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 – 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 – We had hoped

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

I have been taking a mini vacation this week and had not planned to write, today.  However, I finished the Soul Food Article I write for the newsletter, and while filing it, I ran into this meditation from 2013.  It fits, since this scripture was the Gospel Lesson for Wednesday in Easter Week.  Cool, huh? So, I am sharing it again, today.

“I was meditating on one of the scripture lessons this week, Luke 24:12-35, when a fragment of a verse began to get my attention.  “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” “We had hoped.”  These were disciples of Jesus (not part of the eleven) who were returning home to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Jesus.  They had hoped he was the one for whom they were waiting. They were sad and confused.  Some women had said that angels at the tomb, on this third day, said Jesus was alive, but could they believe it? “We HAD hoped.”

“The story is worth reading because it sounds like us.  We have hope in Jesus, but we don’t really know if we can believe all those stories that we have read and heard.  Is Jesus really alive for us?  Will he really redeem and restore all things? Will he help us through this day?  The Bible tells us that it is so.  We have a hope in Jesus for our lives and the life of the world.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,”

“Soon, a tune and words of a praise song started singing itself in me.  It was written by a man from Northern Ireland by the name of Robin Mark.  He wrote it in 1994 after watching a review of the year in a day much like our own when many things were dark and hope seemed long gone.  The song is titled DAYS OF ELIJAH. There are several versions on U-Tube if you want to listen.

“These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord. And these are the days of Your servant Moses, righteousness being restored. These are the days of great trials of famine and darkness and sword. Still we are the voice in the desert crying ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord!’

Behold, He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call Lift your voice, year of Jubilee; Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes.

And these are the days of Ezekiel, the dry bones becoming flesh. And these are the days of Your servant, David, rebuilding a temple of praise. And these are the days of the harvest; the fields are all white in Your world. And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard declaring the Word of the Lord.

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds shining like the sun at the trumpet’s call Lift your voice, year of Jubilee; Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes.”

 “I believe God has a hope, too.  He hopes we will return to his original plan for us—a plan of living in relationship with him and with others.  Jesus tells us that we are to go into the world and proclaim the Good News that he is alive and that we have seen him and know him. God hopes we will be the voice in the desert crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  He hopes we will be the laborers in the vineyard declaring the way.   Jesus hopes we will be his hands and feet in the world today wherever we may be.  Jesus says, “Go! and I will go with you.”

“We say, “For His Sake…I am but one; but I am one.  I can’t do everything; but I can do something. What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.  Lord, what will you have me do?” – Motto, Daughters of the King

“Behold, he comes, dear ones, we have hope.”

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Anything Can Happen…

 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the Gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. John 4:10

 

 “Those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Those who have eyes to see, see this scene. Anything can happen at a well.” – John Shea, STORIES

 

Today, while reading the Gospel Lesson for this coming Sunday – John 4:5-42, a story, The Woman at the Well, by John Shea came to mind.  It is a wonderful story of the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman who comes to the well, alone, for the day’s water.  She didn’t come with the others because she was living with a man not her husband and had already been married to five.  She was considered a sinner which caused her to be ostracized by the other women. She didn’t want the humiliation of going to the well with them.

 

I wanted John Shea’s story be my Friday Meditation, but it is four pages long, over 1600 words, and I don’t have permission to include it here.  Bummer.  It is a beautiful story.  However, since it impressed itself upon me this morning so strongly, I should pay attention.  

 

 She could see him sitting on a ledge of the well from the distance.  It seemed as if he was waiting for her.  He appeared to be a traveler, not a Samaritan, and she considered turning around to go back to the village.  But, of course, he could catch her if he wanted to. Although she was panicky, she could tell he was a Jew and would probably walk away as she approached. If not, she knew how to make him leave.  She had practice.

 

  I’m thirsty,” he said.

 

 Well, it was certainly hot enough. “Who isn’t”, she said.  But he asks her to give him a drink. Jews don’t ask for a drink from a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman, so she thinks he is probably not right in the head, but she draws water and gives him one.  He says to her, “If you would ask me, I would give you living water.” I’m not going to relay the whole story but you might want to review it again for yourself. Or pay close attention when it is read on Sunday at church.

 

 Shea’s story is such a tender love story. If you ever get a chance to read it, do.  There is a bit of word sparing between the two when she asks Jesus how he plans to fetch such water since he has no bucket. Jesus draws her in. He says, “Yokes and buckets are always the problem, aren’t they?” He asks about her husband, says he knows that she has had five and this man is not her husband.  Here it comes.  Now he will insult her.  Just as she was starting to enjoy herself and feel somewhat at ease. But he doesn’t. They spar some more and she says, “You are very hard to get rid of,” but she is not sure that she wants him to go. “Everyone says that,” he replies.

 

 She tries one more time. By talking about the temple, he will finally spurn me, she thinks.  But he caught hold of her hand and said, “God is not on the mountain, but in your thirst.  God is not in the Temple, but in the scream of your spirit, and it cries to me.  Ask me, ask me for a drink.”

