“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.
“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 true 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? 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 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!
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?
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.”