There was more than one time in my journey with my son through his troubles that I was ready to give up hope. A recent song on Christian radio reminded me of one of those times. It is by Big Daddy Weave. Hit the link below to listen, not the ‘official’ video, but one with lyrics. The song is called Alive, but the refrain is “But God.”
One morning exasperated and losing hope I just kept hearing, “But God” Finally I went to look up the Scripture. There are quite a few times that the Word says ‘But God.” One example:
“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him.
Acts 7:9 NIV
All seemed lost, BUT GOD …. just like in Joseph’s life, moved, acted, was at work behind the scenes in my son’s life, in hearts and minds I did not know about. At the time all I did was cling to those two words, never discounting the power of God to touch my son’s heart, arrange circumstances, allow His will to come forth.
Are there places today where you need to just stand still, and allow your heart to remember ‘But God?’ Trust He will have His own way in things we are no longer trying to orchestrate. As the wisdom saying goes,” Let go and let God.”
Have you ever read the C. S. Lewis classic The Screwtape Letters ? He wrote about the story of two demons, one junior being trained by a senior, to torment and thwart the work of a Christian. A great spiritual classic that every Christian should have as required reading!
I think I experienced some of that demonic work this past week. Usually when I am presented with a new physical challenge, I may have a day or two of being blue, but then I find ways to adapt. Ways to lean harder upon the Lord for guidance, leaning in for instruction in how to cope. Rarely do I just get angry and feel sorry for myself.
I was doing fine at first after the shoulder injury. Then began going down a black tube of discouragement and almost depression over the pain, the things I can’t do, the frustration of where does this place our next journey. How am I going to sleep in a motel bed when I cannot sleep in my own bed? Do motels have recliners? Even the one listed as having recliners did not have them when we called. Discouragement is a weapon of the enemy of our souls. Yep, I was getting a worsening attitude almost hourly.
There is a woman at church who has insight about spiritual
warfare. Yesterday she asked how I was doing and I told her the truth. She
said, “Well let’s pray. Maybe something has attached itself to this situation.”
She prayed with me.
Well, it seems that whatever it was had to let go after she prayed. I went back to the most recent things the Lord had been telling me for coping. Though I had not realized it, there was as a big black cloud lingering over me. It was lifted and blown to pieces. The Son came out and I found ways to look at all this in a more positive light. His Light, His Truth, His Way.
I sometimes KNOW when that blanket of oppression falls upon
me. It feels damp and gray and confining. This time I was fooled. But this
servant of God saw it and she prayed it off.
My Monday has not gone as planned because of massive
computer updates that are taking a very long time, but I am
composing on the iPad and not upset. Things happen, time passes, God is not
surprised or worried.
I have a new respect for the power of the Holy Spirit to lead me where I need to go and need to be. I have a new respect for this woman. God is able and He will keep me. God shows no partiality (ACTS 10:34 NRSV) and I am certain He is able to keep and lead, comfort and deliver you, too!
“I will be still, and I will behold in my dwelling place.” Or another translations “I will look on quietly in My dwelling place.”
Lord, You teach that we are made in the Father’s image and we are to learn to become like You, our Savior. I have studied many passages about being still, but perhaps this is the first time I have been struck that my Father is still. Hudson Taylor wrote about the Lord not being worried or perturbed, but this is likely the first time I have noticed this Old Testament passage to that effect. Or is it because I am so eager for answers today? In Isaiah You were still and just beheld what was happening until You were ready to act. Oh I fail miserably at that! Being still and unperturbed….yikes I have so much to learn and a long, long way to go if I am ever to be like You in this.
Yes, July 15th I saw the Orthopedic Surgeon regarding the shoulder I injured in late June. The MRI results and test for my range of motion show a frozen shoulder. I had thought “Frozen Shoulder” was due to not moving it. Well, I was so wrong. Frozen shoulder is now considered an autoimmune disease that can set in after a fall. Doc explained it as a bell curve. You fall, then you get progressively less movement and more pain in that shoulder, hit a plateau, then slowly recover. No surgery unless there is no improvement after 6 months. No physical therapy for several months. Sling for comfort and pain meds to help with sleep. Cortisone injection in shoulder capsule during my appointment. No fun! but Lamaze breathing certainly helped. This morning I still have frozen shoulder. I suppose I must rest for many more days to come. Doc said the worst are the patients that think they have to DO MORE to get better. He assured me this will resolve itself, but it will take months, not weeks or days.
Also have been listening to my old music collection of songs. Came upon this Vineyard Music song.
I was so glad the You Tube video has the words for you! Below is the link to Streams in the Desert that so inspired this dry soul as I waited to see the doctor. A friend gave me a copy almost forty years ago. She did not like the wording and thought I might. She was absolutely right. I also love that the Lord can move me to the wrong date when I need to read something from Him! I doubt that Mrs. Cowan had any idea the impact that her collection would have to move so many people for years and years after publication in 1925! https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/desert/streams-in-the-desert-july-17th.html
I will be still, and I will behold in my dwelling place (Isaiah 18:4, RV).
“Assyria was marching against Ethiopia, the people of which are described as tall and smooth. And as the armies advance, God makes no effort to arrest them; it seems as though they will be allowed to work their will. He is still watching them from His dwelling place, the sun still shines on them; but before the harvest, the whole of the proud army of Assyria is smitten as easily as when sprigs are cut off by the pruning hook of the husbandman.
“Is not this a marvelous conception of God–being still and watching? His stillness is not acquiescence. His silence is not consent. He is only biding His time, and will arise, in the most opportune moment, and when the designs of the wicked seem on the point of success, to overwhelm them with disaster. As we look out on the evil of the world; as we think of the apparent success of wrong-doing; as we wince beneath the oppression of those that hate us, let us remember these marvelous words about God being still and beholding.
“There is another side to this. Jesus beheld His disciples toiling at the oars through the stormy night; and watched though unseen, the successive steps of the anguish of Bethany, when Lazarus slowly passed through the stages of mortal sickness, until he succumbed and was borne to the rocky tomb. But He was only waiting the moment when He could interpose most effectually.
“Is He still to thee? He is not unobservant; He is beholding all things; He has His finger on thy pulse, keenly sensitive to all its fluctuations. He will come to save thee when the precise moment has arrived. –Daily Devotional Commentary
“Whatever His questions or His reticences, we may be absolutely sure of an unperplexed and undismayed Saviour.”
Meditative quiet was almost impossible for me yesterday as I waited to find out if I was facing surgery or what. Today I am more quiet, but still rattled by the diagnosis, injection, pain, etc. Each day will get easier for me to move back to that prayerful practice of turning off my anxious mind and becoming more like the Trinity, beholding all things, patiently watching life unfold. I do believe that the practice I have participated in thus far helped me through the anxiety of the unknown. Now to radically accept this resting and slowing down for healing. God knows, I have a long way to go!
For years I have kept quotes that inspire, encourage and challenge me. As we try to downsize I have been coming across some from quite a while back. For many I do not have the author’s name. I hope they inspire you, too.
“Surrendering is a personal and spiritual experience. Trust in the timing and in the freedom at the other end.”
Ardis Whitman: Hope for the moment. “There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this happens, concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur (the little happiness) until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will shine. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow. “
I just LOVE how this woman expressed it! She says with a giggle, “You just never know what may happen!” She does not say it in a doom and gloom sort of way. She looks forward with expectation of joy with much gratitude! Spend about 6 minutes with Peggy. You will be blessed!
Oh Lord help us to adopt her wonderful attitude and smile in every aspect of our lives! Once I had a librarian tell me, “You know you are reading a really great novel when you find yourself during the day wondering what the characters are doing now!” God of the universe is writing your story. What is happening now? Give praise and thanks for that thing.
In 2016 we visited my husband’s family in California. His brother and sister-in-law told us about a place called Pebble Beach. Not the place in southern California where they play golf. This is a special attraction like no other beach in California. They warned us that collecting was prohibited there.
My husband found the location with no trouble. As we approached the walkway down we noticed two women coming up from the beach. One had a large 5 gallon bucket with a lid from the hardware store. She immediately put it down and sat on it. Her friend continued on to their vehicle with a small shovel. We wondered to ourselves if they had been collecting pebbles?
Was I ever surprised at the sight!
Yes! A close up of the same rock because it is so amazing! Those are tiny ocean formed pebbles in the openings the ocean carved into the larger rocks!
I have been reading the devotional Streams in the Desert for many, many years. Originally published in 1928, it has been reproduced in many forms including an online format. I was astounded this morning when I read this entry from July 7th and realized I knew exactly where they were writing about! They record the experience this way: “There is a very famous “Pebble Beach” at Pescadero, on the California coast. The long line of white surf comes up with its everlasting roars, and rattles and thunders among the stones on the shore.
“They are caught in the arms of the pitiless waves, and tossed and rolled, and rubbed together, and ground against the sharp-grained cliffs. Day and night forever the ceaseless attrition goes on – never any rest. And the result?
“Tourists from all the world flock thither to gather the round and beautiful stones. They are laid up in cabinets; they ornament the parlor mantels. But go yonder, around the point of the cliff that breaks off the face of the seas; and up that quiet cove, sheltered from the storms, and lying ever in the sun, you shall find abundance of peebles that have never been chosen by the traveler.
As I child I remember lying in bed on summer mornings and hearing this lovely bird call me to come outside. It was a glorious way to wake up! And then I rarely heard it again, even though as an adult we lived close to the Cincinnati Nature Center for 30 years.
When we moved to our current neighborhood on the edge of the “Green Space” I heard it once. Oh what joy transported me back to Woodford Road 1957, 58, 59, etc.! I was literally running to each window to try to discover the location of the elusive singer.
The Audubon Society says: “This is the only native quail in the east. Its whistled bob-white! call is a familiar sound in spring in farmland and brushy pastures. The birds are heard more often than seen; although not especially shy, they often keep within dense low cover. During fall and winter, bobwhites live in coveys, averaging about a dozen birds. At night they roost on the ground in circles, tails pointed inward, heads pointed out.”
And then they report the bad news: “The Northern Bobwhite has disappeared from much of the northern part of its range, and has declined seriously even in more southern areas. The causes for these declines are not well understood. At northern edge of range, many may be killed by unusually harsh winters, but this does not explain its widespread vanishing act. “
I enjoy seeing the Gambel’s Quail when we visit New Mexico. As entertaining as they are, they cannot replace the nostalgia brought by that Bobwhite call from my childhood.
Once during my prayer time I heard: “You are just as loved as when that bird sang during your childhood. You are still a kept child who can rest in Jesus, trust Him, glorify Him, invite Him in and know His love – always.”
The Word says in Zephaniah 3:16-17 (NIV2011) On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 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.”
God will rejoice over you with singing! Relax and listen for His song each day.
Bob asked if I was going to say MORE about getting quiet and meditation. Then I read this entry June 30 from Streams in the Desert. The author of this selection is A. B. Simpson. Mrs. Charles E. Cowman frequently put his writings in her collection of devotionals.I decidedly not to work so hard on the blog this entry, but to share these marvelous insights with you.
There was silence, and I heard a still voice. JOB 4:16
A score of years ago, a friend
placed in my hand a book called True
Peace. It was an old medieval message, and it had but one thought –
that God was waiting in the depths of my being to talk to me if I would only
get still enough to hear His voice.
I thought this would be a very easy
matter, and so I began to get still. But I had no sooner commenced than a perfect
pandemonium of voices reached my ears, a thousand clamoring notes from without
and within, until I could hear nothing but their noise and din.
Some were my own voices, my own
questions, some my very prayers. Others were suggestions of the tempter and the
voices from the world’s turmoil
In every direction I was pulled and pushed and greeted with noisy acclamations and unspeakable unrest. It seemed necessary for me to listen to some of them and to answer some of them; but God said,
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Then came the conflict of thoughts for tomorrow, and its duties and cares; but God said, “Be still.”
And as I listened, and slowly
learned to obey, and shut my ears to every sound, I found after a while that
when the other voices ceased, or I ceased to hear them, there was a still small
voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible
tenderness, power and comfort.
As I listened, it became to me the voice of prayer, the voice of wisdom, the voice of duty, and I did not need to think so hard, or pray so hard, or trust so hard; but that “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit in my heart was God’s prayer in my secret soul, was God’s answer to all my questions, was God’s life and strength for soul and body, and became the substance of all knowledge, and all prayer and all blessing: for it was the living GOD Himself as my life, my all.
It is thus that our spirit drinks in the life of our risen Lord, and we go forth to life’s conflicts and duties like a flower that has drunk in, through the shades of night, the cool and crystal drops of dew. But as dew never falls on a stormy night, so the dews of His grace never come to the restless soul. A.B.Simpson
Practice being still and find His voice within you. It is not impossible. Saint Francis is credited with teaching that thoughts during prayer are like birds in a tree. “You cannot keep them from landing, but you can keep them from nesting there.” I am aware that many others are also credited with teaching this. The more important point is, can you practice getting quiet for yourself?
In High School, Becky and I did a science project with spider webs. Her parents had a really old stone walled basement that was well lit, but had many resident spiders. We took cardboard and sprayed it with hairspray (sticky and transparent). Then we captured spider webs on the cardboard. I do not remember seeing the actual spiders, but perhaps we did. I do not mind spiders as long as they are not crawling upon me or biting me!
Today, I see the spider’s line outdoors between the upper branch of the maple and a lower branch. I can only catch a glimpse of the shining thread when the sun is just right and the light breeze helps move it. There is just one single thread!
I see it as the silver union between the Father’s heart and my mind; the way the Holy Spirit inspires and urges me to try to put in words what I experience in His care.
I often want that input by sitting for a moment. The Gracious Lord reminds me I need linger in His presence and wait for that inspiration, the way that line is put out in hopes of catching something.
Sun of Heaven shine upon my efforts I pray. Help me be patient and give me Your wisdom as to how to proceed. I need You. Forgive me for the times I want to run out on my own and I do not quiet my heart before You. Son of God, be my light in these efforts and everything I undertake today.
Oblique has many definitions including misleading or dishonest, not direct. Obscure can mean out of sight, hidden, not readily noticed of seen, inconspicuous, not clearly understood or expressed, ambiguous or vague.
Lord, I do not want my writings to be oblique or obscure when it comes to my relationship with you. Help me bring You into the foreground! You kept us on that journey of 7,000 miles and even more so this journey of almost 49 years of marriage. And You have definitely kept me on this journey of almost 69 years of life. I want to declare Your glory and Your hand in my life!
Song of Songs 6:2-3 (NRSV) My
beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of
spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens,
and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies.
Day 14th on the road: We drove from Nevada into Arizona and what a blessing! After all the junk of Las Vegas, after Hoover Dam, we entered a seeming wonderland as roadside flowers burst into bloom before us along Route 93! Not the deadly poppies of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, but natural beauty brought about by God’s grace. There had been significant snowfall and the abundance of flowers reflected it! What a delight. We stopped at a tourist information stand place in Kingman to see if they had a folder on spring blooms. They did not but the lady at the desk was eager to assist us. She called up a website on her computer. I knew a few of the flowers, but here is the listing she showed us: California poppy, lupine, desert asters, penstemon, scorpion weed, globe mallow, brittle bush and Indian paintbrush. Enjoy!
Song of Songs 2:12 (NRSV) The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Matthew 6:28-29 (NRSV) And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
Lord, instead of only having these grow in hidden places where few would get to see them, You let them grow and bloom right along the roadside for travelers to enjoy. I thank You. Help me remember that my journey here on earth is only for a short time, just like the flowers.
1 Peter 1:23-25 (NRSV) You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you. (also Isaiah 40:7-8)
Someone asked me recently if I found it difficult to make a silent retreat. Frankly, I find it more difficult to keep a daily time of quiet.
In Scripture it says Jesus often went to pray at the Mount of Olives. It also mentions praying at the Garden of Gethsemane. http://israeljerusalem.com/garden-gethsemane-mount-olives.htm says “The Garden of Gethsemane is located just east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, at the foot of Mount of Olives.” Either place, it was a place of prayer and surrender. Help me abide there, Jesus, even when It requires suffering as You did, Lord. Help me, Lord, to yield gracefully to You.
He went to the Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane, as was His custom, to pray. I want to enter into Your Presence with all of me and receive everything I need from all of You.
The mountain signifies? Well, any mountain can be remote, removed from daily human life. Take me Lord to Your mountain. Lead me, speak to me. Help me to do Your will. I wait for You in meditation and peace, listening and trying to only listen … not plan or use words, just listen for Your voice.
Listening is hard work. Silencing thoughts is extremely difficult and it takes practice. Hundreds if not thousands of judgements, decisions, conclusions per minute occur in our brains and per half hour is an equally ridiculous number. So to be still is almost beyond us in 2019 without practice and discipline.
Your ear canal is small. I once broke off a pencil eraser in mine, As a child, I found math excruciatingly hard. My father died of heart disease when I was eleven. He was the family member who always helped me with my math. Working at math homework sometime after he died, I was so frustrated, I stuck my pencil in my ear and before I knew it had broken off the eraser in my ear. I feared to tell my mother. Within a few days my ear told my mother. The doctor looked in my ear, saw it was blocked and prepared to suction my ear out. Eventually, we heard a “Pop” and the tiny eraser bounced across the floor. Yes, I had some explaining to do! You know the approximate size of your ear canal if you ever tried to find the perfect fit of earbuds for music. Notice most are sold with various sizes of interchangeable tips!
Now I find my ears are too clean (according to the ENT specialist) likely because I have slept with ear plugs for years. When I focus on my challenge of getting quiet, the trouble is not with my ears so much as in my head.
My head ( my home) is clogged with all those thoughts, judgments, etc. per minute. Slowing down the tide, clearing the channel bed, aiming for listening and inner silence is hard. I am not talking about vacating my soul – just getting still as God commands us in Isaiah 46:10 “BE STILL and know that I am God.” Can you be still? Not more than a moment without the discipline of practice. When you turn off all of your devices, you still have to quiet your mind. Good luck with that!
For years I have loved this painting which hangs in the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati entitled “Changing Pasture.”
My husband took a photo of the postcard for me as the photo from the museum was just too dark, not truly representative of the work, without spending hours on changing it.
This is my first post to this blog. I find it appropriate to let you know instead of just journaling on the screen, as I do in “Treasures in Plain Sight,” I plan to share my heartfelt writing of stories, poems and vignettes about my spiritual journey on this blog. Some will be short, some longer. Usually an object lesson, photo or sketch will accompany my writing. I am hoping you will honor my writing by not claiming it as your own and always giving my name credit.
We are told in Psalm 95:7 “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. And in Psalm 100:3 Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
So all those miles, and all those sights (which I have not finished blogging about on Treasures in Plain Sight) – how was I touched, moved, what did I learn?
Wow! The lessons are still unfolding. Here on my desk is a red rock from Sedona area, a black rock from an area settled by both Native Americans and then Mormons, and a column of rock mined from deep underground with yellow and white stone. They all remind me that God formed this earth. He has set us free to explore and discover it, yet we are not in charge.(I still have not identified that column of stone, but God knows!)
I have likely written this before. Bob Gerhard preached once “control is an illusion.” I argued with him all the way home. Now I am much older and hopefully a little wiser. While we were away from home the world indeed continued to have problems. Political furor in America broiled and hatred was often spewed. We frequently missed the evening news and decided we did not care. In many ways, we were better off without the news! Our children and grandchildren had their share of troubles, upsets and victories. And we were not in control of any of it. In fact, my mother-in-law died while we were traveling. We were not totally taken aback. We had visited recently and felt as if that was the last time we would see her on this earth. But, no, we were not in control of any of that. God was.
