Winter Musings © Molly Lin Dutina

The snow was not what we had expected
A layer of warm air turned much of it to ice pellets instead
So less snow, but more noise
At one point it sounded like skeletal fingers tapping
On the sliding glass door
Even the dog wondered who was there.

Today is chop, chop, scoop and lift 
As we hurry to clear the driveway as best we can
Sun will help to dry the pavement before
The next set of snow clouds descend
Winter says “Bring it on!”

Cedars holding dollops of snow
Of marshmallow
Of vanilla ice cream
Pure gelato gone huge
Cedars bent by the
Weight of winter deliciousness

And we, right now, are in Maui! We yield to each season, Lord!

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.

Psalm 65:8 NIV

Walking at CNC

Do you know what the opening photo is? Some even harvest these and sell them!

Bob and I love to hunt wildflowers. If you have ever searched for a particular shell at a beach you can relate. We search for Lady’s Slippers, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Larkspur, etc. We have only found Lady’s Slippers in the Smoky Mountains National Park, but the others we can find locally especially at Cincinnati Nature Center (CNC).

photo by Molly

This fellow was so lovely with the sun shining through it! Sadly the ground around it is covered with Lesser Celandine which has earned the status of invasive. The Nature Center is researching ways to eradicate it. If you look at the top edge of the log above you can see the moss blooming! Beyond those tiny filaments are daffodil leaves starting to grow blossoms for 2024.

Another Jack by Molly

One friend told us when they showed a Jack-in-the-Pulpit to a young person they had to explain what a pulpit was! A pulpit is traditionally where a preacher stands to deliver the sermon. The older pulpits sometimes had a cover over them like a roof, thus the flower resemblance. In case you are still unaware, below is a sampling of pulpits! Our church does not have a pulpit or even a lectern. The Pastor just sits on a stool and talks from there.

pulpit samples on line

When we hiked Whipple Sate Nature Preserve we saw Larkspur in many colors. We also saw them yesterday at Sycamore Park in Batavia.

We agreed that walking Sycamore was so much easier than Whipple! The dog loves the trail and was not allowed at Whipple. We like this park because it is level and even paved! We walked along the East Fork of the Little Miami river, too. The sound of the running water, spring song birds … just made me breathe deeply and thank the Lord for His blessings and refreshment!

The wild dogwoods through the other forest trees were a blessing at CNC!

Are you making time to slow down, listen to the natural world around you or nearby? Do you only lament your feeling of being dried up or make an effort to renew your connection with the Source of Life? I hope you will make an effort to do just that this week!

The Virginia Bluebells at Sycamore park were well past their prime. Bob bought me a Bluebell at the Nature Center plant sale. It looks pitiful in the back garden right now. Praying it will rebound and bless us next year with flowers! Just saw that something is eating holes in the leaves. Uh oh!

Take a walk this week and look for treasures in plain sight!

My dear man walking the trail at CNC

The opening photo was take of worm casings. Evidently very rich for your garden!

Most Recent Poem

I was having a spiritual struggle and one person or the spirit from one person seemed to be the biggest challenge. I could not name the spirit but I knew it was there. Finally it was apparent I needed to get alone with the LORD and have a prayer time to throw this thing off. I was prepared to spend many hours if necessary, but surprisingly it only took a couple hours. This is the resultant poem.

Rooftops ©23-4-20 Molly Lin Dutina

Above the rooftops
Beyond my thoughts and dreams
You move by Your Spirit
Unseen yet beyond powerful
Invited by my yieldedness
You ask no invitation
Welcomed by my obedience
You come cleanse my house
Straightening my crooked paths
Wayward thinking
Thoughts that give negative entrance
You swing the Mighty Sword of Spirit
Sweeping away all hindrance
To Your will and ways.

Above the rooftop of my hair
(Which You have numbered every strand)
Your towering angels like ancient trees
Stand guard to alert me to invasion
I am kept by a love divine
I dwell under the shadow of the Almighty
Your wings enfold and embrace me
If I go astray You shepherd me back
If necessary You will even carry my smelly self
Returning me to the fold
Feeding me with the finest food
Brushing out the tangles in my wool
For You love me
You even pour Your love 
Like a bucket of soapy water
Throughout my heart by Your Spirit
No shame remains
After You work within me

May your week be filled with time for prayer and the rewards of having been in His presence.

