Wonder What Chronic Pain is Like?

Sometimes the pain of fibromyalgia is compared to having the flu. If you have had the foggy brain, aches and pains, etc. of flu you might know what fibro is like. First, you have to remember what all of that felt like. The thing with pain is we often forget what it felt like. Fibromyalgia does not let you forget. It rears its ugly head and exerts its dark power regularly – even daily.

There have been a few nights lately when I have gotten to sleep and then woke up about 15 minutes later. I think the waking is usually caused by physical discomfort. One night I finally got my tablet and made a few notes about it. This is not meant o draw pity or fear or aversion. Just the truth about what it is like at times to be me.

It is as if every place I have ever injured on my body has gained a voice of complaint, discomfort and unceasing pain. Trying to get to sleep is the hardest task. Right shoulder, right knee, right plantar fasciitis, turn over and left lower back has an acerbic diatribe to throw in. Spasm in thumb joint, afternoon fatigue, the list goes on to include headaches, jaw pain, stiffness trying to stand- stiffness that makes me realize I am no longer a young woman. Aging is advancing so rapidly that I am absolutely stunned, dumbfounded, flummoxed.

If those are temporarily quieted there is a painful lump on index finger second joint that has a voice like a high pitched child who has learned to scream. Heaven help me. And then I am reminded what Paul wrote in Romans.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:16-18

With streams of remembrance my mind goes to my youth. I have always been nineteen in my mind. That is no longer so. I do not mourn the changes though perhaps it might do me good. I am not nineteen. I am not ninety-one. I am simply Molly Lin, disciple of Christ Jesus, finding her way through aging.

The thought occurs that perhaps this is spiritual warfare. Lord Jesus, King of angel armies, show me how to push back this darkness. And if it is not warfare, then show me how to move into acceptance with grace and mercy towards myself.

Such a difficult task, but one I must take up or slip into weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth!

The sufferings – I share in mean I will also share in His glory. Theses sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed. Oh Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. If there be any wicked way in me, lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:24)

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I have been reading the above book at the suggestion of the Rabbit Room. If you have not heard of the Rabbit Room here is a little introduction.

The Rabbit Room was conceived as an experiment
in creative community.

After author/singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson’s first visit to the Oxford home of C. S. Lewis, he returned to Nashville with a conviction that community nourishes good and lasting work. The Rabbit Room, the name of the back room of the pub where the Oxford Inklings (including Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams) shared their stories, began as a simple blog of contributing authors, songwriters, artists, and pastors. Over the years, with the help of Andrew’s brother A. S. “Pete” Peterson, his manager Christie Bragg, a growing staff, and encouragement from the loyal Rabbit Room contributors and readers, the Rabbit Room has grown to include podcasts, a thriving music and book store, Rabbit Room Press, a yearly conference called Hutchmoot, regular events like the Local Show, and a physical home in a 150-year-old farmhouse called North Wind Manor.

The Rabbit Room (squarespace.com)

The site goes on to say the book is ‘not an ideal portrayal of the Christian community’, yet it is a rather accurate and compelling portrayal of human community. I admit since I began reading it I have trouble putting it down when I should be going to sleep! I checked it out in eBook format from my local library.

One quote I copied last night read:

“I was going along, not listening but just hearing, not looking but just seeing, not thinking anymore of where I was trying to go or even of how I was going to find something to eat, just setting one foot in front of the other.”

Jayber Crow

I have often written about the form of meditative prayer described above, meditative walking prayer. Just look. Don’t think. Just listen. Don’t interpret.

This morning I found myself delighted as I was yesterday during my prayer and reading time by the sliver of moon out the window next to my prayer chair. It caused me to write the verse below.

23-1-17©Molly Lin Dutina  
Glimmering sliver of moon 
Veil of clouds fold and part and undulate between us 
Wind moves them along to show your reflected light 
Then to cover you over completely 
Your glow is not always seen by me 
Yet you shine even when brightness of sun 
Obliterates your visage

As I type this I can almost hear my husband saying, “Move it along, Molly. What are you trying to say?” I asked the Lord what He would have me write about and post for today. And this is what came together. I want to show you that waiting and listening, watching and observing can lead to prayer and inspiration that you did not plan. This morning I also listened again to part of the John Eldredge One Minute Pause.

The point I heard was that the love of God is something we are to experience more than explain. We are to experience the love of God though it is too great to understand fully. Experience that love.

