Faced With ….

“Faced with demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. Faced with brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. Faced with despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” -ROBERT EMMONS

Demoralization: The pharmacy workers where I get my prescriptions are exasperated by the rudeness of the public. The pharmacist cannot figure out if it is this prolonged pandemic or the way society has given up on being polite? Some of the techs have even quit. Some of the workers that are most experienced have had to leave to provide child care for their children. The new employees are green and new. They need time to find their way through the insurance mazes and medicare technicalities.

So we took them three balloons and a dozen donuts. On the balloon shaped like a gold star I wrote “Be kind.” Really, kindness does not cost us anything. Hopefully our gratitude towards them with energize them in their work.

Brokenness: Well I have a friend whose daughter is terribly ill. For several weeks they did tests and scans and more tests. Finally the surgeon said okay. He is very experienced and did the “Whipple” procedure. She had a tumor wrapped around several organs. The first few hours of the surgery went well and were done robotically. Then he found the tumor had almost completely blocked an artery and some veins around her liver. When they called in the vascular surgeon he had to open her belly. When it was all over, she had endured something like 14 hours of surgery. She remains in ICU. They had to remove part of her stomach, part of her intestines and part of her pancreas. There is great concern over the length of time her organs were exposed. She and her husband always like to watch Monty Python and have memorized many of the lines. When her mother finally got to speak to her on the phone the patient quoted the movie where they were loading bodies during the plague. One man being carried out lifted his head and said, “I’m not dead yet!” Both mother and daughter had a good laugh. This family has been broken and ground into a dust that now completely depends upon the Lord and His servant the surgeon. Surgeon said this was the worst tumor he had ever dealt with. Praise God, there is NO sign of cancer. The two teenage daughters are struggling with not seeing mom at all. Only husband can go in her room due to pandemic. She continues to get units of blood. This photo was taken the first time PT had her stand up. Still struggling with lots of pain. Father, help their gratitude heal their weary hearts, I pray. Heal her and strengthen her I pray.

Despair: In this prolonged isolation and rapidly spreading pandemic we each need more gratitude to help us combat despair. To me, it seems this despair is being poured over the earth like hot tar. Robert Emmons says gratitude has the power to being hope. Are you familiar with the lyrics to “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?

His faithfulness will see us each through this weird year of 2020 and beyond. Gratitude can heal and restore us, energize us and give us hope. Find three things each day to give thanks for. Be kind. Give thanks.

Bob’s Sense of Humor

Robert 1975 Smoky Mountain National Park

I have often called this man my knight in shining armor. Journaling March 31 of this year I wrote.

“I had an emotional break through of sorts. This morning I noticed my scene out the bedroom window that I have looked at for years. Clearly I saw split rails that were missing or had fallen from the neighbors fence. I thought “fences are broken down.” And in this weird thing we are living through fences are down! During my meditation time I saw the photo of me the day of my dad’s funeral when I was eleven years old. Remembered the grief and fear of being left alone (especially with my mother and sister because I am so much like my dad). As the meditation continued I realized that Bob is the one who for most all of my life has kept me from the alone-ness of that grief and fear. And THAT is why I have been feeling I cannot bear the possibility of ever losing him. Jesus touch me in that place, I pray.

“Later John Eldredge confirmed all that pointing out that places in us from childhood may be calling out during this stay at home season. We need to have mercy and grace for ourselves and others.”

So he is my knight, but also my husband of soon-to-be fifty years. Yep, 50! Here is a cartoon he handed me recently. Did I mention he is the oldest of five and a terrible tease? Click the link below to see what I mean!

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoon/a23696

When Did You Last Act Like A Kid?

During a recent rain shower I saw a child playing in a water-filled ditch. As a mom I first checked, and no, there had not been thunder or lightning that day. My second thought was how delighted I was to see her and how she reminded me of myself at that age. Once I found a crawfish in a puddle and brought it home as a pet. It was about 3/4″ long. I put it in the bathroom sink with a little water while I tried to find a container for its home. My sister unstopped the drain, not noticing my pet and all was lost. I was sad and mad. Fast forward to today!

“Maybe what God really wants are grown-up kids who dance in the puddles, who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, who dare to ask why a whole lot. Maybe we are far too proper. Maybe it’s time to take a page from Dainty doodlebug’s story and give in to the way we’re created to live—for our sake and for the gospel. Little else is as compelling and glorious as a giddy child, mud-covered and grinning, because they know how loved and safe they are even while thunder sounds in the distance.”

Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst

Giddy child of God, relax and enjoy creation again! Don’t those boots just remind one of Mike Powell?

“You were made from dust and to dust you shall return.”

Genesis 3:19

“Dance in the puddles, get your hands dirty, ask why a whole lot more.” Recently I had the opportunity twice in one week to counsel two different women on the fact that we are allowed to get angry with God. He can take it! He would much prefer we be genuine with Him than pretend some sort of proper piety. After all, He reads our hearts and knows our thoughts and our words before they cross our lips.

