A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Habits and Covenants

Holy habits are that: the disciplines, the routines by which we stay alive and focused on Him. At first, we choose them and carry them out; after a while they are part of who we are. And they carry us.” ― Mark Holly Buchanan

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:5-8

Last week I was too tired to sort out on what I wanted to reflect from the Daughters of the King retreat. It was a fun filled time, sort of like a pajama party, when in our cabin in the evenings, populated almost entirely by our St. Anne’s Chapter of Daughters from Trinity. We always bring, and eat, way too many goodies, but then that’s what PJ parties are for. We also had time to visit some with women from other chapters, and great times of reflection at our tables made up of women from different chapters.

However, it is the teachings, given by our Chaplain, Fr. Terry McGugan, that I want to tell you about., so as our friend, Sandy, says, “You might want another cup of coffee or tea.” Or since it is evening, a glass of wine or soda.

Fr. Terry’s theme for us throughout the year has been our Baptismal Covenant which is found beginning on p. 304 of the Book of Common Prayer. First, we are asked if we believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit. We affirm that we do. Then we are asked, 1. “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers”? 2. “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” 3. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” 4. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and 5. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” To each of these questions, we answer, “We will with God’s help.” How many times do we say these words at baptisms then go home and forget about them until the next time? I’m not going to answer that because I am afraid that it, also, is way too many.

Fr. Terry had made a simple outline on poster board that he placed on an easel by the podium. As, I looked at it, I suddenly realized that it was a “built into the Covenant” Rule of Life. Look.

Will you……
1. Live in Christian Community
2. Seek Holiness
3. Proclaim Jesus by Word and Example
4. Seek and Serve Others
5. Strive for Justice and Peace
….I will, with God’s help.

Daughters of the King have a Rule of Prayer and a Rule of Service and we try, with God’s help to live the Baptismal Covenant. At Trinity, we have a corporate rule of life called the Trinity Way of Life. These Rules in no way contradict the Covenant which we promised to follow at our baptism and which we reaffirm every time there is a baptism we attend. Every year, the Daughters of the King have a time when we look at the rule we have chosen to follow, to see what is working for us and what is not. Many use the Trinity Way which is very helpful for our spiritual growth. In the beginning, we start small and let the Elements grow in us from year to year. Reviewing it, from time to time, helps us learn how far we’ve come in our desire to grow closer to God and more like Jesus. Or, perhaps, how far we have not.

These Baptismal Covenant promises fascinate me because I had never noticed them as a day to day way of life before, and I have no idea why. I’m supposed to catch these things. No matter which rule of life we use, it is important to have one that follows, at least, the promises we have already made. Without even a simple plan, we can easily get off track and lose our way. But as the quote above says, after a time of use, they become part of us.

May you see God’s light on the path ahead when the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear, even in your hour of sorrow, the gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember when the shadows fall—you do not walk alone. ~ Irish Blessing

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Birthday Reflections

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble… A person’s days are determined;     you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” – Job 14:1, 5

Birthday Reflections

I’ve tried not to think about this day for a while.  Age is just a number they say.  But it is a real number. If I don’t say it aloud, maybe it isn’t so. A young delivery man called me “Miss”.  Maybe he needs glasses or maybe he’s from the south.  Since this is a milestone birthday, it is a good time to stop and evaluate. To reflect. To discern.  At this time of life, am I doing those things God desires for me to do? You know – things done and left undone. Is it time to let some things go? If so, which things.  What brings me life?  What does not?

I did not write a meditation last week because I was leaving for the Daughters of the King Retreat.  The retreat is usually a working retreat for me, and although wonderful and fun filled, I didn’t have the time or the space to reflect on these questions. I will probably need to go away for a few days to have that without distractions.

A few old age jokes come to mind.  I might as well laugh.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ― Att. Mark Twain

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” ― Ellen DeGeneres (Love this.)

“When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.” ― George Burns

“When I was born, rocks were still soft.” – My husband

And then, though it is not a joke, this quote from Parker Palmer, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” So, there it is. Reflection time calling.

