Beginning My Work–Reflection One

Photo: sjmcdonough via Flickr–labeled for non-commercial reuse

As Jesus Would Tell It–Reflection One

Beginning My Work

Read: Mark, 1, 1-11

Jesus Speaks

As I was about to begin my public ministry, my cousin, John, known as the baptizer, was already preaching a baptism of repentance, urging his listeners to admit their failings, to seek forgiveness, and to change their behaviors.

Just as Isaiah had predicted, John was the one to prepare for my coming, he foretold that I was near and that I would do even greater things than he had. He said that, while he baptized in water, I would baptize in the Spirit.

A bit later, I left my home in Nazareth and went to him where he was baptizing in the Jordan. Along with others, I entered the water and received baptism from him. When I got out of the water, John saw the heavens open up and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, descend upon me. Then a voice came down and my Father spoke: “You are my beloved son. I am so pleased in you.”

Reflection

Beloved, little-by-little, I came to fully grasp my role as my Father revealed it to me. Once I heard about John, I knew the time had arrived to make my presence known, just as I long to make it known to you. I accepted John’s baptism on behalf of you and for all of humankind. You can imagine my joy when I heard my Abba’s wondrous affirmation.

Ponder how much I love you, how I live in you and how pleasing you are to me. Is it hard for you to see me in others, especially when they are troublesome? If you really understand that each one is my child, just as you are, how would you want to treat them?

Now, renew the promises of your own baptism. Ask for my help and forgiveness. I rejoice when you remember to thank me for the many gifts you receive from me each day.

Stay with me for a while. Please.

Note: if you are new to this series, please review the two previous posts in order to reap more from these reflections.

Have a blessed, joy-filled week. Please feel free to share your insights in the comments. Thank you.

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As Jesus Would Tell It–II

Photo: Ariel Waldman via Flickr–Labeled for non-commercial reuse.

A Little “How-To” Before We Begin

My paraphrase of the Gospel, putting the text into Jesus’ own words, is, of course, not a canonically approved translation. For this reason, I will cite each passage, chapter and verses, for you to read from your preferred translation, prior to reading my interpretation of Jesus’ telling. To begin, I suggest you read your version slowly and prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart, asking the Holy Trinity to be present with you during your time of prayer.

Next, read the imaginative interpretation as narrated by Jesus. Realize that this comes from my limited perception, though I call on God’s Spirit to guide me in my writing each day before setting pen to paper.

Then, read the brief reflection, also written in the voice of Jesus. Listen to what he has to say to you. Ponder the questions he offers, especially any of them that seem to have meaning for you, or those that cause you to feel some resistance.

Finally, sit in silence for a while. Reflect, contemplate, resolve. Finish your time of prayer with a moment of thanksgiving for the gift of his presence in your life. Perhaps you will want to journal the insights the Lord has given you.

Note: Here is a very brief explanation of the four steps of Lectio Divina,(sacred reading) an ancient prayer form used in monasticism, but one that remains timely in our day and one that I turned to in writing this book of meditative reflections.

Lectio (Reading): slowly read scripture or other sacred texts, seeking to understand God’s Word.
Meditatio (Meditation): seek to understand and personalize the Word of God in your reading.
Oratio (Prayer, Conversation): what he has said to you. Speak with intimacy as you talk to God, respond to him as you would with your most beloved friend. Express the emotions that the reading has sparked in you: desire, joy, repentance, thanksgiving.
Contemplatio (Contemplation): sit quietly and listen; just be with your Beloved.

In the midst of our active lifestyles, finding time to pray is a challenge. It may require an earlier start to your day. I hope that you can find a minimum of 15 minutes for your prayer time. More is, of course, more useful, but any effort pleases God’s heart.

For me, early morning prayer sets the tone of the day. It is so easy to say “later” and somehow “later” runs away from you. In any case, choosing a set time is one important tool for success. What is most helpful is to set a routine that works for your lifestyle. That, of course, differs for each of us.

Next week I will offer you our first Reflection.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessing of heaven in Christ.” Ephesians 1,3

As Jesus Would Tell It

Wikipedia Commons: Gospel in Aramaic Text Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

As Jesus Tells It
The Gospel, According to Jesus

I’ve read the Gospels, over and over again, throughout most of my life. Since you are reading these posts, most likely, you have done the same. The words become familiar, yet now and again, something jumps off the page, something new that I’d never noticed before. Those are moments to cherish, gifts of the Holy Spirit, to savor and put into action.

One morning, on my umpteenth trip through Mark, I became aware that the words I read just slipped through my consciousness, mindlessly. I stopped and asked Jesus why I was becoming so inured to his story. He told me, “Let me tell it to you this time.” And so, I read the passage again, changing the narrative into the first person. The story took on new life and a new intimacy for me; I was able to participate more intensely in the mysteries of God’s walk on earth in the person of Jesus, so present to me and telling me his story.

A while after my prayer time, I set off for a walk. That was when the idea for these reflections came to me. What if this could be a prayer form that would help others, would bring Jesus’ presence more vividly into their lives—thus the incarnation of this series of posts that, perhaps, eventually will morph into a book–my original intention.

