How to Top the Tree?

Decision made! Honoring our Lord and Savior, King and Brother this year.

Newest ornament, wooden spool with angels on it from Kathy. Oldest ornament, blue egg carton bell, painted by Bob in kindergarten.

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NIV

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

Revelation 17:4

Advent word of the week is Hope. Here is a book idea from Intervarsity Press for your kiddos who like or collect poetry!

The “O” in Hope a new book

By Luci Shaw,
Illustrated by Ned Bustard

What do an orangutan, an ostrich, an orange, and the ocean all have in common?
They all begin with the letter O!
But other words also have an O―words like mouth or moon or wow,
and even the word hope.

“Combining a joyful poem from the much-celebrated poet Luci Shaw with playful cut-paper art created by Ned Bustard, The O in Hope helps us experience the goodness of God’s gifts of hope and love.

“This delightful book can be enjoyed by children and the adults who read with them. Also included is a note from the author to encourage further conversation about the content.

“Discover IVP Kids and share with children the things that matter to God!”

The “O” in Hope by Lucy Shaw

Hope has this lovely vowel at its throat.
Think how we cry “Oh!” as the sun’s circle
clears the ridge above us on the hill.
O is the shape of a mouth singing, and of
a cherry as it lends its sweetness
to the tongue. “Oh!” say the open eyes at
unexpected beauty and then, “Wow!”
O is endless as a wedding ring, a round
pool, the shape of a drop’s widening on
the water’s surface. O is the center of love,
and O was in the invention of the wheel.
It multiplies in the zoo, doubles in a door
that opens, grows in the heart of a green wood,
in the moon, and in the endless looping
circuit of the planets. Mood carries it,
and books and holy fools, cotton, a useful tool
and knitting wool. I love the doubled O
in good and cosmos, and how O revolves,
solves, is in itself complete, unbroken,
a circle enclosing us, holding us all together,
every thing both in center and circumference
zeroing in on the Omega that finds
its ultimate center in the name of God.

My prayer is that you honor the Omega in all your 2021 celebrations!

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

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.

Celebrating US!

We met in July. Got engaged in August. Married in September. And yes, we are STILL married 51 years later. Sunday was the day.

And we love to tell people we are still working on our relationship! This was our first song.

Perhaps some of the middle years, but even today I need to dance with him on this one!

And this perhaps our latest. Bob picked this one out!

Yes, there have been years of joy and years of struggle. Times of forgiveness and mending. Words fail me after 51 years of experiences. Robert Dutina is truly the love of my life!

Did I tell you this marks 51 years of marriage completed?!?!?!

Emily Kathryn

Continuing my life with and without God, two weeks after my mother’s death and after 32 hours of labor, Emily Kathryn was born by emergency C-Section. They gave me total anesthesia. I could barely open my eyes to tell her hello.

In keeping with my confirmation in the Episcopal church, the older version of The Book of Common Prayer has a wonderful little service called the Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth (commonly called the Churching of Women). That ‘commonly’ name seems beyond weird to me. Regardless, I wanted Bob to pray this with me after our first child was born.

The newer version of the Prayer Book calls this ‘A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child.’ This version asks for the presentation of the child to ‘the Church to be welcomed by the congregation and to give thanks to Almighty God.” We were not attending church regularly so we prayed the service together in the hospital room.

For A Safe Delivery

O gracious God, we give You humble and hearty thanks that You have preserved through the pain and anxiety of childbirth Your servant Molly Lin, who desires now to offer You her praises and thanksgivings. Grant, most merciful Father, that by Your help she may live faithfully according to Your will in this life, and finally partake of everlasting glory in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer
Emily Kathryn Photo by r mdutina

Yes, the Father certainly had my attention. Within a few months we moved back to the Cincinnati area. I continued to grieve. Bob was working second shift at Clermont Mercy hospital. We would work all day on our house and then he would go to work. I was not coping terribly well.

One night while grieving I told God, “You promised that You would comfort those who mourn. Where is my comfort?”

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

I clearly heard Him tell me, “You have tried life your way. Are you are willing to try it My way? “

I called my Episcopal priest the next morning. He did not quite know what to do with me. He called Mary Dirkse and she came to visit. A wonderful pseudo-mother/daughter relationship was born. She listened to my heart. She shared her faith with me. She took me to Women’s Aglow meetings where I eventually received my prayer language again. She took me to Bible Study at Linda Werner’s house.

