Come aside by yourselves to an out-of-the way place and rest a little.
Mark 6, 31
Come aside by yourselves to an out-of-the way place and rest a little.
Mark 6, 31
Read: Mark 1, 12-15
Right after the baptism I received from John, Spirit drove me out into the desert. I remained there for forty days, during which Satan tried his best to tempt me. I lived among wild beasts, but my Father sent angels to care for me.
When I returned, John had been arrested. I then came to Galilee to proclaim the good news of God. “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Change your lives and believe the good news.”
Desert times are times of preparation. Think of Israel in the desert on the way to the land my Father promised them, and of my own time when I was alone, reflective—a time in which I prayed, listened to God’s plans for me and had to face up to Satan’s efforts to derail me in my mission.
Beloved, what would happen if, every morning, you set aside some desert time to reflect, pray and listen as I did? If you enter the day with a clear vision of my divine purpose for you, with the intention to call on me throughout the unfolding of the day, wouldn’t you have such a better chance of facing difficulties and temptations? I’m only a word away: “Jesus.” I’m waiting within for you to call on me so that I can help you to be my witness, to help you to reach out to another to show them the love that is my Kingdom.
Be still, and listen to all I have to share with you today. Please.
If you are new to this series of reflections on the Gospel, “As Jesus Would Tell It,” it will be helpful to read the previous posts. Have a blessed, joy-filled week. Please feel free to share your insights in the comments. Thank you.
As Jesus Would Tell It–Reflection One
Beginning My Work
Read: Mark, 1, 1-11
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.”
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.
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 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!
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,
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).
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.
I have a Jack Russell Terrier who is deaf. You may know that this is not a calm breed–independent, reactive, they require an extra dose of patience even when they are hearing. But they are fun, full of surprises and so lovable. Zoe is my little prayer partner, cuddling at my side when I spend time in prayer and reading scripture–her buddy, Sparky, usually flanking my other side.
First thing this morning, when I took the dogs for their walk and “duties” (we have no yard here in the desert) Zoe went ballistic, as she tends to, when a friend drove by in his golf cart. This is not unusual…sudden movements scare her, no doubt because of her hearing impairment. Usually I’m prepared, but this morning I lost it. I won’t go into detail.
When I returned home, I didn’t want to pray. I couldn’t bring myself to God after such a miserable failure…and really thought about just skipping that part of the day and getting on with my domestic chores. Then I happened to open my Kindle, which was on a page of “The Practice of the Presence of God”–a little volume you may have read by a 15th century monk named Brother Lawrence. This is what was on the page that I had highlighted:
“When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to doing so: I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself. I fail not, I give GOD thanks, acknowledging the strength comes from Him.” In other words, “Get over it.”
And so, I prayed. And after some really hectic weeks and prayer doldrums that accompany being too busy, God allowed me to know He is with me, even in my most pathetic moments.
I highly recommend this small volume. Find various translations on Amazon.com
Most Sundays, I try to practice Sabbath—a tradition that was a strong factor in my growing up years, but that had waned with my work as a nurse…patients need care every day of the week. Most of us know and understand the concept of a day of rest, but our frenetic lifestyles tend to get in the way.
The concept of Sabbath crisscrosses most cultural, spiritual, religious and secular societies, even predating biblical times. The Babylonian Enuma Elish prescribed a day of repose. In the Genesis creation story, God rested after his six days of work and, I suppose it worked out well so that he added it to those tablets of stone he handed on to his people through Moses. Wicca, Islam. Buddhism, Cherokee teaching and others all caution humans to take a break, chill out, and rest.
Wisdom, it seems to me, embraces our need for refreshment, for replenishment of body, mind spirit and emotion, for regeneration and reflection.
For many of us, well, for me anyway, the need to be in control seems to take hold and it becomes oh-so-hard to let go of time, accept idleness and unproductivity and, perhaps, the feeling of uselessness. I suspect that there is a trust issue here. Can I really believe that God will take care of things in my absence? Can I believe that the work of creation on this particular day will go on without my amazing intervention?
So, how do I, Ms-Doing-Not-Being, make Sabbath?
• Meditation—a bit longer than my ordinary routine.
• Worship—with my Parish community.
