Keep Watch

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), best known by his works which formed the basis of the development of Western Christianity, philosophy, and most importantly, theology. Of late, his most notable prayer that I know is in The Book of Common Prayer, Compline, the last “Divine Office” of the day.

Paul Burkhart writes online: “In the Church tradition of the day, “Compline” is the word used to describe that twilight space at the completion of the day, between evening and morning. Prayers and devotions for Compline are usually meant to be done right before a person goes to sleep.”

St Augustine’s words seem especially apropos in this era of pandemic.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

And Amen.

Late Winter/Early Spring

As winter was waning I was excited to see buds on the maple trees. Wish I had captured them in a photo. Oh, well. A few weeks later there were maple buds all over the ground.

Now as I take my walks there is a new development. In elementary school we called them ‘helicopters” and they often rained down upon us on windy days.

Red Winged Blackbird

A couple years ago one of the fast food restaurants had an ad on TV that reminded me of a bird who does not winter here, but had returned about the time of Lent. Their jingle was to advertise a fish sandwich and to me sounded like the bird’s song. When I tried to mimic the birdsong at the Cincinnati Nature Center the Naturalist looked at me very quizzically. As if she wondering what in the world I imagined! How many classical composers were inspired by nature sounds?

I have two mP3 players (don’t ask! it’s a long story). I use those players to listen to music or Scripture or radio when I take my walks without Bob. Recently I was walking and Verdi Without Words came on the player. Then I heard a bird over and throughout the song. My first thought was “Quite a bird!” My second thought was “What is that?” I am very familiar with the conk-a-ree type of song the male makes. This one had another piercing song that I could hear even with La Traviata playing. I found that other sound on the Cornell birding website, but could not link the recording here. If you go to that site I was listening to the second and third recording they list. (Just a few seconds each.)

Without further ado, try this typical song out for size!

And imagine hearing it along with this music!! Actually if you click on the bird and then the music, I was able to listen to them simultaneously!!

Makes me smile!!

Ephesians 6:16

In Smoky Mountain National Park there is an “auto tour” called Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. In one parking lot along that motor trail I spotted this stone. Immediately the Shield of Faith came to mind. I think the rock is a natural formation, but it certainly looks like the finger of God to me!

Last Tuesday night during our Intercessory Prayer group meeting for The Crossing Church where we attend, there was a guest in our group. This child read the Scriptures we were to discuss and pray over the various groups each person was assigned.

Her final verse was Ephesians 6:16 New Living Bible, “In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”

The lesson was about being childlike with God and having faith. The most precious thing was when she read this final verse she said we were to hold up the shield of faith to stop the feary arrows. Not fiery, but feary.

So today lift your shield of faith to quench, stop, and extinguish all those feary darts the enemy of your soul send your way. We have the power to put out the fires of doubt and fear.

One person in our group quoted from something she had read, “God is not able to work in our unbelief.”

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV 2011)

Birds of The Air

When this bird comes to the feeder outside my office window, he most often flits around on the ground. I see him from above and it looks as if he is wearing a helmet of black and white stripes!

We are encouraged to wear helmets to protect ourselves from injury, especially while riding bicycles and motorcycles. How about making certain your helmet is in place at other times? St. Paul encouraged us in Ephesians 6:17 (NIV2011)  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Also in Isaiah 59:17a (NIV2011)  The LORD “put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head.”

Then we are also told that since we belong to the day and are of the Light that comes from God, “we are to be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 1Thessalonians 5:8 (NIV 2011)

God knows we need to protect our head, and most especially our brain and thought patterns. This pandemic has had me at times, floundering and struggling to keep my head away from depression. Ah! but here comes that sparrow to cheer me on.

It is so easy if you do not suffer from depression to just tell yourself and others to focus on the positive. We are even told repeatedly in Scripture to give thanks in all circumstances. I am one who needs object lessons and constant reminders to stay on the path, stay on the right path, think the right thoughts, look here at the Word and at the Lord.

He blesses me with this bird of the air and reminds me not to fret. Here is the white-crowned sparrow in song for us. In the first stanza, I just love how we can see into his tiny mouth! That tongue is so wee, tiny and small!

 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:26-27 (NIV2011)

Don’t Try This at Home!

Unless you are younger and smarter than me! Having technical difficulty with video. Maybe this link works?

My sister had given me a bottle of hand sanitizer, but at the rate we have been using it I thought I would try what everyone says is SO simple. With the simple ingredients of two parts alcohol and one part aloe vera gel this did NOT make hand sanitizer as it was advertised on the ever reputable internet!

Instead, as you can see, I got a lump of organic aloe vera in a cup of alcohol. The Aloe Vera Gel organic bottle reads Aloe Vera leaf (99.8%), Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Xanthan. WHAT?!?!? @#$(*&)@!*#^IHWL What a mess! I tried the stick blender. Nope, that did not work either. Just got aloe vera strands wrapped around the blades. After straining the concoction I put it in the pump dispenser thinking that maybe it had to sit for a while. Nope. Just got squirts of mostly alcohol. Which is fine as long as you use it over the sink or out of doors! When Grandgirl #2 can over she got a good laugh at Grammy’s attempts. She could not make it work either!

My Grandgirl #2 made me batch #2 of hand sanitizer a few days later. Turns out she bought cheap stuff at the Dollar Store and it worked just fine. Then my daughter found a huge bottle of gel hand sanitizer at Sam’s Club! So we are all set to stay sanitized!

The Lilac and the Cruet of Oil

In 1 Kings 17:8 The LORD told Elijah to go to Zarephath in Sidon. There he found a widow who was down to her last measure of flour and oil. The LORD told Elijah that the woman would supply him with food. And the supplies did not run out!

