A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grace & Peace

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.“- 2 Thessalonians 3: 16

Question – Do you think it’s time to take down my Christmas tree in the basement great room or should I hang flags on it for President’s Day, miniature pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, purple ribbons for Lent, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, etc. and leave it up all year? Not a bad idea, I’m thinking.  The week is totally out of control along with my mind, and God is peeking out at me from everywhere.  I couldn’t settle my mind down for quiet time and silent prayer, so I listened to praise music on YouTube for an hour. I am grateful for the warmth and sun which reminds me that I should trim back the rose bushes.  Sigh.

This is the week that I have to write two articles – Soul Food to meet the deadline and this meditation for today.  There was no other time this week to write and after writing the first, I am without words.  However, I love this meditation or whatever it is from Frederick Buechner, so I’ll share that with you this week instead.

Frederick writes, “Theodicy is the branch of theology that asks the question: If God is just, why do terrible things happen to wonderful people? The Bible’s best answer is the book of Job.

Job is a good man and knows it, as does everybody else, including God. Then one day his cattle are stolen, his servants are killed, and the wind blows down the house where his children happen to be whooping it up at the time, and not one of them lives to tell what it was they thought they had to whoop it up about. But being a good man he says only, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Even when he comes down with a bad case of boils and his wife advises him to curse God and die, he manages to bite his tongue and say nothing. It’s his friends who finally break the camel’s back. They come to offer their condolences and hang around a full week. When Job finds them still there at the start of the second week, he curses the day he was born. He never quite takes his wife’s advice and curses God, but he comes very close to it. He asks some unpleasant questions:

If God is all he’s cracked up to be, how come houses blow down on innocent people? Why does a good woman die of cancer in her prime while an old man who can’t remember his name or hold his water goes on in a nursing home forever? Why are there so many crooks riding around in Cadillacs and so many children going to bed hungry at night? Job’s friends offer an assortment of theological explanations, but God doesn’t offer one.

God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kinds of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam. He also, incidentally, gets off some of the greatest poetry in the Old Testament. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? Hast thou given the horse strength and clothed his neck with thunder?” (Job 38:31).

Maybe the reason God doesn’t explain to Job why terrible things happen is that he knows what Job needs isn’t an explanation. Suppose that God did explain. Suppose that God were to say to Job that the reason the cattle were stolen, the crops ruined, and the children killed was thus and so, spelling everything out right down to and including the case of boils. Job would have his explanation.

And then what?

Understanding in terms of the divine economy why his children had to die, Job would still have to face their empty chairs at breakfast every morning. Carrying in his pocket straight from the horse’s mouth a complete theological justification of his boils, he would still have to scratch and burn.

God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself. He doesn’t show why things are as they are. He shows his face. And Job says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee” (Job 42:5). Even covered with sores and ashes, he looks oddly like a man who has asked for a crust and been given the whole loaf.

At least for the moment.” – originally published in Beyond Words

Good right??

 

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Changes and Doubts

RESURRECTION CHANGES THINGS

Jesus himself appeared and stood among the eleven and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? … Luke 24:36-38

The weather has been just about perfect the past few days, hasn’t it?  Trees and flowers are blooming, clapping their hands with joy and singing alleluias!!  The birds join in.  Listen! We hear it softly at first. “The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia.”  Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!”  All creation sings along.  So, why do we have doubts, today?

The disciples had this problem, too.  Only a few had witnessed the crucifixion, but there were witnesses.  Mary, and some of the other women, had been there and seen it all.  Mary had stayed by his tomb, and she said that she had seen him alive.  Others saw the stone had been rolled away and angels told them Jesus was no longer dead but had risen as he had said he would. There were rumors that he had appeared to others, too. But could it be true?  Maybe so.  Then what’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous about two years ago. So much so that I am going to repeat it.: “Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Because you were dead, that’s why! Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead. May I say it again? Dead. Not resting. Not stunned. You had passed on, ceased to be, expired. You were bereft of life, you had kicked the bucket, you had shuffled off this mortal coil. You were dead and buried, and we were never going to see you again. That’s what death means, you know. It means separation. It means all last chances are gone. It means there’s no chance for anything to be any different between us.

“And now here you are, and it’s not a delusion, and you’re not a ghost, and you’re eating a friggin’ fish. So forgive me if I’m a little wigged out here, but that’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s supposed to go in a certain direction. It’s supposed to allow for no revisions. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, what’s gone is gone, what’s dead is dead.

“I’ve got to tell you, Jesus, you have broken those rules so badly I don’t even know where to put them anymore. I don’t think there’s any charity that would take them, you’ve messed them up so badly. And now that those rules about the past and the future, death and life, you and me, are in the rubbish, I’ve got to ask you, what else are you going to change?”— (underline, mine)

What else is going to change, indeed? I’ve had many changes in my life this year.  I know Jesus has been involved in them. I’m sure in your changes, too. So, why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives?  Did he not say he would?  We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting.  Their doubts didn’t keep him away. Nor do ours.  What are our doubts today?  Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me?  Because, resurrection changes things.  Alleluia!

