A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Rule or Law?

A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own … Richard Foster, “Life with God”

I read the other day in the news that scientists or archeologists have found evidence, in Morocco, I think, of homo sapiens 100,000 years older than the oldest found so far. Wow!! That boggles my mind. How many years is that? More than I can fathom. I thought you might like to know just in case you missed that news segment.

I have been sitting here on this gloomy day trying to get a clue of something I would like to write. Nothing comes to mind. It has been a busy week and I am a bit tired. That might have something to do with it, but writing for me is a spiritual discipline; it helps me voice what is going on inside myself. As a very strong introvert, things I’m thinking about may not be thought through. They just hang out inside until I get tired of them. So, what is going on? I’m rather bored with myself today.

Politics – I don’t want to write about that.

This week at our meeting, St. Anne’s chapter of the Daughters of the King will be reviewing and sharing our personal rule of life. What spiritual disciplines do we practice, now? Are they working for us? Does something need tweaking? Do we need a pause button? How is our Sabbath practice? You get the idea.

When I began to have a rule of life many years ago, I used one that was given to us at Cursillo. The components of this rule were three – Prayer, Study, and Action. This rule was to be lived in community – the Church – and reinforced by meeting together in a small group to check how we all were doing. We need a rule to regulate our spiritual lives. It is not a law which we are bound to follow and perhaps get wrong. Shame. Our rule is to open space for God and help us serve others. Love God and love our neighbor – Jesus said this is what it’s all about.

My rule of life changes every so often, but it always includes those above. It is based on the Rule of St. Benedict which I might write about another time. The Daughters have a rule of prayer and a rule of service, and though not one of our rules we have a focus of evangelism – spreading the good news by telling our story and praying for the spread of the Kingdom of God. Our disciplines for our spiritual growth are based on the Baptismal Covenant.

I believe everyone needs a rule or a way of life if they are serious about growing spiritually. It is so easy to drift. I need to guard drifting in my own life. As a spiritual director, one of the things I do is help people decide what to do to open that God space and strengthen prayer and ministry in their lives as well as I need to do in my own. We are fortunate to have a corporate Way of Life for our congregation. It strengthens our community life and is a good place to begin.

It always happens. I think I have a handle on this and somebody interjects another element – not to the Trinity Way – but to my way. It went like this, “Keeping your body in shape is a spiritual discipline. It’s not just about losing a few pounds, wanting to live longer, or trying to look nicer. ~ Richard Warren

Then why? I want to know.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Well, there are times when some people stop preaching and go to meddling. So, what to do…. I have been rather lax lately. I have been low energy and not feeling top notch. Do you suppose that not exercising might have something to do with it? My diet is not always great and I need to make some doctor’s appointments. I most definitely need to add this piece to my rule of life. The last few days, I have reintroduced stair climbing into my exercise routine. Whew!! Well, it is my exercise routine all by itself at the moment. I have some work cut out for me.

It is well and good, Lord, if all things change, provided we are rooted in you. If I go everywhere with you, my God, everywhere things will happen for your sake, that is what I desire. ~ St. John of the Cross

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A Good Day

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”
– Psalm 63:1

I’m feeling overwhelmed today
With Jesus

Me

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

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

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

Loved
Forgiven

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

I am so grateful
Sing

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

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

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

Play
Need to
Important Spiritual discipline
And Sabbath time

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

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

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

Brings joy
In the Lord
I am grateful

In Love

Come join the dance

Overwhelmed today
With Jesus

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

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – What’s Up?

Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I have been thinking about discernment. Particularly mine. I want to discern if the things that I have been doing are still what God wants me to continue, or if he has something else in mind for me now that I am older and my energy is less. I have a wee tiny niggling in the back of my mind that he has a little something, but maybe not. He may still be just fine with what I am doing.

As a spiritual director, I often get the questions: How do I get still? How can I listen and Pay Attention to God? How can I see Jesus? How do I discern God’s will? All are great questions.

Discernment of God’s will, or any discernment for that matter, is a process. Finding God’s will requires a real desire to know it and a commitment to follow God’s direction when we find it. If we put stipulations on what we will do or not do, we will not get discernment. Unless, of course, like St. Paul, we get knocked off our ride and blinded for a few days. That’s a new way of seeing. We can’t limit God to certain ways of communication.

Discernment isn’t a decision-making process and what God has in mind for us isn’t always easy to discern. He doesn’t often write his desires for us on a wall or on auto-correct, although he has been known to do so. He has as many communication skills as he wants to use, so prayer is essential. However, there are other helps. Part of my job as a spiritual director is to accompany people during their discernment process – help them ask the questions they need to ask and discover the blocks they may have to hearing God’s will and carrying it out.

Thomas Green in “Weeds among the Wheat” has a suggestion I find most useful, which is to give God what Tom calls a “blank check.” We need to be willing for God to write on that check what he desires to give us. This helps us become willing to find God’s way rather than being willful and wanting our own way. And did I mention prayer?

