A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Practice Gratitude

 

“… I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”  ~ Psalm 88:13

 

I woke up one day this week afraid that I’m trying to kid myself and I’m not going to get well.  I wonder if this cough that’s plaguing me is really the cancer taking over rather than simple allergies.  Some days it’s hard to act healed.

 

My eye catches the picture of the woman touching the hem of Jesus robe that is hanging on the wall across the room from my prayer chair. I’m going to grab hold and hang onto his robe today. I think I had better tie myself to it in case my arms and hands get tired of hanging on.  Then he can just drag me along with him because I’m not giving up.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” ~ Anne Lamott

I try but the state of my health tells me how many fears I still have.  These are old fears.  I thought they were healed and gone.  Why are they here now? I’m afraid of so many things still – Travelling in a car, train, or airplane. War. Homelessness – I’ve been there a couple of times. Hunger – here also, not being loved, death and dying, drowning – I almost did or at least I thought so, not being able to breath. etc. These fears rear their ugly heads. I’m a died in the wool scaredy cat, it seems. What do these fears have in common? What are they saying to me?

After sitting with my questions for a few minutes, I realize that they all have to do with control or, rather, feelings of not being able to control things. I didn’t know these were still there. This is a biggie. I certainly need to stay tucked inside the hem of Jesus’ robe. All these negative thoughts, my anxiety, etc. are, most likely, from the evil one who would try to cause me to give up on trusting God.

So, what to do? The cure or antidote to these fears is most likely gratitude and giving thanks to God. Gratitude gets us out of ourselves. But, as our Trinity Way of Life says, we need practice.  If we don’t practice, we forget.  Or maybe it’s just me. I forget.

Today, among other things, I am grateful for the gift of life, meeting and lunch with soul friends, for the many pray-ers who pray for me and others. There are so many more things to thank God for.  To be grateful for.  I’m thankful for the new snow.  Not only because it brings much needed moisture, but also because it is beautiful.  I checked on it when I was up walking around in the middle of the night. As it came down and lay on the ground, some of the flakes sparkled and twinkled like diamonds as they caught light from surrounding street lights. It was like they were lit from within by God light.  Perhaps, they were.

Thank you, Creator Father, that you are with me and I am in you.

Thank you, Jesus, that you hold my hand and carry me in your robe.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you give power to heal and courage to keep going forward.

Thank you, God who holds our fears and carries us when it is difficult to walk.

Thank you for those in community with me who come along side.

Help me be aware of your presence. Always.

 

The last few days during my prayer time, I have imagined myself with Jesus surrounding me.  It was like I was inside him, somehow. Jesus said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one…”  ~ John 17:20-22.  In my image there was always a black line attached to him, somehow, and going around me.  It was just there, and I didn’t pay any attention to it really.   Finally, I asked myself what that line was doing there and the words “black belt” came to me. Jesus is wearing a black belt??? Maybe it’s mine. I need to meditate on this one for a bit longer.

 

“There is no amount of darkness that can extinguish the inner light. The important thing is not to spend our lives trying to control the environment around us. The task is to control the environment within us. ~Joan Chittister, OSB

 

Peace & Good, Donna

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Fear Not!

 

Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side,
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
~ Catharina von Schlegel

I woke up this morning about 12:30 and knew it was one of those nights when I would have to spend two or three hours awake before I could take, maybe, a two-hour nap. I prayed for awhile. I thought about things like coffee and eternity. I talked to God about them.

Me: eternity seems so scary in a way. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. What will that be like? Who will I be? There is no time in eternity. It’s forever. No time! There is no time in eternity. Time is only now. How do I even think about that?

God: That’s one of the reasons you need to stay in the moment instead of wandering all over the place. It’s practice for eternity. Among other things.

Me: mmm…

Thoughts: Is it time to quit writing? I have such a block right now. I ask God. I hear nothing. I need help.

I read the Gospel for today. I like to reflect on them a bit each day. This speaks to me. “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” ~ Mark 4:35-41

Jesus is tired. He has had a long day with the multitudes, healing, preaching, and teaching. He may have cooked lunch too, and he needs a nap. He probably has plans to spend a long time talking with his father tonight. But the disciples are afraid of a violent storm that has come up while they were crossing the lake, so they wake him. “Peace!”, he commands. “Be still. Why are you afraid? Don’t you have faith?” I imagine the disciples hemming and hawing a bit. “But the storm”, they say. “it’s huge.” I imagine Jesus saying, “I’m here. Fear not.”

