Sayings from Mom

Do you remember hearing, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? That might work when trying to keep peace among siblings, but not so much if you trying to be transparent with God.

In 1994 I recorded, “Bob insists I should write during the uglies. I did some – but he means put it all down – in detail, even violent detail. I find that abhorrent to my soul. I want to write helpful, pleasant pretty things. It seems a violation of the gift to record the ugly, the crude, the ungodly AND YET there is healing and wholeness to be found in the process of forming words, sentences, phrases.

“Bob is talking about something bigger than the 3 page Artist Way obligation. He is talking about writing as a form of reflection/self examination/therapy. My Franciscan rule of life does state I will have some form of daily self examen, but I don’t always do that. I hardly ever do that at the end of the day when it would do me so much good and be so easy to recall. Could this be the time to finally begin Molly Lin? Huh? Finally?!”

Now zoom to 2021. With the chronic pain of fibromyalgia and inherent fatigue from it I have never kept that evening appointment, journaling or not. Although I have allowed myself to journal ugly things since then. Mom never said, “Stay transparent with God.” This seems to be the most important thing in my life now.

Years ago touring West Virginia and Ohio glass factories we found this art piece. It expresses my desire to remain transparent to God. Yes, I know God is omnipotent and has vision to easily view our inner thoughts and intentions. I am talking about my effort to remain unhindered in my approach to Him. Ever since the Garden we all tend to try to hide things from God, though that is impossible.

Acts 3:19-20a calls us to “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”

It was D.L. Moody who famously said, “Keep short accounts with God.” In that one statement is the secret to daily victory and spiritual power. Sin piles up so quickly. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin is the cause of broken fellowship with God and brokenness in so many areas of our lives. It is a cancer.

https://scottpauley.wordpress.com/category/personal-growth/

Short accounts, clean slate, nothing in my own sin ignored. D. L. Moody also said he was so busy with himself there was no time left to accuse others.

Whether time is spent in examination and confession in the morning, in the evening, regardless of time slot, keep current with the Lord. A short list. Daily self examination of your heart, mind, soul.

The contemporary protestant church seems to have reduced this to a minute or two at the most before partaking of communion. I believe the Word and the Spirit call us to more than that. Transparency with Christ. On the journal page, in prayer, making a space to examine our lives and confess our failings, the uglies that we are responsible for, knowing that 1 John 1:9 is true.

If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 NRSV

Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? Yet, no one can do it for us. We must each undertake this, not as self condemnation or unrelentless castigation. A time of confession, determining to turn and go a different way with help from God. Starting over. As the Benedictine’s say “Always we begin again.” Each time we swing less far on the pendulum of sin and error, making progress through repentance towards newness of life.

Keep a short account. Stay transparent with God.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

Psalm 24:3-4 NIV

Clean hands. Pure heart. Short list.

Writing

I have enjoyed keeping a journal using bound paper books and cartridge pens with flowing ink, Bic “crystal” pens, pencils, colored pencils, Flair felt tip pens, quadrille paper, bound journals, etc. The last few years I have typed most of my entries and pasted them in a paper journal or just left them on the computer. Arthritis has made my handwriting a mess.

From some entries I have created 3 x 5 reminder cards, then later 4 x 6 reminder cards to keep me on the path laid out before me. I have several decks of those cards. I cannot part with them as they have been important to my journey. My journals also have photographs, ticket stubs, magazine clippings, news headlines, all sorts of things in them.

As I go back and read this personal history the most important things are when I recorded interactions with the Lord. Reading those entries I also know how lame my words are to describe what really happened. Yet, I did make an attempt to capture the grandeur!

1-1/2 shelves of journals. More writing in the notebooks below!

Sometimes I read an entry and remember vividly where and I was and what happened. Other times I read an entry in my own hand and have no recall of the event. So strange!

Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so that a runner may read it.

Habakkuk 2:2

As with my baptismal vows, I reply, “I will with God’s help.”

Last Sunday a Pastor asked, “How do you make God smile? What pleases Him?” He stressed evangelism. Today in prayer I told the Lord, “I want to know what pleases You today?”

The response seemed to be Psalm 34 . Once I wrote in my Bible that Psalm 34 is VULNERABILITY UNLTD. Unlimited vulnerability, giving Him access to every hour of every day.

