Find the Focus

Have you ever been discombobulated? One guy on Christian radio asks if that means most of the time we are combobulated? Free Dictionary by Farlex says there is no such word. Well discombobulated means befuddled, flummoxed, confused. There are times I forget my most important thing, writing about my relationship with the Lord and how you can have a relationship with Him, too.

Find the Focus© 2014 Molly Lin Dutina

Cannot find the clipboard
poems in process of revising.
Cannot find the journal
life in process of being noted.
Where is my concordance
trying to find that verse
Never finished notes in my Bible
negligence has made this worse.

Too often cover important 
with mundane and lowly
Help me find the focus 
to tell forth the eternal and holy.

Fighting back the darkness
bearing forth the Light
partake in eternal struggle
get any pen, any paper
note on computer 

The Calling compels me 
to herald the glad tidings:
God wins.

The poem shows my remorse at losing track of trying to put my spiritual journey into words. At least ten years before I wrote the poem above, my cousin, Peggy, gave me this verse about writing.

The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it.

Habakkuk 2:2 CSB

Oh Lord, that I might always take up Your challenge about writing as purpose for my heart and soul. May You be blessed by my attempts and may I always be willing to listen to Your edits and changes. As Toby Mac wrote and sang, “Come and steal my show!”

Some of the best lyrics were not listed in the video. Are you willing to yield the things below to God?

My life
My plans
My heart, it’s all Yours, God
My dreams
My fears
My family, my career
Take it away

Journal Led to a Poem

Practicing the discipline my pastor suggested, as I listed the five things I am grateful for one morning, suddenly all this came to me. Hope you enjoy it.

photo by r m dutina
#5.  Cloud and mist fabric drawn across the moon
all that light originated from the sun?
Gray then white then yellow, clot of black then blue
For my attention and entertainment? No, a lesson more true
"I desire truth in your inward parts
To reflect My glory you must be clean, steady, sure
Certain of My love for all
Wavering not from circumstances
Leaning into My light"
Clouds move off and I can barely look away
The brightness of Your Glory my delight
Clouds clear and brilliance increases
I watch as moon orbits incrementally behind the tree
I want to move the furniture
Lie here looking out the window
Yet even now the sun is rising and moon will seem to go
Scour my being Father that I might reflect
Your brilliant glory, certain and true.
"Beware lest feeding feral cats from pity
You actually nourish marauding coyotes
Dimming the beauty of your intention
Encouraging the destruction of your very soul"
You parted the veil from before my eyes
Help me to keep Your glory in my remembrance forever.
Sun rises higher
Brilliant white moon beckons 
Cream colored clouds move in thickly
My soul knows what it witnessed
Your power glows across the universe
Regardless of my momentary ability to see.
Enemies of my soul say, "Nothing to see here. Move along."
My heart ever held in Your nail scarred hand
I spend my life to declare Your glory.

I am always amazed when this stuff comes to me. Coyotes, like the prowling lion seeking whom he may devour? We have coyotes in this neighborhood. A pack prowls the street every morning just before dawn. Likely other times, too. I was giving Lucky her last outdoor stroll the other night and she noticed something at the end of the street. I could not see a thing. She would not take her eyes off the end of the street. She even growled which is atypical of her!

photo by r m dutina

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Psalm 51:6 NRSV

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

Yes, Lord, I will have the courage to share. Bless the readers I pray.

Every Moment Holy Quote

I was in a situation the other day where acute and chronic pain were doing a dance. Frenetic tap dancing I would say since I do not truly understand tango – and tango seems to be a love dance. One area calls for attention and then acute throbs. First one recedes and another pops up. Like pinball pain, ding-ding-ding, someone hits the flipper and it catapults pain here there and everywhere. What to do when this occurs? First try to draw close to God as He soothes and even at times relieves the situation. I know from experience that trying to determine how I caused this is a futile waste of time and energy.

Realized I was agonizing over my situation while journaling and had failed to do my pastor’s challenge to FIRST THING every morning write 5 gratitudes. Oops, I entertained flesh over discipline there. So I stopped and began to write the five. Then with compassion admitted I do not feel well. Confessed it is hard to focus on the Lord and “Hard to focus on anything” when I get like this. Asked for guidance.