• Journaling–and in the process really waking up to what is happening around me. I may write of all the wonderful sensory experiences that a pristine summer day offers—the finches’ songs, the brilliant orange of the male oriole at our feeder, the spicy scent of new-born flowers and the basil in the vegetable garden. I can pay attention to the play of light and shadow in the now-expansive boughs of the ash tree we planted almost twenty years ago and watch the hummingbirds fly back and forth sipping nectar from both flowers and feeders. I may feel the gentle kiss of a breeze and delight in my dogs’ warm bodies flanking me on either side. I will listen to David busy chopping spices in the kitchen.
• Spa Stuff. I can pamper myself, thanking my body for its seven decades of service and praise the many scars that it bears, a reminder of the life-threatening illness I have survived, for now.
• Creativity. Maybe some consider engaging in the creative process to be work. For me, I allowed the muse to come out and play, more by way of brainstorming than actualizing any project. Sabbath time allows ideas to gestate and gives clarity as to where to take them.
• And, yes, a final confession. I might do laundry. So, it’s not a perfect Sabbath, but for this woman who tends towards OCD, that’s probably not a bad thing. Besides, we need clean clothes!
Sabbath is not something that comes easily to many of us. I am aware that it doesn’t have to always be on Saturday or Sunday, or even occupy an entire twenty-four hours. How is life different if, each day, I remember to tuck in an hour or even minutes for the divine repose, sitting back and letting go?
Would you add, in comments, some ideas on how to keep Sabbath?
I’ve been noticing something lately when praying or even reading scripture. It’s really hard to take self out of it. Even in psalms of praise and thanksgiving, it seems that there’s a little hitch--“Oh God, you are great and wonderful…and in the meantime, would you bash my enemies’ heads on the rocks.” (my paraphrase, which is a bit exaggerated.)
I like to start my daily quiet time with the prayer to the Holy Spirit that was the first post on this blog, I believe. But lately I’ve noticed it’s definitely a Gimme-Prayer: Give me stillness…give me calm…give me the joy of your forgiveness…give me faith and hope and love and on and on. Now, don’t get me wrong…these are not bad things, but still, it seems to be all about me and my Me-Motives.
But then I stopped to think. I drive my husband, David, a bit crazy because it is so darn hard for me to ask him to help me with something or to ask him do something for me. I want to be self-sufficient, independent. It’s pride. isn’t it?! Especially since if he doesn’t happen to notice or guess that I would like his help, I get so easily miffed.
And isn’t that how it is with love, with Love that is God? I have to believe that God is happy for us to come to him in need. Sure, he wants us to express our love, our praise, our thanksgiving–those more unselfish aspects of worship. But also waits for us to come to him for forgiveness, for help. (more on that in another post)
It’s a matter of balance, as are so many things in life. The psalmist had it right, after all–though I’m not so sure about bashing those heads on rocks.
pray without ceasing;
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.…
I Thessalonians, 5, 15
Many, many years ago, I was enticed by the story of a Russian mystic who wandered by foot through his country on a quest for contact with God. It was said that, without ceasing, he repeated the “Jesus Prayer”–Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
That reminds me of the admonitions Jesus and Paul give us to pray constantly.
Last week I received an e-mail telling me of a new follower who blogs under the moniker “Prayer Pilgrim.” I linked to his blog and Facebook page to learn that, as of yesterday, this young man is beginning a walking pilgrimage along the coast of Oregon. I felt a twinge of envy, wishing I could do something like this–but considering age and health issues, as well as my responsibilities to others, I understood that that dream is out of the question. I am following his blog posts in order to join in, in some vicarious sort of way.
The reality is, however, there is nothing stopping me from becoming a prayer pilgrim in my own way–striving to bring prayer into the simplicity of my daily routine–walking the dogs, doing dishes, laundry, errands–whatever. The challenges I face are not the biting cold of the sea spray, nor the rocky cliffs, nor the aloneness of traveling without companions. No. My challenge is to REMEMBER. To not allow mindless internal chatter or the variability of mood swings distract me so that by the time I reach the end of the day I have blocked out all awareness of God With/In me.
Like Prayer Pilgrim, we each try to begin our walk throughout the day in a prayer place. The question is, how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, progressing in The Practice of the Presence of God.
Is there anything that helps you to REMEMBER?
Bless you on your journey, Prayer Pilgrim.