A FRIDAY MEDITATION- What Then?

Let me not be afraid to linger here in your presence with all my humanity exposed. For you are God …you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures. ~ Teresa of Avila

Sometimes, something so tragic happens in life that you never ever saw coming even when you have been imagining all kinds of other scenarios. It knocks you off your foundation and nothing makes sense. Thinking is almost impossible. You can barely catch your breath and you may find yourself staring into space and holding it as if that might undo the situation. The scene appears in your thoughts and your dreams as if the script is trying to rewrite itself. Yet there is nothing that can be done to fix it. What do you do then? When you’re numb?

That has been this week and I want a do-over for it. I don’t want my daughter to have to go through this. I don’t want Jon’s children to need to deal with this. Nor friends. Suicide is a terribly sad thing to have happen, so they’ll have to. I alternate between sadness and anger. But I haven’t asked God why he let this happen. Not for years. I could only accuse him of allowing free will. Many times in the past, I may have asked this, but no longer. We can only choose to love if we have the choice. I will ask God how he feels but he is crying at the moment. He cries for loss and he cries for the pain. Ours but also Jon’s. I cry with him and them.  How about our anger? I think God is angry and also saddened when we hurt each other. How far from the Kingdom can we get? Maybe God is disappointed. I am. Why did Jon do this?

So, what are we (I mean “I”) to do until the shock starts to wear off? Until I can breathe again?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Crazy scripture of the day from Bible Gateway)

Give thanks in all things! Even this? Even when I don’t feel it?  Even when I don’t want to?

Yes…”Songs on rare sunshiny days but not when skies are cloudy will not make a life of gratitude…What if I gave thanks in the trouble because the trouble is a gift that causes me to turn? What if I loved not for His goods but for His love itself that is goodness enough? – Ann Voskamp

What if I give thanks because God is with me (with us) in the trouble and we are not alone?

What if I give thanks because Jesus loves me (and them) and there is nothing that can change that – not even when I’m shocked and numb?

What if I give thanks that God comes with skin on when I’m not really able to feel his presence? ( Nor they).

What if I give thanks…..?

What if I…what about then?

Even then.  In all things.  Give thanks!

Christ, I call upon your Name. I am never alone, never without help, never without a friend, for I dwell in You and You in me! ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me.’ Amen ~ David Adam.

Grace and Peace,
Donna

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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

 

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 – God Still Wins

Come, people of the Risen King, who delight to bring Him praise;
Come all and tune your hearts to sing to the Morning Star of grace.
From the shifting shadows of the earth we will lift our eyes to Him,
where steady arms of mercy reach to gather children in.
~ Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

This coming Sunday, November 22, is the Last Sunday after Pentecost. It is also known as Christ the King Sunday, and on this day we celebrate Jesus as King over all. The way the world is today, sometimes though, it hardly seems that he is King, and we wonder about that.

Exactly one week ago today, terrorists in Paris reminded us that evil is still rampantly alive in this world.  We have heard in the news of attacks in other places, too. The world seems truly dark with shootings home and abroad.  Every day or several times a day, we hear of these things. It really looks like Evil is stepping up its game. Terrorists promise fear which can immobilize us if we give into it. Where is God in all of this?  Where is our King?  I intend to ask that someday, but right now the only answer we really have is in the Bible (Matthew 24) when Jesus said this would happen, that there will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, nation rising against nation, murder, persecutions, etc., but that is not the end. Yet.  These things are not new. They are repeats.

I’m not going to continue being gloomy about this, because there is nothing that the enemy would like more. So what do we do?  Well, one is that we need to continue to be grateful people.  Thanksgiving is coming this week to help remind us with this.  We are to thank God in all things and circumstances. We have been promised that the King will come again, and that, in a real way, he has already come.  The Kingdom is coming, is here, and not yet here in its fullness.

Come, those whose joy is morning sun, and those weeping through the night;
Come, those who tell of battles won, and those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change, and His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days with the certain hope of peace.

