Update on Martha: Soon to be making those big decisions–Which Glass ?!?

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We’ve waited all day for word. Surgery ran later than expected, but she’s finally out, in ICU and seems to be as ornery as ever—-probably more so than usual—here is to Martha, recovering rapidly and getting back to the big decisions of life— as in choosing which glass for which wine at De Florentijnen in Bruges, Belgium….

Thank you to all who have offered prayers and good wishes, for not only Martha, her surgery and recovery but for those who have offered me and my small family support and prayers…for those of you who have tiny families such as ours— you understand the importance of the greater community of “family”….prayers will continue these next few days of initial recovery and for rapid healing….Blessings and Peace

“What is my poverty?”

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(photograph: Wooden sculpture of the Virgin at Calvary, 15th C. Flanders/The Gruuthuse Museum (adjacent to the Church of Our Lady) Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook/ 2011)

August 18–Daily reading
Our Poverty, God’s Dwelling Place
How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich?
Poverty has many forms.
We have to ask ourselves, “What is my poverty?”
Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner,
lack of security, lack of safety, lac of self-confidence?
Each human being has a place of poverty.
That’s the place where God wants to dwell!
“How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3).
This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.
We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it.
Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land in which our treasure is hidden.

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Bread for the Journey

I was so taken by this entry from August 18th, in my Henri Nouwen daily devotional regarding poverty. When I think of poverty, I immediately think of a lack of food, a lack of shelter, lack of income, a lack of housing…I think of people who are struggling with the basics just to live and survive—
I don’t often think of the more intrinsic issues when I think of poverty.

Why is that?

Is it because of our Government’s defining of poverty, which seems based on income, or the lack thereof?
Is it because when we see people sleeping on park benches or in cardboard boxes in the middle of our urban world we equate that with Poverty?

According to Henri Nouwen, we all have areas of, or issues with, poverty.

That was/ is a powerful revelation for me.

Just because someone may have a secure job, a steady source of income, all of which insures the purchasing of food, clothing and shelter, which are met or are even exceeded, does not make them immune to poverty.
Just because someone has a nice home, a nice car, nice clothes does not exempt them fro Poverty.

Perhaps it is an aching heart, a void in one’s life, ill health, isolation, fear…all are forms of poverty. Places within our very being that find us “in need of”…

But there in those secret, or obvious, places of need dwells the Divine—our God, who seeks to fill the voids, the lacking, the needs…there, in the void, is the healing.

But first we must admit the void in order to begin experiencing the healing, the blessing, the Grace.

May I examine those areas of poverty in my own life rather than ignore them or deny their existence. May I find that healing Grace. May we all recognize the empty areas, the void within, our areas of need and find our God dwelling within…..
Amen.
Amen

to wander far from home

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

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(photograph: Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook/ 2011)

Isn’t this a lovely place? A beautifully inviting home…neat,cheery, pretty, and very welcoming. Just looking at this courtyard home makes me want to call it my own. Never having seen it before nor having ever visited here before, something about this place immediately makes me feel “at home”.

The idea of home means many different things to many different people. It may be a certain place, a particular building or city— it may be the people associated with what forms the idea of home. I think we all have a deep perception of what forms the foundation, the concept, of home–as that is basically formed from childhood. Those early formative days were hopefully, for most, days of feelings of security and belonging. Sadly I do know that not all children experience that sense of security and belonging. However,despite the good or bad initial formative years, we all have some innate desire for, or longing for, regardless of childhood, …. Home.

Have you ever been at home and yet—feel that home is actually somewhere else? It’s as if some other place “out there” is calling out to you but you just don’t know where….have you ever traveled being so excited about the start of a new adventure and yet equally excited about finally returning to “home”?
Happy going and happy coming…and yet there still remains an underlying yearning….

I have always known that yearning. Maybe it goes back to the adoption…maybe not. How can a person have so much fulfillment and still think there is more you ask? When I was in High School I read the book Something More by Catherine Marshall.

I’ve written about Mrs. Marshall before. She became a rather famous Christian author during the 6o’s and 70’s. One of her early books Christy , a story based on her mother’s experience as a teacher in the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains, was the basis for the 1994 television show of the same name, staring Kelly Martin. The story of a young woman who leaves behind her comfortable life with her prestigious family in Asheville, North Carolina, during the early 20th century, in turn venturing into the foreboding Appalachian Mountains, as a young single teacher, wanting to work with some of this country’s most impoverished and superstitious people.

