Looking Back Over Your Shoulder

In 1 Kings 19:9-13 Elijah was exhausted and hiding in a cave from Jezebel who wanted his life. Twice the Lord came to Elijah and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And twice Elijah gave the same answer. The story has been made known because the Lord said Elijah was to go stand on the mountain and watch because the Lord would be passing by. After the wind, and the earthquake and the fire, when Elijah heard the sheer silence, he went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Some translations says God was in the silence via a still small voice.

There have been times when I have lived and moved in obedience to the Lord, not always even understanding that He was leading me. Yet His still small voice confirmed His presence, albeit later.

I was taught courage at an early age. Most every Sunday afternoon my parents would drop us off at the movie theater. Though she was two years older, my sister was too introverted to ask for tickets at the movie theater. The story goes that I could barely be seen by the lady in the booth. Regardless, I would ask for the tickets and probably gave her the money, too.

Many years later when my family fell into chaos it was my courage and willingness to speak truth that got my sister and I out of the house safely.

Another example started in high school. We had to choose a topic for a paper. I decided I wanted to write about the Cincinnati Workhouse. I obtained permission to tour the women’s section. I think my mom drove me there, but honestly, I do not remember. Why was that paper important? Many years later when given the opportunity to teach a women’s study in the County Jail it seemed just a good idea to me. No fear, no hesitation. Had I not written that paper or learned about courage, would I have been obedient to the Lord when the time came? I think He prepared me, His servant, for those events.

More often than not, I see the hand of the Lord over my shoulder, after the fact. This is not a mind game, but the reality of our Living Lord working through His Holy Spirit.

This hymn sums it up for me. Listen to at least the first minute!

Can you reflect upon your life and see how God has led you along the journey? Likely I could list many other examples, but more important is for you to reflect on your experiences and discern His hand at work.

James Hollis said, “Learning to live with ambiguity is learning to live with how life really is, full of complexities and strange surprises.”

Stand and Tip

Not certain the exact date I wrote this, but it was before 1990. The last two lines were added after the first writing at a time when I was trying too hard. God and I have a joke. I say, “Lord, I’m trying!” And He says, “Yes, dear, very trying.” Then I rest in His presence and try to allow Him to work in and through me.

Perhaps I Could Ask You Just to Stand and Tip? ©1990       Molly Lin Dutina 

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

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

Yield to His calling. He has your best in mind!

One Thing Missing

One thing remains missing. I owned a small yellow paper sign that said YIELD. This past decade it hung on my office closet wall. I saw it more often than you might think.

Since the move we have not been able to locate it. There is always the chance that I threw it out, but I find that highly unlikely.

Over the years I have tried to learn this concept in relation to my Lord. “Constant, yielded, joyful, peaceful obedience to the Almighty.”

"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" - 1990
"Mighty love overwhelming every fear
	If I yet yield
	Turn once again
	Open my hands
	Release it all to You.

By grand design and holy
You rearrange the pieces
Until components black emerge
Glistening silver, white, bejeweled
Beyond my hopes.

So here in wonder
Again I open my hands
That You may have Your perfect way
In this one yielded woman." -2011
"Refresh, renew, anoint, empower
immerse, drench, wash in Living Water
alive to God
yielded to Holy Spirit." - 2014
"The clay is very still,
not quaking with expectation, but yielded.
Not disappointed with clay life
just allowing the Potter to create
and re-create, shape, mold, spin" - 2012

So as I ponder where that little paper sign has been placed, it hit me (like a 2 x 4 in the head!) I am suddenly THINKING about YIELD more than usual. I even went on-line to try to replace that old one with a new one. I was dissatisfied because new ones are red and white whereas my old one was yellow and black.

Surprise, Molly Lin, there is a new yield that applies to your life now! A cardboard red and white sign would fit with international road signs.

YIELD in Irish Gaelic

Instead of merely thinking about YIELD it is time to yield to the days and times as they unfold. Yes, I commit Monday and Tuesday mornings to writing. Obviously, as noted yesterday, that does not always work out.

Waking the writing muse can be beyond my powers. One often just has to wait until the stirring comes. I can, however, determine to try to yield to my Lord as I am moved to love, be gentled by God’s love, stir to obedience in each hour, make notes (even inside black and white paper bags) and show up for life.

Perhaps the loss of that little paper sign has been more powerful than frustration and aggravation. It has renewed in me a sense of obedience, drawing me back to the most important thing, the one thing.

1978 Humor and Hymn

 The Lord answered her, `Martha, Martha, you are worrying. You are troubled about many things.