In our yard we have one lilac shrub. Several years ago it was getting way too tall. My son thinned it, but it was still too tall for my liking. So two years ago I cut at it to lower it to a height where I could reach to cut the flowers in spring. Bob was not certain it would ever bloom again after I took hold of the shears!

A few days ago the flowers were out and the overnight temperature dropped to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. In the early morning the leaves were limp. I worried about the survival of those blooms. I had invited friends to come cut lilacs for their cheer. I, too, had been bringing in branches to cheer our table.

The Lilac this week

Later in the day a friend came and picked bunches. I wondered how many more days we might have lilac flowers Several times I have mentioned to Bob that it seems the LORD’S hand has been upon that shrub this year. Just like the cruet of oil in 1 Kings, it continues and has not yet run out of blooms!

We cut, it blooms. We cut some more, it continues to bloom. I am waiting for the Bachelor Buttons and Columbine to open in abundance for bouquets. Until then, I trust that shrub will continue to bless us and others who may want the sweet flowers to take home for cheer.

Volunteers from last year about to bloom!

Come To Him

I so need this one today. Really struggling with the new reality of our lives in isolation, wary of disease, fighting depression. God knows. Sometimes tears are the best and sometimes singing.

If you have never heard this one, listen 3 times. So great!

When I’m feeling anxious in my head
He tells me to come to him instead
Come to him when weary (Weary)
Come to him when low (When low)
He will lift the burden, this I know (This I know) (Yeah I know I say)

Take my yoke upon you, learn from me (Learn from me)
Take my yoke upon you and you’ll see (You’ll see) (You’ll see)
Come to me, I’ll strengthen (Strengthen)
Come to me, I’ll help (I’ll help)
Come to me, I’ll still anxiety (Still anxiety)

So when I find that I have gone astray (When I’ve gone astray)
I can go to him and he won’t send me away (He won’t sent me away)
Come to me, I’ll strengthen (Strengthen)
Come to me, I’ll help (I’ll help)
Come to me and listen what I say (Listen to what I say)

Take my yoke upon you learn from me (Learn from me)
Take my yoke upon you and you’ll see (You’ll see)
Come to me, I’ll strengthen (Strengthen)
Come to me, I’ll help (I’ll help)
Come to me, I’ll still anxiety (Still anxiety)

Come (Come), come (Come), oh come (Oh to me)
You better come to me, you better come to me
Come (Come), come (Come), oh come (Oh to me)
You better come to me, you better come to me
Come (Come), come (Come), oh come (Come)

Out Walking

Some days the clear sky just can’t be beat! They say air pollution is down worldwide!

The Red Bud against the fresh bright maple leaves, blue sky and wisps of cloud. What’s not to like? Later in the year those same maple leaves will turn a much darker green and look beaten and weary by September. For now, a fresh shout to spring glory.

Then on the way home there was this phenomenon. Perhaps I had seen it before, but it struck me as SO unusual.

At a glance I had to gasp, “What the heck?” And go closer for a photo. Later I realized you would not get the full impact unless I walked back to that particular tree and took a photo of the “larger view.” I got LOTS of steps that day.

Easily the oldest Red Bud tree in our neighborhood. I was amazed at the life springing out of that trunk! Pandemic or not, spring is actively bursting in Ohio!!

My ankles and knees are not pleased with so many steps each day, but they say it is good for our mental health as well as our physical health! Try to enjoy your neighborhood where ever you may be.

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;  for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Songs 2:10-12 (NRSV)

What Have You Been Doing?

When the bananas from Click List went too ripe too quickly because they sent large ripe ones (I always buy small and the greenest I can find) Bob made banana bread. No nuts, not with rum, but with oatmeal. I think it might have been Betty’s recipe. Quite tasty!

I have been figuring out what pattern I prefer for making face masks. The Clermont Sun local newspaper offered a pattern on the front page one week. It worked fairly well. I tried another one I found on You Tube from Sewing Seeds of Love with nose wire and insert pocket.

I find the pleats tricky, so I just started pleating them with my best guess.

These each have an opening in the back to hold a surgical mask or coffee filter or folded paper towel. The girl across the street works at Dunkin’ Donuts drive through and will be required to wear a mask this week. They do not sew, so she received two. My daughter’s family needed 6 or 7. My son’s family the same amount. Bob and I need a stack of clean ones so we can change them each time we wear them. I will be busy for a while.

My daughter graciously ordered 1/8″ elastic on line as I used up all I had on hand. I did not bother to learn the tie one ones. Figured most folks would not use them. My oldest Grandgirl found yards of fabric in her closet and gave it to me for masks. She could not remember what she had bought it for. She works at a movie theater. On Tuesday and Friday nights they are giving away fresh popcorn. They have a bar there that is selling bottled alcohol and cans of 50 West beer curbside with the popcorn. Last Friday the line was really long. They promote it as date night. Watch a movie at home and have popcorn!

People with sewing machines have been kind to share with each other. Some with time on their hands are sewing like maniacs, then sharing with their work colleagues or trying to fill requests from others. One neighbor brought us a handful along with some surgical masks to use. She is aware of what we went through when Bob was so terribly ill.

In fact, I have found people overall to be kind during this pandemic. Neighbors are willing to pick up laundry soap when they are out and the Click List says they do not carry that – or are out of it. It would be even better if they said, “I am going to this store or that. Do you want anything?” We would not feel as if we were such an imposition that way. At this point, I am fighting the urge to just jump in the car and go get whatever I need. So, I will take all the help I can get.

 Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,  accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.  Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.

Colossians 3:12-14 (HCSB)

And I have not heard any political comments among the common folk!