Mary and I compared the attitudes and tantrums of my two year old with her teenagers. When I became pregnant with our son she coaxed me to eat during the morning sickness. Cooked me hot hard-boiled eggs and served them on buttered toast. Sat with me while I slowly ate. She helped me pray for the courage to get up on the delivery table and be awake for my second C-Section. Though she lives in Washington State now and I remain in Ohio, we are friends to this day.

Yes, I was comforted. I was comforted in ways I could not imagine. When my mother died she was a full-blown alcoholic. Years later I read “Co-Dependent No More.” I bought my sister a copy saying, ‘They lived in our house. They got in our heads. They wrote it all down.’ I had no idea that millions of other families had experienced what we did growing up.

Likely MORE than 4 million sold by now!

I eventually attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I did writing workshop workbooks to learn more about alcoholism. I prayed it would end in mom’s generation. It did not end in her generation, but I learned so much about how to go on with my life and serve the Lord in the midst of that upbringing.

Emily brought us great joy and delight. She still does to this day. Jeff’s birth was so different than hers. We rejoiced over his good health and home coming.

The Kids photo by r m dutina

By then we were established in the Methodist church. Bob had not liked the Episcopal service with the up and the down, the flipping back and forth in the Book of Common Prayer. So we agreed to worship at the Methodist church.

So Off I Went

Finally off to college and the world of learning, lust and various forms of sin. I participated in quite a few of those. After one year at college I ran out of money. People were telling me I could eat peanut butter and get a degree with debt at the end, or I could go to work. I chose to go to work.

Got an apartment, full time job as a key punch operator and was on my own. My mother was calling me every day. When she was questioning me one day about where I had been the night before I had quite enough. She had called. I was asleep and never heard the phone. This was way before answering machines. My boyfriend had left for California. I started contemplating moving there to help Mom cut the apron strings. Found out I could have a job as a nanny if I wanted it.

Soon I was off to California to work full time as a nanny to a Chinese family. There was not much sign of Christian life in me at the time, though I had kept my prayer book and Bible. I went into somewhat of a depression trying to reconcile what had happened to my life in Cincinnati. The niece I never knew was put up for adoption immediately upon birth. My family was splintered.

Peet’s Coffee

The best part of Berkeley California was I worked across the street from Peet’s coffee shop. They roasted coffee every day. What a glorious aroma!! After a few months I broke up with the boyfriend. Eventually I changed jobs and went to work at AAA as a touring counselor. It was fun. I even waited on Ray Kroc once, the owner of McDonald’s. I thought he was teasing me about being the owner.

While enjoying the park one Saturday I met a young man named Don William. He introduced me to his roommate, Bob. Bob was only coming to their shared apartment on weekends. He lived in Fremont with his family of origin during the week because he worked with his dad even further south near San Jose. It was literally love at first sight.

We met in July, got engaged in August and married in September. We only waited until September so the people from Ohio could get there. I knew I wanted to be married in the eyes of the church as well as the state. So we began prenuptial meetings with a priest in Oakland. The priest agreed to do our wedding out of doors at Live Oak park in Berkeley. He just wanted assurance that we planned to wear clothes! It was 1970 and a bit wild in Berkeley those days. I chose the park because I knew God was much larger than any church building.

I had a gown I had purchased for $30 from a used clothing store and had altered for $30 to fit me. Bob wore the jacket his mother had purchased at a yard sale for his high school dances. We made all the plans we could before my mother arrived from Ohio.

Bob waiting for me.

It wasn’t until five years later that the Lord got my full attention.

As we now approach our 51st wedding anniversary, I am amazed at the joys we have shared over the years. We have supported each other in times of sorrow and difficulty, too. God has been so good to us. We are forever grateful to Him.

God’s Continued Lessons to Me

As a child I was dropped off at the Presbyterian church. Loved the choir director and the church school lessons. Not so much the worship services. When I was old enough I was allowed to walk to church by myself. There were times I skipped church and went to the park. There I would talk to God and sing to God. On occasion I would find myself “singing in the Spirit” though I did not know at the time that was what it was called. I just wanted to tell the Father how much I loved Him.

Robeson Park now called Kennedy Heights Park, Kennedy Heights, Cincinnati, Ohio

What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.

1 Corinthians 14:15

As a young adult I was finally exposed to that teaching. I had never told anyone about my childhood experience because I had never heard anyone do that sort of singing or talk about that as a possibility.

