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 awake 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 a 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!
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 women 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!
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.