with certainty I know

Hearing the word is the devout receiving of the will of God.
William Ames

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(the cliffs of Timoleague, Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I know you hear me.

The others aren’t so sure.

“I Keep praying because I know He hears me.”
Words repeated often to the skeptical.

Prayers asked
Prayers offered
Prayers given…

Yet no word in return.

I know you know the plight, the ordeal, the big picture.
I remind you…
everyday…
multiple times during the day…
despite knowing…you already know…

I know you know more than I do because I know you see what has been, what is and what will be.
You have the bigger picture in focus while I remain small in my vision and view.

The others aren’t so sure that I know what I’m talking about.
They hear in my voice a certain certainty in the face of great uncertainty…
with no change, no results, no “answered prayer”
yet I know
and I continue with my prayers
because I know you know…

They scoff, they walk away rolling their eyes, they grow irritated with my seemingly empty insistence.
I speak with a peculiar confidence…
that only I seem to have…
since there never seems to be the answers, the results, or the much needed miracles,
others want or need…they think that there is no need for my irrational words, hopes or invocations…

No matter…
I continue to press on,
pressing you with my prayers, my words, my tears, my urgings, my yearnings,
my hopes, my dreams, my desires, my needs…

Because I know…
Because I know you know
and because I know that what will be will be
as only you would will it….
because I know you hear….

“Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
1 Kings 18:37

the danger in losing

In a battle all you need to make you fight is a little hot blood and the knowledge that it’s more dangerous to lose than to win.
George Bernard Shaw

“Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.”
Martin Luther

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(the knights of St Patrick / St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

TO ARMS
TO ARMS…

The nightwatchman has sounded the alarm…

The time has come!

The Fortress is surrounded.

Are you ready?

The time has come to gather up your weaponry…
Take to your positions…
Set your sights
The gauntlet has been thrown down and it is
to you who must pick it up.

You have no choice but to accept this looming fight now before you…
For you have chosen this fate long ago.
You can either fight with intent or
try and flee as those poor souls, unaware…
Who try to flee when it is far too late and hope has long departed.
For yours is a fight unto the death…
the death of all mankind.

Be not lulled into complacency.
The enemy has rallied his army.
The walls will soon be breached.

Perhaps you could ignore it,
Pretending there is no advancement.
You may even attempt to convince yourself that there is no enemy…
just as so many have tried to do in the past…
even as they continue to do now, those who stand by your side, oblivious to the
advancing mayhem.
Maybe it’s just been a lot of hype, a mere distraction.
The alarmists and doomsday crowds are simply beating the war drums….
…again.

However be warned, the enemy is cunning.
He has a myriad of lying spies…
those who enjoy nothing more than to woo you into a sense of false security
The whispered lies of false flattery ooze like silky honey form their lips.

You must not be dismayed nor distracted..
for the battle of all eternity is raging…
Be not fooled nor deceived…
The enemy advances more rapidly than you’ve ever imagined.

To win is but a mere gain
But to lose will be a never ending agony with no hope of salvation…
You have been warned,
you have been called…
Take to your post now, for the Prince of princes has called His army to defend the kingdom
And you have been chosen to fight….

He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
Daniel 8:25

simply too casual

Thou waitest for the spark from heaven! and we,
Light half-believers of our casual creeds,
Who never deeply felt, nor clearly will’d,
Whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds,
Whose vague resolves never have been fulfill’d;…

Matthew Arnold

A human being becomes human not through the casual convergence of certain biological conditions, but through an act of will and love on the part of other people.
Italo Calvino

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(Adare Manor, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There once was a time when we were more stately…
We were more formal, more deliberate, more serious.
We were respectful, mindful, courteous.
We gave honor to where honor was due.
We were appreciative and we knew how to convey our gratitude.
We were respectful to those who were older, who held office, who defended our Nation.
We knew that it was ok if we didn’t always agree with someone else’s opinion, we could appreciate the differences of thought while still being polite, kind, courteous.

We dressed in our best when going to the airport, to church, temple, to school, to a play, out to eat or to the movies.
We took pride in our appearance despite our social status.
We appreciated the work done by all as we all took pride in what we did.

God was the Creator
Jesus was His risen son
and the Holy Spirit, a Divine Mystery.

We were wooed and awed by the Divinity of the Creator
He wasn’t our friend, our pal, our buddy…
But rather He was our God.

We worked hard, studied hard and revered our faith.
We marveled in the mysterious.
We knew of our place in the Universe and were humbled to be participants.

We were human and appreciated our humanness
We respected life
As we mourned the loss of life
We cheered for the good guys and we collectively rallied against the bad

We were civilized and took pride in our civility.
We appreciated orderly and clean.
We worked hard for what we had, even if it was very little, we were still proud.

