WHY NOT PLAY?

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. – Isaiah 55:12 NIV

Sometimes life gets too serious, doesn’t it? It has especially become so this past ten months for me since I’ve had so many health issues with various cancers in various places. It is exhausting to keep up with all of it. See doctors, eat something (anything), sleep or try to sleep. Not much fun going on which brings me to the point of this writing – PLAY.

On my Facebook page memories, I ran across an old FRIDAY MEDITATION I had written two or three years ago with the title “Play Dates”. Why did this show up today? Maybe because Play is one of my spiritual disciplines. It is good for my spiritual wellbeing. When did I forget to play? I don’t remember to tell the truth.

Oxford Dictionaries defines play as “to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose, take part in (a sport).” In this case play is a verb. It is something we do. Play is supposed to be fun. Often it is creative.

Wikipedia defines fun as “the enjoyment of pleasure, particularly in leisure activities. Fun is an experience — often unexpected, informal, and/or purposeless. It is an enjoyable distraction, diverting the mind and body from any serious task or contributing an extra dimension to it. … It may often have little to no logical basis, and opinions on whether an activity is fun may differ. A distinction between enjoyment and fun is difficult but possible to articulate, fun being a more spontaneous, playful, or active event. There are psychological and physiological implications to the experience of fun.” Fun, in this case is a noun – something you have.

What makes play a spiritual activity? For one, Play is creative, usually. It releases stress from the body and it makes us more into the image of God. Madeleine L’Engle writes, “I believe that God had fun in the act of Creation – hydrogen clouds and galaxies and solar systems and planets capable of sustaining life, and fish and birds and beasts and us human creatures. And then God rested.” Also, necessary for our souls and bodies. Can you not imagine God creating? When he decided light was needed, he spoke it into being, and it was. I also imagine that he flung the sun and moon into the heavens. Also, the galaxies and stars. When he sees them, he laughs and claps his hands in joy as he shouts out “Good!” I imagine that it was fun for him to create the animals, deciding how they would look, making male and female so that they could create more like themselves. And then humans. How he laughs as he proclaims, “Very Good! I love them.” Can’t you imagine the Trinity doing a Jewish type circle dance in delight at the end of the day?

Dr. Stuart Brown – psychiatrist, clinical researcher, and founder of the National Institute for Play explains that play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest….and argues that play is not an option. In fact, he writes, “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.”

So why aren’t we playing? Why am I not? I have gotten so bogged down in my own health issues that I almost forgot how to play. I made a list of play activities that I did as a child and it was pretty long. I can vividly picture many of them because they were so important to me.

I was born at the beginning of America’s involvement in WWII and we lived on a small farm with my grandmother for a few years. We had a few toys, but what I remember was playing by myself, much of the time, under the old cottonwood trees in the dirt making mud pies. I also made roads in the dust and used small rocks for cars and sticks for houses. I took walks with my dog and dangled my feet in a small stream and made little boats out of leaves and ran them down the water furrows in the garden. I never felt alone. There was always a presence with me. I know now that it was God.

After I started school, a friend and I would play school. Sometimes, I was the teacher and at others the student. I would make up plays at school and our teacher would let me direct them with the other students being the cast. The plays were mostly spontaneous, and we would practice during rainy recess times when we couldn’t go outside.

Once, I made a little hut behind my father’s recliner using a blanket for a roof. In it I acted out a story from a book that my grandmother had given me. It was about a young girl named Ann who lived in Bethany. Ann was at the well when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were on their flight to Egypt and stopped for a drink and rest. Ann got to hold Jesus as Mary refreshed herself. I would be Ann in my play and would hold my doll who was Jesus. I could go on. I imagine you could too if you sit down and let your mind wander back.

Growing flowers was play for me as I got older. I don’t have much space for that now, but I do have some and hope I have the energy to get out and dig around a bit this spring and summer. I feel very close to God in the garden. I love taking photos. My favorite was wandering around, often in my bathrobe in the morning with bare feet in the wet grass, to look and see what was growing there so I could snap a picture of it.