Those families who called the remote mountains home were predominantly settlers from Scotland having arrived in this country at varying times–some coming early during the times of the Revolutionary war in the late 18th century as others were products of the mass emigration days of the turn of the 20th century. The Appalachian Mountains were reminiscent to their ancestral homes in Scotland from whence these families originally hailed—allowing them to keep to the very private and traditional ways of life of extreme territorial family clans. The story of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s is but a small example of this bitter family clan history in this mountain region albeit, for them , based in Kentucky

Mrs. Marshall had been married to Peter Marshall, a well known and widely popular young charismatic Presbyterian minister who had served as Chaplin to the US Senate. Sadly Peter Marshall died from a heart attack at a very early age—leaving Mrs. Marshall, a young widow, to care for the couple’s young son. It was during this time when she wrote her first book, A Man Called Peter, a story based on her husband’s life and rising career through the ministry.

She eventually remarried, continued raising a growing family and continued writing. The first book I read of Mrs. Marshall’s, back in 1977, was her book Something More. Her books had a profound effect on me as a high school kid who was truly on a quest for that very thing…something more. It was however one of her later books, The Helper, that opened a new look into an area of Christianity, which even Christians find mysterious and are not fully confident to discuss —that being the role of The Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

To many Christians the Holy Spirit is an enigma. A member of the Trinity given to us, after the Resurrection, to remain as a sort of guide post, marking the way on a spiritual journey. A concept difficult to sometimes wrap our thoughts around. It is said that we are only able to pray because of the deep seeded piece of the Spirit that resides deep within our souls urging us, calling to us, willing us to communicate with our Father……..

So it has been during this life of mine that I have learned truly one thing…that being when the Holy Spirit touches your heart, you are never the same. You will always be restless. There will always be yearnings because a hole has been seared into the core of the heart. Life becomes a quest to quench that yearning. Sometimes the quest is intentional, sometimes it’s that emptiness that just seems to be driving us deeper into what appears to be the unknown–not understanding why we are feeling “empty” or lost, but just knowing something just isn’t quite right.

It is apparent to me that I need to delve further into the role the Spirit is playing in my life. But I am comforted by this particular verse…..

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15 NIV)

Here is to seeking and soothing the unknown yearnings of our deepest interior. Here is to finding our true “home”….

Going no further than the door

“Man goes far away or near but God never goes far-off; he is always standing close at hand, and even if he cannot stay within he goes no further than the door.”
Meister Eckhart

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(Photograph: Burges, Belgium/ Julie Cook/ 2011)

I suddenly stop walking, being pulled back by something that I’m not sure of. Was it something I saw? Maybe it was something out of the corner of my eye…. Was it the lone bicycle propped against the wall? The red door? What about the red door? Where does it lead? Was it the emptiness of the small courtyard, the solitude beckoning me to enter through the arched wall, brushing past the cascading vines…?

The ancient cobblestones..is that what stopped me? What stories do they tell? Who walked here before me? Not today, not yesterday, but 500 years ago… who was here? Will I hear the voices of those who were here? Flemish, Dutch, French, German…how many languages? Who was it that lived here? Who is here now? Something asks, beckons, urges me to pass through the arched wall. Is it mere curiosity? I think it’s more than that. But what exactly? Why stop, why now……..

That same feeling, that same urging is how I often feel deep in my soul. Life is going along as it usually does when suddenly there is a feeling, an urging, a longing. What is it? Why am I feeling like this? I feel suddenly empty and yet I know there is more, so much more…but what exactly, what is it that I long for, yearn for?

I’ve been reading the book A Noble Treason, the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt. I’ve written about Sophie Scholl before…the young German girl who, along with her brother Hans and a close friend, worked to form an underground youth movement in order to fight against, in a most passive way, the Nazi regime. Eventually being caught, tried in a monkey court and being quickly executed by guillotine. Did the Nazis think that cutting the heads off of 3 young people would silence them better than, say, some other form of execution?

The book takes the reader into the development of Sophie and her brother….into the things that helped form them into “dissidents and enemies of the State”…I was struck by one section that reflected on Hans and his studying the works of the French mathematician, writer, physicist and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal. Pascal had waged a theory about the existence of God “Let us weigh the gain and loss in choosing ‘heads’ that God is. Let us weigh the two cases: If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then unhesitatingly that He is.”

I found that thought most profound.

I wagered a long time ago that He truly is. Now, JEHOVAH – JIREH, JEHOVAH – RAPHA, JEHOVAH €“NISSI speaks deeply to my soul beckoning, yearning for me to come, to enter, to go further. My soul yearns to be satiated….He has beckoned and I must go.

Are you willing to go further than the just the door…..

spiraling towards a great light

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Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3
(photograph: Hotel Oud Huis de Peellaert/ Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook 2011)