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Some Christian denominations reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus during the season of Lent by reflecting on the way of the cross or stations of the cross.  Some are scriptural based.  Others come from tradition.  Yet, there are Scriptures relating to them with which we can pray. If you wish to read the entire Passion stories in each of the Gospels you will find them in Matthew, chapters 26-28;  Mark, chapters 14-16;  Luke, chapters 22-24 and John, chapters 18-20.  Below are 14 stations or ways plus the Resurrection with Scripture suggestions followed by a brief prayer.  I invite you to add your own prayer with each one.

  1. Jesus is condemned to death   Scripture:  Luke 22: 13-25                                                                                       Jesus, help us to accept others as they are, not judge them, but love them.
  2. Jesus carries his cross.    Scripture:  Mark 15:16-21                                                                                         Jesus, give us the courage to accept the difficult parts of our lives that we can’t change.  Teach us to use them as a means of growing closer to you and to others. 
  3. Jesus falls the first time.       Scripture:  John 12: 23-25                                                                                    Jesus, we fall and get discouraged.  We find our hope and strength to  struggle in  you. 
  4. Jesus meets his mother.       Scripture:  Luke 2:34-35                                                                                                Jesus, how painful it must have been for your mother to see your  pain and  suffering and to be unable to relieve it.  Help us to be compassionate to others by our attentive presence.                              
  5. Simon helps Jesus carry his cross.   Scripture: Luke 23:26;  Matthew 10:42                                                       Jesus, make us realize that whatever we do for others we do for you.
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.    Scripture:  Matthew 7:12;  James 3:17-18                                                   Jesus, you are present in simple things as well as great.  Teach us to be aware of and sensitive to the troubles of those around us.
  7. Jesus falls the second time.       Scripture:  Romans 12:9-13;  Psalm 13  Matthew 11:28-30                            Jesus, you fell under the heavy weight of your cross.  You know that we are burdened with our problems.  You told us to come to you and You will give us rest.
  8. Jesus speaks to the women from Jerusalem.  Scripture:  Luke 23:27-31                                                             Jesus, let your example and suffering teach us to respond to the sufferings of others in a loving way.
  9. Jesus falls the third time.                   Scripture:  Psalm 22                                                                                         Jesus, thank you for loving us.  We know that no matter how we fall, when we turn to you, you will be our strength and courage.
  10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.  Scripture:  John 19:23-24    John 49:16-24  (or Psalm 49: 16-24              Jesus, you gave up your life to show us how much you love us.  Help us to turn our hearts to you and love you ever more deeply
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.                   Scripture:  I john 4:9-12;  Luke 23:32-49                                                Jesus, we praise You.  Teach us how to follow your example and be forgiving, loving people
  12. Jesus dies on the cross       Scripture:  John 19:25-37;  Luke 23:44-49                                                          Jesus, you have touched us with your deep, everlasting love.  You have taken away our sins through your sufferings and death.  Help us to spread your love to others.
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.       Scripture:  John 19:38-40                                                                       Jesus, help us to accept the parting that comes when we must leave loved one, a job, home or life style.  Open our hearts to your Word, especially in time of doubt.  
  14. Jesus is buried in a tomb.       Scripture:  John 19: 41-42;  Luke 23:50-56                                                             Jesus, much of our life is spent waiting.  We wait in loneliness, in pain, and we trust in your constant love, even when you are silent.  We turn to you.
  15. Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!  Jesus is Lord!         Scripture:  John 20: 1-29;  Luke 24:1-49                                    Jesus you call us to new life in you.  You call us to a deeper faith and stronger hope in you, Our Risen Lord.  Thank you, Jesus. ALLELUIA.                                                                                                 
March 10, 2018 0 comment
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Summer is a very colorful time of the year in Indiana.  My balcony flowers are showing the brilliant summer colors.  The crimson and deep pink geraniums are growing cup-sized blossoms. The rose-bud geranium is starting to bud.  The variegated purple and pink  petunias are waving over their containers.  The yellow and purple pansies have survived the summer heat so far.  The  brilliant yellow and orange marigolds are glowing in the sunlight.  The pink and salmon-colored begonias are overflowing their planters.   The grass is such a bright green.

The white cumulus clouds float across the bright blue sky.

 

The sturdy geraniums encourage us to be strong in the midst of difficult times.