One of my goals this year is to lose weight. The good news is during the travels I did not gain any weight! That was under my control in so far as what I chose to consume. The New Testament teaches self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). In my experience even that occurs only as we submit ourselves to God and ask His help through the Holy Spirit. I have learned over the years the most I can hope for is to control myself, nothing and no one else, and even that not in my own strength.
Grace! how much grace we experienced in those thousands of miles. We missed major storms, including, snow, rain, hail and sand. Almost daily we had near perfect weather. We were kept from major highway crashes.
I am a kept woman. Yes, my husband of many decades has kept me very well indeed. But overarching my life God has kept me (often from myself). I was not certain how we would tolerate all those miles together, unknown places, chances for robbery and worse. We came home totally intact, blessed, no bedbugs, no arguments or major disagreements, no stops at hospitals, Bob’s health going strong and me (feel as if I am aging quickly) but a-okay. Kept in so many ways I have not even mentioned.
I AM GRATEFUL beyond expression.
I stated I really wanted to see red rocks with snow. And there they were! Part of the park road was closed because of the snow, but what a glorious sight!
Our Grandgirls are now 17 and 13 years old. They both play on Club Volleyball teams. We got to watch some of the end of season tournaments in Columbus, Ohio recently. After years of practice these two amaze me with their athleticism and strength.
As a nanny, helping with infant twins and a four year old I learned to do laundry by rote. Then moved on to help with a family with infant triplets. Three loads a day seemed to be the minimum amount. I called it bringing order out of chaos. Doing laundry for our family of four was relatively simple after that.
Then our family dwindled to three and eventually just the
two of us.
I found when my adult kids were behind in their household affairs or in crisis, I could always do laundry for them.
When my son faced a recent health crisis, on many levels
there was little I could do to resolve the situation. But I could always do
laundry. Load after load, seemingly endless amounts of underwear then britches,
a few shirts, and bed linens. I can always do laundry.
The rhythm of sorting, loading, changing machines to dry the fabrics, then the meditative process of folding and sorting into piles. Yes, I can always do laundry.
Stain treatment is likely to involve the pent-up energy of
other unresolved situations, but the stains eventually yield, if not totally,
then enough to reflect my efforts.
Yes, I can always do laundry… and when I am too old or frail
to do laundry, hopefully my children will do the laundry for me. May I not
prove to be a burden to them or crisis for them to resolve.
“I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.” – Old Inuit Song
“I hope your rambles have been sweet and your reveries spacious.” -Emily Dickinson
“My Father made the moon and the mountains and He tells me that I am His own” still.
February 21st I posted about finding my way through Fibro with God’s help. Especially the leading of the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” Before I went to the hospital for diagnosis I occasionally heard things such as, “When you go to the hospital …” What? Who said anything about the hospital? (Later I realized this was reassurance so I would not go into utter panic at the idea.) I also heard “You will know an answer to what is causing this before the chicory blooms.”
One of the delights of early summer are when the chicory blooms blue flowers and the Queen Anne’s Lace starts to put forth white flowers in contrast to the blue. They often grow together along the roadside.
How like the Lord to comfort my heart with something that He knew I would recognize and delight in! He was true to His word and we did have a diagnosis before the full bloom of those flowers. The flowers were lovely. The understanding of what it meant to have fibro, not so much.
In Acts 10:34 and Romans 2:11 Peter and then Paul assure us that God is no respecter of persons. He shows no favoritism or special treatment. Since the Lord was able to lead me through that time of fear and not knowing what was happening, I am certain you can be lead by His Spirit also. Still your heart and mind. Try every day to listen for that still small voice of comfort and guidance. Whether you have a chronic illness or not, God wants to speak with you. He desires your attention and presence.
When unexpected things such as hospitalization come your way, try to remember you are never alone and God wants us to do as Mary Englebreit illustrated:
There is another song that has greatly encouraged me to more stillness. No, not silliness, stillness.
As you read the lyrics you will understand why I am so moved by this.
The more I get alone The more I see I need to get alone more, more Cause just when I think that I’m alone Your Spirit calls out to me And even silence has a song Cause that’s when You come Sing over me
[Chorus] Still, let me be still Let me be okay With the quiet in my heart Still, I want to be still I’m so quick to move Instead of listening to you Shut my mouth Crush my pride Give me the tears Of a broken life Still
Oh this world, it falls around me And flutters all it’s beauty in my eyes But let me choose the solitude Simplicity has always simply changed my life Cause even stillness makes me move Cause that’s when my heart Learns to dance with you
la la la la la. hold me la la la la la, cleanse me la la la la la, change me, oh God Change me while I am Still, let me be still And know that you are God And You’re always enough Still, I want to be still To take all that I am And simply lift it up Shut my mouth Crush my pride Give me the tears Of a broken life Still, still, still, still Songwriters: CHRISTY NOCKELS,NATHAN NOCKELS
ZEPHANIAH 3:17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17
When I make a personal retreat my main goals are to still my soul and listen to the Lord. Stilling my soul can take hours or days. Listening to the Lord is something I try to do with consistency, but that stilling the soul part is much harder!
Some time around 1988 I found Psalm 131 set to music by John Michael Talbot on a vinyl album called “Come to the Quiet.” The entire album is Scripture set to music with a few original lines added in. I wore it out and bought another one. Made tape copies to listen to in the car. Eventually bought the CD. Singing Scripture is a wonderful way to memorize it. “In the quiet I have stilled my soul like a child at rest” a much more challenging task! The photo is the upper left corner below is John Michael now. The larger photo on the music cover was years ago.
I am still moved to quiet when I hear this music.You can hear it now on Google music and is still available for purchase. There is also an instrumental version. We play that version every time we drive through the Smoky Mountains on our way to look for wildflowers at our favorite sites.
Take time today to still your soul. It will be heavenly good for you!
Brother David Steindl-Rast in A Listening Heart, The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness wrote, “Any given moment confronts us with a given reality. But if it is given, it is gift. If it is gift, the appropriate response is thanksgiving. Yet, thanksgiving, where it is genuine does not primarily look at the gift and express appreciation; it looks at the giver and expresses trust.”
This idea of gift can help us with the command to give thanks in everything. (1 THES 5:18) Gifts are not always welcome at first. Give my husband an iPhone and he will balk. How can he trust that this device can be learned with practice and become a valuable asset as the computer in his pocket? He sees it as lesser than Samsung and harder to learn.
When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia the given reality seemed bleak. I was thankful that I did not have a brain tumor or others things the doctors searched for, but overall gratitude was sorely lacking. Somehow I found my way to the writings of Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist and holocaust survivor.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”
When he found himself a prisoner in a holocaust camp, he was able to understand how some prisoners survived the atrocities and how some gave up. The power in our minds can influence everything. Not that he could deliver himself from the camp, but he found means to survive using his thinking and observed others doing the same. He later wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning” which inspired me.
Often when chronic illness is diagnosed we begin to think thoughts of self pity and woe that sound like “Why me?” Frankl helped me realize that I could help myself with as much of a positive mindset as I could find. I educated myself. Refused to attend support groups that were only depressing “why me?” sessions. In fact, I eventually started a support group that focused on education about fibromyalgia, research, and finding ways to cope with fibro instead of “sitting in a bathtub of self pity and asking others to wash my back.”
Brother David says “Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”
As I learned and grew and did the best I could to take care of myself and my family, I eventually began to cope better, exercise more and move along with my life past the diagnosis and life changes that brought.
I am grateful to God for guiding and directing me then and now. Without His help, I surely would have floundered for several years and would not be the happy person I am today.
When we went to Florida last year I was wondering if writing a blog was a good idea or just another writing dream that would crumble away. It seemed every single day we were on the beach and every single time there were two shells that challenged me.
The Sunray Venus Clam shell reminds me of lined paper. All of my journals are lined paper except one, once. In times past, the pen shell was likely used when a quill was not around.
Now my dresser is adorned with a pen shell in a glass alongside a lined paper shell, (Venus Clam). My computer desk also has a lined paper shell. These shells challenge me to continue the discipline.
The Artist’s Way challenges people to write three pages every morning, non-stop, no corrections and not to re-read or share what is written. I am not always good at doing all three pages. I sometimes flow into things I want to journal or pray about. Do you remember Captain Kangaroo? He had segment in his later broadcasts (when my kids were young) called “Picture Pages.” I guess in even later years he let BIll Cosby do that section. I warn you if you listen to the first minute or so of the song in the video link below it may become an earworm!
So yes, there are times I write three pages for the discipline. Then there are times an idea will spin off into a sketch. And there are days getting even one page filled is a rough row to hoe. And there are days I have not started writing the pages and the Picture Pages song is going through my head ;-D drawing me back to the discipline.
The writing seems to be flowing. Even when I think there is not one more idea, they tend to spring up like chickweed in Springtime.
Recently we visited Half Moon Bay, California. I could not believe it when I saw swimmers approaching the shore line. There was a very cold water temperature (45 °F) at Half Moon Bay. Weather stated: “Despite the sunshine, even with a thick winter wetsuit, neoprene hood, gloves and boots it will be difficult to stay comfortable in the sea for long today.” Yet here they came, 3 men and 1 woman (she did wear a wetsuit.) They all wore swim caps as if in a heated pool. In Ohio we would have called this the polar plunge especially if they had gotten wet and then gotten out. They entered the water, swam beyond the tide line and turned right paralleling the shore. Most likely they were NOT comfortable at all!
So I enjoyed the Pacific and the sun for a while, sitting at a picnic table. If it had been any more windy I would have had to get more clothing out of the car. I also wondered if those swimmers were going to pull out at another place along the beach and have someone meet them with towels and a warm vehicle.
Though my photos did not come out, believe me, those 4 souls swam all the back from wherever they had headed off. Likely 20-30 minutes or more in that cold, cold water! Yow! I am NOT that hearty!
When I started writing my blog Treasures in Plain Sight I thought I would need another one for poetry, etc. so I began Stand and Tip. Now that I am more experienced in the practice of posting I think I will take my husband’s advice and consolidate the two blogs into one. When it is time to pay Word Press again I will let you know a few days in advance to expect only one blog from me with both kinds of writing.
So when I wrote “Tiny Baby in the Background” in 2014 I never thought it would be posted for the whosoever to read. But I am so glad you care enough to read my things and hopefully take some comfort with you.
Tiny baby in the background crying, crying and I am drawn to her as the tiny baby inside me cries write it, write it
Struggling under the fog of constant pain drugs, drugs, distraction to nth degree rock that baby and hold her comfort her, rock her
Unconditional love and kindness will prove again the victor as, given time, the words will come Be at peace
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance. ” David Whyte
There are photos of my ninety-four year old mother-in-law as a child. In one she is one her father’s lap. In another holding a dog. Was it a pug? I do not remember the dog or its name but it makes me wonder what was important to her as a child?
I remember being amazed when I learned after many years of my marriage to her oldest son that her adult children were afraid of her. Most of these folks were married and had children of their own by then. She had a temper and ruled her family with the anger of a rigid matriarch.
Now at 94, she is just a shell of herself. Literally. She is skin and bones, under 90 pounds. At a recent oncology appointment she told her adult children, “I have no idea what he just said. Do what is best for me. I just want to go home.” Now she is in hospice care. She has to be willing to accept the help of others to get her meals, take her medications, have clean clothes and also to her horror, to be bathed and get clean. She is quickly becoming intimate with disappearance. All that control and matriarchal power has been removed.
How will we inhabit our vulnerability? Will we be large, compassionate and courageous through our intimacy with disappearance?
As the adult child of an alcoholic I often felt invisible. It seemed I was often not heard, understood or accepted. That left lifetime scars of feeling invisible. I have to check myself, even now in my late 60’s, to be certain I am not transferring those feelings from childhood into my adult relationships, even my marriage. Inching towards death, as this quote reminds me, I will become intimate with true disappearance. No longer a being in the room with an opinion or issue to be dealt with, but gone, a memory to some, long forgotten by most.
God is called El Roi in the Old Testament, meaning the God Who Sees.[Genesis 16:13] I was thrilled to learn that name, realizing God has seen me each and every stage of my life and continues to hold me close. He sees each of us and He cares. Will we trust Him as we continue to age and grow closer to the only exit plan guaranteed to each each of us unless the Lord returns? Death.
What are your plans for inhabiting your vulnerability and becoming intimate with disappearance? For one, I need to print that quote and keep it before my eyes!
Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
There is phenomena in Yellowstone called a mudpot. Wikipedia says: ” A mudpot, or mud pool, is a sort of acidic hot spring with limited water. It usually takes the form of a pool of bubbling mud. Mudpots form in high-temperature geothermal areas where water is in short supply. The little water that is available rises to the surface at a spot where the soil is rich in volcanic ash, clay, and other fine particulates. The thickness of the mud usually changes along with seasonal changes in the water table.
Well, having a recent diagnosis of a chronic illness is sort of like becoming a living mudpot in human form. Imagine having an acidic hot springs with limited water in your body. The high temperature of intense life changes was nothing short of boiling my brain. The fatigue from fibromyalgia can be stunning. I often awoke feeling as if I was hit by a Mack truck. It is always a loaded question to ask me how I feel. Especially in the morning, because more often than not I wake up and I am NOT refreshed.
I had the boiling pot of chronic pain, fatigue, confusion about what was happening to me, frustration trying to explain it to others … yeah my life had become an entire field of boiling mud pots. How would the Lord my Teacher reach me in the midst of all this? He was not hiding Himself capriciously, just using every available resource to encourage and instruct me.
One resource was Macrina’s book as pictured here. It has a new cover now. She wrote, “There is nothing so healing in all the world as real presence. This can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.” I had to ask myself if I would be there with my eyes wide open or would I remain blind to the holy because I’m too busy to see? I do not remember before this book that anyone gave me permission to trust my own experience as prayerful and holy.
I read the quote below just the other day on Gratefulness.org.
The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.
Being slowed down to the new tempo of chronic illness, moving more slowly than ever before in my memory, I began to look about me, especially for my Teacher, the Lord, in my everyday ordinary life. I started to learn to trust my own experience as prayerful and holy even though I did not have a huge supporting cast of church members or even a large group of family.
Years later I would get to hear Macrina speak in person at the Sisters of Charity convent in Cincinnati. It was a joy to see her in person!
As I mentioned earlier, when first diagnosed I lost many of my friends who thought I should be able to pray for healing and get it. The Lord on the other hand kept telling me, “I will be with you in this.” So I chose to follow Him. They say the best way out of something is through. This hymn often comforted me. They skip verse 2 , and that is fine.
The lyrics are below:
Written by George Matheson and Albert Peace 1. O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
2. O Light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee; my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.
3. O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow thru the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be.
4. O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.
Years later a heard a similar melody at a conference. I called my husband to try to find it. I had to get home and find out what that original one was! And I eventually did. There are times when the Holy Spirit “haunts” me with music. He comforts me in ways no one else can by dropping the line or melody of a hymn into my soul. Then I seek until I find and there is God ready to hold me close again!
I wish someone would update the language on this hymn, set it to guitar music, and bring it back again. Would love to sing it in church!!
In terms of fibromyalgia, verse 1, O Love that will not let me go. Ever. I rest in You and give You back the life I owe. In Your ocean depths the flow of my life will richer, purer be. Verse 3, O Joy that seeks me through pain, I cannot close my heart to You. Ever.
Where has your comfort been in times of deep distress? Can you lean upon that source eternally?
Journal entry, April 1990: “Joint pain traveled 5-6 different places in 20 minutes. It is like having your body turned into a pinball machine.” My uncle had one of those at his bowling alley where my family often hung out. I can still hear the sound of those bells and paddles and points ringing up. If you do not have experience with pinball machines, watch a bit of the video to get the full lights and sounds experience. No need to watch entire video. As lights and bells occur just think shoulder, knee, elbow, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, neck, back, knee. You get the idea.
Pinball pain – moves from point to point but there is a method to relax into it and not be so reactive to the pain.
When I was first diagnosed someone gave me a small book entitled “Celebrate the Temporary” by Clyde Reid. [ISBN 0-06-066816-4}
One chapter is called Lean Into Your Pain. The concept he puts forth is to move behind the pain. Most of us have a natural resistance to pain. So pain comes, you tense up against it and actually make it worse with that response. His idea was to find the center of the pain and slip behind it, so to speak. He says that ‘leaning into life’s pain requires small doses of plain courage.’ So I tried looking my pain in the eye. When the pinball paddles started slapping and the bells and lights began ringing and flashing I made it a practice to try to sit, breath, look for the source and learn to breathe into the identified point. He points out that when you concentrate on the pain it can actually diminish or even disappear.
I was receiving physical therapy at that time. The therapist was so amazed that someone could have ‘so many painful trigger points and still be walking around.’ She called other therapists over to examine my trigger points as a learning experience. I was amazed. You see, as a child I was told that I was a “ninny” and could not take pain. The therapists say I have a very high pain threshold. Now I must learn to listen to my body and take care of it better. The challenge with fibro pain is one is not always able to trace the pain back to HOW it occured! With acute pain you know you sprained your ankle. With fibro chronic pain you can lose your mind trying to figure out where it came from or what caused it.
So if you have a “pain flare” (an honest term) that turns your body into a pinball machine, stop, breath, look into the pain and try to see it diminish, even as you watch. If nothing else you might relax and stop tensing against the pain thereby making it worse!
Notes from a talk: “Just as the woman at the well in John 4:5-24, we must confess our helplessness, confess our own need. This leads to fulfillment, self examination, repentance, receiving forgiveness. We can be fulfilled as we find living water.”
I heard, “Molly, you must be willing to walk blindly. Do not look to tomorrow. Live in the NOW in My Presence. Trust Me. I love you. This will be a severe discipline. This will be for your strengthening. You will have more faith and be stronger for having gone through it. STAY VERY CLOSE TO ME. Be enfolded in a cloak of love by the Holy Spirit.”
(This occurred before the diagnosis was actually made.)
“My friend, Kathleen, told me to document this illness. It is all happening so fast and I get so very weak. This could be extra hard. HELP, Lord!”
In 1990 I began a medical journey that continues to this day. After the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia came the challenge of learning about it and learning to live with it. I also dug around in my history. Interesting! Grandma Snapp had something they called rheumatism. She often applied vaseline with camphor and menthol to her aches and pains.
Something similar to this lovely can. And guess what!? They evidently still sell it at WalMart and other locations.
My mother called hers arthritis and used a combination of BenGay and alcohol to treat the symptoms.
I tried the BenGay, too. Alcohol does not heal anything.
I am most likely to use China Gel which my good friend Betty made me aware of. China Gel is a mixture of: Menthol, Camphor, Ginseng Extract, Angelica Extract, Lavender Oil, Aloe Vera, and Witch Hazel. Betty’s massage therapist uses it.
I teased Betty once when I found it at Amazon writing , “Look! We can order it in the handy gallon size!”
So this condition seems to be moving through the generations. Most likely to be in women, though men are known to suffer from it. The chronic pain brings the bread of adversity and water of affliction. The Lord has kept His promise though and never left me!
Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21 (NRSV)
He led me to a group that informed me about the condition. I read up on as many medical journal articles and new publications as I could. The #1 treatment is exercise, and sadly, the hardest people to motivate to exercise are people with Fibro. Exercise does NOT make us feel better. It does help us cope in the long run.
For example, in 1991 I went to an aerobics class with my sister and could keep up with most of what they were doing. I did not feel bad at the time. The next day I could hardly get out of bed, walk or function. Such unrelenting pain and stiffness.
Do not tell a Fibro person “You are only as old as you feel.” Oh goodness, then I must be pushing 90!
How can it be that we can taste these things simultaneously? Don’t they seem mutually exclusive?
Yet in Isaiah 30:18-21 (NRSV) we read, Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
The bread of adversity, water of affliction accompanied by clear direction, instruction from the Lord Almighty. When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1990 I experienced this misery and joy in combination. It was a weird time to say the least!
The doctors had difficulty diagnosing me and finally admitted me to a hospital for tests to rule out the other “big nasties.” For example, it was strange to have results come back from a brain scan that showed there was no brain tumor, and instead of being relieved my husband and I were frustrated and angry. After each test, with no definitive results, we kept thinking if this illness is not that, then what is it?
Fibro is a strange disorder. The diagnosis is basically process of elimination and a few factors that should be present for 3 months prior to diagnosis. I have now lived with Fibro for 29 years. At the time I had never heard of it. Today the Arthritis Foundation says:
“To diagnose fibromyalgia, your doctor will ask you about your health history and give you a physical examination. A physical exam can rule out other conditions that may cause chronic pain and fatigue.
A diagnosis is largely based on your input on the following criteria:
Widespread pain index (WPI) score: The WPI lists 19 areas of the body where it’s common for people with fibromyalgia to have pain. You get a point for each area selected.
Symptom Severity (SS) score, in which you rank the following symptoms on a scale of 0-3:
Physical symptoms such as headache, weakness, bowel problems, dizziness, numbness/tingling, hair loss
So while my charismatic friends were telling me if I only prayed hard enough, or had enough faith I would be healed, the Lord was saying “I will be with you in this.” Should I try to pray this away when the Lord is speaking otherwise? Yikes. This is a long story and I hope to tell it well. Probably in several sections. Hope it brings enlightenment and encouragement to many. Not every person gets every symptom. Not all symptoms stay permanently. Sort of like living on a nightmare-go-round with symptoms instead of horses and carnival music.
There are a lot of artwork, posters and diagrams about Fibro online. Many of them sound sarcastic. That is likely caused by the fact that people with fibro do not LOOK ill and are often not believed when they talk about their symptoms. Below is one that is not too offensive, but descriptive.
Do we find this so surprising, that Jesus would ask us to die to our familiar ways and become something new with His help and guidance? Wasn’t He asked to die on our behalf and take on a new life form by our heavenly Father? Constantly, the Father left the task before Jesus as a choice. Jesus chose to become the firstborn from the dead. (Colossians 1:18) He leads the way for us.
One little acorn speaking to me so loudly about “the site of your tent, the curtains of your habitation, stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” This acorn calls to you also. Where are you holding back in your life? Who are you hiding your affection from? Those in your immediate family need and want to hear from you. Though you might never have been one to speak in the past, they need to know your heart. They are craving a word from you, an insight into your feelings, and how your actions relate to your emotions. They want to know you, beyond the superficial shell that you present. They are hungry to truly know and understand your deepest self. Those whom God has placed in your daily life are there for a purpose also. Examine the site of your tent. Is there a way you can stretch out the curtain and place of your habitation? (Isaiah 54:2)
Ask the Father for the courage to move forward. Pray He will show you how to lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. Joyce Meier says you are to “deposit yourself with God and let God use you to bless others.”
Isaiah 54 goes on in verses 4 and 5 to say: Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called.
Usually the greatest fear in becoming new is that people won’t like us. “People pleasing” quashes the move of God more often than the devil ever attempted. Here the Word assures us that if we will try, God will come alongside and help us to do what we could not do in our own strength. We “will NOT BE ASHAMED.” Powerful promise there; but first, we have to try.
Can we truly begin to comprehend the magnitude of “your Maker is your Husband?” That is an intimacy few of us reach in this lifetime, and here it is offered in the Old Testament. Now through the New Covenant we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to make this promise a reality. The hard little cap of humanity can hold back the power of God that rests within each true believer. We are allowed to resist the power of the Holy Spirit and refuse Almighty God.
When we choose to put aside the cap like the one on the Bur Acorn, our lives can feed the hungry multitudes. Remember acorns used to be valuable to people as a food source. The Internet yielded information on how to make them palatable today. “Native Americans made acorns much more palatable by first blanching the oak nuts (in boiling water) with wood ashes to remove a bitter taste associated with tannins.” The method involves boiling in water with ashes to leach away the tannins and make the nut meal sweeter.
You cannot receive what your Husband has for you as long as you are clutching your unfulfilled dreams in both hands. Take the ashes of your unfulfilled dreams and offer them to God. Open your hands to Him. As Christians, we also need to be cleansed with water. Water is mentioned 79 times in 70 verses in the New Testament. Jesus promised that He would give us living water.
Another set of instructions for the acorns says they need to be boiled or roasted or both to make them palatable. We are told in Scripture that we may have to go through fire. I have always thought that perhaps like Reynolds Wrap, we go through fire so that we are ‘oven tempered for flexible strength.’
Hebrews 12: 28-29 says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’”
To use acorns as food we are to “collect the acorns in the fall, when ripe. Remove shells and caps. The shells will come off easier if you first slit with a sharp knife.” OUCH! That sounds an awful lot like death of the seed.
Crucifixion. To offer myself according to Romans 12:1-2 I must conform to the Word of God. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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. It seems that nothing will do short of that sharp knife and taking off that shell.
So that Bur Acorn led me to ponder. And then to pray. To look up Scripture and pray some more. To begin to risk moving out of where I was comfortable and risk giving parts of my life to others. I have not been ashamed! I am getting to know my Maker a little better as my Husband. In addition, my husband concurs that this is a good thing!
The preparation directions continue saying that “after boiling you may toast the acorns in a 350 degree oven for another hour. They can then be eaten as they are or ground into a flour.” Some people seem to get a harder Christian walk than others do. Looking at the comparative value of acorns as nuts to be eaten or acorns as ground into flour, I can see momentarily the sense in that harder walk. Flour can be used for many more products than nuts can. Of course, the Father will produce breads, cakes, pies, gravy thickeners, coatings for all sorts of products, an endless variety of things with flour. Nuts though have a limited use. Be encouraged if your walk is one where the grinding into flour seems to be the norm. Your flour will go further to spread the kingdom than the acorn that never let its shell be opened. Your flour will go further than the roasted nut that was simply eaten as a snack food.
God knows the plans He has for you, as stated in Jeremiah 29:11-14a “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to You. You will seek me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.”
Remember how I wrote in Part #1 ” The burr oak, so named because of its characteristic large seeds or acorns, was known as u’tahu can in the Native American tongue of the Lakota people, meaning acorn stem tree.” Now I am amused by my pronunciation of the American Indian name… u’tahu can…. perhaps it is something like “You Twah you can.”
He assured me “You saw you can do this. You saw it through months of prayer and preparation through the Scriptures. You saw it through the Holy Spirit opening your eyes to the Father’s desire. Open your heart in love to those around you. Move beyond the usual limited communications and surface talk.” Get really intimate with God and then with others. Let the nourishment that your life can be help others to grow into something terrific for the Kingdom. You saw you can through this simple illustration. Now will you? Next time you see an acorn, ponder how the cap is fitting that covers your acorn life and your rich innermost being.
Are you ready to strip away the cap and expose and expand that life for the Lord to use? The old saying is still true, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”
Often while I am walking prayerfully, my attention will be drawn to something around me. I will pick up the object and continue on my prayer walk. So it was during the mild February of 2002 while I was on retreat and came across a Bur Oak acorn. As I held it in my hand, continuing my walk and praying, I knew it would unfold its mysteries to me in the days or months to come. As I left the retreat grounds, I placed the acorn on the console of my car. For many months it rode right next to me with this scripture ringing out from it’s hard, pointy cover. Over several months I began to hear
“Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” ISA 54:2 NRSV
If you are not familiar with the Bur Oak (also at times spelled Burr oak) here is a short history taken from various Internet resources. The tree is tall, fairly slow growing, long-lived, and highly desirable for windbreaks, shelterbelts and ornamental use. It has an impressive crown with a massive trunk and stout branches. The bur oak adapts to various soils where other oaks fail. The tree is tolerant of urban conditions. The bur will bear acorns in about ten years. It has strong wood and is good for timber. The acorn itself is classified as a nut, because of its bony pericarp, and is actually the fruit of the oak tree. Particular to the genus Quercus, the stem broadens to the cupule or cap that holds the oak seed and fruit in place.
The burr oak, so named because of its characteristic large seeds or acorns, was known as u’tahu can in the Native American tongue of the Lakota people, meaning acorn stem tree. More than half of the one-inch acorn is enclosed in a fringed, spiny cupule. Native Americans used them as an important dietary item with great storage capability and mobility. Wildlife, including turkeys, blue jays, squirrels, and deer also utilize acorns as a food source that is rich in carbohydrates and fats. Today we like Bur Oaks for their adaptability to urban conditions. Indians and animals used them for food.
What did God want me to see? I see an acorn with an almost impenetrable cover. Hard and dried and in it’s own way thorny. After months of looking at this Bur acorn, I began to realize that this acorn could be me. I could have my fruit “nearly completely covered by a rough, frilled cap.” Though I may ripen “in early to mid-autumn” the fruit would be unpalatable and inaccessible unless I let others have access to the fruit God has given to me.
There are at least two ways we can view the acorn: as a nut/fruit to eat or as a seed to plant. Animals unwittingly spread the Bur oak trees by burying stashes of the nuts and then forgetting where they put them. These nut-seeds may germinate into new oak trees. Therefore, I have choices here! I can remain one tough acorn, almost completely covered with a hard facade, or I can risk opening and revealing what is within.
Paul made the same challenge to the Corinthians.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also. ”
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NRSV
Moreover, the Living Bible makes it a bit clearer:
“Oh, my dear Corinthian friends! I have told you all my feelings; I love you with all my heart. Any coldness still between us is not because of any lack of love on my part, but because your love is too small and does not reach out to me and draw me in. I am talking to you now as if you truly were my very own children. Open your hearts to us! Return our love!”
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 Living Bible
My choice to open or remain closed to my Christian brothers and sisters around me is always my choice: daily, weekly, monthly. The right choice was strongly recommended by our Lord in John 12. He is speaking here about a grain of wheat. An acorn, as the seed is not a far stretch. Thinking of the nut-seed as buried in the ground read John 12.
“I am telling you the truth: If one grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it will always be just one grain of wheat, but if the grain dies, it will produce a large cluster.” And in Simple English “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. ”
John 12:24-25 NRSV
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
John 12:24 New King James
It seems, through comparison of these three translations, that if I am to open to those around me I must fall into the ground, die to being just a nut seed, and live to becoming a tree plant. Truly a transfiguration! I may choose to remain just an acorn – alone – yet still an acorn. Alternatively, I may choose to move on to the next phase of living that God had in mind when He blew life into my being. Falling into the ground and dying will mean willingly removing my outer impenetrable cover, stripping away my surface persona to become the best that is within me. Hard and dried and in its own way thorny, the familiarity of the husk has become almost more desirable than the risk of the unknown I will face as a growing plant.
The Gardener calls me on. (JN 15:1) ..to be continued …
In June of 1990 I wrote journal notes about the concept of relinquishment to God. “Lord, You have been working a mighty deed within me. This morning, in brokenness, I asked You as Jacob did, “What do You require of me?”
“I feel Your response has been that I speak to You directly again. When did I stop? I don’t know, but here I am making an effort on this Mac keyboard. I dedicate this machine nad my hands unto You, Lord. I give myself to You, a living sacrifice. Use me Lord. Here me I pray. Have Your own way within me.
“I relinquish the idol of control to You. Help me know before I fall into the control trap. Show me how to avoid the pitfalls of manipulation and deceit. The anguish in my soul demands that this be done. YOU control Lord. You and You alone. I want to stop doing this evil within my family, this house, the marriage … all areas of my being. Have Your own way, Lord.
“Remove the blinders from my eyes, Jesus. Please help me to see Your plan, Your will, and Your goals fro me. Set my feet upon the path of righteousness that I might honor You and obtain the intimacy that keeps me so close that I hear Your heartbeat. I hold Your hand and await Your leadership. I will not try to move until I know where and how You want me to move. Yielded I am.”
Relinquish: to give up or abandon, to stop doing, let go, surrender. We will always find new things we need to relinquish to our God and Father. We seem to be infected with this need to control and grasp ever since the fall in the garden. Thankfully, He never turns us away when we honestly turn to Him for help. Even if the turning is again and again.
But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:6-8 (NRSV)
Did I ever tell you about Rev. Bob, (not my husband, an Episcopal priest). He was married to a psychologist. One Sunday he preached saying “Control is an illusion.” I argued with him all the way home. It took me years to realize he was absolutely correct!
I have found that if I ask for God’s help it comes. If I seek new ways of staying free from control issues, the Holy Spirit is endlessly creative in showing me and teaching me new ways to stay free. It really is true that if we seek, we will find, ask and it shall be given, knock and it shall be opened as long as we are seeking to follow God in righteousness and holiness and using what we are given for HIs glory and to His honor and praise.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NIV2011)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV2011)
While running errands, I saw a woman who looked like someone at church. It was not the woman I know, but looked so much like her! I knew who she looked like but could not remember her name. Then I saw another woman, same impression, and knew it was a call to prayer. Saw another woman, same response.
When I realized Sunday morning that I was sitting two rows behind her and to the right, I could see during worship that she was weepy. Still no idea what might be happening. Asked one of the Pastor’s her name. Ah, yes! He knew it first try.
After the service I happened to see her looking a little lost and forlorn all by herself. I told her about the call to prayer for her and asked if she was okay. She teared up immediately. I told her I was sorry and did not mean to make her cry! When she regained her composure, she told me there had been a sudden death in the family that week. A younger man and it came as quite a shock and loss. I told her I would continue to lift her in prayer.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 (NIV2011)
Saw another man at the start of service who recently had shoulder surgery. He no longer had to wear his brace and sling but was rolling his shoulder in obvious discomfort. He greeted me as I was leaving to go volunteer in another part of the building. I asked him how he was feeling and told him I saw him rolling his shoulder. Stiff and uncomfortable was his answer. I asked if he had gone forward for prayer and he gave an answer that always disturbs me, “No. I leave that for people who really need it.” I told him, “Nonsense. We all need prayer.” I asked another prayer team member who was walking by to please pray for his comfort.
What if I had not listened to the clue to pray for the woman, even though I did not know details of her need? Yes, certainly, the Lord could have used someone else. What if I had not greeted her and told her I had been praying? She might not have understood how much the Lord loved her, to place a pray burden for her upon another. Sometimes I see familiar faces. Other times I pass cars on the road that resemble the cars of others. They can each be a call to prayer. What if I had not noticed the man in discomfort? He is so shy that at times I wonder if I am the only person he speaks to at church! Perhaps connecting with the other man in prayer will help him grow into another relationship.
I am no one special. The Holy Spirit moves through those who have given their lives to Christ and ask for His infilling. And then we need to listen and continually look to God for guidance. There are so many need and ways to bless people. Some are as simple as praying for them when they come to mind. If there is an opportunity, letting the person know you were lifting them can be a great encouragement and might even inspire them to pray for others. I tell others, “When you think of me, please pray.” That is based upon my experience over the years of the Lord bringing others to my mind and finding out later how much they needed prayer that day.
Try this out with God. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised at how often He uses you if you yield to the holy promptings.
“Thanksgiving, where it is genuine, does not primarily look at the gift and express appreciation; it looks at the giver and expresses trust.”
Mark Buchanan wrote a book called The Holy Wild. Mine is copyrighted 2003. Ann Voskamp refers to it in 1,000 Gifts. I finally bought it and am loving every chapter!
He mentions that God makes only three promises with a guarantee. He guarantees that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Also 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV2011) “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. “
And he says God is faithful to get us home to Him citing, Luke 10:20 that our names are written in heaven. He writes, “It’s written there, not by your hand or by your work, but by God alone. None of it depends on you. It all depends on the God who promised. And He is always true to Himself.”
All of this was rolling around when I wrote about my house of cards augmented with Lotions and Potions. Psalm 71:5-9 (NRSV) For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. I have been like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
The Lord did take me from my mother’s womb. My parents told the story that I was a “blue baby.” When my lungs began to work my Dad wanted to call me “Cherry”. My mother compromised with Cheryl. I began seeking the Lord as a child, especially after my Dad died when I was eleven years old. At first, I was likely trying to find a father-figure replacement. And wow, did I! The Father of Lights, holy and almighty. He assures me in Psalm 71 that he will not leave me now that I am aging.
I have been reading a book by Maeve Binchy entitled Echoes. In this book set in the 1950’s there is a character whose mother has crippling arthritis. I am thinking likely rheumatoid, because I have osteo and have some different symptoms. As my hands get weaker and lose their flexibility, I am comforted that so far, typing does not cause the discomfort that writing by hand does. Bob reminds me that there is software for dictation and typing out there, encouraging me to keep on with this writing discipline.
Though many times I write about “circumstantial, the insubstantial, the ephemeral. Do not rejoice in what can be here today, gone tomorrow, in things whose roots are in thin soil, whose footings are in sand” as Buchanan says. Though I sometimes write like that, I am hearing the Lord in that lovely bird chirping outside my window. The one I can hear but not see whose chirping seems to fit perfectly with the recording of “Verdi Without Words” that I am listening to as I write.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
Psalm 71: 9 New Revised Standard
And so my life goes forward, I am spending my writing life trying to put into words my life with God, the Holy Wild One, the God who walks with me on “My Companioned Way.” And as Kari Jobe sings so beautifully ..
Her lyrics are “You amaze me, redeem me and call me as Your own” and I would add “You amaze me sustain me, and call me as Your own!” The lyrics were written by Austin Davis, Ben Davis, Dustin Davis, Dustin Sauder, Grant Pittman, Kari Jobe, Marty Sampson and Mia Fieldes! That is a bunch of inspiration and input!
On rare and holy moments, I can feel God rushing over me. There is a sense of something other than myself at work. Acts 2:1-4 (MSG) says “When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.”
You know they had to FEEL something with all that movement. I recently bought the new Toby Mac recording called “The Elements.” The lyrics to this song caught my attention the other day. Hope it blesses you, too!
I live in a rather precarious balance. I actually think we all do! We act and think as if we are invulnerable to illness and misfortune. Then “WHAM!!” a virus hits and knocks us on our keester, as happened to me last week. I was going along fine, doing my chosen duties and chores, visiting with church members, crocheting and then suddenly ill. Sneezing that would not stop. Aches, pains, and
return of the dreaded vertigo!
As I tried to recover and then was hit AGAIN by same virus six days later I remembered this verse I have been working on for several months. Might make you smile!
Flow of Living Water invites me deeper,
Center in pure love
You died to give me radiant love
Your Spirit pulls me from the rubble of death
With Your power You breathe life into me
Help me live to You
Invade me at a greater depth
Use me as Your singing bowl
Your love and power going forth
Like sound waves in every direction
Bring the world into vibrating harmony.
