where Dave was stationed.  We had three small boys by then, and had decided that we wanted them to learn about Jesus in church and that we needed to take them. We returned to the church of our childhoods even though, we were beginning to believe that God was not the waiting-until-you-sin-so he-can-punish-you God. Toward the end of our time in Texas, Dave had the opportunity to have a family accompanied tour in Italy for four years.  At the same time, he found that there was an opportunity for the Army to send him on a two-year assignment to CU Boulder to finish the degree he had started before we got married.  For some, then unknown, reason, I felt strongly that the Colorado University thing was going to happen so Dave turned down the Italy tour before he knew if he might be offered the school option.  We couldn’t wait to see.

Boulder was enjoyable.  We lived in campus housing and there were many little children around for our boys.  We learned what community meant here.  Although there was much community in the military, it wasn’t what we would come to know in our university experience. Half way through this two-year assignment, we had a daughter. You have heard this before, but it belongs in my story now because it was a turning point.

When Kim was born, she was tiny but perfect.  However, before we got out of the hospital, she started having jaundice. She had two blood transfusions and needed to be monitored. My hospital stay was over, but I had to leave Kim there. That evening she began to have blood in her stool and they couldn’t find the cause.  The bleeding was getting worse.  Doctors decided that she needed to go to the military hospital, Fitzsimons, in Denver, so they took her by ambulance in the middle of the night. This was a few days after the big flood in 1965 and many roads were impassible. My doctor wouldn’t let me make the trip and anyway, I had three small boys at home.  I spent my night in prayer (You could call it that.)  I, alternately, begged God to heal Kim, but I didn’t believe God did that, anymore, and I begged him not to let her die.  Sometimes, I yelled at him.  It was a very long night.

Dave managed to get home that next morning – parents weren’t allowed to stay with children at the military hospital – and he informed me that they would do exploratory surgery at Noon if there was no improvement.  This was Sunday, so Dave called the pastor to tell him that we were going to stay home by the phone and asked them to pray.  For what, I wonder. Anyway, the members of the church stopped in the middle of the service and prayed for Kim, our little 5-pound daughter.  They didn’t believe that God healed, either. Then.  I imagine they prayed for the doctors and such.  At the very moment of that prayer, the bleeding stopped.  Maybe Kim managed to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.  The bleeding did not just slow down, it stopped. Instantly.  The tough military doctor called it a miracle.  We did, too. And the people from the church as well.

I learned something about God that day. He does heal today.  He hears my prayers and answers them.  And I learned that he cared for me.  Luke 7 tells stories of Jesus healing and raising the dead causing crowds to follow him everywhere.  John’s (the Baptist) disciples came to ask Jesus, on John’s behalf, if he was the one for whom they were waiting.  Jesus told them to go tell John what they saw – the healings, the raising from the dead, etc. Then he says to the crowd, v. 24, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? (…)” I read a meditation where the writer wonders what drew the crowd to follow Jesus around. The writer said that, most probable, it was the healings.  Perhaps so.  It worked for me.

A year later, Dave was to return to active duty. I was talking to a neighbor about church and how I wish there was one who believed that God worked in the world today.  I wanted a God that I could touch, a God who heard my prayers of desperation, a God who responded as I had experienced. She said, “I think you might like my church – St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Boulder.”  Dave took classes in the engineering building across the street from St. Aidan’s, so he went to their chapel and picked up The Book of Common Prayer (1928).  He read: “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.”

Then after the Confession, he read: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 Dave said, “I think we have found what we have been looking for.”  At last!  As Frederick Buechner says, “It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but…the experience of God’s presence.” Yes! A God I could touch who touches me.  Before we left for Ft. Benning, Georgia, we were baptized at St. Aidan’s. My baptism, I believe, is when the Holy Spirit stopped hovering and started seriously meddling in my life.  Did I not somehow say he could…? And there’s more.

“But wait…”

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -Lent about Love?

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love…My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – John 15:9, 10, 12-14

This past week, a thought popped into my head that Lent is the most love filled season of the whole Christian year. I’ve been considering this and I believe it might be true.

