Have You Read These?

{First photo from Unsplash, yoshua girl} Bob and I enjoy finding an author we like who has written an abundance of books. Then we try to work our way through the books in their order of publication. One such author is Louise Penny. The books are usually set in a small town named Three Pines. Inspector Gamache and his fellow Sûreté du Québec officers speak French Canadian phrases which Bob adores and I translate in my own way.

Louise Penny weaves wisdom through her writings. There are 17 books in this series so far. I came across this quote recently and had to share it.

He tried not to go to the worst possible conclusion. That they were down because everyone who might communicate was down.

No. He forced his mind away from that. Stick with the simple facts. He knew how catastrophic a rampant imagination, driven by fear, could be.

How The Light Gets In, Louise Penny

Fear occurs about 1,025 in the Bible and first appears in Genesis 3. Fear has been with us a very long time. Fear not or be not afraid appear many times (unlikely the 365 count is accurate according to most scholars).

Regardless, we are prone to fear, even Louis Penny knows, and we are told not to go there. Fear not, Be not afraid. It is something we have a choice about.

When did you recently force your mind away from the worst possible conclusion? Were you able to take those thoughts captive to Christ Jesus?

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

This is a discipline that truly takes practice. We must learn not to let ‘awfulizing’ become the way we think. We must turn our thoughts and our ways to His thoughts and ways. You can likely tell by my catching and quoting this from a fictional novel that I have been at this practice for a while. No, I have not mastered it, but like my other spiritual disciplines it does help me grow closer to Jesus.

Ben Palpant

Remember I told you that Zephaniah says “The Lord sings over you? Reading a poem by Ben Palpant I came across this stanza:

Sing to me, O my troubadour,
Let your songs echo
In the halls of my loneliness,
Even my shame,
So that I may sing back
and, perhaps, learn by heart.
Perhaps.

"Bright Fire" by Ben Palpant Sojourner Songs

I love his idea that he “may sing back and, perhaps, learn by heart.” I resisted piano lessons as a child because I could hear the music and play many melodies ‘by ear.’ And that is how I read this stanza of Palpant’s poem. I want to hear the songs of God and learn to play them by ear….

Help me sing those melodies back to You, my Lord. Help me sing those melodies to myself in times of struggle or discouragement. Remind me of Your holy music.

Best Laid Plans

Well the new computer said I had to restart to install updates. I hit the button and went off to eat breakfast. I really wanted an early start on writing Have had so many interrupted writing days lately. Wanted to get ahead for when we travel next month.

Came back after breakfast and still spinning though it said 100% complete. Started a load of wash. Still spinning. Updated paper journal. Still spinning. By now I was getting aggravated (one of my mom’s favorite words) . Over 45 minutes had passed.

Salvador Dali’s Melting CLock

At Bob’s suggestion asked online what the deal is. Seems Windows 11 is having massive trouble with these updates. Well that does not help me WRITE TODAY!! Turned off computer. When I turned it back on updates started all over. At the moment 63%. So here I am writing on the laptop. Perhaps this is planned practice for when we travel?

Then I thought of this quote and found it on https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-emotional-footprint/201602/man-plans-and-god-laughs

“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Despite our most careful planning, the Road of Life is unpredictable.

Saul Levine, M.D.

Things will have to be cleaned up on this post for certain! And then updates worked and I am back on the desktop. Yikes. I am not in charge of this blog. Each day I give it over to the Lord. I ask Him to bless the content and the readers, that is you!

We all get frustrated and irritable when things do not go our way. My goal is to shorten the time when this happens and get back to putting my attention upon Jesus as quickly as possible. As Thomas R. Kelly wrote,

Lapses and forgettings are so frequent. When you catch yourself again, lose no time in self-recriminations, but breath a silent prayer for forgiveness and begin again, just where you are.

The Light Within

Would you try that right now? Read the quote above and give yourself a moment to do it. Breath a silent prayer and begin again with Him who loves you best.

Offer this broken worship to Him and say: “This is what I am except Thou aid me.”

The Light Within

I usually pray, “Left to myself I will always mess it up.” Jesus said, “Of myself I can do nothing.” John 5:30a

Help me remember, Lord

As lawn guys go thundering past my window I pray you will keep me focused upon You, Lord God. Help me stay in Your Presence regardless of what the day brings or does not bring. I agree with Kelly, “we are owned men and women.” Have Your own way in and through me. Amen.

