Smile at Fears

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

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

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

Thich Nhat Hanh

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

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

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

TobyMac

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

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

Just Breathe

Who would have thought last St. Patrick’s day that we would still be fighting pandemic on the 13th of July? Perhaps until someone you know catches the virus people do not take this seriously. Granted many catch it and recover. However, some go home from the ICU in wheelchairs and some in beds, having to learn how to walk again. Our daughter was tested and got a positive result for Covid 19 last week. Stunning. So now we wait.

“To wait, biblically speaking, is not to assume the worst, worry, fret, make demands, or take control. Nor is waiting inactivity. Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief. To wait is to ‘rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him’ (Psalm 37:7).” Max Lucado

I wait. I pray. I try to remember to breathe. And I post, asking you to pray for her immediate family (2 adults, 2 teens) and ours (2 seniors with underlying health issues).

Max Lucado wrote ” Waiting is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief.” I have found it increasingly difficult to stay focused on God through these four months. The monotony of repetitive actions gets to me: (Didn’t I just change this toilet paper roll? Didn’t I just fill these same prescription boxes?) Changing the wall calendar page has gotten startling! How did we get from March to mid-July?

Many believers have told me they believe that this world-wide pandemic is a massive effort by the forces of darkness to separate us from one another and from God. The level of warfare I have experienced has me leaning that direction.

Hebrews 12:1-2a (NIV2011)  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

NOW I have my work cut out for me! Throw off not casually get out from under, but THROW OFF everything that hinders. I have changed up my devotional time. There are days when I let the Bible app read to me in an attempt to immerse myself in Scripture. Morning Prayer, devotional writings, whatever feeds my weary soul.

If I read a chapter of Proverbs a day, I am finished with the book in one month. Psalms can be broken up into just about 5 chapters a day. I have gone so far as to break up Psalm 119 into days as it is VERY long for reading in just one sitting – at least for me! Fix my mind, fix my eyes, fix my ears upon the Lord God Almighty. The hymn below was written by Helen Howarth Lemmel, a woman from Batavia, Ohio! Yep, that is where I live. 🙂 The chorus is sung more than the hymn in most churches. Too bad they leave out the verses! Here is a quartet from the continent of India who do a wonderful arrangement of Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. I pray you will.

Sweet Peas

Why are these important to me? First of all, my husband had this stone wall built to make it easier to garden on this portion of our hill. As you can see it is quite steep. Before we had the wall built I had started sweet peas from seed. I was delighted when they sprouted and bloomed for a couple years. When the men came to build the wall I asked if they might be able to save the sweet peas. They said yes. I failed to tell them where I wanted them to transplant the vine. Turns out they placed it smack dab in the center of the garden. As you can see the vines came back just fine! This year I decided instead of trying to train it I would just let it go over the wall.

But why is this flower memorable to me? Well, a dear friend told me about them. When I spotted them growing along a portion of the road we travel to get home I decided to try my hand at growing them.

Becky Sommer was my friend at school from at least 1959 (when we are pictured next to each other in the class photo). She is a highly talented artist whom I have always admired. Her parents were Dwight and Maria.

Dwight and Maria were married for 69 years before she passed at age 93. Her family was Russian and she was one of 8 children. She bore 6 children to Dwight. “Her creativity was expressed in her artwork and poetry, participation in Cincinnati’s Green Thumb Garden Club and All Saints Episcopal Church’s Altar Guild, flower arranging, and bringing style and warmth to her home and family.”

Dwight was music teacher at my cousins’ elementary school! He passed at age 98. “He was a gifted and beloved music educator at Elmwood Place School until his retirement in 1976. Dwight was so well loved and revered that 21 years after his retirement, the music room was dedicated to him. He continued to teach, mentor and follow the musical careers of many of his students until well into his 80’s.”

So besides being Becky’s parents why were these folks so meaningful to me? First off, Dwight drove me to high school along with Becky and maybe one or two others for years. Our high school was on his way to work. By playing our local classical radio station on the way to school he introduced me to a broad array of classical music!

When I joined the Episcopal church in 1965 who did I find there but the Sommer family! I had an immediate feeling of connection.

Maria once told me that when she and Dwight were dating he brought her bouquet of sweet peas. Evidently, he picked them on his way to see her. So growing them seemed like something I wanted to try. I know she had some flowers in her backyard, but don’t remember her growing them. I also remember she had terrible arthritis in her hands in her later years. I remember visiting once and being shocked to see braces on her wrists.

Still, why this strong connection to my friend’s parents? Well, when my family of origin blew up in 1968 I needed a place to live for a few months until my classes began at the University of Cincinnati. The Sommer family took me in. Maria had a huge old gas stove with a side drawer. Times I was upset she would sit me down for tea. Pulling out the crackers she stored in that drawer (being always warm the drawer kept them dry), she would fix me jelly on warm crackers to go with the tea. Then she would let me talk if I wanted to talk or just sit and compose myself. Cannot remember a better example of Christ’s love and compassion in my entire life, except maybe Mary Dirkse. She is another story for a different time.

I think Maria would approve of these vines hanging down from the stone wall, especially when the humidity leaves huge drops of dew on the flowers and leaves. Wish I had a nifty drawer to keep my crackers dry!

I know these folks are worshiping God on high. I pray their children and their children’s children follow Christ as closely as they did while here on earth! May I, too, live out their example while I walk the earth!

Zoom Calls and Video Church

Since March 17th or so when we began to learn more about and practice video church and video calls this song has been rolling around some place in the back of my mind. Of course, when it was written in 1967, we could barely imagine what a video phone was. Now most everyone carries the ability in their pocket! Previously I have occasionally used Whats App and even Face Time. I am grateful we can connect with our friends this way, but after so many years of in-person contact, it does get tiresome for this old lady.

