an earthly perception of hell

“The Christian is not just to rage against the darkness…
we are to proclaim the light”.

David Robertson


(a lone sanderling at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2017)

In the course of the past two days I have read, in two vastly different places, the
notion of what hell actually is as it is perceived by those still earthly
bound mortals…

And as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence…but rather in the intervention
of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the two views has come from a member of the clergy, one being a former Church of England prelate who now hails as a Reformed Anglican Bishop and the other–
an Eastern Orthodox monk who passed away 24 years ago.

Each man relates a similar thought concerning hell…
that being an absence.
As in a permanent and perpetual void.

I can only think, for us humans, to be able to understand this concept of absence
and void is if, and only if, we have experienced the death of a loved one.
For in death there is a separation…an earthly permanent seperation.
As in a state of no more…as in no more—ever….
at least not on this earth.

If we are Believers, then we know that death is not a permanent situation…
perhaps on this earth yes, but in Heaven no.
And if we are not Believers of the Christian faith…
then there is perhaps even a keener awareness of this state of ‘no more.’

And in that state of emptiness, for both the Believing and unbelieving,
there is an almost unconsolable sorrow of loss.
And this utter cutting off and separation, for some, is often more
than can be borne by both soul and flesh.

Both of these clerics express this notion in very different ways.

Bishop Ashenden recently had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina.
He explained that the healing process is most arduous—
He had to lie very still on his right side, at a 45 degree angle for 10 days—
24 hours a day of laying very still in a particular position
with only a 10 minute break here and there to use the bathroom.

The pain, when using the drops which aggravated his wound, was as if someone was
taking a screwdriver and was constantly digging and twisting it in his eye with no
easing off or letting up.

This reminds me of cancer patients and those with severe nerve damage where the
pain is a constant state of the unbearable.

I saw this with my mother when the cancer had spread to her bones and later with my
dad who had developed a severe Kennedy ulcer the last two weeks of his life.
The wound developed a horrible infection and opened all the way to his bone…
The slightest movement for both my parents was excruciating and yes, unbearable.

Bishop Ashenden said that in his pain he got to the point that the pain was such a
constant persistency, that it was to the point that he could not even pray—
his prayer being simply “help me Lord”—the prayer of suffering and agony.

And in that pain there was a consuming sense of isolation—
For that’s how pain is—it is totally consuming to such an extent that there is
no sense of communion with God—rather there is no sense of God…only agony.

Be that a physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain….

And it is often in such moments that many a Believer and even non-believerer
will actually be to the point where they say “to hell with God”
“If He cannot help me, relieve me, then let Him just be damned.”

That is to the lowest we go as humans.
And it is a tragic state.

Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993) offers us a bit different vision
of a mortal’s interpretation of hell.
He shares what he has learned from those monks who have gone before him…
in the way of what is known as a “custom house”

The customs houses about which the Fathers write are symbols of a reality.
The Fathers understand them as follows: after the fall of man,
the soul is nourished by the body, in other words,
it finds refreshment in material pleasures.
After death, however, these bodily passions that used to divert the soul
no longer exist, because the soul has left the body,
and they choke and stifle the soul.
These are the customs houses and eternal torment.
Abba Dorotheos says that eternal torment is for someone to be shut up
for three days in a room without food, sleep or prayer.
Then he can understand what hell is.

Elder Sophrony of Essex. I Know a Man in Christ

Bishop Ashenden admonishes us all that it would behoove us to be of a constant
state of prayer—during those times in life when we are free to offer up our prayers…
be they of worship and praise, adulation and jubilation, thanksgiving and awe,
or simply intercession—
For we must do so with a fervency…because none of us are exempt from pain.

Just as it would behoove us to understand that hell is very real, very lasting
and it is not the sort of place we should want to or settle on going—
For if we find the early glimpse unbearable, what would eternity be….

