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)

Commune and My Heart

Amy Carmichael wrote Edges of His Ways and this little book continues to inspire me year after year. The reading for July 5 is based on Exodus 25:22 “There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat.”

She wrote: In reading Exodus 25 I suddenly saw this, not a new thing, but you can imagine how it shone out: That which comes nearest and dearest of all unhindered communion with our God is based on His revealed will, accepted and obeyed. “The testimony that I shall give thee,” He told Moses, was to be put in the Ark, above which was to be the mercy seat. “And there I will meet with thee and will commune with thee.”

It is the old prayer again: “Teach me to do Thy will.” I want to learn more and more what the small word “do” means as carried out in life. It is so much easier to pray about doing, and to talk to others about it, and to sing about it, than it is simply and honestly to do that very thing. But the prayer is not, Teach me to pray about it, talk about it, sing about it, though prayer and talk and song have their place, it is “Teach me to do Thy will.” Then comes that beautiful, blessed “There I will meet with thee and will commune with thee.”

I am not even going to post an image of the mercy seat. There are images online, but I think the Lord and Moses would see it differently. This song began rolling about in my soul as I read her writing and pondered it for my life.

Teach me to do Your will, my Lord. Mold me and make me into Your image. Help me to yield to Your touch and learn to do Your will, even when I do not like the idea. I know that dislike at first is not the same as disobedience. As long as I follow hard after You, You will help me to do Your will and joy will come in the doing.

Life as a Picnic

Imagine your life spread upon a picnic blanket. You have the picnic of tasty foods (or bucket of chicken). There is a small cooler of chilled drinks (be they alcoholic or non-alcoholic). There are serving pieces and napkins. Perhaps in one corner some bug repellant if you picnic in that sort of terrain. Everything is laid out for a lovely time of retirement.

Or in their case, just peanut butter sandwiches. He does not look impressed!

And then storm clouds roll in (call them Covid-19 and aging). For the picnic scenario, everything is hastily packed, albeit not as neatly as when you left home, the blanket is taken up and shaken to remove cut blades of grass and any critters and you run off to your vehicle.

2020- 2021 was similar for my husband and me. We were holding our own against Covid-19 entering our household. We wore masks, washed our hands, kept our distance from others and prayed for no infection.  There was less success with the aging challenge.  We were comfy in our ranch on the edge of the woods; however, the steps to the basement proved an increasing challenge for reaching the laundry, sewing room, storage and work bench area.

Those factors worked together to motivate us to shake off our inertia. (inertia: Resistance or disinclination to motion, action, or change OR tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.) I had been putting forth the idea since 2019 that we need to downsize before we get any older!

The search began for a newer ranch house with a laundry room located on the ground floor. There just was no available real estate fitting that description!  So, we were led to build a new house with those requirements. We did not pack up hastily as with the thunderstorm image, but we did pack up, give away, throw away, donate, store a little bit and basically pare down all our belongings!

We found a small new subdivision, with mostly retired but not totally older folks. Sidewalks and the ability to walk to the post office. If we change banks we can walk to the bank, too. Best of all an award-winning donut shop is within walking distance, too!

Update continues tomorrow!

“Life Sayings?”

This seemed to show up for a few folks. I am sending it again for those who did not receive it. Hope it strengthens your faith.

When I used to mingle with some folks they would speak of their life verses from the Bible. I have those, but what I want to examine here are sayings or sentences that have influenced my faith life over the years.

How often I am walking outdoors and a feather comes on the breeze. At times it is from a bird on the roof or in a tree. Most times I cannot locate the source of the feather. Can you imagine yourself as that feather?

“‘Held by God … like a feather which has no weight from its own strength and lets itself be carried by the wind” – so wrote the medieval mystic, Hildegard of Bingen. Her image of a feather lightly floating on the wind is more than spiritual poetry; it gives us a way to live. Being like a feather on the wind is particularly necessary in these difficult days that teeter-totter two millennia.”

-Unknown

This one came from my struggles to obey the Lord my God regardless of circumstances.

Constant peaceful yielded joyful obedience to the Almighty.

I have made alphabet-beaded bracelets in so many forms to remind me of this. In the Old Testament the believers were told to take the commandments of God and “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:8-9 So I have worn them, recited them, shared a few with friends, lost a few bracelets and made a few more. Recently I shipped most of my collection to my friends in Nepal.

One year tired of hearing myself complain about chronic pain I wrote the following and posted it on the bathroom mirror.

I have determined that this day, each time I am drawn up short by pain, I will praise You for I love You better than life – even better than quality of life.”

I so needed to type these out this week, especially about being drawn up short by pain and what reaction I will choose. Chronic pain never takes a vacation, but God is ever-present and loves me. When I was first diagnosed I heard Him say, “I will be with you in this.” What could be better than to have the Lord with you?

“Drench me Lord”©2009 Molly Lin Dutina

Not meaning to offend anyone, but if the Spirit and the bride say come, then certainly might we bathe in the free gift of the water of life?

 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:17 NIV

Drench me, Lord, come and flow.
Wash, renew, and overflow.
Show me how to soak then splash
Rest and float in Your life-giving bath.

Let anyone who wishes take (REV 22:17)
Let anyone?
– so unlike human ways!
Let anyone who wishes
– even those who just wish
Let anyone?
What are we to make of this holy declaration?

Come one and all, old or small
Drink from the provision of the Manger King.
All heaven says to you,
“Come, freely have this gift,
the water of life from Jesus Christ.”

Why do we so often choose to remain parched?

Choices to be made here! Examples of spiritual truth in nature! What will your decision be?

