Faced With ….

“Faced with demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. Faced with brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. Faced with despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” -ROBERT EMMONS

Demoralization: The pharmacy workers where I get my prescriptions are exasperated by the rudeness of the public. The pharmacist cannot figure out if it is this prolonged pandemic or the way society has given up on being polite? Some of the techs have even quit. Some of the workers that are most experienced have had to leave to provide child care for their children. The new employees are green and new. They need time to find their way through the insurance mazes and medicare technicalities.

So we took them three balloons and a dozen donuts. On the balloon shaped like a gold star I wrote “Be kind.” Really, kindness does not cost us anything. Hopefully our gratitude towards them with energize them in their work.

Brokenness: Well I have a friend whose daughter is terribly ill. For several weeks they did tests and scans and more tests. Finally the surgeon said okay. He is very experienced and did the “Whipple” procedure. She had a tumor wrapped around several organs. The first few hours of the surgery went well and were done robotically. Then he found the tumor had almost completely blocked an artery and some veins around her liver. When they called in the vascular surgeon he had to open her belly. When it was all over, she had endured something like 14 hours of surgery. She remains in ICU. They had to remove part of her stomach, part of her intestines and part of her pancreas. There is great concern over the length of time her organs were exposed. She and her husband always like to watch Monty Python and have memorized many of the lines. When her mother finally got to speak to her on the phone the patient quoted the movie where they were loading bodies during the plague. One man being carried out lifted his head and said, “I’m not dead yet!” Both mother and daughter had a good laugh. This family has been broken and ground into a dust that now completely depends upon the Lord and His servant the surgeon. Surgeon said this was the worst tumor he had ever dealt with. Praise God, there is NO sign of cancer. The two teenage daughters are struggling with not seeing mom at all. Only husband can go in her room due to pandemic. She continues to get units of blood. This photo was taken the first time PT had her stand up. Still struggling with lots of pain. Father, help their gratitude heal their weary hearts, I pray. Heal her and strengthen her I pray.

Despair: In this prolonged isolation and rapidly spreading pandemic we each need more gratitude to help us combat despair. To me, it seems this despair is being poured over the earth like hot tar. Robert Emmons says gratitude has the power to being hope. Are you familiar with the lyrics to “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?

His faithfulness will see us each through this weird year of 2020 and beyond. Gratitude can heal and restore us, energize us and give us hope. Find three things each day to give thanks for. Be kind. Give thanks.

When Did You Last Act Like A Kid?

During a recent rain shower I saw a child playing in a water-filled ditch. As a mom I first checked, and no, there had not been thunder or lightning that day. My second thought was how delighted I was to see her and how she reminded me of myself at that age. Once I found a crawfish in a puddle and brought it home as a pet. It was about 3/4″ long. I put it in the bathroom sink with a little water while I tried to find a container for its home. My sister unstopped the drain, not noticing my pet and all was lost. I was sad and mad. Fast forward to today!

“Maybe what God really wants are grown-up kids who dance in the puddles, who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, who dare to ask why a whole lot. Maybe we are far too proper. Maybe it’s time to take a page from Dainty doodlebug’s story and give in to the way we’re created to live—for our sake and for the gospel. Little else is as compelling and glorious as a giddy child, mud-covered and grinning, because they know how loved and safe they are even while thunder sounds in the distance.”

Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst

Giddy child of God, relax and enjoy creation again! Don’t those boots just remind one of Mike Powell?

“You were made from dust and to dust you shall return.”

Genesis 3:19

“Dance in the puddles, get your hands dirty, ask why a whole lot more.” Recently I had the opportunity twice in one week to counsel two different women on the fact that we are allowed to get angry with God. He can take it! He would much prefer we be genuine with Him than pretend some sort of proper piety. After all, He reads our hearts and knows our thoughts and our words before they cross our lips.

 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

Psalm 139:104 NIV 2011

Why not make an effort this week to get real with God? And if you have the opportunity, try jumping in a puddle, just for fun!!

Compare and Contrast

I took this photo on June 27, 2020.