Psalm 116 and 1 Peter

Turn again to your rest o my soul, for the Lord has treated you well. Have you instructed your soul in this was to be restored? Have you ever read Psalm 116 in terms of your relationship with the LORD God Almighty?

Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

Psalm 116:5-7 NRSV

When I take time to review my life and my relationship with God I am brought back to a place of rest. Not do-ing, but be-ing with Him. When I peel off my complaints I realize He HAS treated me well, dealt bountifully with me. This fresh realization brings me to a point of wanting to serve Him more, in any ways that He asks.

Have you ever made vows to the Lord? We often hear of people in painful situations trying to bargain with God along the lines of “If You will just do what I want here and now, I will serve You forever.” We are really not in a bargaining position with God. But if You have made a vow to Him from the depths of your being, have you paid the vow?

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,

Psalm 116:17-18 NRSVUE

As an Associate of the Convent of the Transfiguration in Glendale Ohio I made a vow to pray for the Sisters daily. I promised to support the Convent and their work as I am able.

When the verse says “I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people,” to me it means there will no longer be just me and Jesus. I will live out my commitment to Him publicly, in the presence of all His people.

Are you living out your faith before the Lord only, or also before His people. Have you vowed to be a living sacrifice? That is my word for the year ( you can read back in January when I was impressed to choose that.) There are times this living sacrifice does not want to climb up on the altar, does not want to be a living stone.

Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God.

1 Peter 2:5 The Message
and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 

1 Peter 2:5 RSV

As a building stone I want to be like Jesus, ‘a chip off the old block’, similar in yieldedness and willingness to obey His Father and my Father.

“Lord help me to pay my vows to You in the presence of all Your people. Help me to serve you with joyous willingness. Show me Your chosen paths for me and I will walk there with You. Amen.”

The Shepherd, His Sheep

Seems this did not post correctly the first time, so here it is again!

I recently purchased a note card from the Printery House as Conception Abbey in Missouri. The image is the Good Shepherd carrying a sheep. the back reads:

The image of Christ as Good Shepherd is deeply rooted in the Gospels: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:4, cf. Matthew 18:13). The symbolism is of this icon hinges on Christ’s saving Passion. This image of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders, borrowed from secular art of the Greco-Roman world, is now combined with the imagery of the Paschal Mystery: the resurrected Christ, who bears the marks of the nails, brings back sinners who were lost and now are found. The cross is seen in the background as a sign of Christ’s victory over death. Jesus is not only the shepherd, but as the Passion symbolism indicates, he is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Conception Item CA8056
Here is the link if you want to purchase the card https://www.printeryhouse.org/searchresults.asp?q=ca8056

About the same time as the card arrived I was looking through a devotional called Forward Day by Day. For many years I used this as my morning devotional guide. The Scripture readings for each day are listed and a short meditation written by various different authors each month. This page read as follows.

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

At historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestertown, Maryland, where I served years back, someone installed an oversized window with an image of Jesus carrying a sheep around his neck. I never liked that window. It did not fit the space stylistically, historically, or size-wise, but also, I had never been a fan of the passive image of Jesus as Good Shepherd.

That was the case until I visited the sheep ranch of close friends. They invited me to watch the annual sheep branding, which you will be relieved to know is by spray paint. The sheep also receive oral inoculations for various diseases. The shepherds funnel the sheep from a holding pen through chutes, but because sheep are antsy, the shepherds sometimes must wrestle a few. The sheep will fight and buck and wriggle and strain.

The passive sheep around Jesus’s shoulders has surrendered, given himself over to a shepherd that he trusts will lead and guide and even carry when necessary.

MOVING FORWARD: Have you surrendered or do you still fight and buck and wiggle?

Rob Geizelman Forward day by Day Wednesday March 29, 2023

If you would like to hear the devotion read, here is a link https://prayer.forwardmovement.org/fdd/2023-03-29

I really like the MOVING FORWARD question: Have you surrendered or do you still fight and buck and wiggle? What sort of sheep are you? Have you surrendered to Jesus? Do you ever allow Him to carry you?