Known and Unknown

I believe one reason we fear silence and stillness is we do not want to know ourselves and what God has to say about us. If we could only trust Him in a small way we would learn that He loves us more than we love ourselves. In fact, He treasures and adores us.

The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3:17 NRSV
Stefan Kunze Upsplash

The writings of Oswald Chambers contained in the book noted below were excerpted from articles published by God’s Bible School in Cincinnati. The articles were taken from his classroom lectures and Bible studies and published in the school’s periodical God’s Revivalist.

What does the Bible mean when it says to be an example to the flock of God? You must be a walking example of what you believe, in every moment of your life, known and unknown. You must bear the scrutiny of God until you prove that you are indeed a specimen of what He can do. Then He will send you out to disciple all nations.

Oswald Chambers, September 18 selection from “Devotions for a Deeper Life”

Every moment known and unknown. Things done in secret. I do not think this refers just to shameful things. Our deepest wounds are often kept private. The healing the Lord may give from those wounds is also usually given in private. The deep formation of a disciple usually takes place in private.

But whenever you pray, enter into your inner room and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 NIV

Your Father who sees in secret. He hears every whisper or shout of a prayer. Your Father knows you inside and out. He will not require that you share with others what He does in your secret place of prayer. There may however, come a time when you want to shout His work from the rooftops.

Matt Hanns Upsplash

Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured my attention writing in The Cost of Discipleship when he emphasized that we each walk alone with God.

Every man is called separately and must follow alone. 

Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, Discipleship and the Individual

Many of us admire other Christians but we know little or nothing about what it takes for them to be public Christians. We have no clue what happens between them and the Trinity in private. No idea the depth of their wounds or the strength of the healing times the Lord has sent to them. All most often occur in private.

You interact with your Father in a private place, even if you are kneeling in a sanctuary packed with other people. We can share our experiences with others but we are essentially alone with Christ in our walk. Yes, He encourages fellowship with those who are like minded, but in the final analysis we are each alone with Him. He reads our heart. He corrects our course. He convicts us when we go astray. He gives us His righteousness. He suffered and died for our salvation and for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despised the shame and sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NRSV)

Public, private, the deepest things occur in a private place with your Holy Trinity God.

Steffany Gretzinger in her song “Forever Amen” sums it up for me. “I was made to love You. Let me hear the sound of Your voice…”

I would strongly encourage you that when you hear the sound of His voice, go running to a quiet place. Listen up! For unlike human parents, the Father does not waste His breath. He speaks to us with power, love, meaning and transformative powers.

Fifth Grade Book Learning

At times I entertain myself reading Junior Fiction, quick stories told on a simple level about life with specific themes. Number the Stars is the book one Fifth Grade class is reading this year. I decided to read it, too. As the cover reads, “Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think about life before the war. But it’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching in their town.” There is nothing I know less about than that era in Copenhagen so I found the story interesting.

Copyrighted in 1989 by Lois Lowry it is a great quick story. This book also won a John Newberry Yearling medal. The author researched part of the book reading of the Resistance leaders in Denmark. She came across an account of a young man named Kim Malthe-Brunn, eventually captured and executed by the Nazis when he was only twenty-one years old. I found the paragraph written ‘by that young man, in a letter to his mother, the night before he was put to death’ as a great challenge to American thinking today.

…and I want you all to remember – that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is a part of – something he can work and fight for..

Kim Malthe-Brunn

Yes, that in 2022 America might create a country of human decency! Lois Lowry continued

Surely that gift – the gift of a world of human decency – is the one that all countries hunger for still. I hope that this story of Denmark, and its people, will remind us all that such a world is possible.

Afterword, Number the Stars

It is possible. We must all strive for that world to come into being. We must adjust our individual attitudes to be as inclusive as possible to others who seem different from us. Just think, the tattooed, the rich, the pierced, the old, the poor, the young, the infirm, those who worship in ways other than ours, the dark and the light skinned, the olive and red skinned, the ones with interesting eyes that do not run in our family, the left, the right, the indifferent, those who seem invisible in our circles. The world contains so much that we do not understand. Rather than shame, blame and accuse those who are different, can we make a world of decency where they are simply allowed to be as they are without our criticism and attempts to change them to be like us? “An ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one.” The Bible also has much we do not understand. My intention here is not to offend anyone. This is solely my opinion.

How will we answer the Great Shepherd when we face Him?

