Getting My Full Attention

After one year of marriage and living in California we moved back to the Cincinnati area. Bob had decided not to pursue Medical School, but to go for a degree in Medical Technology. At that time you needed 4 years of college, 1 year of training and then licensing before you could do in-house hospital work. The University of Cincinnati took all of their Med Tech students from their college enrollment. He searched further afield and found a Med Tech school in Lexington Kentucky.

When we were wed Bob made me promise we would not have kids until we were married 5 years. I reluctantly agreed. I have always loved babies. For the first 5 years it seemed that all I saw were pregnant ladies and newborn babies. Finally in Lexington we ‘got pregnant.’

On my due date my mother insisted on visiting us in Lexington. I told her the obstetrician was certain nothing would happen on that date, but she was determined. She came with a Styrofoam cooler of food. She wanted to go shopping. I could barely fit my belly behind her steering wheel to drive.

That night she died in her sleep. (Cerebral hemorrhage ran in her family.) Sadly, I found her the next morning. Bob checked for a pulse and we knew she was gone. It was quite shocking.

Shortly after Bob determined that indeed Mom was dead, I heard her voice repeating, “God works in mysterious ways.” She often said this. I believe she took the saying from a hymn by William Cowper written about 1774 and carried in most Protestant hymnals.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Within an hour of finding my mother dead I told Bob that in some ways it was such a relief. She had been determined to buy a playpen. She said when we came to visit in Cincinnati she would keep the baby and we could go out. I knew I could never let that happen and was going to find a way to tell her so that very weekend. My mother had some sort of personality disorder thing. It was not just the alcoholism. She would be fine, go in the bathroom and when she emerged have this distinct other personality. She was not in the bathroom long enough to get drunk. I would never have felt safe leaving my infant with her.

So, I never had to tell her something that I feared might kill her. I did have to raise my children without their Grandmother around.

The Lord has indeed led and guide me through my years. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Here is a contemporary version of the hymn with a few added lines.

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

Humor and Discovery on Our Vacation

Driving through Ohio we came up a hill, the billboard said “Your Turn Next” and then a cemetery came into sight. I don’t think that is what they meant, but I guffawed at the faux pas!

Having lived in turkey vulture country for sometime we often see them in early morning drying their feathers perched on lamp posts, or atop telephone poles, etc.

Driving one day we passed little white signs along the road, reminiscent of Burma Shave: “Come to the Church on the hill”, next one said, “You will feel closer to God.” Just about the time I began reading the signs we came to the top of the hill and there was indeed a church! Bob said, “Oh look at that eagle on top of the church!” as we whizzed past. I said, “That was no eagle. That was a turkey vulture.” Of course, we had to make a u-turn to be certain. Indeed there was a turkey vulture, this time drying his wings in the sun. And not just one, but two!

Photo by Robert Dutina

As we drove away I began thinking and chuckling. Birds drying out on top of the Methodist church. Hmm, wasn’t it Bill W who began AA on the tenets he learned from the Methodist church? Or maybe it was the Oxford group. Anyway, it struck me as amusing that the turkey vultures were drying out at the Methodist church. Thank goodness so many churches allow AA meetings at their facilities.

We passed many Amish people as we entered their neck of the woods. I told Bob we really were in THEIR part of the state. One development we had not encountered before was the women on motorized bicycles. I am assuming most of them were Mennonites.

At the Stop Light
Bonnet strings flapping in the wind. Battery Pack on right rear of bike.

Bob finally asked a waitress in Mennonite dress how they charge those bicycle batteries. She mentioned employers with electricity, some factories with propane generators. She said her parents have electricity.

Much in Amish and Mennonite life depends on whether you are old order or new order. We learned this trip that most new order Amish will affix the orange triangle to the back of their buggies but old order families refuse. I would be frightened driving a horse and buggy without that sign for slow moving vehicle!!

