HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION – Love is in the Tomb, Today

A HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION

Love is in the tomb, today.
Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified. He has died. This is the only day of the year when there is no reserved sacrament. No communions will be offered and no sacraments can be consecrated. (Until after sundown which, traditionally, is Sunday.) This day is for remembering that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.
For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is a sadder day, still. All their hopes are crushed. Not only that, their dear friend has been savagely killed and they weren’t able to stay awake with him as he asked at the last. Some have betrayed him, and abandoned him, too, and their grief is intense. What will they hang on to, now? How can they remember Him? How can we? Love is in the tomb, today.

One Disciple’s Lament

Oh God! My God! Why have you forsaken us? They killed him. They have killed my Lord. Why? Why? When he was so kind and gentle? He was the one—the Messiah. How could they not know? Our Hope is gone. Were we all wrong? No! No! He was! I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I can’t bear those images. I wanted to run away. My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop crying. Sobs come from the depths of me and tears run down my face like rivers.
Oh, his dear face. Blood! So much blood! He cried out to you, his father, God. And he forgave those who did this. How? He forgave me, too. He healed me with his love and now he is gone. There is a hole in me. How can I go on? Where will I go? Where will any of us go?
I can’t go on without him. If I could only touch him one more time. Maybe…? Why? They beat him again and again. If I had not gone there to be with him, but I had to go. I had to stay. I had to. He felt abandoned by you and betrayed by his friends. Why did you not save him? Why? He loved you. I will not abandon him, now. He said it is finished. Finished? What is finished? How can it be finished? I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone. I feel abandoned, too, but I am staying here in this place where he is buried. Help us. I am lost. We are all lost. How can I live without him. How can any of us?
Never again will I see his face, know his love, or hear him call my name….Love is in the Tomb, today.

(dlw 2014 – revised 2017)

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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 – Dark

Hello darkness my old friend; I’ve come to talk to you again, because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping.  And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence.  ~ Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

So, I took one of those stress tests, not the medical kind, but the one that adds up stress points for changes and chances in one’s life over the course of one year.  I so flunked and I knew I would.  Though, I didn’t quite realize how badly I would.  There are stressors I’ve had that weren’t even on the test and this year is only a continuation of the year previous. If I added them both together and divided by two, I would most likely still have an F minus, minus.  I don’t even know why it is that I’m still standing.  I shouldn’t be able to get out of bed.  Actually, I do know why.  It is the power of God that gets me up in the morning and brings me through the day. Also, if I stay in bed, my body starts hurting.

Speaking about getting up – in the middle of Wednesday night, I was awakened by a shrill sound.  At first I thought it was an alert on my phone but it wasn’t. I couldn’t get the sound shut off even when I turned the phone hard off.   It is especially difficult to find a noise when you can’t tell from which direction the sound comes, which I can’t.  I put the phone under my pillow but it didn’t stop the sound.  I went into the hall to see if it was a smoke alarm.  But no.  The sound was in my bedroom.  I was about ready to wake Dave in the other room to help find it, when my eyes alighted upon my alarm clock….  Somehow, the alarm had been turned on when the cleaning team was cleaning my room.  Midnight.  Dark night.  God’s humor?

A couple of mornings before, I awoke with the above song by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel going through my head. I think God may be trying to tell me something. As you probably already know, I don’t do well after periods of prolonged stress, but I have coping skills to help. If I can’t keep the brain chemicals in line, I am likely to crash. However, there are times in the spiritual life when,” darkness” is a sign that God is working something deep in the person going through it.  The Dark Night of the Soul is a time of God’s silence and often felt absence.  It is not the same as depression though it may feel like it and sometimes is accompanied by actual chemical depression which may need treatment.

I am not yet depressed, or anyway, not terribly.  I’ve been here before.  In my case, it is not the absence of God that I feel because occasionally, I feel him.  It is the Silence of God that I’m going through.  Although while writing about this, it is very possible that God is using an alarm clock and a stress test to speak to me.

