Epiphany

Generally in today’s culture we think of epiphany as when someone has an enlightening moment. When it is capitalized Epiphany is referring to the Christian holiday with several meanings depending upon your denomination. Today is the celebration of The Epiphany. We do not currently attend church because of Covid 19. We are members of a non-denominational church. My roots are in the Episcopal church which I chose for Baptism and Confirmation at age 15. I learned much about church tradition and prayer in the Episcopal church. I learned Scripture by following the Daily Office Scriptures through the publication “Forward Day by Day.” It is still in print and available in paper copy or online.

The celebration of Jesus being presented to the world is recognized when the Wise Men (Magi) arrived to honor Him and bring Him gifts. This is understood as the Presentation of Christ to the Gentiles, God in the Flesh, Immanuel, God with us. In the Eastern churches this is commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus. When we were traveling and visited Arches National Park I was stunned by this image of the Wise Men, created by the sun and shadows.

I have printed this photo and it holds a prominent place in our home. whether it represents the Magi or the Trinity, I never want to forget the power of God with Us – right here, right now.

The Book of Common Prayer lists this prayer for The Epiphany. “O God, by the leading of a star You manifested Your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know You now by faith, to Your Presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

As far as the presentation of Jesus this passage sums it up well.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him in his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now, Lord, You are letting Your bond-servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all the peoples: A light for revelation for the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Luke 2:25-32 NASB

Epiphany is celebrated and then the Episcopal church calendar counts celebrations for nine weeks called the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Second Sunday after the Epiphany, etc. right up to Ash Wednesday. May the arrival of the Revelation of Christ, His presentation to the world, enlighten our hearts and minds forever.

Christmas Holy

By the time you read this we will have had our celebrations with all our family members. A Christmas like no other, for certain! So how will we spend our Christmas Day? I hope we pray and rejoice and make an extra effort to draw near to the One born to bring us to His home for eternity.

We are building a house soon. They will not break ground on it until February. That has not stopped us from packing, and throwing things out, giving things away, paring down in a grand way. We watched my in-laws wait until they were quite aged to down size. It was hard on every person involved. When we got married 50 years ago we promised each other that we would do life differently than our parents. (Maybe everyone declares that?) So here is another example of us doing things differently.

So we are not 75 yet (i.e., not eligible for the Covid vaccine in the next wave of injections) but no sense in waiting until we are in our late 80’s or 90’s to decide to take on this task. I am comforted to know that when the Lord Jesus calls me home, there will be nothing to pack. I will leave behind the things of this earth and move towards His beckoning Voice. He will have my treasures there with Him.

We figure this new house will be our last home unless we need a nursing home at the end. Then our ‘graduation’ will bring us to “mansions in glory” a place prepared for us.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4 NRSV

As you open your Christmas gift treasures, we celebrate the fact that this earth is not our home. We are going to a place “where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:20-21 NLT2

A Favorite Memory

When our daughter was 3-1/2 years and our son a mere 6 months old, we were preparing to attend Christmas Eve service. I had done my best as a young mother to provide decorations and memorable things for our daughter’s third Christmas. I had even found a tiny creche set with a baby Jesus in the manger. He was about 1 inch long. My daughter was given her very first purse that year. I got her all dressed for church and then began getting our son ready. He was not one to be patient if he got at all overheated. Before he hollered over being bundled up we were out the door and in the car.

As our family settled in the pew, I noticed our daughter was holding something in her hand. I finally asked to see what it was, fearing some sticky candy or something. Slowly she opened her hand to show me. Turned out she had taken the tiny baby Jesus out of the manger scene while I was dressing our baby. She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and solemnly said, “I thought He ought to come, too.” I almost burst into tears!

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2 NIV

At The Sea

Oh that would be great, to be at the sea! My friend, Dan, recently posted that seeing a plane fly overhead made him sad. This pandemic is getting to those of us who are trying to stay well by staying close to home.