The rose-bud geranium challenges us to be patient with new growth.

The variegated, waving petunias bring us joy.

The tiny pansies show us that there is beauty even in small things.

The golden marigolds brighten our cloudy days.

The full-blossomed begonias remind us of God’s overflowing love.

The multi-shades of green grass give us hope.

The billowing clouds invite us to send our thoughts and prayers to God.

God of Color and Beauty,

Thank you for the summer colors and plants that encourage us, lift our spirits, and bring us joy.

May this summer be a time in which we enjoy the great gift of summer beauty.  Amen.

 

 

July 2, 2017 1 comment
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This is the season of Lent.  Lent means different things to different people.  When Lent began, did you think of Jesus, his suffering, death and resurrection?  Did you think of penance?  Did you think of giving up something or stopping smoking or eating less?  Did you think of doing an extra kind act for someone daily?  Doing something   hard for forty days seems like a long time.  If you did, what led you to make that resolution?

What is Lent all about? The word means spring or springtime.  This is the time of the year in Indiana when winter is almost over and new life is starting to show itself in nature around us, to come out a little brighter.  Spring reminds us of new life coming from seeds and bulbs planted earlier, new branches and tiny leaves on trees.  The sky looks a deeper blue.  It’s a thrill to see the trees and bushes start to bud.  It can be a time in which we want to grow spiritually.  Lent can be a time for new spiritual life as we consider our past and begin again to renew an aspect in our lives.

In Joel 2:12-13 we read, “Yet, even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.  For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”

“Return to me with your whole heart…”  What does it mean to turn to God with our whole hearts?  We pray.  We worship God in private and sometimes in public.  But turning to God with our whole heart means more.

When we love someone deeply we want to be with that person often.  If we’re away from that person, our thoughts will often turn to that person.  We’ll wonder what he or she is doing and how their day is going.  The more we are with that person, the more we’ll learn to know and love that person.  We’ll learn what things please our special person and what makes that person sad.  We’ll probably want to do things that will make that person happy, that will let that person know of our love.  We’ll want that person to love us, too.  In this way we are turning our hearts to that person.

So, too, with God.  We can turn our hearts toward God.  How has God worked and entered our lives?  Sometimes God may do it in a big way, but usually God comes to us in little ways.  This is a good time to reflect on the times that we haven’t really wanted God to come into our lives very deeply for it might have meant a change in us.  It might have meant a deep realization that God is God and in control and we are not.  Maybe there is a certain part of our lives that we want to keep to ourselves.  This is a good time to talk it over with God.

God loves us.  God loves us so much that Jesus came to convince us of God’s great love for us.  We haven’t done anything to earn this love.  God loves us first, and because God loves us, we can turn to God and love God in return.

As we examine our lives during this Lenten season, we can see how God truly has been with us with strength and help.  Even though at times God seems far away, God is near!  By thinking of God, talking to God in times of suffering, sorrow and joy and trying to be more alert to God’s presence, we will be returning to God with our whole hearts, as Joel encourages us to do.

Enjoying the new life springing forth in nature, we can consider the new life that God is giving us.  I share this prayer with you, based on Hildegard of Bingen’s focus on God’s creation.

“O God, may I never forget how precious is the earth to you.  Help me to cherish every bit of earth so that in doing so I will be reminded of You who created and sustains this garden of delights, which I call home.  And may the care I show for it be a reflection of my love for all living things.”    Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka

 

March 26, 2017 0 comment
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This month we’ve had a change in the way we keep clock time.  We’ve “sprung forward” an hour.  Though not officially the beginning of spring on this Sunday, it reminds us of the beginning of spring.

Spring in Indiana brings hope as color rises forth in nature.  Crocuses show forth in lavender.  The daffodils and jonquils are bursting out in yellow and white.  Tulip leaves are pushing through the hardened winter soil.  The trees are starting to bud and sprout leaves.  Song birds are returning with their joyful melodies.  The earth fluctuates from late winter to early spring temperatures.  We even get some snow though it doesn’t last.

How can this encourage us to spring forward in our spiritual lives?

Are you feeling like the frozen ground waiting to thaw?  Maybe the rain would encourage the thawing if you would feel the sadness of a frozen heart.  Letting the tears come could soften your heart and let you know that God is present in the sadness and tears.

