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

 

 

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Habits and Covenants

Holy habits are that: the disciplines, the routines by which we stay alive and focused on Him. At first, we choose them and carry them out; after a while they are part of who we are. And they carry us.” ― Mark Holly Buchanan

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:5-8

Last week I was too tired to sort out on what I wanted to reflect from the Daughters of the King retreat. It was a fun filled time, sort of like a pajama party, when in our cabin in the evenings, populated almost entirely by our St. Anne’s Chapter of Daughters from Trinity. We always bring, and eat, way too many goodies, but then that’s what PJ parties are for. We also had time to visit some with women from other chapters, and great times of reflection at our tables made up of women from different chapters.

However, it is the teachings, given by our Chaplain, Fr. Terry McGugan, that I want to tell you about., so as our friend, Sandy, says, “You might want another cup of coffee or tea.” Or since it is evening, a glass of wine or soda.

Fr. Terry’s theme for us throughout the year has been our Baptismal Covenant which is found beginning on p. 304 of the Book of Common Prayer. First, we are asked if we believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit. We affirm that we do. Then we are asked, 1. “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers”? 2. “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” 3. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” 4. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and 5. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” To each of these questions, we answer, “We will with God’s help.” How many times do we say these words at baptisms then go home and forget about them until the next time? I’m not going to answer that because I am afraid that it, also, is way too many.

Fr. Terry had made a simple outline on poster board that he placed on an easel by the podium. As, I looked at it, I suddenly realized that it was a “built into the Covenant” Rule of Life. Look.

Will you……
1. Live in Christian Community
2. Seek Holiness
3. Proclaim Jesus by Word and Example
4. Seek and Serve Others
5. Strive for Justice and Peace
….I will, with God’s help.

Daughters of the King have a Rule of Prayer and a Rule of Service and we try, with God’s help to live the Baptismal Covenant. At Trinity, we have a corporate rule of life called the Trinity Way of Life. These Rules in no way contradict the Covenant which we promised to follow at our baptism and which we reaffirm every time there is a baptism we attend. Every year, the Daughters of the King have a time when we look at the rule we have chosen to follow, to see what is working for us and what is not. Many use the Trinity Way which is very helpful for our spiritual growth. In the beginning, we start small and let the Elements grow in us from year to year. Reviewing it, from time to time, helps us learn how far we’ve come in our desire to grow closer to God and more like Jesus. Or, perhaps, how far we have not.

These Baptismal Covenant promises fascinate me because I had never noticed them as a day to day way of life before, and I have no idea why. I’m supposed to catch these things. No matter which rule of life we use, it is important to have one that follows, at least, the promises we have already made. Without even a simple plan, we can easily get off track and lose our way. But as the quote above says, after a time of use, they become part of us.

May you see God’s light on the path ahead when the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear, even in your hour of sorrow, the gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember when the shadows fall—you do not walk alone. ~ Irish Blessing

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Patience, anyone?

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. ~ Colossians 3:12

A woman stopped me in the hall after a meeting at church and asked if I had ever considered writing about patience. I hadn’t ….but, I always try to be open to what the Spirit is saying, so…  The women said she didn’t think that having patience meant to sit around and do nothing.  Was there an implied, “Does it?” at the end or was that my own question? I don’t make a habit of praying for patience. We joke about it, though, saying that praying for it will bring upon us opportunities to practice.  Maybe opportunities would occur anyway.

The next day, I read this quote by Henri Nouwen: “Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

Dictionaries say that patience is a noun and, basically, it is a quality, capacity or habit. Patience is something we have. Now, I just want to rush right out and buy some, but patience is a fruit of the Spirit. “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” ~ Galatians 5:22ff.  Fruit develops in us when we stay attached to the vine from which it comes. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5.  Patience is not something we can manufacture on our own or buy even if we wish it.

I stay attached by spending quiet time with Jesus listening- paying attention, being still with him. This is what I can “do”.  If further action is required, which usually requires some discernment, I often find the answer in the stillness. Patience requires a certain amount of trust that God has it covered and our attitude should be one of gratitude.

I have a current example.  My husband and I hope to move into a patio home.  We hadn’t thought to move but we kept having problems with our older home that we aren’t able to fix on our own.  I would post these issues on Facebook, occasionally, and a Friend reported that her husband said we shouldn’t fix anything but sell to them.  I thought she was joking.  But when she kept “joking” I realized God was speaking.  In short, we said we would sell our house and begin looking for another. We found one we want; it seems right, but the owner’s daughter hasn’t given a price, yet.  Maybe, it’s not God’s plan – maybe it is.  Our Friends house is in the process of being sold and we need to move in about one month.  We made an offer on the one we want, and we are waiting.  We are praying, friends are praying.  I am trying to stay attached to Jesus hoping patience is ripe while we wait for further instructions. Most of the time, I have patience.  But ONE month……? Really? Breathe. Be still. Listen. Good practice for Lent.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. ~ Colossians 1:11-12

 

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Does it Really Matter?