I will bless the Lord at all times;

    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord;

    let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me,

    and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord and He answered me,

And delivered me from all my fears.

Look to Him and be radiant;

So your face shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,

And was saved from every trouble.”

Psalm 34:1-6

Pastor also asked, “What can I do to help God have delight?”

Be honest with the 160 or so readers. That surprised me. Occasionally Word Press tells me how many people are following or reading my blog. I should not be, but I was surprised that the Lord knows, too. So to the 150 or 160 of you I will try to be honest as I write the blog.

Over the years in light of this question I have asked the Lord, “What would You like to do together today?” Today when I asked the response was:

Write and the day will unfold. Yes, He knows I try to reserve Monday and Tuesday (at least the mornings) for writing this blog and then post Wednesday through Sunday. So I am writing entries and trying to just let things unfold.

I am grateful for the time I have spent journaling. There were times it was very, very difficult. There were times it was good for me. Bob has always encouraged me. The fact that I have this written history for part of my life and material to share on the blog – likely more material than I will ever use – makes me joyful now. God knows how to keep us as His children!

My Friend Dan

Besides being a terrific friend and wondrous photographer, Dan has encouraged me in my walk for years. He has been reading The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions for a number of years. I have looked at it when we visit his home in New Mexico. I have looked at it online. I have hesitated to purchase it because the language is often Thou, Thy, Thine. I get caught up in translating to you, yours, etc. I even foudn a few entries in an online blog with updated language. On further review though, it was only a few entries.

Dan surprised me this summer and sent me the book. As you likely know we purged so MANY books when we moved. Hey! I need this one! I have been reading it, not daily, but often, and find these prayers more often than not address my heart.

Writing this week about sin and forgiveness, I read the entry called Divine Mercies. These phrases leapt out at me. Praying about sin the author wrote: “Yet still I live, and fly repenting to thy outstretched arms.” What a wondrous word picture! and “O my God, I bid farewell to sin by clinging to his cross, hiding in his wounds, and sheltering in his side.”

The phrase “clinging to His cross” reminds me of a drawing I did many years ago. Sadly I folded it at some point and wrote notes on the back. Guess I was not too impressed with my own work.

by M L Dutina

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. 

Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV

Wikipedia says the anchor symbolizes hope, steadfastness, calm and composure. I would have to agree!I stand on the flanges of the anchor. I embrace the cross, clinging to this anchor for my soul. Jesus is firm and secure. He has entered the inner sanctuary on my behalf. And I am at rest in Him.

What Happened to Telling My Story?

I have found that as I approach 71 years old it is not so easy just to report to you the facts of my life with God. I keep reading new things that influence how I say what I have to say. You see, it is not easy to relate an incident with the Holy. Words automatically diminish the experience.

I ordered one book from the Search Ohio library system. It is entitled “Writing in the Sand” by Thomas Moore. Subtitled: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels. I had previously read Moore’s Care of the Soul. Decided since we just purged SO MANY BOOKS when we moved, I should try to borrow this one to see if we need to own it. Now half way through this one, I think we probably will own it. Very meaty and will take me more than one reading to fully comprehend.

I was sent an email notice about a book called Letters from the Mountain written by Ben Palpant being sold by Rabbit Room. The description said, “In this memoir of the craft, Ben Palpant unpacks a lifetime of wisdom gained through the long, hard work of learning to write and to live well. Delivered as a series of letters from father to daughter, he patiently and gracefully paints a vision of what it means to enter into one’s creative work as an act of generative obedience – an act that blesses the writer, the work itself, and the world that receives it.”

I clicked purchase without any hesitation. A few days later as I walked the dog while retrieving the mail, the book arrived in our mail box. As soon as I unwrapped it in the street, I was reading it standing on the sidewalk waiting for Lucky to “do her business.” I was drawn like I have not been drawn by a book for a long time. First drawn by my longing to have a father’s advice on the writing life. Then stung by not having my Dad most of my life to guide and encourage me. Then grateful for the book as if the Lord was handing it to me. Joyful over the aspect of being touched and led. Now chewing on the bones and meat of this tome.

The quote his daughter chose in the forward by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet, sum up my struggle.

“Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us to believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.”

