Oak Tree

We have a spindly tree in our front yard. It has lived here only a few months. The man from the nursery said he picked it out himself. It was the best one he had. When it arrived we had to remove many leaves that were hosts to insect sacs in the form of galls.

Our oak

Streams in the Desert is a collection of devotional writings and quotes collected by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Linda gave me a copy in about 1979. Someone had given it to her and she did not care for it. I have continued to read it, not daily every year, but many days over the years. You can easily find it online for free these days.

A portion of the entry for January 16 reads “When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest.

“When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of mankind is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: “O God, take me, break me, make me.”

January, 2018 Bob and I were both diagnosed with influenza. We had both taken our preventative injection but the flu had made a run around the formula. Within three days he was desperately ill, put into a coma and intubated. I was terrified I would lose him from this life. He had sepsis, organ failure, eventually several forms of pneumonia, MRSA, and was put on dialysis. It was a seriously life threatening ordeal.

Several weeks ago I got a cold. That went into a sinus infection so severe my eyeball sockets ached. I called the doc. Had a telemedicine visit. He decided to put me on antibiotic and low dose of Sudafed. Quizzed me thoroughly about my symptoms. Said some Covid has been similar to sinus infection. I finished the antibiotic. The illness took a turn. One day after I went off Sudafed I sneezed so continuously that I put myself on one dose of Benadryl. That dried up the sneezes. Now I am coughing, and coughing, and did I mention coughing?

Bob has started with similar symptoms though his symptoms have gone to his already congested lungs. I am terrified I have made him ill. Since moving we have spoken more than once about getting a twin bed for one of the spare rooms in case we ever need to sleep apart, like for medical reasons. What if we have not been sleeping apart, one of us gets ill and then the other? Do we still sleep together then or do I need to go order that twin bed delivered?

As the 82 year old guest at our Thanksgiving feast mentioned, “Not everything is Covid.” My brain is racing this morning asking, “But is THIS Covid?” The ordeal with Bob’s health taught me so much about faith and trusting God. I must admit though that I am fearful in this situation. How awful would it be if I give him Covid? With his compromised health he might end up on a ventilator again. (Awfulizing.) Then again, maybe he won’t. Is this pneumonia? Oh Lord, I pray not.

Trust. This morning on the Right Now media app I was listening to teaching by Ann Voskamp from her book one thousand gifts, and these lines struck me in regards to this cough, etc. “If I believe, then I must let go and trust. Why do I stress? What is saving belief if it isn’t the radical dare to wholly trust? I read it in one of the thick commentaries, that two hundred twenty times that word pisteuo is used in the New Testament, most often translated as “belief.” Belief is a verb, something that you do. This is the trust I lack: to know that if disaster strikes, He carries me even there. If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief … atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism.”

Even as I type out the above quote a female sparrow lands on the feeder just beyond my computer screen. Birds to this feeder are rare!

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” MT 6:26 NIV

He keeps me, too. “Lord, I pray You will heal this cough and help me keep my mind from fear and worry. I also pray the house sparrow will build a nest in our spindly oak tree to give me a constant reminder of Your grace and care. Amen.”

It actually seems as if the entire community has this awful cold. Protect those who do not have it, Lord. Heal the rest of us I pray.

Love This Art About Giving Thanks

Leprosy was a dreaded disease in Jesus’ time and still exists today. The World Health Organization site at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy says “Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability.” Here is the story from Luke when there was no known cure.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 NIV

As they went, they were cleansed.” The healing was not instantaneous. Only one turned back and thanked Him. Are you the one who gives thanks?

James Christensen

“As he did with The Widow’s Mite, James Christensen interprets one of the Bible’s more powerful stories and presents us with an image of elegance, grace and beauty. At the same time he engages us in one of the higher promises of art: provoking thought. In fact, the art of reflection is at the core of the painting’s message.

“The Ten Lepers were a group of men cured of their disease through one of Christ’s miracles. Their tattered wrappings suggest what was, until this moment, their illness. Of the ten, nine are too preoccupied celebrating their new lease on life to think of anything else, much yet thank him. The tenth, at this moment, grasps truly what has occurred. He is the only one that returns to acknowledge the Master.

“This image provides an inspiring reminder to take a moment from our fast-paced world and reflect on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to take the time to show this gratitude.

Showing gratitude is important for our souls. As the commentator above stated, “Take a moment from our fast-paced world and REFLECT on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to the TAKE TIME TO SHOW THIS GRATITUDE.”

How to Top the Tree?

Decision made! Honoring our Lord and Savior, King and Brother this year.

Newest ornament, wooden spool with angels on it from Kathy. Oldest ornament, blue egg carton bell, painted by Bob in kindergarten.