When I first became an Episcopalian in the mid-sixties, I loved all things liturgical and I still do.  I loved Lent.  I didn’t eat meat for 40 days, and for years, I observed a fairly strict fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I believe this did my spiritual life some good, even though I did it because it was expected and I loved the ritual.  I came to realize that Lent wasn’t helping me get rid of what I called my “worm theology”.  I thought being dust meant that I was bad, as low as the worms wiggling around in the dirt. The Ash Wednesday service tells us, “Remember [O human], that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Somehow, I got the wrong idea about that.  I didn’t know that Lent was supposed to help change my life, not only for 40 days not counting Sundays, but for the days after Easter, as well. So, I still love Lent, but…

But I’ve been thinking (hmm…maybe I should give that up for Lent.), what if Lent is all about Love.  What if it’s about loving God and loving your neighbor.  What if it’s about … but wait!!  Isn’t Lent about repentance and sacrifice because Jesus gave up his life for us in a horrible way?  Isn’t it always about this?  Yes, but what does that mean? This – to repent means to turn around.  It means to return to the way of Jesus in this case.  Sacrifice means to consecrate or to make holy – ourselves in this case. Sacrifice means to give up our rights to our holy selves for the love of others because Jesus did.

There is nothing wrong with giving up chocolate or coffee or dessert, or whatever else we choose for Lent. I, for one, am going to return to eating in a healthier manner hoping that it will help me feel better. I hope Lent will be a motivator. Honoring God by taking care of our bodies is a holy spiritual exercise.  However, giving up a single food item stopped working as a Lenten discipline for me several years past.  I realized that it wasn’t making me a better person who was becoming more like Jesus.    There is nothing wrong about doing so if we remember what Lent is about and get the order strait – “Love God, love your neighbor, lay down your life for your friends.”

What would our Lenten disciplines be if we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice was, and is, part of a great love story? How would we love God?  How would we love our friends? How would we love our neighbor? How would we love even our enemies?  Love lays down its life for friends, neighbors, and enemies. How would we use our precious time? Would we be willing to give up some of it for the purposes of God? Would we make that our spiritual exercise? “Will I,” is the real question.

What Lenten discipline will help? The very first thing “I will” by giving up my time is to turn and return to the arms of my Lover who waits, who aches to spend alone time with me/with us. We are created for this. God is lonely for me when I’m not there.  I’m lonely, too.  If this is my priority, if I love God first, if I pay attention to God first, If I spend time with him just being together first, then I will begin to know how it is that I, personally, am called to lay down my life in love for my friends, my neighbors, and even my enemies whom God already loves, by the way.

Perhaps Lent is all about love…

“Come! Spirit of Love! Penetrate and transform us by the action of Your purifying life. May Your constant, brooding love bring forth in us more love and all the graces and works of love. Give us grace to remain still under its action and may that humble stillness be our prayer. Amen.” ~ Evelyn Underhill

A FRIDAY MEDITATION ~ Speak Peace

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ― John Lennon

A friend posted a meme on Facebook of a stick figure sitting cross legged on the floor in meditation pose.  He has one eye closed and one eye open. The caption reads, “I feel peace. I feel calm. I feel a hole in my sock.” I responded because I understand this problem and he suggested that it might be a meditation subject.  I wasn’t sure how, but it’s true, sometimes my meditation time has so many “holey” distractions, I can’t be still.

A Soul Friend wrote that we might pick a word to help focus us for the year.  That’s a great idea, and I thank her for the reminder. A focus word is very helpful in our prayer and meditation, but it can be helpful in everyday life, as well.  I couldn’t come up with one until yesterday when I picked the word, “PEACE.” I like this word because it helps me with distractions. I speak peace to worries, to pain, to anger, fear and whatever. It helps me quiet my mind and listen to Jesus or to just be present to and with him.

There is another issue into which I need to speak peace. For several years, I have predicted a revolution. There has been a deep-down sense that there would be one.  The world is in turmoil. Our nation is in turmoil.  We have a new president, and you know that up to this time, it has not gone smoothly.  Revolution has already begun and we will see, if we are looking, what God will do with it. Jesus followers are already revolutionaries, and he is our example of what we are to do.  If we need a refresher course, the place to start in the Bible is the book of Matthew.  I looked up “Jesus said…” on Bible Gateway and all but one reference was from Matthew.  The other was from John. As the revolution takes place, we will need to speak peace to many things. As Jesus followers, we may not always be able to be passive. There are times we may need to resist.  It has always been so.  Read and see.

