fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

Not a pretty picture

“If you believe what you like in the gospels,
and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe,
but yourself.”

St. Augustine


(leaf-footed bugs, both adults and nymphs, feast upon the dregs of the tomatoes / Julie Cook / 2017)

Coreidae are a family of sap sucking insects.
In North America these insects are called leaf-footed because of the leaf-like
structures on their back legs.

They are a growing nuisance and attack
or feast upon, depending on one’s perspective,
various plants and fruits by sucking out the juices.

Here in my neck of the woods, these leaf-footers predominately “attack” tomatoes.
A tomato that has been visited by the leaf-foot bugs will have what appears to be
a severe case of the measles…or rather a massive covering of tiny discolored spots.

Not very appealing nor appetizing…
and in essence, seeing a fruit or vegetable covered with a hoard of
sap sucking insects is not a pretty picture….
something akin to a science fiction movie.

Looking at the sad end of a season, with those few reaming dying tomatoes
clinging to the brown and withering vines…
all the while as the leaf-foot insects literally cover the fruit,
sucking out the residual living juices…
I can’t help but think of the current situation of our world.

For the season is quickly fading while only a few straggling fruit remain…
All the while a scourge descends upon the land.
We’ve grown weary, even weak…while there are those who wish to use our
vulnerability to their benefit as they work to take our remaining resolve.

But we are busy, too busy fighting amongst ourselves…
fighting over things of no consequence, things that
have no bearing, things that only have us using our
remaining energies needlessly…the minutia of what is.

While a legion of vermin wait to feast upon our remains.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be preoccupied by
a limited vision as an infestation is taking place.
Before we know it, we’re covered by those who wish
to cause harm before discarding us, leaving us to wither on the vine.

If we persist on reaming within this current season, our
demise, which in essence will be by our own hands, while those who wait to
take advantage of our distraction will feast upon what remains,
will only be a matter of fading time….

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke,
and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,
but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers
to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth
and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

It takes two baby

“It takes two, baby
It takes two, baby
Me and you
It just takes two
It takes two, baby
It takes two, baby,
To make a dream come true
It just take two”

Lyrics Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston


(our lone apple / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thirty four years ago two rather young naive people said “I do.”
Over the years there would be many a time when both thought that
having said “I don’t” might have been the better option.

And so it is with anything that we do in this life that is done for any real
length of time….
There are the days you’re glad you’re in it and there are days
you wish you’d never seen it!

Marriage is just such an endeavor.

Eventually add to the mix a family…and it can suddenly become hard even
on the best of days.

One thing I know as a Christian.
Marriage is a thing that Satan abhors.

For marriage is a worldly example of God’s love and desire of and for us.
A union and a joining…that mirrors His gift to us in the form of His son.
As Christ is considered the bridegroom and the Church, His spouse…
so we come together as man and woman, bridegroom and spouse.

A union that is a rhythmic tandem of two becoming one.

And just like a tandem bike—you’ve got two very different individuals working
together to make a single bike work…making it move and steer in the direction
that both folks want to go…
because a tandem bike can only go in one direction despite two very distinct
and very different people peddling. Both folks need to be on the same page,
or nobody is going anywhere.

For there has to be just one person who steers and directs while both work to keep it going…
Balancing and moving together as one in order to keep everything level and
flowing.

Which brings me to the picture of the split apple.

Out of the 4 apple trees that my husband and I planted a couple of years ago..
Little trees that we’ve babied, watered, fertilized,
trimmed and fretted over…
we have just harvested our crop…
a lone single apple for the year.

We watched a little flower bloom then form into a tiny green orb.
The tree actually had another little apple that was growing alongside the first…
we concluded there’d be at least one for me and one for my husband.

But one night one of the two apples disappeared…
disappeared to our ravenous deer population.

However, for whatever reason, the higher apple remained….
growing into a full fledged apple.

We’ve been watching it.
Waiting to see if it would survive our midnight thieves.

So triumphantly the other evening, my husband picked the apple and ceremoniously
carried it into the house where I proceeded to wash and cut it in half…

One half for me, one half for him….
Cause it takes two halves to make a whole….

Happy Anniversary to us!!!

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself
up for her, that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
that he might present the church to himself in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and
without blemish.
Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5:25-28

There are no accidents

“In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”
Pope John Paul II


(a two legged okra? / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tuesday I spent the day doing something that needed doing.
It needed doing ages ago.

