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.

Pies Past and Present

Once I made the ugliest pie ever.

My mother would have been ashamed to serve it. Trust me, every bite was eaten!

This year I was making pumpkin pies and some of the filling slopped out of the Kitchen Aid mixer onto the floor. I called Lucky and she was right there to clean it up for me! I would think with all the Kitchen Aid expertise they could have designed something better regarding bowl escapes!

I am certain these too will be eaten up in no time flat!

After Turkey day, being a good Type 2 Diabetic, I will make myself some pumpkin filling with no crust, about 2/3 Splenda and 1/3 sugar. Yum.

Giving thanks for our canned pumpkin. My friend Marsha says the canned pumpkin in Nepal is green and coarse. Yuck.

Golden Rain to Killing Frost

Just a couple weeks ago it was raining gold in our backyard.

Music provided by tuned wind chime

If you are as old as me you might remember the television offering songs where they showed the lyrics and told you to follow the bouncing ball to sing along in pace with the rhythm. Dan, Mike and Bob could explain the bouncing green ball in this video. I just like the video!

This morning everything is covered with a crisp layer of white frost. Not snow, mind you, white frost, like the icing on a cake. Do you recall this from childhood? Not the creep in some of the latest movies.

Jack Frost

Look out! look out!
Jack Frost is about!
He’s after our fingers and toes;
And, all through the night,
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake;
To windows he’ll creep,
And while we’re asleep,
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white;
Then home he will go,
And laugh, “Ho! ho! ho!
What fun I have had in the night!”

by Cicely E. Pike
Picnic anyone?
Grill cover decorated also!
Exquisite

Ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever.

Daniel 3:70 CPDV

58 Seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haggai 2:6-7 NRSV

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

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

Hebrews 12:25-29

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

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

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

Now Thank we All Our God Verse 3

Several Directions

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

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

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

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

The Gift of Asher Lev

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

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

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

Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria

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

Matthew 13:45-46 NIV

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

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

In Remembrance of My Mother-in-law

Betty was the mother to five children. She taught them this poem. When I read it from a book of poetry to our children, my husband remembered it from his childhood. With Thanksgiving upon us and table manners on display I thought you might enjoy it.

I believe the version in our children’s book of poetry read as follows:

The Goops they lick their fingers, and the Goops they lick their knives; they spill their broth on the tablecloth; Oh, they lead disgusting lives. The Goops they talk while eating, and loud and fast they chew. So that is why I am glad that I am not a Goop. Are you?

Gelett Burgess

It is said you must read this with dramatic voice and emotional emphasis. Will you be reading this at your table? I think table manners are a lost art. Perhaps it involves too much corrective guilt?

Yes, Bernini!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gin-Gins and My Weird Connections

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

I have had a fascination with manatees for many years.

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

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

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

microscopic Tardigrade, Water Bear

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advent Came Early

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob, Lucky and the Singing Squirrel

For years there has been a joke circulating about Bob and the squirrels. When we lived on Danny Drive he would get upset at the squirrels for eating the bird food. Occasionally he would get out his BB gun and have at one.

He told the grandchildren that in our yard there was a one eyed squirrel, a tailless squirrel and a three-legged squirrel because the sight on the BB gun was so lousy, (never that he was not a very good shot). If he did kill a squirrel he never told them. I said if he killed one he would have to skin it and nail the pelt to the shed as a warning for other squirrels to stay away.

At our house on Siesta Drive he would occasionally get one. We installed a spring on the bird feeder that was hanging over the edge of the deck (with a twenty foot drop to the ground). That squirrel was so confused and frustrated that he could not feed upside down and gorge himself on bird seed.

What have you done?!?!?!

He would climb out on the pole and touch the bird feeder. It would bounce and he would retreat. First day I think he did it 8 times before he gave up!

Some years ago our daughter and Grandgirl Ellie gave him a mechanical singing, dancing squirrel.

We stored the squirrel with Christmas things. This year when we brought him out Bob sometimes tormented Lucky with the squirrel. He would turn on the music and watch her retreat in fear. He would turn on the music and set it next to her. She would run a safe distance away and watch. Remember that Lucky is a rescue. She has been with us for over 1-1/2 years. Our daughter, Emily, had told us we might need to live with her for more than 2 years for her to show her true self to us.

I have never gotten Lucky to play with toys unless I put a treat in them. I have sewn elastic to the legs of some toys so I can attach treats for her. Once the treat is eaten she ignores the toy. Realize she was caged the first 4 years of her life and never had toys, so yes, she is clueless. Throw a ball and she looks at you asking “Now what?”

Imagine my surprise when I was crocheting Levi’s Christmas gift, watching TV one late afternoon and Lucky went to the table to sniff the mechanical Squirrel.

Next she put her claws on its foot and dragged it to the loveseat with her. Before I knew it she knocked it the floor and began chewing. Bob was working at his computer in the office. I texted him to come see.

Bob went back to work. You can see Lucky’s face when he walks in again at end of clip.

Before we knew it she carried the squirrel off to where he was working in the office. I told him we had to be careful she doesn’t try to eat it, wires, batteries, fringe on scarf, fake fur, etc.

I went into office a few minutes later and she had chewed out one eye. Thank goodness the pieces were all there!

Yes, then we removed it from her reach. Bob wants me to make an eye patch as he finally owns his one eyed squirrel.

What baffles me is she had been alone all morning while we went to the 25 year church reunion. So glad she did not tear it up then. We could not have protected her. Perhaps she was waiting to see what our reaction would be? How do dogs think?

Remember the new Christmas tree?

She has now dragged out Snoopy, who fortunately has sewn patches for eyes. No danger there! Wonder how Charlie Brown will taste to her?