Today we have grown overtly glum, smug and casual as we consider most of life passé.
We have become rude, disrespectful, self absorbed and consumed by massive consumerism.
We don’t give a damn about others or what they may think or care how they may feel—
Just take a look at our politicians, entertainers and athletes…
We want everything for nothing, as in we want it all and we want it now…
We wear entitlement like a badge and are proud for all to know it.
We don’t want to work hard for what we have, preferring to take the easy way up and out.
Clothes are optional as everything and anything goes.
Our faith has been dumbed down to a feel good prosaic.
We make excuses, demands and assumptions.
We have grown mean to one another, hateful to those who have differing opinions and distrustful to anyone who dares to cross our path.
We don’t have much time for religion as it tends to slow us down.

As the question now begs to be asked…
Are we now the better for who we’ve become?

Christians today appear to know Christ only after the flesh. They try to achieve communion with Him by divesting Him of His burning holiness and unapproachable majesty, the very attributes He veiled while on earth but assumed in fullness of glory upon His ascension the the Father’s right hand.
A.W.Tozer

measure well

Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued.
“With the measure you use,
it will be measured to you…and even more.

Mark 4:24

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(a hungry cardinal / Carrollton, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You get as good as you give”…
or so the saying goes.
You offer kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity…
Only to be swindled, taken advantage of and then run amuck with bad luck, bad health, bad times.
Loss, suffering, pain, struggles, sadness and woe.
You fuss and curse a God, you may or may not know…
You curse Him for not preventing, thwarting or stopping all the bad which befalls you.
“Where is the returned measure of favor which SHOULD be shown?” you grouse.
You hear the voices from within and without shouting
“it’s not fair, it’s not right…”
nor is it just…

And you’re right, it’s not….it’s not fair nor just.
But God never said to do good or be good in order to get good..
He said do good, be kind, give much, forgive…all without ceasing.
If they take…give
If they take again, give more
If they strike…turn and afford them to strike again
If they curse…bless
If they scorn…love
All to be measured outward… without ceasing

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:27-36

So use your measure well…making certain that your measured output is greater than your measured intake…

After the storm

“He in his madness prays for storms,
and dreams that storms will bring him peace”

― Mikhail Lermontov

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(images of spider webs that survived the tumultuous flooding rains / Carrollton, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

A deluge…
A torrent…
Wind, hail, lightening, thunder, flooding…
We shudder and we worry,
The waters rise
As the sirens wail…

Tornados
Floods
Downpours…
Pummeled and beaten
On and on it lasts for hours,
Days pass as the assault remains relentless
Washing everything away….

What of the tiny and the minuscule
The delicate and thin
The exposed
The vulnerable
All of which is seemingly fragile…?
Is it possible to hold on, bear up,
remain and survive?

Our life is but a wisp, a flicker of light
Delicate and fragile…
We worry and we fret
Battered and assailed
We can barely hang on…
Yet did we not once think of ourselves as invisible?

Eventually when the storms pass,
the clouds part and the winds are finally still…
When it all is beautifully quiet and calm
We wonder what, if anything,
remains in the wake of the fury…

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you
Isaiah 43:1-28

Parenting

“St. Joseph was chosen among all men, to be the protector and guardian of the Virgin Mother of God; the defender and foster-father of the Infant-God, and the only co-operator upon earth, the one confidant of the secret of God in the work of the redemption of mankind.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

It is enough for you to know that Mary is the Mother of Jesus…She loves us so much that she offered to God the Father His only natural Son to save His adopted sons…She is a great and inestimable treasure who encloses in herself an infinite treasure, the Son of God.”
St Padre Pio

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Bas Relief of the marriage of Mary and Joseph / St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

During these mystical days of Christmas, as we recall and remember the birth of the Savior of all mankind, may we also pause, taking care to reflect upon the dutiful two who were charged with the care of the very Son of God.

Examples of obedience, faithfulness, dutifulness, devotion, sacrifice and unconditional love…

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:20

REJOICE

Rejoice in the Lord always:
and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

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(a weathered statue of a welcoming Christ graces the hill above Kylemore Abbey / County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Rejoice this day for unto you is born a Savior,
Christ the Lord.

His (John the Baptizer’s) father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days…

And so He has come…
God of God
Light of Light
Begotten of woman
Crucified
Dead
Buried
and Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance

Rejoice and come to the banquet… claiming your place at the table and taking in all that is given…
Hope
Joy
Salvation…
All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old, sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…

Rejoice,
Again I say,
Rejoice!