Getting My Full Attention

After one year of marriage and living in California we moved back to the Cincinnati area. Bob had decided not to pursue Medical School, but to go for a degree in Medical Technology. At that time you needed 4 years of college, 1 year of training and then licensing before you could do in-house hospital work. The University of Cincinnati took all of their Med Tech students from their college enrollment. He searched further afield and found a Med Tech school in Lexington Kentucky.

When we were wed Bob made me promise we would not have kids until we were married 5 years. I reluctantly agreed. I have always loved babies. For the first 5 years it seemed that all I saw were pregnant ladies and newborn babies. Finally in Lexington we ‘got pregnant.’

On my due date my mother insisted on visiting us in Lexington. I told her the obstetrician was certain nothing would happen on that date, but she was determined. She came with a Styrofoam cooler of food. She wanted to go shopping. I could barely fit my belly behind her steering wheel to drive.

That night she died in her sleep. (Cerebral hemorrhage ran in her family.) Sadly, I found her the next morning. Bob checked for a pulse and we knew she was gone. It was quite shocking.

Shortly after Bob determined that indeed Mom was dead, I heard her voice repeating, “God works in mysterious ways.” She often said this. I believe she took the saying from a hymn by William Cowper written about 1774 and carried in most Protestant hymnals.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Within an hour of finding my mother dead I told Bob that in some ways it was such a relief. She had been determined to buy a playpen. She said when we came to visit in Cincinnati she would keep the baby and we could go out. I knew I could never let that happen and was going to find a way to tell her so that very weekend. My mother had some sort of personality disorder thing. It was not just the alcoholism. She would be fine, go in the bathroom and when she emerged have this distinct other personality. She was not in the bathroom long enough to get drunk. I would never have felt safe leaving my infant with her.

So, I never had to tell her something that I feared might kill her. I did have to raise my children without their Grandmother around.

The Lord has indeed led and guide me through my years. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Here is a contemporary version of the hymn with a few added lines.

You as Temple, as Altar, as Sanctuary

Can you practice this? You are no place near a church building. You want to worship the Lord. Are you aware that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1

Where are sacrifices offered? On an altar. What is an altar? “A place used for sacrifice, worship or prayer.” Why are you called a living sacrifice? You are to give your heart, soul, mind and strength to the Lord for His use … while you are here, alive and kicking.

Sometimes it’s tempting to imagine ourselves as the hero of a dramatic scene where we’re called upon to give an account of our faith. But in real life, every action and every moment of our lives is a witness—even the ordinary ones.

Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Even the ordinary moments are a witness! Even now …and now…

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Hebrews 13:15 NIV

Continually offer this sacrifice.

When I first read Brother Lawrence’s letters collected in “The Practice of the Presence of God” I knew I had hit gold. He never wrote a book, but someone collected his letters and advice. They have been handed down since 1666 and ring true in every age.

I have met countless people who tell me, “I don’t know if I am doing this right, but I just talk to Jesus about everything.” Wow. The sacrifice of praise in action. The temple of God on two legs. The altar active and alive in a living sacrifice. What more does that person need to know? Just talk to Jesus, listen to Him and obey whatever He tells you. Yes, what you hear must ring true with Scripture. It is advised that your guidance be in balance with overall Christian teaching. You yielding to Christ in everything is what He has always wanted from each of us. Carry on!

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.

I Was That Girl

Never really fit in with the “In Crowd.” Frankly, I never really cared to try that hard. When my Dad died (just ten days after I turned eleven), I went on a quest to replace him. Nothing and no one came close. Gradually I turned to the Lord and He has filled my every need. While others were scrambling to fulfill the ways of the world, I was usually in my room reading Scripture.

When I was 17 my family of origin blew up. My stepfather was by then entrenched in our lives. My mother was a full-blown alcoholic. My sister was pregnant. Having spent hours on my own studying the Word I was familiar with Psalm 27:10. This verse helped save my sanity and grounded me in His care.

If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.”

Psalm 27:10 RSV

I was ready to attend the University of Cincinnati, the age when most kids have some sort of family departure launch. Instead I was launched into being a Ward of the State until I turned 18. I left the organized church, not being able to reconcile what was happening in my life with the seemingly hunky-dory family lives at my church. I left church and I took Jesus with me.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me,
    uttering slanders against me,
my adversaries and foes,
    they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though a host encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life
,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple.
Psalm 27:1-4 RSV

What is this ‘house of the Lord?” We are told by Paul that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

As a child I was dropped off at the Presbyterian church. Loved the choir director, the church school lessons, not so much the services. They would read from the Scriptures “Bow down before the Lord,” yet no one did.