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NIV

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

Revelation 17:4

Advent word of the week is Hope. Here is a book idea from Intervarsity Press for your kiddos who like or collect poetry!

The “O” in Hope a new book

By Luci Shaw,
Illustrated by Ned Bustard

What do an orangutan, an ostrich, an orange, and the ocean all have in common?
They all begin with the letter O!
But other words also have an O―words like mouth or moon or wow,
and even the word hope.

“Combining a joyful poem from the much-celebrated poet Luci Shaw with playful cut-paper art created by Ned Bustard, The O in Hope helps us experience the goodness of God’s gifts of hope and love.

“This delightful book can be enjoyed by children and the adults who read with them. Also included is a note from the author to encourage further conversation about the content.

“Discover IVP Kids and share with children the things that matter to God!”

The “O” in Hope by Lucy Shaw

Hope has this lovely vowel at its throat.
Think how we cry “Oh!” as the sun’s circle
clears the ridge above us on the hill.
O is the shape of a mouth singing, and of
a cherry as it lends its sweetness
to the tongue. “Oh!” say the open eyes at
unexpected beauty and then, “Wow!”
O is endless as a wedding ring, a round
pool, the shape of a drop’s widening on
the water’s surface. O is the center of love,
and O was in the invention of the wheel.
It multiplies in the zoo, doubles in a door
that opens, grows in the heart of a green wood,
in the moon, and in the endless looping
circuit of the planets. Mood carries it,
and books and holy fools, cotton, a useful tool
and knitting wool. I love the doubled O
in good and cosmos, and how O revolves,
solves, is in itself complete, unbroken,
a circle enclosing us, holding us all together,
every thing both in center and circumference
zeroing in on the Omega that finds
its ultimate center in the name of God.

My prayer is that you honor the Omega in all your 2021 celebrations!

58 Seconds

If you were raised in the church you likely will remember this hymn. Just entertain 58 seconds of the hymn. This was rolling through my spirit as I asked the Lord what to write about this week!

What stopped me was “With heart and hands and voices.” Do we? Thank Him with heart and hands and voices?

Bob just told me there was something on Facebook about show you went to church without saying you went to church. He said my sisters answer was “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.”

Thanks with our heart, our hands, our voices. We have been visiting various local protestant churches to find a new church home. Each has their own weaknesses and strengths. The one this week has tremendous outreach throughout our area and the world. They do not have a regular communion celebration. The opportunity to receive prayer for needs was not obvious at all in the service. Not even encouragement to write down a prayer request for others to pray over. The music was ear splitting to the point some removed their hearing aides until that part was over. We did hear more about Jesus than we have at other times there. It is often said, “If I find the perfect church, and I walk into it, it will not longer be the perfect church.”

One friend told me she walked into a church recently and immediately felt as if she was HOME. I had that experience the first several times I went to the Convent of the Transfiguration in Glendale, Ohio. The sisters there and the various retreats over the many years I have been an Associate have taught me so much about God and deepened my walk with Him.

The church is not a building or a box of hymnals or a ten piece praise band or an ear splitting sound system. The church is the Body of Christ. We do tend to gather in buildings and reach out to the community through projects locally and abroad. Hopefully we also partake of communion in remembrance of all Jesus did for us and pray for one another.

I suppose my church home is my neighborhood, with my online friends through this blog, with Christians near and far whom I have loved and lived with through various ups and downs of life, both theirs and mine. The idea of one group of people being my church has been blown to bits by the pandemic.

 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; 7and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.

Haggai 2:6-7 NRSV

The smallest churches as well as the large churches are having difficulty regaining their footing after the pandemic. People began to watch church online. Some stopped thinking about church altogether. Where do you stand in all of this?

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:25-29

I think the verse in Hebrews (quoted from Haggai 2:6) refers not only to heavenly things, but earthly things, too. What cannot be shaken? The Kingdom of God, His indwelling Holy Spirit, the power of the Risen Christ.

Hearts and hands and voices, all given over to Christ for His use every hour of every day. Thank You Father for Your tremendous provisions for Your people in every age and every season. Keep us close enough to hear Your heartbeat, I pray.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven, the One Eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore; For thus is was, is now, And shall be evermore. Amen.

Now Thank we All Our God Verse 3

Several Directions

The Pearl of Puerto is the largest known pearl in the world. Despite having been found back in 1996, this pearl wasn’t shared with the world until nearly a decade later! The Filipino fisherman who found it kept it concealed in a bag under his bed for years, depending on it as a good luck charm. The pearl was only revealed when it was placed in the care of a relative, Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao, who worked as a Puerto Princesa tourism officer.

https://largest.org/nature/pearls/

I have been re-reading The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. In the course of his story he writes with details of Hasidic Jewish life that fascinate me. Here is a quote.