Perhaps you are feeling like the trees whose roots deepened over the winter and are getting new life from the nutritious earth.  Your encouragement to spring forward may be by reflecting on the ways God has nourished you in the midst of winter.

Do you feel like the tulip leaves carefully peeking up from the ground?  Your encouragement to spring forward little by little may be as God guides you gently through quiet and prayer.

Are you feeling like the spring daffodils with their bright yellow color spreading joy to all who see them?  Your springing forth may be sharing your own joy of God’s gifts to you.

Or are you like the cheerful songbirds encouraging others by offering the music of your life through your presence and not asking anything in return?

I invite you to take some time this season to reflect with gratitude on how God has encouraged you to spring forward in your own awareness of God’s gifts to you.

Creator God, thank you for the many beautiful examples of your love you’ve given us in nature this season.  May they inspire and encourage us to spring forward to deepen our own love for you and all creation.  Amen.

March 19, 2017 0 comment
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Ash Wednesday

Most religions have a ceremony or a time in which the faithful reflect on their actions during the past year.  This is often combined with a time of discipline which may be fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent for many in the Christian church.  The forty days of fasting or penitence (not counting Sundays) may begin with the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful.

Many Christian denominations use this ancient ceremony of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful with the words from Genesis (3:10) “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”    Receiving ashes may be part of the act of confession, of penitence and as a sign of our mortality.  The Ash Wednesday service connects us with the past, with our present, and with our hope for new life in our Risen Christ.

Burnt palm ashes from the palms of the previous Palm Sunday symbolize our past history.  While anointing with ashes was widely used after the seventh century, there is evidence that it originated in Gaul in the sixth century.

This ancient ceremony has another valuable reminder for us.  Dust is of the earth.  Receiving the ashes reminds us that we, too, are from the earth.  The earth is very important to us.  Our earth is a gift from God.  Yet, we forget we need to take care of it and all creation, too.

The words of Isaiah still hold true, “The earth is mourning, pining away,…the earth is defiled under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws, violated the decree, broken the everlasting covenant.”  (Is. 24: 4-5)

More and more we are made aware of the ecological disasters of the earth such as the depletion of ozone layer, the destruction of the rain forests,  climate changes,  the massive oil spills and the chemical spills in the rivers     Each of us is led in different ways to take care of our part of the earth.  May being blessed with ashes help us renew our care of the earth.

In preparing for Ash Wednesday, I was reading some of the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century prophet, healer, preacher and mystic.  Hildegard understood that for those who live in Christ, all creation is God’s work, and that the earth especially is waiting with eagerness to be saved. .  Hildegard writes “Creation reveals the hidden God just as clothes hint at the shape of a person’ body.”  Praying with Hildegard of Bingen  by Gloria Durka  ISBN-10 0884892549

During this holy season, we are invited to repentance, reflection and renewal.  It is a time to reflect on our failings, not only in relationships with God and each other, but how we relate to ourselves and all creation.   Our relationship with God is effected by how we relate with all around us.

I invite your reflections to include how God has led you to positive relationships with others and creation.  Also, remember that though you are dust,  at the same time you are God’s special creation.  You are God’s handiwork whom God loves and in whom God delights.  (Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 18:19 (or vs.20 in some Bibles);  Ephesians 2:10

The more we are really aware of God’s love for each of us individually, the more we’ll be able to live that out in our daily lives and share it with others

Prayer:

Loving God, may these ashes remind us of our connection to you and our earthly home.  Thank you for delighting and loving each of us and for giving us our beautiful earth.

As we go through this season of Lent create in us new and contrite hearts.  Help us remember that our strength for repentance, reflection and renewal is in quietness and trust in you.  (Isaiah 30:15)  Amen.

 

 

 

March 11, 2017 0 comment
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Peace Prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born

To eternal life.”

What a challenging prayer for peace.  Who is this person that wrote such a prayer?  What does he know about peace?

Francis of Assisi is attributed to having written this prayer hundreds of years ago.  He lived in the late 1100s- early 1200s.   He is most noted for his kindness and loving animals and all creation.    Many people celebrate his feast day on October 4 and around that time offer a Blessing for Animals.  Francis was born the son of a rich merchant in Italy.  He led a happy-go-lucky life, became a soldier, was captured and put in prison.  Then one day he had a spiritual awakening.  He believed that God told him to repair his church.  So, Francis rebuilt a falling-down church building.  However, he soon realized that it was people that God was meaning for him to help.