I love the song that I am quoting in this meditation. Actually, it is my meditation for today. It lifts my spirit into the spirit of God so that I remember that we are called to live the Kingdom life, now.  We are to bless and not curse.  We are to pray for friends and for our enemies.  We are to forgive.  When I feel overwhelmed, when I don’t have words to pray, I hold the situation – evil and all – into the light of God.  When I feel my own hate surface, I circle it in my mind and breathe this light into it.  I believe this actually does something.  At least I know it does for me. I don’t think I’m alone in this and it does give me peace. You may have your own way of praying for situations like these.

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”!

 Advent begins in one more week.  It reminds us that we are a part of the Body of Christ in the world today and that we have Hope; we have a job to do, and Jesus is King! God wins! Amen? Amen.

Rejoice, Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice! 
One heart, one voice; O Church of Christ, rejoice!

Happy Thanksgiving. Stay Blessed.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Does it Really Matter?

“Now thank we all our God, with heart, and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices; who from our mother’s arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” ~ Hymnbook 1982

There are so many thoughts wandering around my mind today that I can’t seem to choose one or make them fit together in order to write.  I feel like Ann Lamott, author of the book, “Help, Thanks, Wow”, when she says, “My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.” That’s a good idea.  I’m sure I could really get lost in there, today, but I think I will choose to write about gratitude since it is November.                                                             

A fragment of today’s lessons caught my attention, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’” ~ Matthew 16: 18-19. The last part really grabbed me. Even though, I’m pretty sure this was not what Jesus meant when he spoke, I read several meditations this week stating that all things are connected in the world of spirit. All of our thoughts and words of gratitude, peace, and love, along with our prayers, can help change the world into the promised Kingdom of God on earth.  Our thoughts, words, etc. of anger, judgement and hate will be loosed into the world, also. Even our thoughts have power.  What we do, say and even think, matters. God help us. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So, what does this have to do with gratitude? I said that I’m having trouble fitting my thoughts together.  It’s a good thing I need to write. I read an interesting article from the field of neuroscience about what gratitude does for the person who is grateful—who looks for and finds those things each day for which they are, and who thinks on these things. It said that having gratitude makes changes in the brain chemistry that brings feelings of peace and well-being to him or her.  Also, I believe that being grateful reminds us that there is a God and it’s not us.  Moral – if you are down in the dumps, look for and find that for which you are grateful and thank God for it. See what it does for your spirit.

Today, I am grateful for God’s Grace. Love. Freedom. Family. Friends. Blue sky.  Sun.  Jesus.  Forgiveness.  Shelter.  Kingdom signs:  A policeman bought shoes for a homeless, shoeless, man. A neighborhood in Denver got together to rent a house for a panhandler and his family who were living in a motel.  They are now working on getting together enough money to pay the rent for a whole year. Those who work to feed the hungry of our town and all who help those with limited options.  Thank you, Jesus. Just writing about it helps.

For what are you grateful, today.  What did you see today that was beautiful? Remember it. Savor it.  Thank God for it.

”Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grateful Day

O my soul, created to enjoy such exquisite gifts, what are you doing? Where is your life going?

~ John of the Cross

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States. We all know that story, so I’m not going to comment on it.  But one of the scripture lessons appointed for this day is interesting. Jesus is speaking, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:43-48

How do we be perfect as our Father is perfect?  What does that mean in this context?  Jesus commands us to pray for, bless, and abstain from cursing our enemies, etc., but how did Jesus treat his enemies?  As Jesus’ apprentices, we need to do likewise.  Jesus seldom responded with violence.  He healed his enemies (Ex. the Samaritan woman, he prayed for them, and he asked his Father to forgive them (from the cross) after being mocked, beaten, and spit on. Read these stories, and others, because I want us to think on these things as we remember our freedom and as we look at situations in our country and in the world. We want to be perfect as our Father is perfect.

