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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Good Day

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 feeling overwhelmed today
With Jesus

Me

A child of God and inheritor of God’s Kingdom
Not only inheritor but
Resident now in this very present

Called to become
More like Jesus
Gifted with Holy Spirit who gives power
Enables my becoming
And power for doing what God desires
Strengthens the presence of his Kingdom on earth today

Unbind them and set them free, he tells me
My mission statement
May it be like his

Loved
Forgiven

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
—Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

I am so grateful
Sing

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving…. For the Lord hears the needy.” ~ Psalm 69:30,33

Dance with joy (Don’t know how)
Jesus doesn’t mind
My dancing partner
Leads

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” ~ Psalm 30-11

Play
Need to
Important Spiritual discipline
And Sabbath time

“What did you see today that was beautiful? Remember it. Savor it. Thank God.” ~ Fr. James Martin, SJ

Blue sky, birds
Children – Mine
Family
Peach pie
Practicing Gratitude

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” ~ 100:4

Brings joy
In the Lord
I am grateful

In Love

Come join the dance

Overwhelmed today
With Jesus

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Broken Bread

Holy Mother, where are you? Tonight I feel broken in two.
I’ve seen the stars fall from the sky. Holy mother, can’t keep from crying.
Oh I need your help this time. Get me through this lonely night.
Tell me please which way to turn to find myself again.
Holy mother, hear my prayer. Somehow I know you’re still there.
Send me please some peace of mind; Take away this pain.
~ Stephen Bishop, Eric Clapton

I try to spend Friday mornings in prayer, reading and meditating in preparation for writing. Some days nothing really grabs me. I may try to write about what comes to me, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Other days there is way too much. It was another YouTube morning for my prayer time because my mind just would not quit talking to me.

Music pulls from me all of the unacknowledged or ignored longings in my soul, pain, fears, disappointments, etc., but also praise, joy, surprise, laughter or even dancing. I have listened to the song, “Holy Mother”, several times this week. It has stirred up many different emotions in me. Today, with all due respect to Stephen Bishop and Eric Clapton, I found that in my mind, I was singing “Holy Jesus, hear my prayer.” Hopefully, they won’t mind if I don’t sing too loudly.

Perhaps the reason that this song touched me so deeply was because of the long, deep winter within me.. Perhaps, it was because, in this particular rendition on YouTube, it was sung by Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti – wow!!! Or maybe it was because I didn’t sleep well. God knows.

It’s interesting that many gospel stories about Jesus involved broken bread, both before and after the crucifixion, and it is often within these acts that people recognized Jesus as the One they were seeking – the Messiah.

In the reading today, John 6:1-15, Jesus fed a large crowd with five loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. After everyone had eaten their fill, there were twelve baskets full of leftovers that Jesus wanted gathered so that nothing would be lost. Another translation says that the leftovers picked up were broken pieces. Jesus is very fond of broken things. After this, the people said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” and they wanted to make him king.

The next day, after the fish sandwiches, that same crowd realized that Jesus was crossing the lake, and went ahead of him to the other side to catch him in his escape attempt in the fishing boat. Jesus told the crowd that they were only looking for him because he provided bread for them to eat when they had none. Then, he said an astonishing thing – “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.” ~ John 6:35. Of course they didn’t get it.

Again, at supper with his twelve disciples on the night before he was arrested and killed – you remember this, I’m sure, just recently on Maundy Thursday – Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Broken bread once again for broken people, including Judas who would betray him that very night. They didn’t understand any of this, either.

There are other bread stories but I am only going to relate one more, briefly. It is from the Gospel lesson for Sunday. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he appeared to two disciples walking home from Jerusalem. They were lost and confused as they walked and they didn’t recognize Jesus even though there were rumors of his resurrection. Upon arriving home, in good southern or maybe northern hospitality, they asked Jesus to stay with them for dinner. Luke 24:30-31 says, “When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” In broken bread the broken people saw Jesus.

These readings remind me of the time when I was so broken. When I took this broken bread of communion twice a week, I could make it through the week. When I didn’t because of what ever, I couldn’t. There is power in that broken bread. There is Jesus in it. I don’t understand it, either, but I believe it because I’ve experienced it. Jesus is so very fond of the broken.

This is amazing grace. This is unfailing love
That You would take my place. That You would bear my cross
You laid down Your life that I would be set free.
Oh, Jesus, I sing for all that You’ve done for me
~ Phil Wickham

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
–Book of Common Prayer

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Where did you meet God today?

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

I am reading the book, Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes, by J. Brent Bill. Brent is a Quaker and my new best friend for the moment.  He knows a lot about the Inner Light. In the introduction, he writes, “Even though light is all around us, we often don’t notice it and the difference it can make in our souls.  That’s where an old Quaker saying, “Mind the Light”, offers help.”