“Now thank we all our God, with heart, and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices; who from our mother’s arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” ~ Hymnbook 1982

There are so many thoughts wandering around my mind today that I can’t seem to choose one or make them fit together in order to write.  I feel like Ann Lamott, author of the book, “Help, Thanks, Wow”, when she says, “My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone.” That’s a good idea.  I’m sure I could really get lost in there, today, but I think I will choose to write about gratitude since it is November.                                                             

A fragment of today’s lessons caught my attention, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’” ~ Matthew 16: 18-19. The last part really grabbed me. Even though, I’m pretty sure this was not what Jesus meant when he spoke, I read several meditations this week stating that all things are connected in the world of spirit. All of our thoughts and words of gratitude, peace, and love, along with our prayers, can help change the world into the promised Kingdom of God on earth.  Our thoughts, words, etc. of anger, judgement and hate will be loosed into the world, also. Even our thoughts have power.  What we do, say and even think, matters. God help us. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So, what does this have to do with gratitude? I said that I’m having trouble fitting my thoughts together.  It’s a good thing I need to write. I read an interesting article from the field of neuroscience about what gratitude does for the person who is grateful—who looks for and finds those things each day for which they are, and who thinks on these things. It said that having gratitude makes changes in the brain chemistry that brings feelings of peace and well-being to him or her.  Also, I believe that being grateful reminds us that there is a God and it’s not us.  Moral – if you are down in the dumps, look for and find that for which you are grateful and thank God for it. See what it does for your spirit.

Today, I am grateful for God’s Grace. Love. Freedom. Family. Friends. Blue sky.  Sun.  Jesus.  Forgiveness.  Shelter.  Kingdom signs:  A policeman bought shoes for a homeless, shoeless, man. A neighborhood in Denver got together to rent a house for a panhandler and his family who were living in a motel.  They are now working on getting together enough money to pay the rent for a whole year. Those who work to feed the hungry of our town and all who help those with limited options.  Thank you, Jesus. Just writing about it helps.

For what are you grateful, today.  What did you see today that was beautiful? Remember it. Savor it.  Thank God for it.

”Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Dark inside?

I have been writing, recently, about darkness of the spirit. These times aren’t necessarily negative. Sometimes, the sense of God may be present, but the sense of direction might not be, and there may also be a deep feeling of loss. Though unpleasant, these could be teachable moments that are necessary for our spiritual growth. In order to come through them, to keep our balance, to grow, and see what they have to teach us, we need to stay attached to God and our Christian community. Having and writing about this doesn’t mean that I am depressed, though I occasionally may be, nor does it mean that I’m in trouble.  What it does mean is that I am learning to walk in the dark.

We share our stories for many reasons, and in this case two come to mind. We share to develop intimacy with others and to tell what God is doing and has done in our lives.  This is a way of “telling the story”—not just God’s story but our story in God’s story; what God is doing, and has done, in our lives. And, as usual, I have one.

After brain surgery in 1992, when the doctor intentionally cut my balance nerve to correct a problem with dizziness and accompanying nausea caused by Meniere’s disease, it took me some time to be able to stay upright without having a horizon upon which to focus. I still have to pay close attention to my walking and I have hardly any balance in the dark, especially if I’m not expecting dark.

Once when I was attending my annual spiritual director’s retreat, the facility director, in his opening remarks to attendees, told us that the smoke detectors, recently installed, would sometimes malfunction and sound off for no apparent reason.  If they did so in the night, he told us the best thing to do, if we couldn’t disable it ourselves, would be to go to the office, in my case downstairs, find the phone and call him.  I said a quick, silent prayer to God that this wouldn’t happen. But…!!

In the middle of the night, my detector started blaring.  I can’t get up on chairs – the balance thing – and I wouldn’t be able to reach it, anyway – the short thing – and to go downstairs in the dark to the office (note to self:  bring a flashlight next year), find his number and then call him, all while the alarm is waking everyone, was impossible. This would happen to me. I so love calling attention to myself.

As I put on my bathrobe, there was a knock on the door.  A woman’s voice asked if she could come in and disable the alarm for me. Oh, YES!! Please! She did, I thanked her profusely and went back to bed.  The next morning she was nowhere to be found.  Perhaps, she was an angel sent by God to rescue me. I’ll take that.

Is there a point to this story aside from bringing a flashlight and writing down a phone number (I now have a smarter phone)? Well, maybe, when its dark all around and you don’t know where you are or how to find your way, be patient.  God, who loves you, knows how to get through to you, care for you and even guide you. Darkness doesn’t last forever.