I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must also bring them together, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.

John 10:16 CEV

We speculate on much of the meaning of Scripture. I, too, am uncertain of the meaning at times. Repeatedly we conjecture the meaning and then it is as if the Holy Spirit shows a vast swath of the church an enlightened meaning. I do not presume to understand John 10:16 thoroughly. I am, however, open to the instruction of the Spirit to teach me and show me what the words recorded as having been said by Jesus my Lord mean.

The Divine Image
William Blake - 1757-1827


To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love,
All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love,
Is God, our father dear:
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love,
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew.
Where Mercy, Love, & Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too.

Wisdom from W. Phillip Keller

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Actually what is referred to by “house” is the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd. The sheep is so deeply satisfied with the flock to which it belongs, with the ownership of this particular shepherd, that it has no wish to change whatever.

Bragging to its less fortunate neighbors on the other side of the fence, it boasts about the wonderful year it has had and its complete confidence in its owner.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ, follow Him closely

W. Phillip Keller has challenged our small group of neighborhood women over the summer as we read and discussed this book together. Every chapter offered us something to ponder and consider in our own lives. These ending passages especially spoke to me. I have been pondering for some time how the Old Testament writers declared the goodness of God. Do I do the same?

Sometimes I feel we Christians should be much more like this. We should be proud to belong to Christ. Why shouldn’t we feel free to boast to others of how good our Shepherd is? How glad we should be to look back and recall all the amazing ways in which He has provided for our welfare. We should delight to describe, in detail, the hard experiences through which He has brought us. And we should be eager and quick to tell of our confidence in Christ. We should be bold to state fearlessly that we are so glad we are His. By the contentment and serenity of our lives we should show what a distinct advantage it is to be a member of His ‘household,” of His flock.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

These passages struck me. So many think of Christians as judgemental and hypocritical. What if we followed Keller’s wisdom and let them see our contentment and joy?

But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you;

1 Peter 3:15 NRSV

Hope, contentment, joy within you. Let it show on the outside. Don’t keep it a secret. Focus first on your own obedience to Christ, not on the failings of others. Be willing to sweetly tell others what makes you so hopeful and contented.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the Pastor J. B. Phillips. Are you aware he wrote a translation of the New Testament? The following is a passage from it.

After all, who in the ordinary way is likely to injure you for being enthusiastic for good? And if it should happen that you suffer “for righteousness’ sake”, that is a privilege. You need neither fear their threats nor worry about them; simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. Make sure that your conscience is perfectly clear, so that if men should speak slanderously of you as rogues they may come to feel ashamed of themselves for libelling your good Christian behaviour.

1 Peter 3:14-16 J. B. Phillips New Testament

As part of His flock we have so much to be grateful for and so much to learn! “Ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer … for the reason for the hope you have within you.”

Are you ready?

Themes Fold In Upon One Another

Have you ever had a recipe that said to fold in ingredients? Here is a bowl before ingredients are folded in.

The week of August 8 our church leadership was hit with another wave of Covid. Many of those afflicted have already had Covid, yet they are ill again. One of the women in our small group in her 80’s has Covid. There is another in her 80s in our group, 2 of us in our 70s and on down the age numbers. Our host decided it was best to cancel our biweekly group. So we will have no meetings for the month of August. (Another meeting was canceled due to attendance number too low.)

Then I wondered if we should meet for the Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 discussion. So far 2 out of 4 have said yes. Phillip Keller wrote

He leads his flock gently, but persistently, up the paths that wind through the dark valleys. It should be noticed that the verse states “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Somehow, in a serene quiet way I am assured all will turn out well for my best because He is with me in the valley and things are under His control.

pages 100, 102 A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

Reminded again a contemporary saying, “The best way out is usually THROUGH.”

That brought me back to the challenge by John Eldredge in Resilient. One question he poses on Page 8 is

If another pandemic were to sweep across the globe next week, some brand-new deadly threat, and we found ourselves back to quarantines, living under the vague threat of suffering and death, in a state of constant uncertainty about the future, with no clear view of the finish line – how would your heart respond to that?

Eldredge – Resilient

When it comes to our household the threat isn’t exactly vague. Pneumonia is also circulating around here. You might remember in 2018 my husband contracted influenza with pneumonia and was hospitalized in ICU with a ventilator, septic shock, organ failure, etc. The medical community was not certain he would survive that first week. Today we have been double vaccinated and double boosted against Covid in this household. Still do not want to tackle Covid and pneumonia at this address.

