Oak Tree

We have a spindly tree in our front yard. It has lived here only a few months. The man from the nursery said he picked it out himself. It was the best one he had. When it arrived we had to remove many leaves that were hosts to insect sacs in the form of galls.

Our oak

Streams in the Desert is a collection of devotional writings and quotes collected by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Linda gave me a copy in about 1979. Someone had given it to her and she did not care for it. I have continued to read it, not daily every year, but many days over the years. You can easily find it online for free these days.

A portion of the entry for January 16 reads “When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest.

“When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of mankind is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: “O God, take me, break me, make me.”

January, 2018 Bob and I were both diagnosed with influenza. We had both taken our preventative injection but the flu had made a run around the formula. Within three days he was desperately ill, put into a coma and intubated. I was terrified I would lose him from this life. He had sepsis, organ failure, eventually several forms of pneumonia, MRSA, and was put on dialysis. It was a seriously life threatening ordeal.

Several weeks ago I got a cold. That went into a sinus infection so severe my eyeball sockets ached. I called the doc. Had a telemedicine visit. He decided to put me on antibiotic and low dose of Sudafed. Quizzed me thoroughly about my symptoms. Said some Covid has been similar to sinus infection. I finished the antibiotic. The illness took a turn. One day after I went off Sudafed I sneezed so continuously that I put myself on one dose of Benadryl. That dried up the sneezes. Now I am coughing, and coughing, and did I mention coughing?

Bob has started with similar symptoms though his symptoms have gone to his already congested lungs. I am terrified I have made him ill. Since moving we have spoken more than once about getting a twin bed for one of the spare rooms in case we ever need to sleep apart, like for medical reasons. What if we have not been sleeping apart, one of us gets ill and then the other? Do we still sleep together then or do I need to go order that twin bed delivered?

As the 82 year old guest at our Thanksgiving feast mentioned, “Not everything is Covid.” My brain is racing this morning asking, “But is THIS Covid?” The ordeal with Bob’s health taught me so much about faith and trusting God. I must admit though that I am fearful in this situation. How awful would it be if I give him Covid? With his compromised health he might end up on a ventilator again. (Awfulizing.) Then again, maybe he won’t. Is this pneumonia? Oh Lord, I pray not.

Trust. This morning on the Right Now media app I was listening to teaching by Ann Voskamp from her book one thousand gifts, and these lines struck me in regards to this cough, etc. “If I believe, then I must let go and trust. Why do I stress? What is saving belief if it isn’t the radical dare to wholly trust? I read it in one of the thick commentaries, that two hundred twenty times that word pisteuo is used in the New Testament, most often translated as “belief.” Belief is a verb, something that you do. This is the trust I lack: to know that if disaster strikes, He carries me even there. If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief … atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism.”

Even as I type out the above quote a female sparrow lands on the feeder just beyond my computer screen. Birds to this feeder are rare!

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” MT 6:26 NIV

He keeps me, too. “Lord, I pray You will heal this cough and help me keep my mind from fear and worry. I also pray the house sparrow will build a nest in our spindly oak tree to give me a constant reminder of Your grace and care. Amen.”

It actually seems as if the entire community has this awful cold. Protect those who do not have it, Lord. Heal the rest of us I pray.

Love This Art About Giving Thanks

Leprosy was a dreaded disease in Jesus’ time and still exists today. The World Health Organization site at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy says “Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability.” Here is the story from Luke when there was no known cure.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 NIV

As they went, they were cleansed.” The healing was not instantaneous. Only one turned back and thanked Him. Are you the one who gives thanks?

James Christensen

“As he did with The Widow’s Mite, James Christensen interprets one of the Bible’s more powerful stories and presents us with an image of elegance, grace and beauty. At the same time he engages us in one of the higher promises of art: provoking thought. In fact, the art of reflection is at the core of the painting’s message.

“The Ten Lepers were a group of men cured of their disease through one of Christ’s miracles. Their tattered wrappings suggest what was, until this moment, their illness. Of the ten, nine are too preoccupied celebrating their new lease on life to think of anything else, much yet thank him. The tenth, at this moment, grasps truly what has occurred. He is the only one that returns to acknowledge the Master.

“This image provides an inspiring reminder to take a moment from our fast-paced world and reflect on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to take the time to show this gratitude.

Showing gratitude is important for our souls. As the commentator above stated, “Take a moment from our fast-paced world and REFLECT on what we have to be thankful for. And, just as importantly, to the TAKE TIME TO SHOW THIS GRATITUDE.”

Pies Past and Present

Once I made the ugliest pie ever.

My mother would have been ashamed to serve it. Trust me, every bite was eaten!

