Prayer?

Well, truly not prayer for a burglar’s success from this movie of 1964! In 1991 I attended at retreat at the Convent of the Transfiguration. What follows is my journal entry.

 
Sister Margaret taught, “There aren’t any conditions of prayer. There are some things we can do to become more receptive to God. We can wait and desire God in hopeful expectation.” She taught about God’s Presence as a jewel, prayer as a treasured jewel.
 Then we had a time of meditation and prayer – meditative prayer. Winfield Blevins says, “In personal prayer we speak to God, but in meditative prayer we allow God to speak to us through His word and His Spirit.” {I would add that God speaks to us, too, through images we can relate to.}
 So during that retreat of November 1991 I envisioned and wrote: 
 “I see the treasure, as jewels in a case, the multi-faceted beauty of God’s love and wisdom.
 As in Topkapi, the lid is lifted 
 and I enter the treasures of His Glory 
 as a frog enters a pond.
 I go to what others believe is the bottom 
 and as I still my soul, 
 the treasure box opens 
 and I drop 
 as a stone 
 through the beauteous treasure of His wisdom and glory, 
 into the depth of His love.
 I may stop for a while
 but it is as if I am merely perched 
 on a ledge 
 for I have yet to comprehend 
 the depth or length or height 
 of His love. 
 I wait on that ledge,
 rooted and grounded in love 
 absorbing massive quantities of nourishment 
 silently.”
   

I rejoice over Your promise like one who finds vast treasure.

Psalm 119:162 HCSB

-you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17b-19 NRSV

Almost thirty years have gone past since I wrote that. I have learned so much about my God and prayer, yet I still have so very much to learn!

“The sword used by Roman soldiers was a short sword known as a gladius; and in the hands of a skilled man, it was a fearsome weapon. In fact, it became known as the sword that conquered the world. It was sharpened on both sides, making it lethal against an unarmored foe. The point was also sharpened, enabling it to pierce armor.

“Usually around 20 to 30 inches long, the gladius was not the medieval-style long sword usually associated with the armor of God.

“This Roman sword was light (around 2 pounds), short and designed to be wielded easily with one hand while the other hand grasped the shield. Its size meant it could be drawn in close quarters, and its sharpened edges made it a threat to any enemy who got too close.” -from lifehopeandtruth.com

Perhaps that vision of the dagger in Topkapi was not too far off! I saw the movie and twenty-seven years later one scene came in my meditative prayer time. I have never forgotten that experience. Now almost thirty years later I am typing this for you. And we marvel at the eternity of God!

Molly the Jumping Bean

When you were a kid did your parents let you order the Sea Monkeys advertised in almost every comic book of that era? Not mine. I might have had an ant farm once, unless that was my children? Can’t rightly remember. I did however have jumping beans. No idea where I got them, but they did jump. The ones that did not jump the kids in the neighborhood called duds. Now when I look up jumping beans on the internet they seem rather nasty and are not beans at all! Wikipedia, the know-it-all of earth, says Mexican Jumping beans are seed pods inhabited by the larva of a small moth. (Had she known, that would have made my mom say a resounding, “No!”)

Here is an entertaining two minute twenty-two second video coupling a Rube Goldberg set-up with time lapse photography and basic bean information.

This morning I woke up with agitation. I told Bob that packing and moving was a nice distraction from the pandemic, but now what? I was agitated and bored with all of this isolation and waiting to see who gets ill next. (My daughter has Covid for the second time and her entire family is infected.) The recent horror of politics is over for a few years, now what?

I had difficulty concentrating during my morning prayer time. I told the Lord “I am tired of doing this.” Almost immediately I realized this IS my life right now. So I need to make the most of this freezing rain, isolation, between was and is to be – this present moment is when my life is. Here. Now.

I have been using a new-to-me app called Calm. They provide meditations, music, ten minutes of relaxation (new daily) and BEDTIME STORIES. The stories are great and I rarely hear the end of a story! Recently I copied this quote from Calm: “The beginning is always this present moment.”

When I first read that I had to tell myself to soak that in. Live that out. The beginning is always this present moment. Quiet that jumping bean-like behavior. Be still in the shade of God’s Glory. Rest. “Oh Molly, be still. Rest, absorb, receive.”

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1 NIV

In a little while I began writing this blog again. Thank you to all of you who follow these ramblings! I am always amazed when Word Press shows me how many folks are following and where they are all over the world. I realize I am not the only one bored with the whole Pandemic and isolation situation. Praying perhaps what I write helps you to smile and occasionally to calm down.

