A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Habits and Covenants

Holy habits are that: the disciplines, the routines by which we stay alive and focused on Him. At first, we choose them and carry them out; after a while they are part of who we are. And they carry us.” ― Mark Holly Buchanan

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:5-8

Last week I was too tired to sort out on what I wanted to reflect from the Daughters of the King retreat. It was a fun filled time, sort of like a pajama party, when in our cabin in the evenings, populated almost entirely by our St. Anne’s Chapter of Daughters from Trinity. We always bring, and eat, way too many goodies, but then that’s what PJ parties are for. We also had time to visit some with women from other chapters, and great times of reflection at our tables made up of women from different chapters.

However, it is the teachings, given by our Chaplain, Fr. Terry McGugan, that I want to tell you about., so as our friend, Sandy, says, “You might want another cup of coffee or tea.” Or since it is evening, a glass of wine or soda.

Fr. Terry’s theme for us throughout the year has been our Baptismal Covenant which is found beginning on p. 304 of the Book of Common Prayer. First, we are asked if we believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit. We affirm that we do. Then we are asked, 1. “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers”? 2. “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” 3. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” 4. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and 5. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” To each of these questions, we answer, “We will with God’s help.” How many times do we say these words at baptisms then go home and forget about them until the next time? I’m not going to answer that because I am afraid that it, also, is way too many.

Fr. Terry had made a simple outline on poster board that he placed on an easel by the podium. As, I looked at it, I suddenly realized that it was a “built into the Covenant” Rule of Life. Look.

Will you……
1. Live in Christian Community
2. Seek Holiness
3. Proclaim Jesus by Word and Example
4. Seek and Serve Others
5. Strive for Justice and Peace
….I will, with God’s help.

Daughters of the King have a Rule of Prayer and a Rule of Service and we try, with God’s help to live the Baptismal Covenant. At Trinity, we have a corporate rule of life called the Trinity Way of Life. These Rules in no way contradict the Covenant which we promised to follow at our baptism and which we reaffirm every time there is a baptism we attend. Every year, the Daughters of the King have a time when we look at the rule we have chosen to follow, to see what is working for us and what is not. Many use the Trinity Way which is very helpful for our spiritual growth. In the beginning, we start small and let the Elements grow in us from year to year. Reviewing it, from time to time, helps us learn how far we’ve come in our desire to grow closer to God and more like Jesus. Or, perhaps, how far we have not.

These Baptismal Covenant promises fascinate me because I had never noticed them as a day to day way of life before, and I have no idea why. I’m supposed to catch these things. No matter which rule of life we use, it is important to have one that follows, at least, the promises we have already made. Without even a simple plan, we can easily get off track and lose our way. But as the quote above says, after a time of use, they become part of us.

May you see God’s light on the path ahead when the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear, even in your hour of sorrow, the gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember when the shadows fall—you do not walk alone. ~ Irish Blessing

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Birthday Reflections

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble… A person’s days are determined;     you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” – Job 14:1, 5

Birthday Reflections

I’ve tried not to think about this day for a while.  Age is just a number they say.  But it is a real number. If I don’t say it aloud, maybe it isn’t so. A young delivery man called me “Miss”.  Maybe he needs glasses or maybe he’s from the south.  Since this is a milestone birthday, it is a good time to stop and evaluate. To reflect. To discern.  At this time of life, am I doing those things God desires for me to do? You know – things done and left undone. Is it time to let some things go? If so, which things.  What brings me life?  What does not?

I did not write a meditation last week because I was leaving for the Daughters of the King Retreat.  The retreat is usually a working retreat for me, and although wonderful and fun filled, I didn’t have the time or the space to reflect on these questions. I will probably need to go away for a few days to have that without distractions.

A few old age jokes come to mind.  I might as well laugh.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ― Att. Mark Twain

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” ― Ellen DeGeneres (Love this.)

