Suffering

I learned somewhere that much of our suffering is caused by how we think about things. The more we push against circumstances we do not like, the more we tense up (inside and out) and the more we increase our misery.

What if the degree of my angst was mostly up to me? Once I slipped down a deep tube of darkness, depressed over a situation I had no control over. As I recovered and came out of that situation I realized that much of my suffering was my own doing. I determined to never go to that place again.

We are all frightened and uncertain this week. Death totals are rising exponentially. New cases of Covid-19 are multiplying. None of us are immune and no one knows who around them has the virus. There is nothing easy about this. We have been told to wash our hands, keep our distance from others, stay at home as much as possible. Now what? So now we wait. As we wait we will see where this goes.

Don’t jump to the furthest negative conclusion.

This was my habit for years. I could get to the furthest negative in a flash. Much faster than I could ever run! For the last couple decades I have tried to change that. Sure, I may die. Actually someone pointed out that we all began dying the day we were born. Maybe I won’t even get ill. Assuming I will die in the next few weeks just brings me down and then down even further. So I am adopting a wait and see attitude. But also thinking of how Bob and I would cope.

We have two floors in this house and 3 bathrooms. Yesterday we decided if one of us develops symptoms, yes we had better separate. This morning I realized that we both have a “bathroom bag”that is ready whenever we travel. So those are a few less things we would have to gather. We also each have travel bags with charger cords for our various electronic devices. Even those ideas seem silly at the moment as we sleep together every single night right! We are married for heaven’s sake! I know when we were separated during the flu of 2018 I was almost crushed emotionally. Eventually I was allowed in his hospital room. I have seen him intubated and do not want him to have to go there again!

We are all so accustomed to thinking we are in control of our own lives. But guess what! We never have been. There are some circumstances we have control over and choices we make along the way. There is a huge choice right here, right now for each of us. Will we listen to the health professionals and obey their guidelines? Will we choose NOT to panic and grow more and more fearful?

Yes, the Scriptures say 365 times fear not. One for every day. Sometimes I might need more than one of those a day! They are eternal promises and I will lean hard upon the One who inspired them.

I have no idea what this site lists as their beliefs, but they do have a handy list of fear not verses! Here is the link in case you need to start reviewing those Scriptures!

https://believersportal.com/list-365-fear-not-bible-verses/

Stay well and keep your head up!

Visiting in Person

Life is too short to experience everything, but the human heart is big enough to resonate with everything that any other human heart has experienced.

BROTHER DAVID STEINDL-RAST

Seeing an old friend face-to-face was fun. We knew we only had a very short time to share, so we both cut to the chase and told what was most important to us. I was surprised when the first thing she shared was about my blog.

She is so inspired by what I write. She said it uplifts her and gives her a new point of view.

I was amazed. This gal is eleven years older than me. I have always thought of her as a better, stronger Christian.  Yet she felt my writing was useful to her walk. Who knew?

Some folks never comment. I see only how many people looked at it, but not who.

One fellow at church asked me recently if I was still writing. I could not remember his name or even having spoken with him before. He did look vaguely familiar. Our church has grown to about 800 people with opportunities to worship three times a week. No wonder I lost track of him. Yikes!

We just never know the impact we will have upon others. These comments help inspire me to keep on publishing this blog.

Please keep reading! Comment when you can. I love the encouragement to continue sharing my journey with the mostly unknown folks out there. May you be blessed with a renewed sense of His Presence with us in every circumstance.

Not Be Overwhelmed

I love the fact that someone finally wrote a song about one of my favorite Scripture verses! I needed to hear that recently when I reviewed my scatteredness and sought to recollect my various members around my roots in Christ.

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.

Romans 8:11 NIV

Reviewing my activities on a recent Saturday morning I realized again why I needed to draw from that “Same Power.” That week I had interaction with someone who had possibly had a TIA and was having brain scans, one who was failing in his job, one had stitches in her back after a freak accident, one suffering from Parkinson’s disease, one recovering from surgery, one serving with many hats in the community and feeling the weight, one who had a bladder scoped (ouch), one having staffing troubles, one broke his finger, one worried about aging and drug injection to build bone density, one getting a divorce, one recovering from knee surgery, one struggling with mental illness, one worried about another person, seemingly crowds of folks in my purview with troubles after troubles!

How to stay compassionate, not burn out, and keep caring for each of them? Left to myself, I do not have that sort of strength within me to sort out where to serve and where to just pray. The Word of God assures me in Romans 8:8-9 NIV  “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.”

In my flesh, I would tend to worry and fret and try to find ways in my own strength to comfort, heal, encourage and come alongside all those folks. I have burned myself out more than once in my life trying to do just that. I hopefully have learned better now. Now I release each one to God as soon as I possibly can, giving the Holy Spirit free access to use me if He wishes in their comfort. Otherwise, I leave those persons at the altar of God and return myself to a position of listening for His voice., walking in the Spirit.