 

 Who is this man?  Not just another man.  I don’t ask.” She said, but…such yearning… “Even without a bucket—if you ask me, I will give you living water.” (Some of this is in John Shea’s words and some in mine.)  Finally, she whispered, “Give me a drink.” He does and after some tender words back and forth between them, she leaves and runs to the village where she relates the story to the villagers. She couldn’t wait to tell it.

 

I am always changed by an encounter with God. Always. We all are. This story speaks to the hungering deep in me. Maybe that is why it is recorded in the Bible.  So many times, I need a fresh drink of living water.  Jesus wants to give it.  According to Shea, and in my own experience, he woos me.  He woos us. He doesn’t go away and he doesn’t give up trying to draw us to him, into his arms, so that he can refresh us. Yokes and buckets are so often the problem, but Jesus is so very hard to get rid of.  And I’m so grateful.

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grief Does

“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

In the midst of life we are in death; BCP-p.493

It happens every year.  You would think I would recognize it when it begins, but I don’t. I start to feel gloom and maybe doom and I’m not sure why. Nothing has really happened. It is very near the end of winter and I have Seasonal Affective Disorder but I don’t think it’s that.  It’s more intense.  I know I haven’t been out in the sun enough. But…

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” ~ Psalm 42:11

And then it hits me.  Grief does.  Every year it sneaks up on me and every year it takes some time to understand why I’m feeling so gloomy and so helpless. And then it dawns on me.  It’s March. It’s been 22 years since our son killed himself. His birthday is the end of March, and he died on April 6.  His funeral was the day before Palm Sunday. Usually, this depression comes very close to Holy Week, so it’s a bit early which is why I didn’t recognize it at first.   It’s been a difficult year – two years really. There has been a lot of loss – Mom, and two sons-in-law, Jon and Mark.  Other things, too. This probably reinforces the deep pain and I often find myself weeping.

I miss him.  Doug.  I do. I miss his sense of humor.  His intelligence. His craziness.  His red-ish hair.  His sparkling eyes.  A small boy running around with a toothpick between his teeth.  He said he was a mosquito. He read, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in fourth grade.  The library let him read most everything.  And his creativity. Once, he and friends refocused the electric eyes for the lights around the school so that they would blink on and off.  The authorities were not amused, but I sort of was. It could have been much worse.  Then the jokes he and his brothers told (and made up) that had us rolling on the floor, almost.  Still do. I miss seeing what he might have become if life had been different. We all miss him.

I feel remorse for my parenting inadequacies.  What if I had done this?  What if I hadn’t done that? This really isn’t helpful. He had issues he couldn’t resolve. I love him.

Grief never completely goes away. It cycles. Something triggers it.  It helped when I heard once that grief is love leftover with no place to put it. But grief still comes.  Sometimes wailing and sometimes creeping up from a corner of one’s heart with the tears in one’s eyes. Love with no place to go.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy hill.” ~ Psalm 3:3-4

One morning, shortly after Doug died, a music box given to me by a friend started to play, “Love Makes the World go ‘Round.” I tried to get it to play by itself again, but it wouldn’t.  I knew, though, that he was ok. God has him.

A thought this morning – why did Jesus cry at the tomb of Lazarus? Did he not know that he was about to bring Lazarus back to life? I’m sure he did because of what he told the disciples before they came to pay their respects. John, in The Bible, didn’t try to explain why. It only states the fact in the shortest sentence in the whole of it, “Jesus wept.” Perhaps he had to feel the loss of a dear friend.  Perhaps it was empathy for the pain of Lazarus’ sisters and friends. For whatever reason this story tells us that Jesus experienced these very human emotions, too.  He knows how we feel.

At the end of our Lenten story we celebrate, on Easter, Jesus’ resurrection.  We have promise of our own to come as well as that of our loved ones. But Jesus wept, and in the meantime, so do I.  And so do you. It is your experience, too. I think it was last year that a friend sent this to me:

“Grief is a language without words; And so it is untouched by words. Does it help to know that my prayers for you are often wordless too? And shaped like tears.”

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grace & Peace

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.“- 2 Thessalonians 3: 16

Question – Do you think it’s time to take down my Christmas tree in the basement great room or should I hang flags on it for President’s Day, miniature pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, purple ribbons for Lent, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, etc. and leave it up all year? Not a bad idea, I’m thinking.  The week is totally out of control along with my mind, and God is peeking out at me from everywhere.  I couldn’t settle my mind down for quiet time and silent prayer, so I listened to praise music on YouTube for an hour. I am grateful for the warmth and sun which reminds me that I should trim back the rose bushes.  Sigh.

This is the week that I have to write two articles – Soul Food to meet the deadline and this meditation for today.  There was no other time this week to write and after writing the first, I am without words.  However, I love this meditation or whatever it is from Frederick Buechner, so I’ll share that with you this week instead.

