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.

 

 

 

 

 

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A MEDITATION FOR HOLY SATURDAY

 

 

Love is in the tomb.

Today is a sad day in the life of the Christian Church—Jesus has been crucified. 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 remembrance that Jesus has died but is not yet raised.

For the disciples, who do not know the end of the story, it is sadder still. All their hopes are crushed. Not only that, a 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, 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! God! They have killed him. They killed my Lord. Why? Why? He was so gentle. He was the one—the Messiah. How could they not know? Our Hope is gone. Were we all wrong? No! I stayed there at the cross and watched this horrible thing. I cannot bear those images. My heart is broken in so many pieces and I cannot stop my crying. Sobs come from the depths of me and tears continue to run down my face like rivers. Oh, his dear face. Blood! He cried out to you, O God. He forgave those who did this. 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?

I can’t go on without him. Why? Why? If I could only touch him. And they beat him again and again! If I had not been there to see, but I had to go and 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 cannot betray him nor abandon him, now. He said it is finished. Finished? How can it be finished? I can’t leave him here in this tomb alone. I feel abandoned, too, but I stay here in this place where he is buried as much as I can. I can’t do this. I can’t. I am lost. We are all lost.

Never again will I see his face, know his love, nor hear him call my name….

Love is in the Tomb, today.

(djw 2015)

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Come Away With Me

Gracious God ~ Eternal Life, we thank and praise you for this glorious time of spring.
As new life emerges to replenish the earth in beauty, grant that we also may awaken from the depths of darkness into your eternal light, to live as beacons of hope and keepers of peace. In gratitude and faith, we pray . . . Amen. ~ Morning Prayers of Anna Lin

In prayer and meditation this afternoon while praying about what to write, my archives popped into my mind. I think this writing from three years ago is appropriate for today as well.

“Can you believe it? Palm Sunday is in two days – and then Holy Week. Time seems to move so rapidly these days. That’s one of the reasons I like Centering Prayer. There are times when, at prayer, the world seems to stop for a bit while I am consciously being still with God. I need this time. Early this week, as I sat down to pray, I felt stressed. I haven’t quite recovered from all the turmoil of the last few months. I murmured, “I so need you, Jesus. I really do.” Bubbling up from somewhere inside me I hear, “I so need you, too.” What was that?

We know, as Teresa of Avila says, that Jesus needs us to be his earthly hands and feet, but I don’t really think this was what Jesus was trying to say. I understand hands and feet, but God who created everything from nothing except his Breath and his Word needs me “just because” is hard to wrap my mind around. Jesus loves me, yes. Chases after me, yes, but needs me (?) So, I ponder.

St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Someone said that if God stopped thinking about us, you or me, even for a minute, we would cease to exist. I often say, “God loves you (us) and there is nothing you can do about it.” And, it is true that he asks us to be his presence in the world – God with skin on. But I still think there is more. He could have scrapped the whole people project from the beginning and at any time after the Garden rebellion, but he didn’t. He wants, loves, and needs us whether we can wrap our mind around that or not. Have you ever considered that Jesus wants to spend time with you; that he wants you to be with him—to sit together, to visit together and to love—only to be and not do anything else for the moment? Awesome!

Does this have anything at all to do with Holy Week? Maybe it does. There are scriptural accounts. Many times, Jesus asked his apprentices (disciples) to come away with him and rest. But in the Garden, the night he was arrested, he has taken them to be with him. Matthew 26: 36ff gives the story. “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?’” Twice more, Jesus came to be with them, but they were asleep.

These next few days, beginning with Palm Sunday, give us the opportunity to be present to Jesus on his journey to the cross. The Church provides the lovely gift of Holy Week services—beautiful liturgies to help us be intentionally present to Jesus. We attend these to re-member his real presence with us, to remember his suffering and sacrifice for us, but also because he wants those he loves to be near him. If we listen, we might hear him say, “Could you stay awake with me one hour? I so need you. I really do.” Have you considered how you will respond to that question? Have I?” (dlw March 27, 2015)

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
~ Marty Haugen, b. 1950

Grace & Peace dear ones,
Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Beloved

“There is that voice…that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’ It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: ‘You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody – unless you can demonstrate the opposite.’” ~ Henri Nouwen

While praying over the past few days, I have come to realize that since I have been ill, I’ve uncovered somewhere buried inside, a state or maybe it’s an emotion. Perhaps just a thought pattern. A whatever that I thought had been healed and gone away. I’m feeling very disjointed. Also, insecure, and unsure of myself. Is that the same thing?

Since I was diagnosed in July with cancer for which there is no treatment I can tolerate (except prayer, of course, and I pray for a miracle every day) my life has changed in so many ways. Things I have done that bring me joy, I can’t do any more or at least not in the same way. I don’t know who I am right now.

What things? You might ask. I can’t sing in the choir anymore. I have done so since I was 10 years old – many, many years! Singing was part of my worship; even the practice was worship. A member of the choir was part of who I was and am not now.

Writing is more difficult. It has never been difficult for me. I never planned on being a writer but apparently it was part of God’s plan for me. Yes, occasionally, I had writers block for a day or so, but now it might be a week or more before I can put thoughts together on paper. I had written a meditation for last Friday, but a computer glitch did not save it and totally deleted what I had written. Probably, it didn’t need to be said.

Spiritual Direction is my calling. Sometimes and on certain days, I need to reschedule appointments because I don’t feel good enough to listen well. What if it happens that I can’t do it anymore? I have been a spiritual director for about 34 years and been certified for 28. Who will I be if I can’t do this? And there’s more.

