A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Love Stories

If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” – Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry

Have I told you lately that God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it? Absolutely nothing! That’s it! If I haven’t, I have been remiss in my duty and this can serve as a reminder. Maybe it is me that I need to remind. I need to hear it some days. Right now, that’s every day. The days when I feel unlovable and bored with myself are the hardest. I felt achy and crabby earlier along with feeling a bit unsettled and disconnected. I had to remind myself that this is only feelings and not actually true. I had a class to attend, today, and I had to drag myself around to get dressed. I wanted to crawl back into bed, but I knew I would feel better if I got with it and made myself go. I did. It did. I needed to hear that Jesus loves me no matter what I feel like or how I act.

A section of the Conformation classes that I taught at Trinity a few years ago comes to mind. I had been asked to teach one of the components of the class and I chose Scripture. I had something to say about this. I titled this class “The Bible: A Love Story.” The young people in the class have now graduated from high school and some are off to college. The adults are still around. Several have said that this class was a turning point for them and one of the adults said to me recently, “The Bible is a love story, you know.” Yes!!! I know.

We discussed, from the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer – Page 853, the section – “The Holy Scriptures.” We also discussed that God did not dictate the Bible word for word. It is a compilation of stories. It is a record of human beings growing understanding of who God the Creator is. We believe that the authors who wrote the stories down were inspired by God as well as were the books chosen to be included in the Bible. These stories have something to tell us. The Old Testament stories point to Jesus, and the New Testament talks about Jesus in the flesh – about the stories he told and the works that he did. Jesus told about love. He said that the 10 commandments – the Law – is summarized by loving God and loving neighbor and then he showed his followers what that looks like. Jesus said that if we want to know what God is like we should pay attention to himself and what he does. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. Jesus also said that he and the Father are one. The Bible also tells us about the forming, spreading and growing Church. Philip Yancey says, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back.” Stories. Love stories. Many stories. Stories like we could tell.

So, you might ask, why do I believe this about the Bible. The answer is because that has been my experience of God, too. You know that I did not always believe that God was love. I fell into the Old Testament thought that God was an angry God and would punish us (me) if we didn’t toe the line. It took some time the be taught by God that this is not true. You have heard these stories before, I imagine, because they were all turning points for me. I tell them often.

I was in my late teens and early 20s when the change began to happen. The first major story was when God miraculously healed our new-born baby daughter. Doctor’s couldn’t do anything for her though they tried, I had a come to Jesus moment with God, people prayed for her and at that moment, she was healed. I know it was a miracle. The doctor (a hardened army colonel of many years) said it was a miracle, but I already knew that. From this, I learned that God hears me and answers my prayers. There is the story about God finding an earring that I had lost and dropping it on my bed with the back still attached. If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask me about it. From this I learned that God cares about what I care about. The third story, and there are many more, came when I was studying 12 step programs and read that I needed to make “a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood God”. I had always thought that step said to turn my life over to the will of God and since I was just learning about his love, I didn’t know if I could do that. But the CARE of God. He had been showing me that he cares. I could take a chance on that. Stories. I call them “touch stones.” Stories that I can look back on and see that God has always been in my life and has always loved me. He always will and there is nothing I can do about it.

I had the Conformation classes write their own love stories about God. They can also look back during times of unsureness and confusion and remember, it’s a love story. If you haven’t written about your own love stories, it might be a good Lenten exercise.

What does it mean to me now that I’m going through this new trial of having untreatable cancer? Well, God still loves me. He is still with me. He wants to spend time with me. He wants to love on me. He wants me to share stories.

Peace and Good,
Donna

 

Advertisements

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – With Gratitude

 

All day long I hope in Your goodness.

Remember Your love,

The love that You promised long ago.

And the kindness that you

Gave from of old.

 

Refrain: To You, Yahweh, I lift up my soul O my God.

To You, Yahweh, I lift up my soul, O my God.