I pulled out two step ladders along with a box of dusting clothes and proceeded
to take everything off my bookshelves—

These bookshelves were builtin cabinetry, on either side of the fireplace,
and it was the thing about the house that I loved most when we moved in
20 years ago…
Because I always wanted a place to properly put my books.
And did I mention my book collection, within that twenty year time, has
only grown.

But it wasn’t just books that had since found homes on the shelves.
Maybe it’s the art teacher in me but these where mini display shelves of
design and creativity….they held my “treasures” from trips,
they held memories.

However to the causal observer, I feared, they held chaos.
Hopefully organized chaos, but chaos none the less.
And as I age, I think I’m finally understanding…less is more.

I took down every last book, picture, knick knack, souvenir, treasure…
emptying all shelves as if preparing to pack up, box up and move…
which mind you I do consider constantly as I hear the ocean often call
my name..but then I’ll hear the mountains call out as well…
so to keep things quiet…
I just ignore them and stay put….

I climbed up and down, balancing precariously on the cabinet edge, in order to get
everything moved, off and down.

I next proceeded to dust.

Finally I had a clean slate.

I spent the remainder of the day sorting.

What should be boxed for Goodwill.
What should be boxed and stored.
What should be moved elsewhere.
What should be allowed to stay.

We had brought back 9 very old decoy ducks that had been Martha’s.
Beautifully old decoys of various species, sizes, shapes, ages and colors…
with one being a giant rustic fish and one being a giant sitting turkey hen.
All now having come home to roost with the 4 I already had.
My flock of 4 sits on the fireplace—
what would I now do with Martha’s flock of 9???

It all started for me when I inherited my grandmother’s very old wood carved decoy
of a male canvas back duck named Henry…Henry is now nearing 100.
In her last years of life, as the dementia set in, Mimi named the decoy Henry
and he sat at the foot of the bed as if it were a pet…and I believe
in Mimi’s mind, Henry was real and was indeed her pet….

Eventually I decided to strategically place the decoys up on my shelves—
sitting a couple on top of books, while others were flanked by a few books.
I threw in few antique plates, a framed photo or two…
Poked and placed until I got something that I think to be tastefully presentable…
rather than stuffed to the gills full.

But all of this rearranging is not the point of this post.
Nor are the ducks or books or dust or junk…

As I was sorting through the wealth of books that I’ve acquired over the years–
with the bulk being based on Christianity, the Saints, Monasticism, Prayer,
the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, European history and lots of Art history…
one little book literally fell out amongst the hoard…
resting at my feet on the floor.

Most of my books are hardback, some are large and lovely, some are old and rare..
but this little paperback book simply seemed to fall out of nowhere….

It’s a book I remember ordering years ago.

There Are No Accidents
In All Things Trust God

by Fr Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R
with John Bishop

I remember that I never finished reading the book for whatever reason,
which I do remember starting while I was still teaching.
Time then was never on my side…not that it is now,
but these days I try to be more diligent with both my time and reading.

The book is based on an interview with Fr. Benedict..
as he was known by his first name and not his last.
He was a Franciscan monk, teacher and retreat leader who died in 2014.

He was also a monk who was hit by a car while crossing the street at the
busy Orlando Airport in 2004.
His survival was very questionable.
He was an older gentleman who sustained some very serious injuries.
Both broken bones and severe head trauma.

There were surgeries, long stints in ICU, ventilators, physical therapy….
He never walked again without assistance nor could he raise his right arm
but yet he survived and he persevered.
For he had a mission.
And that was to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The doctors warned that if he lived, he’d never talk again,
never think again as he most likely would be severely brain damaged.
They also said he wouldn’t walk let alone dance…
but he was ok with not dancing
because he never liked to dance anyway.

I’m beginning the book anew.

For I too believe there are no accidents—
for behind every accident, every incident, be they minor or devastating…
it is there our Omnipotent God resides…

There are blessings to be wrestled over but we do not like nor do we
want to wrestle.

And therein lies our challenge…
our challenge to comprehend, to sort and to accept.

We stand as a lost child feeling overwhelmed and frozen by fear, pain
sorrow, horror, devastation, disbelief, greif.
Our thoughts, our faith, our being… rocked all to the foundation,
as we are left to rile with unbridled anger.

Because this God of ours is not reacting…
this God of ours is not playing the role…
this God of our is not doing things the way we would have Him do…
and therefore we decide we don’t need, don’t want, don’t like this God
as we assume ourselves to be the better god….

And there rests our trouble….