Turned to Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young on my iPad. “I want you to learn a new habit. Try saying “I trust You, Jesus,” in response to whatever happens to you.” It goes on to say I am to view events from the perspective of God’s universal and sovereign control, letting fear lose it’s grip. (See Jesus Calling, January 4).

Then I realized that warfare has been raging here for a couple days. (Why do I not recognize it as soon as it begins?) So I was careful to pray the armor of God and Blood of Jesus over me. I journaled, “The matrix of life spins and unfolds. I am held in Your hands. Centered in You nothing can touch me. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”

Show wondrously Your acts of loyal love,

O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye

hide me in the shadow of Your wings

from the presence of the wicked who destroy me,

those enemies against my life,

they that surround me.

Psalm 17:7-9

Then I turned to a new favorite gift that Dan sent me a few months ago. “Every Moment Holy”, Volume 1, A Liturgy for the Feeling of Infirmities.” Liturgy used with permission.

Art by Ned Bustard, also available for purchase at same site
"We were not made for mortality but for immortality;
our souls are ever in their prime,
and so the faltering of our physical bodies
repeatedly takes us by surprise.

"The aches, the frailties, the injuries, the
impositions of vexing disease and worsening
condition are unwelcome evidences of our
long exile from the Garden.

"Even so, may the inescapable decline
of our bodies here not be wasted.
May it do its tutoring work, inclining
our hearts and souls ever more vigorously
toward Your coming kingdom, O God.

"While we rightly pray for healing and relief
and sometimes receive the respite
of such blessings, give us also patience
for the enduring of whatever hardships
our journeys entail."

Five stanzas remain. You can purchase the entire liturgy for $1.00 from Rabbit Room at https://www.everymomentholy.com/liturgies#free. Scroll down the page to Individual Liturgies for Purchase, Liturgies for Sorrow and Lament. In drop down window “A Liturgy for” select Feelings of Infirmity. Place in cart. Pay one dollar.

How does this help? My attention and focus have now moved from helplessness at my dilemma to looking to Jesus. When the acute jumps for attention this day I can say, “I trust You, Jesus.” I am reminded that Scripture is still true.

Even to your old age and gray hairs

I am He, I am He who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4 NIV

And then this passage seems to respond as my heartfelt prayer.

Even when I am old and gray,

do not forsake me, my God,

till I declare Your power to the next generation,

Your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,

You who have done great things.

Who is like You, God?

Psalm 71:18-19 NIV

And I hear this song of worship that brings me to stillness.

Blank Canvas, Blank Page

For Christmas Bob bought me this from the Norman Rockwell collection. He had a heck of a time finding a frame to fit it. He did succeed though! It hangs on my office wall to the right of where I write.

We visited a Rockwell exhibit at the Dayton Art Museum. He knew this is how I often feel on Monday or Tuesday morning as I prepare to write this blog. Notice his palette on the floor! The handle of the paint brush in the white cracks me up. Such is the brain of the artist lost in creativity!

You might remember this favorite photo, too. I was fascinated with the palette from the Frank Duvenek exhibit at Cincinnati Art Museum. His likeness was reflected from nearby display. Bob enhanced the photo for me. The photo sits on the left at the desk where I write.

Photo by r m dutina

And prayer. Prayer goes into this blog. I want to write to enrich you, not just report what I do and where I go. I want to inspire you to reach greater spiritual depths with God. I still cling to the following quote from Rainer Marie Rilke.

Most experiences are unsayable. There are mysterious existences whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.

Rainer Marie Rilke

I pray that I can draw you towards the depths of God. That somehow through my experiences and writing you will want to take a dip in the river of Living Water. Finding a way towards the center of your heart and soul you might want to live from the inside out, desiring a deep breath of life from the Giver of all life. Lead us, Lord, to those mysterious existences and help us to express them and experience them together.

I look forward to your comments throughout the year. I humbly thank you for reading my blog!

Donkey Me

First there was page a day from Oswald Chambers. “How often I find it is the stubborn donkey in me rather than my intelligence that turns aside and sees the angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:23). Lord, increase my spiritual sensitiveness that I may detect your slightest goings and drawings.”

Then my computer scrolling through photos brings me this from our trip to Ireland. I see myself in those lovely eyes.

And I arrive again at the story I wrote about the donkey.