The Shepherd, His Sheep

I recently purchased a note card from the Printery House as Conception Abbey in Missouri. The image is the Good Shepherd carrying a sheep. the back reads:

The image of Christ as Good Shepherd is deeply rooted in the Gospels: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:4, cf. Matthew 18:13). The symbolism is of this icon hinges on Christ’s saving Passion. This image of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders, borrowed from secular art of the Greco-Roman world, is now combined with the imagery of the Paschal Mystery: the resurrected Christ, who bears the marks of the nails, brings back sinners who were lost and now are found. The cross is seen in the background as a sign of Christ’s victory over death. Jesus is not only the shepherd, but as the Passion symbolism indicates, he is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Conception Item CA8056
Here is the link if you want to purchase the card https://www.printeryhouse.org/searchresults.asp?q=ca8056

About the same time as the card arrived I was looking through a devotional called Forward Day by Day. For many years I used this as my morning devotional guide. The Scripture readings for each day are listed and a short meditation written by various different authors each month. This page read as follows.

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

At historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestertown, Maryland, where I served years back, someone installed an oversized window with an image of Jesus carrying a sheep around his neck. I never liked that window. It did not fit the space stylistically, historically, or size-wise, but also, I had never been a fan of the passive image of Jesus as Good Shepherd.

That was the case until I visited the sheep ranch of close friends. They invited me to watch the annual sheep branding, which you will be relieved to know is by spray paint. The sheep also receive oral inoculations for various diseases. The shepherds funnel the sheep from a holding pen through chutes, but because sheep are antsy, the shepherds sometimes must wrestle a few. The sheep will fight and buck and wriggle and strain.

The passive sheep around Jesus’s shoulders has surrendered, given himself over to a shepherd that he trusts will lead and guide and even carry when necessary.

MOVING FORWARD: Have you surrendered or do you still fight and buck and wiggle?

Rob Geizelman Forward day by Day Wednesday March 29, 2023

If you would like to hear the devotion read, here is a link https://prayer.forwardmovement.org/fdd/2023-03-29

I really like the MOVING FORWARD question: Have you surrendered or do you still fight and buck and wiggle? What sort of sheep are you? Have you surrendered to Jesus? Do you ever allow Him to carry you?

The Passion of the Christ

Jesus promises the Spirit in John 14 and 16. How did we get stuck on Friday? How do we move beyond it?

The movie was supposed to be true to how things likely happened when Jesus was crucified. It was gory and grotesque and certainly showed man’s inhumanity to the Son of God and Son of Man. And to think this was done frequently throughout the ages. Worse yet, it is still done today.

ISIS militants have been known to crucify those who attempt to resist them.

However, there is also another place where crucifixion is known to occur. Yep, you guessed it, Saudi Arabia. Under the Saudi penal code, crucifixion is a legal form of punishment and execution. In one case that has drawn international attention, the Saudi government sentenced a 17-year-old boy named Ali al-Nimr to crucifixion for his participation in anti-government protests. In Saudi Arabia, crucifixion takes place after death with the dead body being crucified in a public place to serve as a warning to others. Amnesty International has condemned the act as “the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

10 Barbaric Forms Of Punishment Still Practiced Today – Listverse

So why would God the Father allow this to happen to His Son? Hebrews says of Jesus

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.

Hebrews 12:2 NIV

What joy? The prophecy in Isaiah 53: 10-12 might help our understanding.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with affliction.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11     Out of his anguish he shall see;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out himself to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors,
yet he bore the sin of many
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:10-12 NRSVUE

Jesus loves you that much. All He is asking is that you surrender to Him. Let Him live through you by the power of His Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with chocolate or bunnies, eggs or candy.

Read that quote from Isaiah again. I think if you read it slowly and ponder the meaning you will have a glorious Easter Season!

If you remain at the cross and the blood, ask yourself if that is what Jesus would want? Yes, He is holy and righteous and to be adored. What about the promises He gave us? Did He die so that we could sit at His grave forever? Are you willing to move beyond the blood, brutality and death?

