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.”

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.

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!

How We Found Dr. Fauci

Remember how I posted that Dr. Fauci was missing? (https://wordpress.com/post/treasures-in-plain-sight.org/6922) Recently we retrieved all the Christmas storage boxes from our storage rental. We were anticipating whether or not Dr. Fauci would be in there. If not, he was lost and gone forever, (Clementine).

As soon as we placed the box in the car after we retrieved it from storage cube, I flipped this box open and there he was! Inside the candy cane turtle neck, cushioned in a towel! Yes, my instinct was correct. I had placed him in a Christmas box when moving. It had space and padding to keep him safe.

So once again, Dr. Fauci is here to encourage us to wash our hands, get our booster shot ( which we did weeks ago) and keep a safe distance from others. Doesn’t he look amazing, tidy and well-kept after months in a storage cube?

Even with variant, we believe in the science in contrast to the science fiction. We will get through this pandemic and eventually receive injections similar to the flu vaccine (which we have also gotten already this year) to keep us from deadly Covid-19 infection. Please love your fellow citizens enough to get your vaccine. Those who have suffered Covid-19 know this is nothing to fool around with. May you stay healthy and out of the hospital, never have to wear a ventilator, live long and prosper!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

Power in Listening

When I first gave my life back to Christ one of the first songs to capture me was based on Isaiah 55.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,

    come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

    come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

    and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;

    listen, that you may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

    my faithful love promised to David.

Isaiah 55: 1-3

As we read and grow in our spiritual life it is amazing how you can read a familiar Scripture and have a new insight that never seemed to occur to you before! I was reading Ben Palpant’s book Letters from the Mountain and I was struck by his observation on verses 2 and 3.

I have studied meditation. I have practiced it for many years. With all my interest in listening for the voice of the Lord why did I not remember the admonitions in Isaiah 55? “Listen, listen to Me. Give ear and come to Me, LISTEN.”

I was hit like the Memorex man!

“Listen carefully. Hear and your soul shall live. Incline your ear to me and come.”

Father, open my ears that I may better hear You. Help me be sensitive to Your still, small voice. Speak but the word and my soul shall be saved.

Have you quieted your inner chatter to listen lately? Well worth the effort. I know it takes practice to turn down that inner chatter, but it is possible to do it. Only with practice have I made progress on that. Even then, there are times the chatter is loud and disturbing. Don’t give up. Read the word. Sit with the reading. Wait on the Lord.

Journal Entry, Pony Bit

I once wrote about pony bits. You can read that post at https://wordpress.com/post/treasures-in-plain-sight.org/145 There is a photo of me in that blog entry with the pony bit in my mouth!

I came across a journal entry from March 12, 2011. At the time I was working on improving my sketching skill. You can see, not a lot of skill there. But I also did not practice much. Was also working on a Sunday School class idea.

Here is a scan of the journal entry.

There is another good Scripture that talks about us and bits. James 3:3-6

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

With all the negative uproar currently in this country I thought going back to this image was a great idea. We need the Lord to help us control our tongue. Each one of us! It seems we teeter on the edge of destruction every week with accusations both political, medical, personal. The list goes on and on.

God help us to give You control of our tongue. Help us to honor You with every word we speak, I pray.

July 1994

This is a selection from my journal. I hope it shows you one time the Lord brought healing to me. He is no respecter of persons. What was done for me can be for you also.

In 1994 I was having dental problems, extractions, etc. 1961 had been traumatic for me because I was in the Dentist’s chair when my father died. I cried out. The dentist stopped his work for a minute. I believe that was the moment my Dad passed from this earth. I was eleven years old. I want to share this entry as I think it shows how God can reach into our lives and bring healing, even 33 years later. My journal from July, 1994 reads in part as follows.

During an Inner Healing Nurturing Class that Betty led I created a composite picture of me and my dental history and tried to see Jesus in it. Nothing. I said, “OK Lord, what do You want me to see?” He said, “How did you get to the dentist on the day your dad died?”

I remembered walking from school to Doctor Pope’s office. I was terrified of the dentist office. I refused Novocain because of my fear of needles that began when I was 3. Making myself go, I was lonely, afraid, dreading with every step and suddenly – in the here and now-  the eyes of my understanding opened! I had mentioned to Bob (the previous night) that I continue to abandon myself and what the Lord wants me to do. Why?