One of my favorite play experiences took place three or four years ago. I was in the bedroom making the bed. A little squirrel was sitting on the outside window ledge looking at me. The glass was in between us, but I went over and started talking to it. While I was talking the squirrel just watched me. When I quit talking, her little mouth would move as if she were talking to me. She was you know. When she stopped talking, I would talk and so on. This went one for several minutes and was one of the most delightful experiences I have had. It brings me joy just recalling it.

There are many other stories here that I could tell as well, both spontaneous activities and those that were planned. I need to remember to play. I need to remember to recognize it. I know this is good for my spirit and gives me joy. Maybe what I need to do is get a little book to write down my play experiences. It could be part of my examine prayer in the evening. Maybe it would remind me to play.

When was the last time you really played? It’s good for our souls to do so. I even have my own recliner.

Blessings, Donna

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Light!

Alleluia! He is Risen! The Lord has risen indeed! Alleluia!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 5:1

Wasn’t that the shortest Lent ever? Well, maybe not, since as I am writing this, we still have over a week. Nevertheless, Easter is here, and it is my favorite holiday. Already flowers are blooming outside and there has been blue sky, which I really need for my mental well being this time of year. I imagine that the trees are budding, too, and the birds are awake serenading the coming dawn and building their nests. I love spring, as well. But there are other reasons that Easter is my favorite holiday.

The verse above from John is one of my favorites. It is an Easter promise to me—to all of us really. Out of darkness comes light. God’s first recorded words where “Let there be light,” or as Eugene Peterson has written in The Message, “God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark.” Dark was first, and we can’t really know what light is unless there is also dark.

Often now, our world seems like a very dark place where evil abounds. I don’t think I am the only one who thinks so. But God still speaks, “Light” in the midst of it all. He calls us to be light bearers to carry light, to speak light, and to pray light into the darkness. Lent has been about this for me, not only to be praying light into my own personal darkness and illness, but into the darkness of the world around me. Holy Week and Easter tells this story well. It’s an old story but it is also a very new story. At Jesus’ crucifixion, the darkness was so dark that it absorbed the light in the middle of the day. I feel this way, sometimes, when I see the news, but the story also tells us that, in a few days the greatest of miracles will take place and light will explode from deepest darkness. I remember an Easter cartoon from years ago which I think was drawn by Johnny Hart. The scene is of the tomb early on Easter morning. The stone has been blown from in front of the entrance to the cave and has broken into pieces a distance away. Abundant light is bursting, streaming out from inside the tomb. From heaven God speaks, “That’s my boy.” It is indeed finished as Jesus said from the cross. And so, there is light.

This was never Plan B. This was “The Plan” that God chose from the beginning to be accomplished in the fullness of time when all was ready for it. God wanted to live with us. God knew that we humans needed to see God in the flesh and he knew, of course, that we just were never going to understand what he wanted our relationship with him to be nor how he wanted us to live unless we were to see him and hear what his coming Kingdom was to be. We no longer remembered the Garden. We would need restoration and transformation. We needed to see Jesus. We still need to see Jesus. We needed the Holy Spirit power that would come on Pentecost. It is only through this that we will ever be able to be light, because we can never ever, never, transform ourselves even though we try, into the Light of Christ. That is God’s job. Staying connected is our job. Connection is what our spiritual practices are about. Being transformed into the image of Jesus and spreading the Kingdom is what it’s all about. Becoming Good-News-Light streaming into the world from the very darkness of the tomb is what this journey is about.

Philip Yancey in his devotional, GRACE NOTES, for March 18, states, “Oh, what a short-lived victory. In the most ironic twist of all history, what Satan meant for evil, God meant for good. Jesus’ death on the cross bridged the gap between a perfect God and a fatally flawed humanity. On the day we call Good Friday, God defeated sin, routed death, triumphed over Satan, and got his family back. In that act of transformation, God took the worst deed of history and turned it into the greatest victory…If God can wrest such triumph out of the jaws of apparent defeat, can draw strength from a moment of ultimate weakness, what might God do with the apparent failures and hardships of my own life?…In the alchemy of redemption, that most villainous crime becomes our healing strength.”

I always come out of darkness in a different and, usually, better place. I grow closer to Jesus through this and, sometimes, I become more like him. Joan Chittister OSB – says, “Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” For me, most growth does not take place in the sunlight. Again, we can’t really know what light is unless there is also dark.

