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

 

Advertisements

A FRIDAY MEDITATION- Need a Break?

Solitude will do its good work whether we know what we are doing or not. – Ruth Haley Barton

As you have probably already noticed, this isn’t Friday. I started this meditation yesterday but I was not able to finish it. Below is how it began.

“In a month, or four weeks, we will have access to our new house. I am excited, so it doesn’t make sense that I should feel so …… whatever. When I try to understand where this sense of gloom is coming from, I can find no reason for it. Maybe it’s because my husband and I take turns getting colds. Maybe it’s the crazy spring weather which gives me body aches and keeps me inside out of the sun of which there is not much, anyway. To top it off, I’ve missed the spring retreat because of having muscle spasms in my back. Whine. Sigh. Darn. I knew something was out of kilter because I wanted to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down and I managed to do it for the most part. What’s up with this?”

So, yesterday and so far today, all I’ve really been able to do is sit, stretch, read, pray, be still and enjoy some well needed solitude. Hum. Well. In the process I read an article by Dr. David Benner that included this:  “…spiritual teachers have always taught the importance of awareness. Hasidic Jews tell a story of a young man who approached Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael one afternoon. “Rebbe,” the young man asked with great seriousness, “what is the way to God?” The rebbe looked up from his work and answered: “There is no way to God, for God is not other than here and now. The truth you seek is not hidden from you; you simply do not notice it. It is here for you if you will only awake.

“This is the truth that has been proclaimed by all the great Christian mystics across Christian history. And it is the truth taught from cover to cover of the Bible. In his Areopagus sermon, Paul declares that God “is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:27–28). God is closer than our next breath. Job even reminds us that not only is God the source of each breath, but each breath also is God’s breath (Job 27:3). How much more intimate could our relationship with God be? God is not absent. It is we who fail to notice divine presence. It’s all a matter of awareness.”

Now, I don’t think that I’m really bad about being aware of God, but there are certainly times when I am not. I’ve been stressed enough lately that I know I’ve missed Jesus in the face of others or in situations where I find myself…in the eyes of a woman in the lobby (narthex) at church, in the care of our loving hostess during our time of transition, in the love of my husband, and in your faces my dear brothers and sisters, in scripture or in an article I might just happen to read. I could go on. So how about today…when I am not where I had planned and wanted to be. Where is God’s face today? I know that God doesn’t give us backaches or any number of other maladies, but he certainly uses them to get our attention. He may keep telling us we need a break when we begin to miss his face, but we (OK, I) tend to ignore that until I have no other choice but to notice. Today, I’m taking a break.

Where are you aware of Jesus today?

“Be still and know that I am God.”

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Be

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 Journal note from a few days ago.  I had been sitting and….

“God”, I say, “I think you have a big job ahead with me.  It will take a long time, I believe, to get me to where you dream of me to be.”

God:  “I have all the time in the world.”  He smiles.

Me: “You are a funny God.  I like your jokes. You make me laugh.” I feel God’s touch.

It’s been one of those days. I have sat here since early morning, with a break or two to play Sudoku and check my email. (And eat) My mind feels numb. Tired maybe.  Yes? I read, in my procrastinating time, a couple of poems – one of them a song.  I am not a poet but sometimes someone else’s sneaks into my soul and expands there while I read.

This by Kathie Hempel: “The blank page both beckons and mocks for who am I to think I can take on such a call?

Many thoughts scream, yet seem nothing new will ever escape from this word-laden spider web.

The dew of the web drips of promise and tears as I long to write something meaningful and inspiring. I mean, that’s what writers do is it not? However, I do not feel worthy.”

And a song by Neil Diamond: “BE”

“Lost – On a painted sky where the clouds are hung for the poet’s eye you may find him If you may find him

There – On a distant shore by the wings of dreams through an open door you may know him If you may

Be – As a page that aches for a word which speaks on a theme that is timeless and the one God will make for your day

Sing – As a song in search of a voice that is silent and the sun God will make for your way

And we dance to a whispered voice overheard by the soul undertook by the heart and you may know it – if you may know it

While the sand would become the stone which begat the spark turned to living bone

Holy, holy; Sanctus, Sanctus”

And by Henri Nouwen: “Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness.” ~ Henri Nouwen

So, what does all this say to me, today?  These things that feed my soul when there seems to be nothing to write?  Even though, the bright sun the last few days sends streams of water trickling into the streets.  Even though, hope seems to be lurking around the corner for warmer days ahead.  Even though I had two mornings of mostly solitude and silence in my office this past week.  No words come.  Nothing brilliant to put on a page.  Nothing hugely inspiring to add to your week.  Maybe that’s the point.

Yes, God has a big job ahead somedays.  He probably appreciates my silent mind while he does his work. And after all, God has all the time in the world.

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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION, Part One – Who Am I Really?