Today, this quote was posted on Trinity’s Facebook page:

“People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God.” ~ Henri Nouwen

Grace and Peace, Donna

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Grateful Day

O my soul, created to enjoy such exquisite gifts, what are you doing? Where is your life going?

~ John of the Cross

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States. We all know that story, so I’m not going to comment on it.  But one of the scripture lessons appointed for this day is interesting. Jesus is speaking, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~ Matthew 5:43-48

How do we be perfect as our Father is perfect?  What does that mean in this context?  Jesus commands us to pray for, bless, and abstain from cursing our enemies, etc., but how did Jesus treat his enemies?  As Jesus’ apprentices, we need to do likewise.  Jesus seldom responded with violence.  He healed his enemies (Ex. the Samaritan woman, he prayed for them, and he asked his Father to forgive them (from the cross) after being mocked, beaten, and spit on. Read these stories, and others, because I want us to think on these things as we remember our freedom and as we look at situations in our country and in the world. We want to be perfect as our Father is perfect.

I really had planned to meditate on gratitude, and I think it ties in with this lesson for the Fourth of July, so you get two meditations for the price of one.  In 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Reading this whole chapter makes a good meditation.  How, in all circumstances, do we give thanks? How, when the world and our country sometimes appear to be going to “you know where” in a “you know what”? And why should we? Because God will work it out and, ultimately, God wins, so we just do. It’s God’s will for us.

Some of us keep a gratitude journal.  This exercise, done regularly, can pull us out of anger, out of fear, out of darkness, out of depression, and out of dryness.  It can help us notice God’s working and winning in our world.  In our journal, we list those things for which we are thankful every day. Tonight, before we go to sleep, let’s list ten (10) things for which we are grateful.  Don’t use the obvious, family, home, food, etc., until we list ten others.  Noticing the obvious gets us off the hook. After the ten, we can note the things that are always on our list. It’s a grateful thing to do.

Today I am writing:  My freedom, freedom to worship, my soul friends, my knee replacements, a job I love, a loving community, dandelions, bees, surprising new flowers in the yard, dinner with friends, and a bonus, “Ultimately, God wins.” Now, the obvious—my husband, my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, Mom, brothers, sisters, extended family, my home, sunshine, blue sky, etc. Thank you, God. I am so grateful.

Be blessed and stay safe on this Independence Day, dear ones. God loves you.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – My Responsibility?

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden 

to work it and take care of it. ~ Genesis 2:15

Today, I don’t even know where to start writing.  There are times when so much is happening so fast that focusing on only one is difficult.  What subject do I choose?  On these days, my husband, and sometimes others, might suggest that I take a break.  I consider that.  I consider following my original plan of not writing at all, ever. But then, that doesn’t feel right.  You see, for the time being at least, writing is an assignment given to me from God, and I do know what I should write about today.  I just don’t want to because it’s still about clutter. I don’t want to write about this because writing it calls me to change.

You have probably heard what Pope Francis is saying about climate change.  He says that, although some of the change is due to cyclical rhythms of the planet, much more is caused by humans.  Many of us believe this is true. It is one of today’s burning issues.  Pope Francis calls it a moral issue, and it is also a stewardship issue. Whether we agree about the cause or not, we have still been charged with care of the earth and its resources.  In the beginning, the Genesis story tells us that after God created the earth, he made humans and gave them the job of taking care of it.  We only have to look around to see that we aren’t really handling that responsibility very well.  Romans 8 tells us that creation waits, groans even, for God’s children to deliver it from decay, but how do we do that?

If we are not working in politics, how can we make a difference and fulfill God’s command to be stewards?  Once again, not all of us are called to big things but each of us is charged with doing what we can. Many mystics and saints say that small is sufficient. We are to pray and then do what’s in front of us. What would that be?  A few years ago there was a little slogan or song.  Maybe you remember it – “Reduce, reuse, recycle – the three R’s that benefit the planet.” We can take this seriously. This asks us to consider how much is enough, what we throw away, how we use water, and so on.  You probably have your own list.

I can take care of the little plot of ground that I think we own.  I don’t do a very good job of it at times.  I have a bad habit of letting the water run down the drain when I brush my teeth and wash my face. I’m trying to break that habit, and that requires awareness.  I can wait until the dishwasher or washing machine actually has a full load before I run them.  We recycle and donate many things, but I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could come up with more.  We can bundle our errands.  Most of these are little sacrifices.  We can “Give as we receive.”  Can we even begin to give back what we have been given?  It will take all of us. We pray, “Lord, what will you have me do?”

“Lord above, how often do I distort your creation to my ends then feel sorrow when all I see is desert? How often do I treat your creation without love, then despair that love is absent? May I instead try not to despair, but to love: not to bend the world to my will, but pray that I might be a servant to yours. May I love your creation, as I am loved as your creation, as Christ died for love of me.”—St. Thomas Aquinas