A FRIDAY MEDITATION – In All Circumstances?

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Last Friday was my birthday.  I was going to write this then, but it wasn’t ready.  I had far more to ponder before it would come together. Ten months ago, I did not know if I would be here for this birthday. Of course, we really don’t know if we will be here on any particular day, but we assume for the most part that we will.  Anyway, I am grateful for this gift because that is what my life is. I am grateful for this birthday.

 

The Saturday before, I spent about five hours in the ER.  I was sent there because of a persistent bad cough and the doctor believed there was fluid buildup on my lung.  When the ER doctor gave me an ultrasound, he couldn’t find enough fluid to cause that much problem.  So, there were other tests including a CT scan that was administered by a friend. Another gift from God, I believe, that helped me see and know his love and hers.  There was something (they don’t know what) that was mostly occluding the lung tumor, so they couldn’t see it well.  They are assuming that it has grown and that it was causing the problem with my cough. I didn’t mention the fact that I had been praying for God to put some sort of bubble around the tumor to keep it contained. I’m chicken, I guess. I am now on some different drugs that has stopped the coughing.  Thank God.

 

This was not terrific news for us and we are still praying for a miracle.  God is sometimes a last-minute God. We have seen that before.  However, I need to prepare because as the psalmist in Psalm 31 tells God, he knows that his times are in God’s hands and in Psalm 39 he tells God he knows that his days are numbered. Ours all are. My life is still in God’s hands. I’m scared, sometimes, but don’t tell anyone because I try to be and act more brave than I am, occasionally. Recently, I ran across a Snoopy cartoon where Charlie Brown says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” And Snoopy, wisely, says, “True, but on all the other days, we will not.” So how do we not on other days?

 

I really try to stay in the moment.  When I find myself afraid, I remember that right at this moment, I am alive and, mostly, don’t feel too bad. I would like a bit more energy. On these alive days, I am too live my life serving and loving God and others. So, I take a deep breath and go on.

 

I have another confession, and this really does go along with what I’ve already written, so hang on.  I have been having trouble with my gratitude.  I’m grateful for the same things – family, friends, home, food, etc., but why not, right???  However, though I know they are gifts, I often take them for granted.  Something needs to change because I quit making a gratitude list. I had to do better than this.

 

I started reading a brand-new book by Diana Butler Bass (Grateful – The transformative power of giving thanks) She said that some of the things we put on our list, though gifts, are partly privilege. We work hard.  We are able to get things. We sometimes forget that being able to do that is Gift. But, how are we grateful for things we consider bad or that really are bad?  I do not believe that God gave me cancer.  God does not will illness.  But the world is broken and evil, also, exists.  God wills healing but sometimes it doesn’t happen.  What if my number is coming up sooner than later? How can I be grateful in all circumstances? Well, I changed my gratitude list to add some different things.  I am still grateful for the above as well.  Some of things I thank God for are:  Our Trinity community – a piece of the Kingdom of God on earth; the gift of another day; for God holding me when I had a rocky day and couldn’t go to work as I had planned. I’m thankful that I had the energy to make an apple pie (mostly) and for my husband who finished it when I ran out of steam.

 

I thank God for a good physical therapy session for my sore back; that I was able to go to a Vestry meeting at church; my daughters successful medical procedure and for the most part, I feel OK. There are more that I put on my list but ‘space’ you know.  It’s amazing what can be found to thank God for when things are the “bad times”.   Listing them, helps me stay in the moment and remember Snoopy’s wise words. “But on the other days we will not.”  We “Practice Gratitude” in all circumstances.

 

Do you remember my story of my prayer where Jesus was sitting away from me wearing a black belt which gave my cause to giggle?  Just this week while I pray, the image has changed to one of him holding me and me holding him. What bad times?

 

A friend, a couple of days ago, posted a song on Facebook which was what I so needed for that day – I Am, by David Crowder.  Here’s part of it. I had a little cry while it played.

 

There’s no space that His love can’t reach.