Why must every generation think they’re folks are square?
And no matter where they’re heads are, they know mom’s ain’t there.
Cause’ I swore when I was small, that I’d remember when,
I knew what’s wrong with them, that I was smaller than.

Determined to remember all the cardinal rules.
Like, sun showers are legal grounds, for cutting school.
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two.
And I hope that I recall them all before the baby’s due.
And I’ll know he’ll have a question or two.

Like, hey pop. Can I go ride my zoom?
It goes two hundred miles an hour, suspended on balloons.
And can I put a droplet of this new stuff on my tongue?
And imagine puffing dragons, while you sit and wreck you’re lungs.
And I must me permissive, understanding of the younger generation.

And then I know that all I’ve learned, my kid assumes.
And all my deepest worries must be his cartoons.
And still I’ll try to tell him all the things I’ve done,
relating to what he can do when he becomes a man.
And still he’ll stick his fingers in the fan.

And hey pop, my girlfriend’s only three.
She’s got her own videophone,

and she’s taking LSD.
And now that were best friends, she want’s to give a bit to me.
But whats the matter daddy? How come you’re turning green?
Can it be that you can’t live up to your dreams?

So use your videophone, but skip the LSD. I’ve been told it can be brutal on the mind and body. Do not want to find out!

Flag Day

In 1975 we were about to celebrate Flag Day with my mother. I was nine months pregnant. I tried to tell her not to travel to Lexington as the Doctor said I was not going to deliver anytime soon. She drove down from Cincinnati anyway. When she arrived, she wanted to go shopping and had me drive her car. I remember just barely fitting behind the wheel of her used Plymouth. (No adjustable steering wheels back then!)

As we traveled around the Lexington “Circle Freeway” to our destination she sang me a hymn she had recently heard. The title was “How Great Thou Art.”

Mom had brought food in a Styrofoam cooler. After we put the items in the refrigerator, we rinsed the cooler and placed it on our tiny apartment porch to dry. She arrived Friday night and we stayed up late watching Johnny Carson. He hosted Seals and Croft and they sang “We May Never Pass This Way Again.” I went to bed exhausted. Bob and Mom finished the show. Bob helped her pull out the sofa bed and made certain she had everything she needed.

Saturday there was a Flag Day parade in town. We had decided to attend. Here is a link reminding us of what Flag Day stands for https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/flag-day

Saturday dawned bright, but there was a breeze kicking up outside. Mom was not awake yet, but I decided to tiptoe through the living room to the porch and bring her cooler in before it blew away. As I passed the bed, I knew.

Stunned, I realized she was not breathing. I captured the cooler and walked through again. Certainty about crushed me. I woke Bob and made him go check her. By that time he had been working in a hospital for quite a while and had sometimes gone into a room in early morning to draw blood only to realize the patient had passed.

The rest of the day is a blur. The biggest shock of my life so far. It was years before I could hear “How Great Thou Art” without bursting into tears.

She never met my children. We will never celebrate things on earth again together. Though we had our problems, I do believe I will know her again in heaven, where she is singing How Great Thou Art among the many other hymns that she taught me.

Come To Him

I so need this one today. Really struggling with the new reality of our lives in isolation, wary of disease, fighting depression. God knows. Sometimes tears are the best and sometimes singing.

If you have never heard this one, listen 3 times. So great!

When I’m feeling anxious in my head
He tells me to come to him instead
Come to him when weary (Weary)
Come to him when low (When low)
He will lift the burden, this I know (This I know) (Yeah I know I say)

Take my yoke upon you, learn from me (Learn from me)
Take my yoke upon you and you’ll see (You’ll see) (You’ll see)
Come to me, I’ll strengthen (Strengthen)
Come to me, I’ll help (I’ll help)
Come to me, I’ll still anxiety (Still anxiety)

So when I find that I have gone astray (When I’ve gone astray)
I can go to him and he won’t send me away (He won’t sent me away)
Come to me, I’ll strengthen (Strengthen)
Come to me, I’ll help (I’ll help)
Come to me and listen what I say (Listen to what I say)

Take my yoke upon you learn from me (Learn from me)
Take my yoke upon you and you’ll see (You’ll see)
Come to me, I’ll strengthen (Strengthen)
Come to me, I’ll help (I’ll help)
Come to me, I’ll still anxiety (Still anxiety)

Come (Come), come (Come), oh come (Oh to me)
You better come to me, you better come to me
Come (Come), come (Come), oh come (Oh to me)
You better come to me, you better come to me
Come (Come), come (Come), oh come (Come)

Our Spring

I have been walking more when weather permits and trying to shake off the anxiety of the pandemic. Not ALWAYS successful, but the effort continues.

This magnolia type caught my attention recently. Blue sky, flowers popping and petals covering the ground. In the autumn Bob and I discuss how the maple trees all decked out in the changing colors of red, yellow, orange seem to drop their gowns or dresses. This spring I am noticing the flowering trees especially as they drops their “ruffles” of petals.

Have you noted things lately that remind you that Spring is bursting out, pandemic or no pandemic? God is not taken by surprise, upset and focused on only the negative with this disease. Can you allow yourself a few minutes to turn off the case count and death totals on television and radio. Even a few minutes of gratitude can do much to mitigate the soul crushing fear circling the earth right now.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

2 Timothy 1:7 HCSB

A spirit of power, love and a sound mind or sound judgement. It has been a struggle for me to hold on to these. And then I am reminded from some quote, I read from someone, that is it not my grip upon God that counts, but His grip on me.

 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV 2011)

Lyrics by Rich Mullins – Video below

Well sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith seems so small

So hold me Jesus cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin


I'm singing hold me Jesus cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Prince of Peace, hold us in Your nail-scarred hands, reign in and through us, I pray. Amen.