You said all weary and
Heavy burdened should come to You
Here we are
Please rest us in Your Presence
Breathing in You
Breathing out me
Your oxygen of Life
My troubles unpacked
Burdens taken from my arms
Cares cast and put down
Embers of my faith
A light in the darkness
And darkness cannot put it out
eclipses physical pain
Straightens my spine
In service to You
Anointing by eternal power
Holiness of God in broken vessel
Yet renewed day by day
As Living Water
I yield to Your flow
The I seeks lowest ground
You in ascendancy.
Have you ever listened to “Rach 3?” If you prefer not to listen to the entire thing, please at least listen to the opening melody. It runs throughout the piece in several variations. It also runs through my soul.
I am learning so much about the different interpretations of this piano piece as I listen to different recordings. The haunting melody that runs through it is thought perhaps to be something that Sergei Rachmaninoff derived “from an ancient chant of the Russian Orthodox church, sung in the Monastery of the Cross, near Kiev.” I would love to know if anyone has tracked this down, and if so, how are the lyrics translated? “The composer denied the influence.” Perhaps I will make up my own worship lyrics to the melody!
I was blessed to get to hear a live performance recently at the CSO. This piece has the reputation of being the most difficult in standard piano repertoire. My husband made a gallant effort to attend about 48 hours after his pacemaker surgery, though this form of entertainment is not his favorite. He knew I would be pleased. When the first movement began my grin split my face ear to ear! So exciting to see and hear this extremely difficult piece played live and in person for the very first time!
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with Kirill Gerstein at the piano, January 5, 2019
While Bob was hospitalized in 2018 I often walked past a wall with a Bible verse written on it in large letters. Once home I could not remember exactly what verse I saw so often. When he was admitted for the pacemaker procedure I went back to photograph that wall.
Most likely the passage was posted to remind employees who must pass that wall on their way from the parking garage that the power of God is at work in them. And is it ever!!
But it was a constant reminder to me that all the people praying for Bob, and my own often seemingly weak prayers and pleads were also God’s power at work within me on behalf of Bob and the staff and even myself.
Never discount the power of God at work within us.
“IMMEASURABLY MORE THAN ALL WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE” – what are you looking to God for? Can you stretch your trust to this point? Would you LET His power be at work within and through you this week?
Indulge me please. Just read it two more times, slowly …
20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen. AMPLIFIED Version
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. EPH 3: 20-21 NKJV
Her book 1,000 Gifts impacted me forcefully a few years ago. I do not tend to be happy-go-lucky, though my mother used to claim I was. Guess I was quite a bit younger then!!
Reading her devotional this time, I came across something I had unlined in 2013 and likely again in 2017. So here in 2019 I think I should likely cross-stitch and frame it where I will see it often. Short of that I might print it on 4 x 6 cards as a constant reminder!
A lack of doxology leads to depravity.
In case you are unaware of church language, doxology means “An expression of praise to God.” Simple, huh? Until you try to make it a daily habit. Step back from the busy-ness of life and give thanks for 3 things, 3 new things, every single day.
She asserts (and I believe it, too) that if we refuse to thank God daily we fall into depravity, defined as “moral corruption or degradation.” Most of us think of ourselves as morally right and good. But how about when we are not?
Self-examination can show us to ourselves if we are willing to examine ourselves. One way to begin is write down 3 things a day. “Over the past two decades, studies have consistently found that people who practice gratitude report fewer symptoms of illness, including depression, more optimism and happiness, stronger relationships, more generous behavior, and many other benefits.”(https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/what_we_do/major_initiatives/expanding_gratitude)
Not to mention a stronger faith in the God who is the giver of all good things.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV2011)
So what are you waiting for? Begin the Ann Voskamp challenge. Start your personal list of what you are grateful for. There are a plethora of ways: paper and pen, journal, on-line list. Go ahead! I dare you! That is how she began. On a dare.
I made the 1,000 list once (it took almost a year for me). Then I began again. Dropped the practice and do not even know this minute where I left off. I do know I have begun again.
So Christmas is over. What did you give Jesus as a gift this year?
I am trying to live James 1:19 (NIV2011) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Or the Message interpretation: Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.
Or my interpretation: Listen. Listen again. Then MAYBE speak or ask a question. This is a harder discipline than I ever imagined. My impulsiveness keeps popping up! And “Blatttt” I speak.
I am also trying to read The Message interpretation of the Bible. Sometimes Eugene Peterson puts things in words that strike me in a new way such as the above passage: “Post this at all intersections…”
I would like to re-read “1,000 Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. And then journal about my reading and list of gifts.
Radical Acceptance is easy to read as a Christian. I basically put the name of Jesus in where she refers to Buddha. Accepting things as they come along is difficult in our society. We are so often taught we have the power to change things. And we fight against the things we do not like. There is much health and peace in acceptance. The Lord has helped me through so many trials with this idea of acceptance.
These are not New Year wishes for myself. They are a list of disciplines that I believe may help me understand Christ better and see myself in His light.
So what did you give the Lord Jesus as a gift this year? Or what would you consider giving Him in the year 2019?
Recently a song began rolling around in my mind and spirit. Had to go look up the lyrics. The Holy Spirit often taps me this way, for His holy attention. This hymn is usually sung with organ and choir. It would be lovely to have someone arrange a contemporary version using the same lyrics! What follows is verse 1 of 5.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
bow down before Him, His glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore Him: the Lord is His name. Text by J. S. B Monsell (1811 – 1875
Relinquish my own needs and feelings.
Bow down before Him, (not often in contemporary church).
His glory proclaim, I often do this.
My gifts to Him Advent and Christmas, gold of obedience and incense of lowliness. Over and over this has been the theme: gold of obedience and incense of lowliness.
Kneel and adore Him, more than ever, my Lord. My knees are not like when I was younger, but I love the prayer that says “I bow the knee of my heart, beseeching Thy goodness” from the Apocrypha Manasseh 1:11 Prayer of Manasseh https://apocrypha.org/brenton/prayer_of_manasseh/1.htm
May your gifts to Him be a prepared heart with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness.
Though currently used as a metaphor for silence and no communication, the sound of Crickets can mean peace. In some cultures crickets were kept as pets. If they stopped chirping at night it was likely some human was moving around.
Here is one of my recent journal reflections that prompted the explanation above.
Flow of Living Water invites me deeper
Center in pure love
You died to give me radiant love
Your Spirit pulls me from the rubble of death
With Your power You breathe life into me
Help me live to You
Invade me at a greater depth
Use me as Your singing bowl
Your love and power going forth
Like sound waves in every direction
Bring the world into vibrating harmony
You said all weary and
Heavy burdened should come to You
Here we are
Please rest us in Your Presence
Breathing in You
Breathing out me
Your oxygen of Life
My troubles unpacked
Burdens taken from my arms
Cares cast and put down
Embers of my faith
A light in the darkness
And darkness cannot put it out
eclipses physical pain
Straightens my spine
In service to You
Anointing by eternal power
Holiness of God in broken vessel
Yet renewed day by day
As Living Water
I yield to Your flow
The I seek lowest ground
You in ascendancy.
Slowly. His kidneys began to heal and urine output increased. Dialysis changed from 3 times a week to two to once and none. Home physical therapist released Bob to his own workouts. Home health nurse had one more round with him. She discovered that his breathing was not as it should be. Pulmonologist saw him next day and admitted him for a couple of days to his favored Clermont Mercy hospital. When he was released he immediately wanted to drive his new car to the Amish country store to get a new wind chime. We did.
His improvements have continued. Bob works himself more than the therapist would have. Silver Sneakers class at the YMCA. Weight room and treadmill included. He began riding his bike again this summer.
He has come so very far!
From frail with Jeff getting a little fresh air at the hospital, To standing on his own during our Easter celebration to the Reds game with Emily and the Grandgirl!
We are relieved and delighted to have him back. He sees a cardiologist soon about possible need for pacemaker. Seems the illness likely damaged one of the nodes that control heartbeat. His runs very low. Too low, if you ask me. Everyone says he will feel so much better once he gets one. I can barely keep up with him now!
I pray these many health/illness entries might have encouraged you if you have had a similar experience. Or if you know someone who has experienced this, perhaps you have gained a better appreciation of what they might have endured. I hope their outcome was as positive as ours.
We attended a funeral a few days ago. The man who died was in the hospital the same time that Bob was in ICU. That man has now gone home to be with the Lord. I was reminded all over again how very close we came to planning a funeral. His family remains in my prayers.
FEB 10 The days are running into each other. I cannot remember if I did loosen the lid on the yogurt drink or I just meant to do it. I sometimes forget to set the timer on the morning coffee. I often forget to set up the coffee pot period.
Quiet time is interrupted by bathroom usage. My jaw aches. Is it sinus/fibro or just the long-term tension of living in this new situation? Do I care which one? No, I just want the aching throb to stop.
Prayer? I often forget to ask the Lord Jesus for anything. I just go do the next thing. Get the underwear, fetch the emesis basin, retrieve the forgotten straw. Plan the meal, stay upbeat, don’t take it personally. This is hard. SO hard. The shattering and rearranging of our 47 years of marriage. The recalibration of what matters and what to let go, ignore.
I do not eat right. Sometimes I cannot eat. Sometimes I worry what is happening to my own health. Carry this grief; let it go; have a good cry; carry on. Rhythm of recovery that is not to my pleasure. Will this happen? Will that happen? Stay in the moment. Celebrate? The events of success.
The reading yesterday was dance and sing to the Lord and I had difficulty even contemplating such a thing. Yes, I rejoice that Bob is alive. No, I cannot fathom where all this is going. Someone sneezes and I cringe. I try to wear a mask every place I go. Then I forget and am frantic if there is not one in my pocket. The weather gets mild and most people give a sigh of relief. I worry that they are deluding themselves. The flu is not over. What about norovirus and other infectious things that could take our household down?
Some see me wearing a mask and comment that I am so smart. Others laugh at how absurd the mask looks. They have no concept of what we have endured so far in 2018. Simply do not get it. Good thing I have rarely cared what others think of me!
In December I made stacks of sweet potato portions that I froze. The package keeps coming open in the deep freeze. I need to open that up
and decide whether to take it to Help Center or send it along with Jeff to a Community meal at Grace. Make room in the freezer. Oh geesh, really? With all there is to attend to? This was going to be the year I instigated deep cleaning and pruning belongings in every room. I can barely get the floor mopped.
FEB 21 There is a stranger living in my house with a warm familiarity. I am not certain that I know this man, though I very much want him to be my husband. He has a tremor in his left hand that was never there before. He is grasping at the reality of weeks unavailable to him due to the medically induced coma and catastrophic illness. He almost died yet has not totally resurrected.
There are times when he frets and repeats himself. There are flashes of anger and impatience. His hair has thinned drastically. He smiles more than he used to. I think he has become his father in many ways.
I can tell he is making an effort to be caring and tender, but then the struggle to recover overtakes him and he hits a slump, withdrawing into his shell of coping.
Urine output seems to have hit a plateau and I know this worries him with the question “Will my kidneys recover fully? Or enough to stop dialysis?” The access was clotting on Monday. His hemoglobin was not reported in his lab results and he thinks that is due to the clotting in the access. He does not want the access redone. He would rather stop dialysis for a week and see what happens. They pull fluid off of him. He then feels he must spend the next 24 hours just trying to rehydrate so he can produce urine. He is very frustrated. Yesterday Jeff and I walked to the corner with Bob using his walker. He was feeling victorious. Then sat in the garage in the sun talking with Jeff for a while.
Help me know how to touch this stranger with compassion and grace. Upon awaking from the medically induced coma he whispered that I need to be more gracious. Was that You, Lord?
“You are My servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.” ISA 41:9-10
The day Bob went to the ER, he had a sudden pain in his back. He thought he had pulled a muscle coughing. I thought at the time that was strange because he had not coughed for almost an hour. Later the doctors discovered the damage to his kidneys. The pain was right where you would experience pain if you had kidney infection. As long as he was suffering from the “acute tubular necrotic kidney tissue” he could not produce urine. Defined as : “Acute tubular necrosis is a kidney disorder involving damage to the tubule cells of the kidneys, which can lead to acute kidney failure.” Therefore, he could not remove the toxins in his blood. Necrosis is defined as the death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury, or failure of the blood supply. Yikes..
A little kidney education here.”Dialysis is a process by which the excess toxins and fluid in the body can be removed. Hemodialysis is a form of dialysis where dialysis is performed intermittently. The blood in the body is continuously removed during the hemodialysis process and passed through an artificial kidney which cleans it.”
The treatment is an intermittent treatment and was performed in Bob’s case three times a week, each session lasting four hours. Sitting in a chair and getting progressively colder for four hours. Not moving around at all. In evening he would have headache, fatigue, irritability, overall malaise. Feeling colder and colder and no matter how many blankets there was no warmth. Of course, if you take out all of someone’s blood, separate toxins and fluid, put it back so they are basically dehydrated: pretty awful feeling. Over a 48 hour period, he would get to feeling just a bit better and it was time to go do it again.
He mentioned that he could feel the prayers of all the people lifting him up. It felt to him like soft, rain falling. Not a chilling rain, but soft, encouraging rain. His best friend suggested his experience might be like this song:
Journal entry: “Oh Lord, without Your strength and help, without You holding us up, there is no way we would have made it through the month of January 2018. Today is February 1 and the Home Health Care nurse will come evaluate Bob and direct us in next steps. His O2 this morning is only in the 80’s. Not good. Bob says, “without enough red blood cells, you do not have enough oxygen carried throughout your body.” Some of this stuff scares me silly.
And yet, You tell me to not be afraid. “Do not be afraid. Do not rest there, Molly.” So once again, I choose to trust You, Lord. I will make his egg and help him bathe and choose to trust and not be afraid. I would rather he bathe with the nurse today, but he wants to do that soon. You know, Lord, what I need to do to assist him in all ways. Equip me Lord.
I have had some deep episodes of grief over the sudden, abrupt changes in our married life. Such unforeseen developments that no one ever plans for. Sometimes, when Bob is not around I just weep. Trying to process all this is very difficult. I continue to ask for prayers for us.
Gradually he began to urinate a little and measured and measured to determine if there was any increase occurring. Dialysis was populated with people who had been coming for a long time. Some had been there for years! Three times a week, four hours per session. We had no guarantee that Bob would not be one of those long term people.
Journaling again: I did make myself come straight home after I took him to dialysis. Made myself eat chicken noodle soup. Made myself watch a tv show and sleep. It felt as if I took a day off. Then went to AT & T to get estimate on upping our data plan before picking him up from dialysis.
I had made him hot tea for the ride home. ON the way home, he coughed and coughed; was unable to drink it at all. I knew that might happen but was still disappointing.
He was more accepting of his post dialysis fatigue, therefore less disturbed by it. We had a better evening. Watched news after dinner. Then “The Shack” in bed. I fell asleep twice. He slept until 2 AM. Got up to pee. Took rest of his muscle relaxer, then he slept in recliner.
He was all hot to plan to send me away for a rest. I finally asked him to stop as I was crying. It is still too raw for this talk. I do not want to go to the Convent across town – too far. He was eager to hire a nurse or figure out when the kids could cover shifts and leave him alone at night. I think if I just take better care of myself during dialysis, I will be okay. This is what comes of my murmuring and complaining about someone’s indecisiveness about coming to help us. I am so sorry I ever mentioned it to him. I should have known better.
Then there was the equipment drama. As if we have not had enough drama already!
From my notes: Bob finished his dialysis on Monday and the therapists also finished his occupational therapy as well as physical therapy. I am hoping he would be discharged early Tuesday morning. I know he will be exhausted just riding in the car and getting in the house. He does need one more dialysis treatment before he goes home.
He is not allowed to leave the hospital until he has his rolling walker with the seat in his hand. Did you know that Medicare will pay for a “Rollerator” walker with a seat, but if you want brakes on it you have to purchase those yourself? What a crock! Turn frail people loose with a rolling walker and no brakes. Whose idea was that?!?
The in-house supplier does not have one. The case worker found a supplier that could have it at the hospital, but they might not deliver until 5 PM on Tuesday! They also could not guarantee they would have a blue one like he wished for. Seems the supplier makes deliveries to many hospitals and facilities. His arrival at Anderson all depends upon what order the deliveries are loaded into his truck. Grrr! I asked prayers for favor to get out of there by noon. We even asked the hospital staff if perhaps one of the adult kids could stop by and pick it up if it had not arrived by discharge time. Nope. It has to leave with him. We are so tired of the hospital and the idea of waiting around tomorrow for someone to have time to read us the discharge orders, then someone to deliver the rolling walker really irritates me.
Tuesday morning I prayed for favor with the walker delivery and patience for myself.
When I finally found a parking space, I parked the car and began walking towards the hospital entrance. There in the curved drop off driveway was an equipment truck. I remembered the company name from the case worker. There was no one around, but as I approached I could hear noise inside the panel truck. So I knocked on the door.
A large man answered. I asked if he had a delivery for Robert Dutina, a rolling walker? He checked and pulled out a blue one, read the tag and replied, “Like this?”
I was so excited! I told him I would like to kiss him for stopping at Anderson Hospital so early in the morning. And thanked him profusely. Seemed as if the day was going to be moving along.
I finally got Bob home about 1 PM, Tuesday, January 30th. Whew! Jeff, our son, met us there and helped Bob up the new wider step. We immediately found out that physical therapy gave us the wrong dimensions and it would need to be wider yet to accommodate the walker and the man. Good thing our friends were willing to return and redesign the step for us. We were both exhausted at that point and naps were much needed by both of us.
Before the health crisis, at the after Christmas sale, I bought a glittering tree ornament, a three-dimensional Fleur-de-lis and hung it from our bedroom curtain rod. The Fleur-de-lis is often associated with royalty. The three petals may also signify the Trinity. Each time I opened and closed the bedroom curtains I was reminded that I am a daughter of the King of kings.
1 Peter 2:9 declares “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
The King does not forget His sons and daughters. He watches over us in every hour of the day and night.
Grief Changes Vortex Alive Stunned Lonely
One night I wrote in my journal: It seems so futile to rehearse it again. I did not call a friend for prayer because I am tired of going over the details, grief and changes. Our lives, our marriage have changed drastically. We have been thrown into the vortex of a nightmare that we cannot awaken from. We will have to adapt and become resilient to the changes that are required of us. And there will be many changes.
They are telling us that Bob will come home with a walker. We need to hire a plumber to raise the toilet seats. He will likely continue to require dialysis 3 times a week. No one can tell us for how long. However long it takes for his tubular necrotic kidney tissue to heal. If it heals. Doctor said he would give Bob a 50% chance of recovery.
He is constantly short of breath. The white count is going down, yet he is still on oxygen and breathing treatments that are a nebulizer with his inhaler medication in it.
They continue to give him heart medication though the arrhythmia has subsided. Is that due to the medication?
Diarrhea plagues him and he is too weak to get to the toilet in time. Or coughing hard makes him soil himself. Or he cannot get up during dialysis. The embarrassments of serious illness.
I am concerned about his mental state. He has had a major life change. At what point does someone talk with him and offer him counseling?
I rejoice that he is alive. I ache that he is suffering. He is stunned by his weakness. He is stunned by how close he came to dying. His eyes bulged when the nephrologist talked about his 50% chance of recovery. Yes, he accepts the fact that people can live a long, long time on dialysis. Someone is hounding me about kidney donor lists. I am ready to ignore those emails.
