Strange Book

I just finished a strange book. Evidently in 2008 it was made into a movie. The title is Blindness by Josè Saramago. He won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature from this publication. I saw it on a “must read” list and bought it used from Abe Books (my favorite source for used books!).

It was haunting and written with very, very little punctuation. I told Bob it was like St. Paul with his run on sentences. In light of the Corona Virus Pandemic it was relatable. One person goes suddenly blind and then another and another until there is a pandemic. The text was translated from the Portuguese. It was worth my time. I kept wondering where the story was going and then found I could not put the book down. Blew through it in a couple of days.

The Library Journal says “Beautifully written in a concise, haunting prose … this unsettling, highly original work is essential reading.”

No, it was not a Christian publication. I often venture into other areas to broaden my views. You might want to check your library for it.

Having told you about my fear of one of us dying from Covid before we get to the new house, thought I’d share this quote with you. Here is a small portion towards the end of the book:

“I think we are all going to die, it’s just a matter of time, dying has always been a matter of time said the doctor, But to die just because you’re blind, there can be no worse way of dying. We die of blindness and cancer, of blindness and tuberculosis, of blindness and AIDS, of blindness and heart attacks, illnesses may differ from one person to another but what is really killing us now is blindness. We are not immortal, we cannot escape death, but at least we should not be blind, said the doctor’s wife, How, if this blindness is concrete and real, said the doctor, I am not sure, said the wife, Nor I, said the girl with the dark glasses.”

Evidently he went on to write Seeing and at least 10 other publications.

Holy Week – What is A Christian To Do?

I have spent most of my life following Jesus. One of my greatest Christian teachers was Francis of Assisi. He chose to be stripped of possessions and riches and to follow Christ unhindered by things. For several years I was a Third Order Franciscan through the Episcopal church. Recently my friend, Bonnie, reminded me of a quote from Francis on his deathbed. He is purported to have said, “I have done what was mine to do. May Christ now teach you what you are to do.”

How might we go about doing that? The Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer Rite 2 in the general thanksgiving says “…show forth Your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to Your service ….”

On Monday and Tuesdays when I do not “feel” like writing I am reminded that I give up myself to His service by writing this blog. It is mine to do. I pray what I write will encourage others to follow Jesus. I pray the things I tell about will inspire others to pull down strongholds and walk on with the Savior of our souls. I pray I might amuse others and help lift them from the doldrums of the daily grind. I struggle to put into words my relationship with a Holy God through the power of the Holy Spirit given as a result of the life, sacrifice, resurrection and then ascension of Jesus Christ.

So what is Christ asking you to do?

I have found over the years that if I feel stuck spiritually I need to go back to the last thing the Lord asked me to do, and be certain I did that.

Francis also said, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

So there were things like: volunteer at the homeless shelter. Try to help organize the shelter donations. Set up the construction of a new donation out building. The Church carried that out.

Bonnie also quoted these steps:

  1. Do what is necessary.

2. Do what is possible.

3. Let God take care of impossible details and do as He leads.

Carry on!

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Gratefulness.org

Want to subscribe to a daily gratitude quote? This is the place for you! They also send out a monthly newsletter with things to challenge your spiritual growth.

Since we have been cleaning and packing I have been paying attention to things that I had not thought about in a long time, like dovetail joints on our furniture.

A recent quote read:

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides.
ANNE LAMOTT

Makes you think doesn’t it? Barring the pandemic, why are we not more likely to be of service when that is where joy resides? And who doesn’t want more joy?

David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine Monk and major motivator at Gratitude.org. Once he posted a challenge to write out 100 Gratitudes, not only numbering the items (What) but also asking that you detail the WHY of your gratitude. It was an interesting challenge. The first few I was more prolific on the whys than the last few. Guess I found it too hard to have to detail why I was grateful. What a spoiled brat!

Gratefulness and gratitude cannot be overstated. The practice reminds us that we are not in charge, no matter how much we want to be!

Daily Devotional

I have had this devotional for a long time. I trade out the devotionals I read. Recently this selection really spoke to me. I am learning more about trusting God and fretting less. Joy & Strength – Selections by Mary Wilder Tileston, Copyright 1901  January 25

Charles Gore: “We are conscious of our own weakness and of the strength of evil; but not of the third force, stronger than either ourselves or the power of evil, which is at our disposal if we will draw upon it. What is needed is a deliberate and wholehearted realization that we are in Christ, and Christ is in us by His Spirit; an unconditional surrender of faith to Him; a practice, which grows more natural by exercise, of remembering and deliberately drawing by faith upon His strength in the moments of temptation and not merely upon our own resources. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I will do thus and thus.” So we too may form, like St. Paul, the habit of victory.”