So I found myself wondering “Have I gained the resilience to go through this round?” Oh yeah, I never finished the book! The skills in each chapter have been strengthening. Now throw in the fact that I have been in pain with this plantar fasciitis since mid-June and in this orthotic boot since end of June. Now Doc is prescribing 3-5 sessions of PT to see if there is improvement. If not, then steroid injection. If no relief then surgery. I wanted to run from his office screaming NO SURGERY! But then again, I cannot run right now. Molly, can you be resilient through this too?

On page 125 Eldredge wrote:

The survivor understands that their present situation is something that they are moving through, passing through. They are enduring with resilience, which is why Jesus encourages endurance. This is not my lasting reality; this is simply my present reality. We are tapping into the help of God and the strength that prevails simply to see us through these times.

-John Eldredge

He goes on to say “This frame of mind changes everything,” Yes, John, it surely does. I have had foot pain and been clumping around in this boot for so long that I forgot this is just something I am going through. It just seems as if it will go on forever.

How to get my stability back? Joy & Strength reading for 8/15 quoted Joshua 1:7 “Be thou strong, and very courageous.” Yes, Lord help me with that, too. Strong and very courageous. She quoted Frederik Temple as saying

God does not require from you to be sinless when you come before Him, but He does require you to be unceasing in your perseverance. He does not require that you shall never have fallen; but He does require unwearied efforts. He does not require you to win, but He does require you to fight.

Frederick Temple

To change my frame of mind to going through this, with Jesus, enduring with resilience because Christ Jesus the King strengthens me. I fight back the darkness of discouragement and press on towards the light and the upward call of Christ Jesus. The themes from those three sources touched the struggle within me and folded in together to help change my attitude and determination to fight back the darkness and strain towards His light and upward call.

FOLDED IN UPON ONE ANOTHER

Are you ready to tackle your current personal challenge with these quotes? Do you know in the depths of your being that your Good Shepherd goes with you through this and every challenge? Are you persevering in ways that are strong and courageous? I challenge you to take these quotes and principles of the Kingdom and apply them to your personal challenge. He IS with you and for you. Trust Him to se you through this.

Eye of God

Did you ever go to camp and make a “God’s Eye”? I did not but my kids did, even in public school art class.

Here is an elaborate example from on-line:

This one is from our paper money.

This website explains it https://www.hobbyistgeek.com/what-is-the-eye-called-on-the-dollar-bill-explained/

The Eye of Providence. The all-seeing eye of God. It’s a symbol that has been used by many religions and cultures over the years.

But what does it mean?

There are many theories about what the eye on the dollar bill means, but no one knows for sure.

What we do know is that the Eye of Providence has been used as a symbol by many different religions and cultures over the years.

It is a reminder that God is always watching us. And that’s probably why it was chosen as the symbol for the US dollar bill.

hobbyistgeek.com

I learned a prayer from the author Macrina Weiderkehr many years ago. It is pasted in the front of my most frequently used Bible. It reads:

All-Seeing One,
above me, around me, within me.
Be my seeing as I read these sacred words.
Look down upon me
Look out from within me
Look all around me
See through my eyes
Hear through my ears
Feel through my heart
Touch me where I need to be touched;
    and when my heart is touched
    give me the grace
    to lay down this Holy Book
    and ask significant questions:
Why has my heart been touched?
How am I to be changed through this touch?
All-Seeing One,
I need to change
I need to look a little more like You
May these sacred words change and
transform me.
Then I can meet You Face to Face
     without dying
     because I've finally died enough
To die is to be healed
     a little more each death
     until that final death
     when I'll be healed forever.
It will be a healing that will last.
Your words are healing
     although they bring about my death.
O Eye of God, look not away.

Father I pray this prayer will be true of my life. Help me keep yielding to Your touch. Show me how to ‘meet You face to face without dying.’ I need to change.

In A Tree Full of Angels Macrina wrote saying “There is a quote from Benedictine Abbot Marmion that has become a guide for me as I spend time in Divine Reading each day. He says,”

Read under the eye of God until your heart is touched, then give yourself up to love.

Don Marmion, Union with God, trans. Mother Mary St. Thomas, (St. Louis: B Herder, 1949)

Read asking the Lord to help you see and understand the words of His text. then stop when your heart is touched. Stop and give yourself up to His love. Stop and let Him instruct you further on the matter. This is yielding. God is watching me with His all-seeing eye. And I am grateful.