Are you content to sit with God, love Jesus, use words to express your heart through the Holy Spirit and know that all of that pleases God? Will you use minutes of your life every day to listen for the voice of the Holy speaking to or about you? The Trinity is not interested in what we can do for the Kingdom as much as our relationship to the Trinity Community. Just as the veil of the temple was torn in two when Jesus was on the cross (Matthew 27:50-51), the Kingdom of Heaven has been opened to us by His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Remember when you had to interpret poetry in English class? Some of you hated that. There were times when I too just wanted to enjoy the poem. Below is my interpretation of what was moving in my soul this morning.

we reflect the light of Christ 
entering the Kingdom we shall see clearly,
until then with the veil of clouds we see dimly
the wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit
I do not always see Christ at work
yet the Trinity is always moving in and through our lives.

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that it is the brightness of his glory that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4: 6 TLB

No there is nothing between us and God. However we do not “see” clearly yet. We do not always interpret correctly what we do see. By staying in community with the Trinity and having fellowship with believers we are more likely to experience the love of God. Experiential knowledge is something no one can take away from you.

“Going to Jail”

Recently, I was telling a friend about my experience teaching at the Hamilton County Justice Center on the women’s wing, face to face with the prisoners. At the time I had been leading Bible studies with Women’s Aglow. On the local evening news I heard that they were giving a tour of the newly built Justice Center the next day. I was convinced I should go. While there I signed up for a pass to teach Bible study to the women in the jail.

Interior of Justice Center before it was populated

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

Psalm139:8 KJV

Teaching Scripture at the Justice Center was like ‘walking into hell on purpose’. Linda and I would meet that morning and take communion in her kitchen. We would pray and intercede all the way downtown. Park the car. Get her guitar and my teaching materials. Enter the Justice Center. Show our badges. Go to the Chaplain’s office and leave our purses and personal belongings.

If the guards were sensitive to our purpose they might turn the TV volume down. You have not taught the Word until you do it in a cinder block room with the $10,000.00 dollar Pyramid playing in the background. I quickly learned how to project my voice!

We’d have the ladies sign in with their name and prisoner number. With that information we could write them a note card. We never asked any of them what they did or were accused of that landed them in that place. We just ‘loved on them’ and brought them the New Testament teachings on how to live for Christ.

After the time at jail, usually in Linda’s driveway, we would split the name list. On our own time we would pray over each name and write a card using a Scripture for their encouragement as led by the Holy Spirit.

Next time we saw the women some would often say it was just the verse they needed, asking, “How did you know?” We would answer them that we prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to give us the verse they needed. Sometimes the notes would move the women to share with their fellow prisoners and more women would attend on their say so.

photo on line

All of this was a tremendous time of spiritual warfare, faith building and learning for both myself and Linda. It was hard only if we tried to do it in our own strength. With God it was possible and rewarding to both of us.

When I sensed that it was my time to step down, Linda continued to serve in ministry there for 15 years. She recruited others to help her and the work carried on to thousands of women over the years.

God ordained, arranged and coordinated that ministry. We followed in obedience and did our best to listen to His voice each step of the way. To God be all the glory! I pray those women came to know Him and walk with Him even today.

Prompts

I have been pondering my Advent poem and wondering where it took you prior to and during Christmas?

Self as Manger   HERE AM I © 1993 Molly Lin Dutina 

Here am I, stuff of earth
But by the Spirit's power rebirth
has brought me receptivity.
Fill me with Yourself.

Molded by Your Holy Hand
I wait before You
Cupped and ready,
cleansed, atoned
eager for Your radiant touch
Virtue compelled to enfold Your own
the vessel of Your making.

Here am I, stuff of earth
yielded for Messiah's birth
be it unto me, O Lord,
as in Your word and will.

The Great I AM
dwells in my heart
there to impart the power,
courage and propulsion for
His dream to be fulfilled.

So ‘stuff of earth’ did you yield for Messiah’s birth? Are you asking for His indwelling?

Many of the things I read or subscribe to with daily posts provide me with prompts for writing the blog. Here is one from Grateful Living: “In the bigger scheme of things the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.” – Lucille Clifton

In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), thus God is our universe. What is God asking us to be? Maybe a confidant for one who is hurting? Perhaps His witness among the lost and hungry souls?

Writing Prompt 2

This year as my body seems to be deteriorating more I will likely be the one who does not do so much anymore, but holds the Light for others. I believe holding the Light is more than shining a flashlight upon a hard to see object. Holding forth the Light of Christ is accomplished through being His. There has always been a struggle in American society as to whether it is more important to Do or to Be … which leads to DO-BE-DO-BE-DO. If rebirth has brought you receptivity and you are filled with Him, BE-ing His reigns over any other accomplishment.

Another writing prompt

What if we hold to His power, courage and propulsion and allow Him to fulfill His dream in and through us? To do that we will need to be still (Psalm 46:10). Yield to His plan this year and see how 2023 ends for you!