Local cornfield.

And these photos on July 31, 2020. Same corn field!

Tried to get same tree perspective for your comparison!
What a grass!

Other things have been growing, too. I have never tried to grow a Hibiscus, but some around here do. One person had a ditch full of pink, white and red ones! This is one Lucky and I found while walking the street.

And another

I think the red is my favorite!

Remember this photo of the milkweed from May 14th?

Look at it today! The tall ones in the back are about 5’8″!

Big guys in the back!

Has your spirit grown and prospered so far this year? Are you feeding upon the Word of God?

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,  but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV2011)

Getting Worse

In March I was horrified when the death toll from Covid-19 in America reached over 700. In April 100,000 to 200,000 deaths were predicted. The AMA came out with guidelines for doctors in the event there is a ventilator shortage – how to decide who gets one, i.e., who lives and who likely dies. What an awful thing to have to decide.

Now the deaths in America due to Covid-19 are over 144,500+ and cases are rising rapidly in almost every single state. We are seemingly getting callused to the numbers. Do we numb ourselves as a way to cope with the staggering power of this virus? So many families grieving. So much loss of life and work and pay and rent. We could not have imagined this one year ago in this day and age. I heard the economics being compared now to the Great Depression.

We need one another now more than ever. We need the Lord Jesus Christ to touch us by the power of His Holy Spirit now more than ever. I have spent months going through the stages of grief and found myself lately bordering on the stage of acceptance. This might really kill my husband or myself or a family member. Gratefully, our daughter, who tested positive for the virus, is so far only suffering a fatigue that she cannot shake. Praying she regains her stamina soon.

I cannot afford to live in a fantasy that this will be over in a week or two. This virus is real and it is killing people. Many people.

I honestly cannot remember if I shared this before, but here I go. I use a meditation app that provides either nature sounds, guided meditation prompts or just a timer for meditation. It is called Insight Timer. There is one presenter named Andrew Johnson who leads a meditation much like one of my counselors used to do with me.

Every time I work with Andrew I seem to arrive at a different place with a different lesson. On April 28 of this year I followed Andrew’s instructions as he took me to what he calls “a favorite place” – it was fog so dense I could not see. Moist sweet fragrance, and nothing but fog.

I was impressed by my lack of control and direction. Eventually I saw the Lord’s hand extended to me. Knew I was to follow and cling to Him. (Abide). He is in control of this journey. I do not need to know where we are going. I need to cling to His hand and abide with Him. It was eerie but also a comfort to let down my shoulders, release myself into His care. Be content to be His and go along with His plan.

The photo below is NOT the best, but a great memory.

This statue at the Oklahoma Cowboy Museum gave me pause. Was this some terrible joke upon Native American men what with the parasol and tassels? To reach them here is their link. https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/ and the actual title is the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

When I walked around to the side of the statue my opinion of the sculpture changed drastically. The sun was not kind to my photo.

He is shielding her!

I cannot decide if it reminds me more of my husband of almost fifty years (YEP, I typed that right. 50!) or my Lord and Savior. He too shields me and asks only that I abide and trust. Abide, remain, stay joined, live in – how easily we often get distracted and wander. Lord, help us to abide in You.

As time moves on towards our anniversary and our birthdays none of us know what the future holds. I do know Who loves me best and who on earth loves me the most!

 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:11 NRSV

But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

Psalm 3:3 NIV2011

Call upon Him. He is able to keep us no matter what befalls us.

Miss Muffett © 1982 Molly Lin Dutina

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

                I saw the devil as a decrepit, weasand, impotent old man, stooped over, no strength in his backbone, but malice in his eyes. He worked his way up an open-stair metal ladder to the catwalks along the lights above a stage.

                I sat on the stage in finger curls and white eyelet ruffles looking much like the storybook picture of Miss Muffett. I was happy, contented and apathetic (having or showing little or no emotion).

