Hold Still

When Bob was hospitalized and almost died my journal from 2018 reads,

Someone wrote: “I had to accept myself in all my gory glory. Sometimes rage, sadness, and a myriad of other strong emotions will be part of your experience, too.” And so it was with me.

Tired. Too tired to read. Often too tired to even eat. Numb with fatigue of body and emotional shock.

Feel. Express. Accept. Move on. Get up. Do it again. Find a way to cope with the shock.

“You can’t be any other place than where you actually are!”

My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and he almost died it was difficult and practically impossible to hold to any discipline. I was upheld by the prayers of the church, but my study time failed completely. And then the Lord would drop a line here or there into my mind and spirit to encourage me. “Show us Your mercy, O Lord,” from the morning prayer suffrages, Book of Common Prayer. And I would go forward with whatever the day held for us. Often I prayed the full armor of God from Ephesians 6 as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with him.

I began to approach the situation with stillness but no presumption that I in any way knew the ultimate result. Though I was often unconsciously holding my breath, there was a stillness in me. The stillness came with a peace that I recognized as coming from God. Reporting the day’s events and blood work results to prayer partners via email, without forecasting the next step or event or outcome was about my only “productive” output.

The stillness was related to Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him!”

Part of my struggle was yielding to the facts and in stillness letting my wishes die, placing my hope in the plans of the Almighty. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted His goodness and His love for both myself and my family. I learned that crucified you must hold perfectly still.

I repeat all of that because the lesson came to mind again this past Sunday. A Pastor was teaching from Galatians 5. He said when we come to verse 19 listing some of the works of the flesh we should only think of ourselves, not others. We should hold still, let God point those things out and help us remove them from our lives. We should hold still.

Crucify my flesh.

Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 5:24

The Pastor pointed out that being too busy, busy-ness, is a popular American form of running from God. Perhaps you could try for one week the practice I have adopted lately when I am consumed with busy-ness. Taken from John 3:30 breathing in I pray “Lord, You must increase.” Breathing out I pray “I must decrease.” And I continue to consciously breathe and pray until I am centered in Him again. Yielding more of my life to Christ is never time ill spent. Holding still so He can have His perfect way in me is the highest form of living.

Crucifying my flesh is expected of me. If I truly want Christ to live in me through the power of the Holy Spirit I must be willing to put down my passions and desires and pick up His. Not easy, but neither is that impossible. “I will, with God’s help.”

What I Learned Though I Fear Heights

Ever since sliding to the garage floor on an unsecured ladder at about age 6 or 8 I have feared heights. When I heard on the news in 2017 about this guy climbing in Yosemite National Park without ropes to secure him I was terrified on his behalf. Bob had taken me to visit Yosemite on one of our many trips to California. I knew the height of those summits. In my eyes he attempted and accomplished the impossible. In this short but entertaining eleven minute talk you can learn more about him in his own words.

Wikipedia reports that “In 2016, he was subjected to Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans that revealed that, unlike other high sensation seekers, his amygdala barely activates when watching disturbing images. He however confesses feeling fear occasionally. Through imagination and practice, he has desensitized himself to most fearful situations.” MacKinnon, J. B. (June 28, 2018). “The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber”Nautilus. Retrieved May 11, 2021

He said, “Doubt is the precursor of fear.” On the video I watched as he climbed Half Dome inch by inch. I remembered Peggy Snapp telling me ‘Life by the mile is a trial. Life by the inch is a cinch.’ In the documentary Alex told how he practiced for years. He practiced the handholds going up the rock face with ropes before he tried the free solo ascents.

Before trying the most sensational solo climb he literally practiced for ten years. And now, my challenge is becoming more clear. Am I willing to practice letting pain draw me into God’s Presence even if it takes ten years to feel as if I have accomplished that? Am I willing to return to the Lord over and over again, asking forgiveness for complaining and grace to begin again? The Benedictines say, “Always, we begin again.” They put that truth in a minimum of words and I thank them for that reminder!