Come, let us bow down in worship,

    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker

Psalm 95:6

By the age of 14 I had never been baptized or confirmed. My mother refused to let me go to the Catholic church with my best friend. I had been introduced to the Episcopal Church. I liked the bowing down and prayer book and though the worship music was not the best, it would do. I made arrangements for my own confirmation classes. I was too old for the children’s group and too young for the adult’s group. I met with the the Pastor privately. I was delighted the day I was confirmed. Just delighted.

I will try to unfold my life with Jesus in the coming weeks. Hoping not to bore you. It is the story I can tell best because I lived it!

In Our Forever Home

The Open House parties are over. Almost every box is unpacked. Most of the photos are hung, though not all. This morning in an effort to express my heart I picked up a book by John O’Donohue called To Bless the Space Between Us. I ‘happened’ to open to “For Retirement.”

This is where your life has arrived, 
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart's desire,
To live the dreams you've waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.   -John O'Donohue

I have wanted for years and years to try to express my relationship with the Father through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Many times I almost gave up the notion of being a writer. And then the Spirit would kindle that fire in me once again, and I would begin again.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you

2 Timothy 1:6a NRSV

So here I am living in a community of mostly retirees. What is to pull me away from this calling? Well, almost everything of the world pulls me away. I need to be adamant about protecting the time I have set aside to write this blog. Sometimes I journal during my morning time of devotions, but even that can be disrupted by my own distractions.

O’Donohue wrote “Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire.” Oh, but will I? My courage still falters at age 70 and then 2 Timothy 1: 7 arrives:

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV

When I read the Bible Knowledge Commentary about this verse I was stunned: “

“But such timidity (deilias, lit., “cowardice,” used only here in the NT) has no place in God’s service. Instead God gives a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. These three virtues, each supplied by the Holy Spirit, should characterize Timothy.”

“Cowardice has no place in God’s service.” Come, Lion of Judah, infuse me with Your fearlessness. I will attempt to use the month of September to further explain what I mean by all of this. It is no easy thing to express divine interactions in words. Those interactions are almost immediately diminished in the effort. Yet the Father has given us the gift of speech and understanding. I will attempt to glorify the Trinity with my writing. “I will, with God’s help.” Lord, help me shun the things of earth and yield to Your call.

Everything Will be Alright

Been hearing this song. And then HEARING this song when the radio is not on so it was time to share with you!

At https://55promotion.com/music-spotlight/be-alright-by-evan-craft/the writer says: “Hey guys it’s Evan Craft. And I’m so excited to share with you my new song “Be Alright”. We actually wrote this song first in Spanish hoping to impact people around Latin America who were struggling with anxiety and depression. The response was so great that we decided to do it in English. So I called Danny Gokey and he said he wanted to be a part of it. We wrote this song and the lyrics were so powerful that I was crying in my kitchen writing them saying “Lord they say you hold the whole universe in your hands but my world’s falling apart like it is made of sand. Am I small enough to slip through the cracks?”

My home church has a terrible reputation of being awfully lacking at communication with the congregation about what is going on in our part of the Body of Christ. There was certainly NO improvement during the Pandemic crisis when the church meetings were curtailed. Even when services resumed, no improvement. As Bob and I continued to guard our health in preparation for moving we felt as if we literally had fallen through the cracks as far as our church was concerned.

We recently made the decision to leave that church. After 10 years of service it was a difficult decision to make. So the lyric about sand and falling through the cracks really hit me. We have not found a new church home yet, but feel certain that we will. With the rampant spread of the Delta variant we are reluctant to get out there in a small room singing with other people right now. For this period of time we are listening to various local preachers on line.

Take a listen. Then listen again. I remember my mom and her friend Norma singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” when I was a child. Still true today!

Charles Martin, Favorite Author

When I begin a Charles Martin book I know I will be staying up late to read. His work is just mesmerizing. I cannot close his books, even when very sleepy, without regret.

I recently read “The Letter Keeper,” second in a series about Murphy Shepherd. This man goes into situations of extreme danger to recapture girls and women who were taken against their will into the sex trade. The first in the series is “The Water Keeper.”

“If my life experience had taught me anything, it’s this: the wounds of the past carry a lot of weight when it comes to walking into one’s future, and if anything can rob you of now, it’s yesterday. We are really good at taking the pain of our past and projecting it into our future because it’s what we know, and yet our past has almost nothing to do with our future other than being connected by seconds. That’s it. So we face a choice. Either shine a light on yesterday and expose it, or forfeit the joy of now and the hope of tomorrow. I realize this is easier said than done, but left untreated, experiential pain becomes a fortress in our gut that houses a lie spoken by fear. And behind that fear is an idol of our own making.”