~ Tim Manion, “I Lift Up My Soul

 

 

 

I just don’t know what to write about anymore. I have a hard time getting my mind to focus. The thoughts that go through my head are full of me.  I’m being so self-focused. How do I feel today? I can’t seem to concentrate or meditate.  Sometimes I’m a bit afraid and I need to give myself a good talking to. People ask how I am and all I know to say is, “I’m hanging in there.” Or “I’m ok.” And I am ok, even when I’m not. This meditation is days late and I had it mostly ready on Friday of last week. I just couldn’t finish it.

 

 When a person is seriously ill, all of one’s days seem to be the same.  Or at least it seems so to me. I can plan to do a certain thing, but I may not feel well enough to do what I plan. Or I might have a doctor’s appointment somewhere.  In the last four months, I have been in the hospital four times and in ER three or four as well. I have said, often, that I try to stay in the moment because that is the place I really live.  I don’t live in yesterday and I don’t live in tomorrow, but really living today is, many times, difficult.

 

I had an appointment with the cancer nurse about two weeks ago and she told me that the doctor is not going to give me the cancer drug again. That’s good because we’ve tried it twice.  I have had two episodes of septic shock while taking it – the second episode was the very day that I restarted it. My last two hospital stays were because of serious reactions to that medication and those episodes have really sapped my energy. The first one nearly killed me. My life now, for sure, is in the hands of God, but then, life really is anyway, isn’t it? I continue to hang tight to the hem of Jesus’ garment. But there are other things I can do.  God things. Jesus things.

 

 I can, and have decided to, take something from each day that comes.  I can focus on where I have noticed the presence of Jesus this day. What has God given to me? What joy? What insight? What sense of his presence? What God moment? What gratitude? What event took place? Perhaps a disappointment. What did God teach me through that disappointment? When in this day was I closest to God? When did I feel far from God or did I? Where did I see light today? When did I give it? For what was I grateful today? Most grateful? In our evening prayer I can, and did, talk this day over with Jesus.

 

Part of this exercise is called the Examine of Consciousness (awareness). This is NOT the Examination of Conscience used for preparation before making a confession. The Examine was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola but I have added some of my own questions for reflection.

 

These last two weeks I’ve been trying to deliberately be more aware of God in my day. Since Thanksgiving was yesterday, my main focus for the week has been on gratitude and giving thanks. Sometimes, when a grateful thing happens, I send myself a note so that I don’t forget these things at the end of the day and can list them.

Included in my list for the last two weeks of gratitude are thanksgivings for the many prayers being said for my healing and for comfort for my family

For delicious meals brought in

 

For a warm fire on a cold, grey day, watching the flames and feeling God’s presence

 

Feeling better and stronger some days

 

Being able to do a few household chores

 

Being able to sing a bit more

 

My voice is stronger

 

Good day with Soul Friends

 

I walked around the block.  Ok, it’s a long block. Without backup.  First time in awhile.

 

 See how much better I feel after just listing some of my grateful things.  I thank God for them and you. If you want to know more about the Examine, let me know,

 

 When you’re looking for JOY, you will always find it hiding in your GRATITUDE ~ unknown

 

 May you find many grateful things the rest of this Thanksgiving week for which you want to thank God. 

 

 Peace and Good, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It would be easy

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. ~ Psalm 3:3

If things keep continuing as they have been the last four months, I’m going to need to rename A Friday Meditation to A Saturday Meditation. Friday appears to be taken over by the medical people in my life for the moment.

It’s been almost five weeks since I had the serious septic shock episode. I am, finally, feeling a bit stronger. The pain in my back is lessening and my stamina (what stamina?) is increasing by micro amounts. But it is increasing, and I thank God for that.
This has been a challenge on so many fronts.

It would be easy to feel discouraged.

It would be easy to fear starting my cancer meds again even though it is a smaller dose.

It would be easy to worry if the medicine will do anything, now, in this dose even when the larger dose was helping.

