A FRIDAY MEDITATION – ER Trip

But you O Lord are a shield for me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” – Psalm 3:3

This is not really a meditation. It is more of a reflection of my life at the moment and I want to share it with you. Things will change for me and my writing may be sporadic along with other things that I do. It is definitely ironic that I would write about breathing three weeks ago – ironic that I suggested we pause, take a deep breath and breathe in God – because two days later, early Sunday morning, I went to the ER with sharp chest pains. I had been having pain for a few days which I thought was bursitis. The sharp pains made me wonder if I was having a heart attack, so I asked my husband to take me to the hospital for what I thought would be some pain medication for bursitis.

By the way, if you mention that you are having chest pain when you go to the ER, everything speeds up, immediately. X-rays, blood tests, scans of various kinds. My bursitis pain turned out to be an inoperable, seed bearing lung cancer with fluid around the lung causing the pain. There are other cancers as well – brain tumor, perhaps thyroid, etc. I am still having tests to determine what all is going on. So, I spent the ensuing weeks in shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the words I was hearing. Neither could my family and friends. I have been unable to write since then because I couldn’t put words together. I’m still not good at it. But, again, writing is a spiritual discipline for me whether I write well or not.

There is much I don’t know.

Why? What caused this? I was a low cancer risk person. I had all my physicals. Recently. Why didn’t we see? Why questions are not really helpful because we cannot see the big picture and most often there are no answers.

I am reminded of this quote by Ann Lamott. I love it and it makes me laugh which is important at a time like this. “The first thing I am going to ask God when we meet face to face is, ‘What on EARTH could you have been thinking?’. And He or She will know exactly who I am talking about, the many way-too-young who have died or had serious pain so far, in my 60 years here. Who have been raised by closet psychotics? ‘What was THAT all about?”’ God will say what God said to Job—‘I’m God, and I don’t have to explain. Plus, there is a zero chance you would understand. No offense. Rock on.’” God’s ways are not our ways.

The Job story tries to understand and explain why bad things happen to good people. A piece of the Job story that I particularly enjoy happens after days and days of Job and his rather unhelpful friends, who had stopped listening and gone to meddling, trying to figure it out. They said Job must have done something to cause God to bring this upon him. Job knew he had been faithful. For him, the situation was just very hard to understand. Finally, God comes rolling up in a whirlwind. He is fond of wind and whirling. God chastises Job’s friends for sullying God’s reputation. How dare they say that God brought this upon Job? Then He takes on Job. Read this story sometime when you have an hour or two. It is worth it. God, in the past asked me some of the same questions that he asked Job when I took him to task about what he was doing. I’ve really stopped asking what he is up to because I probably wouldn’t understand it either.

This I do know. I sent this out with a prayer request update a couple of days after my ER trip. “I know that ultimately God wins. God does not cause disease. Disease is from the evil one. [Sometimes with the help of our own bad choices.] I know that God is good and I will not give in to despair. I know that God loves us/me and there is nothing we can do about it. [I say this so often I’m starting to be quoted.] I know that I will fight evil back as long as I can wherever I can.”

We know that much of what Jesus did was heal people from disease. One scripture says that on one day he healed all of those who came to him. God does not always change circumstances but he is always with us in them. The Church Mouse Meme says, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given.” So true.

My spiritual journey now is to try to stay in the moment, which I should do anyway since the moment is all we really have. I will try to practice the awareness of God’s presence. Breathing in his presence just got a lot more intentional and personal. I confess that I do have moments of panic when I get scared and hold my breath causing me to forget to stay where I have pledged to stay. The perimeters of my journey have greatly changed. I ask for your prayers for me and my family. I’m praying for a miracle and hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe.

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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 – Things in Piles

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.” ~ Henri Nouwen

I was sorting things into keep piles, save piles and move piles, when I remembered a dream that I had several years ago.  It was actually just an image.  I had shared it with some friends and one of them had drawn a picture of it and wrote down thoughts that had come to her as she drew.  I saved that picture somewhere, but I don’t know where.  I thought I had put in in an old journal but I couldn’t find it.  When I was packing for our move, I threw two of these journals in my stuff to take to temporary quarters with me.  A note about that image was in one, but no drawing.  The rest of the journals, I threw away.  There is a journal person’s prayer that says:  “Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, please throw my journals in the lake.”  I took care of that before anyone had to do it for me and get curious about what I had written. I was only mildly curious, myself. Randomly picking up these two has been enlightening or at the least interesting. Let me share some of them.