God spoke to me in many ways this week.  A birthday week, especially when it’s a mile stone birthday, is a good time to make a sacramental confession.  Confession is healing to the soul and I do that here if my confessor comes. This year she did and I heard the words, “You are forgiven.”  She gave me a sort of penance.  First, she said, “Out of great pain comes great love. You embody this.”   I know it is true – that from brokenness comes the gift of love – but I don’t always see it in me.  Then she said to look for happy things to do, because she thinks I am depressed.  Really?? I wonder what gave her that idea.  She reads my writings, maybe that’s it.  Or maybe it was the tears. What kind of penance is that, anyway?

Happy things. I think I’ve forgotten how to do happy things.  Recently, there has been too many disappointments, too much pain, too much sadness, etc. It wears me out.  I already had a lighter feeling, and I started to pay attention.  God provided some moments.

One woman said that if I lived closer, she would recruit me for her singing group.  I don’t and I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to sing, anyway, but that was fun and encouraging.

One woman said she liked my shoes and they look like dancing shoes. They do.  I like them, too.

Our group stopped for lunch on the way home.  While waiting for the food, I went to the restroom.  The music that was being played, I think, was by Neil Diamond.  I have no idea now what song it was but It made me happy.  Maybe, I was dancing on the way back to the table, I don’t know, but my eye caught the eye of a young man sitting at a table.  He was about 21, I guess, because he was drinking a beer with his meal.  I doubt he was much older and he was singing the same song under his breath.  As our eyes met, he smiled and nodded his head.  I gave him thumbs up.  A strange connection happened as we responded to the song.  It was spontaneous and delightful.

My birthday week is over, but I still need to take time for discernment and reflection.  I will try to pay attention to happy things and seek happy things to do. Are the times of darkness and pain worth it?  Yes. They are, but only if I look for the gifts of love and growth that come from them.

In the beginning O God you shaped my soul and set its weave.

You formed my body and gave it breath.

Renew me this day in the image of your love.

O great God, grant me your light.

O great God, grant me your grace.

O great God, grant me your joy this day.

And let me be made pure in the well of your health.

~ Celtic Prayers from Iona – J. Phillip Newell

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – We had hoped

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. – Book of Common Prayer

I have been taking a mini vacation this week and had not planned to write, today.  However, I finished the Soul Food Article I write for the newsletter, and while filing it, I ran into this meditation from 2013.  It fits, since this scripture was the Gospel Lesson for Wednesday in Easter Week.  Cool, huh? So, I am sharing it again, today.

“I was meditating on one of the scripture lessons this week, Luke 24:12-35, when a fragment of a verse began to get my attention.  “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” “We had hoped.”  These were disciples of Jesus (not part of the eleven) who were returning home to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Jesus.  They had hoped he was the one for whom they were waiting. They were sad and confused.  Some women had said that angels at the tomb, on this third day, said Jesus was alive, but could they believe it? “We HAD hoped.”

“The story is worth reading because it sounds like us.  We have hope in Jesus, but we don’t really know if we can believe all those stories that we have read and heard.  Is Jesus really alive for us?  Will he really redeem and restore all things? Will he help us through this day?  The Bible tells us that it is so.  We have a hope in Jesus for our lives and the life of the world.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,”

“Soon, a tune and words of a praise song started singing itself in me.  It was written by a man from Northern Ireland by the name of Robin Mark.  He wrote it in 1994 after watching a review of the year in a day much like our own when many things were dark and hope seemed long gone.  The song is titled DAYS OF ELIJAH. There are several versions on U-Tube if you want to listen.

“These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord. And these are the days of Your servant Moses, righteousness being restored. These are the days of great trials of famine and darkness and sword. Still we are the voice in the desert crying ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord!’

Behold, He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call Lift your voice, year of Jubilee; Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes.

And these are the days of Ezekiel, the dry bones becoming flesh. And these are the days of Your servant, David, rebuilding a temple of praise. And these are the days of the harvest; the fields are all white in Your world. And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard declaring the Word of the Lord.