The Letter Keeper, Charles Martin

This wisdom applies to each of us. That first sentence alone might need re-reading several times! Then “Shine a light on yesterday and expose it” is right out of Scripture. The light of the Holy Spirit can bring forth things from the shadows of our soul to full exposure. Romans 12 says

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

When Paul writes bodies he is referring to the ‘totality of one’s life and activities, of which ones body is the vehicle of expression.” (from Bible Knowledge Commentary) The Father wants to make an exchange with us. Our trouble and sin from the past for joy and hope. When I present my body to Him (my all) He sees that as a living sacrifice. He finds that to be my holy and acceptable sacrifice to Him. Even the things I am ashamed of do not shame Him.

Charles Martin encourages us to not let the past rob the future. Wisdom indeed. Are there things you need to ask the Holy Spirit to shine light upon? Are there things you are holding back from the Father? Are you ready to open your hands and heart and release those things to Him?

He is waiting and ready to accept you and any baggage you bring. Let Him have every area of your life. You will not be disappointed in His plans for your future. I promise.

Spiritual Practice While Walking Lucky

While walking Lucky and trying not to be preoccupied with her, just looking around and trying to keep silent I happened upon

and

Even when I am not thinking about it, the pollen falls off the sunflower onto the leaf, the buds form, the bees work, the ants crawl along the underside of the leaf and over the petals, clouds roll past and all God asks is my attention and presence to Him. (Mind you, the sentences above are thinking, not just looking. I realize that.)

Pay attention. Still your inner chatter. Listen for His voice. In 1 Samuel 3: 10 it says, “The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.””

Frogs jump, crickets call, He leads me beside this man made pond, yet speaks to my soul, most times in spite of my chatter. If I am willing to quiet that chatter, His voice is especially impactful. The natural world unfolds without my input. For my inner being to grow my cooperation with God is essential.

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

Psalm 46:10a

An imperfect entry this. I just wanted to try to convey that God’s natural order goes on without my input. He has the power over that. The affairs of other people evolve without my input. He has the power there, also. He desires my attention, cooperation and presence in the affairs of my soul and spirit. He has given us free will and does not violate that. He asks the same from each of us. As Eli instructed Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:9, ask Him to speak to you and listen carefully!

Sue Monk Kidd

Many think her greatest writing is within some of the novels she has written and then allowed to be made into movies. I tend to think her self-revelatory book When the Heart Waits is her best EVER. Reviewing a few pages while writing a recent blog entry pulled me in again to her masterful discussion of how she stumbled upon the power of prayer in unmoving silence.

“Why couldn’t I pray? Why? I stood by the doors, watching the fog, everything in me hushed and unmoving. All at once I caught my reflection in the glass. I saw my posture silhouetted against the darkness. And it came to me in one of those grace-ful moments – I was seeing myself at prayer. I was praying. My still heart, my silence, the very posture of waiting against a backdrop of darkness was my prayer.”

She goes on to explain that she saw into the interior posture of prayer. “Such interior postures are themselves the prayers that transform, heal and yield the answers in our waiting.”

If you have followed my journey you perhaps remember me writing about Richard Rohr relating a lesson he was given on prayer from Fr. William McNamara. “Just look.” Not saying or doing anything, just look and let God open your heart and mind and soul. “Just look.” That is one powerful exercise. Try this for yourself. Practice it on random Wednesdays or when you take a walk. Just invite God to lead you. He will show up if we cut off the faucet of verbage.

Remember the old childhood song about stop, look and listen? We could use more of that in our Christian lives! Stop all the usual chatter in your brain. Look around you for evidence of God. Listen for the still small voice of the Spirit.

From the Inside Out

Inside Out © 1988 		Molly Lin Dutina		


I want to live from the inside out,
always within the center-down silence.
Having to struggle to get back 
is not the direction I choose.

Teach me, Lord, and help me 
know how to grow 
from the peaceful
sanctuary within.

Show me please where 
to refresh our love.
Give me attitudes that will unravel me
from the sin which so easily entangles.

Make me one with You, Lord,
so I will know 
how to be close 
to all that is around me.

Help me, Father,
and be glorified in my life.

Sue Monk Kidd says “This prayer isn’t about talking and doing and thinking. It’s about postures. Postures of the spirit…. Such interior postures are themselves the prayers that transform, heal and yield the answers in our waiting.”

The still point from which we live our lives. How do reach your still point. What does it take for your creativity from the Spirit to flow forth from you? Have you practiced that lately? Are you willing to do that this day? This week?