 

There’s no place where we can’t find peace

 

There’s no end to Amazing grace

 

Take me in with your arms spread wide

 

Take me in like an orphan child

 

Never let go, never leave my side.

 

(Chorus) I am…holding on to you. I am holding on to you

 

In the middle of the storm, I am holding on.  I am.

 

 

 

 

 

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A FRIDAY MEDATATION – Resurrection

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 was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect. Trees and flowers were blooming. Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, alleluias!! “The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.” Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!” Communion. Jesus. All creation sings along. So, why do we have doubts, 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 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?”

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 that 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!

Peace and good, Donna

(April 25, 2014)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Beloved

“There is that voice…that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’ It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: ‘You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody – unless you can demonstrate the opposite.’” ~ Henri Nouwen

While praying over the past few days, I have come to realize that since I have been ill, I’ve uncovered somewhere buried inside, a state or maybe it’s an emotion. Perhaps just a thought pattern. A whatever that I thought had been healed and gone away. I’m feeling very disjointed. Also, insecure, and unsure of myself. Is that the same thing?

Since I was diagnosed in July with cancer for which there is no treatment I can tolerate (except prayer, of course, and I pray for a miracle every day) my life has changed in so many ways. Things I have done that bring me joy, I can’t do any more or at least not in the same way. I don’t know who I am right now.

What things? You might ask. I can’t sing in the choir anymore. I have done so since I was 10 years old – many, many years! Singing was part of my worship; even the practice was worship. A member of the choir was part of who I was and am not now.

Writing is more difficult. It has never been difficult for me. I never planned on being a writer but apparently it was part of God’s plan for me. Yes, occasionally, I had writers block for a day or so, but now it might be a week or more before I can put thoughts together on paper. I had written a meditation for last Friday, but a computer glitch did not save it and totally deleted what I had written. Probably, it didn’t need to be said.

Spiritual Direction is my calling. Sometimes and on certain days, I need to reschedule appointments because I don’t feel good enough to listen well. What if it happens that I can’t do it anymore? I have been a spiritual director for about 34 years and been certified for 28. Who will I be if I can’t do this? And there’s more.

All this change, to which I haven’t yet become accustomed, causes me to feel insecure. Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself. Probably. Mostly, the inner voices I hear that Henri Nouwen mentions in the quote above are my own. Henri says later, in his book “Life of the Beloved”, “…the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection…I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation.” Me, too – I do that. Especially, now.

So, what is the reality? Who am I now? I know that I am not what I do, but my being is wrapped up in that. So, who am I really? The answer to that, obviously, is “God’s Beloved.” Any other answer is the lie of the enemy who would like to sidetrack us.

Ann Voskamp writes in her book, “Be the Gift”, “Maybe is isn’t enough to believe in Jesus – maybe I have to believe that Jesus believes enough in me to choose me…If Christ has chosen me, if He’s the only One who has ever loved me to death – can He not believe in me? Can I believe Jesus believes in me – because He is in me?”

I love this quote by Anne Lamott – “I have never said that I am a good Christian. I just know that Jesus adores me and is only as far away as His name. I say, ‘Hi, Lord,’ and He says, ‘Hello, darling.’ He loves me so much He keeps a photo of me in His wallet. If I were the only person on earth, he still would have died for me.”

Anne knows she is Jesus’ favorite. I am, too. So are you. My maternal grandmother taught me about this. Not in words but in deeds. I was her favorite. So was every single one of her many, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. I didn’t know that. None of us did until much later in life when we all were talking about her and how each of us knew we were her favorite. Her chosen one. God is like that, or I should say that grandma was an image of God. I am so grateful.

“Dear God, I so much want to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that you are saying: ‘Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of you heart will be fulfilled.’ Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love. Amen.” – Henri Nouwen

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Many Gifts

 

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” ~ 1Corinthians 12: 4-7

I have found that when I spend a lot of time staying in my home as I have been recently, there is little that is different for me to reflect upon. However, in going over my week this, several things stand out to me. For one, this was Christmas Week. It started with the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve on the same day. I’ve been confused about what day it is all week.

