Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Tag: mother

February 2 — Don’t run away, run toward

This week, we’re exploring a paraphrase of Julian of Norwich’s Showings in All Will Be Well: 30 days with a great spiritual teacher. Julian was a fourteenth century Christian mystic who chose a solitary life in a small cell attached to a church building. People who chose this vocation were called anchorites because they were called to anchor the church and community in prayer. Others were allowed to come to the window in her little stone fortress to receive prayer and counsel. As far we know, Julian lived inside there until her death, through a time in European history that was racked by war and disease that affected her personally.

Besides being the first woman writer in English whose work survives, Julian’s contributions are theologically ground-breaking. Instead of a focus on sin and judgment like the church of her day, her experience of God is marked by love and joy. Sin is real for Julian, but it is not the preeminent reality. Jesus is the preeminent reality, with the mysterious but confident assurance that all will be well. Her experience of Jesus is matriarchal at times, not denying the traditional patriarchal understandings of God, but adding a nurturing and re-birthing dimension to them that helps us understand our resurrection life now, and our life with God as beloved children.

Today’s Bible reading

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  — Matthew 18:1-4

More thoughts for meditation

The mother may at times allow her children to fall 
and to learn the hard way, for its own benefit, but since she loves it so
she would never allow any real danger to threaten her child.
And although earthly mothers have been known to let their children die,
our heavenly mother Jesus would never allow us, his children, to perish,
for he alone is all mighty, all wisdom, all love.

But often when we realize our faults we are so scared and filled with shame
that we don’t know what to do.
Then our patient Mother doesn’t want us to run away,
for nothing would please him less; but he then wishes us to behave just like a child.
When a child is terrified and frightened, it runs to its mother as fast as it can;
and if it can do nothing else, it yells out to her for help.
With a child’s humility let us call out: Dear Mother, be sorry for me.
I’ve gotten myself into a mess, and I need your assistance and wisdom.

Even if we don’t feel immediate relief, we can be sure he is behaving as a wise Mother.
For if he considers it beneficial that we mourn and weep, his compassion allows that
until the time is right, because he loves us.
He wishes us to imitate the child who naturally trusts in his mothers love whatever the situation.
Our Mother’s hands continually surround us to protect us. 

Suggestions for action

Ponder for a moment how you think about God. When you make a mess, do you think God wants you to fix it up yourself? Some of us were so parentified and shamed that we were expected to get everything right from a very young age. Julian and the Bible writers describe a relationship of loving dependence that is different than that. In other parts of her Revelations of Divine Love, she even describes a young child soiling a diaper and running to the Mother, who naturally hugs, kisses, and cleans up the child without any shame or blame. Is there a mess in your life or your heart right now? Tell the Mother! You don’t need to be afraid of punishment.  You can expect help! The Lord knows our weakness and is ready to assist. And it you can’t get down with the mother image, take it from John: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 

Pray: Loving God, help me relax into being your child. Help me trust in your mercy and compassion for me.

September 15, 2016 — Jesus refers to himself as a hen who gathers her chicks

Julian is one of the earliest Christian writers who moves away from patriarchy and highlights images of Jesus as Mother to us who believe, much as Jesus refers to himself as a hen who gathers her chicks. Today we listen again to Julian on Jesus, our Mother.

Today’s Bible reading

Jerusalem! Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and throw stones in order to kill those who are sent to you. Many times I have wanted to gather your people together. I have wanted to be like a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. And you would not let me!  — Luke 13:34

See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are! The world doesn’t know us because it didn’t know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God. He still hasn’t let us know what we will be. But we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him. That’s because we will see him as he really is. — 1 John 3:1-2

More thoughts for meditation

In our true Mother, Jesus, our life is grounded in uncreated wisdom which foresees all, along with the Father’s almighty power and the Holy Spirit’s sovereign goodness. By taking upon himself our nature he stored us to life, and by dying upon the cross he carried us to eternal life. And from that moment until the end of time he nurtures and helps us on, just as the great loving concern of motherhood wishes, and the natural need of the child desires. Beautiful and sweet is our heavenly mother in the sight of our spirit, and in the sight of our heavenly Mother dear and beautiful are her gracious children, gentle and humble as children innately are. For by nature the child does not despair of the mother’s love, nor by nature does a child try to be self-reliant. A mother instinctively loves the child and it in turn loves her. These beautiful qualities and many others please and serve our heavenly Mother. There is in this life no higher state than childhood, with its weakness and helplessness and ignorance, until our gracious Mother brings us up into our Father’s joy. In that joy will we truly be shown what he means by the sweet words:  All will be well, and you yourself shall see that every manner of thing will be well.  – Julian

Suggestions for action

Carry this thought with you: Live as a child of God today. In this life there is no higher state.