Donkey Trail © 90-6-25 Molly Lin Dutina 

While traveling on the road of God’s will I hit a dip in the road and got jostled off the path. The dip occurred where the Lord asked me to do something, but fearing His will I inwardly said, “No!” I locked my knees, dug in my heels and soon resembled a stubborn donkey that must be pushed, pulled and cajoled to be made to move. Blind to my disobedient nature and still pouting before the holy ways of the Lord I decided if He really loved me we could compromise on another way. I stepped onto the “Treadmill of Debate” a perpetual motion conveyor belt going nowhere but in circles. Fearful and resistant to God’s will I asked “Why?” and presented Him with all of the ‘What-ifs’ and ‘If-onlys.’ I formulated brilliant reasonings for resisting His ways, deluding myself and dropping further and further away from His Light.’

God was more kind to me than Balaam who beat his donkey. (Numbers 22:22-33) God used that same donkey to save Balaam’s life three times. He even made the donkey talk to Balaam! If God can use a donkey, I am no one special. 

Until I accepted His will, relinquished my ideas and gave all things over to Him I could not continue the adventure of serving God well. As usual, when I actually arrived at the point of resistance it turned out to be so unlike what I had imagined might occur, that later I wondered why I was so silly and donkey-like not to yield immediately in trust to Him.  My efforts to control led onto a futile treadmill going NO where. God’s mercy urges me to let Him direct my course and enjoy His fellowship in the Now Here.

Help me to trust You more Lord. I want to live present to You in the Here and now for in this experience alone is my salvation. As I begin to err, thank-you for taking me off the highway and into Your discipline. You truly are “able to keep me from falling and to present me without blemish before the Presence of Your glory with rejoicing!” (Jude 24)

There are many myths about the birth of Jesus. The internet is glad to tell you about all of them.

No one knows for certain if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. It is estimated that they traveled 80 miles. She was well along in her pregnancy. Imagine for one moment that she did ride a donkey. What if that donkey had dug in its heals and refused to go to Bethlehem? Are we more cooperative than a donkey or stubbornly insisting on our own way? How about attitudes towards how to celebrate Christmas, and where, and when, and with whom?

“Draw us God to Your side and show us how to help the world see Your gift of life through Jesus Christ. Soften our hearts to let You lead us in paths of righteousness. Amen.”

Not Yet an Ice Pack

Though we are not in the deep throes of winter here, the stream of consciousness brought this poem to the foreground. May it spark something good in you today!

Disconsolate Leaves © 2014 Molly Lin Dutina

A few disconsolate leaves
blow and tumble over the ice pack
soon to be trammeled to muck
by rainstorm later today

Rest me now, I pray.
Take me to the center-down silence of surrender
Pour Your living water over my soul
Prepare me for resurrection life
today and always

Surrender and rest 
have to do with moments,
like leaves blown across ice pack
yielding to the wind and rain

Overflow Perhaps Unseen?

My husband thought that since only a few read this perhaps it did not post correctly? So here is a re-posting. Hope it helps you overflow.

As if in a canoe, I hit a hidden boulder. And just like that I could not write. Capsized. Nothing. No ideas, no inspiration, just tears of frustration over an ongoing situation. Eventually I just got in the car and went out. Thought it was better than stewing and stumping over what to do next. I still felt guilty about not writing.

This morning I remembered Streams in the Desert, September 3. And he saw them toiling in rowing (Mark 6:48).

Straining, driving effort does not accomplish the work God gives man to do. Only God Himself, who always works without strain, and who never overworks, can do the work that He assigns to His children. When they restfully trust Him to do it, it will be well done and completely done. The way to let Him do His work through us is to partake of Christ so fully, by faith, that He more than fills our life.

“A man who had learned this secret once said: “I came to Jesus and I drank, and I do not think that I shall ever be thirsty again. I have taken for my motto, ‘Not overwork, but overflow‘; and already it has made all the difference in my life.”

“There is no effort in overflow. It is quietly irresistible. It is the normal life of omnipotent and ceaseless accomplishment into which Christ invites us today and always.
–Sunday School Times

Not overwork, overflow. So I return this morning to the keyboard and screen praying for overflow. My straining effort does not produce anything worth reading. Help me, Lord to flow around that boulder and create something live giving. The Spirit brings me an idea, but it is up to me to develop the idea and work to make it clear. No, things are not just dropped into my head fully written. But this work is different than striving, straining and driving effort.