Ann Voskamp wrote, “There’s a lot of happiness in this world that depends on being brave enough to keep working when it’d be easier to quit. Nothing good gets started without getting to work – and nothing great gets finished without staying at the work. It’s not about growing tough enough to take what life throws at you; it’s about staying open enough to all of life to simply receive it.”

Yield a compassionate ear to those around you. Know when to release them to the Spirit of God. Then keep serving as you are shown how and where to serve.

“Can Never Be Torn Away”

I bought the David Crowder CD called I Know A Ghost. When I get new music after listening for a few days one song in particular might jump out at me. I will find myself humming the tune, or a phrase of the lyric will be caught in my brain. Then I go find the CD and study the music to see why it is impacting me. Later, it will happen with a different song.

Recently this one got me. I am not attending a snake handling church nor do I ever want to, but evil is often personified as a snake. So crushing snakes is an expression about giving Christians authority over the authority of our enemy.

Lyrics by Crowder We’re not afraid
Terrors of night, arrows that fly by day
Ten thousand may fall but we
We will remain We’re not afraid
A promise of God can never be torn away
Walking on hands of angels, crushing snakes
Safe under the shadow of His wings
Our fortress and our strength
Our fortress We’re taking back our freedom
Our battle has been won
We have been liberated
Back from the dead we’ve come We’re taking back our freedom
Our battle has been won
We have been liberated
Back from the dead we’ve come We’re not afraid
A promise of God can never be torn away
Walking on hands of angels, crushing snakes
Safe under the shadow of His wings
Our fortress and our strength
Our fortress We’re taking back our freedom
Our battle has been won
We have been liberated
Back from the dead we’ve…

Hit the triangle below to play this great song! And declare it for yourself!!

Back from the dead we’ve come. Walking on hands of angels. We’re not afraid. Amazing, powerful, true lyrics. Oh, how this man minsters to me! Praying you are blessed by this, also!

While Waiting for Healing

Have you ever read Hinds Feet on High Places?

If not, get a copy today and begin an adventure! I read this many, many years ago. I gave away so many paperback copies I eventually bought myself the hardback copy so I would NOT give it away. At one time there were no notes for teaching this book, so I wrote my own and lead a group through the book as a Scripture study. This allegory is still teaching me about life with Christ my Lord.

While recovering from this surgery, during a prayer time one morning, I was led again to a scene at the end of the book when Much-Afraid, a timid girl with crippled feet, was led to a ‘desolate altar in this valley of shadows’ to make a burnt offering as commanded by the Shepherd.’

It was not until my retreat January 10 that I re-read and listened to an audible version (free from the library through Hoopla) to review what happened in that sacrifice. I had forgotten that at every altar Much-Afraid built throughout the journey she offered the Lord a portion of her will. This time was no different.

Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What if this living sacrifice of our bodies intentionally included our will, too? Could you do it for Christ? Would you be willing for the Father? Might you ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to conform to God’s will that you might be transformed?

Much-Afraid, like us, was asked to offer a portion of her will at various places in her journey. We are not asked to do that all at once at the outset of our journey. I do not believe we would be able to accomplish it all, psychologically or otherwise. I do not even recognize all the strongholds of my will until I begin to stumble over new ones that are revealed to me as I follow my Lord through this life journey. Thus, there is no way I could consciously offer them as a living sacrifice all at once. Salvation and transformation are on-going processes.

So I have had to sit and wait for healing to come. I am still finding three months later that, no, the foot healing is not yet complete. I was reminded once again that healing, like transformation is a process. My will trips me more than my feet these days.

When I build an altar and sacrifice a portion of my will that is causing me to stumble, the Father has promised to accept that offering and transfigure that portion of me. 1 John reads that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So how does that become transformation? Not an easy question. In my experience, transformation comes as I continue and continue to yield to the highest and best that God offers me. No one and done here.

Altar_1

 

Here is a tiny sketch I made to illustrate the Hinds Feet study. I pray you will examine your heart after you read this, build your altar, fan the flames, offer your will a living sacrifice to the One Who loves us best!

 

“Prayer is sitting in silence until it silences us,

choosing gratitude until we are grateful”

-Richard Rohr

 

 

 

 

Difficulty of Physical Stillness

I began to wonder if my doctor had ever sat for 5-6 weeks with no weight bearing upon one of his feet? I found it to be difficult psychologically. Psalm 32:9 CSB is a description of me when I refused to trust God in the difficult moments. “Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you.”

The verse before that is a wonderful promise: “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.”

And God did when I calmed down, asked for help and let Him guide me.