I love this book. It would take several meditations to even begin to offer a meditation on what he writes in it, but one of his spiritual exercises really grabbed me. It is from the chapter titled, “The Light Without: Seeing Others.” Brent writes about a woman, attributing the story to Dorothy Bass, who asks each night while tucking her children into bed, “Where did you meet God today?” I was pondering this question the day of the Vestry meeting.  The meditation that night was…you guessed it…seeing the light of God in others. Hmm…perhaps, God is saying something to me.

As I consider this Light, I think about what the Bible says:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” ~ John 1:1-5

God is Light. Since God created humans in his Image, then somewhere within us that Light still resides.  But, as Frederick Buechner says in the opening quote, “that image gets distorted and confused and corrupted by what happens to us.”  Perhaps, though, a glimmer might still be there, somewhere.

Well, what about “truly evil” people?  Is the light of Christ in them? You might ask.  I might ask, too. The Light of Christ is in everyone.  Wouldn’t it have to be?  If it wasn’t, we would….well that will need to be another meditation or teaching.  There is no room to get into that in this meditation, and I’m not sure that I am qualified to answer it, anyway. I will say that perhaps the Light is so suppressed that it can’t get out of a person or even be acknowledged.  I really don’t know, but I will consider that possibility.  However, we could pray for a crack to open in them for that possibility. Maybe it could be reinforced by those people they meet along the road, which is even more reason for us to pray that the light of Jesus will shine in us.

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” ~  John 8:12

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

Each night as we do our examination of consciousness, along with naming those things for which we are grateful this day and offering our thanks, it might be good for our spiritual lives to consider the question, “Where did I meet God today?”  Then, perhaps, if we are up for it, “Did my light shine bright enough that someone might have met God in me?

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light so lovely that they want with all their heart to know the source of it. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Grace and Peace, Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Just Waiting

I’ve learned how much the Advent season holds, how it breaks into our lives with images of light and dark, first and last things, watchfulness and longing, origin and destiny. ~ Kathleen Norris

What is Advent anyway?  An advent is about something or someone coming/arriving. The “Advent” of the Church year that we are experiencing now is about waiting.  It’s about darkness. It’s about lament. It’s about rescue. About hope. About preparing for the coming of light. About birth.  About rejoicing.  About Hallelujah. About Jesus. About Holy Spirit Power.  About suffering and sacrifice.  About Revolution.  About the Kingdom of God.  Did I say about waiting? Yes.

I know a great deal about waiting.  Most of us do when we think about it.  I am a mother who gave birth to five children.  The waiting was hard – especially for the first one when, even though I was expecting, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t even really know when to expect the arrival of the little person. There were many questions.  What will he/she be like?  Boy or Girl?  Will I be able to handle this responsibility?  Will I be able to wake up in the night for whatever is expected of me? Etc.

This year has been one of waiting as well.  We were moving into a different house.  We thought we knew which one, but we were never completely sure it that we had it right.  Interim arrangements for living had to be made while we waited.  Should we look elsewhere?   We tried even that.  We waited.  We expected.  We prayed.

We lost family members and friends with whom we waited as did they. We suffered through presidential campaigns. Aren’t we still.  We thought we were done with that.  We waited.

We ask, “Where is God?”

We pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus. When will you return?”  We wait. We hope. We pray. But we would like to avoid the hard work of waiting.  We would even like to avoid the hard work of looking for God where he is, even now, in the world.

Advent is a season in which, while darkness grows-and we can observe that, we are called to stay awake.  But, like the disciples waiting while Jesus prayed in the garden, the temptation to sleep – both literally and figuratively – is strong.  We often would rather not notice. However, the call of Advent is to “Wake Up”, to pay attention, to notice the Kingdom of God in our midst, to help in creating it where we are in whatever little (or big) ways we are called, even when we can’t see that it is helping.  This reminds me of this quote by Winn Collier. He said, “I’ll do the waiting the watching, God, and you do the Adventing.  I assume you’ll do it on your own schedule – that seems to be the way it works.” True. Right?  Let God do it.

So in the meantime – the Advent time – what, specifically, do we do to help usher in the Kingdom of God in fullness? For each of us, I don’t know.  We continue our preparations to celebrate Christmas, but not at the expense of our Advent.  We watch and pray.  We pay attention and God will show us – will tell us.  I find that when I do this, it is usually small assignments that I am given such as – Talk to that person in the church lobby on Sunday Morning.  Pay attention to someone who looks like they need help. Smile at the harried cashier in the store. Pray for those on the prayer list.  Look around.  Pay attention. Spend time with God.