Someone told about Nachman of Bratslav, who believed in the virtues of solitude. A man should spend at least one hour each day alone in a room or a field, engaged in secret dialogue with the Master of the Universe. And a man should think only what he has to do for God that day, and it will not be too burdensome for him. All a man has in the world is the now, the day and the hour where he is, because tomorrow is an entirely different world. “

The Gift of Asher Lev

St. Isaac the Syrian or St. Isaac of Nineveh exert huge influence on Orthodox spirituality even today. A priest suggested I read these quotes from the seventh century. He was referred to as a hesychast, “one who seeks to live a life of silence and stillness, who feels called into the desert places of the heart.” What an enchanting invitation is this holiday time of pressure to purchase, wrap and give the perfect thing to others. Perhaps our prayers are the best gift of all!

“A swimmer dives into the sea naked, in order to find a pearl.

“A wise monk journeys through life, stripped of all that he has, to find within himself the pearl, Jesus Christ, and finding him, he no longer seeks to acquire anything else beside him.

Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria

[ Jesus taught,] “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46 NIV

This moment, this hour. Sell everything you have and keep the pearl. I have had more than one person confide in me saying, “I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but I just talk to Jesus every hour of every day. Is that the right way to pray?” I believe that is music to God’s ears. You want to know how to bring delight to God? That. Right there! Brother Lawrence taught us the same thing. Present moment living with the ever-present Master of the Universe.

It has been said prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening to God. Speak, listen, obey His voice. Life with Christ is that simple.

Gratitude, Yep Again!

There has been much written lately about the power of thankfulness and gratitude. In 2010 Ann Voskamp wrote a powerful book entitled one thousand gifts: A Dare to LIVE FULLY Right Where You Are. Reading that book and practicing her discipline truly changed my life. I bought bunches of copies to give to friends, especially church friends.

Now, twelve years later, grumbling and complaining seems to have taken on epidemic proportions in this country. Even the church has joined the campaign and there seems to be no end of the negativity in sight. The upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving has taken on only carnal meaning. Gorging ourselves on delicious foods, indulging in endless sports shows, shopping beyond our means.

Is it too late to return to the intention of giving Almighty God our thanks and praise?

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

According to Christianity.com “Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the first president to declare a national day of thanksgiving for the people of the United States. In 1789, George Washington proclaimed “a day of public thanksgiving and thanks” to thank God for his protection and as the source of all that is good.”

This year is no different. We will not be celebrating with family until Saturday, November 27. And even then, it might only be part of the family. The vaccinated do not want to be with the un-vaccinated. So last year we were split up by the Covid-19 health crisis and this year the split continues. Geesh. It just makes me sad.

I have returned to Ann Voskamp’s idea of writing out gratitudes. Research says 3 a day can make a difference in our overall mental health. I write as many original ones as I can think of on days when I open that page in the Word app or in the open book atop my dresser. It does make a change in me.

Harvard gives a good report on the effectiveness of gratitude at https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

They site these ways to cultivate gratitude:

Ways to cultivate gratitude

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter or email expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

We could make this the start of an entire year of thankfulness. It is worthy of your consideration for your health physically, mentally and emotionally. Do not stop if you you do not get the discipline of doing it every day. Just begin. You might find the changes in you enough to motivate you to remember to list a few each day!

Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts is a wonderful book. Some of Ann’s teaching videos are now being carried on Right Media. In the afterword of her book Ann wrote:

“My gratitude journal is lying open on its permanent home on the counter, enumerating moments, making a ledger of His love. It is Chesterton who encapsulated the truth of my numbering life: “The greatest of poems is an inventory.” I grin happy in the midst. No, I’ll never stop the counting, never cease transcribing the ballad of the world, the rhyme of His heart. He and I, a couplet. Count one thousand gifts, bless the Holy One one hundred times a day, commune with His presence filling the laundry room, the kitchen, the hospital, the graveyard, the highways and byways and workways and all the blazing starways, His presence filling me.

This is what is means to fully live.

I have not made a permanent place on the counter for my gratitude journal. Part of me feels as if, “Oh! but I must!” I did once fill a journal with more that a thousand gifts. And now I have begun again.

Begin right now with me. Lord I thank You for the power of WordPress to reach people all over the globe. Be glorified in this blog I pray.

Lord, I thank You for the sun this morning though is only about 32 outside. I thank You for this lovely candle from Lori that Mara chose for me. Thank You for my new neighbor and friend being home for a few days.

Now you start ….. “Hey Mikey!

Yes, Bernini!

