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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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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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“God sweeping over the waters…”  – Genesis 1:1-2

Movement and exercise have rarely been of value to me.  I didn’t see that as part of my spiritual life or connection to God.  I’ve prayed with Scriptures that focused on quiet and stillness such as where God came to Elijah in the cave  (I Kings19:11-13) or Ps. 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’ve been drawn to books such as Whispers in the Stillness: Mindfulness and Spiritual Awakening by Martha Lehane Sheehan.  I’ve made spiritual retreats to try to become more interiorly quiet and spiritually centered.

But recently the theme that has been running through my night dreams has been movement and exercise.

Why at this time of my life, I wondered.  Probably it’s because that’s part of my life that I’ve neglected.  A part of life many people seem to not only value but enjoy, though I haven’t.  I’ve reflected on the question of where is God in all this movement and exercise.

I was reminded that in the very beginning in Genesis, God moved over the waters.  Only after moving over the waters did God speak creation.

So I pray and ask myself, what new life or creation could come from my exercising or moving more?

Maybe it won’t be something new but more of an awareness of my body’s need to move to be healthy.  Perhaps it’s just to realize that God is in movement as well as in silence.  Maybe it’s to remind me that lasting growth comes slowly and usually only after much practice and sometimes pain.

So my new spiritual practices is to schedule a specific time for conscious movement and/or exercise.

My prayer:

God, You who swept over the waters, create in me an appreciation for movement and the new awareness or life that can come from it.  Thank you for the awareness that you are present in movement as well as in stillness.  Amen.

 

January 15, 2017 0 comment
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Chosen by a Kitten

After my first pet, a much loved cat, died, I spent some time grieving her death.  When I felt ready, I made many trips to different shelters looking for an older cat to adopt.

One morning I stopped in a new shelter and sat in a room with several cats and a 6 month old kitten whom I ignored.  The older cats all ignored me.

Miss K, as she was called jumped on my lap and contentedly curled up and let me pet her.  Intrigued and not really wanting a kitten, I left.  I went to a couple other shelters again.  I didn’t find the “right” cat.  None of the cats really interacted with me.  I thought about Miss K and how she had chosen me that morning.

Later that afternoon I decided to return to the first shelter, thinking that if Miss K was still there, I’d adopt her, even though she was only 6 months old.  Since she was so friendly and social, I was sure one of the many families visiting the shelter would have adopted her.  But when I returned, there she was!  She again quickly jumped on my lap. My heart went out to her.

I thought of how God chose us, and often leads us in unknown ways.  Scriptures on God choosing us that came to mind were from John and Ephesians.  We read in  John 15:16; “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit…” I John 3:2  “Dearly beloved, we are God’s children now…:”

Sometimes I forget God has chosen me and each one of us to go forth and bear fruit.  Going forth and bearing fruit might mean going out to others.  On the other hand, it might mean sitting and praying quietly as I gently pet my kitten.

This gives me the opportunity to reflect on Ephesians 1:4 “God chose us…before the word began, to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, to be full of love.”  Miss K chose me to give her a loving home and to love me in return.  Loving all of God’s creation, human and other, is another way of bearing fruit and sharing God’s love.

I invite you to explore how you are God’s chosen one bearing fruit and sharing God’s love.

September 5, 2016 0 comment
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Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is fitting and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

The past few months have felt intense.  From all appearances, it seems the intensity will continue.  I have felt weary.  At times I’ve felt life burdensome.  I need to be refreshed.

In the midst of busyness and needed activities it’s necessary to take time to remember what is really important.  I believe it’s important to take time to reflect on one’s spiritual calling, to reflect on how God is present in all of life. Some may do this near lakes or oceans.  Others get refreshed by camping in the woods or mountains.   I do it by taking specific retreat days to be quiet, reflect, pray and enjoy nature.  God leads each person differently.

I need the quiet, silent, alone time with my comforting cat to examine how God has been giving me life and sustaining me.  I become aware of times when I forgot God was in control.

During these quiet days, there may be challenges as I focus on whatever yoke God is offering.  I may feel peaceful.   Other times I may feel like I am in a dry desert.  Am I willing to stay with the feeling?  Am I willing to listen to what’s in my heart?  What I may hear is to be aware how my daily calling is really fitting with God’s help.

So I pray:

Compassionate and Merciful God,

Thank you for these quiet days.  Keep reminding me that where I am is where You’ve called me to be.  You are present in the midst of busyness even though it may feel like You are absent.  As You refresh and renew me during these reflective days, help me deepen my awareness of Your constant help and presence.  Then, guide me to share Your compassion with others who are weary and burdened.  Amen.

 

August 5, 2016 0 comment
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I woke up tired on a cloudy, snowy day.

I woke up thinking of a duty I had to do in the near future.

Why did it seem so heavy?

I felt like much of my future depended on performing it successfully.  Even though I remembered some past unpleasant experiences connected with this duty,  I’d done them well.

Why was I so anxious that morning?

I said I trust in God.

I believed God would help me through it, pleasant or unpleasant.  But my anxious feelings remained.

I struggled to understand.

I prayed.  I asked for God’s peace.  I struggled.  I hoped.  I petted my cat.  I played the piano.  I breathed deeply.  I wrote my thoughts.

It was hard to let go of the anxiety.

I prayed and knew that God was with me.  Yet, the feelings remained unchanged.  This is life.

The sun broke through for a brief instant and hid again above the clouds.

The snow continued to fall.  It didn’t seem so pretty on that dreary day.  My heart was heavy.

I looked for a certain scripture that I thought would be helpful.  Instead of the one for which I was searching, I came across this passage in Matthew 6:32b-34.