Frederick Buechner writes – “Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” which means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self-interest.…. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet.” ~ “Wishful Thinking”

“Gladness” or “Passion” is very important in discernment. What is it that gives you life? Passion for God’s call gives energy so if it is lost in what we’re doing perhaps God is calling us to something new. Although, there are other reasons that passion or gladness might be lost, burnout and/or depression, for example, so this needs discernment, also.

If, in our process we hear from God, as a friend of mine often does, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, we are most likely already doing what God has in mind for us now. In which case, we continue on continuing on.

As usual, I have a story. Many years ago, I was reading the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus directions to his friends, “Unbind him and set him free” (John 11:44b) jumped off the page for me. I believed God was speaking and after some prayer, I enrolled at Aims and started taking psychology and counselling classes. I planned to become a family counselor. I had no idea that God had a slightly different calling than I thought, though the classes I took are very useful. They give me another eye through which to see as I offer spiritual direction, even though spiritual direction is not counselling. A friend who was attending St. Thomas Seminary called me and said there was a program for spiritual directors there and that I should take it because I was always asking what God was doing in any situation. So, what was the process.

First –Prayer was the most important part of my process. I had a niggling sense that I needed to be doing something to “unbind and set free”. And I wanted more than anything else to want what God wanted. Then I took a step of faith and began. I had a sense of where I was heading, but it wasn’t complete – only the first step. And then, more prayer.

Occasionally, God’s call comes in a blazing bush. I have had a few. There is hardly any room for doubt, but the call still needs some discerning. Thomas Green says that discernment isn’t possible if you already know what you are to do, but I don’t always trust my hearing. Most often, there is peace when the discernment is finished. So for now…

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. – Proverbs 16:1 (MSG)

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Power from Above

“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.” ~ Luke 24:48-49

This coming Sunday is Pentecost which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church and, therefore, to you and me. Perhaps, I should say something about this – but what?

This story comes to mind. It is a witness story of Jesus and his story with me. I had been a spirit filled and released apprentice of Jesus for some time so I was no stranger to what the Spirit will and can do in, to, with and through a person. However, I was a newly certified spiritual director when this event took place.

I was asked to lead a weekend retreat for a women’s group from another church. I believe in doing my homework, so I prayed and tried to prepare.  Absolutely nothing came to me.  I jotted down a note or two, but…! When time came to leave for the retreat, I grabbed a couple of books thinking I could always read something and let them spend time meditating. This was not a silent retreat, so this could be very interesting.

When I walked into the retreat place, the music team was practicing a song I love, so perhaps, everything would work out. I had brought along a couple of parishioners from our church who would be praying for me. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but we did begin with music. We sang.  The woman who put together the retreat said things.  I probably had a few introductory remarks. The first thing I do remember, other than music, was the prayer stations we had. The two ladies I brought with me manned one of them.

What followed, I remember with great clarity. I wrote it down. I hadn’t planned to go for prayers, but I felt a little God nudge. I would wait until the station which my friends manned was empty.  (Because the other ladies might be intimidated praying for the leader, perhaps. Hmm, bit of ego there it seems. Not one of my better thoughts.) The real reason – I am introverted and I was scared because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t want to walk across the room where people could watch me. Jesus did not agree with my plan and told me to go there, anyway. Ok, then…

I did and I asked for something, probably. The instant their hands touched me, I was on the floor. This happening is sometimes called “slain in the Spirit” but I prefer “resting in the Spirit” – it’s not as violent sounding.  Whichever – I felt very much at peace and held as I lay there.  Of course, every eye in the room was focused on my prone body. So much for introversion – just sayin’. I could hear my friends telling folks that I was alright. This has happened to me only once and in retrospect, I don’t think it was really for me anyway, or at least only partly.

I got up from the floor and returned to my seat beside the woman in charge. She said, “Interesting.  I doubt if the ladies know what happened.”  WHAT!! The name of the group, being what it was, led me to believe that they would know about these things. I must explain it. So, I talked about the Holy Spirit, about spiritual gifts, about resting in the Spirit, about tongues, about healing and, most likely, other Jesus things as well.

So, the retreat continued.  I read something from the book I brought.  There was laughter. We had more singing, a break, and another evening session. Then, it was time for prayer again. A woman, that I knew from this congregation, who had MS, came up to my station using a walker. She had been in a wheel chair. She said, “I want all that the Holy Spirit wants to give me.” Alright!!  I prayed for the Holy Spirit to do just that and she started to fall.  I grabbed her and lowered her to the floor.  Her friend was concerned but I assured her that she would be fine.  I kept my eye on her as we prayed for others.  When she started to stir, I went to her.  She said that her legs were burning and she had had no feeling in them for a long time.