For during each our lifetimes we will inevitably be faced with this glimpse of hell,
and when we are, we must know that we are ‘shored up’…
that during those times when all we can do is cry out “help, please” that we may rest
in knowing that He has heard us and we are not as we feel, alone and tormented…
For He has already walked our journey long before we were even conceived.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

the tale of the drunk mockingbird….

One day Bessie Braddock, a rather plump Labor MP,
approached Winston Churchill in which she said
‘Sir! You are drunk’, to which Mr. Churchill replied
‘I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly.’

Winston S. Churchill


(our resident mockingbird / Julie Cook / 2015)

Remember how I shared the tale of woe concerning our shower?
The twenty year slow leak that could only be rectified by tearing out the old…
all the way to the studs…with dust upon debris of rot and leak….
Only to slowly, and just ever so, add back layer upon layer…
eventually putting things back better than before???

Well we’re still in the middle of the layering process—
water mesh, moisture barriers, shower pans, sealant, cements…
on and on goes the mess.

Tile fellow is a very nice man and very much a Brooklyn boy who lives and breathes
for his beloved Yankees…. who have been winning their series in the playoffs.
Much to my favor as Happy Yankees beget Happy Yankee fans who beget
Happy Yankee tile guy, who beget happy tile customers…

But this has been a very messy and very dirty task.
Had I known what all was entailed, I would have just said re-do the entire bathroom
while you’re at it because if I live through this, I won’t be retiling anything
again in my lifetime.

After Tile man leaves each evening, I’m rolling up drop cloths,
vacuuming up a ton of dust, gingerly removing old insulation, wiping down cabinets,
mopping floors, and cleaning from top to bottom the residual mess of the day’s work.

Tile man wanted to leave his shop vac sitting in the middle of my very dusty bedroom at night as its just too heavy to haul back and forth from the garage along with the air compressor for the nail gun.
“You know we sleep in there right?”

I had to remind him that I prefer not having heavy equipment out lest I run into in the middle of the night.
He also didn’t understand why I insist on rolling up the very dirty and very dusty drop cloths every night only to roll them back out early each morning….
I don’t know, something about living without any more excessive dust and dirt then absolutely necessary seemed to make sense to me, but who am I to say.

So you should know we have a door in our bedroom that leads to the back deck,
the covered back deck.
We never use that door but it was in the plans when we built the house 20 years
ago so we have a door we don’t use….

Tile guy tells me that since he’s a New Yorker and Italian to boot, the heat is brutal
on him so every available window is open, the AC is running, fans are blowing
90 to nothing as dust is delightfully blanketing my entire house—
think Pompeii indoors.
And the high this week have only been in the mid 70’s….go figure.

He told me that he was going to open that door in the bedroom for more air.
Obviously windows are not enough.

However he was going to need to make a quick run to get more caulking.
Tile man was obviously born in a barn because all doors remain open whether or not
he is coming or going—
as in he will not, for love nor money, shut a door behind him.

Think now of every fly in the county and every bee and wasp for miles seeing
these open doors and I might as well have a sign out,
“all bugs please come inside!”

So as Tile man ran to the store for more caulk, I went to shut the back door.
When I headed into the bedroom to shut that door imagine my horror as I spied
our resident full grown Mockingbird flying around and around in a panic in my bedroom.

Let that sink in a minute…

a full grown bird in a tizzy flying around and around like
a nutjob in my bedroom—
did I mention the antique lamps that were my grandmother’s???

Let me back up a tad.

During the past week or so I have noticed how our Mockingbird has been singing
his pretty little head off as if it were a new Spring…
as in the birds and bees being oh so happy that it’s “that” time of year again…
as in it’s time to sing and look pretty for the ladies.

But wait…the calendar says mid October…as in cool nights and temperate days.
Not the time for making, let alone thinking about, woo…

This nutty bird has been sitting outside the closet window staring in at
Percy my cat, singing to my poor cat his song of love, for the past week.
Plus I’ve noticed a copious amount of bird poop out on the front porch…
As in the bird is off his rocker, making a mess and creating all sorts of havoc.