Through imagination and practice can I desensitize myself to the disappointment of returning chronic pain? Am I willing to try? Discipline and practice. Oh those do not come easily. Can I become as unflappable and steady as Pat M.W.? Will I push back on the gloom laden cloud of discouragement that often threatens to enshroud me? Am I truly willing to let Jesus in me increase and ask that I decrease, making more space for His rule and reign?

In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zin writes about the research and findings from teaching heart patients and cancer patients the practice of mindfulness for pain relief and stress relief.

I have the meditation recordings from this book. I used to own the book, but when we moved I let it go. Will I choose to listen to these recordings and bring myself from the panic of nerve pain to the centered life of returning and rest?

Lord, I do not expect to be a world record breaking solo climber. I do not seek any recognition at all. I simply want to live for You, to love and serve You and not be consumed by the physical sensations of my aging body. Help me to, like Paul, choose to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Watch and Pray

 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36 NIV

You do not have to be carousing or participating in drunkenness for your heart to be weighed down. The anxieties of life will do that. Man, don’t I know it’s so!?

Gratefulness does not come easy to us. “First world problems” can invade and weigh us down without our even being aware of it. Suddenly there is no joy, no lightness to life. Everything seems to be going wrong. Nothing is positive. Why do we let this happen to ourselves repeatedly? This was a battle I had to fight as we relocated. Then one day I realized that we were going to “Platform,” ‘our forever home.’ We talk about adopted dogs being given their forever home. Bob and I decided this house will be our forever home unless, God forbid, one of us has to go to a nursing home.

This Platform is where I hope to encounter the Lord in my final years on earth. This Platform is where I hope to graduate to be with Him forever. I am told to “Watch and Pray…” will I be faithful to do that little bit?

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all exhort us to watch and pray. In Colossians, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Sadly we are like the dog character from the movie “Up” who flips his brain and attention every time he senses a “Squirrel.”

There is more at stake here than pleasing an old man who is his master. This discipline will help us to escape all that is about to happen. When Peter lost his focus upon Jesus he began to sink in the stormy water. If we want to ‘be able to stand before the Son of Man” at the end of our earthly life, we must take this discipline seriously. I am not preaching at you. I am reminding myself, too. Nothing good comes from negative, ungrateful thinking; only trouble and the possibility of going under when we should be walking on the heights.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-13

Verse 18b reads “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying …..” Will you take your stand today, keeping on watch and praying? We can choose to let prayer occupy our minds. I have one friend in her 80’s who prays the instant you tell her about something that has you ill at ease. Instead of commenting “Oh dear me” she just out loud goes to the Lord right then in prayer. Sometimes I get annoyed by her behavior, but gradually I am learning that she is exhibiting what I am called to. My annoyance is driven by my failure to do the same. Oops.

Lord, help us to take Your Word seriously. Open our hands to lay down the petty first world problems that want to take over our minds. We need Your help in order to devote ourselves to You. Be the first order of business in every hour of our lives. Help us to honor You, our Risen Lord, with our lips and with our lives. Amen.

How are You Discerning and Enhancing ?

This is a portion from a devotional entitled Connect the Testaments, by John D. Barry

Unless we know God, we’re incapable of successfully doing His work. We must be willing to talk to God honestly about our relationships, as the psalmist does in Psalm 119:69–72. The psalmist acknowledges that he needs God’s help in all matters of his relationship with God and all matters of his relationship with others. He understands that he cannot even begin to know God without the power of God helping him.
“We must be empowered for action, both in the intimacy of prayer and in the reality of relationships. And we must support what we believe with our works, as the letter of James call us to do: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:14–26).
“Reflecting regularly on how God has worked with us and is working in us allows us to recognize that everything in our lives has a purpose. God often works in others through us, and that great calling requires us to have knowledge of Him and discernment about His workings in our world.
How are you discerning the great work of God in your life? How are you enhancing your knowledge of God?

A soon to be neighbor was in town touring her home being built across the street from us. On occasion we have traded texts or emails. She has shared a bit about her faith and a prayer group she was involved in for decades. We have occasionally taken photos for her showing her the progress of the house she and her husband have planned. Having recently moved, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to get caught up in the details and the utter work involved in relocating and forgetting to ask the Lord not only to be involved, but to keep me aware of His interest and care.