There are at least three scripture passages from the Old Testament that have come to me the last few days.  The first is in Jeremiah 6:16 – “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

Joshua 24:15 – “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

And Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” 

In addition to reading the Book of Matthew, I have been meditating on these verses. They help me with focus. It is in being still to know God that I find the “hole in my sock” distractions so often, lately.  But it is also what I need the most.  How else will I know what my particular marching orders are.  In stillness, I can say, “Lord, what will you have me do?” and, many times, hear an answer.  And it is here that I hear him say, “I love you; you are mine.” But, I may need to speak “peace” repeatedly to all those holes as I wait for stillness to come.

As I have said, today we have a new president – Donald Trump. Jesus followers are to pray for him regularly. See 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Every day is recommended. We are to pray even if he might not have been who we wanted or whether we agree with him. I offer this prayer.

  1. For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to [Donald Trump] the President of the United States, the Governor of this State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. – Book of Common Prayer, p. 820; #19

In peace, we pray to you, O Lord.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Log in My Eye

We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything–in people and in things and in nature and in events… The only thing is we don’t see it… I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. – Thomas Merton 

Over the last month, I have had cataract surgery in both eyes.  It has been a process, for sure, but the results are going to be great.  I just had my one week check-up on the second eye and everything is going well. As soon as I get my balance working better (another story), I will be better than new. 

Friends who have had this done told me that I would be amazed at the colors and how beautiful everything looks after the cataract is removed.  I don’t notice any difference in the colors – they hadn’t really changed for me. But now, I was able to read street signs again right after the first cataract was removed and the patch came off. Also, I could see a long way down a street on which I was traveling. Good news! One morning I was standing in the driveway looking at the leafless trees. Every little twig on them stood out with great clarity against the winter sky. It was absolutely stunning. I had not realized what I had been missing.

Standing in the middle of the driveway, pondering clarity and how something in the eye blocks vision was an eye-opening experience.  (No real pun intended…well, maybe.)  I was relating this story to my husband when the following verse came to mind.  I remember it best from the old King James Version of the Bible with which I was raised.  It says, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  That started a meditation which led to this from Matthew 7:3ff, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?” Yikes. 

When my spiritual eyes get clouded over with whatever, isn’t it likely that I don’t always see the face of Jesus in the places that he is, which is everywhere, including in your face?  Aside from the usual being human, that is, what have I missed and what has shrouded my eyes, recently? 

Being overwhelmed with what life has brought me this year has contributed to this, I believe.  I have been feeling pretty insecure and somewhat disconnected. I’m a bit off balance in more ways than one. Throw in a heavy duty case of introversion at the moment, which I can work around most of the time, and there I go. 

Wretched [female] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Romans 7:24-25a.  Of course! One of the reasons Jesus came was to help remove the barrier between us.  Our spiritual disciplines can help us notice the ways he does this.  As you probably know, I usually try to spend two periods, each day, of 20 minutes each in silent prayer.  It is not going well at the moment.  I absolutely cannot get my mind to slow down. I need lots of help, Lord. Well, ask and you receive.  I read that in a Book, somewhere.  I am also reading a book, Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace, by J. Brent Bill. He recommends taking 5 minute periods of time each day, as needed, to be still, breathe, and listen for God’s voice. To Pay Attention, if you will.  If I take all of these as needed moments, I might also be able to stumble through this with grace. Join me if you have any “as needed” moments.  The film may fall from eyes as we sit and as we wait.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Practicing Gratitude

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. ~ Psalm 3:3

During prayer this morning, the above scripture started weaving its way through the silence.  Some music started – I think there is a song written about this– wandering around also. As I sat with this for a bit, I started to feel it in my bones. Under the circumstances, the feeling may not last long, but the truth of it is permanent.  God is the one who lifts me up – the one who lifts us up.

Josh Groban, though he did not write it, made popular the song, “You Raise Me Up.” It was written by the duo, Secret Garden with lyrics by Brendan Graham, one of the duo. I don’t think it was meant to be about God, but for me when I hear it, it’s about God.  Sometimes, God with skin on.