Only one thing is needed. What Mary has chosen is good. And it will not be taken away from her.’

Luke 10:41-42 Worldwide English

Be certain to choose well!

You as Temple, as Altar, as Sanctuary

Can you practice this? You are no place near a church building. You want to worship the Lord. Are you aware that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1

Where are sacrifices offered? On an altar. What is an altar? “A place used for sacrifice, worship or prayer.” Why are you called a living sacrifice? You are to give your heart, soul, mind and strength to the Lord for His use … while you are here, alive and kicking.

Sometimes it’s tempting to imagine ourselves as the hero of a dramatic scene where we’re called upon to give an account of our faith. But in real life, every action and every moment of our lives is a witness—even the ordinary ones.

Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Even the ordinary moments are a witness! Even now …and now…

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

Hebrews 13:15 NIV

Continually offer this sacrifice.

When I first read Brother Lawrence’s letters collected in “The Practice of the Presence of God” I knew I had hit gold. He never wrote a book, but someone collected his letters and advice. They have been handed down since 1666 and ring true in every age.

I have met countless people who tell me, “I don’t know if I am doing this right, but I just talk to Jesus about everything.” Wow. The sacrifice of praise in action. The temple of God on two legs. The altar active and alive in a living sacrifice. What more does that person need to know? Just talk to Jesus, listen to Him and obey whatever He tells you. Yes, what you hear must ring true with Scripture. It is advised that your guidance be in balance with overall Christian teaching. You yielding to Christ in everything is what He has always wanted from each of us. Carry on!

In Our Forever Home

The Open House parties are over. Almost every box is unpacked. Most of the photos are hung, though not all. This morning in an effort to express my heart I picked up a book by John O’Donohue called To Bless the Space Between Us. I ‘happened’ to open to “For Retirement.”

This is where your life has arrived, 
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart's desire,
To live the dreams you've waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.   -John O'Donohue

I have wanted for years and years to try to express my relationship with the Father through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Many times I almost gave up the notion of being a writer. And then the Spirit would kindle that fire in me once again, and I would begin again.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you

2 Timothy 1:6a NRSV

So here I am living in a community of mostly retirees. What is to pull me away from this calling? Well, almost everything of the world pulls me away. I need to be adamant about protecting the time I have set aside to write this blog. Sometimes I journal during my morning time of devotions, but even that can be disrupted by my own distractions.

O’Donohue wrote “Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire.” Oh, but will I? My courage still falters at age 70 and then 2 Timothy 1: 7 arrives:

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV

When I read the Bible Knowledge Commentary about this verse I was stunned: “

“But such timidity (deilias, lit., “cowardice,” used only here in the NT) has no place in God’s service. Instead God gives a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. These three virtues, each supplied by the Holy Spirit, should characterize Timothy.”

“Cowardice has no place in God’s service.” Come, Lion of Judah, infuse me with Your fearlessness. I will attempt to use the month of September to further explain what I mean by all of this. It is no easy thing to express divine interactions in words. Those interactions are almost immediately diminished in the effort. Yet the Father has given us the gift of speech and understanding. I will attempt to glorify the Trinity with my writing. “I will, with God’s help.” Lord, help me shun the things of earth and yield to Your call.

Charles Martin, Favorite Author

When I begin a Charles Martin book I know I will be staying up late to read. His work is just mesmerizing. I cannot close his books, even when very sleepy, without regret.

I recently read “The Letter Keeper,” second in a series about Murphy Shepherd. This man goes into situations of extreme danger to recapture girls and women who were taken against their will into the sex trade. The first in the series is “The Water Keeper.”

“If my life experience had taught me anything, it’s this: the wounds of the past carry a lot of weight when it comes to walking into one’s future, and if anything can rob you of now, it’s yesterday. We are really good at taking the pain of our past and projecting it into our future because it’s what we know, and yet our past has almost nothing to do with our future other than being connected by seconds. That’s it. So we face a choice. Either shine a light on yesterday and expose it, or forfeit the joy of now and the hope of tomorrow. I realize this is easier said than done, but left untreated, experiential pain becomes a fortress in our gut that houses a lie spoken by fear. And behind that fear is an idol of our own making.”

The Letter Keeper, Charles Martin

This wisdom applies to each of us. That first sentence alone might need re-reading several times! Then “Shine a light on yesterday and expose it” is right out of Scripture. The light of the Holy Spirit can bring forth things from the shadows of our soul to full exposure. Romans 12 says

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

When Paul writes bodies he is referring to the ‘totality of one’s life and activities, of which ones body is the vehicle of expression.” (from Bible Knowledge Commentary) The Father wants to make an exchange with us. Our trouble and sin from the past for joy and hope. When I present my body to Him (my all) He sees that as a living sacrifice. He finds that to be my holy and acceptable sacrifice to Him. Even the things I am ashamed of do not shame Him.