There are four or five things that I want to be able to attend today and tomorrow. I wonder if I will have the stamina to do them all. Back to one moment at a time. Staying there. Hard.

All those prayer lists – I need to find a better way to pray for all those for whom I have promised to pray. Yep. Think about that.

Maybe, I should do part of the Examine while I’m just lying here in this recliner.

1. Pray for God to show me my day. What were my faults? Where have I done wrong? What do I need to change? (Quit being so crabby.) There is fear and anxiety tonight. Where did I do good? Mmm? For what during the day am I grateful?

2. List those things for which I am grateful. – Waking up. Breathing. A new day. Home, family, friends. The presence of God. Community. Some blue sky. Coffee with a friend. Jesus. Freedom from pain right now. Jesus. There are probably more.

Tired. It’s about time for my nap.

Peace! Be still! Fear not! The storm is not too big. I am here with you.

Peace & Good,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Many Gifts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish you a Happy, Spirit Filled New Year.

Stay Blessed,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Creation Sings

 

Creation sings the Father’s song; He calls the sun to wake the dawn
and run the course of day, till evening falls in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow: His breath upon this spinning globe;
He charts the eagles flight, commands the newborn baby’s cry.
Refrain: Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing: “Hallelujah!”
Fill the earth with songs of worship, tell the wonders of creations King.
—Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townsend

It’s the third week of Advent and my tree and house decorating are coming along. There’s plenty of time. Wait! I realize that we don’t have a fourth week of Advent this year. The fourth Sunday and Christmas Eve are the same day, so Advent is shortened. I’m honestly disappointed about that. Now, I’ll have to hurry through preparations that I usually have an extra week to accomplish. The tree is about half done – the star is atop the tree but not yet lit. That happens after church services on Christmas Eve. Greenery still needs spread around, and a few things need wrapped. How do I do this without getting into hurry mode? Just do it, comes to me. If everything is not done, so be it.

After prayers on Thursday morning, I sat in my prayer room and watched the snow fall. I practiced being present to the moment not thinking about past or future or even the rest of the day. I was just being there waiting for the morning light. Sometimes the snow fell straight down and sometimes it swirled around with the wind. I continued to sit there after the light came and people began to move about outside.

Today, I decided to practice the awareness exercise, again, while watching the morning break into light. The light was just beginning to show up. Staying in the moment requires some staying in the moment. I need that in my life right now because my mind tends to jump from the past to the future without stopping to consider what is right in front of me much of the time.

The sun is not yet up as I look out my prayer room window, but there is a faint peachy glow in the part of the eastern sky that I can see. There are no clouds to catch the glow.

The HOA has shoveled the public sidewalks but not our driveways and walks to our front door (I hope they do that soon. Then I remember they only do that when we have over two inches of snow.) Oops! Out of the moment there. At least I am aware of that.

I look at the trees. They all or most got trimmed this week. Their branches are black etchings against the brightening sky. I look at my poor little tree. Apparently, it has been there for several years, but it hardly grows. It mostly looks like a tall skinny stick. There are three of what could be called side branches with a twig or two coming from them. I thought it might do better this year because I put the blessed dirt from “dirt Sunday” (Rogation Sunday) around it. It did get a little taller and have more twigs coming from the trunk and more leaves on it this summer. However, the strong wind we had in early fall blew all the little twigs off it, so we are more or less back where we started. I think the HOA should replace it. Oops again. Back to the moment although there might be a meditation with some accompanying scripture verses here.

The air seems still but then I notice that there must be tiny wee gusts of moving air as the steam coming out of roof vents is dancing around. There is an airplane high in the sky with a little contrail following. The pastel peach of the sky is brighter.

I feel the presence of God sitting with me and we watch the growing light together.

My husband wakes up and comes into the room. The sun pops out and it looks like a blue sky, cold day is ahead. The snow is all sparkly as if diamond dust had been sprinkled around. Peace abounds.

So, why did I write about this. Two reasons. One, I knew I was going to write down the results of this prayer exercise after I finished because that helps me focus. Two, I wanted to explain to you what I’m talking about in staying in the moment and awareness. It is noticing what’s here with me right now, because I don’t live in the past, or shouldn’t, and the future isn’t here yet. Another reason is that I needed to write something. Ok. So that’s three or four reasons, but I wasn’t counting.

I found an article in my files and I have no idea who wrote it. I don’t think it was me, but I am going to share it with you.

Being present means you are in touch with reality as it is. Reality is what exists now in the form of this moment, everywhere. Your mind can remember the past and contemplate the future, but neither are real, nor are your mind’s ponderings accurate reflections of either.