Rainer Marie Rilke

Unsayable. Holy things are immediately diminished when we try to put words around them. Poignant becomes less than when I try to pin it down with words. Struggling with how to relate this to you, the reader, I was reminded that often the Lord has asked me just to be His lily leaf, stand and tip.

So my walk with God is just percolating with these refinements and struggles to express myself. Finally, I have decided to work my way through my journals (and there a TON of journals, maybe 30 or more) and poetry to try to relate my story with God to you. Mostly in chronological order, but am certain there will be times when I jump out of order and just tell the story.

He calls me to stand and tip. 

My prayer on October 1, 2021. Father, You led me to this. How do I express in the blog these unsayable things in my own life that have been steeped in Your Presence, soaked with Your love, dripping with Your power especially in my weakness? Help me find the words from my experiences and through the journals and poetry to encourage others, show the way to Your heart, reveal my soul, uncover my hidden-ness and show forth Your glory … Your Presence here and now. Only You can guide me in this. My methods have been faltering. I want to do Your work and Your call. Guide me, O Thou, great Jehovah.” It is almost too difficult to even write that prayer. I am not asking for help for my own glory, but so that You may be glorified and lifted up.

I will stand at my watchpost,
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
    and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
    it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
    it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
    Their spirit is not right in them,
    but the righteous live by their faith
.

Habakkuk 2:1-4

Stuck Stymied

I was pondering what to write for this weeks’ blog entries. I realized I was stuck. We went to a craft store in New Richmond called The Collective: Local Handcrafted Goods. I only purchased one small item. As we drove away I told Bob that seeing the creativity of all those artists (over 120 of them) I was stirred within me to capture my own creativity.

Then I remembered the “Just Look” observation from the morning. I grabbed the shopping bag from the store that was lined with white paper and began recording my “Just Look.”

21-9-20 One Leaf Falling ©Molly Lin Dutina
I saw a leaf fall
From high in the tree
It drifted down, down,
Down 85 feet
Reminding me soon
There will be millions of leaves on the ground
Wind and rain beating
Forcing them to the ground
Naked wood branches
Bearing testimony to
Endurance for decades

 

I was relieved and delighted to awaken that muse again. Then Monday morning came and writing time arrived. I typed up the poem from inside the paper bag. I hit a stone wall. Just nothing. no ideas to put on the computer screen. Nothing to share with you.

Except, as I stepped away from the computer and the day unfolded I realized I am just like that leaf in some ways. Yes, the seasons change and the difference in sunlight and water to the leaves make changes for the trees to drop them. We have moved. I have told people that for the most part we are unpacked.

Over this past weekend some things occurred that help me feel more settled. Bob got the bedroom TV hung on the wall, thus freeing up the surface of my bookcase for other items. He also hung my curio cabinets. I have a collection of miniature items from childhood into adulthood. I had not unpacked those as the cabinets need to be in place.

All Three
So many memories in one box!
And yes, there is room for a few more if they are tiny.

I had no idea how much I desired to see those items. There are still many drawers to be emptied and reorganization to take place after the move. With those tiny items up on the wall in cases I really do feel like I am home here. For me, those little things ‘bear testimony to endurance for decades.’

Who knew?

Emily Kathryn

Continuing my life with and without God, two weeks after my mother’s death and after 32 hours of labor, Emily Kathryn was born by emergency C-Section. They gave me total anesthesia. I could barely open my eyes to tell her hello.

In keeping with my confirmation in the Episcopal church, the older version of The Book of Common Prayer has a wonderful little service called the Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth (commonly called the Churching of Women). That ‘commonly’ name seems beyond weird to me. Regardless, I wanted Bob to pray this with me after our first child was born.

The newer version of the Prayer Book calls this ‘A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child.’ This version asks for the presentation of the child to ‘the Church to be welcomed by the congregation and to give thanks to Almighty God.” We were not attending church regularly so we prayed the service together in the hospital room.

For A Safe Delivery

O gracious God, we give You humble and hearty thanks that You have preserved through the pain and anxiety of childbirth Your servant Molly Lin, who desires now to offer You her praises and thanksgivings. Grant, most merciful Father, that by Your help she may live faithfully according to Your will in this life, and finally partake of everlasting glory in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer
Emily Kathryn Photo by r mdutina

Yes, the Father certainly had my attention. Within a few months we moved back to the Cincinnati area. I continued to grieve. Bob was working second shift at Clermont Mercy hospital. We would work all day on our house and then he would go to work. I was not coping terribly well.