Come, young and old from every land – Men and women of the faith;
Come, those with full or empty hands – Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing – Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age: “Our God is all in all”!

~ Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Play dates

God comes to us disguised as our life. Failure to be open to the flow of our life means we miss the opportunities for growth and awakening that life inevitably brings us. ~ David Benner

What a great day.  The sun has been glorious and the sky has been so blue.  Just what my weary self has needed.  Also, today, I had a play date. A play date on a writing day?  Yes.  Writing is not a rule unless I impose it upon myself which I usually do.  It went like this….when my husband got home from a meeting, he had a bunch of errands to run, Friday being his errand day.  But today, he asked if I wanted to tag along, and for some unknown reason, well God probably knows, I said yes.  It didn’t take me long to answer, either, which is rare for an introvert.

First on his list was a haircut, so I got one, too.  Much better, if I do say so, for both of us.  Then a multitude of other errands and lunch, after which, we accomplished a few more.  What kind of a play date is that, perhaps you’re asking, and you should.  Because, it was a change of routine, which is healthy for our souls from time to time.  We were in and out of the car so there was time for walking and time for getting sun on my face which is good for me.  I smiled at other walkers, shoppers, and clerks to see who would smile back and who would look at me like they were wondering what the heck my problem was.  I’m happy to report there were not many of those. We ran into friends.  And my husband and I took time to talk.  Nothing really serious – just talked and laughed.  I had fun and my spirits were and are lifted.  It was that kind of play date.

“Play” is part of my stated personal Rule of Life and I recommend it to those who come to me for spiritual direction if they are getting too serious and are not having fun. I believe that we need times away from our regular routine.  I love the work I do; I have fun doing it, but it’s not a change. I think Jesus was fond of play.  He made extra wine at a wedding, at least once.  He got together with his friends for fish fries, and picnics.  I can see him dancing at parties.  One time, at least, he and his disciples were accused of eating and drinking instead of fasting like John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees. I can hear him laughing.  He took time for that.  Shouldn’t we?

If play is part of my spiritual discipline, why have I not been doing it?  Good question.  I have been so serious about all the things I need to do that I forgot, actually, to have fun.  I forgot to plan times for it. Occasionally, it might spontaneously appear, like today.  I used to garden, but it isn’t so easy for me now since knee surgery.  And camping, although Motel 8 is my idea of camping, or at least a small mountain cabin.  I loved floating on rafts on the lake while looking around at all that God had made, and we, my husband, relatives and friends would laugh like crazy – dinner parties, also.  Love those.  When did I forget to have fun?  Another good question. I might need to make a “fun” list.  Maybe you could use one, too. It’s good for our souls, you know.

“My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?”

~ Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Signs of the Kingdom

Monday was a strange day. When I woke, I had a strong feeling that I needed to get ready to go to Grand Junction. I have been trying to discern the timing for this trip because my 93 year-old mother had gradually been going downhill.  But, when I prayed for her each day, I heard that I should wait.  Other things needed to happen first.  I was trying to listen, so on this day, I had a meeting and then planned to go home and pack.

In prayer, I heard, “Look for visible signs of the Kingdom of God.”  I’ve been daily looking for blessings even though sometimes the blessings noted were the usual of family, friends, shelter, etc.  Looking for the Kingdom was a new suggestion and something that really made sense because it is so easy to see all the trouble and signs of “not Kingdom” in the world every day

Leaving for work, I found that the garage door would not close, so I needed to rearrange a few things in order to make sure someone was home for the fixer of such messes.  I did mention to God that I didn’t think this was a Kingdom of God sign, but then really, who knows?  It wasn’t murder and mayhem.

My morning meeting was with my spiritual direction supervision group.  I shared with the other two directors my sense of needing to go to mom’s and God’s suggestion of noticing the Kingdom of God.  We talked about how that might look and we prayed together – a Kingdom sign.

When the meeting was over, I had a message to call my husband at home.  My mother was being transferred from the hospital to hospice.  She had had a bad night and they couldn’t stabilize her.   This explained my discernment that I needed to go over the mountain.  When I got home, I was talking with my husband about what was going on and looking at text messages from my two sisters who were with mom waiting for the transfer.  One sister had gone to the hospital to bring mom home. Then I got the text, “In the blink of an eye, she’s gone.”  Oh…

One of the scripture readings from Monday morning was from Mark 1 about the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Verse 31 says, “He [Jesus] came and took her by the hand and raised her up.” I planned to meditate more on this story and maybe write about it.

I have a wonderful supportive, praying church community, who within in minutes were sending prayers, love, offers of help and blessing.  I so often see God’s kingdom through you.  Thank you and bless you.

Stories of Mom – She had ordered lunch and was laughing and talking with my sisters about camping trips and her famous peach cobbler while they waited for hospital discharge papers and the transfer to hospice when in mid-laugh, she died.  Jesus “came and took her by the hand and raised her up.”  Thank you Lord.