Pondering better days, I found this poem from 1997. I was absolutely and totally exhausted after our daughter’s wedding. She was our first child and this was our first family wedding. Bob promised to take me to the beach and here is the result of my time on the beach with my Lord. I hope it helps transport you to a place of no pandemic!

 
 At the Sea © 1997 Molly Lin Dutina 

 Distant silver horizon
 Birthed by Your Light
 Breaks through leaden skies
 Enlightens slate-colored seas
 Calls me to You
 Closer to You
 Given over to You
 Nothing withheld.
  
 And I yield to You
 To lie in Your arms
 Imbibing Holy Breath
 Entire being  - renewed.
  
 Your sparkling glow
 Moves rapidly across the expanse of water
 To here and now
 You surround me
             Uphold me
 Indwell me
 Live through me.
  
 How could I ever hesitate
 Preferring dim to illumined?
 You enlighten me
 Flaws, shortcomings,
 Weaknesses, strengths and all.
             Fact: You love me.
                         Fact: You desire me
 You declare I am Yours.
  
 Like sudden deep piles of shells
 Buried, unseen yesterday
 Revealed today by the powerful tide
 Your Kingdom unfolds before me and
 Yes, Lord, I yield
             Knowing You go with me
 And will arrive ahead of me
 You have my life in Your nail-scarred hands.
  
 Abiding under Your wing
 Your Light fills the throne room
 And I must close my eyes
 To bear Your brightness
 O, All-Powerful Lord,
 I refuse to doubt Your methods
 Your holy mercy endures
             As You bathe me 
 In Your everlasting Love.
  
 Come my King
 O Light Eternal
 Bring forth the treasure
 You have hidden within me
             As I embrace Your will
 Illumine me.
   

photo by r m dutina

Second week of Advent

October of 1993 I wrote the sentiment below as my earnest Advent Prayer. It still holds true now in December of 2020.

  
 
 
Self as Manger © Molly Lin Dutina 

 Here am I, stuff of earth
 But by the Spirit's power rebirth
 has brought me receptivity.
 Fill me with Yourself.
  
 Molded by Your Holy Hand
 I wait before You
 Cupped and ready,
 cleansed, atoned
 eager for Your radiant touch
 Virtue compelled to enfold Your own
 the vessel of Your making.
  
 Here am I, stuff of earth
 yielded for Messiah's birth
 be it unto me, O Lord,
 as in Your word and will.
  
 The Great I AM
 dwells in my heart
 there to impart the power
 courage and propulsion
 His dream to be fulfilled. 

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38a NRSV

The Sacrifice of Praise

Have you heard this term from Scripture?

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

Hebrew 13:15 NIV

In 1996 I wrote a poem about this and then revised it in 2014. I share it with you below.

 Crying in Front of the Dryer ©1996, 2014   Molly Lin Dutina  

 Praise! oh we do it most eagerly when things are going our  way
 Praise! oh we lavish it on those who have earned our approval
 Praise! when we get our own way, in line with our own will
 and then there are times of sacrifice.
 The Old Testament speaks often of sacrifices,
 burnt offerings, grain offerings, 
 sin, peace and trespass offerings. 
 Believers were told to offer those willingly.
  
 The sacrifice acceptable in God’s sight is
 the broken spirit and broken, contrite heart.*
 The Holy One says He dwells 
 with those who are contrite 
 and humble in spirit.
  
 Today there was a sacrifice of praise
 offered in front of my clothes dryer
 with a willing heart, broken and contrite,
 choosing to praise God
 although things were not going my way 
 or in line with my own will
 praise Him I did, tears running down my face
 and dripping off my jaw.
  
 For the first time in my life 
 understanding of the sacrifice of praise
 dropped the eighteen inches from my brain
 to my heart and into my soul.
  
 In myriad circumstances and happenstance
 there is rarely a day we receive 
 exactly what we desire.
 Every day we are told to sacrifice praise,
 give thanks, speak forth the wonders 
 of His love and mercy.
  