                Using seemingly his last ounce of strength, this old impotent being reached the spot on the catwalk above me which he had chosen as his point of power. From inside his dirty trench coat he pulled a marionette – it was a hideous, hairy spider with spindly octopus-like legs and invisible strings. The catwalk was edged with a railing made of steel tubular pipes. He rested his weight upon the cold steel, too weak to stand on his own. He dropped the marionette half-way down and adjusted his hands in the wooden frames that controlled the strings for moving the spider’s body. Then he dropped the spider all the way down, near my face.

                As I caught sight of the hideous hairy spider from the corner of my eye, apathy fled, and emotions stormed over me. The spineless, weak being up in the catwalk had little strength to hurt me, but he chose to use my own power against me. I flailed out in fear and anger and my actions made that spider jump and fly through the air with more energy than the old fart could ever have put into it.

                At that juncture, the loving voice of my Lord broke into the scene and said, “Molly Lin, the spider is fear. It has very little power on its own. But you give it your energy by flailing and struggling and assuming it is more powerful than it is. Think through this same scene and SEE that had you chosen to sit still and watch that spider, it would have dangled from strings and been as impotent to harm you as the one holding its frames. He has no power over you unless you give it to him. Fear is a choice!”

                My life has never been the same. I am not always fearless, but I do know that when fear comes I can choose to have it go. Seeing things in a new way … choosing another perspective or point of view … RESPONDING instead of reacting are all keys to maintaining my peace and experiencing the comfort and presence of my Lord Jesus.

“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.“

Psalm 34:4 HCSB

Perhaps the title should be “Don’t Give Your Power Away.”

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10a

TobyMac

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

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

Freedom to Love Others

With all the racial unrest I felt it was time to express myself. When I was in first grade, Sharon McCreary’s house burned down. She lived near us. I urged my parents to invite her family for dinner. It was a no go. Her family was black.

We lived in Kennedy Heights, which at the time, was noted to be the most integrated neighborhood in the United States. I could not comprehend why we could not invite the McCreary’s for dinner. My mother was known to be a terrific cook and these folks were in need! Many years later I connected with Sharon. It was sweet to talk with her.

I always attended integrated schools. When I was in high school I was in the minority as a White Anglo Saxon Protestant. We were outnumbered by Black children and Jewish children. It gave me a chance to understand firsthand the dilemma of being a minority. I also learned how very different the Black culture was from how I was raised. And the Jewish culture bewildered me. I even visited the Temple on Plum Street around the time of one classmate’s Bar Mitzva or Bat Mitzva. (Coming of age ceremony.) It is a lovely building, but I almost asked where the cross was. Caught myself just in time before the question left my lips. I was/am so totally given over to Jesus that even at that age I could not comprehend not having Him in my life, or theirs.

In middle school Jackie Gibson gave me a 45 of the Duke of Earl. It was a great song and occasionally shows up today. He was a great fellow though a bit arrogant. He was also constantly teaching the entire class new dance moves whenever the teacher left the classroom. A nice Black fellow. There was a saying that it was better to live near a nice black family than white trash. I did not really understand the saying. I thought people were people regardless of color.

Cecil Williams was one of my favorite friends from school. He always had a kind word and seemed a gentle soul. He was Black. He lived with his grandmother nearby. Her front yard sloped down into a V and then back up to the house. She had a terrific garden with many hanging objects. I so wanted to go in her garden and into her house. I was never invited, but would have loved that. I heard years later from Sharon that he died very young.

I worked for a while at a residential rehab center for women called “Having the Courage to Change.” Lucretia and the gals were fine once they realized I was not a White do-gooder. I was hired as Lucretia’s assistant, taught a Bible study class and mentored some of the women. There were mostly Black women, but Brown and White women, too.

Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. People were enslaved regardless of color at that time. We know that was not the case in American history. Can we learn to love regardless of color or ethnicity? Can we accept that just as we are forgiven by God, sinners saved by grace, so are others? Do we understand that different people have different experiences within the same society, just as within the same family?

