Hidden faith

“The cause is hidden.
The effect is visible to all.”

Ovid


(a portion of the interior of St. Kevin’s Monastary, Glendalough National Park / Co. Wicklow, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

The thrill of the dig.
Or is that the thrill of the hunt??

Either way, I think it’s how archeologists describe what it is they do.

They dig, sift, hunt and discover.

It’s that adrenaline rush when searching through endless layers of rock, dirt, and sand
knowing that ‘treasure’ is but a shovel scoop away.

When I was young, I was fascinated by digging, unearthing and discovering.
Add to that a love of history, and for me, it all made for an imagination which was running wild.
Wild with wonder and of possibilities and of the what could be’s…

Would I find a Piece of Eight while building a sandcastle at the beach or
perhaps a fossil in the soil while camping…not to mention the anticipation
of striking it rich while panning for gold in the North Georgia mountains.

Nowadays I usually relegate my digging to Antique stores…
yet the hunt is no less exciting.
And the find—well the real finds are few and far between.

So it was with a tad of bated curiosity that I clicked on the following story.
It’s an intriguing tale about the unearthing
of what is believed to be a 2nd century hidden underground Christian church;
hidden for centuries, right under the feet of occupying ISIS fighters
in the city of Manjib, Syria.

Historians and archeologists believe this underground maze of chambers, trap doors,
and tunnels to be that of a secret church dating to the time when this area of
modern-day Syria was under Roman occupation.
It dates to the time when Christians were persecuted for the practicing of their faith
and therefore met in secret as they were literally forced underground for their faith.

As I watched, read and wondered about this latest discovery of those who courageously once
worshiped during perilous times, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander to a time in our own
future and that of our own practicing Faith’s uncertainty…
I felt that I had received a more somber history lesson than I actually cared to imagine…

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/05/01/ancient-christian-ruins-discovered-under-former-isis-held-territory.html

Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.

Psalm 119:49-56

digging amongst the spoils

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

Epicurus


(a plover scavagers for tasty morsels along the gulf / Julie Cook / 2018)

They will stretch out their hands in it,
as swimmers stretch out their hands to swim.
God will bring down their pride
despite the cleverness of their hands.

Isaiah 25:11

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways”

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach,
in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

Rachel Carson


(the snowy adirondacks / Julie Cook / 2017)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
So that everyone he has made may know his work,
he stops all people from their labor.
The animals take cover;
they remain in their dens.
The tempest comes out from its chamber,
the cold from the driving winds.
The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.

Job 37:5-10

when feeling insignificantly small

“If you once realize that to-morrow,
if not to-day, you will die and nothing will be left of you,
everything becomes insignificant!”

Leo Tolstoy


(a lone little sanderling eyes both sea and beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

The morning reading began with a portion of Psalm 119.

Incline my heart to your decrees and not to unjust gain.
Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless, give me life in your ways…

Psalm 119:37

The reading was actually verses 33-40 but it was verse 37 that actually reached
out and grabbed me by both shoulders.
It shook me so hard and fast that it caused me to reread what I had just read twice!

I grabbed a pen.

I underlined.

I digested.

And then I felt a sense of a galactic knowingness…an invisible nod from a great
and distant Source that approvingly found satisfaction in the
“by jove, I believe she’s got it” moment of knowing.

I think it was the part about “turning my eyes from watching what is worthless….
give me [rather] life in YOUR ways….”
(with accent and brackets being mine…).

Turn…me…from…worthless…to…You….

in a nutshell!

Maybe it’s because that’s what I’ve been doing all these many months.
I’ve been watching this whole global and national situation as if being some sort
of innocent bystander.
Someone who is watching madness unfold yet is either being held hostage or is
helpless to do anything of any real significance to stop the madness.
As both society and culture…careen out of control.

And then there came the readings closing prayer….