And then it dawns on me…

This time of year berries, Pokeberries to be exact, are in plentiful supply.

These things are similar to elderberries but poisonous to human consumption.
However they have been used by Native Americans and others for centuries to make a
deep lasting purple / magenta dye.

The berries just sit on the vine and, well, ferment.
In other words… free drinks on the house for all woodland creatures of
both field and air…

Meaning, I’ve now got a very drunk Mockingbird…
who by the way, is acting very much like a typical drunk,
now trying to fly drunk in a place he has sense enough to know is not home…

This is why you don’t drink and fly.

Ok, back to the present and this bird in my bedroom.

The bird continues circling and bamming into the ceiling,
leaving grey feathers everywhere along with seeds and purple poop.

I collect myself enough to quickly shut the bedroom door—
otherwise I’d never catch the bird if he made it to the rest of the house.

And now he heads to the bathroom.

REALLY?
THE BATHROOM????

Of all places????….
Tile guy is bad enough in there and now I have a drunk bird pooping purple crap all
over the place.

It was a miracle he missed bombing the lamp shades and my bed!!!!
As that purple mess isn’t washing out of anything.

The bird flies into the shower, into the mirror, into the window,
into the ceiling and back into the bedroom…
grey feathers are now stuck or floating all over the place.

All the while I”m chasing this drunk bird with both arms outstretched
trying to either catch it or shoo it out….whichever works….

Finally, thankfully, he finds the door….and out he goes as I quickly slam
the door in his wake.

And if you’re wondering where the cats were during all of this excitement—they
shelter in place in the guest bedroom, cowering in the closet when workmen are in
the house as they have apoplexy when visitors show up.

So not only was I cleaning dust and sheet rock residue, I was now cleaning purple poop
from the the windows, the door trim, the floor, a pillow case, the drop cloths…

When Tile man finally returns I, in no uncertain terms, tell him that there will be
no more open doors in the bedroom as I pleadingly ask how much longer does he
anticipate this job is going to take…

“Tile,” he tells me, “is messy hard work, probably another week or so… that is
if I don’t rush him…”tile can’t be rushed”….

Sigh—

So what’s the moral of this little tale you ask?
Well there really isn’t one…
just know that you should always be weary of melodious singing birds in the fall
who have been hitting the sauce, or in this case the pokeberry juice, one too many.
And that pokeberry juice will stain anything it touches…

Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:21

A time of force verses a time of reason

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught
falsehoods in school.
And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a
lunatic and fool”

Plato

“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”

William Shakespeare


(bad day for a little fish / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I can’t recall exactly where I read it, just the other night…
that we are living in a time when force trumps that of reason.

Meaning that whereas we were once a people of reason and rational thought…
we have now morphed into a people who have decided that force will be the
De Facto rather than De Jure.

Brut force now triumphing over our ability to intellectually reason…
As brut force has become the preferred plat du jour.

And it was reading that little observation that I was hit square between the eyes.

As in…that’s what this has all been about…hasn’t it!?

This madness we’ve been witnessing all these many months…
these protests, demonstrations and attacks against our own countrymen…
It’s all about the loss of reason and the gain of force.

No longer are the masses allowing rational thought to lead us in our governance,
living and thinking but rather they are exhibiting a dangerous proclivity
for the power of sheer brut force…
Brut force in order to yield their desired end result.

For this new growing angry mass has lost all patience for proper procedure,
due process and even free thought as they demonstrate that they have no taste for
the civil, the sequential or the rational…
preferring to use brawn and force against those who they find to be counter
in both thought and belief…

It’s no longer a matter of presentation, persuasion, and civil discourse …
instead it is a matter of beating one senseless, bullying one to yielding
and forcing one into submission…

Then…

NSDAP supporters are fighting on the street against KPD supporters, scene from ‘Horst Wessel’, directed by Franz Wenzler, Germany 1933.