We did get out of the house for dinner on Christmas Eve. We went to our son’s house for tacos. Their whole family was there which made a houseful of 20 people from three years old up to us. What a great evening catching up, helping, and eating. Our son took a family photo. Trying to get 20 people in one shot and making it is a great talent, indeed.

On Wednesday, our great-granddaughters and their mother came for lunch. We don’t see them much now that they are both in school, so it was a great joy. Spending time with them was always a source of meditation and reflection for me. Since they were here, I’ve been thinking once again, about how different they are.

The youngest is almost six always has something to say. I think that is why she calls our prayer room the “talking room”. It’s because it has chairs in it she informs me. She is quite a conversationalist and she often will answer questions addressed to her sister. She will do any activity if people are involved, and she can talk to them.

The older is just now ten. She is the quiet one, but she will join the conversation when asked a question, she just doesn’t volunteer information. She would rather be in her room reading a book. When asked what she got for Christmas or her birthday, the answer is always books. She reminds me of me. Or who I used to be.

They helped grandpa (papa) fix lunch – home made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – one of their favorites and, come to think of it, one of mine. The youngest gets right in there to help. I’m sure she gave papa a few tips on cooking. The oldest would be happy to help but she needs to be encouraged and invited to join in which she eventually was and did. It was so much fun watching them help papa with cooking, serving, and cleaning up. Such different gifts but what they do fits together so well.

God loves diversity. It has been said that he created no snowflake like the other nor did he create any two us the same. Not even identical twins. Each of us is unique. Each of us has different gifts. Some may be similar, but they are not exactly so. Our gifts equip us to do what God calls us to do.

On our Advent Quiet Day, Fr. Jack reminded us that Jesus gives tasks to his Church to be done by the Church. He reminded us that we each have gifts, uniquely ours, to help with those tasks. He asked us if we were aware of what God’s call is on our lives (it does not always stay the same), and if we knew what our gifts are and where God wants us to use them – in the Church or the World. Sometimes, maybe, both.

I have had many different “calls” on my life but they have mostly been about helping people know God loves them. I have always been in Choir. Well, since I was ten. I was a mom. Military wife. Church School teacher. I was a church secretary and parish administrator. I have worked in a lawyer’s office as secretary as well as doing some paralegal work. I was in a music ministry traveling around group. I worked in prison ministry as music leader, table leader, talk giver, and eventually as Spiritual Advisor. Now, I am mostly working in the Church as spiritual director, writer, and occasional teacher which surprised me. Most of these to help people grow closer to God. I think that this is probably my last call. But I have been surprised before. There were a few things I wanted to be called into, but I can’t even remember what most were. I even considered ordination for a while. That was not God’s call.

How do we know what God is calling? Discernment is part of the answer. St. Ignatius, who discovered and developed a method of discernment, starts with asking, “What do you really want? What is your passion.” I’ll write some more about that next week, God willing.

In the meantime, start with looking at your life. What has God called you to do so far? Do you know? Do you love it?

This is nearly the end of 2018, though I can’t believe it.

I wish you a Happy, Spirit Filled New Year.

Stay Blessed,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Listen!

Henri Nouwen writes, “It is Advent again. In his sermon this morning, Oscar Uzin said: ‘Be alert, be alert, so that you will be able to recognize your Lord in your husband, your wife, your parents, your children, your friends, your teachers, but also in all that you read in the daily papers.’ The Lord is coming, always coming, Be alert to his coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord.’” ~ “Gracias! A Latin American Journal

Henri also writes, “The word ‘listening’ in Latin is ‘obedire’, and ‘audire’ means ‘Listening with great attention.’ That is where the word ‘obedience’ comes from. Jesus is called the obedient one, that means the listener. The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is ‘surdus.’ If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word ‘absurd’ comes from. So, it might be interesting to note that somebody who is not listening is leading and absurd life. ~ “Discovering Our Gift Through Service”

In our Trinity Way of Life, we call being alert and listening, “Pay Attention.” We can not only spend a period each day focusing on God alone in prayer, being with him and listening for his voice if he speaks, we can become alert to God working in circumstances and people around us. Walt Whitman said, “I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God’s name.” But it is hard to be alert and aware of all the ways God speaks to us unless we have that connection with him through prayer.