“Your heavenly Father knows all you need.  Seek first God’s dominion over you, God’s way of holiness and all these things will be given you besides.  Enough, then, of worrying about tomorrow.  Let tomorrow take care of itself.  Today has troubles enough of its own.”

I tried to focus on living in the present moment, an ancient Christian practice, knowing that God is present.  This is easier said than done.  I remembered reading a book many years ago called  The Practice of the Presence of God.  It was written by  Brother Lawrence a few centuries ago but is still applicable today.

So I ended that day still feeling like God was absent though I knew that wasn’t true. At the same time knowing that each moment is the important one.   I reminded myself to focus on the Holy One’s presence and be assured that God is always present with me even on dreary days.

July 24, 2016 0 comment
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Late last summer a friend gave me a small different kind of geranium plant.  Instead of the usual red petals making up the blossoms, these flowers had what looked like tiny red roses clustered together to make up the blossom.

I kept it and nurtured the small plant through the winter and spring in hopes it would live and blossom.  It looked pretty spindly at the end of winter.  But after the frost, I put it on the balcony where it gets several hours of sunlight.  It grew into a lovely green plant but no buds or flowers.  I kept watering it and fertilizing it.  I almost gave up hope of having more than a nice large green plant.

Finally in the middle of June several small buds appeared.  They aren’t large blossoms but they opened up to small, beautiful, red, rose-like clusters.  The plant is now full of these lovely blossoms.

Their slow growth to blossom reminds me to be patient with myself.  It teaches me that growth usually is slow to become permanent.  Waiting is important.

Portions of Psalm 40 from The Message:  by Eugene H. Peterson  speak to me of the importance of waiting.

Psalm 40

“I waited and waited and waited for God

At last he looked; finally he listened.

He lifted me out of the ditch.

Pulled me from deep mud.

He stood me up on a solid rock

To make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,

A praise-song to our God.

More and more people are seeing this;

They enter the mystery,

Abandoning themselves to God.

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,

Turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing.”

Ignore what the world worships,

The world’s a huge stockpile

Of God-wonders and God-thoughts.

Nothing and no one

Come close to you!

I start talking about you, telling what I know,

And quickly run out of words

Neither numbers nor words

Account for you.

Doing something for you, bringing something to you –

That’s not what you’re after.

Being religious, acting pious –

That’s not what you’re asking for.

You’ve opened my ears

So I can listen…”

Thank you, Understanding God, for giving us beautiful new flowers that inspire us.  They remind us that growth can be slow and that you are always supporting us in the process. Keep opening our ears to listen to you.  Amen.

 

 

 

July 6, 2016 0 comment
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Much is being written and talked about being grateful today.  With all our social media opportunities one can find many sources of grateful quotes or passages.

I remember hearing the quote attributed to Meister Eckhart that if the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.

It’s easy to be grateful when all goes our way.  However when we experience struggle or suffering it’s more difficult.  We can say the words but it’s hard to feel them.

Being grateful and sad at the same time may seem like a contradiction but we can have many different feelings at the same time.

When we’re struggling with a situation we need to acknowledge what the struggle is.

Denying it doesn’t help.  Once the issue is identified, we can explore it more realistically.  Then, even though the situation remains, we can be thankful for other things.  We can be thankful for nature such as sunshine, colorful flowers, plants that grow in offices with only florescent lighting.  We can be thankful for pets that welcome and comfort us.  We can be thankful for the health or limited health we have.

We can be thankful to the people in our lives, those who planted, harvested,  transported, sold, etc. the food we eat.

Most of all we can be thankful for God who loves us just as we are.  Psalm 138 is one of the grateful psalms that we can pray. (From The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version: Oxford University Press  c.1995)

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O God, with my whole heart;

Before the gods I sing your praise;

I bow down toward your holy temple

And give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and faithfulness;

For you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

On the day I called, you answered me,

You increased my strength of soul.’

All the rulers of the earth shall praise you, O God,

For they have heard the words of your mouth.

They shall sign of the ways of God,

For great is sthe glory of God,

For though God is high, God regards the lowly;

But the haughty, God perceives from far away.

 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

Your preserve me against the wrath of my enemies.

You stretch out your hand, and your mighty hand delivers me.

God will fulfill God’s purpose for me;

Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.

June 22, 2016 0 comment
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I’ve heard a rooster crowing in the morning here in my apartment complex.  It reminded me of one of my aunts. She had raised chickens in her back yard.  I remember going into the chicken coop to throw the chickens some corn or to carefully gather eggs.

This connected with a Gospel passage where Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets and stones those who are sent to it, How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing.”

Jesus must have known something about chickens.  I wonder if he fed them and gathered eggs when he was growing up.

Reflecting on this Scripture I wondered how God gathers us under God’s wings.  Are we willing to be gathered?

There are times when I may not be willing, when I don’t consider God in my decision making.  I get too absorbed in what I think is best.  Then, God usually uses ordinary life events to focus me into what is better for me, even when I’m resistant.

One example was the time I was getting some gentle nudges that it was time for me to move to another city.  I liked my job, my co-workers and friends and I was comfortable where I was, except for the cold SD winters.

The winter we had bitter cold, snow and an unusual amount of ice for an unusual length of time I knew that it was time to move on.

I was sure God was calling me to the Rocky Mt. area so I sent out many resumes.  No response.  Letting go of my own thought and asking God’s guidance I became willing to look elsewhere, though not in the far north.  In 6 months I had 7 on-site interviews and a new job.  God had called me into a place where I could grow spiritually in a new way under God’s wings.   There are still many difficult times in my new place but when I remember to let God gather me into a place, then I can deal with the difficulties better.

May you remember that God wants to welcome and shelter you under God’s wings, too.

June 6, 2016 0 comment
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