Yeah, I had a plan to get caught up earlier this week, but got wrapped up in some other stuff. C’est la vie.
Lots of good stuff going on work-wise, believe it or not. Nothing I can really share right now, but I’m kinda excited about it.
So, anyway… where was I in terms of my Lenten Meditation?
Oh, how we would avoid this wasteland—this wilderness. Yet it is there, even in that place of utter despair, that we are most able to recognize and accept the touch of the Holy One.
Renée Miller (Saturday, March 24)
It’s in times of crisis that life becomes distilled into its most basic forms — need, pain, hope. The superficial aspects we surround ourselves with get stripped away, and we see ourselves for what we really are: simple beings with simple needs. And in this simplicity, if we are looking closely, we can see our true blessings — the gentle hand of a friend, a loving word spoken at the right time, the joy of simply sitting and being calm. So much of what causes our suffering can be attributed to the stories we tell about our expectations for ourselves. We are broken hearted because we cannot have the life we would like, while taking for granted the life we have been given. When we strip away that story, and see what is left, it is then that we can rejoice in the blessings we did not originally see.
Lent is about dying to one life and beginning again anew. Despite the recent recession, many of us live in a bountiful land. Many of us enjoy small and large harvests daily, while billions of people in our world struggle to secure the basic life necessities of clean water, simple food and adequate shelter.
Cynthia Coe (Sunday, March 25)
This goes back to the previous day’s thoughts. We are quite fortunate, even in our suffering. I know there are dear friends of mine who are facing terrible financial struggles, and it is a hardship. But, even during this crisis, they take joy in the simple moments of sharing a meal with their family, playing a game with their children, and enjoying the blessings they have. This isn’t to say they aren’t suffering. They are, but they also keep it in perspective, and try not to let it overpower their lives. Usually, this is the result of some kind of personal crisis that helps them find the perspective needed — like a death in the family, severe illness, or other event that reminds us of our mortality. In that sense, they’ve died to their old self who could not see past the immediate hardship, and have been reborn into their new self, who is suddenly aware of the greater blessing.
While we often tell ourselves and our children stories about how fortunate we are, it’s a difficult thing to learn without experiencing it first hand. Telling a seven year old to eat her dinner because there are starving children in another country is true, but it doesn’t really mean much to the seven year old. But if that child lives through a period of food shortages, she will have a different perspective about the importance of not wasting food.
It is an attitude of the heart. It is not resting on our knees on the stone cold pavement of an ancient church from one dawn until the next. When we are in love, there is a constant gentle abiding in the presence of our beloved, even though we may not be physically together in space and time.
Renée Miller (Monday, March 26)
It is this feeling of connection that resonates with me most. I feel that strong bond of connection with Eric, my family, and my very dear friends. I also feel it with the world around me, what I sometimes refer to as All That Is, sometimes The Universe, and sometimes God. My understanding of God it no understanding at all. I cannot claim to know who or what God is. But I know that God is in all things, at all times, and that includes me, and you, and everything else. And so I am always in contact with God. Sometimes it’s an amazing, ecstatic experience — like when I see some beautiful sight or hear a bird trill outside my window. But, frankly, sometimes it’s a trial — when the lady in line ahead of me at the store has 27 Clif Bars and each one is different and needs to be rung up separately. But God is in her, and in all those Clif Bars, and in that moment. I can choose a selfish response (and often do), or I can choose a compassionate response (which I try as often as I remember). I cannot change the fact that the woman has 27 Clif Bars, or the store’s need to ring them separately, or even the fact that my back aches and my feet are tired. I can change how I stand there with tired feed and an achy back and save myself some anger and resentment, and just wait for the frustrating moment to pass, and acknowledge that in even these mundane, frustrating moments, God is there.
But it didn’t take long for me to realize a truth about all of us, a truth that shifted my approach to work as a pastor. Scratch the surface, especially the most well-polished veneer of the most put-together people, and you’ll discover a need for healing. Talk to them, for even just a few minutes. Ask about their story, and you will hear about a need for healing.
The need for healing surrounds you today. How will you open your ears to those needs? How will you open your heart to those needs?