Charles Martin encourages us to not let the past rob the future. Wisdom indeed. Are there things you need to ask the Holy Spirit to shine light upon? Are there things you are holding back from the Father? Are you ready to open your hands and heart and release those things to Him?

He is waiting and ready to accept you and any baggage you bring. Let Him have every area of your life. You will not be disappointed in His plans for your future. I promise.

Spiritual Practice While Walking Lucky

While walking Lucky and trying not to be preoccupied with her, just looking around and trying to keep silent I happened upon

and

Even when I am not thinking about it, the pollen falls off the sunflower onto the leaf, the buds form, the bees work, the ants crawl along the underside of the leaf and over the petals, clouds roll past and all God asks is my attention and presence to Him. (Mind you, the sentences above are thinking, not just looking. I realize that.)

Pay attention. Still your inner chatter. Listen for His voice. In 1 Samuel 3: 10 it says, “The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.””

Frogs jump, crickets call, He leads me beside this man made pond, yet speaks to my soul, most times in spite of my chatter. If I am willing to quiet that chatter, His voice is especially impactful. The natural world unfolds without my input. For my inner being to grow my cooperation with God is essential.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God

Psalm 46:10a

An imperfect entry this. I just wanted to try to convey that God’s natural order goes on without my input. He has the power over that. The affairs of other people evolve without my input. He has the power there, also. He desires my attention, cooperation and presence in the affairs of my soul and spirit. He has given us free will and does not violate that. He asks the same from each of us. As Eli instructed Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:9, ask Him to speak to you and listen carefully!

Soul of My Soul

Sometime after 1985 I read a book by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Chapter 15 covered The Great Pool of Silence. “The silence of love, coming from a pure heart, will examine with wisdom all that is said to me, and this love will determine my response.” That is an incredible challenge to someone like me who tends to respond immediately off the top of her head! “In this holy silence, we learn discernment.”

When we moved I let go many of the books I owned. I kept a copy of her Soul of my Soul.

She wrote, “The silence is the silence of love. My heart is silent, and thus there is created an inner space where I weigh my words…. Into this great pool of silence can be thrown all sorts of words.. The silence of love, coming from a pure heart, will examine with wisdom all that is said (by me and) to me, and this love will determine my response. Years ago I copied her thoughts into a cross stitched saying for my laundry room. “The great pool of silence is the laundry room of the Spirit.” That is still in a box somewhere. Hopefully I held on to it! The great pool of silence. Have you been there lately?

Have you wondered the value of silence? Have you tried to enter the pool of silence? It is very difficult in our age of constant bombardment by TV, smart phone, computers, radio, etc. When you do set aside time to try entering silence you can be discouraged by being flooded with thoughts. Even after years of practice it can be difficult to enter into silence. I do not believe it is impossible though. I think it is well worth our efforts and we should endeavor to do it with the help of God.

There have been many tomes written about the value of silence. I will not try to quote them all here. If you are interested I have learned much from the writer John Main Word into Silence, The Way of Unknowing and others titles. Also Sue Monk Kidd in When the Heart Waits Chapter 6, “Concentrated Stillness.”

“How do we fashion an environment in which we become stripped and stilled, in which the ego patterns of a lifetime begin to move away from the center and our innermost spiritual life is reconstellated?”

Kidd continued “I’ve been impressed with the emphasis that Quakers place on the concept of Christ as one who teaches us from within, of the Holy Spirit as the Inward Guide. What would happen if we took this seriously? What if we turned to the Inward Guide to lead us through our waiting?

There was an old cereal advertisement that said, “Hey, Mikey! You like it!” This might be your response if you are willing to try this sort of prayer, centering silence, asking the Lord Almighty to cleanse you in the pool of silence. Oh Lord, unless you wash us we cannot be clean.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:6-7 AMP

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:

In returning and rest you shall be saved;

    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

But you refused

Isaiah 30:15 NRSV

Hold Still

When Bob was hospitalized and almost died my journal from 2018 reads,

Someone wrote: “I had to accept myself in all my gory glory. Sometimes rage, sadness, and a myriad of other strong emotions will be part of your experience, too.” And so it was with me.

Tired. Too tired to read. Often too tired to even eat. Numb with fatigue of body and emotional shock.

