looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

If necessary for years, if necessary alone

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo,
and it’s worth fighting for.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

“I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open,
and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on,
if necessary for years, if necessary alone.”

Prime Minster Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons / June 4, 1940


(Winston Spencer Churchill)

Sometimes the most unlikely individuals step into the crosshairs of history…
and when they do— we and the world are never the same.

Winston Spencer Churchill was just such an individual.

He was an unlikely candidate to ever be immortalized by anyone–
be it on the stage of his home nation or the stage of greater world at large.

And large he was—large in personality, determination, resolve and grit.

The type of leadership one seeks when finding oneself in the clutches of
a menacing death grip.

Yet he was actually greatly despised by many—by his fellow MPs as well as by a
few world leaders….both Hitler and Stalin to name but a few.

He was often brusk—often lacking the more refined social filters.
He suffered from a life long speech impediment.
He had performed poorly in school, often disappointing his famous father.
He was considered arrogant.
He was half American…a black eye in British aristocracy.
He came across as pompous, a braggart and a loud mouth.
He both drank and smoked entirely too much for most of the more genteel of company.
He loved to talk…most often in excess…and most often about self….
He was thoughtless with his finances, teetering constantly on ruin.
He was often selfish and self-centered and a poor keeper of time,
his as well as others.

And yet he was brilliant.
He was tenacious.
He had humor and he had heart.
He was a visionary who both clearly saw and deeply understood…

And he was a man accused of war mongering by those who I suspect would not
have minded living under the dictatorships of tyranny.

He was a wordsmith….
Gifted with both the written and spoken word….an orator for the ages, Churchill
used both to his keen advantage to rouse a frightened, sagging and crestfallen
nation.

He was shrewd and calculating,
despite being considered often half cocked and ridiculously unreasonable.

And he was the the single undetered force that stood between democracy and death
when no one else was left standing or when those who were still standing, stood quiet.

I saw a trailer for a movie—
a movie for which I’ve not seen any advertisement over….
No commercials, no billboards, no star studded endorsements…..
No hype nor hoopla of which is afforded to those other movies boasting of
fantasy, fiction or filth….

It is a movie that is actually already out in theaters as I also suspect having long
left others.

It is a true story.
A real story.
A story of courage in the face of what appeared to be unavoidable demise.

It is a movie about a man who many know by name only…as that is all they know.

This current generation, so lulled by the complacency of materialism and of the
falsely perceived angst over matters of little to no consequence, have no idea
the gratitude they actually owe this enigma of a man.

Yet this man, who this movie portrays during a particular dark period in time,
is the very man who sacrificed everything within his power just so that you and I
today could enjoy the comforts of our lives….

Theses are a few links to previous posts I’ve offered on behalf of
this legend of a man…..

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/written-words-from-a-father/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/what-he-knew-and-others-chose-to-ignore-deja-vu-or-simply-a-continuum/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/authority-vs-power/

redeemed from paradox

“Without the Way, there is no going,
Without the Truth, there is no knowing,
Without the Life, there is no living.

Thomas à Kempis


(a persistent strangler of fall hangs on / Julie Cook / 2017)

“But he never said to people, ‘Come as you are and stay as you are.’
His promise was always that all were welcome –
but that they would be radically changed.
All need to be reborn.
Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles.
He redeems us from them.”

David Robertson

There is really so much to say.

Too much really…about so very much.

About all of this really.

As in…there is so very much that needs sorting, weeding out and pruning…

Such as those overt ‘he said, she said’ issues taking place daily….

The egregious name calling of those we do not see eye to eye with….
nor actually even see…yet everyone feels free and safe to use all manner
of vile ugliness, rather gleefully and clandestinely, behind these screens of ours
as we joyously lash out…..

There is tolerance of the intolerant and intolerance of the tolerant.

One no longer knows which one is best to be…tolerant or intolerant…
perhaps just both.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear about a spike in crime…
often violent crime.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear of what seems to be an escalation
in the sorrowful and tragic…that of accidents, death, fights, wrecks,
abuse, overdoses, fires…etc

Yet why is it that “at this time of year” we actually can witness a softer,
kinder, more generous and giving world….

A paradox found in the juxtaposition of man.

All the while there is some sort of misnomer running around out there that if
you don’t open your arms to embrace everyone and everything….
then there is something terribly wrong with you and you are made
to wear the Scarlet letter P….

P because you are phobic… homophobic…or maybe transphobic.

P because you’re just paranoid…you think that the Right and Left are
collectively out to get you…and maybe they are….

P because you’re just proud…a little too proud…as a good many of the
proud and arrogant have suddenly tumbled from their thrones.

