A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Listening

A FRIDAY MEDITATION
June 1, 2018

“But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.”—Psalm 31:14-15

I woke up yesterday morning and decided I was going to feel sorry for myself for the day. I didn’t feel particularly well. I was achy and shaky and didn’t have any energy. I whined inside myself for a while about the things I can’t manage to do, now. Things that brought me life, like singing, especially in choir, serving at receptions, teaching – I had a couple of classes that I wanted to do. I have a hard time keeping to a schedule. I feel useless, weak and uninspired. Etc. Whine.

I was reminded of something one of my granddaughters said once: “She needs her some Jesus.” I do. I need me some Jesus. I need lots of Jesus. I need to get myself to church for the healing service and spend time in community with other Christians – Jesus with skin on. Now to get dressed and see if I can get my shaky self down there. (I did. Thanks for the boost, Jesus.)

Feeling sorry for myself is a choice I can make any time, but it takes me out of the moment. I deliberately chose it for a few minutes – Okay, maybe an hour – I try hard not to let that happen. As I have said before, practicing gratitude to God for the gift of himself and for his gifts in my life helps me stay focused on where I need to be.

My Facebook page reminded me that, in the past week, I had the 28th anniversary of my graduating from St. Thomas Seminary having received a Certificate of Pastoral Ministry with concentration in Spiritual Direction. With that two years of training, 2 years at Aims studying Psychology and Counseling, a year in between that and the program, in addition to the years that I had been listening to people tell their stories before I even knew that there was such a thing as Spiritual Direction, I have been providing spiritual direction for over 35 years. Wow! That’s a long time. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed and how much I have enjoyed it. I don’t intend to stop until I have to.

Mostly, spiritual direction is a ministry of listening. Listening to a person’s God stories. Listening, myself, for God in their stories. Helping them see God there and helping them find blocks in themselves that prevents their seeing, hearing and transformation. Strangely, or maybe not so much so, this helps me find my own blocks. I am so grateful for this most joyous gift. I believe it to be a gift of the Holy Spirit that was built into me from the beginning though I didn’t know it until the fullness of time. Some of our spiritual gifts are like that. Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ~ Frederick Buechner. We just need to find that intersection.

How did I know that this was what God had called me to do? I didn’t know. As I said, I grew into it. I had planned to become a nurse. Healing was important to me. Then, I believed that maybe it was being a family counselor and began that track. During all these times, I listened to stories. Finally, 31 years ago, a friend who was attending St. Thomas seminary, discovered that the seminary had a program for spiritual directors. She called me and told me that she believed I should take it. When she wrote my recommendation letter, she wrote that “Donna is always asking, ‘I wonder what God is doing in this’ or ‘where is God in this’” Guilty. So, the rest is history. I almost didn’t go because of some family situations where I needed to be more available at home. I called my advisor and told her that I wasn’t going to take the program. A year later life stabilized, and I felt the tug. I called and told her that I wanted to reapply. She said that she would take my application out of my file. She had kept it because she knew I would be back.

So, why this story, today? Well, basically, its what happened this week. My life as a sick person can become very dull and boring if I let it. But also, this is how God often works in our lives. If we are listening, we can hear the call. We can find our Holy Spirit gifts. They stir something in us and usually won’t turn us loose. I am grateful for this.

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness? Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder? And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

[Chorus:]
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

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – In All Circumstances?

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Last Friday was my birthday.  I was going to write this then, but it wasn’t ready.  I had far more to ponder before it would come together. Ten months ago, I did not know if I would be here for this birthday. Of course, we really don’t know if we will be here on any particular day, but we assume for the most part that we will.  Anyway, I am grateful for this gift because that is what my life is. I am grateful for this birthday.

 

The Saturday before, I spent about five hours in the ER.  I was sent there because of a persistent bad cough and the doctor believed there was fluid buildup on my lung.  When the ER doctor gave me an ultrasound, he couldn’t find enough fluid to cause that much problem.  So, there were other tests including a CT scan that was administered by a friend. Another gift from God, I believe, that helped me see and know his love and hers.  There was something (they don’t know what) that was mostly occluding the lung tumor, so they couldn’t see it well.  They are assuming that it has grown and that it was causing the problem with my cough. I didn’t mention the fact that I had been praying for God to put some sort of bubble around the tumor to keep it contained. I’m chicken, I guess. I am now on some different drugs that has stopped the coughing.  Thank God.