Ann Voskamp –  spiritual writer, said, “It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us.”

God uses these “Dark” times to grow us in our interior selves and in our relationship with him.  I heard that years ago. A woman said that if you don’t know where God is, it is because he is working within a place we cannot go with our senses.  We can’t tell what he is up to. We can’t find the path. Often there is no glimmer of light.  But amid the dark there is hope.  As I said, I’ve been here before.  God had to get me to the place, where I can’t interfere. And I can’t.  I don’t know how and I don’t want to. I’ll just continue to keep on keeping on or in other words “Show Up.”  God will do what God needs to do.

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

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Patience, anyone?

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. ~ Colossians 3:12

A woman stopped me in the hall after a meeting at church and asked if I had ever considered writing about patience. I hadn’t ….but, I always try to be open to what the Spirit is saying, so…  The women said she didn’t think that having patience meant to sit around and do nothing.  Was there an implied, “Does it?” at the end or was that my own question? I don’t make a habit of praying for patience. We joke about it, though, saying that praying for it will bring upon us opportunities to practice.  Maybe opportunities would occur anyway.

The next day, I read this quote by Henri Nouwen: “Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

Dictionaries say that patience is a noun and, basically, it is a quality, capacity or habit. Patience is something we have. Now, I just want to rush right out and buy some, but patience is a fruit of the Spirit. “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” ~ Galatians 5:22ff.  Fruit develops in us when we stay attached to the vine from which it comes. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5.  Patience is not something we can manufacture on our own or buy even if we wish it.

I stay attached by spending quiet time with Jesus listening- paying attention, being still with him. This is what I can “do”.  If further action is required, which usually requires some discernment, I often find the answer in the stillness. Patience requires a certain amount of trust that God has it covered and our attitude should be one of gratitude.

I have a current example.  My husband and I hope to move into a patio home.  We hadn’t thought to move but we kept having problems with our older home that we aren’t able to fix on our own.  I would post these issues on Facebook, occasionally, and a Friend reported that her husband said we shouldn’t fix anything but sell to them.  I thought she was joking.  But when she kept “joking” I realized God was speaking.  In short, we said we would sell our house and begin looking for another. We found one we want; it seems right, but the owner’s daughter hasn’t given a price, yet.  Maybe, it’s not God’s plan – maybe it is.  Our Friends house is in the process of being sold and we need to move in about one month.  We made an offer on the one we want, and we are waiting.  We are praying, friends are praying.  I am trying to stay attached to Jesus hoping patience is ripe while we wait for further instructions. Most of the time, I have patience.  But ONE month……? Really? Breathe. Be still. Listen. Good practice for Lent.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. ~ Colossians 1:11-12

 

Pondering…

The angel Gabriel from heaven came, his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;“All hail,” said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary, most highly favored lady.”  Gloria.“For know a blessed mother thou shalt be, all generations laud and honor thee; thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold, most highly favored lady.” Gloria. ~ Hymnbook 1972 

It’s one week until Christmas. Seven days. Are you ready for it?  I’m really not, but then, maybe I am.  It depends on what I mean by ready. No, all of the preparations that usually go on this time of year are not done.  I haven’t had the energy for it, but I am ready for Jesus, I hope. Working through life this year has helped me here.

This Advent season began as the Angel Gabriel visited Mary with the announcement that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.  Emmanuel. God with Us. The one who has been awaited by God’s people almost forever, it seems.  For the most part, they still believed He would come as promised. Luke 1:29 tells us that Mary was perplexed and she pondered this strange greeting. She meditated upon these words not really able to understand. Her thoughts were probably deep thoughts.  “What? How? This can’t be, can it? Am I ready?”

What have we pondered as we prepare for Christmas? Have we thought about how the Messiah is growing us? What is God saying that brings us to pondering pause? Below are a few of my thoughts so far.

