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.

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.

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.”

Church Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, November 7 we were invited to attend the 25th celebration of the Milford Vineyard church. We were glad to do that and looking forward to seeing old acquaintances. The church had moved to a newer location since we attended there.

There were many familiar faces and a few names I could not remember to go with those faces. Ugh. Perhaps the best was a greeting as I first walked in the door!

The conversation went like this. “Oh hello! I was just thinking about you this morning. I am so glad to see you. Look! She was my FIRST prayer partner!!” Jay H. was in joyous fine form and I was delighted to see him, too.

Once upon a time at Milford Vineyard I was in charge of scheduling the prayer teams for after service prayer and for prophetic communion. We had teams of two available after every service for intercession. Prophetic communion was a time when those teams would come together to pray over people. Some would come with specific requests but most were just seeking what the Lord would say to them. We did not believe we had a fast track to God, just were willing to listen and have the courage to speak into the lives of those who came forward. We tried to separate anything we knew about the person and just listened for what the Lord wanted to say. We always cautioned people to go to the Lord themselves with the things we said and seek His face and His voice. None of us were infallible. He is the best source for healing and guidance.

A friend told me she had a funny memory of me. Once when the pastor was going off on another of his endless rabbit trails I spoke up and said, “Come on! Finish up! We have other important things to do like communion and prayer.” She was impressed that I said it and thought it needed to be said.

Another woman pulled me aside at the end of the service. I did not recognize her with her mask on. When I asked her to pull it down for a moment I faintly recognized her. She wanted me to know she had recognized me and always remembers me as a strong prayer warrior. I thought, “Hmm, after all these years!”

I guess I made a stronger impact than I knew. After the service, one man said his daughter still has the baby blanket I made her. Once she even drew her bunny wrapped in the blanket. He wanted to show me the drawing but had difficulty finding it on his phone. I gave him my email and told him he could send it when he found it. I would delight to see it!

It was a good reunion. It was wonderful to worship in the Vineyard tradition. I miss that sort of worship where I can enter into His presence and find mercy, grace and rest. We sang the following song, Another one of my favorites!

Sweetly Broken Jeremy Riddle

Overflow Perhaps Unseen?

My husband thought that since only a few read this perhaps it did not post correctly? So here is a re-posting. Hope it helps you overflow.

As if in a canoe, I hit a hidden boulder. And just like that I could not write. Capsized. Nothing. No ideas, no inspiration, just tears of frustration over an ongoing situation. Eventually I just got in the car and went out. Thought it was better than stewing and stumping over what to do next. I still felt guilty about not writing.

This morning I remembered Streams in the Desert, September 3. And he saw them toiling in rowing (Mark 6:48).

Straining, driving effort does not accomplish the work God gives man to do. Only God Himself, who always works without strain, and who never overworks, can do the work that He assigns to His children. When they restfully trust Him to do it, it will be well done and completely done. The way to let Him do His work through us is to partake of Christ so fully, by faith, that He more than fills our life.

“A man who had learned this secret once said: “I came to Jesus and I drank, and I do not think that I shall ever be thirsty again. I have taken for my motto, ‘Not overwork, but overflow‘; and already it has made all the difference in my life.”

“There is no effort in overflow. It is quietly irresistible. It is the normal life of omnipotent and ceaseless accomplishment into which Christ invites us today and always.
–Sunday School Times

Not overwork, overflow. So I return this morning to the keyboard and screen praying for overflow. My straining effort does not produce anything worth reading. Help me, Lord to flow around that boulder and create something live giving. The Spirit brings me an idea, but it is up to me to develop the idea and work to make it clear. No, things are not just dropped into my head fully written. But this work is different than striving, straining and driving effort.

Equip me as you did Rainer Marie Rilke to say unsayable experiences clearly that others might love You, too.

1990 Retreat

Here is another way the Lord communicates with me.

April 27, 1990 Friday, Milford Jesuit Center Walking along Little Miami river bank. During a retreat I took a prayerful walk. Quieting myself I was walking slowly and trying to just see what the Lord wanted me to see.

The first stone I was led to pick up looked like a bone. I  seemed to hear this Transient life is passing away and in time will cease to exist. Transient: passing through or by a place with only a brief stay or sojourn.

Porous stone that represents words – air vibrating through vocal chords Transubstantiates words to stone. Change in another substance. Cannot be recalled once spoken.

A caramel stone that lets light in translucent – light shines or glows through it … admitting and diffusing light. Help me to be translucent with Your light.

Gold glitter in pink stone. The serendipities of life. Life as a serendipitist – one who finds valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Show me Your joys Lord.

Hard brown stone of unforgiveness. Impervious to light, not permitting penetration by light or passage. Incapable of being influenced or affected. Impenetrable – inaccessible to knowledge, reason, sympathy. NOT to be moved by logic or persuasion.