Here is what we saw when the bandages were removed for the first time:

Tara Brach calls us to Surrendered Presence, Surrendering Presence. We waste so much time and energy trying to control everything. We are better off as far as energy stores if we can surrender and wait and see. One beaded bracelet I made pre-surgery reminds me that God is never perplexed. He is willing to be my strength. As I gladly boast in my weakness ( 2 COR 12:9-10) He is willing to be my strength and “react” upon me. (See journal entry http://stand-and-tip.com/2019/10/06/perfect-in-weakness/)

On October 31 I read a quote from Mark Nepo that says, “The things that frighten us just want to be held.” “Does that describe my fear of the pain out of control? Just something that wants to be held? Show me Lord, how to spread out the medication. When to stop. How to cope with the remainder of the healing pain.”

“I trust You, Jesus, to lead me through this. I do not want to be hooked on the painkiller. Please give me the courage to cope with this pain. Wisdom to know how to proceed.” And just like that, I was on Tylenol only.

November 2 I wrote in my journal that I needed to go back and read what I wrote about the turtle at the Nature Center ( https://treasures-in-plain-sight.org/2018/09/22/the-wise-turtle-and-bloom/). She taught me to hold on to wisdom, courage and the ability to keep looking up. “Most importantly, I realize she is looking up, as I am called to do, fixing my eyes upon things eternal. Letting go of obvious pain and aging issues I am able to relax on my favorite bench and simply soak in the pond activity: belching frogs, passing humans, bird song and noonday joy.” Yes, Lord, return me to that peace. Acceptance of things as they come. Wait and see attitude. NOT jumping to the furthest negative conclusion.”

I will likely never forget for long that I have a steel plate in my foot with 6 little screws. As of January 14 I am walking 5-8,000 steps per day. the doctor thought that was too much. Well, when I got inspired I just began moving. He says I am not totally healed yet. So, as you read this, please pray the bone will grow more thoroughly around that plate and screws.

Some Methods To Find Those Treasures In Plain Sight

Discussing meditation and contemplative prayer and all these other terms can sometimes distract us from actually doing the practice. Mark Buchanan is a wonderful author who often expresses things in a way I had not previously thought about. His book The Holy Wild mentions this:

“Our creativity, at least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do, but the other kind: prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread (LK 11:5), but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother’s arms (PS 131:2).

“Sometimes I just sit there. I don’t speak or ask or think. I watch, devoid of analysis. I just sit and look.

“I let things be, and I simply dwell in their presence. Where there is music or poetry or artistry in these things, I receive it without comment or lament, without the impulse to possess it or explain it. There is nothing mystical about this. This is not a slipping toward pantheism, where every rock bluff or grass tuft brims with divinity. This is simply an act of reverence for the God who makes things, and respect for all that He makes.

 “God’s creativity is, in one sense, the most obvious thing about Him. He saves His most intricate work for the insides and undersides of things. (Molly’s favorite part of the ocean is the underside of waves!)

Richard Rohr has also at times taken as his guide in prayer a simple phrase: “Don’t think. Just look.” He wrote in Near Occasions of Grace “Father McNamara’s definition of contemplation became transformative: “A loving look at the real.” The world, my own issues and hurts, all goals and desires gradually dissolved into proper perspective. God became obvious and everywhere.”

He says “To Practice This Today: Take a loving look at the real. Use the phrase “Don’t think. Just look.” as a reminder throughout the day.”

Often I think of the view out the window nearest to my prayer chair as a cathedral. Not one built of stone and wood, but the most important place of worship. The biggest sanctuary in the area! I dare you to try these methods of prayer, if not for an entire day, then start with 15 minutes. “Don’t think. Just look.” Just sit and look, especially if you can be out of doors. “Rest in God’s creativity. Prayer as emptiness, silence, stillness.” You will never know the benefits until you try this repeatedly. Devote 15 minutes to this practice for one week. And be blessed by a renewed awareness of God’s Presence, within and without.

About jumped out of my skin just now.

While I am typing I have my phone timer set on the silly duck sound, Kay’s favorite on her phone. I keep setting the timer for changing the outdoor hose. My plants are suffering from our near drought conditions. Writing the blog I was deep into trying to explain the practice above and the benefits of meditation and contemplative prayer. I am home alone. That phone quacked and I nearly jumped out of my skin! My Prayer Core-Group friends are never far from my mind! TURN UP YOUR VOLUME TO EMULATE MY EXPERIENCE!

So, just a reminder, to try this practice but also stay aware of the things around you so you might not be as startled as I was just now!

Tuesday, May 21

It is Tuesday morning. My Monday and Tuesday mornings are meant to be reserved for writing and blogging and organizing my thoughts. Some weeks, that gets interrupted by other things to be done. Today is the best Tuesday in a while. We are both at home in Ohio. Suitcases have all been unpacked and laundry basically caught up. This is a day meant to focus.

And here is my favorite, years old rose, urging me to center, focus, come to the center with Christ, unfold as I am meant to do.

So a few more photos in the front flower bed and I am back at my desk, praying for words to inspire and challenge you and, most of all, words to honor my Lord.

These with keep blooming with or without my observation. May we bloom to always bring honor to Christ.