“I believe there is within us this image of God…There is something deep within us, in everybody,that gets buried and 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

Who am I really? Who was I created to be before life happened? What is the passion for service that God put within me before I was born and before the world took me over? What was his dream for me? These aren’t rhetorical questions, nor are they really questions that totally came to me out of the content of last week’s retreat. But they did start floating to the surface when I was reading a book while there (Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation), a very worthwhile book in my opinion. Have there been life clues to these answers over the years?

I have always been contemplative. I loved silence and solitude. I still do. I never minded being alone and often resented interruptions. I grew shy and very introverted. I was blessed by growing up in a time when there were few distractions. I loved being outside, and about age two or three, my getaway place was under a bush with weeping leafy branches to hide and comfort me. When I was in my teens my sanctuary place was high in a cherry tree where I could be alone.

I loved reading. I fell downstairs twice in one of our houses because my mother had called me and I couldn’t bear to stop reading before I got to the bottom. My grandmother taught me about imagination. She made up stories and played “Movie Theater” with me. Outside, we would look at a blank wall of a shed while she told an imaginary story. I saw the images play out on that wall. She and I saw an actual movie about a polio victim when I was seven. A nurse would rub her legs to help her. Grandma would rub mine because I had horrible leg aches at night. Then I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. Through, at least, first grade, I liked to play school. Sometimes I was the teacher and sometimes the student. Once, on a rainy school day, I gathered some classmates and put together a play – mostly ad lib. Our teacher let us perform it. I was both playwright and director and also one of the actors (overachiever? Maybe.)

I always loved singing and began singing in adult choir when I was ten. I sang in school chorus as long as I was allowed. I need music. It heals me. I know something is wrong when I can’t find it singing around inside me. Also at ten years old, my other grandmother gave me a book for my birthday – “Ann of Bethany.” Ann was a young girl who happened to be at the well when Mary, Joseph and Jesus were on their way to Egypt. When Mary got down from the donkey to get a drink of water, Ann was allowed to hold Jesus. I acted out this story over and over with my doll behind my father’s recliner. I draped a blanket over that and another chair to make my alone place – my sanctuary of solitude – to live with this story. I wanted to always hold Jesus and carry him with me.

So who am I really? What are the clues and the passions from these life stories that might connect me to God’s dream for me? Has the world and the expectations of me by others blinded me to my call? Stay tuned……Next week.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Slow down?

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

I’m bored with myself.  Truly. There has been too much that keeps me self-focused, and I’m very tired of that.  I feel, and not only feel but am, very scattered.  I can’t get my mind to quit racing like a runaway truck in the mountains on l-70 looking for the emergency escape ramp.  I saw a truck that had used this once.  Because of the change in momentum, it had turned over and spilled all of it innards.  Mars candy bars!  Chocolate!  I really should have stopped to see if the driver needed help picking up, right?

Wednesday – A day in my life – one of those. I have started making more lists to keep me on track.  Usually, I send myself an email from my phone because it is always with me and I probably won’t lose my list.  But today, I wrote my list on a small yellow pad.  I was rushing around like crazy, trying to do a few more things (start laundry, start dishwasher, etc.) before I left for the office, and I wanted to remember what I needed to do later. Writing a phone email slows me down.  Hmm.

Escape ramp #1 – Awareness check – I had one more note to add to my list so I went to my note box (a note BOX– really??) and I couldn’t find the list.  I had just written it.  I looked everywhere I had been, but it wasn’t anywhere—one sure sign of stress I think. An image popped into my mind of wadding up a piece of yellow paper and throwing it into the trash. And sure enough, there it was. I wrote it and then, immediately, tossed it.

There two possible morals to this story. First, the stuff on the list doesn’t need doing – doubtful, or I don’t want to do them – probably, but I’ll check – hmm, some of each. Second, I’m not being mindful. I am crazy doing and not being aware.  A third possibility just came to mind. Perhaps, I feel like chucking it all in the trash. A thought.  I’m going with the second.

This is a rather humorous story, but a serious problem, not only for everyday life but, also, for my intimate relationship with God. I know why I am scattered and unaware at the moment and I don’t want to live in this space. What to do?  Last week I wrote that silence, solitude, meditation and soul friends are a big help, always, but especially now.  I had a wonderful meeting with soul friends on this Wednesday. Meditation is difficult because of my racing mind.  A question: Did Jesus have this problem?  He seemed so focused. He did often go away from the crowd to a quiet place to pray and regroup – silence, solitude, prayer. Maybe that’s why. Don’t we all need this?  Don’t we all have times like these?

Escape ramp #2 – The power went out – the garage door wouldn’t open. I couldn’t finish getting ready for work and I couldn’t get the car out of the garage. Maybe this is a “slow down” and that did get my attention. Prayer and meditation required. The power came back on and I did get to work.  Lesson noted.

We can simply want our situation solved — when God simply wants to be our answer.” Ann Voskamp