It is so easy, isn’t it, to get disconnected. We get sick. We get especially busy. We have company. We are company. Right now, we have that shopping, cleaning, wrapping, baking, decorating, planning the big meal stuff to do, don’t we? We’ll have our quiet time later. Why are we doing all this again? But sometimes later never comes. We’re tired. We are out of our accustomed place for praying. Other people are still here. Little by little, we stop being alert and in touch.

At the Quiet Day at the beginning of Advent, Fr. Jack asked, “How is your connection with God going? Does it need to be renewed?” My answer to this question was, “Yes”. That is often my answer. It’s not that I feel disconnected, exactly. It’s just that I don’t sense the closeness, now, that I often do. Finding out that I am so sick was a major shock. My illness had been going on for some time, but I was just beginning to feel that something was wrong and had made appointments with the doctors. So much else had been going on in my life that I wasn’t paying attention to my body. Ending up in the ER in great pain and being diagnosed with probable cancer in three places and perhaps more hit like a ton of bricks. I was stunned. Why had I not known?”

I knew that God was with me, always, but my feelings turned off. I disconnected in a way. I think I am starting to come out of that, but the relationship needs a little TLC. Our Renewal Weekend the end of August came at a good time for me as Fr. Russ Parker came with his words of blessing, healing, and listening. I so need all of that.

For the last several weeks, I have been waking up at 1 am. Absolutely wide awake. I’ve tried to go back to sleep but I am not able to do it. I am totally alert to something. It dawned on me one night that, just perhaps, God might be calling me to spend some time with him. Maybe he has something to say. So, for the last week or so, I have been getting up, at 1 a.m., going to my prayer chair and becoming still – listening. I haven’t heard any particular words, but I have become more aware of his presence sitting there in the semi-dark. I believe that we are renewing our relationship. Words may come later. His presence is enough.

Advent is a great time for reconnecting. So is Lent. So is Sunday. So is right now. So is tonight. So is 1 o’clock in the morning. We get to choose to pay attention.

Lord, help us to rein in all the distractions that bombard us daily. Let us pay our full attention to you. Let us truly listen to your requests. Keep us from the shortsighted absurdity of bestowing our attention on the wrong things. Amen. ~ Henri Nouwen

Grace and Peace,
Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Again Suddenly

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth ~ John 1:1-2, 14

“And, suddenly….”

Advent begins this coming Sunday. How can that be? It would be nice if everything could slow down a little. Advent is a good time to work on slowing down, but why would we want to do that? For one, we would be able enjoy Christmas when it comes, but a major reason for me is that when I am rushing around like crazy, I might miss all of the “suddenlys” that happen when I am not really paying attention, and I don’t want to do that.

God shows up in the suddenlys and life changes – he suddenly does a new thing. We live life doing what we are doing, and suddenly….!

Suddenly, an angel appears to Zachariah and says, “You will have a son….”

Suddenly, and angel appears to Mary and says, “I have news for you, you lucky girl. God has chosen you….”

Suddenly, the baby, John, jumps in his mother’s womb, when he recognizes the Messiah in Mary’s.

Suddenly, angels appear in the heavens singing, “Glory to God in the Highest….”

Suddenly, there is a cross, where Jesus hanging says, “Father, forgive….”

Suddenly, on Sunday, a stone blows away from the door of a tomb and….

Suddenly, a mighty wind fills a room and scared apprentices are changed….

Suddenly, life is changed never to be the same. God is like that.

The burning bush in the Old Testament was one of those “suddenlys”, too. You know that story but let me share a modern one. I was one of the spiritual directors on a weekend when a table leader came to get me. She wanted me to hear a story. One of the women had been wrestling with a calling she felt was from God, but she wasn’t sure. Someone at the table asked her if she was waiting for a burning bush. When those at the table looked out of the window, suddenly a bush was on fire. This bush wasn’t burning up, either. The reflection on the window of a fire in the fireplace of the room made it appear that the bush outside was burning. The really odd thing was that where ever I stood in the room, the lit bush was still visible. Unusual! Out of the ordinary! Strange! The woman answered God’s call. Her life changed and has never been the same.