I think the Father had more in mind than that, much more. His ways are truly higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. Father help us to move into the truth You desire for us.

Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother and Jesus

The LORD has come to earth to build His Kingdom in and through us. It is almost impossible to comprehend the power and the glory He has put forth on our behalf and within us. How can this be?

Even Mary asked in Luke 1:34 “How can this be?”as she pondered God moving in her through the Holy Spirit.

In Cinderella the lyrics between the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella are a back and forth of things sensible people would never believe. Pumpkin becomes a carriage and four white mice are four white horses, etc. They go from Impossible to Possible.

But the world is full of zanies and fools
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And won’t believe what sensible people say,
And because these daft and dewy- eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes,
Impossible things are happ’ning every day!
Such fol-de-rol and fiddledy dee of course is
Quite possible!

For the world is full of zanies and fools—
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And won’t believe what sensible people say.
And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes,
Impossible things are happ’ning every day!
It’s possible! It’s possible!
Impossible  by Rogers and Hammerstein II
Our seemingly impossible hope of redemption through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit are often scoffed at by 'sensible' people, especially 'worldly' people. But God knows better than they do!

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure.

Matthew 11:25-26 CSB

John Piper wrote about this. Here is a link to a short list from his book The Stupendous Reality of Being in Christ Jesus. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-things-it-means-to-be-in-christ-jesus

The world says Impossible. God says Perfect! I pray this Lent you have drawn closer to the Father through the power of His Holy Spirit. The changes He can bring to you are more stupendous than a pumpkin becoming a carriage!

Waterford creation

I pray you are willing to be yielded to His power at work in and through you. May you let Him have His way in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to rise up within you and do the works of Jesus through you. May 2023 be your best Easter Season ever!

It is almost impossible to comprehend the power and the glory He has put forth on our behalf and within us. And yet our Father says this is His plan. Unlike the Fairy Godmother, His transformations are eternal. Yield to being remade in the likeness of His dear Son.

Lent is Coming to a Close

How has your Lenten discipline been going? I awoke one morning with an interesting insight I want to share with you. During Lent we try to become aware of our weaknesses and God’s strength to aid us. We choose disciplines to help us move consciously towards the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our Paschal lamb and the subsequent celebration of His mighty resurrection on our behalf. Up from the grave He arose! And we rejoice.

Throughout the year we sing about the Power in His blood. Good Friday we reflect upon His blood shed for us. The water and the blood from His pierced side. His sacrifice compared to the blood of goats and bulls (Hebrews 9-10).

The blood of Christ is important and we need to understand the excruciating death He suffered and why. Too many of us have gotten stuck right there. I think God wants us to think beyond the Blood of Christ. Why did He die for us? What was His promise about His death. God’s version of “There is more to the story.”

In John 16:5 Jesus begins to explain to the disciples about the Holy Spirit by saying ” I am going to him who sent me.”

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 

John 16:7 NIV

Jesus knew that the presence of the Advocate with us is better than His walk alongside us on earth.

 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.

John 16:13-14

We might never understand the full significance of these three verses. We do know from the discourse in John 16 that Jesus is teaching beyond His suffering, crucifixion and resurrection. He is teaching about the Holy Spirit, Advocate, Spirit of Truth dwelling within us. This is a consequence of Him shedding His blood for us.

The disciples did not grasp the meaning when He first taught this. He was beaten, crucified, died and was buried on our behalf. He rose again and was seen by the disciples and many others. He bestows His Holy Spirit on those who believe in Him and love Him. Many of us to this day do not grasp the meaning of His words.

There was a song in the 1980s that told of the battle between Jesus and satan, God the Father being the mediator of that battle. Satan is surprised about the outcome. You see, Jesus went to heaven, but by indwelling His disciples, He walks that earth in millions through the centuries.

Now the final blow saved for the final round.
Prophetically Christ's hands came down
And Satan struck in vengeance!
The blow of death felled Jesus to the ground.