“There are no accidents.
Evil things occur because of bad will or stupidity or fatigue,
yet whatever the cause, God will bring good out of it if we let Him”

Fr Benedict

“even when we do not choose evil, we choose the good so half heartedly
and with so many qualifications that mediocrity becomes our canonized statis quo.”

Fr Benedict

Reflections, thoughts and books


(one of the bronze dancing cherubs at the city cemetery Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

Recently, over on a fellow blogger’s site, I read a most wonderful post written
about our dear friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
The following passage jumped right off the page,
right at me as it spoke to me about faith and as it challenged me to consider
what type of faith do I actually possess….
inward or outward….

Faith does not look upon itself but takes hold of that which is outside
itself, Christ.
Bonhoeffer draws on a Latin phrase from an early period of Protestant dogmatics,
actus directus,
as distinguished from actus reflexus,
to characterize the nature of true faith.

The difference here is between a faith that attends to God,
entrusting itself to God to be watched over and kept,
versus a faith that is constantly concerned to oversee itself,
ensuring its own vitality.

For Bonhoeffer, this is a way finally of avoiding faith –
for like Peter in the sea of Galilee,
it takes its eyes off of the living Christ who is the source of our life.

This emphasis upon the outward direction of faith that lays hold of Christ
in pure intentionality,
in a kind of passive reception where the self is kept out,
structures much of Bonhoeffer’s later reflections on ethics.
While we do not see him returning to this phrase,
the concept remains operative.

excerpt from the blog post Freedom in Orthodoxy
http://freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2017/07/bonhoeffer-and-role-of-moral-reflection.html

“A faith that attends to God…”

I looked up various synonyms for the word attend and found the word dwell
which I like here as it fits in perfectly…
it fits in such a way that it reminds us that our faith should be such that
we are to dwell in to God….to be a cohabitant within….

Verses a faith that attends to self….
and if we are to use the same word of “dwell” here,
then we are saying that it is a faith that dwells within self…
and somehow that does not sound like faith at all but mostly a self
centered inclination…something much along the lines of today’s culture of the
religion of self.

Bonhoeffer is reminding us that we must constantly work to strive to reach out of
self, out of ourselves…out to the living God…so that we may then, in turn,
dwell within Him and within Him alone…..

Then next, on the same day of perusing, I read another great post by our good
friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
This time he was offering a two part reflection regarding a book that he
most recently read…a review of sorts that due to his often verbose ways, he
opted to review over a period of time.

The book is entitled The Strange Death of Europe by David Murray.

From all outward appearances David Murray and David Robertson are probably polar
opposites of sorts and not exactly on the same page in life…
as Mr. Murray is an openly avowed homosexual as well as ardent Atheist and we know that Pastor David Robertson often writes about both topics…
as to why homosexuality and or atheism, from the Christian perspective,
are both wrong and sinful.

Yet Pastor Robertson read, enjoyed and whole heartedly agreed with Mr. Murray’s
observations regarding Europe and her mad dash to committing a ‘political suicide’
of sorts as she has forgotten,
or better yet recklessly thrown away with ardent abandon,
her Christian roots….

Replacing those long standing roots with a new religion…
that being the religion of humanism, materialism and human rights.
Because isn’t that what this has all become…
that for the majority part of the West, it is the religion of Human Rights…

In all the current melee, Europe is now lost as to what to do with the massive
Islamic influx that is currently and literally sweeping in with the tide….

One passage that Pastor Robertson highlights as brilliant on Murray’s part is the following observation:

in order to incorporate as large and wide number of people as possible it is
necessary to come up with a definition of inclusion that is as wide and
unobjectionable as possible.
If Europe is going to become a home for the world it must search for a
definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world.
This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become
so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.
So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific,
not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations
(the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy),
today the ethics and belief of Europe—
indeed the identity and ideology of Europe–
have become about ‘respect’, ‘tolerance’ and
(most self abrogating of all) ‘diversity’.
Such shallow self definitions may get us through a few more years,
they have no chance at all being able to call on the deeper loyalties that
societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.”
P.7

And I for one see that his observation is not merely a European problem
but rather an American dilemma as well as we are also striving to “redefine” who
and what America actually is and means…
trading our true foundation and founding principles for something vastly
other than…
something humanistic, materialistic and oh so smugly human rights oriented…
As one reviewer wrote about having read Mr Murray’s book and of the dismal
position the West seems to have taken over the current identity crisis…
as in it has no real answers or position because
“modern culture has little to offer a person other than entertainment.”

