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.

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.

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.

Remember Monkey see, Monkey do?

At the Cincinnati Art Museum I had to wonder what this artist was thinking!

Future Retrieval: Close Parallel

Future Retrieval, the studio collaboration of former University of Cincinnati faculty members Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis, appropriates imagery and forms from historical objects to create new art that speaks to our twenty-first-century experience. Their practice is rooted in ceramic art, but also incorporates a diverse mix of media and techniques that combine age-old methods with new technologies.

For this exhibition, Future Retrieval will take over two museum galleries as project spaces where they will construct an unconventional response to objects “borrowed” from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s decorative art and design collection. In pairing their own work with objects from the museum’s collection, the artists will create an experience that encourages visitors to consider aspects of our historical collections and practices in a new light.

#CAMCloseParallel

At home when I enlarged the photo I wished I had gone around the other side of the ape. Evidently it was holding something in its hand! And chin on other hand. How like us! was it thinking “Should I eat this?”

Well, it was at the end of our museum visit and we older folks get tired. The painting of mushrooms and sculpture of mushrooms was interesting also.

Perhaps more interesting in person, but thought I’d distract you with these art items. Careful next time you look in the mirror. Make certain there is not a monkey looking back at you!

Charles Martin, Favorite Author

When I begin a Charles Martin book I know I will be staying up late to read. His work is just mesmerizing. I cannot close his books, even when very sleepy, without regret.

I recently read “The Letter Keeper,” second in a series about Murphy Shepherd. This man goes into situations of extreme danger to recapture girls and women who were taken against their will into the sex trade. The first in the series is “The Water Keeper.”

“If my life experience had taught me anything, it’s this: the wounds of the past carry a lot of weight when it comes to walking into one’s future, and if anything can rob you of now, it’s yesterday. We are really good at taking the pain of our past and projecting it into our future because it’s what we know, and yet our past has almost nothing to do with our future other than being connected by seconds. That’s it. So we face a choice. Either shine a light on yesterday and expose it, or forfeit the joy of now and the hope of tomorrow. I realize this is easier said than done, but left untreated, experiential pain becomes a fortress in our gut that houses a lie spoken by fear. And behind that fear is an idol of our own making.”

The Letter Keeper, Charles Martin

This wisdom applies to each of us. That first sentence alone might need re-reading several times! Then “Shine a light on yesterday and expose it” is right out of Scripture. The light of the Holy Spirit can bring forth things from the shadows of our soul to full exposure. Romans 12 says

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

When Paul writes bodies he is referring to the ‘totality of one’s life and activities, of which ones body is the vehicle of expression.” (from Bible Knowledge Commentary) The Father wants to make an exchange with us. Our trouble and sin from the past for joy and hope. When I present my body to Him (my all) He sees that as a living sacrifice. He finds that to be my holy and acceptable sacrifice to Him. Even the things I am ashamed of do not shame Him.

Charles Martin encourages us to not let the past rob the future. Wisdom indeed. Are there things you need to ask the Holy Spirit to shine light upon? Are there things you are holding back from the Father? Are you ready to open your hands and heart and release those things to Him?

He is waiting and ready to accept you and any baggage you bring. Let Him have every area of your life. You will not be disappointed in His plans for your future. I promise.

Soul of My Soul

Sometime after 1985 I read a book by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Chapter 15 covered The Great Pool of Silence. “The silence of love, coming from a pure heart, will examine with wisdom all that is said to me, and this love will determine my response.” That is an incredible challenge to someone like me who tends to respond immediately off the top of her head! “In this holy silence, we learn discernment.”

When we moved I let go many of the books I owned. I kept a copy of her Soul of my Soul.

She wrote, “The silence is the silence of love. My heart is silent, and thus there is created an inner space where I weigh my words…. Into this great pool of silence can be thrown all sorts of words.. The silence of love, coming from a pure heart, will examine with wisdom all that is said (by me and) to me, and this love will determine my response. Years ago I copied her thoughts into a cross stitched saying for my laundry room. “The great pool of silence is the laundry room of the Spirit.” That is still in a box somewhere. Hopefully I held on to it! The great pool of silence. Have you been there lately?

Have you wondered the value of silence? Have you tried to enter the pool of silence? It is very difficult in our age of constant bombardment by TV, smart phone, computers, radio, etc. When you do set aside time to try entering silence you can be discouraged by being flooded with thoughts. Even after years of practice it can be difficult to enter into silence. I do not believe it is impossible though. I think it is well worth our efforts and we should endeavor to do it with the help of God.

There have been many tomes written about the value of silence. I will not try to quote them all here. If you are interested I have learned much from the writer John Main Word into Silence, The Way of Unknowing and others titles. Also Sue Monk Kidd in When the Heart Waits Chapter 6, “Concentrated Stillness.”