The devils roared in victory!
The saints shocked and perplexed as wounds appeared upon His hands and feet.
Then Satan kicked Him in His side, and blood and water flowed.
And they waited for the 10 count of defeat.

God the Father turned His head,
His tears announcing Christ was dead!
The 10 count would proclaim the battle's end.
Then Satan trembled through his sweat in unexpected horror, yet...
As God started to count by saying,
"...10..."
"Hey wait a minute, God..." "...9..." "Stop! You're counting wrong..."
"...8..."
His eyes are moving...
"...7..."
His fingers are twitching...
"...6..."
"Where's all this Light coming from?"
"...5..."
"He's alive!"
"...4..."
"Oh - nooooo!"
"...3..."
"And yet,"
"...2..."
"Oh... Yessssss!
"...1..."
He has won!
He has won!
He's alive forevermore!
He is risen, He is Lord,
He has won!
He has won!
He's alive forevermore,
He is risen!
He is Lord!

Proclaim the news in every tongue,
Through endless ages and beyond
Let it be voiced from mountains loud and strong
Captivity has been set free, salvation bought for you and me
'Cause Satan is defeated,
And Jesus is The Champion
Written by: Thomas Allan Flowers, Richard C. Ivanisevich, Douglas James Eldridge

Album: The Champion             Released: 1987

Andrew Peterson captured the same miracle with the song “His Heart Beats.” Part of those lyrics are:

He rises, glorified in flesh
Clothed in immortality, the firstborn from the dead
He rises, and His work's already done
So He's resting as He rises to reclaim the Bride He won
And His heart beats

So crown Him the Lord of Life
Crown Him the Lord of Love
Crown Him the Lord of All

He took one breath
And put death to death
Where is your sting, O grave?
How grave is your defeat
I know, I know His heart beats

Are you willing to embrace His sacrifice and let Him live in and through you? I pray your disciplines have led you to a point of surrender to Jesus in every way, shape and form.

Oswald Chambers The Next Step

March 6th My Utmost for His Highest

Amid a crowd of paltry things … in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses. 2 Cor. 6:4.

It takes Almighty grace to take the next step when there is no vision and no spectator—the next step in devotion, the next step in your study, in your reading, in your kitchen; the next step in your duty, when there is no vision from God, no enthusiasm and no spectator. It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the Gospel. Every Christian has to partake of what was the essence of the Incarnation, he must bring the thing down into flesh-and-blood actualities and work it out through the finger-tips. We flag when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and the only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you. Continually get away from pettiness and paltriness of mind and thought out into the thirteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).

I once heard a wise woman speak the truth that what you see on the exterior of a Christian only partially gives you a hint as to what has occurred in that persons’ life with God. Chambers calls it “the next step when there is no spectator.”

We each live out our life with God by ourselves. Yes, there are others around about us, but we carry what Bonhoeffer calls the Cost of Discipleship. We walk alone with Christ. Are you willing to take the next step with Jesus? When there is no vision will you be obedient to the last thing He asked you to do? Many times we want to side-step the last thing and move along. Too often that step you want to get around may be a foundation for you to stand strong further along the journey. Would you let your impatience or discomfort ruin your foundation?

“It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the Gospel,” said Chambers. Most of us cannot imagine preaching the Gospel in front of a crowd. Are we willing to draw upon God and take the next step in our journey?

Ouch, true confession here. My next step is to take better care of myself physically by doing the prescribed physical therapy home exercises daily. But my body cries out that they often make me feel worse, not better. Such is the life of one with fibromyalgia and other ailments. The stretches for plantar fasciitis have shown me that they do have a cumulative effect for the good. Shoulder stretches? not so much! I need to do them. As I age I need to do them more, no matter my whining excuses. I need more grace to begin again each day. I need to do these in order to serve God better. God needs me to do these as part of my obedience to my doctors .

Oswald tells me “Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you.” Oh LORD, help me think of You as I do what I need to do for this body to be more flexible and carry less pain. Help me to push back against the drudgery and my dislike of physical exercise, counting repetitions , etc. I yield to steady persevering work in the unseen. For Your glory and honor. Amen.

How about you? Is there something you do not want to do that the LORD is asking of you? How will you proceed?