When the hospice lady came with the discharge papers she said, “I guess she had discharge plans of her own.”  My sister said, “I thought I came (to the hospital) today to take her home. Apparently, God had the same plan.”

We, my siblings and I, have talked.  Mom would want this way of going rather than any other unless, possibly, while sitting down in her iris bed.  She is probably tending the iris in heaven today and planning the next flower bed.

I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die. And everyone who has life, and has committed himself to me in faith, shall not die for ever.
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my awaking, he will raise me up; and in my body I shall see God.” – The Book of Common Prayer

Rest in Peace, Mom. I love you.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Still more clutter!

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” ~
Psalm 130:1-2

For the last couple of weeks, I have been writing about clutter in life, how it accumulates, how it effects our spiritual lives, and how we can start to get rid of that. This week, I cleaned out part of an overgrown flower bed; sorted some books and put some things away in the storage room.  Some of that will need to be revisited later, but I needed space to sort. I plan to do more decluttering this summer and I’ll keep you informed on how that’s going.

There is other clutter in our lives, though, that doesn’t necessarily concern our physical surroundings.  There could be clutter in our minds, in our bodies and/or in our spirits. This clutter often ends up in the God spaces of our heart and interferes with our hearing and awareness of him. There are periods in my life when I have more trouble with this than at others.

This has been a tough year for me, so far.  You know about this, beginning with approximately two months of various illnesses and, then, the ongoing recovery from them.  This recovery has been complicated by the serious injuries of my brother, and the aging heart of my mother, in addition to some other family issues. The grey upon grey winter combined with the rain upon rain spring has made it difficult to deal with my seasonal affective disorder, and fibromyalgia flare.  I’m sad and I hurt.  I begin focusing on issues and, before I know it, there is clutter.  I feel heavy and I can’t find my inner music.  Usually it is in my head and heart, but until a day or so ago, I couldn’t hear it.  Though I know it isn’t true, God seemed absent.  Other things are in the way. I stuff it in there. Some of it is whining. So, how do I quite stuffing, stop whining and get rid of this clutter?

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning”.
~ Psalm 130:5-6 

Yes.  I love this psalm.  It’s a song of assent.  It’s a “things will get better” song.  It is a song of hope. It’s a “God will return” song.  It has been put to music and this music has begun to sing in my head and fill my heart. I’m so glad.  Music helps dispel whining for me. It pushes away stuffing. Then, I spend more quiet time with God.  I continue to follow my Rule of Life.  I list my blessings. I thank and praise God for them and for his presence in my life. This week, I remember my brother’s miracle of healing. My husband and I had lunch with two of our great-grand daughters and their mommy. I laugh with them.  It feels good. There have been a few days of sun and blue sky this week. I’ve soaked up sun. Thank you, God.  I find new flowers in my overgrown garden. I weed and dig in the dirt. I’ve cooked outside on the grill, twice. I spent time with you in community; we pray together and take Communion; we pray for healing; we laugh, we love on each other. I thank God for you.  You are God with skin on.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, community.  I am so grateful.  I have more inner space.  Things are looking up.  What more could I ask? What more do I need?

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Why doubt?

Resurrection changes things.

Jesus himself appeared and stood among the eleven and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?…While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”—Luke 24:36-37

Easter is always a beautiful day.  This year wasn’t any different.  Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, baptism, alleluias!!  “The Lord has risen indeed.  Alleluia.”  Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!”  Communion.  Jesus. Community. All creation sings along.  So, why do we have doubts, now today?

The disciples had this problem.  Only a few had witnessed the crucifixion, but there were witnesses.  Mary, and some of the other women, had been there and seen it all.  Mary had stayed by his tomb, and she said that she had seen him alive.  Others saw the stone had been rolled away and angels told them Jesus was no longer dead but had risen as he had said he would. There were rumors that he had appeared to others, too. But could it be true?  What’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection, last year, from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous:   “Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Because you were dead, that’s why! Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead. May I say it again? Dead. Not resting. Not stunned. You had passed on, ceased to be, expired. You were bereft of life, you had kicked the bucket, you had shuffled off this mortal coil. You were dead and buried, and we were never going to see you again. That’s what death means, you know. It means separation. It means all last chances are gone. It means there’s no chance for anything to be any different between us.

“And now here you are, and it’s not a delusion, and you’re not a ghost, and you’re eating a friggin’ fish. So forgive me if I’m a little wigged out here, but that’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s supposed to go in a certain direction. It’s supposed to allow for no revisions. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, what’s gone is gone, what’s dead is dead.

“I’ve got to tell you, Jesus, you have broken those rules so badly I don’t even know where to put them anymore. I don’t think there’s any charity that would take them, you’ve messed them up so badly. And now that those rules about the past and the future, death and life, you and me, are in the rubbish, I’ve got to ask you, what else are you going to change?”— (underline, mine)

What else is going to change?  Why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives?  Did he not say he would?  We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting.  But, it doesn’t keep him away. Nor do ours.  What are your doubts today?  What are mine? Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me?  Because, resurrection changes things.  Alleluia!