First, Ann Voskamp wrote this on December 1:  “Okay — deep breath — not only is this month going to be okay — it’s all going to be Beautiful! No-Stress Holidays this year — because simply? quietly… we are hushing the hurry & waiting for you, Lord. And when we know it’s all about Jesus — there. is. no. stress. And we whisper it: I will not let December become about making a production when it’s simply about not. missing. You. Miracles happen throughout Advent — whenever I slow…. whenever I still…. whenever I simply look for small and unlikely shoots of Jesus’ love everywhere… because this grows deep in Jesus’ love for everyone.”

Wednesday, while we were snowed in, we saw Flickers looking for food in the cracks of the Green Ash right outside our window?  They were very purposeful in their poking around.  The fat squirrels joined them in the search for food, in the tree but also on the ground, where I throw dried bread crumbs from time to time.  Ten inches of snow did not hinder them.  They were more than willing to look deeper for their nourishment. Have I been willing to go deeper for mine?

I read in Isaiah (40:3), “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” Still pondering.

Do I dig deep looking for Jesus?  Or have I stayed on the surface of things? Do I still myself and consider what I’ve heard and seen?  Have I spent still time with God? Or am I going at a mad pace with no time to wonder?  No time to listen? To ponder? Have I allowed time to prepare myself for the coming of Jesus anew in me?  Well, there is one more week in Advent.  How about this week?

So, how? How do we go deeper? Where will we find nourishment? How might we prepare the highway in us? How will we be still in such a busy time? What will I do? Well, I have a list – First of all – Number 1, Decide; Then Be still; Read the story; Ponder; Share it with others; Pay attention; Join together; Pray without ceasing. Watch for Jesus; Be still. Repeat.

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head; “To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,“my soul shall laud and magnify this holy Name.” Most highly favored lady. Gloria!

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Have Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”~ John 16:33

The focus for the second week of Advent has been on Peace so I have been meditating on it. Several quotes, in addition to the scriptures above, came to mind as I sat. These are three of my favorites.

“Peace in the world cannot be made without peace in the heart.” ~ Henri Nouwen

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  ~ Mother Teresa
“Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.” ~ Oswald Chambers

What does peace actually look like and feel like? Even though Oswald says peace is not the absence of trouble we would like it to be, or at least I would. If we had peace wouldn’t there be an absence of war and other turmoil in the world? Wouldn’t there be an absence of war and turmoil in our own inner and outer life?  Apparently, that is not what Jesus meant by the scripture verses above. Although, if we all had the peace of God perhaps we would eventually get there.

Having and keeping the Presence and Peace of God within really requires the practice of some form of silence and solitude—some form of meditation—some way of paying attention. There are several ways to practice this.  Some take long quiet walks in nature to be with God.  Many use Centering Prayer when they sit quietly and ignore, as much as possible, the distractions of the mind and heart.  Lectio Divina—sitting with a Bible passage, not for study but for prayer and meditation, helps others.

Some people, including me, use all of these ways at different times.  Perhaps you have another way. I have more silence, more peace and more of the sense of God’s presence then, and throughout the day, when I regularly practice Centering Prayer.  I try to sit for 20 minutes twice each day. I don’t always make it, but when I do, I know the gift of peace Jesus was talking about and I am less afraid, not just while praying but all day. When I don’t have at least one of these periods, it isn’t long before I feel worried, fearful, anxious and empty.

Today, a prayer came out of the silence. It was this:  Jesus, I’m grateful you have allowed this painful experience(s) in my life. Thank you. It has shown me things I would never have known without it.  Wonderful and terrible things, inner things.  Outer things. Things about myself that I didn’t know.  These have been gifts to me and I am truly grateful. Thank you.”

What?  Where did that prayer come from? I can guess.  Actually I know it was the Presence of God within that gave it. I have more peace, but I probably do need just a bit more silence and gratitude (Ok a lot) to get this attitude to stick. Do I have scars?  Yes.  But the scars are reminders of how God has been with me for healing. We never know what tomorrow, or even the next minute, will bring but we do know who holds tomorrow. This inner Presence of God is what we have to give to our hurting neighbor and bring to a hurting world.

“I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.” ~ Psalm 85:8