All this change, to which I haven’t yet become accustomed, causes me to feel insecure. Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself. Probably. Mostly, the inner voices I hear that Henri Nouwen mentions in the quote above are my own. Henri says later, in his book “Life of the Beloved”, “…the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection…I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation.” Me, too – I do that. Especially, now.

So, what is the reality? Who am I now? I know that I am not what I do, but my being is wrapped up in that. So, who am I really? The answer to that, obviously, is “God’s Beloved.” Any other answer is the lie of the enemy who would like to sidetrack us.

Ann Voskamp writes in her book, “Be the Gift”, “Maybe is isn’t enough to believe in Jesus – maybe I have to believe that Jesus believes enough in me to choose me…If Christ has chosen me, if He’s the only One who has ever loved me to death – can He not believe in me? Can I believe Jesus believes in me – because He is in me?”

I love this quote by Anne Lamott – “I have never said that I am a good Christian. I just know that Jesus adores me and is only as far away as His name. I say, ‘Hi, Lord,’ and He says, ‘Hello, darling.’ He loves me so much He keeps a photo of me in His wallet. If I were the only person on earth, he still would have died for me.”

Anne knows she is Jesus’ favorite. I am, too. So are you. My maternal grandmother taught me about this. Not in words but in deeds. I was her favorite. So was every single one of her many, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. I didn’t know that. None of us did until much later in life when we all were talking about her and how each of us knew we were her favorite. Her chosen one. God is like that, or I should say that grandma was an image of God. I am so grateful.

“Dear God, I so much want to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that you are saying: ‘Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of you heart will be fulfilled.’ Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love. Amen.” – Henri Nouwen

 

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 – Prayer First

I love you, O Lord my strength,
O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.
My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,
My shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;
You are worthy of praise. ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I was going to write about discernment of spiritual gifts this past week, as I told you, but as sometimes happens, I am changing that. Last week, I couldn’t write even though I planned to do so and had some notes. I had an appointment with my oncologist that morning when we discussed my latest CT scan. It showed that my lung tumor has grown – I don’t know how much because I don’t think it’s in my best interest to know – and I had to deal with my thoughts and feelings about this even when I didn’t want to.

I haven’t wanted to bother you with my emotional states over the last six months because I don’t always have positive thoughts and feelings that I’m ready to share. None of us do no matter what our faces say. It just so happens that unless I tell it like it is, I can hardly write at all. So, this is a little longer but it’s time.

After the doctor told me the results of the scan, I was depressed. I had been feeling well for quite some time, except for a separate problem with my back which is not cancer according to the doctor. Because of that I had hoped that at the very least the tumor would not have grown and even that it might have shrunk. I didn’t really expect the results, but I was not surprised. It took me three days to get my head around it all. Questions filled my thoughts. What is this going to be like? How long will the process of dying take if that is what’s to be? What is heaven like? I must tell you that I never am comfortable doing something new and different. I always, always have anxiety about it. I like to know what I’m getting into and even though there are indications about it all, there it is. I’m anxious. Or was. I don’t know how long I have, but then we never do, really.

I am still praying for a miracle, even more so now, and imagining my tumor gone and my lungs clear. I pray for the darkness to leave them and to be filled with the light of Christ. I still know that Jesus healed those who came to him for healing. I believe he still does so. My prayers come from that knowledge, however, I have moments of doubt. At those times I need to remember, as I did at the beginning of this, to hang on to the hem of Jesus robe and not let go.

During my prayer time on the third day, Sunday, the words, “ACT HEALED”, impressed themselves on me. Act Healed. Can I do that? Isn’t it rather silly to act healed when obviously the CT scan says otherwise? You might ask. The answer is “Yes”. And “No”. Yes, because it not very real is it? Should I not stay with reality and prepare. No, because acting healed can keep me in the moment. It keeps me from having panic attacks, even minor ones. I stay with how I feel overall instead of counting every little twinge of pain. I remember who loves me. I remember whom I love. It helps me focus on something other than illness. There may be days when this acting might be difficult to carry out, but I’ll try. So far, I’m doing ok. I am sleeping better than I was. I was in the office two days this week. I laugh.

I’m still working on things that need organizing. I am giving away some trinkets and heirlooms to family members and fixing my genealogy program. I want to throw out some old files. These things have needed doing, anyway.

Last Friday – I had intended to write about this last week – the Gospel Lesson from Morning Prayer was the story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:17-27, 38-44). As I read this I was struck by the fact that in this story, Martha is the sister that runs down the road to meet Jesus, even though she rebukes him for not coming in time. Mary is the one who stays behind. I was, for some reason struck by the role reversals from the story when Jesus went to dinner at their house and Mary was the one who sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha was preparing lunch for their guest (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was upset because Mary wasn’t helping, and when she complained Jesus told her that Mary had chosen the better way. I doubt if that seemed fair to Martha. In the Lazarus story, I had always assumed that Mary stayed behind because she was angry with Jesus and wasn’t going to run to him on the road. But as I meditated on this, I remembered that there was a house full of guests who had come to pay respects and she had to be the hostess. Hospitality was at stake.

What do these stories say to me? What does Jesus want me to know here? I think it is that spending time with Jesus is my top priority. First prayer and then work and whatever. Both are necessary. I just need to get them in the right order.

Especially now.

“I have to stay close enough to the Word to hear my Father’s voice.
And in the stillness, our Father’s voice calls and there is a moving back closer to hear Him —we need the person of God more than we need the plan for our life.”—Ann Voskamp

Blessings, 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