I am feeling the loneliness of being here for 20 days without him.” So ended that entry.
Waiting to be moved to an acute rehab unit, Bob was sitting up every day now and I noticed a distinct change in his posture. More often than not he was hanging his head, almost like looking in his lap. It is hard to describe how this upbeat jokester went from usually looking around for his next tease topic to this posture of defeat, discouragement, exhaustion, probable depression. He had to work really hard to get his strength back.
When they moved him to the rehab unit, he was walking at first thirty-six steps with a therapist holding his middle with a belt and another aide walking behind him with a wheelchair, then gradually 236 steps, and eventually more with only a rolling walker and no aides or belt. His appetite took longer to recover than his legs and walking ability. He was determined to get better, but discouragement was available all the time.
The church people stepped up in a huge way! The women came to clean our house, top-to-bottom. I had been home alone for almost a month and did not worry about the house. Two guys came to build a larger step in the garage, one that would accommodate his walker. A neighbor put the license plates on Bob’s new car for me. Bob had barely driven that car when he got sick.
Another journal entry, JAN 29 5:14 AM “And the time is close for bringing him home. I am more than a little frightened? Intimidated is more accurate. He has had constant nursing care since January 4 when he almost died. Now there will be home health care, and 24/7 nurse on call, but I have so many questions.
“His O2 level still seems low to me. There are times he is basically gasping for air? Do we need O2 in the house? How will I know when his cough needs attention? He is taking “tesa pearls” and Mucinex, but is that enough?
“I have a sinus thing starting again. I do not want to get him sicker.
“God, there are so many variables and moving parts here. I am clueless.
“I need You more than ever for wisdom, guidance, comfort.
“I have been awake since 2:10AM. Guess I will lie down again and try to sleep.
“Maybe Lidocaine patches on my back will help the pain?
“He is weak.
“He, too, is intimidated. What if he hits a depressive episode just coming home and realizing just how much he has changed?
“Help. I have been warned to take care of myself. Having him home moves the responsibility onto me instead of the hospital support staff.”
We eventually got him home. I pray this is encouraging you in your own journey. I am well aware that I am not the only wife who has recently had a critically ill husband. I personally know of three others right this minute. It is a difficult journey. We each tend to withdraw at the time. Perhaps reading this can encourage you or someone you know that their struggle is shared by others?
“Here am I, stuff of earth” is what I posted yesterday.
Today I’d like you to see illustration I made to go with the poem.
When our Savior was born He was placed in a manger where the animals usually fed. The manger might have been a wooden log that was hollowed out to hold the feed and hay. A humble beginning and the place where I await Him. Thus the overall shape above.
But the figure is me. Awaiting the Lord’s coming, His fresh in-filling, His power from on high. My heart is marked with the symbol of the cross: I am His forever. I am placed there as an infant. I am His child. I do not have the answers to anything. Receptively is how I am yielded for His will and ways for me. His power, courage and propulsion to fill me in making His dreams for me come true. May my very life be a gift to Him this Christmas and always.
“Advent marks the start of a season of preparation that looks forward to the celebration of Christmas and the second coming of Christ. It is a time of reflection in preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ—we remember how our Savior humbled Himself to be born as a baby and live among those He would save. We remember the perfect life He lived doing the will of His Father, His sacrificial death on the cross, and how He was raised from the dead three days later, having paid the penalty in order to save all who would believe. Christians remember Jesus’ promise to return again one day and restore everything fully. This season invokes feelings of expectation and hope!
The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “arrival” or “coming” from the word advenire (ad- “to” venire “come”). Advent is a reminder of how the Jewish people waited for the Messiah and how Christians and Messianic Jews wait for the second coming of Christ, today.”
I wrote this years ago about my own Advent experience. I try to renew the practice every year!
On the occasions when I was able to surface from being numb, the thanksgivings I did record included: apple turnovers at the hospital coffee shop (yum!); crushed ice in the atrium waiting room; finding Diet Coke in the vending machine whereas the cafeteria only served Pepsi products; brilliant sun in the bitter cold; making it downstairs for good coffee without missing a doctor on early morning rounds; finding a way to create rhythm with hospital visits; spinach soufflé to nourish me. I was living on ice cream, frozen Stouffer’s spinach soufflé, homemade vegetable soups, yogurt and sometimes Rapid Fire Pizza. Eventually I could add thanksgiving that Bob’s thoughts were returning without ICU psychosis clouding his brain as much.
“My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises You with joyful lips when I think of You on my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night; for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” PS 63:5-8
People I barely knew at church were sending me encouragement. Bob’s friends were also. I met one woman in the grocery parking lot. She confided that her husband had been undergoing chemo and it was a long, long recovery process. She listened with compassion and then asked me, “Isn’t it strange when you gauge what kind of day you are having by how many times you cry?” She succinctly nailed that wisdom. Her comfort stays with me even now.
Along with thanksgiving I had recently studied a book about brokenness. About eleven days into the nightmare I was crocheting in Bob’s room one evening while he dozed. He had a clear realization that day of just how weak and frail he had become. The physical therapists had helped him stand and try to take one step. He was shocked over all the strength he had lost in those eleven days. I sensed this message of comfort from the Lord:
“I see you. I see you sitting there crocheting.”
“I’ve got this in My mighty, holy way. I know it is hard to do, but I want you to try to relax and remember each time panic tries to grab you, I’ve got this. I’ve got this. Trust the outcome to Me, even when you do not understand where it is going or what the next step is. Trust and know that I am holding you and Bob. I’ve got this. My dear, sweet Molly, trust Me. Just like that knot in your yarn just now, if you tug on it things only get harder. Let me untangle the health mess for you. Yes, it has been a very hard day as Bob comes to terms with the reality of what January 2018 has brought to him. I’ve got him.”
I was stunned into thanksgiving by His comfort and love. Rarely do I hear this sort of comfort and assurance from my Lord. He was present to me in that room, with monitors beeping and all the rest of the hospital trappings.
All glory be to You, Lord Christ! My learning about Brokenness came most recently from Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. I had taken notes from the book and was able to review them in the hospital room. She wrote:
“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right? … The seed breaks to give us wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory. Never be afraid of a broken thing.”
“Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of deeper growth. My dad told me this once. For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone. The shell must break open, its insides must come out, and everything must change. If you didn’t understand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction.
“Brokenness can make abundance.”
“Why are we afraid of broken things? Why are we afraid of suffering? What if the abundance of communion is only found there in the brokenness of suffering – because suffering is where God lives. Suffering is where God gives the most healing intimacy.”
This section has a few ways that I tried to cope with this life changing and challenging event. My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and Bob almost died, it was difficult and practically impossible for me 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 six as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with Bob.
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!” Another prayer that surfaced from the BCP “We do not presume to come to this Thy table trusting in our own righteousness but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table. But Thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” (Holy Eucharist 1 P. 337)
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. The “ISness” of the many illnesses he was suffering including the ICU psychosis. The nurses and doctors assured me he would come out of that, but no one knew when or in what condition afterwards. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted God’s goodness and His love for both myself and my family.
I learned that crucified, you must hold perfectly still.
Ephesians 3:16 helped me to trust more. “I pray that, according to the riches of His glory, He may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” I prayed for Bob and our children to be strengthened. I prayed for myself to be strengthened by His Spirit with power penetrating to my innermost being. Yes, crucified you must hold perfectly still. I was not “going” anywhere.
Brother Lawrence taught “Useless thoughts spoil everything and much mischief begins there.” I needed to still my thoughts and dwell in the present moment. “What if” thoughts brought needless anxiety. I just had no extra energy to waste on that.
The power of thanksgiving had been my study several years prior to this. Now it was difficult to even remember to give thanks. I saw in 2 Corinthians 4:15b “So that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may INCREASE THANKSGIVING, to the glory of God” but I was unable to do much of that. I became numb with fatigue and stress. His grace carried me and turned to thanksgiving in the signature of my every email with lyrics from “Good, good Father” written by Brown and Barrett, recorded by Chris Tomlin.
Eventually that signature changed to “Acceptance becomes the sacrament of the present moment, the point at which your struggle becomes useless and the unknown becomes the next step in life.” Joan Chittister
And oh the kindness of others! People prayed almost around the clock for us. Different cities, counties, states and even countries.
Awake, but still so ill!
Bob looked terrible after being in bed for over a week. The nurses used some dry shampoo on his head, but the shave they gave him was not like he would have given himself had he been well enough. Our neighbor is a barber and came to the hospital, even with all the illness Bob was suffering. Chris gave him a razor shave right in his bed! He looked and felt somewhat better after that! This photo is a few days later and after his shave.
You may have noticed in the photos there are fewer and fewer lines and tubes connected to Bob. As he slowly regained some functions the medical staff removed as many iv lines, etc. as possible. The more lines, they explained, the better the chances of infections.
Did you notice the blue prayer square pinned to his gown? The nurses were very conscious of it and careful to replace it whenever they had to change his gown. Many of my friends make these instead of prayer shawls, which can be large and somewhat cumbersome, especially in ICU. Once during the shift change a new nurse came in to meet us and go over his treatment plan with the nurse going off shift. The lights were dim in the early evening. She asked, “What is that Brillo pad pinned to his gown?” We told her it was a “Prayer Square.” I have often been amused by her comment since then while crocheting a square for others.
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. Here is one of my journal entries:
Tired. Too tired to read. Often too tired to even eat. Numb with fatigue of body and emotional shock.
Do it again
Keep the dining room table cleaned off because he likes that so much!
Find a way to cope with the shock
“You can’t be any other place than where you actually are!”
This verse from Ephesians 6:10 helped hold me upright. “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”
Holman translation: Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. And the NIV: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. A portion of this verse is also on one of the hospital walls.
The doctor told me Bob was in critical condition, streptococcal pneumonia, kidney injury and failure, sepsis, Type A flu. I went back and forth between home and the hospital as the weather dictated. Our adult kids did not want me to stay there every night as that was so tiring. They knew. They had taken turns doing just that! One doctor told us weeks later that the first week at Mercy Anderson he was the sickest man in the building.
People Bob had worked with and friends from church took turns taking shifts sitting with him when one of us could not be there. Our friend Robb was with Bob Tuesday afternoon when the doctors decided to let him wake up. Emily made it there moments later from her office downtown. She called saying he was asking for me. I rushed to get out of the shower and arrive.
He could barely whisper after having the tube in his throat for almost five days. Then we learned the horror of ICU psychosis. It was explained to me that even with the heavy sedation given, the ICU patients do not truly sleep. His symptoms included paranoia that the food and water were drugged or poisoned, agitation, anxiety, seeing things that were not there, disorientation. He was absolutely exhausted.
He did not recognize me as his wife. That first night in his agitation I told him he really needed to sleep. He replied, “My wife is in the bathroom.” I calmly stated, “Honey, I am your wife.” He said, “No, my other wife.” The children joked we should record or write down everything he said to use against him later. An attempt at comic relief.
The night nurse was able to tape a sheet over the light board on the wall as Bob kept staring at the medical notes there and asking me why they were moving. They were perfectly still. One aide was able to show me how to minimize the text the next day. It was a long night, every night.
Later Bob thought people had neglected him and his needs in the night. The nights I stayed he was very restless and often upset even though I was by his side. He had worked at Mercy Clermont for almost 40 years. Here he was at Mercy Anderson. He was certain he had to go back to Clermont to get the care he needed. He was determined to get out of his bed even if he had to crawl to the front door. He thought his friend Jim would bring the truck and take him back if only he could get to the front door. He was agitated and upset with me for not taking him. One night he tried to climb out of bed, ivs and all. I was able to reach the buzzer to call the nurse. He helped me get Bob back to bed. He had to be restrained with soft restraints. It was so sad. It was hard to believe my strong, intelligent, reasonable, loving husband was this person in the bed. Five days of delirium were exhausting and discouraging. Yes, we had him back with us, but his condition was still guarded and in so many ways unimaginable.
He was certain his mother was dead because he remembered receiving a larger than usual check at Christmas. (She was very much alive and awaiting word on his condition in California.) He believed he made roast beef sandwiches on sourdough bread at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London. (She, too, was very much alive.)
One on-line definition states that organic factors that can contribute to the delirium include infection and drugs. My husband certainly had plenty of both. Not only was he suffering from streptococcal pneumonia, kidney failure, kidney injury, and flu, but eventually he was also tested and MRSA pneumonia was added to his list of ailments.
My very, very ill husband.
He bargained with me that he would drink his water if I would give him his cell phone. I gave in. He drank one sip and that was it. He told me the next morning he was able to make Fidelity investment account and bank transfers with the hospital remote. Even now, many months later, he is finding contacts he must have deleted from his cell phone while in the hospital. He called me five times one evening at home on both the cell phone and his hospital phone, giggling at his profound ability. He asked for paper and pen. The inveterate list-maker wanted to create psychotic lists. Ever so slowly his brain began to clear.
My counselor told me that this sort of psychosis is truly a form a suffering as the patient cannot determine reality from the delirium. My sister-in-law was able to coach our adult children and myself as to how we should talk to him to help calm him. Saying things such as “May I take care of that for you?” when he had outlandish fears such as thinking someone was robbing our social security account as he did not believe the recent deposits were in the right amount.
And oh, his financial fears. He had been a wonderful provider for our entire marriage! Here he was in ICU worried because he thought that every single procedure had to be paid for in cash before he would be treated. When he was unconscious and swelling from the kidney failure, our daughter and the nurse were able to remove his wedding ring. I had tearfully put his ring on a chain about my neck when he was insentient. I often slipped it on my finger as I tried to sleep, hoping for the resurrection of his health and our marriage. Once awake, he spotted the ring on my necklace and gave me detailed psychotic instructions that I was to go to his gold guy and sell it to help pay for all these procedures.
The ICU doctor tried to assure him that Medicare and our supplemental insurance would cover all the bills because his was a catastrophic illness. When the doctor left the room, my terribly confused husband confided in me that he did not believe a word the doctor said. I went to the financial office and they assured me that indeed the doctor was correct. It was a hard sell from then on! I would not let him worry about the payment without reminding him it was all going to be okay from a financial standpoint.
There were all sorts of medical terms I knew nothing about such as pH in his blood and creatinine (which I had typed for him on lab documents, but never truly understood), blood pressure monitored through an arterial line? Fentanyl – my husband? Restraints in his hospital bed? Talking with complete strangers about bronchoscopy and dialysis I found it difficult to comprehend that we were discussing my husband of forty-seven years.
Walking into another room in our home I realized I would likely need to figure out his method of bookkeeping and bill payments. The on-line payments I understood. We had such different methods of bookkeeping that over the years we had each gotten our own checking accounts!
Slowly it dawned upon me that I would not only need to oversee finances, but if and when I brought him home from the hospital I would need to do the shopping, tote the groceries to and from the car, put it all away and continue with the cooking, cleaning et cetera as our needs dictated. I began to realize that I would not bring home from the hospital the same man that was here on New Year’s Day. Forty-seven years of marriage and all plans were suddenly in flux with the future indeterminate. Fear was lurking amidst my every activity. With faith I clung to the God of all mercies to direct my steps and keep my heart and mind.
Toby Mack released a song about that time called “I Just Need U” and I played it over and over and over again.
“And, all I know is You’re my only hope.
When I’m up when I’m down,
When the wolves come around,
When my feet hit the ground,
I just need, I just need You,
On my darkest days,
When I’m losing faith,
No, it ain’t gon’ change,
I just need, I just need You,
Lord, I need You,
Yeah, I just need You.”
Bob’s high school sweetheart is now a general practitioner in the northeast and had recently had a husband in critical condition. I finally found her contact information following her latest Christmas card and what Bob had told me about her medical practice. I left a call with her answering service and she called back within minutes. She understood the power of the presence of a loving wife. After reviewing the progress of my illness and symptoms, she encouraged me to put on a mask and go to him. Another local ER doc who is a friend told me to just walk in like I knew what I was doing. Even spending one hour with him could make a difference.
He was admitted Thursday night. My cough began to break up Saturday night. Sunday I was in his room. No one questioned my presence at the hospital. They kept him sedated and unconscious for a total of almost five days. It seemed an eternity to our family. We were uncertain when they eventually let him wake up if he would be able to maintain breathing on his own without the help of the respirator. He had easily six IV bags hanging along with the jug of liquid that our son called his milkshake for the naso-gastric feeding tube. Wires and tubes in both sides of his neck. Catheter and other tubes.
My California lifeguard lay critically ill and I was helpless to change that. Eventually I gathered information for at least seven groups of email addresses to provide updates and prayer requests regarding his condition. Anyone who loved him, was willing to pray, and wanted updates made the list. In the beginning I sent updates twice a day or more. Later, it tapered off to once a day and then even less. We needed all the help we could get to return him to health and well-being. We are eternally grateful to those who prayed for us.
More than once as doctors were telling me about his progress I would have to step away, take a breath and compose myself. Sunday the weather was taking a turn for the worse. I went home and packed a bag. I did not want to be stranded at home with a winter storm possibly keeping me from Bob’s side. I moved into his room.
When we got inside the Emergency room, Emily and the nurse took Bob to a triage room while I checked him in. When I got to the back they were all ready to move him to larger treatment room. It was a very large room and they needed it. For 2-1/2 hours four to six nurses, the ER doc and respiratory techs worked on him to try to help him breathe with various treatments. His eyes were huge with terror as he tried to tell me through the blood in his oxygen mask that he COULD NOT BREATHE. I assured him they were doing all they could to help him. Finally, I turned to the nurse and said “This is obviously not working. What is next?” She told me the only thing left to do was sedate him and intubate him. I said to do it. She also said intubation required admission to ICU. The doctor had been working the ER every night that week. He said the ICU was full. They would try to get him moved to Anderson, or Fairfield, or UC. I kissed Bob as they asked us to wait in the waiting room. He asked, “Are you going home now?” I assured him I was going to stay. My children and I waited in the waiting room with two Elders from our church who came to support us and pray for us.
Kidney failure is not a term you ever want to hear in relation to your loved one. Intubation was scary enough. In fact, seeing him after the doctor had inserted that tube in the ER was one of the scariest things I had ever seen in my life! He was unconscious due to the drugs they gave him and kept him on for many days.
As they made plans to transfer him (as, yes, the ICU was totally full) I held his hand and prayed. I was forbidden to go with him as I too had tested positive for the flu. Jeff took me home as the kids had decided not to allow me to drive myself even though our house was about one mile away. Crushed and afraid I waited at home for our adult children to keep me updated on his progress and what the doctors had to say. They both did a great job! They met Bob at the hospital. Decided Jeff would spend the night with Bob. I made Jeff promise to send me a photo of Bob. Emily reported to work the next morning and let her boss know what was going on so she could take shifts staying with Bob at the hospital.
Next morning, I got busy on the telephone and the computer letting people know how seriously ill he was and asking for fervent prayers on his behalf. I tried not to be alarmed over all the unknown factors.
When I was eleven years old my father died after progressively serious heart attacks. I watched my mother grieve for years, at times inconsolably, after his death. I hoped that if I got married I would never give myself to someone to such a degree that I had difficulty living without him. Not that I said that consciously, but that inner hope had made it hard for me to love my husband freely. During our marriage as I became aware of that restriction in my heart, I had been trying to love him more and more each year. Here I was, facing the possible prospect of my husband dying before I did. Prayer and the support of prayer friends helped me not to panic. One of my deepest fears seemed to be unfolding.