“When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.” ― George Burns

“When I was born, rocks were still soft.” – My husband

And then, though it is not a joke, this quote from Parker Palmer, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” So, there it is. Reflection time calling.

God spoke to me in many ways this week.  A birthday week, especially when it’s a mile stone birthday, is a good time to make a sacramental confession.  Confession is healing to the soul and I do that here if my confessor comes. This year she did and I heard the words, “You are forgiven.”  She gave me a sort of penance.  First, she said, “Out of great pain comes great love. You embody this.”   I know it is true – that from brokenness comes the gift of love – but I don’t always see it in me.  Then she said to look for happy things to do, because she thinks I am depressed.  Really?? I wonder what gave her that idea.  She reads my writings, maybe that’s it.  Or maybe it was the tears. What kind of penance is that, anyway?

Happy things. I think I’ve forgotten how to do happy things.  Recently, there has been too many disappointments, too much pain, too much sadness, etc. It wears me out.  I already had a lighter feeling, and I started to pay attention.  God provided some moments.

One woman said that if I lived closer, she would recruit me for her singing group.  I don’t and I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to sing, anyway, but that was fun and encouraging.

One woman said she liked my shoes and they look like dancing shoes. They do.  I like them, too.

Our group stopped for lunch on the way home.  While waiting for the food, I went to the restroom.  The music that was being played, I think, was by Neil Diamond.  I have no idea now what song it was but It made me happy.  Maybe, I was dancing on the way back to the table, I don’t know, but my eye caught the eye of a young man sitting at a table.  He was about 21, I guess, because he was drinking a beer with his meal.  I doubt he was much older and he was singing the same song under his breath.  As our eyes met, he smiled and nodded his head.  I gave him thumbs up.  A strange connection happened as we responded to the song.  It was spontaneous and delightful.

My birthday week is over, but I still need to take time for discernment and reflection.  I will try to pay attention to happy things and seek happy things to do. Are the times of darkness and pain worth it?  Yes. They are, but only if I look for the gifts of love and growth that come from them.

In the beginning O God you shaped my soul and set its weave.

You formed my body and gave it breath.

Renew me this day in the image of your love.

O great God, grant me your light.

O great God, grant me your grace.

O great God, grant me your joy this day.

And let me be made pure in the well of your health.

~ Celtic Prayers from Iona – J. Phillip Newell

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Counting Dewdrops

Moving isn’t for sissies, either.  It’s very hard work.  Not only the packing but the unpacking, and since I hadn’t seen anything for three months, filled with wondering what I’m going to do with that piece of furniture (or whatever) that I forgot I had.  Then there are the little things that I still haven’t found like my summer shoes and, still, the kitchen knives. I also found out that I’m much older than I was the last time I did this moving thing and I don’t have another move left in me. I have a hard time sleeping and quieting myself in prayer.  All manner of things to do crowd in on me. I didn’t write A Friday Meditation for two weeks because I was so overwhelmed and without words.

For some strange reason today, I remembered a story about our grandson, Zac, who along with his two sisters lived with us for 10 months.  I’ve written about this before. Zac was in the second grade, had ADHD, and would hardly ever walk to school by himself or even with his sisters.  On one particular morning, he refused to go, so I walked with him but I was not happy.  He only had to go three blocks.  As we walked along—Zac happy as a little clam and me fuming inside—he stopped and asked, “Grandma, did you ever notice how sparkly the grass is in the morning after it rains at night?”

I was brought up short and had to admit that I hadn’t noticed anything, at least on this particular day.  I was busy being irritated which distracted me from what I might see. So we talked about sparkly grass and walked on. When Zac came home, we talked about why he would not walk by himself to school but had absolutely no trouble getting home.  He told me that he was afraid that he would get busy looking at things and he would be late or not get to school and be in trouble.  It didn’t matter so much on the way home, because he knew he would get home.  But going, he was afraid that he would lose his focus and not complete his mission.