After she left the neighborhood I felt compelled to write her an email affirming that the Lord knows her heart and is interested in helping her pack and move. I did not respond to that prompting immediately. When the Holy Spirit reminded me again I decided I had better get on it. So I wrote her a quick note encouraging her to turn to Him. By her response it seems I heard correctly and helped her turn her eyes towards Him in this relocating matter. We used to live 8 miles from our new home. She lives about 150 miles away. So besides the sort, store, give away, sell, pack and move, she cannot just take a break and drop in to see the progress. And then we are turned to Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

 in all your ways submit to Him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

(or direct your paths)

Trust, lean not on your own, submit or acknowledge and He will direct your ways. As the commercial for cereal used to say, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

The Prince of Peace is able to quiet and comfort our hearts like no other.

Commune and My Heart

Amy Carmichael wrote Edges of His Ways and this little book continues to inspire me year after year. The reading for July 5 is based on Exodus 25:22 “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat.”

She wrote: In reading Exodus 25 I suddenly saw this, not a new thing, but you can imagine how it shone out: That which comes nearest and dearest of all unhindered communion with our God is based on His revealed will, accepted and obeyed. “The testimony that I shall give thee,” He told Moses, was to be put in the Ark, above which was to be the mercy seat. “And there I will meet with thee and will commune with thee.”

It is the old prayer again: “Teach me to do Thy will.” I want to learn more and more what the small word “do” means as carried out in life. It is so much easier to pray about doing, and to talk to others about it, and to sing about it, than it is simply and honestly to do that very thing. But the prayer is not, Teach me to pray about it, talk about it, sing about it, though prayer and talk and song have their place, it is “Teach me to do Thy will.” Then comes that beautiful, blessed “There I will meet with thee and will commune with thee.”

I am not even going to post an image of the mercy seat. There are images online, but I think the Lord and Moses would see it differently. This song began rolling about in my soul as I read her writing and pondered it for my life.

Teach me to do Your will, my Lord. Mold me and make me into Your image. Help me to yield to Your touch and learn to do Your will, even when I do not like the idea. I know that dislike at first is not the same as disobedience. As long as I follow hard after You, You will help me to do Your will and joy will come in the doing.

True Freedom

There is a saying that we owe our liberty to Jesus and the soldier. The fourth of July celebrates our liberty from England. I want to celebrate my liberty as a servant of Christ.

Reading the notes in my Harper’s Study Bible I came across this comment upon Galatians 5:1. “…Liberty brings believers by voluntary choice into total submission to Jesus Christ and His will for us. The grand paradox of Scripture is that those who are slaves of Jesus Christ have the greatest freedom.” Yeah and amen!!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 NIV

Andrew Murray wrote Absolute Surrender. It is what I desire with God. Here is one excerpt from Murray.

“Oh, I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear. Come with that feeble desire; and if there is the fear which says: “Oh, my desire is not strong enough, I am not willing for everything that may come, I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything”—I pray you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say: “My God, I am willing that Thou should make me willing.” If there is anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is, and be not afraid that He will command from you what He will not bestow.

Murray, A. (1897). Absolute Surrender (p. 9). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

It has been proven by the experience of Christians over centuries that those who are slaves to Christ are free from the oppressive power of men. Try as they might, the German soldiers under Hitler could not break the spirit of Corrie ten Boom. Those who trust in God as their Master are not broken by men.

Viktor Frankl wrote about that, too, in Man’s Search for Meaning “Everything can be taken from a man but one last thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Molly, for one, has chosen to live by the ways of Christ. Isa 55: 8-9 says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher that Your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Yes, we are different than our God, but we are to seek for Him. He promises in Jeremiah –

You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

My attempt at Absolute Surrender is made possible by the efforts of God. He puts His desire in my heart. He supplies me with strength and determination to pursue His will. He helps me to choose my attitude from His word and His will for me. I pray, Lord, help me to pursue You and grant me liberty in any place, any time, any circumstance. Amen.

Won’t you pursue this Absolute Surrender as the way to eternal liberty with me?

Grow Accustomed …

Reading through some notes from what I think was a Franciscan retreat many years ago I came across this. Enjoy!