Frederick writes, “Theodicy is the branch of theology that asks the question: If God is just, why do terrible things happen to wonderful people? The Bible’s best answer is the book of Job.

Job is a good man and knows it, as does everybody else, including God. Then one day his cattle are stolen, his servants are killed, and the wind blows down the house where his children happen to be whooping it up at the time, and not one of them lives to tell what it was they thought they had to whoop it up about. But being a good man he says only, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Even when he comes down with a bad case of boils and his wife advises him to curse God and die, he manages to bite his tongue and say nothing. It’s his friends who finally break the camel’s back. They come to offer their condolences and hang around a full week. When Job finds them still there at the start of the second week, he curses the day he was born. He never quite takes his wife’s advice and curses God, but he comes very close to it. He asks some unpleasant questions:

If God is all he’s cracked up to be, how come houses blow down on innocent people? Why does a good woman die of cancer in her prime while an old man who can’t remember his name or hold his water goes on in a nursing home forever? Why are there so many crooks riding around in Cadillacs and so many children going to bed hungry at night? Job’s friends offer an assortment of theological explanations, but God doesn’t offer one.

God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kinds of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam. He also, incidentally, gets off some of the greatest poetry in the Old Testament. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? Hast thou given the horse strength and clothed his neck with thunder?” (Job 38:31).

Maybe the reason God doesn’t explain to Job why terrible things happen is that he knows what Job needs isn’t an explanation. Suppose that God did explain. Suppose that God were to say to Job that the reason the cattle were stolen, the crops ruined, and the children killed was thus and so, spelling everything out right down to and including the case of boils. Job would have his explanation.

And then what?

Understanding in terms of the divine economy why his children had to die, Job would still have to face their empty chairs at breakfast every morning. Carrying in his pocket straight from the horse’s mouth a complete theological justification of his boils, he would still have to scratch and burn.

God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself. He doesn’t show why things are as they are. He shows his face. And Job says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee” (Job 42:5). Even covered with sores and ashes, he looks oddly like a man who has asked for a crust and been given the whole loaf.

At least for the moment.” – originally published in Beyond Words

Good right??

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION -Yes! That!

 

 We have it in us to be Christs to each other and maybe in some unimaginable way to God too – that’s what we have to tell finally. We have it in us to work miracles of love and healing as well as to have them worked upon us. We have it in us to bless with him and forgive with him and heal with him and once in a while maybe even to grieve with some measure of his grief at another’s pain and to rejoice with some measure of his rejoicing at another’s joy almost as if it were our own.” ~ Frederick Buechner

I’ve been reading quotes by Frederick Buechner today. They have been soothing to my soul, because I woke this morning with a sense of doom. I wondered why all of this was present in me today, and after some time, I realized that what I was feeling was almost overwhelming grief.  Tears are very close to the surface, overflowing from time to time as the day wears on. Overwhelming, may not be the right word, but I don’t know what is.  I remember a Rumi quote that I saw, recently. I went inside my heart to see how it was. Something there makes me hear the whole world weeping.” Yes. That’s the feeling. Grief!

I’ve had many things to grieve the last two years. Deaths – My mother, a son-in-law, an ex-son in law whom I loved (both in tragic ways), and the loss of friends. I grieve for loved ones that have been affected by these deaths. The pain of the world. There are other losses, too. I’m good at ignoring these until they pile up. Add to this a cold that I finally got over, a big case of hives that I can’t explain and wham!!  Also, coming up in a few weeks is the anniversary of our son’s tragic death. Of course, seasonal affective disorder has something to do with my mood here at the end of winter.  But I have this every year and that is sadness, not grief. Was there a trigger somewhere?

This quote was on Facebook. I have heard something like it before. It speaks to me. “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ~ unknown. Yes. That.

The place that I am in is my reality for the moment, but there are things that I can do – practice gratitude for one.  I am grateful for many things and it helps to make notes because then I remember. Today, I see a bit of iris blade taking a peek above ground.  I really need to get out in the dirt, do some cleaning up and pruning – always a good thing.  I planned to take a walk before the wind picked up.  It was 75 degrees outside.  I’m grateful for the warmth, not needing my coat for a few days, even knowing that it won’t last. The moon was wondrous last night.

 Every day, I try to post something on my Facebook page, and our church’s, that is inspiring, sending a bit of light into the darkness.  I continue looking for the light of God in what is around me. There it is in the faces of friends, in a man picking up a food box and pouring a cup of coffee because it was very cold outside, in the face of a child talking to me while waiting for church to begin. The light of God is everywhere even in the midst of grief.   

Frederick Buechner says, “It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle. All wise. All-powerful. All-loving. All knowing. We bore to death both God and ourselves with our chatter. God cannot be expressed but only experienced.

In the last analysis, you cannot pontificate only point. A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, “I can’t prove a thing, but there was something about his eyes and his voice. There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross – the way he carries me.”  One of my favorites.

Grace and Peace, Donna