 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

Psalm 139:104 NIV 2011

Why not make an effort this week to get real with God? And if you have the opportunity, try jumping in a puddle, just for fun!!

Compare and Contrast

I took this photo on June 27, 2020.

Local cornfield.

And these photos on July 31, 2020. Same corn field!

Tried to get same tree perspective for your comparison!
What a grass!

Other things have been growing, too. I have never tried to grow a Hibiscus, but some around here do. One person had a ditch full of pink, white and red ones! This is one Lucky and I found while walking the street.

And another

I think the red is my favorite!

Remember this photo of the milkweed from May 14th?

Look at it today! The tall ones in the back are about 5’8″!

Big guys in the back!

Has your spirit grown and prospered so far this year? Are you feeding upon the Word of God?

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,  but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV2011)

Strange Summer

Besides the obvious corona virus restrictions and civil unrest, the Cicadas have been singing even though the large scale emergence is not expected here until next year. We have had sweltering heat and humidity. Frequent air quality alerts with ozone levels on the rise. Even the shrubs and trees look wilted. Then we had almost 3 inches of rain in 24 hours.

One particular evening a strange rain storm swept through where entire sky looked yellow. No storm sirens blaring or weather alerts, just so strange. Our cameras could not capture the tones we saw with our eyes. I was able to adjust the color somewhat.

Teeming rain and some wind

The only other time I have seen a sky similar to this was in Lexington, Kentucky years ago when a tornado was close by.

Weird and fascinating. I prefer those blue skies with white puffy clouds and low humidity!!

See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong. Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind, like a driving rain and a flooding downpour, he will throw it forcefully to the ground.

Isaiah 28:2 NIV 2011

For I know that the LORD is great; our Lord is above all gods.  Whatever the LORD pleases he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.  He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.  

Psalm 135:5-7 NRSV

Getting Worse

In March I was horrified when the death toll from Covid-19 in America reached over 700. In April 100,000 to 200,000 deaths were predicted. The AMA came out with guidelines for doctors in the event there is a ventilator shortage – how to decide who gets one, i.e., who lives and who likely dies. What an awful thing to have to decide.

Now the deaths in America due to Covid-19 are over 144,500+ and cases are rising rapidly in almost every single state. We are seemingly getting callused to the numbers. Do we numb ourselves as a way to cope with the staggering power of this virus? So many families grieving. So much loss of life and work and pay and rent. We could not have imagined this one year ago in this day and age. I heard the economics being compared now to the Great Depression.

We need one another now more than ever. We need the Lord Jesus Christ to touch us by the power of His Holy Spirit now more than ever. I have spent months going through the stages of grief and found myself lately bordering on the stage of acceptance. This might really kill my husband or myself or a family member. Gratefully, our daughter, who tested positive for the virus, is so far only suffering a fatigue that she cannot shake. Praying she regains her stamina soon.

I cannot afford to live in a fantasy that this will be over in a week or two. This virus is real and it is killing people. Many people.

I honestly cannot remember if I shared this before, but here I go. I use a meditation app that provides either nature sounds, guided meditation prompts or just a timer for meditation. It is called Insight Timer. There is one presenter named Andrew Johnson who leads a meditation much like one of my counselors used to do with me.

Every time I work with Andrew I seem to arrive at a different place with a different lesson. On April 28 of this year I followed Andrew’s instructions as he took me to what he calls “a favorite place” – it was fog so dense I could not see. Moist sweet fragrance, and nothing but fog.

I was impressed by my lack of control and direction. Eventually I saw the Lord’s hand extended to me. Knew I was to follow and cling to Him. (Abide). He is in control of this journey. I do not need to know where we are going. I need to cling to His hand and abide with Him. It was eerie but also a comfort to let down my shoulders, release myself into His care. Be content to be His and go along with His plan.

The photo below is NOT the best, but a great memory.

This statue at the Oklahoma Cowboy Museum gave me pause. Was this some terrible joke upon Native American men what with the parasol and tassels? To reach them here is their link. https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/ and the actual title is the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

When I walked around to the side of the statue my opinion of the sculpture changed drastically. The sun was not kind to my photo.

He is shielding her!

I cannot decide if it reminds me more of my husband of almost fifty years (YEP, I typed that right. 50!) or my Lord and Savior. He too shields me and asks only that I abide and trust. Abide, remain, stay joined, live in – how easily we often get distracted and wander. Lord, help us to abide in You.

As time moves on towards our anniversary and our birthdays none of us know what the future holds. I do know Who loves me best and who on earth loves me the most!

 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:11 NRSV

But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

Psalm 3:3 NIV2011

Call upon Him. He is able to keep us no matter what befalls us.

Miss Muffett © 1982 Molly Lin Dutina

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

                I saw the devil as a decrepit, weasand, impotent old man, stooped over, no strength in his backbone, but malice in his eyes. He worked his way up an open-stair metal ladder to the catwalks along the lights above a stage.