One night while grieving I told God, “You promised that You would comfort those who mourn. Where is my comfort?”

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

I clearly heard Him tell me, “You have tried life your way. Are you are willing to try it My way? “

I called my Episcopal priest the next morning. He did not quite know what to do with me. He called Mary Dirkse and she came to visit. A wonderful pseudo-mother/daughter relationship was born. She listened to my heart. She shared her faith with me. She took me to Women’s Aglow meetings where I eventually received my prayer language again. She took me to Bible Study at Linda Werner’s house.

Mary and I compared the attitudes and tantrums of my two year old with her teenagers. When I became pregnant with our son she coaxed me to eat during the morning sickness. Cooked me hot hard-boiled eggs and served them on buttered toast. Sat with me while I slowly ate. She helped me pray for the courage to get up on the delivery table and be awake for my second C-Section. Though she lives in Washington State now and I remain in Ohio, we are friends to this day.

Yes, I was comforted. I was comforted in ways I could not imagine. When my mother died she was a full-blown alcoholic. Years later I read “Co-Dependent No More.” I bought my sister a copy saying, ‘They lived in our house. They got in our heads. They wrote it all down.’ I had no idea that millions of other families had experienced what we did growing up.

Likely MORE than 4 million sold by now!

I eventually attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I did writing workshop workbooks to learn more about alcoholism. I prayed it would end in mom’s generation. It did not end in her generation, but I learned so much about how to go on with my life and serve the Lord in the midst of that upbringing.

Emily brought us great joy and delight. She still does to this day. Jeff’s birth was so different than hers. We rejoiced over his good health and home coming.

The Kids photo by r m dutina

By then we were established in the Methodist church. Bob had not liked the Episcopal service with the up and the down, the flipping back and forth in the Book of Common Prayer. So we agreed to worship at the Methodist church.

No Photos

The Amish prefer not to be photographed so we never take a photo face-on. One of our best images, not recorded because it occurred too fast, is as follows.

We came over a rise and there were on the side of the road were 5 or 6 little Amish boys in black pants, a few with hats, bowl-cut hair and shirts. They were carrying lunch pails and obviously had just left school. They were fooling around just like all boys seem to do. Laughing and poking one another.

It would have made a WONDERFUL photo. Hopefully some artist some place can drawn or paint it.

Found a photo on line. Our boys were having more fun! I did not notice if they all had their shoes on!

I think we are fascinated by these folks who choose to love God and live a ‘simple’ life. Our modern conveniences often seem more simple than their lifestyle. I am likely wrong though.

I recently read a series of fiction books by Terri Blackstock called the Restoration or Light Series: Last Light, Night Light, Dawn’s Light and True Light. In the story mankind worldwide is stripped of electricity and all the things that implies; no running water, computer, cellphones, TV, video games, landlines etc.. She explores the darkness and kindness of the human heart during the struggles to survive. Finally people did things like dig a well, plow up their sod and landscaping to grow gardens, reach out to help those in the inner city. Actually, it sounded kind of Amish to me. Yes, the people in the story lost weight and worked hard. Perhaps we might be healthier too if we did more of that sort of work?

So the next time a First World problem bothers me like the washer not working right, I intend to remember that washing the clothes by hand and hanging them on a line is hard work. First though, I have to get the HOA to let me!

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

You as Temple, as Altar, as Sanctuary

Can you practice this? You are no place near a church building. You want to worship the Lord. Are you aware that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1

Where are sacrifices offered? On an altar. What is an altar? “A place used for sacrifice, worship or prayer.” Why are you called a living sacrifice? You are to give your heart, soul, mind and strength to the Lord for His use … while you are here, alive and kicking.

Sometimes it’s tempting to imagine ourselves as the hero of a dramatic scene where we’re called upon to give an account of our faith. But in real life, every action and every moment of our lives is a witness—even the ordinary ones.

Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Even the ordinary moments are a witness! Even now …and now…

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Hebrews 13:15 NIV

Continually offer this sacrifice.

When I first read Brother Lawrence’s letters collected in “The Practice of the Presence of God” I knew I had hit gold. He never wrote a book, but someone collected his letters and advice. They have been handed down since 1666 and ring true in every age.