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly;
and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away,
to hold fast to those that shall endure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Collect for the Sunday closest to Sept 23rd, Book of Common Prayer

As in let me not be anxious, fretful, depressed, overwhelmed, sad, frustrated
about earthly things…BUT [rather] love things heavenly…hold fast to that which will endure—that being Jesus Christ who lives and reigns along with the Holy Spirt
and the One True God…for ever and ever…

And whereas I have at time felt very much like a small insignificant David standing in the shadow of an overwhelming Goliath….as the world and her ills have appeared more than challenging, more than daunting, more than overwhelming…
as I add to that my own more seemingly insignificant yet equally comsumming
issues of life, God has spoken…
He has not forgotten as He remains consistent and steadfast…
Nothing is too great or too overwhelming for a great and Awesome God…

And the people were heard to say AMEN!

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)

comfort

“For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more–
remembering my own sins and follies;
and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts,
and very seldom as bad as their words.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(the beach is calling at The Pearl Hotel / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Anyone who has ever been to the beach and mixed…
wet bathing suits + sticky salty ocean water + greasy lotions + red burning skin +
lots and lots of sand…
all know first hand that the idea of comfort is a relative concept.

Add into the mix sitting in a wet sagging canvas “lounge” chair and the thought
of running naked through the surf becomes somewhat appealing….

Now don’t get me wrong—I love the whole notion of all of the above, as it is
part and parcel of a true “beach” experience…
as we throw in the sound of shrieking children bouncing in the surf,
alcohol induced howling conversations,
beach volleyball, football, bocce ball aficionados showing off the not so sculpted bodies,
music that is not a part of your personal iTunes…
and the whole concept of peaceful and soothing also becomes relative.

And yet there is comfort in the moment.

Comfort found in being elsewhere and other than.

As we are all creatures who truly love their comfort…
Both physical comfort as well as emotional…
We don’t much care for the idea of being deprived of anything in our neat little
comfortable worlds.

I suppose it would be well observed and easily noted that we humans may be known as
creatures who live for our comfort…
as well as for those things which make us such….

But the thing is….we were never promised comfort…
God made no promises in the area of all things comfortable.
And if truth be told, He had actually provided for such in the very beginning,
but there was that little issue over that apple and just as quickly,
any continuing promise of comfort vanished….

So it seems as if we, as in we human beings, have been in pursuit of all things
of comfort ever since that fateful day.

But now we see a little rub within said pursuit…

Enter one named Yeshua…

I prefer using the Aramaic translation of the latin name, Jesus,
as in it is more inline with what Jesus himself was familiar in hearing—
as in his name is what it is…and that is Yeshua ben Yosef…but I digress….

So Yeshua was asked where it was he stayed,
as those asking wanted to follow him.

But his response was not one of comfort.

For there was not a warm welcoming abode in which he resided.
There was no rest for the weary where He was concerned.
No creature comforts were to be offered, waiting nor ever to be found…
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

And again He offers anything but comfort in His admonition to his followers…

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels,
and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before
they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

And even later it was Paul who reminded those wishing to follow that
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”

So as Christians, a word which actually means little Christ…
the notion of comfort and a life that is comfortable,
is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Maybe it’s high time we venture from the safety of our comfort zones…

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

a shot of fortitude, knowing I can do anything for two weeks…

“True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace,
exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing
the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following
good affections and dispositions,
without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies…
Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and
counteracting the enemies that are without us;
yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us;
because they are our worst and strongest enemies and
have greatest advantage against us.
The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more
than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,
and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries,
strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this
evil and unreasonable world.”

Jonathan Edwards

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(a jumbled mess of fishing line, fishing hooks and seaweed washes ashore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves at our favorite restaurant celebrating
a month late anniversary. This particular restaurant is a place we love to visit whenever we are fortunate enough to find ourselves at the beach.
The restaurant is very nice and the clientele can be equally as nice…with the exception
of some not so nice diners, but that’s for another story for another day.

As we arrived a bit early for our 7PM reservations, the host kindly asked if we
wouldn’t mind waiting as they prepared our requested table.
“Not a problem” I replied as it is often nice to sit for a minute and observe
those who have also opted to come dine…
Folks at the beach are always most colorful in a variety of ways….

As we waited, we watched as two couples entered together through the front door.
Very attractive couples…say, mid 60’s.
The women were puffed and coiffed to the Nines.
Giving the air of overtly well to do.