I really had planned to meditate on gratitude, and I think it ties in with this lesson for the Fourth of July, so you get two meditations for the price of one.  In 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Reading this whole chapter makes a good meditation.  How, in all circumstances, do we give thanks? How, when the world and our country sometimes appear to be going to “you know where” in a “you know what”? And why should we? Because God will work it out and, ultimately, God wins, so we just do. It’s God’s will for us.

Some of us keep a gratitude journal.  This exercise, done regularly, can pull us out of anger, out of fear, out of darkness, out of depression, and out of dryness.  It can help us notice God’s working and winning in our world.  In our journal, we list those things for which we are thankful every day. Tonight, before we go to sleep, let’s list ten (10) things for which we are grateful.  Don’t use the obvious, family, home, food, etc., until we list ten others.  Noticing the obvious gets us off the hook. After the ten, we can note the things that are always on our list. It’s a grateful thing to do.

Today I am writing:  My freedom, freedom to worship, my soul friends, my knee replacements, a job I love, a loving community, dandelions, bees, surprising new flowers in the yard, dinner with friends, and a bonus, “Ultimately, God wins.” Now, the obvious—my husband, my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, Mom, brothers, sisters, extended family, my home, sunshine, blue sky, etc. Thank you, God. I am so grateful.

Be blessed and stay safe on this Independence Day, dear ones. God loves you.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – My Responsibility?

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden 

to work it and take care of it. ~ Genesis 2:15

Today, I don’t even know where to start writing.  There are times when so much is happening so fast that focusing on only one is difficult.  What subject do I choose?  On these days, my husband, and sometimes others, might suggest that I take a break.  I consider that.  I consider following my original plan of not writing at all, ever. But then, that doesn’t feel right.  You see, for the time being at least, writing is an assignment given to me from God, and I do know what I should write about today.  I just don’t want to because it’s still about clutter. I don’t want to write about this because writing it calls me to change.

You have probably heard what Pope Francis is saying about climate change.  He says that, although some of the change is due to cyclical rhythms of the planet, much more is caused by humans.  Many of us believe this is true. It is one of today’s burning issues.  Pope Francis calls it a moral issue, and it is also a stewardship issue. Whether we agree about the cause or not, we have still been charged with care of the earth and its resources.  In the beginning, the Genesis story tells us that after God created the earth, he made humans and gave them the job of taking care of it.  We only have to look around to see that we aren’t really handling that responsibility very well.  Romans 8 tells us that creation waits, groans even, for God’s children to deliver it from decay, but how do we do that?

If we are not working in politics, how can we make a difference and fulfill God’s command to be stewards?  Once again, not all of us are called to big things but each of us is charged with doing what we can. Many mystics and saints say that small is sufficient. We are to pray and then do what’s in front of us. What would that be?  A few years ago there was a little slogan or song.  Maybe you remember it – “Reduce, reuse, recycle – the three R’s that benefit the planet.” We can take this seriously. This asks us to consider how much is enough, what we throw away, how we use water, and so on.  You probably have your own list.

I can take care of the little plot of ground that I think we own.  I don’t do a very good job of it at times.  I have a bad habit of letting the water run down the drain when I brush my teeth and wash my face. I’m trying to break that habit, and that requires awareness.  I can wait until the dishwasher or washing machine actually has a full load before I run them.  We recycle and donate many things, but I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could come up with more.  We can bundle our errands.  Most of these are little sacrifices.  We can “Give as we receive.”  Can we even begin to give back what we have been given?  It will take all of us. We pray, “Lord, what will you have me do?”

“Lord above, how often do I distort your creation to my ends then feel sorrow when all I see is desert? How often do I treat your creation without love, then despair that love is absent? May I instead try not to despair, but to love: not to bend the world to my will, but pray that I might be a servant to yours. May I love your creation, as I am loved as your creation, as Christ died for love of me.”—St. Thomas Aquinas