So, dare I say it? Do you? Yes. Alleluia!!! Alleluia!!! Alleluia!!! I’m so grateful!

My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me,
love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?
~ Samuel Crossman, 1624-1683 (vs. 1)

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 5:1

 

Go Home

Sometimes, I just have writer’s block, maybe especially when I don’t feel very well or when I’m trying to adjust to new situations. Currently, both are somewhat at play. So, after trying a couple of times to finish an article I had started, I just had to quit trying and move on. I thought about giving up writing but that didn’t seem quite right, and anyway, I like to keep in touch with you. So, once again, I went archive diving. Though not even close to what I had planned to write, this one from my “A FRIDAY MEDITATION” writing (15 JAN 2015) caught my eye. I’ll go with that.

“Go Home
Then He went Home. ~ Mark 3:19

The verse above is a fragment from the readings this past Monday from Mark 3:7-19. It is not an unusual story in the life of Jesus. He was busy wandering around with his disciples healing many diseases of the crowds that pressed around him. Unclean spirits were shouting out proclaiming him as the Son of God, and he ordered them to stop. Nothing unusual. Next, Jesus takes some of the disciples with him up the mountain and appoints twelve of them to be with him, to be sent out to proclaim the good news, and to cast out demons. He called them Apostles. Nothing unusual here, either. “Then he went home” the scripture says. The words practically jumped off the page. I need to ponder why they have.

The flu or a bad cold caught up with me this week. I usually am pretty immune to these, but not this time. I didn’t run fast enough, or I ran too fast. Probably the latter. But now, I have pondering time. Who knew a pilgrimage was involved with these four words?
After the conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, I began re-reading Paula D’Arcy’s book – GIFT OF THE RED BIRD. This book speaks to me. Paula tells of her recovery from the death of her husband and infant daughter in a car accident. She was pregnant with another child at the time and both Paula and the unborn child survived. After she was somewhat emotionally and spiritually healed, she was asked to hold conferences, retreats, etc., to share her story with others. She had a frantic schedule, but she continued until she finally came down with mono with which she was sick for eight or nine months. She had time to think about who she was created to be and what she was doing. Not all of her doing bubbled up from her deepest self in God but was what she thought she needed to do because she had been asked and the opportunity was there.

I don’t know why those four words from the Bible passage above had such an impact on me. Other translations don’t say the same. Some translations say that Jesus went into a house in his hometown. Those words really segue into another story, but they brought me up short and I have learned to pay attention to that. Maybe, coming home helps us to return, somehow, to our roots and to ourselves so we can remember who we really are. Jesus, in the story above, goes home when he finishes the day’s work. Maybe this returning, along with constant prayer, helps ground him in some way. Maybe it helps him remember who he is. Returning home in prayer grounds us. It is from this rest and time spent with God that we know what we are called to do. Going home appears to be more than a place to hang your hat and sleep.

I need to pay better attention, and I did get the picture. I have changed a thing or two and am in the process of re-evaluating some others. I could be out of touch with me – who am I now? Who is the person God created me to be for a time such as this? There are many opportunities to serve God, many opportunities to be Jesus’s hands and feet, and not all of them, by any means, have my name attached to them. Which ones do? Which ones bring me home? A friend called, today, to read a meditation to me from a couple of days ago. She worries about me. It said basically what I was hearing already. Pay Attention. Slow down. Rest. Find your deepest self.
Richard Foster says that coming to prayer is like coming home. “Nothing feels more right, more like what we are created to be and to do.” ~ PRAYER, Finding the Hearts true home.

I agree.”

Blessings,
Donna

 

Let there be Light

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

Happy New Year!! Was this a fast year or what? Well, at least it has been for me. We are at the beginning of a new secular year. Many people mark the milestone by making New Year’s resolutions that, somehow, go by the wayside around the second week in January, if they last that long. I used to be one of those people, but as I’ve said before, I gave up making resolutions for Lent many years ago and never started with them again. As a discipline, they were useless to me. By the way, its still Christmas until the 6th of January, so if your cards aren’t out or your gifts delivered, you still have time.