Teresa of Calcutta says, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”  “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”  “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  And this one, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” She is a good example for us this Advent.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. ~ Romans 13:11-12a

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -Downcast

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God; for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” ~ Psalm 43:5

This has honestly been the most frustrating and draining few weeks (or maybe year) that I have had in a very long time.  We have not only had another tragic death in our family, and more in our church family as well, which is the worst of it.  But, in addition, I had to buy a new computer and have been working on restoring that which was lost on the old computer from hell (if you don’t mind my saying).  I finally have restored most address lists to the best of my ability.  All of my writings for about a year were gone because they could not be recovered. I know, I should have backed them up.  I was going to the day it died.  I can recover them from my blog so not all is lost.  But!

Then today, when I went to get my notes for this meditation from my tablet, they were not there.  Nowhere! They are just gone.  Done.  Ok.  Enough.  It is what it is but, right now, I don’t have the energy to pick up and move on.  What does an apprentice of Jesus do at times like these?

What does a person do when she knows that there are things for which she can be grateful but she can’t seem to get there?  Well, I can be grateful that I am not lost; it only feels like it.  I can be grateful that my broken heart will recover, but probably not today. I can be grateful that even though I feel picked on, I’m mostly sure that I’m not.  I am grateful that even though there are moments when I can’t seem to feel God’s presence, God is still here.  OK.  Getting better. I can be grateful that, most of the time, I can get myself out of the house. I decide to post this rambling writing because if I don’t, since it’s been about three weeks, I might not get back to it. Ever.

I’m grateful for all the beautiful fall colors.  They keep the grey from closing in.  I love fall most years, but this one…I need this one. Then there are those crying periods.  All the tears behind my eyes seem to be coming out of them and I can’t control them.  I just am done. I want to quit.  I also need to buy stock in Kleenex. Seriously, I know, I will pull out of this but I need some discernment on what God wants for me now.

I love you, you know.”  These words come as I write. I am sad because too many loved ones, yours and mine, have died.  It’s the way of life I know, but. I don’t like it. Maybe my sadness comes from the work of transformation in my life—when I struggle with things I cannot seem to change, and God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, and I love you, you know.”  A wise priest once said that grief is love left over and we don’t know where to put it. (something like that).  True statement, I think.

So, I like how the Message puts Psalm 43:5, “Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again.  He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.” Yes!!!

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Living Water

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” ~ Revelation 7:17

I read a meditation this past week by Dallas Willard.  He wrote about the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt while on their way to the Promised Land.  The people had been whining about how much better things were in Egypt for miles and miles. They had no water, to make matters worse, and they were blaming Moses for bringing them here.  So, Moses and his brother Aaron went off to pray about this.  God told them to gather everyone together and then to speak to the rock right before their eyes and the rock will pour out its water and the community and the animals can drink.   So Moses did, mostly. (Numbers 20:1-13)

Dallas asked three reflection questions.  If you examine a rock and picture what happened within it when the water flowed, how do you picture that gush of water?  As a drinking fountain spout?  As a waterfall? Spraying Moses?

I thought about this and three incidents from my life came to mind.  Thinking about “spraying Moses” I thought about my baptism.  I was a grown up age 24 when I was baptized.  This had nothing to do with what I thought about baptism, but what I thought about water, dunking specifically. I did not want to be under water. I try not to think about under water.   But sprinkling, pouring, spraying, splashing, that’s another story.  After Jesus was baptized in the river, after God called him his Beloved Son and told him he was pleased with him, what did he do?  I envision Jesus, laughing, splashing water – maybe splashing those around him in his joy and delight. I did none of these, although I’ve see it happen, but I felt clean and new.

Reflecting on “waterfall” I recall my experience of what some call the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  Experience may not be a good word for it, because when people prayed for me to receive this, I experienced nothing noticeable.  I thought that it probably didn’t take when I listened to the stories of others. I expected some big emotional something.  I do, however, most of the time keep a tight rein on my emotions, so in retrospect, it is not really surprising that I didn’t feel anything.  But this changed my life.  I couldn’t get enough of the Bible, praying, and being around the people of God with prayer that healed me, teachings that grew me, community that supported me, and I received gifts for service as well. The waterfall is not often a rushing waterfall, in my case, but more like a gentle shower that soaks me through and through with abundance.

Lastly, while thinking about the “water fountain” which nourishes us with water needed for living, my thoughts go toward the Eucharist – Holy Communion, which I have learned, I cannot live without. This reflection fountain is not actual water, but bread and wine taken in community. Once in a deep, dark period, I found I could make it through the week if I went and received communion twice a week but not if I didn’t.  I still try my best to go twice, at least, because this is still the water of life for me.

What would you notice if you were to reflect on the gush of water from the rock? What would that “water” be? Are you splashing around in it?   Or quietly letting it wash over you? Where is the Water of Life nourishing you today?  Where do you need it? And again, where do I?

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” ~ John 7:38