“When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

“There is no life, no life without its hunger
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly
But then you come, and I am filled with wonder
Sometimes I think I glimpse eternity”

“You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

Life is difficult, M. Scott Peck, said in his book, THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED. Agreed. Sometimes, it is more difficult than others. It is how we handle the difficulty that makes us grow in the life of the Spirit and closer to God.  Sometimes, I’m better at this than at others. We all are. I am struggling a bit at the moment because the difficulties keep coming.  But the fact is, that God never leaves us.  He is the lifter of our head.  He raises us up to stand on mountains.  He provides the strength for us to make it through the difficult and rough spots.  And we will.  I will.  I can only be full of gratitude.

Today I am grateful for:

Moving into our new house is over.  It’s almost presentable.  I grateful for that. And I love it.  What a wonderful gift for our older age.

I am almost through with one of the two last projects in the moving process (not counting finishing decorating).  I took a break between the draft of this meditation and the finishing of it to clean out what I call “the project closet”.  This holds sewing, knitting, scrapbooking, photo projects, genealogy, etc.  You can’t imagine how much fun that was.  Seriously, it is. I’ll finish it before dinner, and celebrate with a glass of wine.

For cooler days. For sunshine.  For rain. For blue skies. For late roses.

For Chrysanthemums.  I bought two pots of them yesterday for my patio.  I may go get another one.  Fall colors.

I’m grateful that I can, apparently, write a bit, again.  It was so hard for a while.  So much to sort out. I’m not done with that, yet.

I’m grateful for God’s strong shoulders, that he raises me up and is the lifter of my head.

My church community.  For soul friends. For the Daughters of the King. You lift my head so many times.

And, I’m grateful for you, my brothers and sisters, for being God’s agent with skin on when the days are hard and my energy is limited. I’m so grateful for your prayers.

And I am grateful to God that the answers to our prayers are so often amazing and not what we expect.

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -Is there more?

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
 my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
~ Psalm 63:1

Have you ever felt such a longing aching desire for something but you couldn’t figure out what?   Sometimes, I do.  Today.  There is a yearning for something. Sometimes it’s just a sense of something niggling at me. Something more. Today, it is strong. As I sit in my prayer chair I pray, “God, I need something but I don’t know what it is.”

As a child, there were times like this.  You’ve heard the stories about when I lay on my back in a yard filled with dandelions, if grandma hadn’t already picked the greens to cook for supper, watching clouds and feeling what?  Content.  Yes, but part of the sky also.  Part of something bigger.  Something more.

There were other places, too.  As a teenager, I would climb an ancient cherry tree.  Sometimes, to get away from the hustle and bustle of a life filled with people in a tiny house.  Sometimes, to reflect on things going on with my life at the time.  Sometimes for solitude.  The question, “Is there more than this?”

As a young adult with children – picnics, rocks by a stream, paths to unknown places. A life filled with busyness with little solitude or reflection.  Fear and depression filled many days.  More?  I don’t know where to find it.

Later with children mostly grown, driving through Gore range – such beauty and longing.

Coming home from church and starting to change clothes, the question – or was it a thought, “There has to be more to the Christian life than this.”

And again, later.  On top of Grand Mesa at Land’s End, standing in a field of wildflowers with the Grand Valley spread out way below and tears streaming down my face.  What is it?  I don’t know.

Riding in a car in New Mexico after a conference, nose pressed to the window looking at the sky covered in brilliant stars.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  Longing, hungry.  Is there more?

These have been and are, I believe, times when God is calling.  They are times when God is aching, too. God wants more.

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” ~
Song of Solomon 2:10-13

How do I respond when God calls for more?  What helps me connect?  How do I pay attention?  Maybe I’m alone in a cherry tree. Maybe sitting by a stream or floating in a raft on a lake.  Maybe I’m standing in a field of wildflowers on a mountain or a prairie. Sometimes, on my back in the grass watching clouds – not so much, now. Sometimes, I go to my favorite retreat house where I’m going soon.  Often, I go to my prayer chair in my prayer room.  I go to a place where there is silence and some solitude so I can go into the arms of the Lover and hear his voice. Or just be with him.  Because there is More. I guarantee it.

Where do you go when God is calling? Where and how do you find More?

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
~ Psalm 62:5-6