In practicing mindfulness I have also learned again there is great power in just pausing, especially when I feel overwhelmed, by anything. The Pause that not only refreshes but can invigorate and inspire me.

Stopping to breathe and re-collect myself.

Unconditional surrender of faith.

STOP, even if only for a moment, walking from one room through the doorway of another room – pause.

DELIBERATELY drawing by faith upon His strength.

Here is a portion of what Paul said the Lord told him recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

In Acts 10:34 Paul declared that God is no respecter of persons. He does not play favorites. From those verses we can imply that God’s grace is sufficient for each of us.

Re-posted from Dan

Here is re-post from our friends the Cookseys in New Mexico. He used the words from “Every Day Holy” as noted at the end. “Every Day Holy” is a book of liturgies for various situations. They have made some of the liturgies available on line for free. For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines liturgy as: “Liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activities reflecting praise, thanksgiving, remembrance, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, {God}as well as with other participants in the liturgy.” With all the Covid illness this is so timely. And the world certainly needs more healthy relationships and unity! Dan has recovered from Covid. His wife, Betty, is still struggling to get her energy back. Click on the link to be blessed by this liturgy.

A Liturgy for A Sick Day — Dan and Betty’s Place

Organizing

While paring down I have also been organizing words I have saved over the years. I found a card to “Dear Mom” that I thought my son had made for me. Surprise! I had made it for my mother, likely 1958 or so. Besides my personal words, I have once again come across my collection of quotes and retreat notes that have had meaning to me. I am thinking they might touch your heart and soul, too? So periodically, I will post these for your perusal. So many of these are quotes whose author I do not have a name for – in which case I will note that fact.

In the book God Calling on May 13 it reads “What joy follows self-conquest! You cannot conquer and control others … but through God’s power you can conquer yourself.” One class I took emphasized that through obedience, at the end of the day you feel noble. Obedience to God builds self-esteem.

As the adult child of an alcoholic, after studying codependency I learned this stark lesson: We have no control over others. Children of alcoholics believe events are their fault. “If only I am good enough this will not happen.” If my grades are good enough, if I am quiet enough, and on and on with every faulty thinking pattern you can imagine. It is a hard thing for those of us who grew up this way to realize we had nothing to do with the situation. And it is also a hard belief system to UN-learn. It can lead to entrenched codependency that transfers to every person around, not just the parent where the behavior was learned.

Francis of Assisi referred to his body (i.e., himself) as brother ass. He was always trying to train that animal. He is quoted as saying, “Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of CONQUERING oneself and willingly enduring suffering, insults, humiliations and hardship for the love of Christ.”

In the Revised Standard version of 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul wrote that he pummeled his body and subdued it.

Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:27 (HCSB)

Thoughts, words, habits, deeds – all of me needs discipline and I can only hope to train myself through the help of the Holy Spirit. I am the only person I can hope to control, and only with God’s help.

Come, Holy Spirit. Have Your way in and through me. Amen.

Addiction, Prayer and the 12 Steps

Who is America has not been touched with addiction in a family member or close associate? Here is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. For years I prayed it for others not realizing that my own offspring needed the prayer, too. “For Victims of Addiction”

“O blessed Lord, You ministered to all who came to You: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery; and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love. Amen.”

May God help us all.

Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7 – Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10 – Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Sunday is …

… not what it used to be for our household. No church attendance in person. In fact, I feel as if I do not even belong to my church any more. If we were to walk into what was a typical February 2020 worship service this very day, I bet I would remember the stories of those I have prayed with but likely have forgotten their names.

Sunday is not the major part of my faith life though. I learned long ago that my relationship with Jesus is what holds me to His side. This poem from 1988 reflects that sentiment. I learned the phrase “center -down silence” from Richard Foster in his work “The Celebration of Discipline.” Foster says it refers to getting quiet in anticipation of drawing closer to the Lord.

Inside Out © 1988                    Molly Lin Dutina

 I want to live from the inside out,
 always within the center-down silence.
 Having to struggle to get back 
 is not the direction I choose.
  