This has been an interesting year. I guess I can say that. Most of them have been in recent years. I read a January Soul Food from about five years ago, and it is basically the same. Nature is still acting up. The weather doesn’t get any better. Wasn’t it a weird Fall? The number of wild storms and fires continue with greater ferocity. Violence in our nation is an everyday thing, and though it may not be so, it seems that it is at an all time high. It gets wearisome.

I can really be depressed or angry depending on where my emotions take me at the moment. Sometimes, the world feels very dark. We look for answers because we want to blame something or someone. We want to fix it, or we want someone to fix it and often we challenge God. We wonder where God is and why he lets evil continue. Then we remember the answer. Something about we are to cooperate with God in the fixing.

And we can’t forget that there is hope. God has entered this world to be with us. We just celebrated that event on Christmas and then, six days into the new year, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. The term epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” or even “to reveal”. In western churches, we remember the coming of the Magi to visit Jesus and bring him gifts who by so doing “reveal” Jesus to the world as Lord and King. For Christians, The Epiphany is the festival that celebrates the many ways through signs, miracles, and preaching that Jesus revealed Himself to the world as Christ, God Incarnate, and King of Kings. We will celebrate this season until Ash Wednesday.

In the Orthodox Church, this celebration is called the Feast of Lights and it is so for us as well. In the Book of Common Prayer – morning prayer – there are two scriptures for use on the Day of Epiphany: Isaiah 60:3, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising,” and Isaiah 49:6b, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Jesus says of himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In John 9:5, Jesus also says, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” We need the light of Jesus in our world today.

Seven years ago, in December at an Advent retreat, Jesus told me to take my light out from under the bushel. I didn’t know that I had it under a bushel and I told him so. I only just planned to retire, but I began to think and pray about this. Shortly after, while taking a shower, Jesus told me that he had a dream for Trinity and it was that Trinity will become a light on the hill for all people. When I shared this story with a friend she said, “Did you know that this message was given to us by God in the 1980?” I hadn’t. But I believe it’s happening.

I wrote about this in the newsletter in January 2011, so I got that from the file to reread and to check on dates. That happened in the Epiphany season, also. I believe that we are trying to follow God’s dream for us. We are Christ Bearers – bearers of the Light. We want to be. It starts with each one of us in Jesus, spreads to the whole of Trinity and then into the dark world.

I started using Centering Prayer almost immediately after my conversation with God about my light under the bushel. It seemed to me that I was supposed to try praying this way. I haven’t necessarily tried to change myself in any particular way; I just spend time with Jesus, give him permission to do what he wants to do in me to make his light bright, and try to listen to his direction. This has changed me in ways where, often, I don’t even recognize myself. Not everyone finds this type of prayer helpful, but however you pray, spending time with Jesus each day is a must. All of our spiritual disciplines are important in making space for God, but prayer is the main way he transforms us into his light. It is in being openly silent while “paying attention” that change happens, and we are often not aware of it. Or, at least, I found it so.

Richard Rohr, OFM, says, “In more ways than one, we are waiting in darkness. The darkness will never totally go away, moral evil isn’t going to disappear, but the Gospel offers something much more subtle and helpful: “The light shines on the inside of darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it” – John 1:5. The only real questions become how to trust the light, receive the light, and spread the light.” OK, that is three questions. We will continue to work on this.

Have a great new year as you spread God’s light and love around in a dark world- That is a good New Year’s resolution by the way.

Peace and Good,
Donna

 

Image of God

 

SOUL FOOD

December 2017

 

God is coming! God is coming! All the element we swim in, this existence, echoes ahead the advent.  God is coming! Can’t you feel it? ~ Walter Wangerin, Jr.

 

 

As I entered the date on the draft of this meditation, I realized that I had just entered December 2017.  WHAT!!!  How can this be? As I glanced through a year’s worth of some of the weekly meditations that I write, I realized how much has happened in all our lives, our country and our world this year and it has flown by somewhere close to the speed of light.  Or maybe it just seems that way to me since I’ve been sick almost half of this year.  But here we are at the beginning of the Church year which begins December 3, with the first Sunday of Advent.  Wow!          