And Now…..


(NBC news)

The pendulum continues to swing…in a most dangerous direction…

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,
always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason
for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

all roads…do not lead to Heaven

I want to be a more serious-minded Christian, more detached from this world,
more ready for heaven than I have ever been in my whole life.
I want an ear that is sharp to know the voice of the enemy,
whether it comes from religion, politics, or philosophy…
I would rather stand and have everybody my enemy than to go along with the
crowd to destruction.
Do you feel that way?

Aiden Wilson Tozer


(massive trees fall across a dirt road / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2017)

About a month back, following Hurricane Irma, this is what my husband and I found
on a piece of property located in the western Georgia area.

It’s a piece of property he’s enjoyed and maintained for the past 30 years for hunting, fishing, hiking, etc.

Nearly 400 acres of woods and former pasture land with a criss crossing maze of
trails and dirt roads…
Irma saw to it that one of the main roads to the backside of the property should be
blocked by downed trees.

The trees fell across the road from the adjoining neighbor’s land.

Removing the massive oaks would require some major equipment of which we didn’t have,
so the only option was to cut a new road.

Where I saw an impossible passage, my husband saw a brand new opening…
but one that was not readily available.

A new passage that would require some time and hard work on our parts….
Not to mention destroying a large yellow jacket’s nest underneath a massive rock
as well as battling ticks, mosquitoes and watching carefully for snakes.

Yet it was all part and parcel of a massive undertaking if we wanted to
reach the other side.

It took the two of us the better part of the day to first clear a path using
clopping shears, and a chainsaw…
eventually allowing for the tractor and bush hog to make a clear path.

I was reminded of this recent road cutting adventure yesterday after reading
the words offered by a dear friend from Ireland…

A wise friend who admonished me…warning me to be wary of words now being offered
in the name of God…
As in not all words that are currently being claimed by some seemingly knowledgeable individuals are words, as given in scripture, being that of God’s…
Words that are not God’s word to man….but are rather words man is taking as God’s
and twisting them to his own.

He reminded me that the world has a new gospel…
and with its new gospel the world has decreed that any and all roads will lead
to Heaven..it matters not.

My friend noted that it would behoove me, as it would behoove all the faithful,
to see and to understand that the world is now claiming its gospel path as
the road of inclusion…which is a very dangerous gospel at that…”

He encouraged me to trust no one with God’s word.
For the amount of false teachers is growing at such a fast and alarming rate with
this current new notion of the gospel of inclusion…
such that scripture and prayer are to be our only true guide…

Because these false teachers are each readily claiming that any and all roads lead to God..which is a very dangerous gospel thought.

As I am reminded that Jesus, not man, clearly taught us to…
“Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads
to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:13-22

Reasoning of the what ifs

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human
history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—
the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis


(a lone pigeon surveys the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

‎”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind.
In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking.
It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen,
for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way,
this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.
But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true?
It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself
will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking,
of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism,
and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else.
Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought:
so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

C.S. Lewis

In determining relationships we must begin somewhere.
There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured,
where the law of relativity does not enter and we can say “IS” and make no allowances.
Such a center is God. When God would make His Name known to mankind He could find
no better word than “I AM.”
When He speaks in the first person He says,
“I AM”; when we speak of Him we say, “He is”;
when we speak to Him we say, “Thou art.”
Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point.
“I am that I am,” says God,
“I change not.”

As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun,
so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God.
We are right when and only when we stand in a right position relative to God,
and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.

A. W. Towzer

crying in need


(baby goat pic found on the web)

There I was on a hot Friday the 13th afternoon in October—
did I mention it was hot?

Mid October and there has yet to be any near sighting of the
long awaited and highly anticipated Fall…

Anywhooo back to our tale….

There I was just coming out of Lowes, one of our big home improvement centers, headed for my car when I first heard it…

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Was that a sheep?????