This year I was making pumpkin pies and some of the filling slopped out of the Kitchen Aid mixer onto the floor. I called Lucky and she was right there to clean it up for me! I would think with all the Kitchen Aid expertise they could have designed something better regarding bowl escapes!

I am certain these too will be eaten up in no time flat!

After Turkey day, being a good Type 2 Diabetic, I will make myself some pumpkin filling with no crust, about 2/3 Splenda and 1/3 sugar. Yum.

Giving thanks for our canned pumpkin. My friend Marsha says the canned pumpkin in Nepal is green and coarse. Yuck.

58 Seconds

If you were raised in the church you likely will remember this hymn. Just entertain 58 seconds of the hymn. This was rolling through my spirit as I asked the Lord what to write about this week!

What stopped me was “With heart and hands and voices.” Do we? Thank Him with heart and hands and voices?

Bob just told me there was something on Facebook about show you went to church without saying you went to church. He said my sisters answer was “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.”

Thanks with our heart, our hands, our voices. We have been visiting various local protestant churches to find a new church home. Each has their own weaknesses and strengths. The one this week has tremendous outreach throughout our area and the world. They do not have a regular communion celebration. The opportunity to receive prayer for needs was not obvious at all in the service. Not even encouragement to write down a prayer request for others to pray over. The music was ear splitting to the point some removed their hearing aides until that part was over. We did hear more about Jesus than we have at other times there. It is often said, “If I find the perfect church, and I walk into it, it will not longer be the perfect church.”

One friend told me she walked into a church recently and immediately felt as if she was HOME. I had that experience the first several times I went to the Convent of the Transfiguration in Glendale, Ohio. The sisters there and the various retreats over the many years I have been an Associate have taught me so much about God and deepened my walk with Him.

The church is not a building or a box of hymnals or a ten piece praise band or an ear splitting sound system. The church is the Body of Christ. We do tend to gather in buildings and reach out to the community through projects locally and abroad. Hopefully we also partake of communion in remembrance of all Jesus did for us and pray for one another.

I suppose my church home is my neighborhood, with my online friends through this blog, with Christians near and far whom I have loved and lived with through various ups and downs of life, both theirs and mine. The idea of one group of people being my church has been blown to bits by the pandemic.

 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; 7and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.

Haggai 2:6-7 NRSV

The smallest churches as well as the large churches are having difficulty regaining their footing after the pandemic. People began to watch church online. Some stopped thinking about church altogether. Where do you stand in all of this?

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:25-29

I think the verse in Hebrews (quoted from Haggai 2:6) refers not only to heavenly things, but earthly things, too. What cannot be shaken? The Kingdom of God, His indwelling Holy Spirit, the power of the Risen Christ.

Hearts and hands and voices, all given over to Christ for His use every hour of every day. Thank You Father for Your tremendous provisions for Your people in every age and every season. Keep us close enough to hear Your heartbeat, I pray.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven, the One Eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore; For thus is was, is now, And shall be evermore. Amen.

Now Thank we All Our God Verse 3

Several Directions

The Pearl of Puerto is the largest known pearl in the world. Despite having been found back in 1996, this pearl wasn’t shared with the world until nearly a decade later! The Filipino fisherman who found it kept it concealed in a bag under his bed for years, depending on it as a good luck charm. The pearl was only revealed when it was placed in the care of a relative, Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao, who worked as a Puerto Princesa tourism officer.

https://largest.org/nature/pearls/

I have been re-reading The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. In the course of his story he writes with details of Hasidic Jewish life that fascinate me. Here is a quote.

Someone told about Nachman of Bratslav, who believed in the virtues of solitude. A man should spend at least one hour each day alone in a room or a field, engaged in secret dialogue with the Master of the Universe. And a man should think only what he has to do for God that day, and it will not be too burdensome for him. All a man has in the world is the now, the day and the hour where he is, because tomorrow is an entirely different world. “

The Gift of Asher Lev

St. Isaac the Syrian or St. Isaac of Nineveh exert huge influence on Orthodox spirituality even today. A priest suggested I read these quotes from the seventh century. He was referred to as a hesychast, “one who seeks to live a life of silence and stillness, who feels called into the desert places of the heart.” What an enchanting invitation is this holiday time of pressure to purchase, wrap and give the perfect thing to others. Perhaps our prayers are the best gift of all!

“A swimmer dives into the sea naked, in order to find a pearl.

“A wise monk journeys through life, stripped of all that he has, to find within himself the pearl, Jesus Christ, and finding him, he no longer seeks to acquire anything else beside him.

Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria

[ Jesus taught,] “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46 NIV

This moment, this hour. Sell everything you have and keep the pearl. I have had more than one person confide in me saying, “I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but I just talk to Jesus every hour of every day. Is that the right way to pray?” I believe that is music to God’s ears. You want to know how to bring delight to God? That. Right there! Brother Lawrence taught us the same thing. Present moment living with the ever-present Master of the Universe.