First, the image that I had in the dream that kept me from throwing all the journals in the lake.  It was New Year’s Eve, 1997.  I wrote, “I was walking around something.  It seemed like the altar [at St. Alban’s in Windsor].  Nothing was on the altar – no cloth or anything.  Then I noticed green succulent tiny leaves clinging to it.  Behind the altar was a terra cotta flower pot. It had broken open on the floor.  My sense was that it had fallen off the altar.  Dirt was all around it – potting soil dirt and the plant was growing from this and clinging to the altar. Hum?”  I wish I had the words my friend wrote. Today, I was thinking about how our spiritual growth and transformation (at least mine) really takes place when we embrace our brokenness and don’t try to bury it or ignore it. At those times when we lie broken and scattered, new growth comes from clinging to God.  I don’t know what else to do with mine.

There are other stories, too, that I “accidently” saved – about the angels that came to collect my sister’s mother-in-law when she was dying – about saying goodbyes to many things, and about the day 21 years ago, just before Palm Sunday, when our son died from suicide and the little blue bird that came to see me before I left the retreat I was on and came home to this news.  Many of these stories are about brokenness, loss and God’s grace in the midst of it all. I will read some more of them in the days to come. Maybe, I’ll share them.

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Trust and Obey

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ~ Anne Lamott

I really don’t know what God is up to at the moment.  When I was looking over some past writings, I realized that I never really did the things I had wanted to do during Lent for the last three years.  I plan, but then other stuff happens.  Life happens and I can’t seem to manage to do what I wanted.  Why?

This year, we’ve been in the process of moving out of the house we’ve sold and waiting, still, to get into our new one.  This process has been dragging on and it looks like it will continue for a period of time.  We finally have a house to buy, I believe, but the possession date is three months away. We are staying with a friend for now.  Bless her. Someone asked if I prayed for patience and the answer is a definite NO. When I have, I get too many chances to practice.  But I don’t know why the wait.  Is this the right house?

The thing about discernment is that it always comes with an “I believe this is God’s will for me BUT I really don’t know for sure”.  I believe I heard God’s voice in this house thing.  It sounded like God at the beginning and it still does.  I trust him entirely, but the problem is that I don’t trust me.  I don’t know if I heard God, for absolute certainty, or if I am hearing the sound of my own voice and my own desires. So I take the next step and see what happens with it.  Other doors have been closed and there is still a sense of rightness about this house.  Discernment works that way. So why the long wait?  “You know, God, people will think we’re crazy selling our house, especially since I keep saying that you told me to, before we have a new one in which to go. Don‘t you know your reputation could be at stake here? Or am I afraid that it’s my reputation at stake?”  Well, perhaps, God has a plan for me. What is the lesson here?  What area of growth and transformation are you working within me?

It could be because I hate asking for help.  I don’t want to be a bother or a burden.  I’m okay with asking for prayers on the prayer chain, but in other areas, I want to be able to take care of myself even in times when there is no possible way that I can. I think I grew up this way, so this is probably why I’ve had to ask for help.  It’s about community.  It’s about being the Body of Christ together.  It’s about helping each other stand when life is overwhelming.  I can’t be a body by myself. So, since my husband and I would never be able to do this moving thing without help, we had to ask for some.

Grace upon grace abounds. We had so much packing help that I am still astounded.  I am so grateful for their loving presence, busy hands and strong backs.  I am grateful for prayers of those who were not able to pack.  We all needed those, too. I am filled with gratitude for a lovely place to stay while we wait for our house.  Many thanks to all of you.  You have blessed us. I bless you.  I still don’t know what the long wait is about, but I will take the next step that appears before me and see where it goes.

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand. ~ Psalm 37:23-24