 

This was not terrific news for us and we are still praying for a miracle.  God is sometimes a last-minute God. We have seen that before.  However, I need to prepare because as the psalmist in Psalm 31 tells God, he knows that his times are in God’s hands and in Psalm 39 he tells God he knows that his days are numbered. Ours all are. My life is still in God’s hands. I’m scared, sometimes, but don’t tell anyone because I try to be and act more brave than I am, occasionally. Recently, I ran across a Snoopy cartoon where Charlie Brown says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” And Snoopy, wisely, says, “True, but on all the other days, we will not.” So how do we not on other days?

 

I really try to stay in the moment.  When I find myself afraid, I remember that right at this moment, I am alive and, mostly, don’t feel too bad. I would like a bit more energy. On these alive days, I am too live my life serving and loving God and others. So, I take a deep breath and go on.

 

I have another confession, and this really does go along with what I’ve already written, so hang on.  I have been having trouble with my gratitude.  I’m grateful for the same things – family, friends, home, food, etc., but why not, right???  However, though I know they are gifts, I often take them for granted.  Something needs to change because I quit making a gratitude list. I had to do better than this.

 

I started reading a brand-new book by Diana Butler Bass (Grateful – The transformative power of giving thanks) She said that some of the things we put on our list, though gifts, are partly privilege. We work hard.  We are able to get things. We sometimes forget that being able to do that is Gift. But, how are we grateful for things we consider bad or that really are bad?  I do not believe that God gave me cancer.  God does not will illness.  But the world is broken and evil, also, exists.  God wills healing but sometimes it doesn’t happen.  What if my number is coming up sooner than later? How can I be grateful in all circumstances? Well, I changed my gratitude list to add some different things.  I am still grateful for the above as well.  Some of things I thank God for are:  Our Trinity community – a piece of the Kingdom of God on earth; the gift of another day; for God holding me when I had a rocky day and couldn’t go to work as I had planned. I’m thankful that I had the energy to make an apple pie (mostly) and for my husband who finished it when I ran out of steam.

 

I thank God for a good physical therapy session for my sore back; that I was able to go to a Vestry meeting at church; my daughters successful medical procedure and for the most part, I feel OK. There are more that I put on my list but ‘space’ you know.  It’s amazing what can be found to thank God for when things are the “bad times”.   Listing them, helps me stay in the moment and remember Snoopy’s wise words. “But on the other days we will not.”  We “Practice Gratitude” in all circumstances.

 

Do you remember my story of my prayer where Jesus was sitting away from me wearing a black belt which gave my cause to giggle?  Just this week while I pray, the image has changed to one of him holding me and me holding him. What bad times?

 

A friend, a couple of days ago, posted a song on Facebook which was what I so needed for that day – I Am, by David Crowder.  Here’s part of it. I had a little cry while it played.

 

There’s no space that His love can’t reach.

 

There’s no place where we can’t find peace

 

There’s no end to Amazing grace

 

Take me in with your arms spread wide

 

Take me in like an orphan child

 

Never let go, never leave my side.

 

(Chorus) I am…holding on to you. I am holding on to you

 

In the middle of the storm, I am holding on.  I am.

 

 

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDATATION – Resurrection

Resurrection changes things.

Jesus himself appeared and stood among the eleven and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? …While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”—Luke 24:36-37

Easter was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect. Trees and flowers were blooming. Our services were beautiful—balloons, flowers, music, alleluias!! “The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia.” Then louder – “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!” Communion. Jesus. All creation sings along. So, why do we have doubts, today?

The disciples had this problem. Only a few had witnessed the crucifixion, but there were witnesses. Mary, and some of the other women, had been there and seen it all. Mary had stayed by his tomb, and she said that she had seen him alive. Others saw the stone had been rolled away and angels told them Jesus was no longer dead but had risen as he had said he would. There were rumors that he had appeared to others, too. But could it be true? What’s the problem?

I was touched by this reflection from Laura Darling in 50 days of Fabulous: “Why do doubts arise in our hearts? Because you were dead, that’s why! Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead. May I say it again? Dead. Not resting. Not stunned. You had passed on, ceased to be, expired. You were bereft of life, you had kicked the bucket, you had shuffled off this mortal coil. You were dead and buried, and we were never going to see you again. That’s what death means, you know. It means separation. It means all last chances are gone. It means there’s no chance for anything to be any different between us.

“And now here you are, and it’s not a delusion, and you’re not a ghost, and you’re eating a friggin’ fish. So, forgive me if I’m a little wigged out here, but that’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s supposed to go in a certain direction. It’s supposed to allow for no revisions. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, what’s gone is gone, what’s dead is dead.