I give thanks this year that indeed, my husband is very much alive and well now. I will continue the saga as strength and time allow. I am posting this so readers will know how we coped and hopefully watch out for serious illness during the flu season. It really is not anything to mess around with. We both had our shots last year and this year. Praying you do, too!
Photos by Robert M Dutina
As of the latest rain and wind
The trees have dropped their gowns
Of red and brown and gold
The change of seasons is profound
Skies of gray
Grass carpeted with fallen leaves
Air refreshed by northern breeze
Summer’s hold has been broken
encroach upon the power bill
to maintain comfort in houses
Change me too, with this new season
Help me transfigure into the plan You
Have held all along
Not jumping to negative conclusions
Adapting with wait and see attitudes
Know myself as
a wanted cherished child
Now sixty-eight years and a few days older
Yet Your child always
Like it or not we are creatures of habit. And some of our habits are lousy ones. I first heard this saying when I attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings many years ago.
“Until the pain of remaining the same becomes too great, there will be no change.”
Truly believed that when my mother died the problems I grew up with stopped. AcoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) helped me recognize the problems were ingrained in me during my upbringing. We can choose change. We can choose to move out of our habits. We will need help to do that. There might even be relapses. But we need to continue to choose to change. Even after I have lived forty-three years without my mother, I still continue to need to choose change. I cannot tell all the ways God has helped me and shown me paths o choose and ways to change through the years.
I grew up in an alcoholic family. When I was at home I decided when I got out of there I would do things differently with my children in my family. I did not want to pass on to my children and husband the co-dependent family of origin behaviors that I experienced. Fairly certain I did not succeed in shielding the children completely, but I did the best I could with what I learned.
I chose to change because the pain was a strong motivator. I chose a different path.
When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition) I read a book with this quote. I do not remember author or title, but it is powerful truth:
“The crap and the tears can be transformed into water and soil for the soul.”
Chronic pain is crappy. There is just no way around that fact. It colors your day-to-day existence, usually like yucky mud. Hard to rise above the pain and keep your wits about you. Sometimes I do not even realize I am struggling with pain until I snap at my husband. There is very little I can do to control pain, but I am learning to take the crap from it and compost it for soil and use the tears as water to grow good things for the soul.
That is part of how this blog was birthed. We can grow things from this soil. Things that may nourish and help others. Things that can bring encouragement and cheer. Insights about the human condition. Having cried often, I have a much greater sensitivity to others who suffer from chronic conditions. I can relate in ways I never would have imagined from this lousy situation. Fibromyalgia is not progressive and will not kill me, but it can truly make me miserable and sometimes grinds me down to a powder instead of tissues and bones.
Sayings can help us. I post the ones I need for encouragement. Eventually I memorize the best ones. I am thankful for others who have gone before me and written their experience. Share your life with others and you cannot help but grow!
A friend and I were sharing our struggles the other day. She was being afflicted with the typical attacks of darkness. “I spend too much time at work and I still don’t accomplish as much as I should!” “I can’t do anything well.” “I am spread too thin.” “I am not giving enough time to my marriage and family.” And the negative flood poured all over the parking lot and ran around our feet.
I asked how much time she was giving to self- care. That too was non-existent. I told her I would pray for her. I also added that many of us are tempted with these negative thoughts. Asked if she had applied the cross to these thoughts she asked, “How do you do that?” Sharing my experience I told her once I recognize a negative thought, I try apply the cross of Jesus to it. The first challenge is to actually RECOGNIZE it is a negative thought! When we bring the cross to situations it changes a negative dash to a positive plus. The word says we are to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5NIV
Entertaining those arguments, pretensions and negative thoughts is like dipping your toe in a pool of black ink. When you withdraw your foot the droplets tend to color everything around you, much like ink in a water glass. The doubts and fears tend to overwhelm and color everything. The black colors can eventually obliterate clear vision.
The word says the Blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. No, having the thoughts is not sin. Entertaining and embracing the thoughts is sin. We are to walk in the light as He is in the light. 1 John 1:7 I do not presume to understand how, but the Blood of Jesus and our abiding fellowship with Him can cleanse us from all unrighteousness, even the defeating, discouraging negative thoughts about our self-worth and performance.
Reading Martin Laird’s A Sunlit Absence he comments on the value of maintaining connection with the Lord through a prayer word and your breath, inhaling and exhaling each moment just as it comes. One woman in his book had to come to terms with the fact that depression and panic attacks can even happen to people of deep spiritual realization. He comments that the path of prayer “knows only how to move through struggle; and the only way through is through – not around, over, under, or alongside, but through.” The idea of maintaining contact with the Lord each moment must start with a daily time of practice. No one maintains consciously abiding with Him all day without a beginning practice. Not Brother Lawrence, not Frank Laubach, not Martin Laird.
Choose to spend some time daily in contemplative, centering silence and see how it can affect your life for the good. Deepen your dependence upon the Almighty and He will meet with you.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 (NIV2011)
Or it could be entitled, “Suddenly Our World Changed.”
My husband’s name is Bob, daughter is Emily, son is Jeff.
In 2017 Bob and I both had our flu shots as usual in the autumn. Colds and sinus problems and various viruses were flying around by the end of December. I sought medical help at a Little Clinic on December 30th as I was miserable.
My flu test on December 30th was negative. January 2, 2018 my husband, Bob, was diagnosed with Type A Influenza. Because of his history with mild COPD they did a chest x-ray. It was negative for congestion. He was given Tamiflu and a pearl-type drug for cough. The medical personnel told me to be checked again for flu. January 3 my test was positive for Type A influenza. My doctor decided I was too late for Tamiflu. Then things began to go from bad to worse very, very rapidly.
On January 4, 2018 Bob did not feel well all day. Told me he thought he would feel better by then with the Tamiflu supposedly treating his symptoms. To me his lungs began to sound like an old-fashioned push mower. Late afternoon he told me he had a pain in his side. He believed he had pulled a muscle coughing. I thought that strange as he had not been coughing just then! I have learned we can each rationalize away any pain and symptom. He put himself to bed about 7:15. At 8:00 he came stumbling out of the bedroom saying in anger, “I cannot breathe in that bed!” This from the man who rarely gets angry. He was dragging a blanket along with him as he plopped down in his living room chair and closed his eyes.
I had been keeping Emily informed about our illness. When Bob got out of bed I texted our daughter asking if she would like to meet at our house or at Clermont Mercy Hospital as her Dad was getting worse. She chose Clermont. I went to get dressed. When I came out of our bedroom Bob asked, “Where are you going?” I was afraid if I told him he would balk so I just ignored him. He was so ill he forgot he had asked.
When Emily texted she was on her way, I told him we are going to the ER. As he stood up he said, “This is going to cost me a fortune!” And then his bowels let loose. We went to the bathroom to get cleaned up and change his clothes. I threw the laundry in the bathtub and got him into my car. I had no idea how very sick he really was.
When we reached the ER, Emily was waiting at the door with a wheelchair. As we got him out of the passenger seat, he coughed, and spit blood on the sidewalk. I knew right then we were in deep trouble. Jeff met us at the hospital.
And so our nightmare with the flu began. Six days folded into a horror we could barely imagine. 2018 has been a very difficult year. Now in November we are still coping with after effects of that illness and we are preparing for a new flu season. Yes, we both have had our flu shots again. We are also wiser, knowing as they caution us, the injection cannot prepare for every strain of flu. The next few days or weeks, as I am able, I will unfold for you my reactions to almost losing my husband of then 47 years and how I coped and sometimes did not cope with the struggle and emotional turmoil. We have now celebrated 48 years of marriage! We are always hoping for the best both marriage-wise and health-wise.
U.S. surgeon general and other medical experts and government officials call urging people to roll up a sleeve to help others was pertinent, given the bigger news of the press conference: that a whopping 80,000 people in the U.S. died of flu last year, far more than the 12,000 to 56,000 children and adults who die in a typical season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Guess what? They all got the flu from someone; someone passed it along to them,” said Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, underscoring how getting a flu shot can help to protect others in your community from either getting the flu or suffering serious complications from it. As he and other doctors at the yearly event repeatedly said, vaccination, while not perfect, can “reduce the severity of illness in those who get vaccinated but still get sick.”
Along with stressing the importance of children getting shots — about half the children who died last year did not get theirs — officials also noted that the majority of the heavy death toll last season was older people, who were especially susceptible to the H3N2 strain that predominated. (Last year’s vaccine was also less effective overall on this strain.) https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/get-your-flu-shot-cdc-says.html
Marie was my spiritual director for several years. She gave me a statement that has never worn out.
BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF.
By this she did not mean that there should be no goals for self-discipline and growth. Rather, be gentle as I aim towards those goals. Having grown up in an alcoholic family, the unspoken rules were, “Don’t think. Don’t talk. Don’t feel.” The main method of control in the family was criticism. Constant, unrelenting criticism. For someone from that background the idea of being gentle with yourself was like a foreign language. Arabic has never come easily to me, nor French or even Spanish for that matter. كن لطيفًا مع نفسك, Soyez doux avec vous-même, Ser amable contigo mismo. Telling me to be gentle with myself was just as difficult to comprehend. We tend to repeat the attitudes and statements from our upbringing in our self-talk. We can also reprogram those statements when we find ones that are unconstructive or discouraging.
I have repeated this statement to many women over the years since Marie first said it to me. They, too, are usually amazed by the concept. We are not taught much in American society about healthy self-care or self treatment. Psychological research shows that we do grow and change better in response to praise than criticism. Wow! Wish my family of origin had known that fact!!
Working to undo those negative and often harsh messages I have found that being gentle with myself requires compassion for myself as a faulty human being. None of us is perfect. Some of us just hide that fact better than others. We are all broken and need care and encouragement. We will find our way best with gentle encouragement.
So next time you get a negative ear worm that is beating you to pieces of discouragement remember that you can stop that ear worm and replace it with a challenging but comforting statement. A gentle reminder that we all need help to get along!
And I fought to find a way.
I hungered after truth.
I thirsted for a refreshing drink.
Philosophy was like drinking dust.
The occult left me anxious and more needy inside.
My own will was never satisfying for very long.
Books were filled with only words, words, words.
My baggage was a heavy burden,
Filled with unforgiveness and self-deceit.
And now … I seek to find His way
Though all the circumstances that occur
But I no longer hunger and thirst,
(Unless I want to)
For provisions have been made for me
through the Holy Spirit
directly to God
I needn’t look to myself for the answers.
No other person can show me the way wholly
All I seek is God’s will
He provides the Bread of Heaven for me
With rivers of Living Water within
And the Way is there
He goes before me
Leaving food and drink
gifts for my soul along the path
He is my Scout
A Holy Guide
Through the wilderness of humanity
To the Godhead
Can I seek to serve any others
With Jesus carrying my suitcase?
He not only gave me new luggage
He filled it with armor and food
Wisdom beyond all my books
All delights of nature
Treasures of Heaven
Beyond old beliefs
“You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you,”
[says the Lord your God.] ISA 43:4a NRSV
The journaling question was:
‘When I think about God loving me unconditionally as I am, I …’
Well, I get bashful, knowing Your Word and Your love are true
– but hardly daring to believe You, Lord.
In Your sight I am honored? Why?
I believe, as a servant,
I have only done what You asked me to do –
so, why honored?
And I remember reading in Rick Joyner’s book,
the multitudes worshiping the Lord in the heavenlies
– and they – and I – are honored for obedience to the Lamb.
Again I argue,
but whom have I in heaven, but You, my Lord?
To obey is the source of my life –
the Source of all my joy –
honor seems too high a reward.
Perhaps my next obedient step
should be to read Isaiah and
write down Your words of comfort, love and honor?
You say You sing over Your people,
that Your faithfulness is a shield about us.
Oh Jesus, as I come to know You more deeply
there is so much more to learn.
I will never come to the end of your love.
A boundary wall will never appear to stop me from
entering Your unfailing love.
So help me, Jesus.
Finally, I want to learn to dive!
Help me jack-knife into Your love
Triple somersaults of joy into
Your endless bounty of love and mercy.
Back flips – with no fear of knocking my brain out-
empowered by Your Holy Spirit.
I tirelessly race up the ladder
to make another grace-filled, magnificent dive.
Slicing into Your bounty of love and honor
and before Your sight Precious
barely making a splash.
Diving deeper, deeper,
never able to reach the bottom of Your kindness
but surely drenched, washed, renewed in Your water of Life.
And You, on the side
watching with Your cronies alongside my enemies
flashing high scores for me
pleased by my obedience.
You are delighted by my yielded heart.
More of You, Lord
more than my next gulp of air
I want more of Your drenching,
Come upon me, power of the Most High
soak me, enfold me, permeate my very cells.
Then guide me forth
to do Your will upon this earth.
But wait!! I must clamber up that ladder
one more time in joy and glee
and as Your child
do a tremendous cannonball –
sending Your love splashing out
on all those around.
I’ve even gotten the grouchy old lady
who never wants to get wet!
While traveling on the road of God’s will I hit a dip in the road and got jostled off the path. The dip occurred where the Lord asked me to do something, but fearing His will I inwardly said, “No!” I locked my knees, dug in my heels and soon resembled a stubborn donkey that must be pushed, pulled and cajoled to be made to move.
Blind to my disobedient nature and still pouting before the holy ways of the Lord I decided if He really loved me we could compromise on another way. I stepped onto the “Treadmill of Debate” a perpetual motion conveyor belt going nowhere but in circles. Fearful and resistant to God’s will I asked “Why?” and presented Him with all of the ‘What-ifs’ and ‘If-onlys.’ I formulated brilliant reasonings for resisting His ways, deluding myself and dropping further and further away from His Light.
God was more kind to me than Balaam who beat his donkey. (Numbers 22:22-33) God used that same donkey to save Balaam’s life three times. He even made the donkey talk to Balaam! If God can use a donkey, I am no one special. My resistance did not prove too much for God.
When I accepted His will, relinquished my ideas and gave all things over to Him I could continue the adventure of serving God well. He returned me to the road of His will. As usual, when I actually arrived at the point of resistance it turned out to be so unlike what I had imagined might occur, that later I wondered why I was so silly and donkey-like not to yield immediately in trust to Him. My efforts to control led me onto a futile treadmill going no where. God’s mercy urged me to let Him direct my course and enjoy His fellowship in the ‘Now Here.’
Help me to trust You more Lord. I want to live present to You in the Here and Now for in this experience alone is my salvation. As I begin to err, thank-you for taking me off the highway and into Your discipline. You truly are “able to keep me from falling and to present me without blemish before the Presence of Your glory with rejoicing!” (Jude 24)
The photo for my Trysting place is in the city. The treetop shows a dense shelter. The tree in the bustle of Southern California is meant to signify that I can go to my meeting place with the Risen Christ in any location.
I cannot take a camera to our trysting place
My attempts to draw it are incomplete
You meet me there in a sturdy platform room
protected, sheltered, made from the wood of Your cross
and also like the palm of Your hand
where You fold Your wings of love around me
The wooden floor of the platform tree
is always smooth and comfortable
no splinters, fine weather
leaves dancing in holy wind
my joy to be there
I stand, lie, sit, sing, weep, wait
and always You are there
Occasionally I must place myself
upon the altar table
Your soul correction treatments are
swift and sweet when I yield to You
I can make myself miserable imagining what might happen
if I yield to you.
Awfulizing is never a clear mirror of truth.
When I get centered in silence
we often travel down the center of the trunk
as if by elevator
arriving at the stream of living water
that nourishes the tree
refreshes my soul
brings to my being all things I need
My surrender to this trysting place is sometimes jagged,
prolonged, not smooth or graceful
Yet once I give myself to the quiet and arrive
I always ponder
what spawned my reluctance?
Some of these I wrote down so long ago that I have absolutely NO IDEA who wrote them!
‘I will not abandon myself. I won’t lose faith in my ability to take care of myself.” Probably from an ACoA cpage a day calendar?
“Consistent self-care is NOT selfish. Consistent self-care is self-preserving.”
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV 2011) reads:
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.
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.
What if we actually intend to live this verse? I have been trying, not always successfully, to do just that. A living sacrifice. In the Old Testament there are prescribed sacrifices for many conditions using many different products. In the New Testament Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. But what about ourselves as living sacrifices? The Old Testament animal sacrifices were killed and offered on altars of fire. We on the other hand are asked to die to ourselves, or wishes and desires – our very bodies and minds offered as holy and pleasing to God. I think it is somewhat amazing that He finds us acceptable!
I love nonconformists! Just look at this sunflower example!
We are not to conform to this world, be it political views or hours of on-line socializing or glued to a television screen, but to be transformed by renewing our mind through His Word, through prayer and interacting with the Holy Spirit. Renewing our minds by being transformed then leads us to the ability to test and approve God’s will, “His good, pleasing and perfect will.” That is radical!
So I present myself each morning as that very sort of sacrifice. I ask for help to be transformed by His power. I ask for open eyes to see His good will, that pleasing and perfect will for each hour of today. I ask for power to be obedient to the Trinity.
I ask for the power to care for myself in ways that are healthy and pleasing to Him. Left to myself there would not be healthy self-care for Molly Lin. I will not lose faith in my ability to take care of myself because I have One greater than me guiding and directing that care. In my family of origin we were often accused of being selfish. But I have learned that consistent self-care is NOT selfish. If I need a retreat, I am learning to ask for that time away. If I need to see a particular medical expert, I talk with Bob and schedule an appointment.
And in case I forget what my goals are, I turn on a battery operated votive candle in the morning that might catch my attention and return me to my #1 goal of pleasing God! Sometimes I see that candle at bedtime and it reminds me to review my day and see where I can improve in my efforts tomorrow.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
I saw the devil as a decrepit, weasand, impotent old man, stooped over, no strength in his backbone, but malice in his eyes. He worked his way up an open-staired metal ladder to the catwalks along the lights above a stage.
I sat on the stage in finger curls and white eyelet ruffles looking much like the storybook picture of Miss Muffett. I was happy, contented and apathetic (having or showing little or no emotion).
Using seemingly his last ounce of strength, this old impotent being reached the spot on the catwalk above me which he had chosen as his point of power. From inside his trench coat he pulled a marionette – it was a hideous, hairy spider with spindly octopus-like legs and invisible strings. The catwalk was edged with a railing made of steel tubular pipes. He rested his weight upon the cold steel, too weak to stand on his own. He dropped the marionette half-way down and adjusted his hands in the wooden frames that controlled the strings for moving the spider’s body. Then he dropped the spider all the way down, near my face.
As I caught sight of the hideous hairy spider from the corner of my eye, apathy fled, and emotions stormed over me. The spineless, weak being up in the catwalk had little strength to hurt me, but he chose to use my own power against me. I flailed out in fear and anger and my actions made that spider jump and fly through the air with more energy than the old fart could ever have put into it.
At that juncture, the loving voice of my Lord broke into the scene and said, “Molly Lin, the spider is fear. It has very little power on it own. But you give it your energy by flailing and struggling and assuming it is more powerful than it is. Think through this same scene and SEE that had you chosen to sit still and watch that spider, it would have dangled from strings and been as impotent to harm you as the one holding its frames. He has no power over you unless you give it to him. Fear is a choice!”
