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.

Things

Plop us down in one place for a year and suddenly we have things. Stacks of things. Lots of things. Things sitting out that could be put away. How do we accumulate all these things? How often do you pare down the things you have accumulated?

When we first moved into this house we rented a storage unit. We had things we were not certain we needed or should be rid of. Now it is mostly Christmas decorations, (I try to get rid of more every year). We are going to get rid of our storage unit and put our things in with someone else. Why pay for 2 when all the things fit in one unit!

However, that does not cover what is in the house. I have been slowly going through drawers and closets getting rid of things not used in the past year. We have been here for over a year so now is the time!

Are you overrun with things? I find things sometimes distract me from the Lord. The photos in my office remind me of Him and also of good times Bob and I have celebrated.

This lovely statue in Colorado is entitled “You might as well dance!”

And Arches National Park where I spotted the Trinity, or was it the Three Wise men in the shadows?

Regardless, the shadows remind me I am never alone

As I rearrange pots and pans and other things to better locations I am reminded to always fix my eyes upon Him. May you be blessed to do the same! More important than things is seeking His Kingdom.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

Matthew 6:33

Be Astonished

To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

During an evening walk with Lucky, when I was way beyond tired, delightfully astonished to find this praying mantis on a neighbor’s car.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 4-7 NIV

Present even your fatigue! Keep watching for those treasures in plain sight! Reminders of His care and the glory of His creation.

Praying Mantis outside office window at last home

Steffany Gretzinger

She is one of my favorite, new-to-me Christian artists. I recently ordered her CD Forever Amen. I admire so many songs on this CD I thought I ought to order it to support her work and have it on all my devices.

On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Acts 14:27 NIV

Remember, reflect, think, review, grow. Why do we do this so seldom? As I was pondering this my pastor posted a video blog on the value of reviewing our lives. I used to do that during retreats at the Convent of the Transfiguration. Lately it seems we always schedule travel during those retreat weekends. (sigh)

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

1 Peter 3:15

This is a great song about the Lord’s supper adding to the message, remember. He made the altar into a table.

Praying you will take time this week to review, ponder, elevate His works in your recent life. Can you go so far as to make a list for your own use in praise?

Gray Morning After a Rough Night 

22-9-13 Reactive to Booster #3©Molly Lin Dutina
 
Booster #3 delivered with dull needle
Went to PT without boot
Worked until my leg
Felt like jelly
Foot throbbed all night
Headache, chest pain, 
Jaws and shoulders Booster broadcasters
Extra muscle relaxer and Calm app
“Gently back to sleep”
Several times
Booster #3 rocked
My fragile boat
Night of winds and waves
Up by 6:10 AM
Without rejoicing

Others report no big deal
in contrast I am
Close to shipwreck
My heart is sad that this body is so reactive, 
sensitive to Covid boosters.
Thankful I have not gotten ill but 
wishing I had one of those constitutions 
that was not triggered by pain 
after immunization injection. 
Is there an injection for endurance and muscle strength?
Can I get a booster for well-being? Guess not.

But why stop writing there? Resignation is to be to God, not bowing to negative circumstances. 
In Acts 16:25-26 Paul and Silas praised God in prison. Won’t you raise a tune, Molly Lin?

Total Surrender © 2018 Molly Lin Dutina
Total surrender brings total power
Spirit of God in me,
Totally yielded to You every hour,
Until Your will I see.
Death to my passions and every desire,
Living wholly for Thee,
Have Your own way,
Spirit of God, 
Totally flow through me.

No time for wishing things were other than they are. 
Fix your eyes upon Him.
 Understand this temptation to self-pity is sin.
 Jesus the author and finisher of my faith
 is ABLE to keep me from sin, 
self-pity over ailments and frailties. 
Be chastened, corrected, purified,
refined and strengthened. 
Here is my well-being booster! 
This is your only body on earth – your temple for His dwelling.
I surrender to You, Holy Trinity. 
The yapping dogs out there remind me – LISTEN for His voice.
 Do not go with the clamoring crowd. 
Wait. Listen. Accept the present moment.
This is my life this hour. 
Rejoice in God and be made glad. 

“For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands.” PS 92:4 NKJV

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  Hebrews 12: 1a-7

I pray this helps those of you who are looking for that booster for well-being. May the Lord Jesus Christ bring you to a place where you too can be “chastened, corrected, purified, refined and strengthened.”

Transitory Impermanence For All

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
  -  Robert Frost
Maple Trees Starting to change color | Maple trees just at t… | Flickr

Remember the first buds on the trees? I always think they predict the colors the leaves will take in autumn. Autumn is advancing here and the oak leaves out front are turning yellow then rapidly brown and falling to the ground. These deciduous trees should remind us of the impermanence of life. Things sprout, grow, endure, then change. Yet I am often surprised by the changes as if I were not 71 years old. I have seen this happen every single year I have been alive (except when I was in the California SF bay area for a year and a half. The seasons were strange. Daffodils blooming in January is just WRONG for a Midwestern woman.)

Why are we so surprised when we realize our very lives are impermanent? We expect childhood friendships to last forever. Rare occurrence in my experience. Our strength and flexibility wears down and sometimes even vanishes. Oh yes, they mean it when they say “Use it or lose it!”

We age. We change. Our opinions change. Nothing gold can stay. I have been saying they told us after 40 it was patch, patch, patch. I think after 70 we just start to crumble! Yet I am alive and intend to make the most of whatever time I have left.

Been working in that book Everyday is a Poem. This morning my life did not feel like a poem, but then I realized why not write it out? So I did. I surprised myself at what could be mined from a gray morning after a rough night. Will post that another day.