                I sat on the stage in finger curls and white eyelet ruffles looking much like the storybook picture of Miss Muffett. I was happy, contented and apathetic (having or showing little or no emotion).

                Using seemingly his last ounce of strength, this old impotent being reached the spot on the catwalk above me which he had chosen as his point of power. From inside his dirty trench coat he pulled a marionette – it was a hideous, hairy spider with spindly octopus-like legs and invisible strings. The catwalk was edged with a railing made of steel tubular pipes. He rested his weight upon the cold steel, too weak to stand on his own. He dropped the marionette half-way down and adjusted his hands in the wooden frames that controlled the strings for moving the spider’s body. Then he dropped the spider all the way down, near my face.

                As I caught sight of the hideous hairy spider from the corner of my eye, apathy fled, and emotions stormed over me. The spineless, weak being up in the catwalk had little strength to hurt me, but he chose to use my own power against me. I flailed out in fear and anger and my actions made that spider jump and fly through the air with more energy than the old fart could ever have put into it.

                At that juncture, the loving voice of my Lord broke into the scene and said, “Molly Lin, the spider is fear. It has very little power on its own. But you give it your energy by flailing and struggling and assuming it is more powerful than it is. Think through this same scene and SEE that had you chosen to sit still and watch that spider, it would have dangled from strings and been as impotent to harm you as the one holding its frames. He has no power over you unless you give it to him. Fear is a choice!”

                My life has never been the same. I am not always fearless, but I do know that when fear comes I can choose to have it go. Seeing things in a new way … choosing another perspective or point of view … RESPONDING instead of reacting are all keys to maintaining my peace and experiencing the comfort and presence of my Lord Jesus.

“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.“

Psalm 34:4 HCSB

Perhaps the title should be “Don’t Give Your Power Away.”

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10a

Smile at Fears

Can you train your mind to smile at your fears, knowing that God is the One in charge of you? By making Jesus your Lord, you put yourself under His Lordship. That means He oversees you. Lord means one who has power and authority over another. The Bible says 365 times fear not. Yet, we each have fears. It is our choice whether we let that fear reside with us comfortably. We may have to submit our fear to the Christ repeatedly in any one day. He has the power to take the fears and replace them with trust and faith. Nothing can separate us from the power of God, unless we let it.

A recent quote from Gratefulness.org  was from Thich Nhat Hanh. He was a Vietnamese monk, a renowned Zen master, a poet, and a peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, and was the author of many books, including the best-selling “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” He wrote,

“Every time your fear is invited up, every time you recognize it and smile at it, your fear will lose some of its strength.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a Buddhist teaching, but the Lord Jesus said something similar. The greatest commandment is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37 (NIV2011)  

If we are willing to turn our heart, soul, mind and attention to the Living Christ, His very presence will sustain us. The song below sums it up nicely.

Give your fears to the Lord for one week and smile at them. See what a difference it makes!

TobyMac

When I first heard this song on the CD “The Elements” I was amazed at how it reflected our culture. In the recent outcry for peace and equality between the races I thought it was time to share it. I found one with the lyrics so you can follow along.

It starts with me, with you, with caring for the experience of others, and doing what we can where we are.

Make Negative Choices or Repel Them

Do you have negative thoughts that bother you? I am realizing there are patterns to mine and some cause me to plunge into various areas of depression if left unchecked. If you are willing to objectively listen to your negative thoughts, you can pick out patterns after a while. Then you have choices to make. We have a responsibility to do our part in fighting against this darkness.

Perhaps your thoughts concern your job. The various things you do not like about the job. Not necessarily enough to make you quit or seek another position, but misery builds. Regardless of the financial security and health coverage you may be given, those thoughts can pull you under into a mud puddle until you are bathed in loathing about the work you need to do.

Maybe someone in a group of your peers trigger negative thoughts. All humans have weaknesses and failings. Perhaps you let some behaviors bother you. Soon their aggravations are like burrs under your saddle. You get more and more unhappy, knowing they are not likely to change and blaming only them for the problems between you.

Feelings of inferiority or fears about being less than others can color your outlook on seemingly innocent exchanges. Soon you can interpret everything and everyone as shunning you.

What are your patterns? Have you taken them to the Lord for help? The Holy Spirit can guide and direct us if we are willing to be instructed and led in paths of light. We have a responsibility to do our part in fighting against this darkness. We are responsible for the thoughts we entertain. What is your process when you recognize a pattern as familiar, something you have experienced before?

Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards;  for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NRSV)

Are you doing your part in this warfare? Do you push back against the darkness or just take it all as if you believe you deserve it? Are you willing to take every thought captive to Christ?

Years ago we were taught with a saying that became somewhat common, “Feed your faith; starve your fears.”

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 (NIV 2011)

This song might help feed your faith and starve your fears. Watch your thought life. It might be your best defense against the negativity that would like to pull you down, and under, drowning you in defeat. Cling to the One Who loves you most! The biggest battlefield is most often between our ears!