To write this, I choose small sections of the Gospel, in no particular order, for a daily journey with Jesus allowing him to retell his story in his own words followed by his thoughts on each day’s reading. My wish is that this process will open us to an ever clearer understanding of the beauty of the basis of our Christian faith.

May each of us be blessed as we listen with loving attention to the Lord as he tells us his story.

More next week!

Depouillement–Letting Go

I have neglected this blog for over a year…a year of letting go, multiple challenges with the death of my mother, some remodeling, my husband’s recent surgery and more–I spare you the details.

Through it all, my strength has been my morning prayer time and many times throughout the day when the Lord has gently reminded me that he is walking with me.

I began to write a book of daily meditations on the Gospels , intending to write 365 to publish in hard copy and on Kindle. This project began in June. I have only written twelve. God has been prompting me to move on it and I have decided to offer them here, instead of in book form–hoping that dropping the idea of so many reflections in a reasonable period of time will free me from the paralysis that comes from feeling overwhelmed. Little by little, I will share them on this blog with the desire that they bring whoever reads them closer to the Lord. Just the process of writing them has brought me great joy and new insights into Jesus’ life among us.

Today, I would like to share with you a poem that I posted recently on my poetry blog. It deals metaphorically with the letting go of aging–a period of life that invites me to greater intimacy with God.

Depouillement*
A Haibun

Do falling leaves ache with the pain of letting go? Or do they revel in the freedom of floating and of the taste of earth? Did they boast of glorious colors that they wore in days before releasing their hold on life?

And the trees—do they grasp obsessively to their robes of glory, regret the day that finds them stripped, exposed and naked—vulnerable to cold and rain.

I am October now, buffeted by aging. I hurl my somethingness into the great unknown, one gift at a time. I face the imminence of winter, move beyond the sting of loss into the joy of unknown expectations. I am old but full of hope, in the springtime of new life. Beneath the soil life pulses.

Je suis depouilée
stripped bare like October trees
richness lies hidden

Photo: Victoria Slotto

*The French word depouillement means stripping. The verb depouiller is to strip. The first line of the haiku translates : I am stripped.

Haibun is a Japanese poetry form that combines a short introduction written in prose, followed by a Haiku.

A Prayer for Those of Us Who Are Aging

I found this 17th Century Prayer among the mementos my mother kept. Attributed to a 17th Century nun, I have adapted its language and some of its words and phrasing:

Photo: by Borya via Flick’r

PRAYER FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE AGING

Lord, You know me better than I know myself–that I am growing older and will some day be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every occasion. Release me from the need to straighten out everyone’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody–helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a shame not to use it all, but you know, Lord, I would like to have a few friends at the end.

Keep me free from the endless recital of details–give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips when it comes to talking about my aches and pains. They are increasing and the love of rehashing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I don’t dare to ask to enjoy tales of the miseries of others, but do help me to listen to them patiently.

I won’t ask You for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less stubbornness when my memory clashes with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably sweet–not a Saint–some of them are hard to live with. A sour old personal is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the grace to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And remind me, Lord, to tell them so.

AMEN

I have been remiss in keeping up with this blog and this seemed to be to be a good way to jump in again. I think the prayer applies to all of us, not only those of us who have already arrived on the old end of the aging spectrum.

Oh, Chosen One

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah--Wikipedia Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah–Wikipedia, labeled for noncommercial reuse.

This morning, my reading took me to the second book of Isaiah, known as The Book of Consolation in my translation. I never tire of reading this, the voice of God through his prophet reminding me over and over again that, in spite of myself, God continues to choose me.

I’m revisiting a book that I read years ago,

Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey

that helps us explore avenues of prayer suited to one’s personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs. For people like me who can’t exist without time for prayer and quiet (Intuitive, Feeling) one prayer form that the authors recommend is Lectio Divino (Divine Reading), that is reading and entering into dialogue with God about what one has read. They suggest when reading Second Isaiah, to insert your own name whenever God is addressing Israel.

Check out these verses, for example. I will leave a blank, for you to substitute your name:

“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, ________, and formed you, _______:
do not fear for I have called you by name.
You are mine.” Is. 43: 1

“Hear then, ________, my servant,
_________, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, __________, my servant,
____________, whom I have chosen.” Is. 44: 1-2

This is what it is all about, isn’t it? Bringing home scripture, making it alive today in our own experience. Remembering that we are God’s chosen and he is speaking to us. Divine reading, indeed!

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, may I suggest this book, a simple test and analysis of all 16 temperaments…helpful not only for prayer, but also in understanding personal relationships. My husband and I are the exact opposites on one another–complementary and challenging! (Click on the book titles to access these books on Amazon).

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

By the way, for the fiction writers among you, this is the book I use to help me to develop characters who are consistent, but who will also throw in an occasional surprise by acting out of character.

Touch the Dawn

Photo: yala-lala via Deviant Art Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: yala-lala via Deviant Art
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

In the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet into the day of peace.

Luke 1, 78-79

Photo: touch the flame Deviant Art Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: touch the flame
Deviant Art
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

May the light and peace we need so much be with you, your loved ones and our troubled world. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Victoria