My life has never been the same. I am not always fearless, but I do know that when fear comes I can choose to have it go. Seeing things a new way … choosing another perspective or point of view … RESPONDING instead of reacting are all keys to maintaining my peace and experiencing the comfort and presence of my Lord Jesus.
“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.“ Psalm 34:4 HCSB
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a NRSV
How do you ask for God’s help? The Bible says the Spirit of God lives within us when we accept Jesus as our Savior because of His finished work on the cross. He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to live within us after His resurrection and ascension to the Father.
So when I sense that my flesh wants to rule my decisions and my life, (which is almost daily!!) I call out to the Holy Spirit to help me with my obedience and journey with the Lord. He is superior to anything I can think up. He is higher in every way than me. One way I do that is with this chorus:
Ascendancy means a state of being in the ascendant; governing or controlling influence. When I give God authority over me I give the Trinity the right to determine the best for me, the power and authorization to guide and direct my life.
Are you willing to yield to the work of God in every area of your life? Do you believe that His ways are higher than your ways, His thoughts higher than your thoughts? Isaiah 55:9
Try calling out to Him in this way. It may take hours, days, weeks or months to sense results; however, if you are faithful to be obedient and yield to what He asks of you, I believe you will know His touch and His help in more areas than you ever thought possible.
When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I had a lot to learn about that condition. In short, it is chronic but not progressive. By contrast, osteoarthritis is chronic but it is progressive. So the pain I feel in my elbows from fibro will not get worse over time. In fact, it tends to come and I am always glad when it goes away again. The pain in my hands and feet from OA does get worse over time. Rarely does OA pain go away, though there are times I am not as aware of it. One of the first prayers I came across after the fibro diagnosis was written by Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and trained as a paleontologist and geologist.
Oh God, grant that I may understand that it is You who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance.
I found the full prayer some years later on-line. (When I was diagnosed we had no internet). It reads:
When the signs of age begin to mark my body
(and still more when they touch my mind);
when the illness that is to diminish me or carry me off
strikes from without or in born within me;
when the painful moment comes
in which I suddenly awaken
to the fact that I am ill or growing old;
and, above all, at that last moment
when I feel that I am losing hold of myself
and am absolutely passive within the hands
of the great unknown forces that have formed me;
in all these dark moments, O God,
grant that I may understand that it is You
(provided my faith is strong enough)
who are painfully parting the fibers of my being
in order to penetrate to the very marrow
of my substance and bear me away within Yourself. Amen.
During the time of diagnosis I felt as if I lost most of my friends. The charismatic movement was very big in Christianity at the time and I was one of them. When my friends could not pray fibro out of me they assumed there was hidden sin somewhere in my life. Meanwhile, the Lord had assured me repeatedly saying, “I will be with you in this.” And He has been with me.
Many years later I had to re-affirm my commitment to God and I wrote this prayer:
“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.”
He has accompanied me each step of this life and He will not fail me now. I have learned to let Him ‘part the fibers of my being, in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within’ Himself. Yield to this Holy Touch. You will not regret the yielding.
In the book Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst she makes the point that in Mark 6:13 Jesus called His disciples to be WITH Him before He sent them out. Often I think I know exactly what the Lord wants me to do and then run out ahead of Him, hollering over my shoulder, “Thanks, God! I can take it from here!” My next step is usually face down in the mud. Have you had that experience? What is it that makes us think we can do anything and everything in our own strength?
Years ago I bought a blank journal at the Disney store. It had the Superman logo on the front. The entire time it took me to fill that journal I was reminded again and again that in my life that logo stood for “Show me, Holy Spirit! I haven’t got a clue.”
We need to slow down. Spend time listening to God. Especially when we think He is giving us a plan or instructions regarding His will. Yes, in 1 Corinthians 3:9a we are called to be coworkers with God; yet, we must always remember that He has the building plans and He is the contractor. We are likely not even subcontractors! Do you part, but always keep listening for further instructions. Imagine what would have happened if Abraham had stopped listening when he took Isaac to the mountain as instructed.
I am grateful that the prayers of our predecessors have been preserved for us. I have learned so much over the years with the Book of Common Prayer. The following is a prayer written in the old language.
Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us
to thy never-failing care and love, for this life
and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them
better things than we can desire or pray for;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I have found the Trisagion, (meaning thrice holy), especially powerful when other words fail me. Sometimes in the depths of pain, worry or anguish, I have found the best path through for me to be with this prayer. As I repeat it, it seems as if the Presence of God begins to roll through my very being, removing the pain, worry and anguish or taking my attention elsewhere, towards the Trinity.
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy on us.
I have used this the past few years in hospital rooms when I had no idea the outcome for the patient, but knew that the Presence of God was most needed.
Several years ago I read a book by Paul F. Knitter entitled “Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian.” I have learned many things from contemporary writers who have a Buddhist slant. Paul teaches how to use a Buddhist bucket in a Christian well to deepen one’s prayer life.
We took our daughter and Grandgirls to New York one year. Bob and I both spotted this photo opportunity almost simultaneously! Imagine the noise of New York, complete with racing taxi (in the background of photo) and the unending construction and repairs to the streets and buildings. There on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant is a statue of Buddha reminding us to breathe … stop … enjoy the present moment. One teacher at a Christian conference pointed out that listen and silent both have the same letters! So take this moment to rest in the photo and your own present moment. And Smile!
A mockingbird has moved into the neighborhood
More specifically our lot
When I awoke this morning he was using
Everyone else’s songs from our rooftop
Mostly a good imitation
Yet, when I hear the actual individual birds
I realized it was just imitation
Not the rich variations that the actual singers give
The woods are full of spring songs
Bird after bird seeking a mate
Singing and flitting through the branches
(Or racing) each other
To impress the perfect mate
Mocking bird is like the enemy in my ear
Repeating phrases of accusation
Condemnation and insult
No fresh life-giving inspiration
Such as the Holy Spirit brings
I’d like to shoot at this bird to scare it off our property
As a child there was one who attacked whenever
We tried to hang up the laundry or take it down
Now it is just annoying and incessant
Yet there are likely lessons to learn here
Do not assume every repeated phrase is from God
Just like the Sheriff will never call and
ask you for money over the phone
God speaks in that still, small voice
Not the raucous jack-hammer of a mockingbird
Try to be still in the cacophony of that chorus
Quiet your soul and rest in the peace of His Presence
The snows cover the earth
you know not how
The life quickens in the bulb
you know not how
The trees sprout and bring forth foliage
you know not how
Light fills the dark recesses of your soul
you know not how
The Kingdom of God grows
you know not how.
Not by numbers
Not by programs
Just by My Spirit
By your love
Love that comes from Me
that you know as
The only How
I AM the ways and means
I AM Life and that more abundantly
I AM the source of your longing
I AM the answer to your longing.
Rest in Me
Let Me use you
Do not step out in your feeble ‘strength’
Only as My Spirit moves you
I will give you light for the next step
You will know how.
My Kingdom cannot always be seen,
felt, touched, or perceived by you
yet it exists and grows and expands
you know not how
Trust that My Word is true
I will perform it
though you know not how.
The wind blows where it will
you know not how.
My Presence is often seen in retrospect
yet I AM present with you, even now
though you cannot say ‘He is here’
or ‘look there’
I AM working in, through and among you
Bring forth My will individually
then you will see a portion of How.
Serve Me first and foremost
I will show you how
Seek My face and My Kingdom
lay aside the other things
pursuits of vain glory
press into Me
make Me the Center of your life.
the Holy Spirit will bring forth life
you know not how
except that you yield to Me.
When we traveled to Idaho a few years ago, we walked over a short suspended bridge. We could look down right, to this river bottom, and see lovely smooth stones. These were most likely shaped and smoothed by the tumbling action of the stream.
This experience reminded me of Scriptures and a praise chorus.
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. ISA 51:1 HCSB
Originally stones were quarried with mallets, axes, hammers, chisels and any other kind of tool that would break the stone loose. In this day and age of power tools there are diamond burrs, laser cutters and jet torches. The quarried stones will need to be shaped and smoothed or carved by hand or smaller machinery later. Stones like the ones in this river are the ones I am usually drawn towards. Sometime to slip in my pocket as a stone to remind me to yield to God.
We were taken from the same stone quarry as Abraham and all the way through the New Testament people of John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the believers who have followed Christ because of the New Testament writers’ words and the power of the Holy Spirit. We, too, need to be shaped into rocks that will honor the Lord. We are called Living Stones.
As you come to him, the Living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1Peter 2:4-5
“We have everything that we need to be a disciple of His. We just have to be willing to be faithful and diligent to do our part in the cutting and shaping process. Then we will fit exactly where the master craftsman intended us to fit and be that living stone that He intended for us to be.” http://acts242study.com/look-to-the-rock-from-which-you-were-cut/
Some writers agree that water can shape rock through persistence over a long period of time. I believe that the River of Living Water is not controlled by time. As we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit and the River of Living water, cooperating with the Risen Christ, I believe He can shape and mold us into vessels of honor for His use in whatever time He chooses.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38 NIV
Have you asked the Lord to smooth your rough edges for Him to use you as a smooth stone? Are willing to become living stones for His use? I often sing to the Lord:
“Rub me smooth, rub me smooth,
By Your living water rub me smooth.
I am a sharp stone quarried from the earth,
by Your Living Water rub me smooth.”
In Revelation 22:1-2a John shows us a vision of the New Jerusalem: the NIV reads,”Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. “
My husband and I have passed 65 years of age. Sometimes I have wondered if we will remain challenged to follow Jesus right up to our last breath. At times in life there seems not to be enough impetus to go on with Him. Other times we cannot possibly cling to Him more! So what will keep you going? I recently read several items that sparked this rumination in my head. Hope this gives you pause and then spurs you on to follow hard after the King of Kings.
If we hope to surrender ourselves fully to God, we must be willing to let go of everything. You may remember that in Matthew 10:37-39 Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Can you turn loose of those family ties and seemingly all important possessions in your life to embrace Him first and foremost?
Often meditative prayer is thought of as losing everything for the sake of Christ. Through practice we learn gradually to let go of plans and ego and thoughts and even our own will. We learn to sit in silence, opening our heart and mind to Christ Jesus in whatever way the Holy Spirit would like to express His holy character. Sometimes there is not an insight or Scripture given. It is enough of an accomplishment to quiet the mind for 15 minutes. Later the benefit of spending this time in centering prayer and quiet rest shows in more patience or sudden joy or just an overall calmer approach to the day.
John Main, O.S.B., writing in his book “The Heart of Creation” says, “We can only become fully present to the now of this moment if we can leave the past behind.
What we try to do instead is to maintain observation points, base camps, along every stage of our growth.
At each of these observation points we are loath to let go of any part of ourselves in favor of the new stage of growth. It becomes simpler, and even easier, if we recognize that it is not part of ourselves we need to be concerned about leaving, but our whole self. If we refuse this, opting instead for piecemeal surrenders, then instead of life being an experience of growth we find our lives contracting.”
Observation point and base camp, but too difficult to illustrate piecemeal surrender!
Surrender, relinquishment, turning our sinful, sick self over to Him for transformation and transfiguration. Loosing our hold on life and letting Him have all parts of us. Cherishing and taking up our cross may often mean paying more and more attention to God and letting the rest of the world go past. What if instead of building those ‘base camps and observation posts’ at every stage of our growth, we would choose to just grow beyond that place? A great adventurer does not constantly look back along the path traveled, but forward to what lies beyond the next bend.
Oswald Chambers wrote ”There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender.” Chambers also said that after you surrender, your entire life should be characterized by an eagerness to maintain unbroken fellowship and oneness with God. Regardless of the challenge of any church program, on-line study course, depth or aridity of small group discussions, we must pursue the Lord of Lords with all of our heart. To do that I have found that the fewer distractions I carry with me the better my pursuit of and fellowship with Christ. I want to follow on to know the Lord and be aware of His mercy right to the end.
William Martin wrote:
“Life is always too short.
We will never be able to see everything we wanted to see,
do all the things we wanted to do,
or achieve all the successes we thought so important,
But to arrive at a quiet mind,
and a serene spirit,
is the supreme accomplishment.
If we do this,
we have done all.”
A quiet mind, a serene spirit, a resilient attitude towards life so that no matter what changes and chances come our way so we can adapt and go on with Christ.
Oh, the challenge is glorious and I, for one, intend to follow Him along the narrow road and through the small gate until I come to eternity with the Trinity.
The other day my friend was lamenting how awful her bathroom smelled with four males in the house using the same toilet. I remember thinking when my son was potty trained, “Oh great! Now we have urine everywhere instead of just in the diaper!” My friends in Nepal have had to train the boys who visit their home in how to use a flushing toilet. The boys are accustomed to a urinal being simply a hole in the ground. Enough of that…
I remember once when I was scrubbing the bathroom and having conversation with God to the effect that I was so grateful that I could bow at His throne in prayer instead of having to bow at the toilet throne for eternity!
Imagine my surprise when I saw this toilet recently! Pray without ceasing!
Twila Paris wrote and sang this song:
“I am ready to be
All You’ve given me to be
Lord I offer you my pride, lay it down
Where I have been bound
Father come and set me free
I am ready now to be
Finally, faithfully, willingly – me.”
Yes, I posted this song on my other blog, but it bears repeating!
The first time I heard this song I was absolutely mesmerized. It spoke directly to the place I was entering with God. The fact that the song addresses both Lord and Father made me want to sing my heart out for the Holy Spirit to invade me on a deeper level.
Recently I read this article online. Tony Reinke wrote at desiring god.org “Two Keys to Flourishing in the Digital Age.” Here is an excerpt:
“To put it another way, you can fake online authenticity for a while, but not forever. It will catch up to you. Our authenticity offline is always the basis for our authenticity online.
“So, if God has called and equipped you to be a Twitter sage, or a hip-hop artist, or an Instagram evangelist, or a podcaster, or a writer, or a social media social activist, or a digital creator of any type, you must take breaks from the scuttle of those ministry expectations — those expectations out in the remoteness of the virtual world — in order to reconnect with the ultimate purpose on this planet that grounds all our flourishing: To be embodied children of God, feeding our faith on the truth of God, cherishing him with our entire being, and then, out of our abundance, serving our neighbors.”
The fact that Tony Reinke expresses our ability to be inauthentic online for a limited time rang out! I am tired of people pretending to be who they are not to impress people they do not really know or understand by saying things they would never say to someone’s face. They usually would never say even the nice things to someone’s face if it meant they would have to move out of their comfort zone and perhaps engage with that person in an authentic way. Transparently try to be your authentic self whether online or in person.
So once again I am challenged to be who God has given me to be. “Finally, faithfully, willingly, me.” Are you at that place yet? Can you yield yourself to His will and ways? I must remind myself often to move towards what I state as:
“Constant, yielded, peaceful,joyful obedience to the Almighty.”
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to do the same!
Photo by Molly Dutina of art glas from Blenko Studio, (we think).
If you had walked in, you would have thought I was standing at the kitchen sink, seemingly doing the dishes, but actually I was having a conversation of self-castigation. Crying and praying, internally I was crouched on the floor in the corner where the cabinets met. My tears mixed with the dishwater as I poured out my agenda to the Lord.
Crying and praying, internally I was crouched on the floor in the corner where the cabinets met.
Becoming tired and spent I knew the Lord was standing near me and listening. As my sobs turned to sniffling He had only two words for me; “Stand up.” I whimpered another prayer. Patiently waiting for my obedience again He said, “Stand up.” I whined again to the mercy-filled Lamb of God. He refused to dialogue with me until I heeded His first instruction. Again He said, “Stand up.”
I cowered and said, “But, Lord, I am unworthy.”
I spoke another prayer, “Lord, I am weak and tired.”
I offered excuse after excuse about why I could not obey. Finally I asked, “Why must I stand up when I am so weak and upset?” And then I realized, I could either obey or He would withdraw His presence from my awareness.
Standing there, I was angry and unforgiving of myself. I was beating myself over the back with a club that I had designed. It fit perfectly into my hand. It wasn’t an ordinary club like in the comic strip “B.C.” My club had spikes on it, too.
So there I was, praying, crying out to God, and telling Him how sorry I was about the sin I had committed. I prepared to use the club upon myself one more time when He broke into my noisy, tearful, self-punishment saying,
“IF I, GOD ALMIGHTY, HAVE FORGIVEN YOU,
WHO ARE YOU NOT TO FORGIVE YOURSELF?”
With a long, empty pause He let His truth sink into my being. His words about a past situation, the cause of my turmoil, were radically different than my reaction. As His light dawned upon my dark interpretation of what was needful, He disarmed me with His love and forgiveness. I laid down my club at the foot of His cross. I prayed He would cover it with His blood and enable me to receive and believe His love for me, praying that I might eventually feel His forgiveness.
Moving forward, I learned to accept His forgiveness and learned how to forgive myself. We are flawed. We are all broken in some way. We have all sinned. In order for our intimacy with Him to flourish, we must adopt His attitudes and point of view in each area of our lives. This is not an easy or instantaneous task. Gradually the Lord will lead us in His will and His ways. He is able to complete the good work He has begun in us. We must let Him.
2 PET 1:3 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
PHIL 1:6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
PHIL 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
1 COR 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 COR 9:15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
What self-destructive weapons are you clinging to?
What would happen if you laid them down at Jesus’ feet?
Could you dare to let Him take over now as King and Judge of your Universe?
JN 3: 19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth, comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
I have a friend who is suffering. She has been trying to walk with Christ under a load of guilt and shame. Her religious background is always telling her she is doing her journey wrong. Reluctant to ask others for guidance and help, she has begun to close down and withdraw into herself. Her journey has become a dark, dismal, depressing place to be. She has not understood how to bring her deeds to the Light of Christ and walk in His Presence with joy and thanksgiving. I do not know for certain if I can help her with this task, but we began to try to unfold the struggle somewhat last week.
Hiding in the dark constricts us to the voices from our past, those voices that dwell in our head, and the condemnation of the enemy who comes to steal and kill and destroy (JN 10:10). In the NRSV that verse ends with Jesus saying “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Do you see the flip side of being transparent with Christ? Also, in JN 1: 5 we are told “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” No matter the dark voices, Christ can break through that darkness and show us His way out and through our struggles. No, we cannot save ourselves from judgment or sin, but becoming transparent with Jesus does set us in a place where it is possible to receive abundant life in exchange for our bungled attempts at successful living.
JN 3: 21 states “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
Asking Christ to shine His light upon our deeds helps us see the next step out of the darkness and muck.
Psalm 119:105 reads “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. “ In John 8:12 we read, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”
One way He shines His light upon our deeds is to give us the courage to confess to another person what we are going through. We must choose someone we trust not to judge us, but only to listen. And listening, that person must take the needs and brokenness and deeds told them and lift them to Christ our Lord. Answering with wisdom requires listening, deep listening, on the part of the listener. We can so easily crush the heart and soul of another person, but Jesus is not like that! His character is described in ISA 42:3 and MT 12:20 as “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He has brought justice through to victory.” We are to be as tender towards the hurting and confused as He was while He walked the earth. Listening to the struggles of another often gives us the privilege of speaking into their life. As long as we are listening for the guidance of the Risen Savior, we can then speak what we hear Him saying to address those in need.