In his life, Francis had many struggles.  Yet, in spite of all his struggles and pain, he continued to give his life over to the care of God.  This, I believe, is the reason so many people are drawn to him.  He shared his peace and joy that came as he faced and dealt with his struggles.

What impresses me about Francis was his deep respect and reverence for all of creation and life.  Countless books have been written about him and legends told.  A popular one tells about how he tamed the wild wolf of Gubbio who was killing animals and people of the village.

What does that have to do with us, and with peace in today’s world?  We can look to Francis as an example of kindness and peace.  Because of his deep faith and trust in God and his love for all creation,  he was able to write a prayer like the peace prayer.

How do we find peace?    How is peace possible in today’s challenging world?   I believe that first we need to look at what keeps us from experiencing inner peace, acknowledge it and deal with whatever those causes are.  We can follow that by thinking of the ways that God has given us strength in struggle and been with us through our unpeaceful times.  We can be aware of all the good things that we do have, simple as they may be.

In being grateful for the ways that God has gifted us and has been with us in the midst of our struggles, we can experience an inner peace even as we may be experiencing outer turmoil.  In doing so, we can live out the peace prayer of Francis of Assisi and thus experience peace and joy in the midst of daily living.

May God’s peace always be with you.

 

February 19, 2017 0 comment
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What does it mean to listen to the Mind of God, to follow God’s mind?  I hear people say God has told them this or that.  How does that happen?

I believe we learn of God’s mind or God’s direction in numerous ways.  Some may actually hear the spoken words from God.  But I think there are other ways that most of us learn of the mind of God.    Scripture, creation, music, art and life’s coincidences are how I think most of us become aware.

Scripture consistently shows how God was faithful to God’s people even though they weren’t always faithful to God.  Jesus taught about a loving God and he demonstrated that in his lifetime by frequent healings and forgiveness.

In the book   Things Hidden:  Scripture as Spirituality  Richard Rohr wrote (p.200) that “Divine love is not determined by the worthiness of the object but by the goodness of the subject.”  He adds “Jesus didn’t come to change the mind of God about humanity but to change the mind of humanity about God. “

Scripture gives us examples of God as loving, caring, patient, merciful, compassionate as well as challenging.

God provided

  • Water for Hagar and Ismael when they were in the desert.
  • Provided manna and water for the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert.
  • Direction to Ezekiel to the mountain cave where God came to him in the quiet breeze.
  • Questioning of Job where he was when God created the world

Jesus gives us many examples, too.

  • Forgiving – Peter who denied him three times
  • Be merciful – woman taken in adultery
  • Compassionate – examples of healing – deaf man
  • Caring – changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana
  • Challenging –Gerasene Demoniac to go back home and recout all God had done for him.

The mind of God is a mystery.    Although Scripture gives us ideas about the mind of God, I also find  glimpses of the mind of God in the beauty of creation and in life’s coincidences.

When I look at nature and see the variety God created for us, I’m amazed.  In just around the block where I live I see robins, finches, hummingbirds, sparrows, doves and many other birds I can’t identify.  Then the variety of trees – oak, maple, evergreens, elms, poplars and others.  Present are even insects such as wasps, mosquitoes, bees and others, that I admit I don’t appreciate,

Once I heard that instead of complaining that roses have thorns, one should rejoice that the thorns have roses.

What an imagination God has!

I believe that God’s mind is present in what many call coincidences.  For example, after much research, I found the apartments in which I’ve lived.  None were what I thought I was looking for in the beginning, but each has brought joy as well as challenges.  Through all of them I’ve grown and hopefully became a more spiritual person.

A creation coincidence happened one Pentecost when a brilliant red cardinal perched on my balcony railing.  This happened only once in the 17 years I lived there.  It reminded me of the Spirit and the Pentecost passage in the Acts of the Apostles.

Another memorable coincidence happened when I was in the middle of a difficult four day exam.  One afternoon someone had a beautiful red rose delivered to my door.  This gave me hope and encouragement.

Other examples of the mind of God in our life are in music and art.  Often they touch my soul and leave me in awe.

The more I’m sensitive to such coincidences, the more I open my heart to God.  Then I’m aware of an inner peace and God’s help throughout life’s struggles.