Galatians 5:1 New Living Translation says: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” I want to be set free and stay free to love each person who comes in to my life. I admit I sometimes have difficulty with the neighbor that totes his gun while walking his dog and threatens other dog owners. That seems rude. Yet, I am asked to love him. Some sections of the society say I must only love the ones who look like me and think like me. 1 Peter 2:8-10 (NLT2)  And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.  But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.  “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Perhaps He considers us royal Dukes and Duchesses.

No, I have not accomplished this kind of love. I pray the Lord will continue to grow me in acceptance of others, even others I do not agree with. Show us Lord, how to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Help us to be Your hands and feet on earth. You said they would know us by our love, not by our judgement of others. Help us to fulfill Your words, I pray.

Romans 8 Portion

Many years ago I made a retreat at the Convent of the Transfiguration. Bishop Gore was the speaker. He had taken a sabbatical and used the time to study Romans 8. He shared with us his translation of a portion. Read it below.

“His love is our security. And that love is so strong that nothing on earth can come between us and it. The sea of troubles that a Christian has to face, hardship and persecution of every kind, are powerless against it. For I am convinced that no form or phase of being, whether abstract or personal, not life nor its negation, nor any hierarchy of spirits, no dimension of time, no supernatural powers, no dimensions of space, no world of being invisible to us now, will ever come between Jesus and us now – will ever come between us and the love which God has brought to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Now and then, I just need to be reminded of this eternal truth. Be encouraged. Cling to this.

Wrought iron sculpture in Cleveland, Ohio (I think)

Retreat 2011

The theme was icons and how to use them for deeper communion and prayer. This is what I heard as result of that experience. Retreat ©2011 Molly Lin Dutina

“Yes, my dear, I AM the teacher
and so much I have yet to teach you.
You want to, now will you
incline your ear to Me?
 
“Will you turn your heart from
lesser things to feast upon Me?
Will you take My discipline and correction
that your soul may live in fatness?
 
“Christ, the Teacher, is the icon I AM
chose for you. I AM your Teacher.”
 
 
Yes, my Lord,
come and teach me.
Show me the discipline I need to embrace.
Help me to feast upon Your correction.

Ankle Monitoring

I heard a radio program a while ago about prisoners and release and ankle monitoring. The comment that struck me was the decision about electronic monitoring is based upon the “readiness to change level” of the prisoner. I have no idea what the criteria is for that, but it struck a chord in me.

This pandemic has changed our lives. I think many aspects have been changed forever. What is YOUR readiness to change level?

There are so many things that we in America CAN live without. Are we ready to release those things? Think about it! If your gateway to peace and freedom was based on what you were ready to let go of, what would you be willing to do differently?

Yes, I miss wandering through a grocery store and hitting the mark down bins for deals. I miss going into a grocery store period. But could I live without that experience? Yes, perhaps not happily, but yes. Not even mentioning other shopping.

Then the hot topics of social distancing and wearing masks. I heard about a woman who threw a sheet over her daughter so she could hug her safely. Yes, I am about ready to do that, especially with those Grandgirls!

April 3, 2020; Blue Ash, OH, USA; Cheryl Norton, of Blue Ash, hugs her daughter, who is an ICU nurse working the front lines during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 3, 2020. Norton so much wanted to hug her, so she put a covering over her so she could hold her tight, just for a moment. After this hug, Cheryl dropped the covering in the garage. It will lie there for three days before she washes it in hot soapy water. And she, of course, washed her hands. An involved process for a hug. Mandatory Credit: Liz Dufour/The Enquirer via USA TODAY Network

“An involved process for a hug.” Not too hard for me! I get it. Yes, I am thinking I need to wash the sheets I used to cover the plants when killer frost came through and keep them folded on the porch for when I CANNOT stand it any longer and need to hug!! Are you with me?

I miss our church family. When I recently heard one of our Pastors on our church YouTube Sunday broadcast pray, “Dear Gracious and Heavenly Father,” I nearly burst into tears. Just miss our family so much. My husband and I are both older and both have health risk factors. We may very well be the LAST ones to attend church when it reopens. I do know, I will spend eternity with these folks. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV2011)  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Stay calm as we all discover just how very much we need to change!