So Off I Went

Finally off to college and the world of learning, lust and various forms of sin. I participated in quite a few of those. After one year at college I ran out of money. People were telling me I could eat peanut butter and get a degree with debt at the end, or I could go to work. I chose to go to work.

Got an apartment, full time job as a key punch operator and was on my own. My mother was calling me every day. When she was questioning me one day about where I had been the night before I had quite enough. She had called. I was asleep and never heard the phone. This was way before answering machines. My boyfriend had left for California. I started contemplating moving there to help Mom cut the apron strings. Found out I could have a job as a nanny if I wanted it.

Soon I was off to California to work full time as a nanny to a Chinese family. There was not much sign of Christian life in me at the time, though I had kept my prayer book and Bible. I went into somewhat of a depression trying to reconcile what had happened to my life in Cincinnati. The niece I never knew was put up for adoption immediately upon birth. My family was splintered.

Peet’s Coffee

The best part of Berkeley California was I worked across the street from Peet’s coffee shop. They roasted coffee every day. What a glorious aroma!! After a few months I broke up with the boyfriend. Eventually I changed jobs and went to work at AAA as a touring counselor. It was fun. I even waited on Ray Kroc once, the owner of McDonald’s. I thought he was teasing me about being the owner.

While enjoying the park one Saturday I met a young man named Don William. He introduced me to his roommate, Bob. Bob was only coming to their shared apartment on weekends. He lived in Fremont with his family of origin during the week because he worked with his dad even further south near San Jose. It was literally love at first sight.

We met in July, got engaged in August and married in September. We only waited until September so the people from Ohio could get there. I knew I wanted to be married in the eyes of the church as well as the state. So we began prenuptial meetings with a priest in Oakland. The priest agreed to do our wedding out of doors at Live Oak park in Berkeley. He just wanted assurance that we planned to wear clothes! It was 1970 and a bit wild in Berkeley those days. I chose the park because I knew God was much larger than any church building.

I had a gown I had purchased for $30 from a used clothing store and had altered for $30 to fit me. Bob wore the jacket his mother had purchased at a yard sale for his high school dances. We made all the plans we could before my mother arrived from Ohio.

Bob waiting for me.

It wasn’t until five years later that the Lord got my full attention.

As we now approach our 51st wedding anniversary, I am amazed at the joys we have shared over the years. We have supported each other in times of sorrow and difficulty, too. God has been so good to us. We are forever grateful to Him.

Do we know the rest of the chapter?

Over the past decade or two most of us have been made aware of Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

This is used repeatedly on Graduation gifts.

But do we know the rest? 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

Do you understand that promise? We will call and come and pray and HE WILL LISTEN.

And what about this part? 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14a I will be found by you, declares the LORD,

He promises we can find Him. Have we searched with all our heart? When was the last time you wanted something with all your heart? Have you wanted a relationship with God that much?

When verse 14 declares “I will be found by you” it is not some lame saying or cliche. This is a promise from our heavenly Father.

Give verses 12-14a a try for yourself.

In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest. 14a Yes, says the Lord, I will be found by you… Amplified Bible

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!

God’s Continued Lessons to Me

As a child I was dropped off at the Presbyterian church. Loved the choir director and the church school lessons. Not so much the worship services. When I was old enough I was allowed to walk to church by myself. There were times I skipped church and went to the park. There I would talk to God and sing to God. On occasion I would find myself “singing in the Spirit” though I did not know at the time that was what it was called. I just wanted to tell the Father how much I loved Him.

Robeson Park now called Kennedy Heights Park, Kennedy Heights, Cincinnati, Ohio

What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.

1 Corinthians 14:15

As a young adult I was finally exposed to that teaching. I had never told anyone about my childhood experience because I had never heard anyone do that sort of singing or talk about that as a possibility.

For a while during the Charismatic movement there were a few churches that actually participated in that sort of singing. These days the churches I have recently attended do not have singing in the Spirit, with or without interpretation.