My focus has been on the difficult areas in my life, recently, and not that of paying attention to the dew on the grass—the gratitude things—gifts from God things that I walk past without noticing because I’ve been focused on what I have to do that I think is important.  It is then that I, maybe not you, lose gratitude and the awareness of Jesus in my life.

So, a few dew drops on the grass time:

Once during prayer recently, I kept feeling that I was being rocked in a swing!

Before we moved in, we brought breakfast to our new house and ate it on our patio.  I added a white table cloth (left by the previous owner) to our table that was a bit dirty and I didn’t have a rag.

A new neighbor who took a delivery left on our porch to her house so it wouldn’t get wet in the rain. Or the neighbor who picked up our trash bags, left at the curb, and put them in extra cans he had – then told us to keep them until we got our own.

A note, with a smiley face, that was packed with our dishes that said they loved us and signed “Your Dishes” maybe helped by loving friends who packed our stuff (and I do mean stuff) to prepare for moving.

And flowers – those given while we were in transition, those brought to the new house in pots from friends, and those already planted around the house that I didn’t know about but are now blooming.  I love those God surprises.

A meeting and lunch today with soul friends. Little dew drops of the awareness of God’s love and presence. Just remembering raises my spirit and brings my focus back to gratitude.

Thank you, Lord. And thank God for all of you.

Blessings, Donna

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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION

We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” – Richard Rohr

I went on walkabout this morning and took pictures of what was happening in my garden.  Some things need work to bring out the best in it.  There is new growth every day.  The snowball bush is blooming and the Iris and peonies are budding.  The yellow dandelions are beautiful.  Even the weeds look good.   We had such wonderful rain last week.  These will go on my blessing list today.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a baby squirrel.  He (or she) was perched on the bedroom windowsill, and I crept over to see her hoping she didn’t run away.  She watched me come closer but she didn’t seem nervous.  Maybe the glass between us made her feel secure.  I asked what she was doing today and if she liked the rain. Other things, too, but I don’t remember exactly what.  She kept her eye turned on me and when I stopped talking her little mouth started moving. Her tail twitched a bit.  This happened two or three times.  She would stop and I would talk and when I stopped her mouth moved again.  I wish I knew what she was telling me.  Maybe she was complaining about the rain.  Maybe loving it, or maybe she wanted to know where her mother had got to.  Did she wonder what I said? I told her that she could stay on the sill as long as she wished or needed.  This conversation went on my gratitude list.  Also, it was one of the moments I felt closest to God and felt the most joy, peace, and love in that day.  Probably because I was paying attention.

In the discernment class that I am teaching, there is a spiritual exercise that I have assigned.  It is the Examen of Consciousness (Not the Examination of Conscience to prepare for confession).  This exercise helps us pay attention. It helps us recognize our blessings, helps us be thankful, and keeps us grateful. It helps us recognize the presence of God and helps us catch when we are getting off track. Paying attention to these movements within can help us in discerning God’s will for us. It can help us know when we are following God and when we are moving away from him for whatever reason.  The reason we may be feeling dry is that we are not paying attention to where God is and where he is leading us. This helps us stay connected.

This examen was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and was/is used in discerning God’s will as part of his Spiritual Exercises in a 30 day retreat.  But we are using it in a simple prayer form, alone or with others; perhaps with your family after dinner or before bed.  Following are the steps.

  1. Sit quietly. You may light a candle if desired.
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance the events and moments of the day.
  3. Ask yourself – “For what moment today was I most grateful?” and then, “For what moment today was I least grateful?”
  4. Express your gratitude to God.

Spend time with this, but not more than 15 minutes.

There are other questions that can be used.  Another is, “When today did I feel the most peace, joy and love?” and “When did I feel the least…?” If you are interested in more about this, let me know.

I could try to explain how this relates to talking to squirrels and loving dandelions but I am still working on that.

If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”—C. S. Lewis