My first thought – I am so very proud of this – was, “Oh, no.  God wants to heal her.” Isn’t that great? I really trusted God, but I wasn’t sure of me. I had to continue, however. I was the retreat leader.  Or so I had thought. I turned to the ladies and told them that God wanted to heal Bernice, and I asked others who felt comfortable praying for healing to join me in laying hands on her. It’s better that way, anyhow.  More community like. We prayed, she got up from the floor and started walking around.  Her friend’s jaw hit the floor – probably others as well –  as we watched her dance around.  The word was that Bernie didn’t sit down all night. The last I heard, she hasn’t yet.

I certainly would not have planned the weekend this way, but God had his dreams for this congregation, so he took over.  I was called to be there as part of it and I am still amazed.  God can do some pretty good work through scaredy-cats.  Even introverted ones. Sometimes, he lets them know.

Two years ago, at convention, I ran into a woman from that group. She told me that I had no idea what had happened after that weekend. There had been all kinds of confusion and dissension in that congregation about gifts of the Spirit and whether you needed to speak in tongues to show that the Spirit had filled a person. It was tearing the congregation apart. After this weekend, it all went away.  There was healing in the congregation as well. Wow!! Thank you, Jesus!!

I don’t know how to end this writing and it’s already long…so, be not afraid.  God does have his dreams and his ways.  “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” ~ Esther 4:14

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:8

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Way of Life

 

“Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.  Discipline means that somewhere you’re not preoccupied.  In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. ~ Henri Nouwen

Last week I wrote about our Baptismal Covenant wherein I had discovered a Rule of Life built into it. It’s a simple rule of life, but not necessarily simple to live.  Part of the reason for this problem is that we don’t actually plan on how to we are going to execute it.

This week is a about the “whats” and the “how-tos”.  If we only have a rule that we aren’t tending, it will soon become pushed into the “sometime I might do this” part of our lives.  What to do and how to do it, specifically and personally, is what a rule is about.  The elements of the way are only an outline. What will I/we choose to do in each element and how will I personally live this out in my life is the question. Since what I am writing about this week is a continuation of what I wrote before, and if you haven’t a clue and really want to know what I’m talking about, let me know.

Whichever rule you choose will work if there are elements in it that help us carry out our promises made at our Baptism, grow spiritually, and become transformed into the image of Jesus. I often prefer to use the word “Way” rather than the word “Rule” because Rule sounds so much like law when all it really means is a way to measure and a way to grow in loving God and loving our neighbor. 

 I am a closet Benedictine, so when I began a way of life, I chose the method used by Cursillo printed on their Rule of Life Card. This is a modified Benedictine rule.  St. Benedict’s Rule was divided into regular daily periods of communal and private prayer, sleep, spiritual reading which is mostly scripture, and manual labor, which in modern times was modified into other forms of work that we do. In that case, we should probably add exercise to our way.  There was no need for that in Benedict’s time. I like that Benedict added sleep to his Rule.  I’m thinking of adding it to mine. Although, what Benedict called for here may be close to what I get when I don’t think I’m getting much.

 This rule includes Piety (Seek Holiness – prayer); Study (Learn the Story); and Action (Evangelism – Tell the story, Serve Others, etc.) There is a Check-in (accountability) method used in small groups – How is this way working for you and what action have you done to spread the Kingdom of God that you planned to do in the past week? It is strongly suggested that you share this plan and the results of it in your life with a spiritual director. This whole way (or rule) is to take place within the context of community (continue in the Apostle’s Teaching, the breaking of bread and in the prayers).

 How did I make my way specific? I already was receiving Holy Communion twice a week when it was available. I began making sacramental confessions from time to time.  I spent time in prayer, quite often reading those from the Book of Common Prayer.  I read some scripture, often it was the Bible verse at the top of a meditation from “Forward Day by Day” that was my daily reading. It took me some time before I was very faithful in the reading and study of the Bible. My action and service to others varied and usually took place in a group.  I met with a small group, weekly, to pray and to share how I have been accountable to my plan and to God. It is permissible to start small with your “Rule” and let it grow in you.

I had a way to go, and let me tell you a secret.  I still do. I have grown, and continue to grow, and how I follow my “way”, now, is quite a bit different than it was, but it is also quite a bit the same.  That’s what 40 or 50 years of being reasonably faithful will do to a person. Several, well many, years ago, I added play to my rule of life.  I had almost forgotten about that.  See, we need diligence. I will need to figure what I can do about this.  Deliberately planning what I will do in each element of my rule and planning when I will do what I have chosen is the key. My rule, at this time of my life, is a combination of the Trinity Way of Life, Daughters of the King’s, and my old sort of Benedictine Rule. They mesh well.

What will you choose for your way of life? It might very well be the Trinity Way.  It may be another one. If you are just starting out, don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember that Fr. Jack told us to start out in “Pay Attention (prayer)” by spending 10 seconds, yes – that’s right 10 seconds, paying absolute attention to God.  Do the same with the other elements of your way.  If you need some help getting started, give a holler. You will be amazed at what this does.

Bless the Lord, O my Soul, O my Soul.  Worship his holy name.Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship your holy name. ~ Matt Redman

 

 

 

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

 

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