Nothing gold can stay. Rough nights may lead to gray mornings. Sun blasts them both away. These are things we are going THROUGH. We likely will not stay this way forever. If we do, God will give us grace and strength to endure.

Remember Ephesians 3:16-19?

that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

NKJV

Praying that you, BEING ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE – that you may know the love of Christ. In season and out of season. With leaves or no leaves. Be rooted. Grasp hold of His love, the love that is reaching for you in the midst of this transitory life. His unchanging, everlasting love.

Grasp tightly with your roots!

Kiss the Joy

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

William Blake

I likely had not read or heard this since high school. So true! And leads me to another bit of humor.

We have a niece who lives in England. She and her husband are expecting their first child in January. Since we are going to visit her mom in California next month, I needed to purchase some flannel and yarn for baby blankets. So I hit the sale at Joann’s fabrics.

A man entered the store after me. I overheard him ask an employee, “Where can I find the snaps?” Under my breath I laughed, “In Norwood!” You see, my mother’s maiden name was Snapp. Most of her family lived in the small town of Norwood, now completely surrounded by Cincinnati.

I was cracking myself up!

A few minutes later I came across him in the wrong isle. I told him my joke and he obviously knew where Norwood is. He cracked up, too. Then I showed him the correct isle.

“Kiss the joy as it flies, live in Eternity’s sunrise.” Wise man that Mr. Blake!

Physical therapy is a self-discipline that I am trying to rejoice over. Yes, I still have pain in my foot, but I am trying to walk more and stretch more in regular shoes. No easy feat after months in the boot. It reminds me of a prayer request I made to God many years ago. You are no doubt familiar with these retractable dog leashes? The owner starts on a walk and can push a button to let the dog run further and further ahead if desired. Pushing the button on the handle the leash begins to retract into the case.

When I first saw those I was , “Nope. Not for me.”

More my style, in fact, this is what Lucky uses. (Colored circles indicate colors to choose from)

My prayer became, “Lord, keep me on a short leash. I want to stay by Your side. Do not let me run too far ahead of You or lag behind. Please, keep me on a short leash.”

I pray you are doing your spiritual and physical disciplines. I hope you can rejoice in staying at the Master’s side on a short leash. I find I stay out of trouble that way!

At Best Buy

An older man walking with a cane was leaving the back of the store as I stood in line at the Geek Squad service desk. He took two steps and seemed to gasp. I thought perhaps his oxygen was faulty? He had a small black bag over his shoulder. The store greeter offered him their wheelchair. The man shook him off. I watched him go to his car to make certain he was okay. He made it on his own. Otherwise, I was going to grab the Best Buy wheelchair and offer to escort him to his car. The store greeter asked if he could help me. I told him I was watching the man to be certain he made it to his car. He told me he was watching too, on the front door monitor. I commented the man did not look well. Store employee agreed.

The nice man at the Geek Squad desk was able to release my computer to me early. It has been running extremely slow and making writing this blog and other tasks frustrating. So I took it in for a tune up.

When I was finished and had loaded my computer back into my trunk, I noticed the man had returned but had not yet exited his car. Went to speak with him and offer my empty cart if he wanted to use it to walk back into the store. Asked if he was okay.

He said he was embarrassed. He got in the store previously and thought he had lost his wallet. He went home to see if he had left it there. Turns out he was not carrying oxygen, but a murse, “Man-Purse”. He had put his wallet in the wrong pocket. He was so angry with himself. That is why he was huffing as he left the store. Just so, so angry. I assured him we all do those sorts of things.

He said growing old is hard. I said it is not for sissies! He laughed and said his mother used to say that. He said “Someone above has always looked out for me. Call it Him or Her or whatever you want.” I assured him I need all the help I can get and rely on God all the time.

We continued to chat. I asked him to be gentle with himself. We all need help. Be kind to himself. He was then smiling and breathing better. He took my cart back into the store.

As I drove away I wondered if he might have benefited from a meditation I heard recently. Are you familiar with the app “Calm”? I recently listened to a morning meditation read by Tamara Levitt. The link to Calm explains her role as “A meditator of over 25 years, Tamara is the Head of Mindfulness at Calm, where she writes and narrates the company’s meditation content, a role she has held since 2014.”. That morning the title captured me. The reading was “Age Mindfully.” I was so impressed I transcribed it. Below are portions of her writing. She is quite gifted.

Getting older isn’t easy. As we age our memory beings to fade. Our body begins to slow down. And the world responds differently to us. We can’t trivialize these challenges. They are real. And they can feel scary. But if on top of those real challenges we resist our changing reality, we are sure to suffer.

Tamara Levi

I am now convicted. In my concern for the man as he left the store I assumed his murse was an oxygen unit. I am wondering though if he might have been more patient with himself over the misplaced wallet if he had grasped the idea that resisting the challenges of our changing reality brings us suffering?

Many authors of many types explore the ideas of impermanence and the transitory nature of life. I will address that in another posting. Tamara went on to say:

We can allow impermanence to be our teacher, observing our changing reality and then rather than resisting the aging process, we become more able to embrace it with a sense of openness. With less resistance we are more easily able to flow from one year to the next, one stage of life to another.

Tamara Levitt

Less resistance. Sounds good if I can actually embrace and accept the changing phases of my strength, age and abilities. The good news is my right foot and leg are improving and I might get rid of this orthotic boot very soon! Physical therapy pays off. The exercises will be needed the rest of my life.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4 NIV

Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come
.

Psalm 71:18

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?