And it is here where the good pastor leaves us until he comes back for part 2
of his review.

In the meantime, I’ve put the book on my order list.

Here’s a link to Robertson’s full review post…

Douglas Murray – The Strange Death of Europe – Part One – Meaningless Shallowness

So I will leave us today with these various interesting thoughts—
thoughts on faith–inward and outward…
and thoughts on the West’s seemingly mad dash to Western Civilization’s demise…

a conflicting conundrum indeed….

Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
For everything in the world—-the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—-
comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John:15-17

Moving on, to the next

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien


(the mounded rocks to help break the storm waves at The Breakers Hotel /
Palm Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

“It was too perfect to last,’
so I am tempted to say of our marriage.
But it can be meant in two ways.
It may be grimly pessimistic—
as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it
(‘None of that here!’).
As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests
the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation.

But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection.
This had become what it had in it to be.
Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.
‘As if God said,
‘Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In that place of sheer isolation and utter vulnerability,
deep within the quagmire of mourning and sorrow of which we find ourselves
sinking helplessly into the quicksand of our losses and suffering…
we humans are fast and keen to denounce the omnipotent God..
we proclaim Him to be most cruel, sadistic and menacingly cold hearted.

For we are hurting for heaven’s sake….
can He, does He, not see…
does He not know…
or worse….
does He simply not care…??

As C.S Lewis reflects on the loss of his wife—
he, in such typical Lewis fashion, expresses the thoughts and feelings that
are our own…
that of our angst and misery culminating from the overwhelming painful experience
we all eventually experience from our living, death and loss…

As he sums it up nicely in one wonderful notion…

“Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

And so we are…ready to go on
on to the next….
to the next whatever…
the next whatever God has in store…
all the while nursing our wounded hearts,
we move on, by His Grace, to that which comes next…

(for a wonderful movie about Lewis, his marriage, the death of his wife due to cancer and how Lewis wrestles with God…see the 1993 movie Shadowlands staring Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger—a marvelous and timeless movie)

Wrestling and prayers

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(falls in the Agawa Canyon Park / Algoma District, Ontario, Canada / Julie Cook / 2017)

I mentioned the other day that I was blessed with friends who are very wise…
Well as good fortune would have it, I had another wise friend has come along,
offering her own insightful guidance…
by actually offering a bit of wisdom in sharing.

She has passed along a link to A Painted Prayerbook by Jan Richardson
with the day’s thoughts resting on “The Wrestling Is Where the Bessing Begins:
(excerpt Aug 2, 2017)

Jacob is no stranger to encountering God in a dark, betwixt place.
It has been just four chapters and a lifetime since that night when,
fleeing for his life, he was visited by an angel-drenched dream that
assured him of God’s presence on his path.
Now, in this latest nighttime meeting,
Jacob learns that sometimes when the angel meets us in the wilderness,
it makes us work for a blessing.
This seems to be one of the ways the angels choose to minister to us,
knowing there are times when a good struggle comes as one of those
strange comforts of the wilderness.
Sometimes we need not to rest but to wrestle,
to be stretched to our limits,
to reach deep into the reserves we did not know we had.

(http://paintedprayerbook.com)

And like Jacob, I wrestle.

I wrestle with this thing I claim as life.
My life.

I wrestle with my perception, my wants and my presumed,
as well as intended, outcomes…
I then wrestle with God’s intention for my life…
for you see, those two thoughts are not always the same…
His verses mine.

And now I’m finding myself prematurely and uncomfortably pushed away from
resting undisturbed somewhere, while just hoping to sit under a shade tree.
I sit trying to avoid the heat of day…the prickly weight that pushes down on my
head from not only what is mine, but what is all around me.
I long to avoid the unbearable heat generated by my own life’s struggles,
as well as the heated percolation found in the greater world at large.

And here I now realize that I must wrest the blessing which is to be found in
all of this…
Because as you see, we sometimes actually have to work for a blessing.

And yet…
in that one little fact…
that being that I will often times be uncomfortable and even struggle while
becoming exasperated to the point of near failure….
yet still….
I find that within the wrestling…resides pieces of deep spiritual comfort….

We are traveling today the 10 plus hours down to West Palm Beach, to south Florida.
Martha’s memorial service is Saturday morning, at her beloved little Episcopal
Church.

I will greatly appreciate your prayers for our travels.
It’s a long drive in uncharted waters so knowing that a Heavenly host
travels with us is indeed a comfort and a blessing…
one not wrestled over I trust….

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8