Pray: Jesus, help me rely on you and not on myself today.

September 14, 2016 — Jesus as Mother to us who believe

Julian is one of the earliest Christian writers who moves away from patriarchy and highlights images of Jesus as Mother to us who believe, much as Jesus refers to himself as a hen who gathers her chicks.

Today’s Bible reading

Jerusalem! Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and throw stones in order to kill those who are sent to you. Many times I have wanted to gather your people together. I have wanted to be like a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. And you would not let me!  — Matthew 23:37

More thoughts for meditation

The mother may at times allow her child to fall and to learn the hard way, for its own benefit, but since she loves it so, she would never allow any real danger to threaten her child.  And although earthly mothers have been known to let their children die, our heavenly Mother Jesus would never allow us, his children, to perish, for he alone is all mighty, all wisdom, all love.  But often when we realize our faults and our wretchedness, we are so scared and filled with shame that we don’t know what to do.  Then our patient Mother doesn’t want us to run away, for nothing would please him less; but he then wishes us to behave just like a child. When a child is terrified and frightened, it runs to its mother as fast as it can; and if it can do nothing else, it yells out to her for help. With a child’s humility let us call out.  – Julian

Suggestions for action

Carry this thought with you all through your day:  He wishes us to behave just like a child.

Pray: Jesus, please mother me.

April 27, 2016 — The Seven Words — third Prayer

cross - john maryToday’s Bible passage and an excerpt from it

Read John 19:25 – 27

Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, here is your mother.

More Thoughts for Meditation

This week we are using The Way of the Cross as a contemplative prayer practice. To review, the Way of the Cross is a meditative method to deepen our connection to Christ and to live according to what Christ did for us on the cross. Jesus’ seven statements spoken on the cross offer us a guide to walk closer with him and one another. Today’s emphasis acknowledges the connection we have with each other because of Christ.

It seems legit to ask why we remain on earth after we receive salvation from Jesus for our sins. Yesterday, we remembered the words of the dying man next to Jesus who requested to be part of Jesus’ kingdom after they both died. In that moment, death was inevitable but not a threat to disconnect us from living with God in His kingdom. Jesus told the criminal that he would surely be with him in Paradise – a presumed ethereal place, not on earth. After Jesus’ dialogue with that man, he turned his attention to his mother and dear friend who stood nearby. No doubt, Mary his mother and John his beloved disciple did not want to lose one minute of time with Jesus before he would die – as any cherished family member and friend would do during such a moment. Mary and John shared life so intimately with Jesus on a daily basis and now were watching him die. How would they live life without him? Why didn’t Jesus tell them the same thing He told the repentant criminal? Surely, Jesus could have said to Mary and John, “my death is re-connecting you all to God and so you will also be with me in Paradise today”. Mary and John absolutely believed Jesus to be the Messiah; but now he was dying and leaving them – that was the antithesis of Paradise. Or was it?

It is difficult to understand God’s grand plan of why He keeps us on earth to live out our salvation, still surrounded by suffering and grief. But Jesus’ third statement on the cross offers us a glimpse at the blueprints. When Jesus told Mary that she had a new son and that John had a new mother, he was really telling them how his death was birthing a new kind of family. After his resurrection, he told his disciples how humanity was going to be able to experience and exist within a new connectedness called “the church” (Matthew 16:18). Such connection would be lived on earth as well as in heaven.

Suggestions for Action

Have you ever experienced the loss of someone so dear that you couldn’t imagine how to keep living without them in your life? This could be the death of someone you loved or a broken relationship connection or even the separation of time and space from that person that makes it difficult (seemingly impossible) to stay connected? Use Jesus’ words to Mary and John to know that Jesus is not leaving you alone in your grief. You have been given a sacred family to be connected with at all times, through the Holy Spirit.

Look at yourself in the mirror and pray, and/or pray with a fellow Christ follower: “Woman/man, behold you are part of sacred family. Friend, you are part of a beloved community.”

Have you ever met a fellow Christ follower who has a different skin tone than yours, speaks a different language than you do or live a lifestyle completely different from yours; and yet, as you begin to talk about Jesus with them, you feel an unexplainable connection with them. It may even feel like “home” being with them. Acknowledge that experience as you pray the words that Jesus spoke to Mary and John. Think of someone and pray this for them to know the connection they have with others because of Jesus.

Pray: “Woman/man, behold the connection we have because of Christ. The same Spirit that is in you is in me and that makes us one on earth and in heaven.”