They waited a bit and were shown to their table as one of the men excused
himself from the group asking for the men’s room.
About two minutes later the other gentleman wandered back out for
what we assumed was to direct his friend to their table.
But rather than wait on his friend, he headed straight to the bar.
He appeared very impatient wanting the bar tender to hurry to his aid.

He ordered what appeared to be a triple shot of scotch.
I know these things as my dad use to be drawn to the same sort of amount and
libation back in his younger years….

The man took glass in hand bringing it quickly to his lips as he threw his head back,
draining the brown liquid from the glass in one quick swallow…
As he just as quickly plopped the glass on the bar.
No savoring, no sipping nor enjoying…
more like a “wham, bam, thank you mam, sort of moment.

At this point his friend emerged from the men’s room and
off they went to join their wives.

My husband and I kind of laughed to one another as we wondered aloud
if spending time over dinner with his wife was such that he
needed a heavy shot before continuing…

Fast forward to today…
I was back at the Orthopedic’s office following last week’s MRI.
I sat in the exam room almost 45 minutes before the PA came in.
How are you feeling she asked.

“Well…
imagine that the top of your thigh is numb yet at the same time it feels
as if your inner thigh and groin have been flayed wide open
while someone is constantly scrubbing said area with a brillo pad…
All the while someone else has a drill and is drilling right
into your hip bone and lower back, just a tad over from you lower spine…”

“Hummmm, that good eh?”

I flatly looked at her and stated more then questioned…
“I suppose the MRI didn’t show a thing did it?”

“Oh no, it showed something alright…
that’s what took me so long, the doctor had to keep looking over the MRI”
The scan wasn’t as high as we wanted it to go nor as deep…
but there is definitely a distribution of disc material outside of the
column on the left side…and it’s squeezing the emerging nerve.”

In other words, a bulging disc with severe nerve inflammation.

I asked if they wanted to repeat the MRI…
with her response being “only if we have to do surgery.”

Surgery?

“We have two options…we can be conservative and do therapy and traction….”

The thought of traction conjured an image of me flat on my back in a dingy cell
tied to a dark wooden plank as my hands and feet are chained to a roller
all the while as the masked torture master cranks the medieval rack…
stretching me till I snap.
Which mind you might feel better than flayed skin and brillo pads….

“Or, and this is my recommendation, we schedule a spinal nerve block.”

Ahhhh another torturous device where a large long horse needle is wiggled deep into the spin,
injecting steroids and anti-inflamation meds directly into the source….

“Ok, I’m in” I said probably a bit too eagerly…
but I think she grasped the fact that the pain has got to go…as in now.

“We’ll need to schedule it with one of the other doctor’s who normally does this sort
of procedure…and I’m afraid it could be a couple of weeks…”

“WHAT?”

Sure enough, the first available time is in two weeks.

“I can do anything for two weeks,” I hear myself chanting in my head.
That use to be my mantra when I was a much younger mother and teacher.

I would always have to take some sort of continuing ed training or coursework,
usually during the short summer, and it always seemed to be for two weeks.

I despised having to give up my precious home-time–
Whenever I was home, that’s when I savored being like a full time wife and mom…
Having to give up any of the sacred home-time was…in a word, torturous…

But….

I would always reassure myself that both my young son and me could manage anything for two weeks…

Just as I reminded myself today, “I can do anything for two weeks…”
even if it means living with constant pain, no energy and no moments of rest…
while now dealing with poor dad’s conundrum….

All this while as thoughts of just running around naked seemed to make perfect sense as nothing
would then be rubbing on the skin where angry nerves recoiled at the slightest touch.

Which brings us back to the previous observation of the gentleman at the bar…

Whereas I feebly attempted to soothingly reassure myself that I could do anything for two weeks,
perhaps this particular gentleman, who found that he needed a shot of fortitude just to endure
dinner with his wife, had it more aptly figured out…

As I quipped to the nurse, “two weeks is fine, but please call me if anything comes available
sooner… as you may just find me at a bar drinking heavily….”

Here’s to doing anything for two weeks…along with a shot of fortitude!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13