The beginning is always this present moment.

Author unknown

January 1991

It must have been a warm day when I ventured into the Cincinnati Nature Center in January of 1991. I noticed these things at the Avey’s Run stream.

“The creek has cut a new route. The deep, dark, quiet pool has changed. With the force of last year’s rain the bank gave way and several trees lie intertwined in the water that was a pool. The force of the water has moved debris into a tidy four foot pile. The stream has carried sand and stone, changing the creek’s prior route into a narrow, almost dry channel. The water gurgles in joy over a few fallen branches as the flow takes a new direction.

“River of life flow forth in me. Gurgle in joy, splash with abundant life as I flow on in God’s river of love towards the next challenge.

“A green rock says, “Pick me up.” Green – color of life and that more abundantly!”

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “

John 10:10 NRSV

Organizing

While paring down I have also been organizing words I have saved over the years. I found a card to “Dear Mom” that I thought my son had made for me. Surprise! I had made it for my mother, likely 1958 or so. Besides my personal words, I have once again come across my collection of quotes and retreat notes that have had meaning to me. I am thinking they might touch your heart and soul, too? So periodically, I will post these for your perusal. So many of these are quotes whose author I do not have a name for – in which case I will note that fact.

In the book God Calling on May 13 it reads “What joy follows self-conquest! You cannot conquer and control others … but through God’s power you can conquer yourself.” One class I took emphasized that through obedience, at the end of the day you feel noble. Obedience to God builds self-esteem.

As the adult child of an alcoholic, after studying codependency I learned this stark lesson: We have no control over others. Children of alcoholics believe events are their fault. “If only I am good enough this will not happen.” If my grades are good enough, if I am quiet enough, and on and on with every faulty thinking pattern you can imagine. It is a hard thing for those of us who grew up this way to realize we had nothing to do with the situation. And it is also a hard belief system to UN-learn. It can lead to entrenched codependency that transfers to every person around, not just the parent where the behavior was learned.

Francis of Assisi referred to his body (i.e., himself) as brother ass. He was always trying to train that animal. He is quoted as saying, “Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of CONQUERING oneself and willingly enduring suffering, insults, humiliations and hardship for the love of Christ.”

In the Revised Standard version of 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul wrote that he pummeled his body and subdued it.

Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:27 (HCSB)

Thoughts, words, habits, deeds – all of me needs discipline and I can only hope to train myself through the help of the Holy Spirit. I am the only person I can hope to control, and only with God’s help.

Come, Holy Spirit. Have Your way in and through me. Amen.

NPR Interview

I rarely comment on politics, but the events of last week hit those of us in the USA very hard. I heard this broadcast on Sunday January 10, 2021. I am only sharing a portion of it with you. I first met Bishop Curry when he was a priest leading an Associates Retreat at the Convent of the Transfiguration. His teaching and preaching deeply impacted my spiritual journey. If you care to listen to or read the full transcript go to https://www.npr.org/2021/01/10/955479453/how-faith-leaders-are-finding-hope-in-dark-times

“And finally today, we wanted to acknowledge that it’s been difficult for many of us to think about the events of this past week without a fair amount of anxiety or anger or confusion about what comes next. Perhaps you’re looking for some words of wisdom or comfort that can be heard above all the shouting. For that, we asked some of the faith leaders who we’ve talked to in the past on this program to share some of their thoughts for the current moment. We’ll start with Bishop Michael Curry presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

“MICHAEL CURRY: Three questions I’m finding helpful in these days of difficulty and hardship for us all. Sometimes it helps to just ask, what hurts? What’s wrong? And in this time of pandemic, it’s helpful to name where the pain is coming from. It’s important for those who are sick or who have died to remember them, to let their memory be a blessing. But then don’t stop there. After you ask what hurts, ask what helps to be better and to be more and to endure, to survive and even to thrive. And then lastly, but not least, what can I do to help? What can I do to be a blessing to somebody else? What hurts, what helps, how can I help – may well make all the difference when we live those questions.”

He ended with ‘when we live those questions.’ Are you willing to ask not only others, but yourself, those questions?

My friend Dianna was married for 60 years to Marvin. He died at home last week, under Hospice Care from cancer. I called Dianna this week to ask how she was doing. She has been his care giver for several years as he was dying. She said she is fine. Many people have called to check in on her, and for that she is grateful. One gal from our church went to her house and put cream on the bottom of her feet. Dianna cannot reach her one foot anymore and the doctor had said that cream would help the discomfort in that foot. Twice she told me, in amazement, about this gal who was willing to do that. I have gone to pick up her grocery order, but have never asked about her feet.