Jay Sidebotham (Tuesday, March 27)
Yes. This. I actually learned this many many years ago. When I was 20, I was in college in Michigan, and my parents were in Kansas, and I was overcome with terrible depression and feelings of being completely alone and scared. At one point, I remember crying on the shoulder of a young woman living in my dorm, someone I looked up to as being “put together” and perfect. I remember sharing with her my deepest feelings of hopelessness and fear, and how no one could possibly understand. She laughed, gently, and asked, “Do you think none of these other girls ever feel scared or alone?” I don’t know what I said to that, but she went on to tell me how no matter how perfect someone looks like on the outside, they have the same fears and doubts and pain as the rest of us.
Since then, I’ve kept a snippet of a quote I heard many years ago playing on a loop in my head. I don’t remember who said it and the Internet is not conclusive on the matter. The phrase, as I hear it, says, “Be kind to everyone you meet, as everyone is fighting some kind of battle.” And it’s true. How do I know that woman in line isn’t shopping for her elderly senile mother who will only eat Clif Bars?
We all have vivid memories of people in our lives who have cared for us in troubled times. Perhaps it was someone who listened patiently, who sat with us as we waited fearfully for news, who held us in a loving embrace through a time of pain and struggle. We remember with gratitude someone who was particularly sensitive and caring, someone who did not wait to be called, someone who prayed with us through a long night.
Gay Clark Jennings (Wednesday, March 28)
So true. And I try to live each day like this. It’s not always practical, and sometimes I get caught up in my own suffering and forget to reach out to others. But, the funny thing is, when I do reach out, I completely forget about my own troubles. It’s amazing.
And this level of caring isn’t solely for those who are suffering. It is also for those who are celebrating, for those who are excited about something, and for all the other human emotions. I think the real message isn’t to seek out people who are suffering, although that’s a worthy goal, but instead to be present in the lives of those around us, and allow them to be fully themselves when they are in our presence. I think we all know someone who celebrated with us when we got a promotion or some other personal achievement. But we also probably know someone who dismissed our celebration and dampened our spirits. I don’t want to be that person.
This Jesus—this Messiah who is suffering with us, even in the midst of his own suffering and woundedness—is there to offer forgiveness, to offer healing, to offer restoration. This confronts us with a different reality, because we are far too concerned about being whole, about being perfect, about knowing everything, about being in just the right place at just the right time before we can offer healing to someone else.
Lisa C. Flores (Thursday, March 29)
There is a statistic I heard once that said people don’t stop to help someone stranded on the side of the road because it will make them late. I know it’s true for me. I can’t be late, I might get in trouble with my boss, I might lose a client, or so many other imagined possibilities. How sad is that? That we can’t offer assistance to someone because we are ourselves not in a perfect position to do so.
Jesus chastised his disciples because they proved themselves incapable of healing and feeding others, who therefore had to wait for him to arrive in person. Called to do “greater works than these,” too often Jesus’ followers have stood idly by as spectators, waiting for God to do something.
C. K. Robertson (Friday, March 30)
This reminds me of the old story about the man stranded on his roof in a flood, and each time someone would try to rescue him, he’d say, “No, thank you. God will save me.” When he dies, he meets God in Heaven and asks why he wasn’t saved, and God replies, “What did you want? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”
This meditation is remind us to be the boats and helicopters — that WE are God’s presence in the world, saving those in need. It’s well and good to pray for a divine miracle, but most often that miracle arrives in a human form.
Healing from a Christian perspective is the process of moving toward wholeness in body, soul and spirit, not just for individuals but for communities as well. Central to God’s model of health and wholeness is not medicine but reconciliation — to God, each other and creation.
Christine Sine (Saturday, March 31)
Many years ago, I worked a temporary position at the St. Helena Hospital, run by the Seventh Day Adventists in Napa County. While I worked there, I got to know some of their practices regarding treating drug and alcohol addiction as well as other illnesses. In each case, they made it their practice to treated the whole person — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
That same approach should be taken when attempting to heal relationships, communities, and the world. It’s easy to show up and try to change one broken aspect of a relationship, but unless you factor in all the emotions and stories around that aspect, you won’t achieve true and lasting healing.