 

In Advent, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  This is the most amazing, unique event that has ever taken place on this earth.  God came to us as an infant human being.  God wanted to dwell with us since before creation, and Chris Webb tells us in his book, FIRE OF THE WORD, He first had to create a space for us to live together and then He had to create us.  Although, shortly after creation, humans rearranged God’s plan, Chris and some other theologians believe that Jesus’ coming in this way was not Plan B.  I am convinced that God knew that the rearrangement of his plan would happen before he created anything, but He did it anyway because, as at the beginning with the creation of the first human beings, God yearned to live with us. And in the fullness of time, it came to be with the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

Who is this God—Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who chose to come to dwell with us as a human being?  Why would God choose such a thing, knowing how we are?  Who is this God, who then chose to die for us and send his Spirit to remain with us so that we might know how to live with Him?  Who is this God, fully human, fully God, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate?

 

Years ago, when I was studying at seminary, my advisor assigned a paper for me on the Image of God.  She said that she could tell that the image I had was changing and knew that this assignment could help solidify where I was.  I pulled the paper out of storage to read what I thought 30 years ago.  There was some research from various sources in which theologians were trying to describe what this Imago Dei (Image of God) is and looks like.  Their debates were interesting but very complex, and I finished the paper by saying that my Image of God looks like Jesus as revealed through scripture, personal experience, and in the church—His body.

 

When I was a child, I thought that God was the great vengeful judge in the sky making tic marks in his black book when I did something bad.  He would hold the book over my head to keep me in line.  Jesus was a friend who loved me and would come to live in my heart if I asked him—whatever that meant.  Jesus would talk to God about what was in the little black book if I told Him I was sorry for what I had done wrong.  I knew that God created the world and all that was in it, but I was not aware that He was in anyway involved in it.  Although, sometimes, when I was outside lying in the grass, a great peace would fill me. Overall, my Image of God was negative.

 

When I was in my 20s, I had an experience of God that caused me to reevaluate my belief.  Our infant daughter, who was dying, was instantly healed through prayer.  I came to believe that there was a God who cared for me, personally.  Shortly after this, we left the Holiness tradition where we had grown up and became Episcopalians.  In THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (no black book with tic marks), we found that God wasn’t holding Sin over our head, nor did we always have to start over.  Through the Confession of Sin, we were able to stay in a relationship with Him—loved and forgiven.

 

 The next change in my Image was when I became involved in what was called the Charismatic Renewal.  Suddenly, I knew that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus.  I could talk to him; he would talk to me, guide me, comfort me, heal me and use me.  And, I found that He was present in the church community of which we were a part.  My Image was still rather of a Santa Claus sort—I would present my requests and God would, sometimes, give me what I wanted.  I knew that there had to be more to all this, but it was very exciting to observe and be a part of what Jesus was doing in all our lives. 

 

  Over the next several years, my Image of God continued to grow and change, but it is still Jesus who is the Image of God for me.  Jesus, when asked by the disciples to show them the Father, says in John 14:9, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”  I have found that having a personal relationship with Jesus and with His Body, the Church, still is where I see who God is most clearly as we relate with Him, with each other and with the world.

 

It would be a good spiritual exercise this Advent, as we go about preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, to think about our Image of God.  What is it that image? How do we see God?  What do we want Him to be?  What do we yearn for God to be for us?  What will we let him be for us? Do we really know that Jesus really loves us and there is nothing at all we can do that will change that?

 

\Have a Blessed Advent and a Joyful Christmas Season, Donna

 

Why Does God….

Every other year or so, I repost this article that I wrote six years ago. We keep asking the same questions so they get high on my list from time to time. It’s been a crazy uncertain year so I think I need a review. Maybe you can use one, too, so here goes.

“As I meditate in preparation for writing, the world turns much as before. We continue to have mass shootings, bombings, wars and rumors of wars, floods and famine, [earthquakes] violence and hatred. We have personal issues as well. Some major stories make the news, many do not, and our personal woes, usually not at all. But it does cause us to ask, “Why? Why does God let bad things happen? Why all this pain and heartbreak? Why doesn’t God intervene?” I have made peace with most of these questions but they still come around. I am not a heavy-duty theologian so I don’t take these answers as gospel, but they help me get through and live with the questions. Maybe they will help you, too.