It would be easy to be afraid of having another serious episode of something.

These are all within the realm of possibility, but if and when I do go there in my mind, I am nowhere near the present moment where I want to remain. I forget who holds the reigns on this journey. I forget that I am to hold on to his garment, and I lose my peace. I don’t like to lose my peace because I am likely to find myself in the middle of all of the “Why doesn’t God….” or “Why does God…” questions which just aren’t helpful to me.

What is helpful is to remember that Jesus is about loving and about healing. He was about it while he was on earth and he is about it still. He still works what we call miracles and he works through his body on earth the church and those who make up the church if we let him. He works through the doctors that he has called into that ministry. For me, he has already done many healings and savings over the last four months. I remember those and replace my worries with Himself.

Today is the feast day of St. Jude, one of the twelve apostles. Traditionally, he has been called the saint of lost causes or last resorts by those who add saints to their prayer chain and ask them to pray for us in our need. Jude is rather a favorite of mine because of an incident that happened over 20 years ago. Many of you know this story, but it is worth repeating here, I think.

I was on my yearly retreat to Sacred Heart Retreat House. On the grounds there is a statue of St. Jude. I would walk out every year and pray there. I was concerned for a son. This day was the last day of the retreat and I was particularly concerned. As I stood there, a blue bird landed on the base of the statue. He cocked his head one way or another, several times, as he looked at me. Then he said, “With Jesus there are no lost causes.” I have never, either before or since, seen a bird like that there. Only that day. When I got home I learned that our son had killed himself. But I knew that he was not lost. God has him. I remember this story on St. Jude’s day and many other days as well. And Jesus has me. And you.

A few weeks ago, I told about a dream I once had. An image dream of a broken flower pot on the floor behind a bare altar. Dirt was scattered around from the broken pot but a vine was growing from it and climbing up the altar. I haven’t come across the meditation I wrote but I did have a couple notes in my journal. I reflected that the vine was me climbing out of messy brokenness onto the altar where there is regularly bread and wine served – Jesus body for my body. At one time in my life having communion twice a week meant I could make it through the week without hiding in my basement afraid. If I didn’t, I couldn’t. Jesus body saved my body.

Over the last few weeks, as I have thought about this image, I saw the vine as the “Vine” – Jesus. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5

The two vine images out of dirt and brokenness becomes one in our brokenness. We are not lost. We are not alone. Jesus broken body is with us in our mingled brokenness and at this place we become his body for the world that is in need and pain.

These stories actually do speak to me when I find myself in worry mode. Jesus has been present in so many ways and so whatever transpires, he will be there and I will hang on to him.

“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’ But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’” ~ Henri Nouwen

Grace & Peace, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Breathe

 

This is the air I breathe. This is the air I breathe.

Your holy presence living in me.

This is my daily bread. This is my daily bread.

Your very Word spoken to me.

And I, I’m desperate for you. And I, I’m lost without you.

This is the air I breathe. Your holy presence living in me. ~ Michael W. Smith

This morning when I went to pray, this song kept  wandering through my mind. It is a beautiful praise song and it says something about our relationship with God. Because, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters – Genesis 1:1-2. The word for spirit is the same word that is used for breath. God’s breath blew across the waters as he brought life to the majestic universe that he was creating from nothing. Apparently, when the story in Genesis begins, he had already created the water and something representing the earth to hold it. We are all born from water into form and then we begin to breath.

An aside of sorts – A year or so ago, I thought about the spirit blowing over the water as I said my before bedtime prayer.  What was it like before there was nothing?  Nothing but God?  God? I tried to imagine this and I really couldn’t.  Suddenly, I saw a deep night navy sky studded with millions upon millions of stars. I could imagine this, because I had seen such skies before. I tried for a minute to imagine what it was like before such a sky was created, but….  As I looked at the stars, a round section in the center of the sky moved. It shimmered like water with a pebble being thrown into it. It took my breath away.  Was it God’s breath hovering over me that caused this experience?  I realized that this was as close as I could get to imagining before creation.  Then I realized that God had just blown me a good night kiss and my breath returned.  He might have said something like, “Crazy little girl child thinking she could imagine such a thing. Really nice try, though.”