One retreat handout was entitled God – With – Us Paraphrase by Leslie F. Brandt Psalm 139

O God, You know me inside and out,
	through and through.
Everything I do.
	every thought that flits through my mind,
	every step I take
	every plan I make,
	every word I speak,
You know, even before these things happen.

You know my past:
	You know my future.
Your circumventing presence covers my every move.
Your knowledge of me sometimes comforts me,
	sometimes frightens me;
but always it is far beyond my comprehension.

There is no way to escape you, no place to hide.
If I ascend to the heights of joy,
	You are there before me.
If I plunge into the depths of despair,
	You are there to meet me.
I could fly to the other side of the world
	and find You there to lead there to lead the way.
I could walk into the darkest of nights,
	only to find You there
	to lighten its dismal hours.

You were present at my very conception.
You guided the molding of my unformed members
	within the body of my mother.
Nothing about me, from beginning to end,
	was hid from Your eyes.
How frightfully, fantastically wonderful it all is!

May Your all-knowing, everywhere-present Spirit
	continue to search out my feelings and thoughts.
Deliver me
	from that which may hurt or destroy me,
and guide me along the paths of love and truth.

Looking up Leslie F. Brandt online just now, this was likely taken from a book called Psalms Now.

On the back of my paper I wrote “Grow accustomed to encountering the hidden Christ …” and then:

“I am a holy God and Lord of the Broken Things. My greatest victory was through My broken body and spent life. I use imperfect beings perfectly. My love covers, cleanses, fills, renews.” Have no idea if someone spoke this at the retreat or I heard it in my spirit.

“I too shed tears. My tears were not some painless spiritual symbol, but pain-filled, aware feeling tears. And they were born out of my hurt and disappointment, anguish and anger at how things COULD have been. I know tears. And I feel and am aware of yours.” Again, I have no idea if someone spoke this at the retreat or I heard it in my spirit.

“This mornings flood has left fresh ponds where dust was before. On contemplation this puddle is teeming with life. Worms with feathered heads writhe out a dance of life. Bugs I always associated with DIRT scurry along unhindered underwater. Oh voice of many waters, make me this adaptable and joyous I pray.” Fairly certain I wrote this one!

Reading and typing these things out makes me aware how I SO need a spiritual retreat! When I go on retreat I make an effort to still the chatter in my soul, listen for His still small voice, wait for the King of Glory. If nothing else, I am refreshed from stilling that chatter. Usually I am refreshed by the Presence of the Lord in ways I could not create on my own.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

ISA 46:10

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord

Acts 3:19

Then the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12

Signing Off for a Time

Considering the computers, tv, wifi system, etc. all have to be disconnected, packed, unpacked and reconnected you might not hear from me for a while. But wait! through the magic of the Word Press Cloud I could write and store and schedule until my strength runs out! That is how the posts usually come to you. I typically write on Monday and Tuesday morning. This week Tuesday will be running to various places like T-Mobile. Energy is not in abundance right now. So in case you don’t see posts for a while, remember to lift us in prayer regarding the move.

During 15 years a couple can accumulate a bunch of stuff. We have given away, thrown away and donated items for months now. We also know that once we begin to unpack we are likely to unload even more items. When you pack things up and get them out of sight for several months it is amazing what you can live without!

I have also been missing my wall calendar (I know, so old fashioned). The magnifying mirror from the bathroom wall has been absent since Bob patched and repaired practically every single nail in every single room.

He is such a hard worker. I have no idea how I would ever accomplish most things without him. We often debate who will die first. If he goes first I get a Corgi. They make me smile. Been told they kill sweepers with their constant shedding. Anything to make me smile during the grief of losing my husband would be invaluable. Fifty years of marriage and counting. We are amazed!

They say corgi puppies look like potatoes on legs.

Speaking of dogs, I let Lucky off the leash inside the new house for the first time last Sunday! She pranced around as if to say “Oh, I get it now!” She has been going in the house since it was just studs, no walls. Soon she will have an enormous closet in the master bedroom to sleep in when it storms! I will set up a water bowl for her Saturday before we get her from the kennel.