“I’ve got to tell you, Jesus, you have broken those rules so badly I don’t even know where to put them anymore. I don’t think there’s any charity that would take them, you’ve messed them up so badly. And now that those rules about the past and the future, death and life, you and me, are in the rubbish, I’ve got to ask you, what else are you going to change?”

What else is going to change? Why do we doubt? Why do we wonder if it is really Jesus showing up in our lives? Did he not say that he would? We could miss, in this story, that Jesus shows himself to the disciples while they are doubting. But, it doesn’t keep him away. Nor do ours. What are your doubts today? What are mine? Where is Jesus showing himself? What is changing? What is he resurrecting in you and me? Because, resurrection changes things. Alleluia!

Peace and good, Donna

(April 25, 2014)

A MEDITATION ON EASTER SUNDAY

 

Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been.  One asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

They have taken …my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was him.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary…(and he says, “Your Name.”)

Go tell my disciples….John 20:11-18

 

Love has won!! Alleluia!  Alleluia!!  Alleluia!!! 

 

dlw 2015

 

A MEDITATION, TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 12:20-36

The journey continues. The scriptures for the day record the events. Some Greeks, in Jerusalem for the festival, came to one of the disciples, Philip. They say to him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

We aren’t told if the Greeks ever saw Jesus but when Philip and Andrew told Jesus about it, his comments seem a bit odd. Perhaps, they did get to see Jesus and the very fact that they, the Gentiles, were there precipitated Jesus’ comments. He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.…Truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit….Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also…” It is almost as if Jesus is talking to himself. Pondering. Maybe thinking that no one has any idea who he is, not even his friends. They really don’t get it.” I wonder, “Do we?”

Jesus is wrestling with what he knows is about to happen. He wants his followers to understand. He says, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—`Father, save me from this hour?’ NO, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” Perhaps, Jesus wonders, “WHAT am I doing, again? What am I thinking?” But then he prays, “Father, glorify your name.” A voice comes from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there [maybe including the Greeks] heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said an angel had spoken to Him. The events taking place here were planned from before the beginning. They are not an alternative “Plan B”.

Then Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John says that Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. Now, the time is right. Everything is -in place. The crowd responds, “How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” I can almost see Jesus shake his head. He says, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you….”

What are our thoughts as we listen to Jesus today? Do we ask, “Who is this Son of Man?” Do we really understand what he has said to us? Do we know who he is? Is there darkness that clouds our knowing? Do we want to see Jesus?

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you. ~ Michael J. Smith

dlw (Mar. 2015)

A MEDITATION – Monday in Holy Week

 

John 12:1-11

 

In the days before the Passover Jesus attends a dinner party in his honor at the home of Lazarus, and while they are eating, Mary pours costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair.  Judas, the one who was about to betray Jesus, is upset because the perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor, or so he says that is why.  Jesus defends Mary.  “Leave her alone,” he says.  “She bought it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

 They are all confused, except for Mary, maybe.  She seems to be aware that something much bigger is happening here. She bought perfume for Jesus’ burial and she used it, today, at this dinner party. Why? He did raise her brother Lazarus from the dead.  Does that help her believe Jesus’ story about dying and rising again in three days? 

 

 We are confused with the rest.  What does Jesus mean by these words?  Burial?  What burial?  What he said before about his dying – could that be true? But he is the King; he can’t die now. Doesn’t he care about his people?  Doesn’t he care about the poor anymore?  Something has changed.  But what? Why?  We don’t understand.  Is it all about Jesus, now?

 

 Is it? 

 

 

 

“Simply Jesus Son of Man – Simply Jesus spotless lamb….

…Simply Jesus Living Word – Simply Jesus says it all.

Jesus Christ our Lord – Jesus Christ is Lord.”—Paul Kyle

 

~ djw 2014

 

 

 

A PSALM SUNDAY MEDITATION

The end is beginning. Or is it the beginning that is ending? The scripture lessons read today are filled with images—with contrasts. At first, we cry, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” When the Pharisees told Jesus to stop the palm-waiving disciples who were crying, “Hosannas”, he told them that if they didn’t cry out, the stones would have to do it. Jesus must be proclaimed King on this day. The coming events must take place. They were planned from the beginning, and Jesus has chosen to take this path.

Then we read, and also cry, “Crucify, crucify him!” Must we always betray and get rid of that which we do not understand? It happened then, and it happens today. And so, we watched him die. Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” A Holy Week hymn says, “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee: I crucified thee.”

“But we did not crucify Him,” we say, “they did—a long time ago.” If not then, how about today?

We are sorry, Lord. Hear our prayer.

“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.”—The Book of Common Prayer

Blessed are you, Jesus, who comes in the name of the Lord.

~ dlw 2014