“It has been said that everything happens for a reason. Usually, people mean that God, or the universe or fate, has caused or allowed this horrible and difficult situation. For some undisclosed reason, they say, it must have needed to happen, therefore, it must be part of God’s plan. This leads to Question 1: “Why does a loving God do these things? Answer: He doesn’t!! God does not create evil and suffering. Never. Not ever! Never!!

“Question 2: ‘Why, then, didn’t God create the world without suffering?’ Answer: He did!! Scripture tells us that God created Eden for us—a place in which there is no evil, suffering or pain, but a world filled with love and relationship with God and each other. This was, and still is, God’s Plan.

“Questions 3: ‘If God is not the author of these tragedies, WHY do we have them? Is it the devil?’ Answer: Not necessarily. Since God wanted a relationship of love with us, He did something unusual. He gave us Free Will in order to give us the ability to love. Love always involves a choice. Those of us who have been married a long time understand this. We understand that love isn’t just a warm fuzzy feeling or an overwhelming passion, though sometimes it is, nor does the fact that we say, “I love you,” make it so. We know that love is the day by day hanging in and hanging out with each other in the good times and the bad, talking and sharing together, working together, taking care of each other, and by helping to make each other’s dreams come true. God wants that relationship with us. Love is an action and requires our choice.

“Question 4: ‘But God allows it, doesn’t he?’ Answer: In a way, yes. God will not interfere with our free will. As we read the Genesis story, we find that Adam and Eve, like most three year olds, decided that they wanted to do things themselves. They chose not to be part of God’s plan because loving obedience was getting in the way of what they wanted. By their choice they rejected and changed God’s perfect plan. After this, God told Adam and Eve that their rebellious choice had damaged the very DNA of paradise so that even the very earth was affected. [This still happens with us today.]

“Question 5: ‘So, why doesn’t God fix it if he wants the world to be like Eden?’ Answer: HE IS! Jesus came to save us from evil, sin and suffering and to show us how to make choices for Eden. Once I complained to God about the way things were and asked him why he didn’t fix it. After quoting several of the “Where were you when I…” verses from Job, he plainly asked, ‘Why don’t you? The answers to that took me on a journey of discovery.

“Question 6: ‘How can we, as apprentices of Jesus, choose to be part of the Eden Plan?’ Answer: We already know. We know that we need to show up in the Garden to be with God for fellowship. We know that we need to choose to be loving, forgiving and healing people—to care for the widow, the orphan and the poor. We know that we need to take care of the earth. We know that we need to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus by choosing to continue our spiritual practices while living in community—practices of Eucharist, of prayer, paying attention, etc., hanging in and hanging out with Jesus in good times and bad, spending time listening to his hopes and dreams, sharing ours, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, being and making apprentices of Jesus and by helping to make God’s dreams come true.

“There are many stories of loving acts of mercy and heroism after major tragedy. Some say that love is the answer to this brokenness and that we must fight evil and darkness with love and light. True, if we remember that the LOVE and LIGHT we seek to share is Jesus. Pondering Question: ‘What would happen if we chose to love every day with the power of the Spirit as Jesus showed us?’ Answer: We would begin to bring the Kingdom of God to the places where we are and begin healing the broken DNA of God’s plan.

[We would, as we promised at our baptism, continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. We would persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord. We would proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We would seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. And we would strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. We will do this with God’s help.]

“We would bless, forgive, heal, and take care of the poor, the suffering and each other. We would use our free will to make these choices and then follow through. We would become a light on the hill and a house of prayer for all people as God desires, and we would invite others to join in.

“Until God’s plan is restored, we will pray, work and give for the spread of the Kingdom and remember that Romans 8:28 tells us that God will work good from what has been meant for evil if we hang tight and trust the ONE who calls us.” ~ Soul Food, Sept. 2012 (revised)

 

Spirit Fruit

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.” ~ Paul, Galatians 5:22-23

This month is the last that I have planned on writing about the Holy Spirit. I can’t say with certainty that it is because I hadn’t intended to write about it at all. If you remember six months ago, I said that this was an assignment of the Holy Spirit, given to me when I was asking what I should write for the month. God said to tell my story and when I asked what part of my story and started typing, “Holy Spirit” appeared in the autocorrect on my tablet. I wasn’t writing anything at all that should have triggered those words. I tried typing again with the same results. God wanted me to tell you about my experience with the Holy Spirit which I have tried to do but only in part. If all of my experiences were written down, I wouldn’t finish.