 Teach me, Lord, and help me 
 know how to grow 
 from the peaceful
 sanctuary within.
  
 Show me please where 
 to refresh our love.
 Give me attitudes that will unravel me
 from the sin which so easily entangles.
  
 Make me one with You, Lord,
 so I will know 
 how to be close 
 to all that is around me.
  
 Help me, Father,
 and be glorified in my life. 


I know the nautilus shell begins very small and grows larger as the animal grows larger. For me the nautilus can also be a useful image for the center-down silence: going from the busy, noisy world to the inner chambers of stillness and willingness to listen for the voice of the Almighty.

Try to center-down and listen

Meaningful Quotes

Sometimes I collect quotes that speak to my faith and spiritual growth. here are a few that might inspire you, also.

I have been an Associate of the Convent of the Transfiguration for MANY years – at last count about 29! Wowsers! Even I am surprised. The Transfiguration is an Episcopalian convent located in Glendale, Ohio a neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information click here https://www.ctsisters.org/index.php/history.html

Let us have a little sanctuary of silence in our hearts into which the voice of God alone may come.

Mother Eva Mary, CT

What could you begin as a spiritual discipline to clear a space, a little sanctuary of silence in your heart where God might speak to you?

Another woman who has influenced my walk was Basilea Schlink. She was born Karla Schlink in 1094 Germany and became a Lutheran religious leader and writer. She co-founded the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in 1947 to 2001. The Sisterhood has branches in Germany and Phoenix, Arizona. I have a tiny booklet of her writing entitled “The Weapon of Prayer.”

Prayer: being able to say anything and everything to Him whose love is measureless and whose power is boundless. He will supply all our needs.

M. Basilea Schlink

Would you dare to try this? My mother taught me early in my life to sing “In the Garden.” The refrain says, “And He walks with me and He talks with me…” Have you ever walked with Him and talked with Him throughout a day, a week, a month? This kind of prayer is powerful and not to be discounted.

When I was visiting recently with my friend, Betty, in New Mexico she shared this quote with me. It is taken from the ESV Global SB Notes regarding Abiding in Jesus.

To abide in Jesus means living in a daily, close relationship with Him, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience, and joy. The Holy Spirit’s presence and activity within Christians gives evidence that they are abiding in Christ (John 8:31, 6:56. 15:4; 1 John 2:6, 27-28; 3:6).

That is a meaty quote that will likely take the serious Christian some quality time to unpack. Can you say that all of these areas are functioning in your life, empowered by the Holy Spirit? I will be reviewing this as a form of self-examination for some time to come.

Promises and a Meaty Quote

From Streams in the Desert

“Beloved, God’s promises can never fail to be accomplished, and those who patiently wait can never be disappointed, for believing faith leads to realization. Abraham’s life condemns a spirit of hastiness, admonishes those who complain, commends those who are patient, and encourages quiet submission to God’s will and way.” – Unknown

Is that a meaty quote, or what? “His promises can never fail to be accomplished.” He is not a man that He should lie. He is faithful and powerful to do what He wills. Numbers 23:19

“Those who patiently wait can never be disappointed.” But wait! I have often been disappointed! Does that mean I am doing something wrong? Well, in my experience, most often my disappointments with God are because I have not waited long enough to see the fulfillment or I misunderstood the will or word of God.

“For believing faith leads to realization.” Do you have things in your life that you have had believing faith towards and then eventually you saw it come to pass? Do you, like David, review those things with joy and thanksgiving to inform your brain when your faith is weak? Speaking with a friend recently we stated that we see fruit from our faith walk most often in the rear view mirror or over our shoulder after the fact. Perhaps you have never listed the times that your faith has lead to realization? Maybe now is the time to review your walk and be reminded of the times this has occurred in your life?

“Abraham’s life condemns a spirit of hastiness, admonishes those who complain, commends those who are patient, and encourages quiet submission to God’s will and way.”

Hebrews 8:11 reads: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
He went, EVEN THOUGH he did not know where he was going. Do we have the same sort of quiet obedience? Dallas Willard taught that hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. The author of the quote above calls it a spirit of hastiness and says that Abraham condemns it. No hastiness, no complaining, be patient and quiet.

I have tried to keep myself in line with the remembrance that God calls me to Quiet, Gentle, Yielded, Peaceful Obedience to the Almighty. Holy Spirit help my life to be true to this call.