It has been said prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening to God. Speak, listen, obey His voice. Life with Christ is that simple.

Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts is a wonderful book. Some of Ann’s teaching videos are now being carried on Right Media. In the afterword of her book Ann wrote:

“My gratitude journal is lying open on its permanent home on the counter, enumerating moments, making a ledger of His love. It is Chesterton who encapsulated the truth of my numbering life: “The greatest of poems is an inventory.” I grin happy in the midst. No, I’ll never stop the counting, never cease transcribing the ballad of the world, the rhyme of His heart. He and I, a couplet. Count one thousand gifts, bless the Holy One one hundred times a day, commune with His presence filling the laundry room, the kitchen, the hospital, the graveyard, the highways and byways and workways and all the blazing starways, His presence filling me.

This is what is means to fully live.

I have not made a permanent place on the counter for my gratitude journal. Part of me feels as if, “Oh! but I must!” I did once fill a journal with more that a thousand gifts. And now I have begun again.

Begin right now with me. Lord I thank You for the power of WordPress to reach people all over the globe. Be glorified in this blog I pray.

Lord, I thank You for the sun this morning though is only about 32 outside. I thank You for this lovely candle from Lori that Mara chose for me. Thank You for my new neighbor and friend being home for a few days.

Now you start ….. “Hey Mikey!

July 1994

This is a selection from my journal. I hope it shows you one time the Lord brought healing to me. He is no respecter of persons. What was done for me can be for you also.

In 1994 I was having dental problems, extractions, etc. 1961 had been traumatic for me because I was in the Dentist’s chair when my father died. I cried out. The dentist stopped his work for a minute. I believe that was the moment my Dad passed from this earth. I was eleven years old. I want to share this entry as I think it shows how God can reach into our lives and bring healing, even 33 years later. My journal from July, 1994 reads in part as follows.

During an Inner Healing Nurturing Class that Betty led I created a composite picture of me and my dental history and tried to see Jesus in it. Nothing. I said, “OK Lord, what do You want me to see?” He said, “How did you get to the dentist on the day your dad died?”

I remembered walking from school to Doctor Pope’s office. I was terrified of the dentist office. I refused Novocain because of my fear of needles that began when I was 3. Making myself go, I was lonely, afraid, dreading with every step and suddenly – in the here and now-  the eyes of my understanding opened! I had mentioned to Bob (the previous night) that I continue to abandon myself and what the Lord wants me to do. Why?

Well there I was walking from school to the dentist. The horrible aloneness of it washed over me. When I called home after my appointment for mom to come get me daddy was dead. When I got home there was no one to ask how my dental appointment went and how I was feeling about his death. I learned and believed that I was not important, that to neglect myself was good and right. From my class notes “Hurts can set patterns we use.” The Lord broke into the scene of self-abandonment saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deut 31:6c, Hebrews 13:5b).

And His words began to flow in my spirit.

“You will hear a voice behind you saying ‘this is the way, walk in it. When you turn to the left or turn to the right.’” (Isaiah 30:21 RSV)

“See I have carved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16)

“It was not right that you were left alone as a child to cope with so much pain and terror from your broken leg at age 3 to dental fillings at age 11.  

“I am with you always.”(Matthew 28:20)

“Cling to me. Lean on me. Draw from me. Surround that girl- child with loving comforts. Nurture her. Do not give her up to terror. Soak Her in love and prayer. I WILL HELP YOU.”

I was blessed and amazed. Here were a few of the reasons I continually abandoned myself and the things the Lord wanted me to do. There was a song from The Haven of Rest that encouraged me during that time. Here is a version by someone else, same song though!

“I look to the shepherd. He meets all my needs, Beside the still waters He faithfully leads bringing peace to my soul as His love makes me whole, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, follow me all the days of my life. ” Walt Harrah

I’ve been touched deeply by the Lord’s revelation of the depth and intensity of my repeated childhood terrors. I know this is a serious call to more patience, love and gentleness with myself, more godliness in my life and activities. The Lord said, “I WILL HELP YOU.”

Giving her up to terror. I know how to do that so very well! And You gave me exact instructions how to do otherwise.

I am moved – acutely conscious – giving deep sighs of relief and almost breath sobs.

I have wanted to know for a long time why I do this and how to stop – and You are leading me out of it. I pray Psalm 28:9 to You, King Jesus, my Holy Redeemer. Teach me, show me, save me from myself. Left to myself I do not know how to soak myself in love and prayer – but I am willing to listen and try. Keep me flexible Lord. I feel as if I could write ALL DAY, for days.

