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!
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!
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!”
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.