P because you’re just pissed off,
mad as hell at all the fake news, lies, angry rhetoric, news outlets turned
tabloid junkies, anarchists burning down the towns…
mad at the progressive left who want nothing more than to destroy you and
your little corner of the world….
so no, you’re not going to take it any longer…

And right when someone hears or reads that you’ve just said as much,
you are now brandished as an extremist who should be locked up…

Maybe you should be locked up because you cracked and own a gun…
never mind all the uncracked folks out there who own guns….

Maybe you want to celebrate Christmas but since it is Christmas, you can’t call it
Christmas….
Yet you are repeatedly told to buy, buy, buy….for Christmas.
The same Christmas you’re not allowed to call Christmas.

Maybe you want to celebrate Hanukah because you’re Jewish…but a lot of folks
out there blame Jews for everything so maybe it’s best not to light the candles.

So now it is P because it is all so precarious…
especially since our vision is no longer clear.

It’s difficult crossing the narrow log spanning the deep chasm when
one’s vision is clouded…clouded by the upside down lies being offered
as what is true.

Yet how is one to know truth verse lie…
Or do we simply believe the loudest voice?

Across the chasm on the far side, across the narrow log, a tiny lone light
is lit…
And you know deep down that it is a light offering clarity to the obscured….

For from out of all of our darkness, a great Light has shone…

All that was, all that you have known, will be no more…
You cannot exist in the paradox and juxtaposition…
caught in the cycle of in and out, yes and no, left and right, up and down…
nor can you abide in the acceptance of what you know to be false yet
are constantly told that this false is absolutley true.

As all the little truths are merely by-products of the fickleness of the times…

Yet the question is asked of you….
Will you be able to ford the chasm on the narrow log, pressing ahead
toward the lone light offering clear vision or do you prefer to remain where
you are in a world turned upside down and mad upon itself?

Are you happy with what you are hearing and seeing day in and day out
as everything you once knew and thought is now turned inside out?

We are living a paradox and conundrum yet yearn for the clarity and light…

And I don’t see why the choice needs to be so difficult.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 9:14)

out of chaos

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved,
upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.
Can you believe that?
Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot


(another shot of the dead loon I found on the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Loons are fresh water birds so to say that I was more than a little shocked
finding a dead loon, partially buried in the sands along the ocean’s shore,
is an understatement.

There had been a bad storm the day prior…
I could only imagine the bird flying over the surf from one of the nearby dune lakes,
having tired as it was battered by fierce winds and torrential rains,
and simply succumbing to the raging maelstrom…
or maybe it was just old and sick.

Yesterday, several times throughout the course of my day,
I ran into a word, along with its resulting concept.
It is a word and meaning that I really prefer not to dwell on as it can be
unsettling and troubling.

That being the word chaos.

The word crept up and into the forefront of my focus more than once throughout the day.

Again, I am not one to believe in coincidence or happenstance but rather the
working of the Holy Spirit….sometimes gently whispering while at other times loudly shouting.

The word chaos kept coming to light in my reading perusals through the day.
And not only was it sitting before me in the printed word,
I found that I had to actually admit that it has certainly been a very real part of my
own life for these past many months.
Much more than I cared to realize or admit.
Because aren’t I always in control of me and my life?

As that was part of the revelation.

That despite my attempts to ignore, push down and to quell…
chaos has been wickedly swirling in my life.

Not a visible chaos necessarily, but a raging internal swirling turbulence.

Yet it was on a fellow bloger’s post yesterday that I had actually read a quote by a
gal named Lore Ferguson Wilbert.
The quote more or less just hit me in the face.
One of those times when you’re broadsided, from out of the blue,
getting literally knocked off your feet.

“Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

It was more than just a simple reminder or statement…
it was a signpost.

It’s that whole question of what does one tie life’s anchor to?
Something real, sound, secure…
or instead….
does one opt for no anchor while simply allowing all things to drift off towards
an expectant and hopeful ending?

What have I been doing?

Is it simply a matter of casting out, allowing the anchor to randomly sink, hoping it
will grab hold, to something to anything…
hoping to be kept secure and steady…yet not really certain.

Or does one rather tie off to something much more solid and sure?
Anchoring to something that will hold tight and fast?

It is not a matter of merely drifting happily toward the hopeful sunset.

For there found in the drift…lies the ensuing troubles…
No anchor hold to keep one from being tossed and battered…
left to drift off course into dire storms.

In my faith and in my life, I found that question being asked…

Am I holding fast to God and God’s word or am I more focused on the
outcomes of my journey?
Focusing more on me and my end down the road verses
His choices and directions for my life…

In wisdom have I anchored?
Anchored and holding fast to God and His desired outcome?
Because I know in the end that that’s the only thing that matters…
His outcome and His alone.
Nothing that is of me.