Holy Mystery,

Thank you for giving us glimpses of You in Scripture, creation, art, music and life’s coincidences.  Help us be more sensitive and appreciative of all life and of your constant loving presence.  Give us the strength to listen to and follow your guidance.  Amen.

 

 

January 2, 2017 0 comment
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In a recent dream I was to give a presentation on the stages of dying.  I planned to focus on the 5 stages  that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross had written about in her book On Death and Dying (c. 1969).  Those stages  she addressed were denial, anger, bargaining, depression (mourning about the dying process/loss) and acceptance.   I also planned to use the song “Teach me about Dying…and I’ll teach you to live” by Deanna Edwards from her cassette Peacebird (c. 1974).

When Dr. Kubler-Ross did her research on death and dying, the dying process wasn’t much researched or discussed.  Around that time Deanna Edwards was writing songs addressing similar issues.

Since then many others have written books and music about dying, mourning and losses.  We all experience many kinds of dyings and deaths in our lives:  leaving home, losing a job, loss of dreams, health, pet, friendship to mention a few.  Each of us deals with these dyings in our own individual way, based on our life’s experiences and our personalities.

On waking I wondered about this dream.  It didn’t seem that the presentation on stages of dying were so much about physical death as about situations that feel like dying or deaths in our daily lives.

I see these stages not so much like moving from preschool through high school, but more as a spiral.  When we are dealing with losses sometimes we may be in denial. Or we may  be in depression or mourning the loss, or perhaps in some part of acceptance.  Another time we may feel anger at the loss or attempt to do some bargaining,  later coming to a deeper level of acceptance.  How we cope with the losses is determined by how important each loss is to us and how we have dealt with life’s other struggles.

By acknowledging our feelings as we face our losses, we not only can learn about deaths  and losses in our daily lives but grow in awareness of what it means to live each day at a time.

Reflecting on the stages of dying can be helpful for by looking at each of the stages, we may see where we are in our process.

We don’t forget what was important but somehow by letting it go, and not wishing it was still there, we can move towards some kind of restoration or acceptance and find a new normal.

Our prayer may be brief.

Comforting One, as we face these dyings in our daily lives, help us grow in awareness of what it means to live.  Remind us to take each moment at a time and that you are with us.  Fill us with your peace as we go through these losses in our lives.  Amen.

 

September 25, 2016 0 comment
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I was sitting quietly one Saturday morning, listening to sounds around the apartment complex.

One neighbor’s air conditioner is buzzing.

Another’s dogs are barking, howling and whining.

Birds are chirping off and on.

Then I became aware of the whispering winds.

Their soothing sounds of the waving breeze reminded me of musical chant with the phrasing louder and softer, flowing gently.

I remembered the psalm verse, “You make the winds your messengers…” (Ps. 104:4)

The message I hear this day is that God is here in sound and beauty.

My beautiful cat was lounging comfortably on my legs.  She stretched out with her chin on my knee.

Suddenly we both were surprised by my cell phone ringing.  I thought it was off so I’d have a quiet day.  I let it ring.  My cat put her head back on my knee and we continued to listen and enjoy the whispering winds and chirping birds.  I thought of the wonderful gift of being able to hear.  I offered this prayer.

God of Whispering Winds,

I thank you for the gift of hearing.

I praise you for the gentle breezes and all the sounds of life.

You give us a new start each day.

Thank you for the gift of this morning.  Amen.

September 20, 2016 0 comment
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I’ve seen some doves flying in the trees near my apartment recently but I’ve not seen them close up.  During a recent  spiritual direction  phone call, a dove landed on my balcony railing.  This was significant to me for our conversation was about spiritual communication.

In Christianity, a dove is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  So my first thought on seeing the dove was that God was reminding me that the Holy Spirit is present in my session.

A couple moments later, the single dove was joined by two more doves.  In Christianity, three is a symbol of the Trinity.  The second  dove came right up to the window on the floor of the balcony.  The third one almost flew into the window but turned before it hit the window.

As I reflected on the three doves, I wondered, “Was God saying, “Let me in?  I’m here but you aren’t paying attention?”

My prayer was, “God, I want to pay attention.  I know you are present.   I need your help to open the door of my heart to be more aware of your love. Amen.

August 15, 2016 0 comment
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