Most of the stories I shared about the Holy Spirit were rather spectacular. They are part of my witness – events that God did in my life through the power of the Spirit. But then the works that Jesus did, and still does, through the power of this same Spirit are often that way. This month, I want to tell you about another function of the Holy Spirit which is growing fruit. What? But wait.

First, I have a third story to tell – rather spectacular, also – signs and wonders of the Kingdom of God. These are old stories which I have told before, so you may remember them. These three stories were turning points for me in my relationship with God. The first was the miraculous healing of our infant daughter from which I learned that God heard my prayers and answered them. The second story came from reading the Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous that a person (I) needed to turn my life over to the CARE of God as I understand him. Before this, I struggled with trying to turn my life over to the WILL of God of which I was somewhat afraid. Alright, terrified would fit. Care I could do.

This is the third story. Once upon a time my husband gave me gold ball earrings after a rough patch in our marriage. I loved them. This day I wore them to work and I kept touching them. The last time, I realized that one was missing. I looked around my desk, in the bathroom, in the trash can, in the work room and in my car, but I couldn’t find it. I asked Jesus to please tell me where it was so I could retrieve it. I heard nothing.

That night, as I liked to do when Dave was on a business trip, I was reading late in bed. I decided to call it a night and went to the bathroom. When I came back to bed and started to get in, something sparkled on the sheet. It was my earring. Wow! I could have decided that it fell out of my clothes or something, but I noticed that the back to the earring was still on it which would have been impossible because it fell out of my ear. So. Jesus picked it up for me and dropped it on my bed, intact. Thank you! I learned from this that Jesus loves me and that he cares about the everyday things I care about. I needed to know that and I still believe it. I call these three events my touch stones because if I should doubt for a moment that God is Love I can remember these “stones” and know that it’s true.

Now to fruit. Having the fruit of the Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit which we receive when we live the life of the Spirit. Anyone remember diagraming sentences in English class? Try that one. Let me explain. The “fruit” which I listed above and St. Paul talks about in Galatians 5 is contrasted by works of the flesh when we are not living by the power of the Spirit. Paul says that “the works of the flesh are obvious. They are idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” – Galatians 5:20-21. We are not to have these. In the early days of the Charismatic Renewal, there were what we sometimes called “fruit inspectors” because these people would look at others to see if they were growing fruit. If not, they assumed, the person inspected didn’t have the Holy Spirit. Not so, by the way. We probably all were a little like fruit inspectors which might have been okay had we been inspecting our own self for such fruit instead of others.

The Fruit, by the way, is a work of the Holy Spirit which grows in us as we live the Spirit filled life. It is not automatic. In all truth, we can’t attain the fruit like we would go to the grocery store and buy some. That fruit is already grown and no longer attached to the plant, but it had to be in order to develop. So, where does that leave us if we can’t grow this fruit on our own and we need to have it? Good question! As the fruit stays attached to the plant until it is developed, so do we as we grow fruit. You know where this is going don’t you?

Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower…Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 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 15:1, 4-5. In verses 16-17, Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” The fruits of the Spirit are not something that we just hang on to and admire. They are to assist in loving others as Jesus does.

So how do we abide in Jesus? Jesus spent much time alone with his Father. If we follow his example, and we try to do so, paying attention in silence with Jesus is our answer. We begin and end here. Prayer. Words are not necessary. Listening is. Sometimes we hear God. Sometimes we just feel God. Sometimes neither. But we are there, anyway, with him. Attached. To the Vine. Growing fruit. Have you ever tried to grow spiritual fruit on your own? Take patience. Really, take it. We make jokes about it, praying for it or not praying for it less we get to try practicing it. We try to be patient. And we can’t seem to get there. Why? Because that is not our job. That is the job of the Vine. So, if this article is about the Holy Spirit, what does the Spirit do here?

The Holy Spirit is the “glue” that helps us stay attached.

Let this prayer resonate in you:
God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit. ~ Unknown