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.

Love This Art About Giving Thanks

Leprosy was a dreaded disease in Jesus’ time and still exists today. The World Health Organization site at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy says “Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability.” Here is the story from Luke when there was no known cure.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 NIV

As they went, they were cleansed.” The healing was not instantaneous. Only one turned back and thanked Him. Are you the one who gives thanks?

James Christensen

“As he did with The Widow’s Mite, James Christensen interprets one of the Bible’s more powerful stories and presents us with an image of elegance, grace and beauty. At the same time he engages us in one of the higher promises of art: provoking thought. In fact, the art of reflection is at the core of the painting’s message.

“The Ten Lepers were a group of men cured of their disease through one of Christ’s miracles. Their tattered wrappings suggest what was, until this moment, their illness. Of the ten, nine are too preoccupied celebrating their new lease on life to think of anything else, much yet thank him. The tenth, at this moment, grasps truly what has occurred. He is the only one that returns to acknowledge the Master.

“This image provides an inspiring reminder to take a moment from our fast-paced world and reflect on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to take the time to show this gratitude.

Showing gratitude is important for our souls. As the commentator above stated, “Take a moment from our fast-paced world and REFLECT on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to the TAKE TIME TO SHOW THIS GRATITUDE.”

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

Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts is a wonderful book. Some of Ann’s teaching videos are now being carried on Right Media. In the afterword of her book Ann wrote:

“My gratitude journal is lying open on its permanent home on the counter, enumerating moments, making a ledger of His love. It is Chesterton who encapsulated the truth of my numbering life: “The greatest of poems is an inventory.” I grin happy in the midst. No, I’ll never stop the counting, never cease transcribing the ballad of the world, the rhyme of His heart. He and I, a couplet. Count one thousand gifts, bless the Holy One one hundred times a day, commune with His presence filling the laundry room, the kitchen, the hospital, the graveyard, the highways and byways and workways and all the blazing starways, His presence filling me.

This is what is means to fully live.

I have not made a permanent place on the counter for my gratitude journal. Part of me feels as if, “Oh! but I must!” I did once fill a journal with more that a thousand gifts. And now I have begun again.

Begin right now with me. Lord I thank You for the power of WordPress to reach people all over the globe. Be glorified in this blog I pray.

Lord, I thank You for the sun this morning though is only about 32 outside. I thank You for this lovely candle from Lori that Mara chose for me. Thank You for my new neighbor and friend being home for a few days.

Now you start ….. “Hey Mikey!

Yes, Bernini!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Stillness

I was humming this song one day and could not remember the words. This song has nothing to do with the Biblical Christmas story, but a great sentiment. I am usually trying to live Isaiah 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” We are called again and again to be still in His presence. So prone to run ahead and not wait for instructions from on high.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;

Psalm 37:7a

So in this busy season, hear this Austrian lullaby and Christmas carol from 1865 and try to rest in the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.

I often have difficulty getting to a place of stillness. Maybe listen to the song more than once? Though it takes practice, coming to a still point is SO VERY WORTH IT!

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.