Oh Jesus, I need lots of help and holiness.

Molly Lin Dutina, 1994

Sayings from Mom

This might not have posted on Wednesday. Let’s try this again!

Do you remember hearing, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? That might work when trying to keep peace among siblings, but not so much if you trying to be transparent with God.

In 1994 I recorded, “Bob insists I should write during the uglies. I did some – but he means put it all down – in detail, even violent detail. I find that abhorrent to my soul. I want to write helpful, pleasant pretty things. It seems a violation of the gift to record the ugly, the crude, the ungodly AND YET there is healing and wholeness to be found in the process of forming words, sentences, phrases.

“Bob is talking about something bigger than the 3 page Artist Way obligation. He is talking about writing as a form of reflection/self examination/therapy. My Franciscan rule of life does state I will have some form of daily self examen, but I don’t always do that. I hardly ever do that at the end of the day when it would do me so much good and be so easy to recall. Could this be the time to finally begin Molly Lin? Huh? Finally?!”

Now zoom to 2021. With the chronic pain of fibromyalgia and inherent fatigue from it I have never kept that evening appointment, journaling or not. Although I have allowed myself to journal ugly things since then. Mom never said, “Stay transparent with God.” This seems to be the most important thing in my life now.

Years ago touring West Virginia and Ohio glass factories we found this art piece. It expresses my desire to remain transparent to God. Yes, I know God is omnipotent and has vision to easily view our inner thoughts and intentions. I am talking about my effort to remain unhindered in my approach to Him. Ever since the Garden we all tend to try to hide things from God, though that is impossible.

Acts 3:19-20a calls us to “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”

It was D.L. Moody who famously said, “Keep short accounts with God.” In that one statement is the secret to daily victory and spiritual power. Sin piles up so quickly. Unconfessed and unforsaken sin is the cause of broken fellowship with God and brokenness in so many areas of our lives. It is a cancer.

https://scottpauley.wordpress.com/category/personal-growth/

Short accounts, clean slate, nothing in my own sin ignored. D. L. Moody also said he was so busy with himself there was no time left to accuse others.

Whether time is spent in examination and confession in the morning, in the evening, regardless of time slot, keep current with the Lord. A short list. Daily self examination of your heart, mind, soul.

The contemporary protestant church seems to have reduced this to a minute or two at the most before partaking of communion. I believe the Word and the Spirit call us to more than that. Transparency with Christ. On the journal page, in prayer, making a space to examine our lives and confess our failings, the uglies that we are responsible for, knowing that 1 John 1:9 is true.

If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 NRSV

Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? Yet, no one can do it for us. We must each undertake this, not as self condemnation or unrelentless castigation. A time of confession, determining to turn and go a different way with help from God. Starting over. As the Benedictine’s say “Always we begin again.” Each time we swing less far on the pendulum of sin and error, making progress through repentance towards newness of life.

Keep a short account. Stay transparent with God.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

Psalm 24:3-4 NIV

Clean hands. Pure heart. Short list.

October 18th

Day that I love! Because the man I love was born this day!!

And one of his favorite characters ….

The Book of Common Prayer offers this and I agree for my husband.

“O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, I pray, on your servant Robert as he begins another year. Grant that he may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen his trust in your goodness all the days of his life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Yes, Lord. Thank you for the gift of Bob!

My Friend Dan

Besides being a terrific friend and wondrous photographer, Dan has encouraged me in my walk for years. He has been reading The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions for a number of years. I have looked at it when we visit his home in New Mexico. I have looked at it online. I have hesitated to purchase it because the language is often Thou, Thy, Thine. I get caught up in translating to you, yours, etc. I even foudn a few entries in an online blog with updated language. On further review though, it was only a few entries.

Dan surprised me this summer and sent me the book. As you likely know we purged so MANY books when we moved. Hey! I need this one! I have been reading it, not daily, but often, and find these prayers more often than not address my heart.

Writing this week about sin and forgiveness, I read the entry called Divine Mercies. These phrases leapt out at me. Praying about sin the author wrote: “Yet still I live, and fly repenting to thy outstretched arms.” What a wondrous word picture! and “O my God, I bid farewell to sin by clinging to his cross, hiding in his wounds, and sheltering in his side.”

The phrase “clinging to His cross” reminds me of a drawing I did many years ago. Sadly I folded it at some point and wrote notes on the back. Guess I was not too impressed with my own work.

by M L Dutina

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. 

Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV

Wikipedia says the anchor symbolizes hope, steadfastness, calm and composure. I would have to agree!I stand on the flanges of the anchor. I embrace the cross, clinging to this anchor for my soul. Jesus is firm and secure. He has entered the inner sanctuary on my behalf. And I am at rest in Him.