So she poured out her heart and the place was flooded with her pain, but the Light of Christ was like a servant with a mop. He came and helped clean up what was shared. Encouragement to stand against helplessness and hopelessness was given. Similar to rice cereal in an infant’s spoon, words of challenge and stamina were suggested. I hoped she would try to use the coping skills she already knew. Walking with the Participating Presence of Christ at her side, I expect the next time we meet there will be some stories of conquest over darkness and surrender to the Risen Lord and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s guidance to be shared. No doubt, challenges will continue as she tries to undo and re-write years of condemnation and misunderstandings. Yet Christ dwells in her, the Hope of Glory. He will have the final victory!
Keep on with Him, dear sister in Christ. He will have the final word in your life. Give thanks for His abundant blessings for He pours out without measure upon those who are thankful and aware of His hand at work in their life.
In 1982 I awoke from a dream in the middle of the night and this prayer poured forth.
He showed me myself as a child, in a dress, crying right before the mouth of a dark cave. Because of insensitivity in others and lack of understanding on their part and mine, part of me had chosen to enter this cave. The spiritual sensitivity He gave me at an early age was so hindered and the hindrance caused me so much pain I had chosen to bury it.
So here is this child in a yellow dress with smocking or lacework on the bodice, crying at the entrance to this cave. But the very fact that I see this child shows me that the Lord God Almighty has brought her out of the cave – much as He did Lazarus. By the word of His being He has brought her forth. She is tear-stained and a bit soiled but alive by His grace. Now He desires to cleanse and nurture, sustain and strengthen, establish and confirm this part of my being. Have Your own way, Lord. Be it unto me according to Your will. I have been living it out ever since.
I have been told so many things
And dealt so many blows.
But now my heart begins to sing
An old song, soft and low.
He’s taught me by His word and way
The first few miles of loving.
I’ve many lessons yet to learn
But first I must begin.
Our culture and sophisticated ways
just keep us from each other.
Barriers come into play
where open meadows belong.
My soul is crowded about
by specters of loneliness.
The risk of vulnerability has become
more inviting than the haunt of ISOLATION.
It is as though I am breaking out
of an ancient inner prison.
I must get close to as many as will let me.
The risk is not to be counted.
We’ve got to touch,
we’re not so unalike.
We are all made in His image,
but we are not our own.
Like calls unto like,
deep calls unto deep,
And the power of His Spirit
is knitting us together.
The pleasures of His bounty
are not to be hoarded – but shared.
How can we assume
to participate in His Spirit
behind a crumbling wall of self?
Jesus walks through walls.
In some ways, I am scared
of investing my mina ($1.50),
But I tremble at the thought of just
burying this in Jesus’ name.
Father, You have called me to this,
slowly, as I crept from the mouth of that cave.
You alone can put me over.
To You I belong.
Show me how to be Your child,
how to represent You well.
I look for help to none other,
teach me, as You did Your Son.
You alone have made me worthy,
You alone will see me through.
Help me with Your love and mercy,
deep compassion, grace and truth.
Now I stand before You yielded.
Make me into something new.
You have plans
now please reveal them.
Show me how to touch and move,
give me holy eyes to see with,
Holy ears and holy hands.
help me learn to only speak when
I have heard what You command.
Others may not understand,
few will ever know.
I’m willing to live by Your plan,
You are the final goal.
My intimacy with You
will affect those in this realm.
I’m burdened by this bounty
I’ve collected from Your stores.
Show me where to give it
so I can discover more.
Distant silver horizon
Birthed by Your Light
Breaks through leaden skies
Enlightens slate-colored seas
Calls me to You
Closer to You
Given over to You
And I yield to You
To lie in Your arms
Imbibing Holy Breath
Entire being – renewed.
Your sparkling glow
Moves rapidly across the expanse of water
To here and now
You surround me
Live through me.
How could I ever hesitate
Preferring dim to illumined?
You enlighten me
Weaknesses, strengths and all.
Fact: You love me.
Fact: You desire me
You declare I am Yours.
Like sudden deep piles of shells
Buried, unseen yesterday
Revealed today by the powerful tide
Your Kingdom unfolds before me and
Yes, Lord, I yield
Knowing You go with me
And will arrive ahead of me
Have my life in Your scarred hands.
Abiding under Your wing
Your Light fills the throne room
And I must close my eyes
To bear Your brightness
O, All-Powerful Lord,
I refuse to doubt Your methods
Your holy mercy endures
As You bathe me
In Your everlasting Love.
Come my King
O Light Eternal
Bring forth the treasure
You have hidden within me
As I embrace Your will
I think I wrote this poem in 1978. I was just learning about the power of prayer. For many years I have served as an intercessor on behalf of the church and the sentiment remains true. Hope it brings you encouragement.
The Krohn Conservatory had a yarn bomb display at the butterfly show this year! With my love for crochet and butterflies I had to begin this post with both.
The photo below shows so many stages of butterfly metamorphosis. The caterpillar hanging in the “J” shape is about to spin the chrysalis. The empty shell behind the caterpillar has already had a butterfly hatch out. The blackish chrysalis is about to open. The green chrysalis-es always amaze me with the gold dots! Really, Gold? I do not recall seeing that in any other part of nature. The hanging butterfly has just hatched and is still pumping up it’s wings.
Then Bob got to hold one on his finger!
He took her to a begonia to rest.
And here she is in all her glory before she took flight!
Salvador Dali did the painting. I did the poem. Hope you are not familiar with the topic!!
Night time and the Unresolved
Come marching to my bedroom
Tramping through my head
Quoting words once said
Reason takes a low profile
While logic flees the scene
Where is the solution
For circumstances now turned mean
Never, shoulds, and woulds
Paint dismal, hopeless scenes
Deep each insult bleeds.
Forgiveness is the answer
That makes the war to cease.
Let it go. Let go. Release.
Present moment calls to me
Be NowHere in God’s sweet peace
A song can be resung
The past can’t be undone
But pouring in forgiveness
The fall-out is made numb
Come to here and now
Feast on today’s plenty
In gratitude for all
Dare to now drink deeply
From streams of joy and love
We are granted
“Live our lives by moments”
Aren’t we now
The blue/black velvet sky is
punctuated by brilliant stars.
Their brightness is not diminished
by the astonishing shine of the moon.
Even the shopping center lights
cannot detract from moon glow.
Everything casts a shadow
as the moon shines on and on.
On the horizon broiling veil of clouds
emit a surprising flash of lightning
and still the moon is not lessened.
Alarming lightning, for this is just February
and still the moon shines on and on.
Periodically last year’s leaves
rustle in the breeze
as the clouds gain height and breadth.
The moon highlights them with glory
and the cloud bank draws nearer.
Suddenly we moderns understand our
forefathers’ fear of moon madness.
The edge of the boiling tempest
is clearly in view and brilliant
as the moon shines on and on.
One great flash tries to conquer moonlight
then lightning queerly halts.
Cotton balls at night
of height clearly cumulonimbus,
who has heard of such midnight madness?
Star punctuations gleaming and fading
but the moon shines on and on.
Clad in pajamas
wrapped in a blanket
male adult earthling
dances all barefoot
as God of the Universe
chooses to delight him
with night show of glory
this midwinter evening.
Ecstasy of the ages
holds man’s rapt attention.
As boy-child emerges
delight and wonder blossom.
One gray fellow, loose from the pack
tries a solo conquer of Night Sun grandeur,
but moonbeams silently pierce him.
The roiling storm thins to an edge.
Mankind’s light is muffled and trapped
as sky fills with gossamer
almost fog-like pink shroud.
Gallant moon shines on.
Edge of the blanket
snuggles over star lights
sleepy light-years away.
Chill of storm wind
pushes me to find my comforter
as toes and fingers, tips of ears
remind me this is winter still.
I stand determined
watching clouds come marching
pantomime in the heavens
for the watchful to review.
Without a sound
bright moon vanishes
but as clouds keep advancing
moonbeams break through the darkness
far beyond the horizon
encircling even storm dark
in light beyond my view.
As I stumble in dazed awe
and wonder with amazement
at God’s joyous light show
the storm says “I triumph”
but my better self knows
as I go inside my domicile,
even now, moon glows on and on.
The first time we were privileged to attend the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was enchanted with the Energizer Bunny. Later in the year my friend was injured and had to attend many rounds of physical therapy.
All of that and our trip to the Radio Antennae area on Sandia Mountain inspired this poem.
Above is the Radio Antennae park where we had our photo taken. Below is the Energizer Bunny hot air balloon.
The years broadcast
age to our bodies
Hair streaking with silver
skin in folds only imagined upon
not ourselves ….
Then these outer shells
suffered falls and cracks
We endured the best
Medical America had to offer
We assumed we would
recapture our body as it was
before the braces and slings
surgery, x-rays, crutches.
With PT finished
we were certain
we would enter on the scene
a restored, though older
ready to pick up the tasks we dropped
resume previous routines
keep or even set the social rhythm.
Once, on a clear, lovely morning
we oohed aahed and marveled
at one hot air balloon after another
noting but not studying
that “Hot Hare” Energizer Bunny
with its drum and sunglasses.
Fifteen feet taller than the Statute of Liberty
towering over the others, 166 feet tall.
Now, on the other side of
our respective physical traumas
Up jumps the bunny
with lessons galore
Did you ever notice
The Bun wears flip flops!
Surely she cannot run in those things
Nor do we run much anymore.
She wears sunglasses
not necessarily to mimic Joe Cool
but more likely aware
that her eyes need protection.
And the drum!
Her lovely drum and drumsticks
She can only beat it
She can only shuffle
(for flip flops cannot march)
shuffle and thump that drum
but only as long as her power lasts.
Your laughter amid the physical traumas
reminds me of God’s joy.
Lord, use us as Your bunnies!
Oh, Holy Spirit,
Dunamis power from on high
help us to beat Your drum
keep the rhythm for our flip flop shuffle
Restore to us the joy of our salvation
the gentle simplicity of when
we first knew You
Give us the backbone of Jesus
Shield our eyes from the negative
Flop our ears in joy
as we listen for Your voice
setting our pace
directing our steps
taking us where You desire
wherever this bunny trail leads.
Fine tune our receivers
so Your directions come through
loud and clear.
Empower us for whatever You
want us to do next.
Help us beat our drums
and sing Your praises
even to our last breath!
This Bunny Shuffle could be great fun
with God in charge
and His holy power
sending us out and on our way.
We do not climb the heights
as in days of old
But He is not finished with us yet.
Come on, sister,
Even age can’t stop our parade!
Later that year I found a Beanie Baby of the Bunny. Yes, as you may have guessed, I bought one Bunny for Ohio and one for New Mexico. Mine sits atop my dryer. Always need those object lessons!
We walked the old abandoned road, now a trail, with folded umbrellas, eager to see what was happening this early spring at our favorite walk. Perhaps to find some wild flowers beside the creek in the woods at the place before it drops down to the man-made lake.
Balmy weather had enticed us to shorts. The naturalists had ordered tree and shrub hedgerows knocked down. Age and weather had removed a large cedar. Its blue berries, previous botanical décor at the edge of the old road trail, now gone forever.
We turned the corner amazed at the huge pile of dead trees and shrubs awaiting bonfire or perhaps burial in the field? I wondered about lost nesting places for birds and hiding places of wild life.
I whistled with the red-winged black birds as they trilled their welcome to the area about the pond. We turned another corner wondering aloud if we should turn back? Brooding black clouds covered the south western sky with what looked like a ponderous load of rain. The stream area with the possibility of wild flowers urged us on. We said to one another, “What’s a little rain?” as the first drops pelted us. We were not certain the full storm would even reach us. We walked on and the wind picked up. I wondered if umbrellas were a good idea as lightening flashed in the distance. And suddenly the heavens opened and the umbrellas, too!
Making it to the creek I realized the rapid heat of this spring season had sent an over-growth of foliage. There was one variety of white flower, possibly from some settlers bulb placed years ago? With the changing rain intensity we decided to turn back to the car. We walked up the gradual hill on the paved trail. By the time we again reached the pond and field area we were drenched. Socks squished inside sodden shoes. The rain began to come in sheets driven by the wind. I rarely experience this any more except beyond a window! As the sheets drenched us from behind and moved before us I saw the depressions in the old road fill with water and flow towards and then behind us. I deliberately arranged my rapid walking to avoid the gathered running water where possible. We started getting cold and sopping wet under our umbrellas. Regardless, it was quite glorious to be walking in the rain, walking amidst the power and the glory of God!
The rain lessened; the wind calmed. Red wings returned to their song. I looked one in the eye as I tried to imitate his song. He seemed to ponder the tune for a moment and then winged away.
We were grateful for the shelter of the car. On the ride home it was extremely difficult to remove my drenched socks. It took a full day for shoes and socks to dry out. I am impressed forever by wrapping waves of rain and rivulets gaining strength around my feet on their way downhill to the lake.
Photo below is from out front porch on a similar day.
There is an obligation on my soul
To pay You homage in my every day
When praise is lacking I begin to shrivel
My very tongue becomes a potsherd.
Yet praise begins anew at Your summons
For always, I begin again.
Again to see Your presence
Discounted honors in yesterday’s debris
Now morning light calls to me
Bright and Fair
Hot thanks oozes out my pores
Each summer hour.
The morning glories I have desired for years
Are here, abundant, spreading to the roses
Lush and green this dawn
Brought out first flower
Not staid blue but lilac for my joy
Yesterday I only saw the vines’ invasion
Today I solved that detail with dispatch of clippers
And there – calling and singing was
As bannisters and railings now
Draped in verdant green
Entangled upon each other Before searing sun demanded wilting.
Minor threats and major tend
To clog the avenues of praise
And furnace fear demands
Wilting on my vine.
Yet Gardener fair and gentle
Trains my tendrils
To bring You ever flowers
Bouquets of praise
Opening my body heart and soul
Divine Sunshine, help me grow.
You spoke to me of the anemone, closed up
Tight and straining to stay shut
Now opened eyes
see focus askew when fear reigns high
And thank-yous end.
Come, gentle me, again and again
That life and love may flow
Throughout my being Wracked with pain or not
Your call remains
Steady hand to guide through my frustrations
Eager friend in midst of disappointment
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.
The sun, soil and rain
Impact the seedlings
And growing robust, lush
Their praise to Creator
Every leaf, root and sepal
Develop to the glory of His praise.
A sacrifice, yes it is
When everything in me wails
Unfair, why me, not again
One thing after another
Until my strong lament is folded
In upon itself
Diming sun, extinguished moon
Fog of despair
No purpose for coping.
I am undone by Your love
As You disarm me
With patient kindness
Understanding my struggle
Extending Your strong arm
For me to rest upon
And resting, I can reframe
Drawing strength for the journey
Proper locus readjusted for
Eternity of praise to Your Glory.
PS 50:14-15 RSV “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
PS 50:23 RSV “He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!”
What do these two have in common? What I do not want to be, lovely as it appears, is petrified wood!
And what I always want to inhabit, the waters of the River of Life.
Velma Frye does an excellent job with this concept. Listen prayerfully to her prayer.
She sings “Ever Changing God” and I agree that the Scriptures say God never changes (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17 for example), but our understanding and comprehension of God is ever changing if we are growing in the things of Him. Ever Flowing! Bob captured it so well in the photo below!
The last thing I want to do in this life is to get stuck, bound like petrified wood in my understanding. Help me, Lord, to flow and drink from Your Living Water (John 4:14, Revelation 22:1). Protect us from congealing!
There are times in life when we get afraid of others, ourselves, circumstances, the future, the list is endless. God’s word says 365 times not to fear. We need to be told that everyday because we are so prone to it! When you do not know which way to turn and life is hounding you there is a prayerful exercise you can do. It only takes a few moments and I promise it will not make you sweat or pull any muscle groups!
When the enemy of my soul is making accusations against me and I just cannot shake those thoughts off, I run to the Lord, not from Him. Proverbs 18:10 says, “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”
Now imagine that tower. For you, His Beloved, the door is always unlocked. See yourself running to the tower. Tear open the door. Slam it behind you. Trip the locking mechanism. Find the King of Heaven. Climb up into His lap and let Him hold you.
I can help with the tower image! This one is right here in Ohio!
Of course, my image of the tower has electricity and a strong set of doors!
When we were in Ireland we saw a tower that was 100 feet high. I imagined stairs and stairs and stairs inside. The door was raised so that you could only enter with a ladder. Then pull it in behind you for added security. It was built that high so that pilgrims traveling towards it could see it from afar.This was at Glendalough.
Another one was shorter. On the lower left of the photo there are two people exiting through a gate. That should give you some idea of the size.
Whatever tower you envision, use this Proverb and this practice to shelter yourself in the arms of the Lord. He is able to keep you!
Our best friends live in New Mexico. While visiting there once I was looking for symbols of the phoenix, the bird that burns up and then rises from the ashes a fresh, new creature. The only symbol I found was this “prayer bowl.” It was made inside a tiny gourd with tiny seed beads. I have used it to remind me that whatever challenges I go through with my health, I will rise again through the strength of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I chose this as my symbol for the blog because I continue to be inspired by God. I also gave the design to a woman in Silver City, New Mexico. She was able to create a beaded bracelet that blesses my soul and reminds me to stay in prayer. Within this poem you can see my struggle and victory revealed. Hope you are encouraged by reading it!
If let myself feel the pain will I become intoxicated with the pain?
Overwhelmed by the pain
will my life then become JUST PAIN with no other
sensation, value, or purpose?
Will I be consumed with gauging the pain
sitting in the pain
walking in the pain?
All my perceptions dulled except to pain
pain through and through
pain behind me
ahead of me pain
on all sides of me pain
in every cell pain
Sleeplessness because of pain
Restless when sleeping due to pain
If I acknowledge the pain will I have
fortitude and courage to live beyond the pain,
Somehow given grace to override the pain,
not censor it
but live a life in the midst of pain
always haunted by pain?
Pain of bone deterioration,
random muscle pain,
unwarranted from any strain or excess.
Pain my life
drugged or not
companion in my genes
product of ancestral history or just misfortune?
For years my life has been
pain denial pain drugs pain hope pain drained-of-hope pain denial
I am afraid that no,
the pain will never end, or, even worse,
the pain will increase
envelop, dictate, control my life.
There, I’ve written it. Many marvel that I’m so busy
try to accomplish so much.
They are not acquainted
with my relentless task master
who drives me on with fear
that my capacity to accomplish anything
will one day be diminished to near zero.
Jesus awoke in the boat and said, “Why are you so afraid?”
Yet then, through Him, I’ll arise a phoenix intercessor on behalf of God’s children engaged perhaps in the biggest battle of life to date. A supreme calling more valuable than my do-ings. With bones cracking, muscles aching, nerves shooting red hot signals to nowhere and everywhere outer body diminishing while inner woman draws upon her experience with the living, dynamic, omnipotent Father and she is renewed, remade in His image, inhabited daily, hourly, in every cell of her being by Holy Spirit overshadowed, indwelt in spite of all this carnal container can develop – a woman of God passing through journeying towards home where all sorrow, all tears, and all pain will be no more. Forever inhabited by Holy Spirit in rapturous adoration of His glory peace and mercy. Even so, Lord Jesus, I offer myself a living sacrifice unto You. Renew my mind according to the word and transform even this pain.
The ogre crumbles, rivulets of plaster dust falling from its once daunting facade gathering in powder clumps revealing its paltry nature.
The Holy Spirit, Breath of God, blows away that powder and creates new power in His servant. Amen.