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

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – With Gratitude

 

All day long I hope in Your goodness.

Remember Your love,

The love that You promised long ago.

And the kindness that you

Gave from of old.

 

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

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

~ Tim Manion, “I Lift Up My Soul

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

For delicious meals brought in

 

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

 

Feeling better and stronger some days

 

Being able to do a few household chores

 

Being able to sing a bit more

 

My voice is stronger

 

Good day with Soul Friends

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 Peace and Good, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It would be easy

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

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

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

It would be easy to feel discouraged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace & Peace, Donna

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Breathe

 

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

Your holy presence living in me.

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

Your very Word spoken to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – 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 GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATION

 GOOD FRIDAY

John – Chapters 18 & 19

What can one say on Good Friday that has not already been said? The story is very familiar to all of us and there are so many great meditations already written, why should I write another? Well, for two reasons—because I can, but really because in order to get into the story, I need to meditate on it. Writing helps me do this.

Our children hated Good Friday. They thought it was gruesome so they didn’t want to go to church that day to be reminded. An old Johnny Hart cartoon comes to mind. In it, Person 1 says: “I hate the term ‘Good Friday!’” Person 2: “Why?” P1. “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” P2. “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” P1. “Good.” P2. “Have a nice day.”

Perhaps, Person 2 should say, “Have a Good day,” but it doesn’t really look or feel like a good day, does it? A Good day almost requires standing on the other side of the cross from where the disciples are standing, and that’s not where we are today. Jesus and his disciples start in a garden. He asked that they stay awake and pray for him and for themselves but they couldn’t stay awake. They will fail again, today. Watch as the story unfolds.

Judas brings soldiers and police to the garden where he knows Jesus is so they can arrest him. Was that a glance between Judas and Jesus? Even though, Jesus knows what is happening, this must be a blow. We, his disciples have no clue. What are we thinking, now? We don’t understand all of his teaching, but we have seen the works of God that Jesus has done. Are we wrong about Jesus being the Messiah? Why is he being arrested? Why doesn’t he stop this? Peter, again, takes matters into his own hands, draws his sword and cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus rebukes him and says something about drinking from a cup his Father has given him. What cup?

These, and more, are the stories of today—humiliation stories, rejection stories, abandonment stories, stories of torture, ugly stories. The disciples run away, Peter denies knowing him, the Jewish leaders that he had hoped to turn around rejected him. The women and maybe one or two other disciples watched him die. But, Jesus’ love and purpose transcends his disappointment and pain. And ours. Unconditional love has a way of doing this. This is the story of Love – the greatest Love Story – and this is our story, too.

Questions for reflection: If this is our story, too, what does that mean to me? When can’t I stay awake? What am I afraid will happen if I do? What will staying awake require of me? When do I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God’s purpose to unfold? When do I try to force into being what I believe God’s purpose to be? How have I failed Jesus, lately? Will I ever be able to love like Jesus does?

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—for me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? – Charles Wesley

(dlw 2014, revised 2017)