For I am constantly reminded that it is He who is Creator and master of my ship
as I am but the created…
I am reminded of my constant need to tie off to Him…
trusting and holding tight through all the storms…
Claiming and knowing that His desired outcome is far better than that to which
I’ve been blindly holding to and racing off toward.

Him being the only lasting matter of my life….or of anyone’s life.

As we must anchor to that which is certain and sure
verses our ignorant and arrogant choice to simply drift while hoping for the best….

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
The disciples went and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked,
“What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

prophetic spirit….

“I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me”
Jeremiah 33:8

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(image of the prophet Jeremiah by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel)

Despite the distress of our time, we have lost touch with this prophetic spirit.
In fact, the inmost nature of prophecy has become an enigma to us.
We no longer grasp its primary source anymore.

Eberhard Arnold

Where are the voices…
those strong, confident and defiant voices that portend the fate of man?
Those ancient distant voices which proclaimed, declared, lamented, warned and foretold…
Those quixotic ones, from the days of old, whose words spoke of both power and truth …

In this oh so modernly smug time of man, believers are left to silently wonder,
as the non believer ridicules and scoffs.
Taunting the faithful while arrogantly puffing their chests.
For modern man has declared himself his own deity and god.

As Eberhard Arnold pragamatically observes, we have lost touch with that part
within ourselves which allowed us to hear those prophetic voices.
We have grown cold to our spiritual nature…
As we have distanced ourselves to the point of total disregard,
For that innate piece of the Divine that was once very attuned…
Allowing rather the void to be filled by our haughty sense of self.

Those voices however have never been silenced…
Never stopped or cut short over the windswept history of time…
they have not grown cold as the hard stones of earth…
but rather it is man who has grown cold, having lost his ability to hear them.
For man has turned a deaf ear to the apocalyptical.

Yet it is in that same breath of disheartened resignation that
Arnold offers us a bit of hope…

“The attitude is [still] possible only when a different heart beats within us,
different from that which has been in us so far, and when God’s spirit dwells in us,
as Ezekiel promises for these last days (Ezek.11:19).

If the earth is to be filled with the glory of God,
then the triune Spirit must fill and pervade the people who dwell on it.
Only when the Spirit gains influence over us, a sovereignty thus
far completely unknown,
can we expect the social and moral transformation that Mary sings about…”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55

“Maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always”
Hosea 12:6

You have no idea. . .or maybe, perhaps you do

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the backyard rabbit. . .

You have no idea just how much you truly mean to me. . .
Not that you know me or that I know you—
Yet we know of one another’s existence.
You are out there and I’m back here, usually up, looking outward at you, down there.
And I know you know, just as you know I know.

For you see, I need to know that you and your world remains, as always, the same.
I need to know that when I have fought through another day, another journey, another time of attending to duties I would prefer would disappear, I know you are out there, doing what it is that you do day in and day out.

When I turn on the television, only to see a world that I no longer recognize, I know you are the same, as in, you never changed.
When I see a country I no longer understand, I can thankfully understand you.
When I grow weary of the pettiness, the arrogance, the self-centeredness of man, I can look out at you, unencumbered, offering no pretense, no bravado. . . just being yourself. . .
and I can exhale–simply enjoying watching you, simply being you. . .

And as I ramble on about the small joys received in the simple act of sitting back and basking in the solitude of watching a wild rabbit, or two, going about its life–eating, running, jumping. . .appearing simply happy to be alive, I am struck by the very words I have used to offer up to a little rabbit—that in much the same vein, the words may be offered up as a simple prayer to God—

That He knows, before I know, just how much He means to me. . .
despite my inability to grasp or readily recognize that need.
That I can actually rest in the knowledge that He is who He is and has been since the beginning of time–That He is not merely the Creator of all that was, and all that is, and all that will be. . .
but that He is also a Father. . .my Father. . .
who loves,
who comforts,
who sees,
who knows,
who indeed does understand.
That He mourns just as I do when I look out over this world of ours.
As thankfully, He remains steadfast, always the same—
unmoved,
unchanged,
never transformed or moulded by mortals who are constantly changing and transforming our own world to fit our own selfish desires, perverse pleasures, and arrogant agendas.

He offers me the gift of Creation—as I find in that Creation a small creature, that offers me a glimpse of everlasting peace. . .

And whereas the rabbit and I merely recognize one another’s existence, I can rest in the fact that The God of all of Creation, does indeed know, and knows most personally, me. . .and that single thought alone is what allows me the ability to exhale at the end of each long and hard fought day. . .

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DSC02054
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02059
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02065
(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)