Feel. Express. Accept. Move on. Get up. Do it again. Find a way to cope with the shock.

“You can’t be any other place than where you actually are!”

My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and he almost died it was difficult and practically impossible to hold to any discipline. I was upheld by the prayers of the church, but my study time failed completely. And then the Lord would drop a line here or there into my mind and spirit to encourage me. “Show us Your mercy, O Lord,” from the morning prayer suffrages, Book of Common Prayer. And I would go forward with whatever the day held for us. Often I prayed the full armor of God from Ephesians 6 as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with him.

I began to approach the situation with stillness but no presumption that I in any way knew the ultimate result. Though I was often unconsciously holding my breath, there was a stillness in me. The stillness came with a peace that I recognized as coming from God. Reporting the day’s events and blood work results to prayer partners via email, without forecasting the next step or event or outcome was about my only “productive” output.

The stillness was related to Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him!”

Part of my struggle was yielding to the facts and in stillness letting my wishes die, placing my hope in the plans of the Almighty. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted His goodness and His love for both myself and my family. I learned that crucified you must hold perfectly still.

I repeat all of that because the lesson came to mind again this past Sunday. A Pastor was teaching from Galatians 5. He said when we come to verse 19 listing some of the works of the flesh we should only think of ourselves, not others. We should hold still, let God point those things out and help us remove them from our lives. We should hold still.

Crucify my flesh.

Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 5:24

The Pastor pointed out that being too busy, busy-ness, is a popular American form of running from God. Perhaps you could try for one week the practice I have adopted lately when I am consumed with busy-ness. Taken from John 3:30 breathing in I pray “Lord, You must increase.” Breathing out I pray “I must decrease.” And I continue to consciously breathe and pray until I am centered in Him again. Yielding more of my life to Christ is never time ill spent. Holding still so He can have His perfect way in me is the highest form of living.

Crucifying my flesh is expected of me. If I truly want Christ to live in me through the power of the Holy Spirit I must be willing to put down my passions and desires and pick up His. Not easy, but neither is that impossible. “I will, with God’s help.”

What I Learned Though I Fear Heights

Ever since sliding to the garage floor on an unsecured ladder at about age 6 or 8 I have feared heights. When I heard on the news in 2017 about this guy climbing in Yosemite National Park without ropes to secure him I was terrified on his behalf. Bob had taken me to visit Yosemite on one of our many trips to California. I knew the height of those summits. In my eyes he attempted and accomplished the impossible. In this short but entertaining eleven minute talk you can learn more about him in his own words.

Wikipedia reports that “In 2016, he was subjected to Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans that revealed that, unlike other high sensation seekers, his amygdala barely activates when watching disturbing images. He however confesses feeling fear occasionally. Through imagination and practice, he has desensitized himself to most fearful situations.” MacKinnon, J. B. (June 28, 2018). “The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber”Nautilus. Retrieved May 11, 2021

He said, “Doubt is the precursor of fear.” On the video I watched as he climbed Half Dome inch by inch. I remembered Peggy Snapp telling me ‘Life by the mile is a trial. Life by the inch is a cinch.’ In the documentary Alex told how he practiced for years. He practiced the handholds going up the rock face with ropes before he tried the free solo ascents.

Before trying the most sensational solo climb he literally practiced for ten years. And now, my challenge is becoming more clear. Am I willing to practice letting pain draw me into God’s Presence even if it takes ten years to feel as if I have accomplished that? Am I willing to return to the Lord over and over again, asking forgiveness for complaining and grace to begin again? The Benedictines say, “Always, we begin again.” They put that truth in a minimum of words and I thank them for that reminder!

Through imagination and practice can I desensitize myself to the disappointment of returning chronic pain? Am I willing to try? Discipline and practice. Oh those do not come easily. Can I become as unflappable and steady as Pat M.W.? Will I push back on the gloom laden cloud of discouragement that often threatens to enshroud me? Am I truly willing to let Jesus in me increase and ask that I decrease, making more space for His rule and reign?

In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zin writes about the research and findings from teaching heart patients and cancer patients the practice of mindfulness for pain relief and stress relief.

I have the meditation recordings from this book. I used to own the book, but when we moved I let it go. Will I choose to listen to these recordings and bring myself from the panic of nerve pain to the centered life of returning and rest?

Lord, I do not expect to be a world record breaking solo climber. I do not seek any recognition at all. I simply want to live for You, to love and serve You and not be consumed by the physical sensations of my aging body. Help me to, like Paul, choose to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)