Equip me as you did Rainer Marie Rilke to say unsayable experiences clearly that others might love You, too.

1990 Retreat

Here is another way the Lord communicates with me.

April 27, 1990 Friday, Milford Jesuit Center Walking along Little Miami river bank. During a retreat I took a prayerful walk. Quieting myself I was walking slowly and trying to just see what the Lord wanted me to see.

The first stone I was led to pick up looked like a bone. I  seemed to hear this Transient life is passing away and in time will cease to exist. Transient: passing through or by a place with only a brief stay or sojourn.

Porous stone that represents words – air vibrating through vocal chords Transubstantiates words to stone. Change in another substance. Cannot be recalled once spoken.

A caramel stone that lets light in translucent – light shines or glows through it … admitting and diffusing light. Help me to be translucent with Your light.

Gold glitter in pink stone. The serendipities of life. Life as a serendipitist – one who finds valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Show me Your joys Lord.

Hard brown stone of unforgiveness. Impervious to light, not permitting penetration by light or passage. Incapable of being influenced or affected. Impenetrable – inaccessible to knowledge, reason, sympathy. NOT to be moved by logic or persuasion.

And then I saw one more. A stone that had angles on it. I bent to pick it up and it was actually buried in the soil. As I dug around the stone to unearth it discovered it was very large, like the stone the angel rolled away. Indeed, it represented to me the resurrected Christ who makes all the other stones pure and good and holy. This transient life will be transformed into eternal life with Him. The words transubstantiated into rock  that cannot be taken back can be forgiven. The translucent light He shines through my life will one day become the light of heaven, where we do not need sun or moon or stars for light, (REV 21:23-24) The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. The serendipities of life will become everlasting joy (ISA 35:10, 55:11, 60:15 and 61:7). Unforgiveness is changed by forgiveness in Christ. As He has forgiven so should we. (EPH 4:32)

Yes, the large stone, the resurrection of Jesus and His triumph over the grave, death and sin are ours. We must remember and celebrate that! I eventually found a plastic statue of Jesus with His arms raised in victory to put with the large stone.

Several times over the years I have misplaced the small stones. April 19, 2011 I searched the house for the plastic resurrected Jesus and placed it on the mantel with the stone. “I put Him on the mantel once again with the stone the angel rolled away. I need to find the journal where I wrote about the discovery of that stone – at Milford, near the river, and the impact on me as the Lord sent me picking stones one by one, as He used them to teach me. Yes, Lord, I am Yours.”

I keep that large stone as a reminder to me of His amazing work on our behalf. And yes, I keep the plastic statue to remind me His work is ongoing, even in me.

David had 5 stones in his bag as he faced Goliath.

In 1 Samuel 17:40 it says, “Then he {David} took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.”

I believe with these six stones {David did not have the benefit of the resurrected Christ} I can conquer challenges in my life, and so can you!

Power in Listening

When I first gave my life back to Christ one of the first songs to capture me was based on Isaiah 55.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,

    come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

    come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

    and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;

    listen, that you may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

    my faithful love promised to David.

Isaiah 55: 1-3

As we read and grow in our spiritual life it is amazing how you can read a familiar Scripture and have a new insight that never seemed to occur to you before! I was reading Ben Palpant’s book Letters from the Mountain and I was struck by his observation on verses 2 and 3.

I have studied meditation. I have practiced it for many years. With all my interest in listening for the voice of the Lord why did I not remember the admonitions in Isaiah 55? “Listen, listen to Me. Give ear and come to Me, LISTEN.”

I was hit like the Memorex man!

“Listen carefully. Hear and your soul shall live. Incline your ear to me and come.”

Father, open my ears that I may better hear You. Help me be sensitive to Your still, small voice. Speak but the word and my soul shall be saved.

Have you quieted your inner chatter to listen lately? Well worth the effort. I know it takes practice to turn down that inner chatter, but it is possible to do it. Only with practice have I made progress on that. Even then, there are times the chatter is loud and disturbing. Don’t give up. Read the word. Sit with the reading. Wait on the Lord.

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