“Must be the heat” I mused as I continued on my journey to my car,
with air filters in tow….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the parking lot…listening.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Without skipping a beat, the baying sound filled the entire parking lot.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

A woman just getting out of her car stops dead in her own tracks right by me…
“What is that crying? she asks confused.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh

We both are standing still as statues, listening….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

“I think it’s coming from over there” as I point toward a yellow pickup truck
several lanes over.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

More people stop…mostly women.
The same question…”what is that crying?”

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

Finally I discern that indeed it is the yellow pickup truck that happens to have
a large animal carrier in the back of the truck bed.
The truck is one of those that has a full back cover for the bed,
of which was propped up as the animal carrier was wedged between bed and
cover. I could make out something white moving a bit side to side in the carrier.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

“Is that a sheep?” another woman walking passed asks bewildered.

“That or a goat” I respond as we all now stare in the direction of the truck.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

By now I’m feeling a strong urge to follow the cry, but reason tells me
“take the air filters to the car and drive on home…”…
or maybe that was actually my husband’s admonishement from afar
telling me “do not stop, we do not need nor want a baby lamb or goat…GO HOME!!!”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Inside my car I can still hear the cries….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I roll down my window as I begin to pull out of the parking spot still feeling
a strong urge to go to this crying “baby.”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I notice several other shoppers, all women, making a bee line for the truck.

Inquisitive?

Absolutely…
but this draw was something much more than mere curiosity.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

This poor baby goat or lamb was in dire straights as it was wailing for “mother”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Finally pulling far enough away I no longer could hear the cries…
yet in my rear view mirror I could still see various women making their way over
to the truck…

Pondering as I drove….
was it the cries of a child, albeit animal, crying out in desperation that sent
out some sort of distress signal to the maternal instincts in the female
shoppers today??

The draw was strong to go attend to this crying baby…
I know because it was all I could do not to walk over to the truck myself.

And then the thought occurs to me—what of our own cries?…
those cries we utter and offer up to our unseen God and Father…Abba?

Those cries of anguish, despair, pain, desperation, sorrow…
Cries offered, or perhaps actually hurled outward and upward,
most often in distress or resignation…
cries of need and want…

And what of the One who hears those cries…is He not then drawn, even more powerfully
to our cries then we are to the cries of our own crying children….
So much so that He immediately runs to the sound each and every time!
As we rest assured, He runs…


(little lamb found on the web)

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

Psalm 18:6

quiet and still—allowing God to dwell within

The first stage of this tranquility consists in silencing the lips when
the heart is excited.
The second, in silencing the mind when the soul is still excited.
The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.”

St. John Climacus


(the beauty of the tiny shelf fungus scattered amongst the debris deep in the woods /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Yesterday I read the following words on an Orthodox blogging site and found them to be
both comforting and soothing…
while I also desperately recognized the need to seek that same sense
of hesychia
the seeking of an inner quiet and stillness…
both of which are of the utmost importance–

This as our times are crying so utterly loudly…screaming at us in such a way that
we are actually failing in our attempts at seeking a quiet inner stillness–
We are so full from the madness of our times, so much so, that the place that God
seeks to dwell within our very being is already so terribly full…

Hesychia, stillness [quietude], is essential for man’s purification and perfection,
which means his salvation.
St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically:
“One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous
a little away from those wandering in error”.
Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains
communion and union with God.
This communion with God, precisely because it is man’s union with God,
also constitutes man’s salvation.

Hesychia is nothing other than “keeping one’s heart away from giving and taking and pleasing people, and the other activities”.
When a person frees his heart [nous] from thoughts and passions,
when all the powers of his soul are transformed and turned away from earthly
[corruptible / decaying / perishable] things and towards God,
then he is experiencing Orthodox hesychia.
St. John of the Ladder writes that stillness of soul is
“the accurate knowledge of one’s thoughts and is an unassailable nous”.
Therefore hesychia is an inner state; it is “dwelling in God”.

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.