But back to the creation story – “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being – Genesis 2:7. The creation continues.

And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them (his disciples) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit – John 20:22.  Yes.  We need this, too.

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last – Mark 15:37. Or “gave up his spirit”  John 19:30. This was voluntary, His spirit returned to his Father then returned to his body at his resurrection. After some additional teaching and after reassuring his stunned followers that he was alive and would be with them always, he left again. How can this be?  

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled those disciples with new life and power. Filled once again with the breath of God, a new restored creation began – the Church, the Body of Christ including you and me, is reassigned the mission of spreading God’s Kingdom on earth by loving God and neighbor and doing those things that Jesus did. We have that same original mission and the same breath of the Holy Spirit enables us to do the piece of work that we are called most specially to do.

Henri Nouwen writes, “Being the living Christ today means being filled with the same Spirit that filled Jesus. Jesus and his Father are breathing the same breath, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the intimate communion that makes Jesus and his Father one. Jesus says: ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ (John 14:10) and ‘The Father and I are one’ (John 10:30). It is this unity that Jesus wants to give us. That is the gift of his Holy Spirit. Living a spiritual life, therefore, means living in the same communion with the Father as Jesus did, and thus making God present in the world.”

My thoughts: What if the very air around us is the breath of God still creating. What if every time we breathe we breathe in God?  What if I try to comprehend what that would be like?  Once again, I most likely can’t.  But here is what I/we can do:  Every time we need a pause because things are crazy – pause, take a deep breath.  Imagine that we are breathing in the Holy Spirit.  Imagine it.  When we say our daily prayers – pray, breathe.  Know that Jesus is breathing into you.  Whenever we need a deep breath…. Yes.

You are the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me.  My daily bread-your very word. I’m desperate for you.  I’m lost without you. Breathe. (Paraphrased sort of).

 

 

 

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 – 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

 

HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION – Love is in the Tomb, Today

A HOLY SATURDAY MEDITATION

Love is in the tomb, today.
Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified. He has died. This is the only day of the year when there is no reserved sacrament. No communions will be offered and no sacraments can be consecrated. (Until after sundown which, traditionally, is Sunday.) This day is for remembering that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.
For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is a sadder day, still. All their hopes are crushed. Not only that, their dear friend has been savagely killed and they weren’t able to stay awake with him as he asked at the last. Some have betrayed him, and abandoned him, too, and their grief is intense. What will they hang on to, now? How can they remember Him? How can we? Love is in the tomb, today.

One Disciple’s Lament

Oh God! My God! Why have you forsaken us? They killed him. They have killed my Lord. Why? Why? When he was so kind and gentle? He was the one—the Messiah. How could they not know? Our Hope is gone. Were we all wrong? No! No! He was! I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I can’t bear those images. I wanted to run away. My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop crying. Sobs come from the depths of me and tears run down my face like rivers.
Oh, his dear face. Blood! So much blood! He cried out to you, his father, God. And he forgave those who did this. How? He forgave me, too. He healed me with his love and now he is gone. There is a hole in me. How can I go on? Where will I go? Where will any of us go?
I can’t go on without him. If I could only touch him one more time. Maybe…? Why? They beat him again and again. If I had not gone there to be with him, but I had to go. I had to stay. I had to. He felt abandoned by you and betrayed by his friends. Why did you not save him? Why? He loved you. I will not abandon him, now. He said it is finished. Finished? What is finished? How can it be finished? I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone. I feel abandoned, too, but I am staying here in this place where he is buried. Help us. I am lost. We are all lost. How can I live without him. How can any of us?
Never again will I see his face, know his love, or hear him call my name….Love is in the Tomb, today.

(dlw 2014 – revised 2017)