Sometimes, a “suddenly” comes to me when I am reading the Bible. Sometimes, it comes when I read a spiritual book. The voice of God jumps from the page. Sometimes, while in the shower, He speaks. Sometimes, I realize that the words a person is speaking to me has suddenly become the voice of God. Often, creation speaks – like a burning bush. Of course, God is with us all the time, but when I am running around like crazy, I could miss seeing him. I might assume that what I hear or see is just an ordinary happening. I need to choose how I will respond, because these “sudden” appearances of God have all changed my life in one way or another. I want to notice, so I must slow down in order to listen and watch for him. How about you?

Come, Lord Jesus.

Donna – [29 NOV 2013]

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Rule or Law?

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own … Richard Foster, “Life with God”

I read the other day in the news that scientists or archeologists have found evidence, in Morocco, I think, of homo sapiens 100,000 years older than the oldest found so far. Wow!! That boggles my mind. How many years is that? More than I can fathom. I thought you might like to know just in case you missed that news segment.

I have been sitting here on this gloomy day trying to get a clue of something I would like to write. Nothing comes to mind. It has been a busy week and I am a bit tired. That might have something to do with it, but writing for me is a spiritual discipline; it helps me voice what is going on inside myself. As a very strong introvert, things I’m thinking about may not be thought through. They just hang out inside until I get tired of them. So, what is going on? I’m rather bored with myself today.

Politics – I don’t want to write about that.

This week at our meeting, St. Anne’s chapter of the Daughters of the King will be reviewing and sharing our personal rule of life. What spiritual disciplines do we practice, now? Are they working for us? Does something need tweaking? Do we need a pause button? How is our Sabbath practice? You get the idea.

When I began to have a rule of life many years ago, I used one that was given to us at Cursillo. The components of this rule were three – Prayer, Study, and Action. This rule was to be lived in community – the Church – and reinforced by meeting together in a small group to check how we all were doing. We need a rule to regulate our spiritual lives. It is not a law which we are bound to follow and perhaps get wrong. Shame. Our rule is to open space for God and help us serve others. Love God and love our neighbor – Jesus said this is what it’s all about.

My rule of life changes every so often, but it always includes those above. It is based on the Rule of St. Benedict which I might write about another time. The Daughters have a rule of prayer and a rule of service, and though not one of our rules we have a focus of evangelism – spreading the good news by telling our story and praying for the spread of the Kingdom of God. Our disciplines for our spiritual growth are based on the Baptismal Covenant.

I believe everyone needs a rule or a way of life if they are serious about growing spiritually. It is so easy to drift. I need to guard drifting in my own life. As a spiritual director, one of the things I do is help people decide what to do to open that God space and strengthen prayer and ministry in their lives as well as I need to do in my own. We are fortunate to have a corporate Way of Life for our congregation. It strengthens our community life and is a good place to begin.

It always happens. I think I have a handle on this and somebody interjects another element – not to the Trinity Way – but to my way. It went like this, “Keeping your body in shape is a spiritual discipline. It’s not just about losing a few pounds, wanting to live longer, or trying to look nicer. ~ Richard Warren

Then why? I want to know.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Well, there are times when some people stop preaching and go to meddling. So, what to do…. I have been rather lax lately. I have been low energy and not feeling top notch. Do you suppose that not exercising might have something to do with it? My diet is not always great and I need to make some doctor’s appointments. I most definitely need to add this piece to my rule of life. The last few days, I have reintroduced stair climbing into my exercise routine. Whew!! Well, it is my exercise routine all by itself at the moment. I have some work cut out for me.

It is well and good, Lord, if all things change, provided we are rooted in you. If I go everywhere with you, my God, everywhere things will happen for your sake, that is what I desire. ~ St. John of the Cross