 Or we might simply choose 
 to clog our dryer 
 with the accumulated lint 
 of discontent, blame, disappointment.
  
  
  
 *PS 51:17  

Sunday is …

… not what it used to be for our household. No church attendance in person. In fact, I feel as if I do not even belong to my church any more. If we were to walk into what was a typical February 2020 worship service this very day, I bet I would remember the stories of those I have prayed with but likely have forgotten their names.

Sunday is not the major part of my faith life though. I learned long ago that my relationship with Jesus is what holds me to His side. This poem from 1988 reflects that sentiment. I learned the phrase “center -down silence” from Richard Foster in his work “The Celebration of Discipline.” Foster says it refers to getting quiet in anticipation of drawing closer to the Lord.

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. 


I know the nautilus shell begins very small and grows larger as the animal grows larger. For me the nautilus can also be a useful image for the center-down silence: going from the busy, noisy world to the inner chambers of stillness and willingness to listen for the voice of the Almighty.

Try to center-down and listen

Organizer Cells

Berkeley Lab Study Image from Mark LaBarge
 
Organizer Cells  © 1996 by Molly Lin Dutina

 Standing in the summer moonlight
 Evening breeze cools fevered limbs
 Wondering the next stage of my journey
 As You lead, my obedience takes me where?
  
 Sense the shift in volunteer focus
 Sense the workplace soon to change
 Organizer cells in motion
 Metamorphosis soup enfolds.
  
 Love me into Your abandon
 Given wholly to Your ways
 Connected past, Contented present, 
 Future hopeful through holy Grace.
  
 Standing in the summer moonlight
 Frog-cicada-cricket songs
 Urge my soul to sing of ecstasies
 You have given, yet to come.
  
 Open wide my timid heart 
 Sheer relinquishment to Fidelity.  

Transparency with God

Sometimes we find it hard to bare our soul to God. This blown glass sculpture from Blenko glass reminds me of the importance of being transparent with Him. I wrote this during one of those times. I have always wished someone would set it to music. I hear the melody in my head, but have no skill to work it out!

 
Cry Then, Soul© 1996 by Molly Lin Dutina
 Somewhere in the knowing there is peace,
 Right there in the longing is a pull to draw near,
 Almost at the brink a hand reaches out to save,
 In response to the cry of our soul.
  
 Cry then, soul, out loud!
 Feel all your feelings.
 Declare to God every single thing.
 He's not repelled, He made you and
 He loves you.
 So speak with Him
 Through song or shouts of pain.
  
 Independence is the bane of our lives,
 Drawing near the bless`ed, chosen way;
 Narrow though it seems,
 Eternal vistas open forth,
 As we sacrifice with Holy trust and praise.
  
 Cry then, soul, out loud!
 Feel all your feelings.
 Declare to God every single thing.
 He's not repelled, He made you and
 He loves you.
 So speak with Him
 Through song or shouts of pain.
  
 Give Him all your shattered dreams and longings,
 Every vain attempt to take control;
 He alone is worthy of the powers we desire,
 He alone can save and make us whole.
  
 Cry then, soul, out loud!
 Feel all your feelings.
 Declare to God every single thing.
 He's not repelled, He made you and
 He loves you.
 So speak with Him 
 Through song or shouts of pain. 

Psalm 139:1-5 (NIV2011)  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.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Dispersal to Convergence

 Dispersal to Convergence ©1997 Molly Lin Dutina 
 
 As the sea anemone 
 does nothing of itself
 only opens to the water 
 flowing over and about it
 then closes - 
  
 So you are to rest 
 existing now as My being 
 -less focus on all doing
  
 I am always washing over you
 with truth, with love
 you have only to pull in
 your dissipated energies
 from dispersal 
 to convergence
  
 Focus on this stillness,
 these deep inhalations 
             of My Presence, 
                         of My Power,
                                     your restoration place.
  
 Let splashes of water
 be your call to join Me
 resting in convergent Love