Just Like Heaven

If you are a regular reader you know that the Lord often stirs me with music. Various phrases of this song have been rolling around in my head. I finally tracked it down through lyrics and then YouTube. What a blessing! I played it for hours as I ran around doing grocery shopping and was blasting it all the way home down the road while surrounded by huge trucks and the windows open to the spring air.

I think this is more than fitting for Easter Monday or perhaps Pentecost Sunday? Maybe just any day that you are longing to be closer to Jesus. Seems to me this is some of the best new church music!

The Lord your God is with you,

    the Mighty Warrior who saves.

He will take great delight in you;

    in His love He will no longer rebuke you,

    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

I put the lyrics below the song in case you want to follow along. Brandon Lake wrote the song and posted this comment on YouTube.

“Just Like Heaven” was written after I had a very simple but powerful revelation that when we’re in the presence of God we’re getting a taste of what heaven and eternity is going to be like. When you get a taste of heaven, you will want more. We were made for eternity. That’s where I want to live. We don’t have to wait until heaven to experience it — God wants to bring heaven to earth. This song is my personal journey of crying out for more of His presence.” Written by Brandon Lake, Jeff Schneeweis, and Jacob Soote

Isn’t it just like Heaven
When You walk into the room?
There’s not a thing that’s hidden
When every eye is on You
Can’t get enough of Your presence
It’s the perfect point of view
Isn’t it just like, just like
Just like Heaven?

Ooh
Come a little closer, stay a little longer
Ooh
I can’t get enough of You
Ooh
Come a little closer, stay a little longer
Ooh
I can’t get enough of You

Doesn’t it sound like Heaven
When You’re singing over me?
There’s not a voice more constant
Your melodies they never cease
Here I will stand in Your presence
In my true identity
Doesn’t it sound like? Yeah, it sounds like
Just like Heaven

Chorus repeats: Ooh
Come a little closer, stay a little longer

Holy, You are holy
You’re such a perfect Father
I’ll worship You forever
Holy, You are holy
I’ll lay down any treasure
For us to be together
Holy, You are holy
You’re such a perfect Father
I’ll worship You forever
Holy, You are holy
I’ll lay down any treasure
For us to be together

Chorus repeats

Oh, enough of You, oh-oh
A little more of You
I just want more of You, Lord
I just want more of You, Lord
I just want more of You
I can’t get enough

I can’t get enough of You

Why is it Good Friday?

Jesus said in New Revised Standard version of John 15:12-15

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

NRSV John 16:7, 22 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

He went to the Cross for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was to fulfill the promise of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The same Spirit that inhabited Jesus.

Friday was brutal suffering. Unimaginable anguish. But He knew, Sunday was coming!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Holy Week – What is A Christian To Do?

I have spent most of my life following Jesus. One of my greatest Christian teachers was Francis of Assisi. He chose to be stripped of possessions and riches and to follow Christ unhindered by things. For several years I was a Third Order Franciscan through the Episcopal church. Recently my friend, Bonnie, reminded me of a quote from Francis on his deathbed. He is purported to have said, “I have done what was mine to do. May Christ now teach you what you are to do.”

How might we go about doing that? The Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer Rite 2 in the general thanksgiving says “…show forth Your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to Your service ….”

On Monday and Tuesdays when I do not “feel” like writing I am reminded that I give up myself to His service by writing this blog. It is mine to do. I pray what I write will encourage others to follow Jesus. I pray the things I tell about will inspire others to pull down strongholds and walk on with the Savior of our souls. I pray I might amuse others and help lift them from the doldrums of the daily grind. I struggle to put into words my relationship with a Holy God through the power of the Holy Spirit given as a result of the life, sacrifice, resurrection and then ascension of Jesus Christ.

So what is Christ asking you to do?

I have found over the years that if I feel stuck spiritually I need to go back to the last thing the Lord asked me to do, and be certain I did that.

Francis also said, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

So there were things like: volunteer at the homeless shelter. Try to help organize the shelter donations. Set up the construction of a new donation out building. The Church carried that out.

Bonnie also quoted these steps:

  1. Do what is necessary.

2. Do what is possible.

3. Let God take care of impossible details and do as He leads.

Carry on!

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

What Pneuma Pleases

The wind chimes are playing in the breeze outside the office window this morning.

Daffodils in the front garden with tuned chimes. Narcissus in the side garden on land we do not own, but no one cares that we have planted there! This also the milkweed bed later in the year.

The giant tuned wind chime off the deck only rings when winds are strong. Harder to get a photo of this one!

Chimes tuned to deep notes, daffodils on back hill

I often listen to the Calm app and select Mystic fountain for the background sound. Can even make it my sleep sound. It is a dribbling source of water with wind chime ringing occasionally in the background. Why do I enjoy the wind chimes so much? First it reminds me the wind is moving.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 NIV

The wind blows – is similar to the action of the Spirit. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume 2, p. 281 says:

“This verse contains a wordplay which cannot be adequately expressed in English. The Greek word pneuma means both wind and Spirit. The work of the Spirit (pneuma) is invisible and mysterious like the blowing of the wind (pneuma). Man controls neither.”

Exactly! I cannot control the wind. I cannot control the Spirit of God or how It wants to use me. Like the wind chime, I can yield to that power.

Obstacles ought to set us singing. The wind finds voice, not when rushing across the open sea, but when hindered by the outstretched arms of the pine trees, or broken by the fine strings of an Aeolian harp. Then it has songs of power and beauty. Set your freed soul sweeping across the obstacles of life, through grim forests of pain, against even the tiny hindrances and frets that love uses, and it, too, will find its singing voice. —Selected

Streams in the Desert Devotional February 4

Obstacles set me singing? Not quite there yet, but working on being more like the Aeolian harp below. Set your freed soul sweeping across, through and against the challenges of life, and perhaps you, too, can sing !

Hit play for 3:45 minutes of wonder wind music!