And then I saw one more. A stone that had angles on it. I bent to pick it up and it was actually buried in the soil. As I dug around the stone to unearth it discovered it was very large, like the stone the angel rolled away. Indeed, it represented to me the resurrected Christ who makes all the other stones pure and good and holy. This transient life will be transformed into eternal life with Him. The words transubstantiated into rock  that cannot be taken back can be forgiven. The translucent light He shines through my life will one day become the light of heaven, where we do not need sun or moon or stars for light, (REV 21:23-24) The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. The serendipities of life will become everlasting joy (ISA 35:10, 55:11, 60:15 and 61:7). Unforgiveness is changed by forgiveness in Christ. As He has forgiven so should we. (EPH 4:32)

Yes, the large stone, the resurrection of Jesus and His triumph over the grave, death and sin are ours. We must remember and celebrate that! I eventually found a plastic statue of Jesus with His arms raised in victory to put with the large stone.

Several times over the years I have misplaced the small stones. April 19, 2011 I searched the house for the plastic resurrected Jesus and placed it on the mantel with the stone. “I put Him on the mantel once again with the stone the angel rolled away. I need to find the journal where I wrote about the discovery of that stone – at Milford, near the river, and the impact on me as the Lord sent me picking stones one by one, as He used them to teach me. Yes, Lord, I am Yours.”

I keep that large stone as a reminder to me of His amazing work on our behalf. And yes, I keep the plastic statue to remind me His work is ongoing, even in me.

David had 5 stones in his bag as he faced Goliath.

In 1 Samuel 17:40 it says, “Then he {David} took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.”

I believe with these six stones {David did not have the benefit of the resurrected Christ} I can conquer challenges in my life, and so can you!

Grocery Parking Lot

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:2

21-20-21 Journal Entry

At the store I departed with my mask still on. As I headed towards my car I noticed a man in the handicapped parking slowly getting out of his van. A motorized wheelchair cart was close by, but not lined up with his door. As he put both of his metal crutches outside the van I asked him if he was aiming for the cart? He said yes and I offered to get it closer to him. He said sure. Those things are difficult to drive. I got it close, though not close enough in my estimation. I decided to stay with him while he got situated.

This man was morbidly obese, wearing a tractor company ball cap, suspenders over his t-shirt and very old, torn jeans. Theses jeans were so old they had barely any blue color left to them. The top of the pockets were torn as was the waistband. As he very slowly stood I encouraged him to take his time until he could get his legs under him. His van windows were open. There was change all over the console.

He began to tell me that he lives on a farm, but is no longer able to farm the land. He asked if I would mind checking one of his suspender clamps in the back. Said his van seat often knocks the clip undone when he gets in. I told him that would be fine, as my husband sometimes wears suspenders, too. His were intact.

As he maneuvered to the wheelchair cart, I noticed there was a checkbook on the console of his van. I asked if he would like me to hand that to him. He said yes. I responded we don’t want to just leave that out here. He had difficulty getting the checkbook into his pocket. Turns out his pocket was full of bank envelopes that looked as if they might contain cash. Through the tears in his jeans I could see the bands for an adult diaper. He seemed so frail that I decided to remain with him until fully seated.

I had passed a tremendously long line at the pharmacy. I made certain he was not headed there, as the drive through window might be a better choice for him. He was not going there. He assured me he had his mask with him..

He has always lived on a farm he said. I asked his favorite part of farming. He used to farm tobacco, though he never used it and never drank either. But tobacco was his money crop. He also used to help his dad milk golden guernseys. He is no longer able to farm. I asked if he leased out the land for others to farm. He said yes.

A group of Guernsey cows in pasture photographed at close quarters

.Finally on the seat,  it took him a few motions to get situated firmly.  He put his crutches in the basket. I wished him well. Told him to stay safe. Saying, “This Covid is nasty stuff and killing people.” He replied, “I know.” He thanked me for my help. Placing my hand on his shoulder I asked God to bless him

This was certainly a God appointment. My timing at the store, my departure from the store, his arrival at the parking lot in a space nearby mine.. none of that was coincidence. Stay with us both Lord Jesus, I pray.

This might just be “Paying it forward.” I too have had crutches at times and drove one of those carts in stores. It is no fun. But thank God for those luxuries when one is frail!

As I walked to my car I wondered if indeed I had entertained an angel unaware of Who he was?

Power in Listening

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

“Come, all you who are thirsty,

    come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

    come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

    and your labor on what does not satisfy?

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

    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;

    listen, that you may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

    my faithful love promised to David.

Isaiah 55: 1-3

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

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

I was hit like the Memorex man!

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

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

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

Journal Entry, Pony Bit

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

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

Here is a scan of the journal entry.

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

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

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

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