When my husband took me to Paris the museums were breathtaking. I was stunned in the Louvre when I saw this sculpture in bas-relief.

Bernini, Paolo – https://collections.louvre.fr/CGU

Created in 1665 it moved me almost to tears. Depiction of Jesus as a baby playing with nails and a hammer. Well of course, Joseph was a carpenter, but what absolute inspiration for Bernini!

Bernini, Paolo – https://collections.louvre.fr/CGU

In case you missed it, the head of the hammer is between his hands, under the nail. The longer I ponder it, the more poignant this sculpture is for me.

The very idea of creating something like this from marble amazes me. How this inspiration came to him brings more fascination.

These photos were downloaded from the Louvre online site. If you ever get to travel there, be certain to look for this one!

It took me quite a while to find the name of the sculpture, especially since it was in French. L’Enfant Jésus jouant avec un Clou Was fairly certain I remembered the name Bernini. Turns out there are at least two Berninis made famous by artwork! If you want to read the inspiration this created in another blogger, click here https://parkerwindle.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-baby-who-plays-with-nails.html

Gin-Gins and My Weird Connections

This morning when I opened my computer the Bing page had a grand photo of a manatee. Sadly, it said use of the photo was for wallpaper only. Their page with manatee date is located at https://www.bing.com/search?q=manatee&form=hpcapt&filters=HpDate:%2220211115_0800%22

I have had a fascination with manatees for many years.

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), Crystal River, west-central Florida, U.S.A.

The idea of a sea cow seems to me something that only God would think up for amusement! I was amazed that some translations of Exodus 26:14 refer to building the tabernacle using the skins of manatees. Others translate as seal skin, fine leather, goat skin, badger, ram, sheep, porpoise. I was told by a young graduate of Bible college that the Holman Christian Standard bible may be the best translation that we have. You guessed it, they translate Exodus 26:14 manatee skin.

Here are two previous blog entries about manatees and water bears.

microscopic Tardigrade, Water Bear

I find the world just fascinating! Treasures every place we look. Below are links to two previous posts about these animals.

https://wordpress.com/post/treasures-in-plain-sight.org/185

https://wordpress.com/post/treasures-in-plain-sight.org/1728

Checking out recently at Cracker Barrel restaurant these candies were at the register. I took one look and bought them. Not only do I like ginger, but I found the cartoon on the box irresistible! You will draw your own conclusion 🙂

Oh Lord of sea and sky, thank You for blessing us with amusing animals. Help us to keep the rivers and seas habitable for the manatees. Thank You for cartoonists who delight me. I praise You for the tardigrades around me that I never even see. You are an amazing God.

Then I hear the Dan Schutte song made popular at The Walk to Emmaus retreats, “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry, all who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save.”

Advent Came Early

There are many traditions around Christmas trees and Advent. Advent is approximately 40 days before Christmas and commemorates the birth of Christ and His coming again. Some sources say it provides a time for us to prepare our hearts for Him in the midst of the Christmas rush. If you want a resource for Advent meanings, prayers and traditions you might refer to this link https://www.crosswalk.com/special-coverage/christmas-and-advent/the-beautiful-meaning-and-purpose-of-advent.html

There was a time when Christians did not put up a tree until Christmas eve. This year with our household being likely the first one in our neighborhood with a tree up, decorated and lit we have broken all kinds of traditions. However, being retired and not caught up in the “Christmas rush” of past years, this has given me an opportunity to think on the birth of Christ and His coming again in a new way.

Recently at our sharing group among the Transfiguration Associates I shared my thoughts about placing an angel on the tree top or crown? Pondering why I would want the glittery crown I was reminded of Bible teachings such as King of kings, and Lord of lords, Prince of peace, the many regal titles given to my Lord.

In the evening we have lights under the edge of our kitchen counter. They calmly twinkle in many colors. I see them reflected in the glitter on the treetop crown. And I am drawn into “Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon the Throne.”

Our discussion also covered a Scriptural discussion about angels. The angels in the Bible are described as looking like men and having a huge presence. Most of our ornamental angels look like women and are depicted in flowing gowns. I assured my friends that there are plenty of angel ornaments on our tree as well as around the room. I am thinking this crown is just the thing to keep my heart and mind on celebrating the coming of my Lord!

I have seen trees decorated with flowing ribbons. I am thinking of placing ribbons on our tree with the titles of Jesus written upon them. Stay tuned for a posting if I actually do that! In the meantime, Our tree is adorned with a crown to remind us Who our hearts bow to.

The traditional Advent themes are hope, preparation, joy and adoration. I am praying that Bob and I will celebrate those things as we await His coming again in glory. May your home be filled with these things, too.