Well there I was walking from school to the dentist. The horrible aloneness of it washed over me. When I called home after my appointment for mom to come get me daddy was dead. When I got home there was no one to ask how my dental appointment went and how I was feeling about his death. I learned and believed that I was not important, that to neglect myself was good and right. From my class notes “Hurts can set patterns we use.” The Lord broke into the scene of self-abandonment saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deut 31:6c, Hebrews 13:5b).

And His words began to flow in my spirit.

“You will hear a voice behind you saying ‘this is the way, walk in it. When you turn to the left or turn to the right.’” (Isaiah 30:21 RSV)

“See I have carved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16)

“It was not right that you were left alone as a child to cope with so much pain and terror from your broken leg at age 3 to dental fillings at age 11.  

“I am with you always.”(Matthew 28:20)

“Cling to me. Lean on me. Draw from me. Surround that girl- child with loving comforts. Nurture her. Do not give her up to terror. Soak Her in love and prayer. I WILL HELP YOU.”

I was blessed and amazed. Here were a few of the reasons I continually abandoned myself and the things the Lord wanted me to do. There was a song from The Haven of Rest that encouraged me during that time. Here is a version by someone else, same song though!

“I look to the shepherd. He meets all my needs, Beside the still waters He faithfully leads bringing peace to my soul as His love makes me whole, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, follow me all the days of my life. ” Walt Harrah

I’ve been touched deeply by the Lord’s revelation of the depth and intensity of my repeated childhood terrors. I know this is a serious call to more patience, love and gentleness with myself, more godliness in my life and activities. The Lord said, “I WILL HELP YOU.”

Giving her up to terror. I know how to do that so very well! And You gave me exact instructions how to do otherwise.

I am moved – acutely conscious – giving deep sighs of relief and almost breath sobs.

I have wanted to know for a long time why I do this and how to stop – and You are leading me out of it. I pray Psalm 28:9 to You, King Jesus, my Holy Redeemer. Teach me, show me, save me from myself. Left to myself I do not know how to soak myself in love and prayer – but I am willing to listen and try. Keep me flexible Lord. I feel as if I could write ALL DAY, for days.

Oh Jesus, I need lots of help and holiness.

Molly Lin Dutina, 1994

Sayings from Mom

This might not have posted on Wednesday. Let’s try this again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 1:9 NRSV

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

Keep a short account. Stay transparent with God.

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

Psalm 24:3-4 NIV

Clean hands. Pure heart. Short list.

Looking Back Over Your Shoulder

In 1 Kings 19:9-13 Elijah was exhausted and hiding in a cave from Jezebel who wanted his life. Twice the Lord came to Elijah and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And twice Elijah gave the same answer. The story has been made known because the Lord said Elijah was to go stand on the mountain and watch because the Lord would be passing by. After the wind, and the earthquake and the fire, when Elijah heard the sheer silence, he went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Some translations says God was in the silence via a still small voice.

There have been times when I have lived and moved in obedience to the Lord, not always even understanding that He was leading me. Yet His still small voice confirmed His presence, albeit later.

I was taught courage at an early age. Most every Sunday afternoon my parents would drop us off at the movie theater. Though she was two years older, my sister was too introverted to ask for tickets at the movie theater. The story goes that I could barely be seen by the lady in the booth. Regardless, I would ask for the tickets and probably gave her the money, too.

Many years later when my family fell into chaos it was my courage and willingness to speak truth that got my sister and I out of the house safely.

Another example started in high school. We had to choose a topic for a paper. I decided I wanted to write about the Cincinnati Workhouse. I obtained permission to tour the women’s section. I think my mom drove me there, but honestly, I do not remember. Why was that paper important? Many years later when given the opportunity to teach a women’s study in the County Jail it seemed just a good idea to me. No fear, no hesitation. Had I not written that paper or learned about courage, would I have been obedient to the Lord when the time came? I think He prepared me, His servant, for those events.

More often than not, I see the hand of the Lord over my shoulder, after the fact. This is not a mind game, but the reality of our Living Lord working through His Holy Spirit.

This hymn sums it up for me. Listen to at least the first minute!

Can you reflect upon your life and see how God has led you along the journey? Likely I could list many other examples, but more important is for you to reflect on your experiences and discern His hand at work.

James Hollis said, “Learning to live with ambiguity is learning to live with how life really is, full of complexities and strange surprises.”