Mercy Abounds

Last Sunday (8-7-22) I posted about a fisherman pastor and mercy. The theme came to me again this morning during my prayer time. When Bill Moyers offered a PBS television series on poetry he featured Coleman Barks. Barks is a renowned poet in his own right and a scholar on Rumi translations. Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic born in 1207. He died 1273.

I can just hear you commenting, “Leave it to Molly to find these ancient guys!” Well at times these ancient guys express what my heart says in better words than I can find. Back to Coleman Barks’ translation of Rumi.

In a poem entitled “Cry Out In Your Weakness” I was touched. My weakness has been brought very clear to me this past few weeks. If you have never experienced helplessness or weakness in your physical frame you might not be able to relate well to this post.

I began reading Rumi a few years ago when I found others quoted him repeatedly. Besides I like poetry. On Page 156 of my paperback copy of “The Essential Rumi” this poem translated by Coleman Barks is found. Here are a few lines.

Like Mercy itself, they run toward the screaming …

And don’t just ask for one mercy. Let them flood in. Let the sky open under your feet.

Give your weakness to one who helps.

Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent with your pain. Lament! And let the milk of loving flow into you.

-Rumi, Cry Out In Your Weakness

If you want to hear Rumi’s poem read, look for Rumi – Cry Out in Your Weakness on You Tube.

During my prayer time I sensed again, do not stop at asking for one mercy. Ask for every mercy. Gather them up. Let the One who helps bind them up and help carry them back with you.

Lord, I need all of your mercies … new every morning and each day and night… I need healing mercy and faith mercy and writing mercy and inspiration from You mercy. I need behavior and patience mercy.

Yes, God’s mercies are new every morning. He blesses us with mercy and forgiveness, comfort in our suffering, grace in our humility. As we cry out He does what William Law spoke about. We yield to Him in patient, meek, humble resignation and He is there to bless and assist us in every way. Not perhaps our every wish, but the ways we truly need His help.

One interpretation of the poem: “A dragon was pulling a bear into it’s terrible mouth.” Discouragement was pulling a Christian into it’s terrible mouth. As one author wrote about discouragement, “I have discovered only one solution to this problem, ignoring my emotions. It doesn’t mean that I do not acknowledge my feelings, but rather that I do not allow my emotions to dictate my life. My faith in God, my love for God, is more important than how I feel. This is exactly what it means to die to oneself.” (https://leadersthatfollow.com/how-christians-can-deal-with-discouragement-and-disillusionment/) Hey! William Law and Andrew Murray taught me that same thing!!

A courageous man went and rescued the bear.” His name is Jesus. He went to the cross and rescued us from all the merciless places in our lives. “Like Mercy itself, (He) ran toward the screaming.” Perhaps you have not been screaming out loud, but the Lord knows even your internal screaming. Call to Him. He is faithful to respond.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
    ‘therefore I will hope in him.’

Lamentations 3:22-24 NRSV

I do not find it difficult or even sacrilegious to relate to Rumi’s poetry. I truly believe what Paul declared in Ephesians 4.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 NRSV

I pray you, too, will cry out to God, even screaming, and receive His help and deliverance from the mouth of your particular bear.

As Matt Redman wrote “May I never lose the wonder, oh the wonder of Your mercy. Hallelujah!”

Frumpy Contentment

I have been leading discussions about Philippians lately. My focus here is the secret of being content in any and every situation. Not just well fed or hungry. (So ignore the fork below.)

I woke in the night with an image of a happy frumpy man in my mind’s eye. He was overweight and wearing soiled overalls. He had on a bucket-style hat with a collection of pins adorning it. He was smiling and obviously happy and content with his life.

In our society so fixated upon how others dress, their weight, what they look like to us, this man was a refreshing revision of contemporary humanity. He obviously did not care about social norms. I had the impression he knew Jesus very well. There was no such image online that I could find. Not even close. I want to be like him, though. He might have been carrying a fishing pole in his left hand?

We need all the humility mentioned above, but we also need 1 Timothy 6:6

Godliness with contentment is GREAT GAIN. Find your comfortable clothes and go out into the world declaring the power of Christ to make each of us content, whatever we go through. Going about His business, doing His job assignment to you with joy. My pastor calls it ‘the family business.”