A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Praise and Thanksgiving

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! ~ Psalm 150

Well, I am late again with A Friday Meditation. Something keeps getting in my way of getting it done on time, but I did want to write to you this week, because it is unlikely that I will be writing the next two weeks because of having surgery.

Morning gratitude:

I am grateful that my application to switch medical insurance over to Kaiser this year was messed up by the provider because I love my medical team at UCHealth. Well, love might be a little strong, considering.

I am so grateful for my medical team. Even though they seldom tell me good news. They are working for my best.

I am grateful for a friend who showed me that there is still good news in the midst of bad. Light still shines in the darkness!

Morning gripe:

So many doctors. So many procedures. I feel violated and that my body is not my own. It’s as if I have no say about what is being done to it and am required to let the assault continue. I really do need to do something other than going to the doctors and the hospitals, or staying home because I am not feeling well at the time. Hubby takes me to lunch often to get me away from the house and to tempt me to eat enough protein. He is a good man. I love him. And I do have a say.

The Morning Prayer Gospel lesson (Mark 5:21-43) is one that I have been holding on to for two or three weeks. It includes the story of the woman with the twelve-year hemorrhage who comes up behind Jesus and touches his clothes believing if she does so she will be healed. She is. Jesus tells her that her faith as made her well. I have adopted the image of hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe when I am feeling a bit lost.

The other story in this passage tells about Jesus raising the Pharisee’s twelve year old daughter from the dead. The father had received word while they were on the way that his daughter had died. Jesus said, “Do not fear; only believe.” The people had already started mourning by the time they arrived at the house. Jesus said to them that the child was only sleeping and he told her to get up. She did. This is a passage of scripture that is full of hope and healing. “Do not fear; only believe.” I repeat this to myself several times a day as well as staying tightly attached to Jesus.

When I remember the images in this story and listen anew to the words of Jesus, I am able to get back to grateful. “Practice Gratitude” is Element #7 in the Trinity Way of Life. This element is there for a reason. The reason is that we need to express our gratefulness to God no matter what is happening in our lives. Doing so helps us to see the light shining in the darkness even if it is very dark. Practicing Gratitude helps us remember that there is a God and we are not God. Practicing Gratitude reminds us who we are. We know how to do this.

And then there is praise. I used to have lots of trouble trying to understand the difference between praise and thanksgiving, but they are two separate spiritual exercises. They do resemble each other, however, and both are necessary to our spiritual health. Like expressing thanks, offering praise to God reminds us that we are not God. In offering thanks, we acknowledge to God what he is doing for us and what he has given us. When we praise God, we acknowledge and express who God is and not what he does.

A simple grace gives both. “God is great, God is good and we thank him for our food.”

Over and over words from the last few weeks – God, you are all good. You are all Love. You are creator. You are healer. And so on.

Thank you (practicing) for being in my life moment by moment. Thank you for being light to my darkness. Thank you for providing a hem to hang on to, and for saying, “Do not fear; only believe.”

You are God, and we praise you.
You are Lord, we acclaim you.
You are Eternal Father – All creation worships you
All creation worships you. Amen. – Unknown

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – ER Trip

But you O Lord are a shield for me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” – Psalm 3:3

This is not really a meditation. It is more of a reflection of my life at the moment and I want to share it with you. Things will change for me and my writing may be sporadic along with other things that I do. It is definitely ironic that I would write about breathing three weeks ago – ironic that I suggested we pause, take a deep breath and breathe in God – because two days later, early Sunday morning, I went to the ER with sharp chest pains. I had been having pain for a few days which I thought was bursitis. The sharp pains made me wonder if I was having a heart attack, so I asked my husband to take me to the hospital for what I thought would be some pain medication for bursitis.

By the way, if you mention that you are having chest pain when you go to the ER, everything speeds up, immediately. X-rays, blood tests, scans of various kinds. My bursitis pain turned out to be an inoperable, seed bearing lung cancer with fluid around the lung causing the pain. There are other cancers as well – brain tumor, perhaps thyroid, etc. I am still having tests to determine what all is going on. So, I spent the ensuing weeks in shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the words I was hearing. Neither could my family and friends. I have been unable to write since then because I couldn’t put words together. I’m still not good at it. But, again, writing is a spiritual discipline for me whether I write well or not.

There is much I don’t know.

Why? What caused this? I was a low cancer risk person. I had all my physicals. Recently. Why didn’t we see? Why questions are not really helpful because we cannot see the big picture and most often there are no answers.

I am reminded of this quote by Ann Lamott. I love it and it makes me laugh which is important at a time like this. “The first thing I am going to ask God when we meet face to face is, ‘What on EARTH could you have been thinking?’. And He or She will know exactly who I am talking about, the many way-too-young who have died or had serious pain so far, in my 60 years here. Who have been raised by closet psychotics? ‘What was THAT all about?”’ God will say what God said to Job—‘I’m God, and I don’t have to explain. Plus, there is a zero chance you would understand. No offense. Rock on.’” God’s ways are not our ways.