I have met countless people who tell me, “I don’t know if I am doing this right, but I just talk to Jesus about everything.” Wow. The sacrifice of praise in action. The temple of God on two legs. The altar active and alive in a living sacrifice. What more does that person need to know? Just talk to Jesus, listen to Him and obey whatever He tells you. Yes, what you hear must ring true with Scripture. It is advised that your guidance be in balance with overall Christian teaching. You yielding to Christ in everything is what He has always wanted from each of us. Carry on!

In Our Forever Home

The Open House parties are over. Almost every box is unpacked. Most of the photos are hung, though not all. This morning in an effort to express my heart I picked up a book by John O’Donohue called To Bless the Space Between Us. I ‘happened’ to open to “For Retirement.”

This is where your life has arrived, 
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart's desire,
To live the dreams you've waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.   -John O'Donohue

I have wanted for years and years to try to express my relationship with the Father through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Many times I almost gave up the notion of being a writer. And then the Spirit would kindle that fire in me once again, and I would begin again.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you

2 Timothy 1:6a NRSV

So here I am living in a community of mostly retirees. What is to pull me away from this calling? Well, almost everything of the world pulls me away. I need to be adamant about protecting the time I have set aside to write this blog. Sometimes I journal during my morning time of devotions, but even that can be disrupted by my own distractions.

O’Donohue wrote “Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire.” Oh, but will I? My courage still falters at age 70 and then 2 Timothy 1: 7 arrives:

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV

When I read the Bible Knowledge Commentary about this verse I was stunned: “

“But such timidity (deilias, lit., “cowardice,” used only here in the NT) has no place in God’s service. Instead God gives a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. These three virtues, each supplied by the Holy Spirit, should characterize Timothy.”

“Cowardice has no place in God’s service.” Come, Lion of Judah, infuse me with Your fearlessness. I will attempt to use the month of September to further explain what I mean by all of this. It is no easy thing to express divine interactions in words. Those interactions are almost immediately diminished in the effort. Yet the Father has given us the gift of speech and understanding. I will attempt to glorify the Trinity with my writing. “I will, with God’s help.” Lord, help me shun the things of earth and yield to Your call.

Charles Martin, Favorite Author

When I begin a Charles Martin book I know I will be staying up late to read. His work is just mesmerizing. I cannot close his books, even when very sleepy, without regret.

I recently read “The Letter Keeper,” second in a series about Murphy Shepherd. This man goes into situations of extreme danger to recapture girls and women who were taken against their will into the sex trade. The first in the series is “The Water Keeper.”

“If my life experience had taught me anything, it’s this: the wounds of the past carry a lot of weight when it comes to walking into one’s future, and if anything can rob you of now, it’s yesterday. We are really good at taking the pain of our past and projecting it into our future because it’s what we know, and yet our past has almost nothing to do with our future other than being connected by seconds. That’s it. So we face a choice. Either shine a light on yesterday and expose it, or forfeit the joy of now and the hope of tomorrow. I realize this is easier said than done, but left untreated, experiential pain becomes a fortress in our gut that houses a lie spoken by fear. And behind that fear is an idol of our own making.”

The Letter Keeper, Charles Martin

This wisdom applies to each of us. That first sentence alone might need re-reading several times! Then “Shine a light on yesterday and expose it” is right out of Scripture. The light of the Holy Spirit can bring forth things from the shadows of our soul to full exposure. Romans 12 says

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

When Paul writes bodies he is referring to the ‘totality of one’s life and activities, of which ones body is the vehicle of expression.” (from Bible Knowledge Commentary) The Father wants to make an exchange with us. Our trouble and sin from the past for joy and hope. When I present my body to Him (my all) He sees that as a living sacrifice. He finds that to be my holy and acceptable sacrifice to Him. Even the things I am ashamed of do not shame Him.

Charles Martin encourages us to not let the past rob the future. Wisdom indeed. Are there things you need to ask the Holy Spirit to shine light upon? Are there things you are holding back from the Father? Are you ready to open your hands and heart and release those things to Him?

He is waiting and ready to accept you and any baggage you bring. Let Him have every area of your life. You will not be disappointed in His plans for your future. I promise.