“How do we fashion an environment in which we become stripped and stilled, in which the ego patterns of a lifetime begin to move away from the center and our innermost spiritual life is reconstellated?”

Kidd continued “I’ve been impressed with the emphasis that Quakers place on the concept of Christ as one who teaches us from within, of the Holy Spirit as the Inward Guide. What would happen if we took this seriously? What if we turned to the Inward Guide to lead us through our waiting?

There was an old cereal advertisement that said, “Hey, Mikey! You like it!” This might be your response if you are willing to try this sort of prayer, centering silence, asking the Lord Almighty to cleanse you in the pool of silence. Oh Lord, unless you wash us we cannot be clean.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:6-7 AMP

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

In returning and rest you shall be saved;

    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

But you refused

Isaiah 30:15 NRSV

Cincinnati Art Museum

We found humor at the museum this week. At the display of artworks from the Monuments Men of World War 2, pieces that were reclaimed from Nazi Germany, we found this portrayal of the Madonna and Child.

Now my ignorance and humor will shine. I saw the artist’s name and thought Fra – thinking to myself fraulein, young woman. How like a woman to be the only one I’ve ever seen to paint a pouting Jesus! Well I stand corrected. Fra stood for Friar. The artist was Friar Fillipo Lippi, an Italian painter and Carmelite priest.

But really, have you ever seen a painting of a pouting Jesus? Likely a rendition of a 2 year old Savior.

In another exhibit of contemporary “Paintings of the ’80s” we found this from a huge donation from the Shore’s collection. Bob and I are not usually drawn to dots and splashes of color. We let our imagination run wild in this exhibit and had great, raucous fun!

My first impression? “Oh, their rubber band ball burst!” Naughty me. Here is the actual museum description.

What a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I am so grateful to have a husband who keeps track of these fun things to experience!

80th Birthday for an Acquaintance

She speaks with almost no filter. Words just seem to fall out of her mouth, tumbling over one another, often to the surprise of the listeners.

Her life is centered in old movies. She tells us she seems to like the wicked women.

I know she has wounds she has never addressed. Some were inflicted by her father and she refuses to tell her sons because they loved him. Her daughter left without a word many years ago. Her husband died suddenly. From what we could discern from the outside there did not seem to be much trust or love in the marriage relationship. Her mother died a few years after that.

She now lives in a retirement complex with other senior citizens where the staff provide all the meals. Never has to cook or wash dishes unless she chooses to in her studio apartment.

She calls the complex a prison. There are shared meals, activities both in the building and off the campus. During the Covid-19 lock down they were confined to their rooms in an attempt to keep them well. She can now take the van to stores and places of interest if she wants, for no charge whatsoever. They have organized games, a library, board games and sitting rooms for all to share.

After her birthday party when I shared these thoughts with Bob I was reminded of a prayer my mother really liked in her later years. God, help us all!

A Prayer For Those Growing Old

Lord, You know I am
growing older. Keep me from
becoming talkative and possessed
with the idea that I must express
myself on every subject.

Release me from the craving to
straighten out everyone’s affairs.

Keep me from the recital of
endless detail. Give me wings to
get to the point.

Seal my lips when I am inclined
to tell of my aches and pains.
They are increasing with the years
and my love to speak of them
grows sweeter as time goes by.

Teach me the glorious lesson
that occasionally I may be wrong.
Make me thoughtful but not
nosy; helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom
and experience it does seem a pity
not to use it all. But You know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Amen.

Keep me grateful. Empower me to adapt to my life and health, circumstances and abilities as I age and everything seems to change. You know I still feel inside as if I am nineteen years old. I know that I am no longer nineteen.

Left to myself I would be worse than the woman I observed and wrote about. Open my eyes to my own shortcomings and faults. I know they are abundant, Lord.

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

Other House/This House

When we lived on Siesta Drive our large wind chimes, tuned musically, hung from a hook off the second story balcony. Even when we had constant wind, we rarely heard them. Now we have them on a “shepherds crook” in the back yard. We are enjoying their melody almost all the time!

Yep, that is temporary home for rain gauge!

At our other house we had the hummingbird feeder on the front porch. We often saw them through the living room windows or if we were sitting on the front porch. Now we have the feeder outside the office window. We tried it outside kitchen window but some sort of bees took over and would not let the hummers feed.

(Before tree was planted!)

Photos were taken through the screen, but those birds cheer me on while I write or sit here to pay the bills. Today I actually saw a male and a baby hummer on the feeder at the same time!

New house, new perspectives on old favorites. Bob hung a smaller wind chime just outside the office windows. When the one in the backyard is not ringing, the smaller one in the front yard often is! Cannot see it from indoors, but if the window is open can certainly hear it!

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

John 3:8 NIV