You may know my story about singing in the Spirit while washing the dishes one day? My children were doing their homework at the dining room table nearby. My son finally asked, “Mom, is that how you sing in cursive?” I told Him I supposed so!

I figured since Paul said we should ask for things from God I could believe God would give me the things I needed. Those requests included the gifts of the Spirit. As an adult I have to remember to pray in the Spirit or sing in the Spirit. This is part of my discipline as a Christian woman. It is so easy to get gobbled up by the things of the world and forget the power our Lord bestows through His Spirit. Worship Him, with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength.

I Was That Girl

Never really fit in with the “In Crowd.” Frankly, I never really cared to try that hard. When my Dad died (just ten days after I turned eleven), I went on a quest to replace him. Nothing and no one came close. Gradually I turned to the Lord and He has filled my every need. While others were scrambling to fulfill the ways of the world, I was usually in my room reading Scripture.

When I was 17 my family of origin blew up. My stepfather was by then entrenched in our lives. My mother was a full-blown alcoholic. My sister was pregnant. Having spent hours on my own studying the Word I was familiar with Psalm 27:10. This verse helped save my sanity and grounded me in His care.

If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.”

Psalm 27:10 RSV

I was ready to attend the University of Cincinnati, the age when most kids have some sort of family departure launch. Instead I was launched into being a Ward of the State until I turned 18. I left the organized church, not being able to reconcile what was happening in my life with the seemingly hunky-dory family lives at my church. I left church and I took Jesus with me.

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?

When evildoers assail me,
    uttering slanders against me,
my adversaries and foes,
    they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though a host encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life
,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple.
Psalm 27:1-4 RSV

What is this ‘house of the Lord?” We are told by Paul that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

As a child I was dropped off at the Presbyterian church. Loved the choir director, the church school lessons, not so much the services. They would read from the Scriptures “Bow down before the Lord,” yet no one did.

Come, let us bow down in worship,

    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker

Psalm 95:6

By the age of 14 I had never been baptized or confirmed. My mother refused to let me go to the Catholic church with my best friend. I had been introduced to the Episcopal Church. I liked the bowing down and prayer book and though the worship music was not the best, it would do. I made arrangements for my own confirmation classes. I was too old for the children’s group and too young for the adult’s group. I met with the the Pastor privately. I was delighted the day I was confirmed. Just delighted.

I will try to unfold my life with Jesus in the coming weeks. Hoping not to bore you. It is the story I can tell best because I lived it!

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.

Everything Will be Alright

Been hearing this song. And then HEARING this song when the radio is not on so it was time to share with you!

At https://55promotion.com/music-spotlight/be-alright-by-evan-craft/the writer says: “Hey guys it’s Evan Craft. And I’m so excited to share with you my new song “Be Alright”. We actually wrote this song first in Spanish hoping to impact people around Latin America who were struggling with anxiety and depression. The response was so great that we decided to do it in English. So I called Danny Gokey and he said he wanted to be a part of it. We wrote this song and the lyrics were so powerful that I was crying in my kitchen writing them saying “Lord they say you hold the whole universe in your hands but my world’s falling apart like it is made of sand. Am I small enough to slip through the cracks?”

My home church has a terrible reputation of being awfully lacking at communication with the congregation about what is going on in our part of the Body of Christ. There was certainly NO improvement during the Pandemic crisis when the church meetings were curtailed. Even when services resumed, no improvement. As Bob and I continued to guard our health in preparation for moving we felt as if we literally had fallen through the cracks as far as our church was concerned.

We recently made the decision to leave that church. After 10 years of service it was a difficult decision to make. So the lyric about sand and falling through the cracks really hit me. We have not found a new church home yet, but feel certain that we will. With the rampant spread of the Delta variant we are reluctant to get out there in a small room singing with other people right now. For this period of time we are listening to various local preachers on line.

Take a listen. Then listen again. I remember my mom and her friend Norma singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” when I was a child. Still true today!