There she is, coming out of hallway to laundry and Master Suite!

We area moving eight miles, one zip code away, undoing 15 years of settling in this place. We are calling Platform Street our last home unless we get moved to a nursing home some day (hoping not!).

Even to your old age and gray hairs

    I am He, I am He who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you;

    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4

Yes, Lord, we look to You to sustain us, carry us and rescue us from ourselves. Even as we enter our old age and lose more gray hairs! We trust You with all of our lives, Most High God.

Into the Countdown Now!

I am writing this Monday morning, May 3. We get the keys Friday morning the 7th and close that afternoon! Then the adult kids and grandchildren help us start to move in.

Whew! so much work getting to this point. And SO much work yet to be done. Just realized I should also move the houseplants on Saturday along with the plants we hope to plant outdoors once they lay sod and define our flower beds.

Bob and I have been trying to rest as much as we can knowing this adventure will zap our strength once the adrenaline wears off! He is at the bank now arranging the wire transfer for our closing costs and partial payment. He was on the phone this morning about arranging garbage pick up and turning water to our name on Friday. His next call will be to the power company.

And yep, there is always something to go wrong. Looking under the new bathroom sink yesterday I found a small leak. Praying they repair that early this morning.

The tile work is underway in master bath, but not grouted or finished yet.

Oh tile man please finish my shower!

I finally got to see the flooring without cardboard over it. This is the view from the front door looking towards the sliding glass door. It had just been mopped, so no, it is not really shiny. And look! I got my brown front door instead of black 🙂

The screen door for the slider is torn. There is a lump in the guest room window sill they will sand down and redo.

Meanwhile Siesta Drive is becoming a box maze! Neither one of us is allowed to ask “Where is …?”

So pray for us to keep our sense of humor and patience, especially with each other! Pray for safety for all those involved with moving our “stuff.”

We are so grateful for our many blessings. I saw a sign at Hobby Lobby that said “Crazy Blessed.” Yep! that’s me.

Influencer

Can you call to mind people who have impacted your life in simple ways? Do you remember how they showed their faith? What do you recall about them?

When as an adult, I first had an intense experience with the Risen Christ, the priest at the Episcopal church did not know quite what to do with me. He did know who to refer me to though! Mary Dirkse quickly became my spiritual mom. My birth mother had already died. In fact, grief over that loss is what sent me to the Lord, seeking His comfort as I anguished over missing her.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

Mary did simple things for me. She would listen to my woes without correcting me or throwing out trite sayings into my tumult of grief. When I became pregnant with our son I was So Very Nauseous the entire nine months. Mary would fix me an egg, cooked thoroughly, put it on buttered toast and urge me to try to eat. Her fixings always stayed down. After the delivery of my first child I was nervous and frightened about climbing onto the delivery table for another C-Section, wide awake. Mary and others prayed me through the experience. To this day she continues to pray for our son.

When I was eager for more of Jesus, she took me to a Women’s Aglow meeting. I continued going to those monthly meetings for ten years, eventually holding some of the offices to keep the local meeting afloat and operating smoothly. I met many Spirit filled women who inspired me to surrender myself to Jesus.

When Mary moved from Ohio to Wisconsin I was so saddened. After her husband passed she moved to Washington state to be with her children. Mary SHOWED me the love of Jesus. She would play her zither and sing worship songs with me. I was enchanted. Mary simply loved God and was willing to share that love in any way the Lord required.

We often shared the parallels of raising toddlers and teenagers. So much alike, yet so different in size, language and body maintenance.

Who has the Lord sent into your life to influence, guide, encourage and show the ways of Christ? I hope you have someone to nurture as Mary nurtured me. If you are not nurturing anyone, ask God who He might like you to reach out to with His light and love. Yes, she lives very far away now. We do try to email and share cards on occasion.

Mary, if you are reading this, I have no more words except thank you from the bottom of my heart for your inspiration, guidance and continued intercession. You certainly pulled a grieving young woman from the waters of sin and confusion. May the Lord bless you abundantly for the multitude of ways you have served Him during your long and fruitful life. I love you.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Titus 2:3-5