The present is the only moment in which you actually exist. All things and all change happen in the present.

Therefore, to be present means to let go of your intense focus on the mind and instead be exactly where you are as you are. When you are present you can feel your own presence [and the presence of God]. You are here, attentive, silent, listening and waiting but with complete relaxation and surrender.” ~ Unknown

Merry Christmas to you. May your day be filled with awareness and blessing.
Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It’s still Advent

 

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod:

Prepare in the desert a highway, a highway for our God!

The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills brought low;

make straight all the crooked places where the Lord our God may go!

~ THE HYMNAL 1982

This past year has gone way too fast. Faster than any year that I can remember.  Of course, I have been sick since August and didn’t feel very well for the first part of the year.  I was sick then, but I didn’t know it as I had not been diagnosed.  Being sick has taken up a lot of my time and energy. I travel through time much slower than I am accustomed to travel. I’m even trying to draft my writing on a yellow pad rather than my computer. It’s slower and will, maybe, help with my concentration. I’ll see.

We are mostly through the first week of Advent, the beginning of the Church year, and rapidly approaching Christmas. Most people have finished their decorating.  Parties are taking place. We frantically try to keep up with it all – the shopping, wrapping, finish decorating, meal planning, baking, cooking, cleaning, choir and pageant practice, etc.  The world is already celebrating Christmas while the Church is preparing for the royal birth.  Preparing is what Advent is about. And, it’s true, all that shopping, wrapping, etc., has become part of it for many of us. We’re preparing, aren’t we? Maybe or maybe not.

For me, it would be “not”.  I would just get it all done, and Christmas would be over.  What is it I was preparing for?  Has the prep time just been more chores piled on top of my regular routine?  I don’t believe the season is supposed to be like that. Did I – did we ever slow down enough to feel the excitement of Jesus’ coming into the world.  Did we take time to prepare for him?  Did we ever sit like Mary and ponder what this all means to us? All of the busy work and my soul begins to feel empty.

 

Many years ago, I don’t remember when it began, I decided Advent was going to be different.  I wanted to slow down my preparations and take time to enjoy the season. On the first Sunday of Advent, we put up the tree.  Our trees have grown in a factory for many seasons rather than in a forest or tree farm. No theological reason for that.  I’m just allergic to evergreens when I touch them.  Anyway, our tree is up now.  It’s not decorated because I start that the second week of Advent. It did, however, grow with lights already on it which I would have put on the second Sunday. The decorating of the tree and of the house will be finished on Christmas Eve. 

 

My Advent candles are out, of course, and we light them every evening.  Tomorrow, I’ll dig out the nativity set. I’ll set out the manger, empty of course, except for a turtle, a Cursillo chicken, and a few farm animals.  I would put out the spider, so it could decorate with its webs, but it is bigger that the baby Jesus, so I decided against it. The shepherd is out on the hills watching the sheep and the Magi are far, far away. On Christmas Eve during the day, Mary and Joseph arrive.  Jesus is in a small covered dish on the shelf below the nativity set.  He will arrive in the manger after Christmas Eve Mass and the shepherd and other animals will move in to adore him. The angel that has followed Mary and Joseph is now in the barn with them.

 

I bake very little anymore, because trust me, I would eat most of it.  After losing 60 pounds almost ten years ago, I decided to bake all those cookies was not in my best interest. As for Christmas gifts, it is possible some of them might show up on Epiphany.  That is when Jesus received some of his so it’s traditional. I love how we have been doing our decorating and all the rest of our preparations.  It isn’t so hectic, and it gives me time to ponder. I have time to prepare my spirit for the coming of the Lord anew in me. What new thing is he trying to show to me? How is he trying to transform me? Maybe he is just enjoying me spending time with him. I’m enjoying it. It helps me stay in the moment.  It helps me listen. And I do not miss all the craziness.

 This year, as I do most of them, I start Advent by attending a Quiet Day at our Church.  Fr. Jack told us the day was for us to be able to have a renewing encounter with God, and he gave us questions to ponder to help us.  I plan to use them in my quiet time each day and by Christmas, I hope to have some of the answers.  Perhaps I will share some with you.

 

 So, if you haven’t finished all your preparations for Christmas, remember that Christmas doesn’t start until December 25. You still have time.  Take some of that time for a renewing encounter with God.  You can be refreshed rather than frazzled when you get to Christmas Day. And have a Merry and blessed Christmas.

 

Grace and Peace,

Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Again Suddenly

 

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

“And, suddenly….”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come, Lord Jesus.

Donna – [29 NOV 2013]

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – 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