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call Lift your voice, year of Jubilee; Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes.”

 “I believe God has a hope, too.  He hopes we will return to his original plan for us—a plan of living in relationship with him and with others.  Jesus tells us that we are to go into the world and proclaim the Good News that he is alive and that we have seen him and know him. God hopes we will be the voice in the desert crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  He hopes we will be the laborers in the vineyard declaring the way.   Jesus hopes we will be his hands and feet in the world today wherever we may be.  Jesus says, “Go! and I will go with you.”

“We say, “For His Sake…I am but one; but I am one.  I can’t do everything; but I can do something. What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.  Lord, what will you have me do?” – Motto, Daughters of the King

“Behold, he comes, dear ones, we have hope.”

 

 

A MAUNDY THURSDAY MEDITATION

A MAUNDY THURSDAY MEDITATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection: How are you doing with this? How am I?

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

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

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

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

(dlw 2015, edited 2017)

MEDITATION – WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 13:21-32

This a passage that has been discussed, meditated upon and discussed even again. Today, once more, we wonder.

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

What was Judas’ motive? Some say, he may have been trying to save Jesus’ life from crowds that were becoming agitated and likely to become violent. Others say that he was trying to force Jesus into His role as King over Israel and so overthrow the Romans. Some Orthodox churches call Judas a saint because he was the one who did what had to be done. None of these reasons or motives make any difference to the fact that Judas betrayed his Lord. Jesus wasn’t meeting Judas’ expectations. Whatever reason Judas had when he took the bread from Jesus, the tempter came and Judas made his decision.

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”—v. 31-32

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

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

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

(dlw 2015)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Where did you meet God today?

“I believe there is within us this image of God…There is something deep within us, in everybody, that gets distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us. But it is there as a source of insight and healing and strength.  ~ Frederick Buechner

I am reading the book, Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes, by J. Brent Bill. Brent is a Quaker and my new best friend for the moment.  He knows a lot about the Inner Light. In the introduction, he writes, “Even though light is all around us, we often don’t notice it and the difference it can make in our souls.  That’s where an old Quaker saying, “Mind the Light”, offers help.”

I love this book. It would take several meditations to even begin to offer a meditation on what he writes in it, but one of his spiritual exercises really grabbed me. It is from the chapter titled, “The Light Without: Seeing Others.” Brent writes about a woman, attributing the story to Dorothy Bass, who asks each night while tucking her children into bed, “Where did you meet God today?” I was pondering this question the day of the Vestry meeting.  The meditation that night was…you guessed it…seeing the light of God in others. Hmm…perhaps, God is saying something to me.

As I consider this Light, I think about what the Bible says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” ~ John 1:1-5

God is Light. Since God created humans in his Image, then somewhere within us that Light still resides.  But, as Frederick Buechner says in the opening quote, “that image gets distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us.”  Perhaps, though, a glimmer might still be there, somewhere.

Well, what about “truly evil” people?  Is the light of Christ in them? You might ask.  I might ask, too. The Light of Christ is in everyone.  Wouldn’t it have to be?  If it wasn’t, we would….well that will need to be another meditation or teaching.  There is no room to get into that in this meditation, and I’m not sure that I am qualified to answer it, anyway. I will say that perhaps the Light is so suppressed that it can’t get out of a person or even be acknowledged.  I really don’t know, but I will consider that possibility.  However, we could pray for a crack to open in them for that possibility. Maybe it could be reinforced by those people they meet along the road, which is even more reason for us to pray that the light of Jesus will shine in us.

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” ~  John 8:12

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

Each night as we do our examination of consciousness, along with naming those things for which we are grateful this day and offering our thanks, it might be good for our spiritual lives to consider the question, “Where did I meet God today?”  Then, perhaps, if we are up for it, “Did my light shine bright enough that someone might have met God in me?

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their heart to know the source of it. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Grace and Peace, Donna

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.