“Words of wisdom or comfort that can be heard above all the shouting.” This morning I remembered there was a prayer about conflict in the Book of Common Prayer. I am all for extemporaneous prayer; however, there are times when a written prayer helps me out.


O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

BCP #28. In Times of Conflict

Forbearance means patient self control; restraint and tolerance. I believe that the laws in our Nation are for the mutual good of the people. Father, stir our hearts to forbearance and respect for one another. Deliver us from the tendency to think violence can solve our problems.

We said repeatedly that the Pandemic brought situations in 2020 that we have never experienced in our lifetime. Most of us know that even with the vaccines, 2021 will bring Pandemic situations we never before imagined such as limiting medical care to patients, running out of oxygen supplies in hospitals, continued deaths. Now the insurrection on the Capitol building has brought another occurrence we never, ever wanted to see in our lifetime. God help us all to draw closer to You and find Your rest.

James 4:8 (NLT2)  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

James 4:10 (NLT2)  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Pour Out

There is an old nursery rhyme that with one hand on your hip and the other one extended, you recite, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout; here is my handle, here is my spout. When I get all steamed up then I shout, Tip me over and pour me out.”

Then there is the “adult” version with both hands on your hips, you say, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout; here is my handle, here is my…Oh damn, I’m a sugar bowl!” Bob Dutina’s absolute favorite, recited at least twice a month!!

No tea set is complete without a cup. Ray Bradbury had this sentiment.

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

Ray Bradbury quoted by Gratefulness.org

What is your plan for 2021 regarding “letting the beautiful stuff out?” Or do you have one? When I had two blogs going the other one was called Stand and Tip. I eventually realized that one blog would be better. Here is the poem that inspired me to begin two blogs. Perhaps I Could Ask You Just to Stand and Tip? ©1990 Molly Lin Dutina      

 
 1.
  
 Lily pads at the pond                  
 Grow on stalky stems
 Leaves unfold an opened palm
 Cupped at center point
 Summer shower starts to drop
 Mercurial glistening spheres
 Gathering in the center spot
 ‘til bulbous weight smears silver drops
 Into glistening globs
 And tips the leaves so full
 To pour their contents overboard
 And rising from the spill
 Stately shielded lily-hands
 Begin the cycle once more
  
 Keep my stem flexible, Lord
 My hands open and cupped
 Eager to receive Your all
 Questioning not Your skill
 Only trusting the power of Your love
 To melt my rigid will
  
 Drench me Lord 
 In Your shower of love
 Let me gather and drink my fill
 Then spill over on those around
 And rise to await Your will
  
 Send water of Your Spirit
 To tip me over, pour me out
 Then wash over me once again
 Fresh cleansing by Holy Words
  
                 2. 
  
 Shine Your light through
 This enshrouding mist
 Color me with covenant this:
 Abiding presence and constant love,
 Indwelling grace that conquers sin
 Transfigured rigid I
 Yielded and bent
 In Your   service                                                                                                                                    
 Spilling forth rivers of living water                                                                                                         
 And giving rest to croaky voiced frogs       
 Who, when Spirit-kissed,
 Become priests and kings           
 Singing their praises to You.
  
 Perhaps You ask me just to be Your lily leaf, 
 Stand and tip 

Not Petrified Me

As I’ve written before, the Holy Spirit brings me songs when I am headed for or have reached a roadblock. When we traveled through the petrified forest of Arizona, Bob had never seen anything like it. I had a memory of seeing it from childhood. We were able to purchase a few pieces from a gift shop in town. Some were polished. One is shaped like a triangle. It reminds me of the Trinity.

Piece is larger than life

The other morning I picked up the triangle piece and held it during my prayer time. Wanted to carry it all day, but knew it would be too uncomfortable in my pocket. Then when I least expected it, this song came back to me.

I do not want to become an old woman who is stuck in her ways. I am certain there are already some things I do that someone has created new and improved methods for not yet adapted by me. For the most part, I want to conform to the Lord like the Living Water He provides for me. I want to be flowing, not like Jello or petrified wood: congealed, hardened, stuck.

So my prayer for you is that you will loosen up in 2021 and learn how to flow better. Velma Frye published a CD called Take Heart. Here is her song “Ever Flowing.” the lyrics were written by Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB July 28, 1939-April 24, 2020. I heard her teach once and as SO blessed. Hope you enjoy the song. You might have to click on the link.

https://youtu.be/xIqEXCXeTU0

unpolished piece on the bark side
Unpolished core side

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