Living Sacrifice

This year my focus word is sacrifice. I take that to mean living sacrifice as in Romans 12:1-2

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2 NRSV

How would that effect your life? Do you present your body a living sacrifice to God? Do you see yourself as holy and acceptable to God? Do you understand that is your reasonable act of worship?

In the Old Testament, the priests would offer living animals to God as part of the worship of God, cutting them up and offering them on the altar. Paul tells us, however, that God would prefer that we become a living sacrifice, which is far greater. In fact. even under the Old Covenant, God considered obedience to be far better and of greater value to him than any offering of animals (1 Samuel 15:22-23, Palm 40:6-8, Amos 5:21-24.)

https://www.biblestudy.org/question/living-sacrifice.html

How often is our obedience the great feat of the day, the week? Obedience can be difficult because it so often runs counter to our ego, our desire for self-rule in contrast to obedience to God Almighty. Observe your walk this week and try to discern how many times you yield to God’s will and how many times you pursue your own desires first and foremost.

I know many of you do not like loud contemporary music, but listening to even the first 3 minutes of the above video can give you an idea of what I love about Brandon Lake and his worship music.

So from time to time this year I will try to discuss what I discover and experience about trying to learn to live this verse in 2023. May you discover your ‘word for the year’ and learn to live in obedience to what you are called to do with that verse.

The ‘biblestudy.org’ site above offers a few more ideas of how to live Romans 12:1.

I have not put photos with this post as I cannot find one that expresses my heart. May you be blessed with an increased awareness of His presence in you and with you.

How to Please God

Amy Carmichael “Edges of His Ways” continues to inspire me. When I read this selection I learned that the passage in Proverbs speaks as to how we can cause God to delight in us.

My son, if your heart is wise, then My heart will be glad indeed; My inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

Proverbs 23:15-16 RSV

The passage reminds me of when one of my children makes my heart swell with joy. Like the time Emily at 3 years old, smuggled Jesus into church on Christmas Eve. When I asked her what was in her hand she opened her palm and said, “I thought He ought to come.” To this day I marvel at the faith of that girl-child.

How can a person protect or keep their ways? Psalm 119 tells some ways.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!

Psalm 119:9-10 RSV

It is all of Him if we are made aware of His Presence and listen when He speaks, and so receive wisdom; but in His extraordinary love He speaks as if it were all our doing

Amy Carmichael “Edges of His Ways” December 5 “The Evens”

God lets things unfold as if our right doing is from our own strength. Yet, Amy and others teach us that He makes us aware of His Presence, He directs our paths, His grace and mercy carry us along our way.

If my heart is wise, if my lips speak what is right my Father will be pleased. This can make His heart glad and His inmost being rejoice. This is a good time and season to ask the Father “How could I most delight You today?” What gift can I present to You, Father of Lights?

I have been reading The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. In the section entitled Shared Prayers and Devotions there is a portion for each morning and evening over seven days. The prayers and devotions are a lovely weave of Scriptures, praise and requests to our Lord. This jumped out at me, “Let us not live uncertain of what we are, of where we are going. Bear witness with our spirit that we are thy children and enable each one to say, “I know my Redeemer.”

Wait in His Presence. Remember God really loves you. Trust His love and learn how to be devoted to Him.

His Power

Have you pondered the Power of our God?

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

Psalm 68:19-20 NIV

Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens. You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!

Psalm 68:34-35 NIV

All of that in four verses of one Psalm. Have you thanked Him for pouring out this power on your behalf? In your darkest hour do you know His light? He bears our burdens. He keeps us from dying in our heart, our innermost being. He gives power and strength to His people. When we feel most vulnerable and acutely know the very weakness of ourselves, He gives us power and strength. Who couldn’t use more strength?

Repeatedly I come back to

 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Romans 8:11 NRSV

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. I have found that the power that raised Jesus goes dormant when I choose to live by my flesh, pushing the Spirit of Christ aside in preference to my will and my ways. My thinking becomes corrupted with thoughts such as, “Why shouldn’t I be thanked?” or “What am I, chopped okra?”

The only way I know to begin again starts with seeing my sin and confessing it to my Lord.

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

1 John 1:9 RSV

I cannot cleanse myself. I can recognize and confess though. Just as an addict cannot stop using until they want to, until they are ready, I cannot even see my sin until I am miserable and recognize how far removed I am from walking in righteousness with my Lord.

He daily bears our burdens and provides us an escape from death. He gives us life and strength and power. He indwells us with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. He knows we have the ability to shut off that power source by stubbornly returning to our ways of flesh. When the ‘Hound of Heaven’ shows us we are way off, He can also disarm us with His love and lead us to repentance.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him . . .