For a while during the Charismatic movement there were a few churches that actually participated in that sort of singing. These days the churches I have recently attended do not have singing in the Spirit, with or without interpretation.

You may know my story about singing in the Spirit while washing the dishes one day? My children were doing their homework at the dining room table nearby. My son finally asked, “Mom, is that how you sing in cursive?” I told Him I supposed so!

I figured since Paul said we should ask for things from God I could believe God would give me the things I needed. Those requests included the gifts of the Spirit. As an adult I have to remember to pray in the Spirit or sing in the Spirit. This is part of my discipline as a Christian woman. It is so easy to get gobbled up by the things of the world and forget the power our Lord bestows through His Spirit. Worship Him, with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Wish I had Remembered a Camera!!

We had two open house parties this past week and I forgot to have a camera ready for either one of them! Drats.

The first was an open house Wednesday afternoon for my friends from the Union Township Crochet and Knit group. Following day after day of summer sweltering heat, we had a tremendous downpour right at party time. Most guests waited in their cars for the storm to abate. Even at that when they came in they were wading through the full gutters along the street. As usual, there was much laughter and sharing. After touring the house we settled down for a small lunch with Jimmy John’s third cut sandwiches, chips, cookies, lemonade, water or iced tea. No one drank coffee. We had fun opening our home and sharing with this joyful bunch!

Then on Sunday afternoon we had another larger group. We invited 37 and about 27 showed. This group was comprised of neighbors from our old address, friends from our church of the last ten years, people Bob used to work with and others who had not seen our home yet. It was a rowdy bunch. We had lemonade, tea, bottled water, cookies and York peppermint patties. Some folks stayed the whole 2 hours. Others came and went at their leisure.

The last half hour we were left with a table full of friends who are all strong Christians. About then I realized our friends who have an adult daughter who has been ill for over 16 months had not arrived. Someone mentioned the serious turn for the worse that her health had made. Another read a prayer request for her that had arrived in the last hour on their phone. I was stunned as if someone had slammed me against the wall. One person suggested we pray right then and there as a group on her behalf. And we did. One man mentioned how we could all go from rowdy laughter at one moment to solemn intercession the next. Such a clear example of the Christian life. I was so grateful to have all those sweet folks praying with us for her at that moment.

How fitting that this house that we believe belongs to God and is on loan to us, was suddenly transformed into a prayer altar on Mindy’s behalf. Please, please pray for Mindy, her husband and children, her parents and siblings. These folks are exhausted and in need of encouragement and prayers on their behalf.

So I have no photos to share with you, but hope from the words you get an idea of our week of celebration. I failed to put “No gifts” on the invitation and people brought gifts that about overwhelmed me. Bob is out buying thank you notes now. We are blessed beyond measure.

Hurricane Ida is supposed to bring rain to our part of Ohio this week. Though our hearts are heavy for the people on the Gulf coast, we are grateful Bob will not need to water the sod and plants. Weather will likely delay the start of our deck being built, but we can wait. Ryan homes is also supposed to begin digging a drainage ditch across three lots (ours included). Hopefully that will clear up the standing water and let us use all of our lot instead of avoiding the last 5 feet due to marshy soil.

Online I did find a photo of the Hallmark invitations we used!

Locally Sourced Locally Made

My husband reads the newspaper daily. He finds all sorts of things in Cincinnati to do and see and taste! A few months ago he read about a local cheese company. We tried several times to visit and never seemed to arrive there at times or days they were open. We recently made a concerted effort and were able taste and enjoy!

Urban Stead Cheese company is located on Woodburn Avenue in Cincinnati. We had seen their truck traveling to Highland County to get fresh milk for their endeavors.

For details about obtaining the milk, testing and transporting it see https://www.urbansteadcheese.com/

Here is a photo similar to the charcuterie board we ordered, though ours was smaller. Wish I had taken a photo. Frankly, we were so pleased by it’s appearance that neither one of us thought to snap a photo! We simply began tasting and savoring.

In urban lingo street cred means credibility, reputation, acceptance and respect. Urban Stead has made their logo “Street Ched” to emphasize their production of Cheddar cheese.

One of the most unusual things for me was their “Quark.” This is a German type of cream cheese.

Another logo is “Cheddar for the better.” It was not an inexpensive date, but so tasty! And yes, we bought some cheese to take home.

80th Birthday for an Acquaintance

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Prayer For Those Growing Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 7:3-5