The Job story tries to understand and explain why bad things happen to good people. A piece of the Job story that I particularly enjoy happens after days and days of Job and his rather unhelpful friends, who had stopped listening and gone to meddling, trying to figure it out. They said Job must have done something to cause God to bring this upon him. Job knew he had been faithful. For him, the situation was just very hard to understand. Finally, God comes rolling up in a whirlwind. He is fond of wind and whirling. God chastises Job’s friends for sullying God’s reputation. How dare they say that God brought this upon Job? Then He takes on Job. Read this story sometime when you have an hour or two. It is worth it. God, in the past asked me some of the same questions that he asked Job when I took him to task about what he was doing. I’ve really stopped asking what he is up to because I probably wouldn’t understand it either.

This I do know. I sent this out with a prayer request update a couple of days after my ER trip. “I know that ultimately God wins. God does not cause disease. Disease is from the evil one. [Sometimes with the help of our own bad choices.] I know that God is good and I will not give in to despair. I know that God loves us/me and there is nothing we can do about it. [I say this so often I’m starting to be quoted.] I know that I will fight evil back as long as I can wherever I can.”

We know that much of what Jesus did was heal people from disease. One scripture says that on one day he healed all of those who came to him. God does not always change circumstances but he is always with us in them. The Church Mouse Meme says, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given.” So true.

My spiritual journey now is to try to stay in the moment, which I should do anyway since the moment is all we really have. I will try to practice the awareness of God’s presence. Breathing in his presence just got a lot more intentional and personal. I confess that I do have moments of panic when I get scared and hold my breath causing me to forget to stay where I have pledged to stay. The perimeters of my journey have greatly changed. I ask for your prayers for me and my family. I’m praying for a miracle and hanging on tight to the hem of Jesus’ robe.

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 – 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 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)

A MAUNDY THURSDAY MEDITATION

A MAUNDY THURSDAY MEDITATION

John 13:1-17, 31b-35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Traditionally in the Christian Church, this day is known as Maundy Thursday. Three main events take place on this night before the Passover festival – Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist [Holy Communion], and his giving the “new” commandment of love. The sctipture lessons for the day and the church services which will be celebrated today bring these to mind. As we begin this day, Judas has plans to betray Jesus and he, with the remaining disciples, are beginning their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest—though the disciples don’t know that it is.

“Jesus got up, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel.” In this culture, foot washing was done by slaves. Peter can’t handle this and objects. He says, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”…”Never.” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.… Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus washed their feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood. He says, “Do you understand what I have done for you?”… Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…” He will give another example, but that is tomorrow’s story.

Today we will wash one another’s feet as a reminder of our being servants to each other.

Reflections: How does Jesus wash your feet? How do others? In what ways do you wash others feet?

After washing, Jesus’ puts on His robe. He tells his friends that He is going away, soon, and they can’t come with Him this time. Then He says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This Great Commandment is Jesus’ dream for his friends. That includes us.

Reflection: How are you doing with this? How am I?

In I Corinthians 11:23-26, the apostle Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words at this common meal – the Last Supper, “that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” These are the words that are still used today in our common meal, the Eucharist.

Thoughts: Do this in remembrance of me…re-member me…the Body of Christ for us – the body of Christ…to become and reflect the Body of Christ to each other and the hurting world. “Do this and re-member me.” This is Jesus’ dream for us. Don’t the events taking place during this Last Supper all say the same thing? I believe Jesus just might be serious about this.

After this meal, Jesus and his disciples leave for the Garden where Jesus prays and the disciples sleep. Stay tuned.

As you read, pray and attend services today, imagine yourself as a disciple in these stories and events. What are your thoughts and feelings as you accompany Jesus and as you listen to him? These next few days of our journey with Jesus are intense and we need to pay attention, be aware, and not let them pass by lightly.

(dlw 2015, edited 2017)

MEDITATION – WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

John 13:21-32

This a passage that has been discussed, meditated upon and discussed even again. Today, once more, we wonder.

“At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’…….. ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘…the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ When he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’…. So, after receiving the piece of bread, [Judas] immediately went out. And it was night.” It is interesting, I think, that the writer of John makes the point that it was night. Is he trying to say that Judas was walking in darkness rather than light when he left the table?

What was Judas’ motive? Some say, he may have been trying to save Jesus’ life from crowds that were becoming agitated and likely to become violent. Others say that he was trying to force Jesus into His role as King over Israel and so overthrow the Romans. Some Orthodox churches call Judas a saint because he was the one who did what had to be done. None of these reasons or motives make any difference to the fact that Judas betrayed his Lord. Jesus wasn’t meeting Judas’ expectations. Whatever reason Judas had when he took the bread from Jesus, the tempter came and Judas made his decision.

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.”—v. 31-32

The time has come and Jesus knows it. God is using what Judas is doing for his own purpose and Judas has no clue. These events would happen with or without Judas, but what sadness that it was a friend who brought it about.

I ponder. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us bread and says, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And, often, we betray him, too. When, you may ask? Like Judas, when the tempter comes to us and we take matters into our own hands—when we tell Jesus that we’ll take it from here, we’d rather do it ourselves—when he isn’t working fast enough for us—when he is not the Messiah we want—when we want to do things according to our plan rather than waiting for his, etc. When we don’t live according to his teachings. When we distort his image. We know when.

Lord, often, we don’t know what we do, either. We confess the times we betray you. We are sorry. Please forgive us. Amen.

(dlw 2015)