The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson

We serve an amazing God who never leaves us or forsakes us. Even when we are stinky brats, He stays close by. Come to Him, all who are weary and heavy laden. He will give you rest and life and love unmerited.

The Father will not make us obey. He waits for us to turn to Him and ask forgiveness. We give access to Him by confessing our shortcomings. We then turn towards Him and walk away from the sin habits. I would love to say we never return there. Sadly we are like dogs in Proverbs 26:11:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

Lord, help us to follow You with joyful, peaceful, constant, yielded obedience. Thank you for pardoning us when we step off Your path and choose our own way. Please continue to lead us always in Your paths of righteousness. We will be ever so careful to give You the glory. Amen.

Gift from My Friend, Dan

In the summer of 2021 my friend Dan sent me the book The Valley of Vision A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. I do not read it daily, but I was prompted to open it last week. Here is where I read:

Grace Active
Lord Jesus, Great High Priest,
Thou hast opened a new and living way
by which a fallen creature can approach thee with acceptance.
Help me to contemplate
the dignity of thy Person,
the perfectness of thy sacrifice,
the effectiveness of thy intercession.
O what blessedness accompanies devotion,
when under all the trials that weary me, 
eh cares that corrode me,
the fears that disturb me,
the infirmities that oppress me,
I can come to thee in my need
and feel peace beyond understanding!
The grace that restores is necessary to  preserve,
lead, guard, supply, help me.

And here thy saints encourage my hope;
they were once poor and are now rich,
bound and are now free,
tried and now are victorious.

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess,
but bit more than is found in thee,
the divine Treasury in whom all fullness dwells.
To thee I repair for grace upon grace
until every void made by sin be replenished
and I am filled with all thy fullness.
May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened,
that I may honour thee by my entire dependency
and the greatness of my expectation.
Do thou be with me, and prepare me for all
the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity,
the losses of substance, the death of friends,
the days of darkness, the changes of life,
and the last great change of all.
May I find thy grace sufficient
for all my needs.

Certainly said it all for me!

Remember this Artwork?

My writing this week began with a blank page as it always does, then sorrows and struggles of others, the sound of dry leaves, climate change and some poetry. How to sum that up? I think my newest t-shirt says it best with a quote from Mother Teresa, “Do small things with great love.”

How to shine the Light of the Lord in these situations? For those in sorrow and struggles, cook a meal if you can. Surprise someone with flowers and a slice of cake. Pray for their situations and the strength of their hearts. Remind them as you are enabled that the paths of the Lord “drip with abundance.”

Dry leaves falling upon dry leaves are about to end today as rain is forecast in our area. Then we will have dry leaves falling upon soggy leaves. And oh how we need that rain! Yes, the voice of the Lord is still here like the whisper of leaves upon leaves, that still small voice of love and encouragement, challenge and reproof. (1 Kings 19:12) Are you listening for His voice of instruction to you?

My reminders

I have returned to wearing this homemade bracelet. It reminds me that I am called to Constant, Yielded, Peaceful, Joyful Obedience to the Lord. When I am diligent to this He shines His light through me, usually when I am not even aware it is happening. Why is this important? As His servant and ambassador in this age of darkness, like Paul, I am to reflect His glory. My occupation is to give light to those around me, Light from the Son.

for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak

Ephesians 6:20

When the bracelet annoys me, catches upon something or hinders the use of my wrist my practice is to make that draw my attention back to Christ. Am I listening? Am I doing the last thing He asked of me? Is the Trinity trying to get my attention right now? Am I humble enough to yield and to listen? Will I obey Him?

Some say they do not know what God wants them to do. If you keep praying and asking, the Holy Spirit is quite capable to make the Father’s will clear to you. You must wait and listen. When you receive instruction obey as much of that instruction as you are able. You might mess it up and make a mistake. We all do that. Our God is able to clean up our mistakes and make the most of our efforts.

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

2 John 1:6 NIV

I pray you will use the empty page, the empty canvas of your life to do works of His desiring. Though you might not be able to see what is being created, He does and He will be careful to keep your heart until the day of His coming. Work diligently, as unto God. He reads your heart and knows your efforts on His behalf.

Ask Him, “what would bring pleasure to You today, Lord?” Then set out to delight your Lord with all of your heart!

Be Kept Blameless

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV

I am kept blameless by God himself. I do not have the power to do that. He does and He wants to do that.

Are you aware of your shortcomings? Do you know that God loves you so much He is willing to sanctify you? He is willing to make you blameless in all of your being, spirit, soul and body. Your entirety.

Who is calling you? Almighty God our Father.

The holy God of Peace.

He is faithful.

He will do it.

Will you yield to Him and let Him have His own way within you?