discernment, obedience and wandering…

“A man must go through a long and great conflict in himself before
he can learn fully to overcome himself,
and to draw his whole affection towards God.
When a man stands upon himself he is easily drawn aside
after human comforts.
But a true lover of Christ, and a diligent pursuer of virtue,
does not hunt after comforts, nor seek such sensible sweetnesses,
but is rather willing to bear strong trials and hard labors for Christ.”

Thomas a’ Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ


(a lone willet wanders in the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook /2021)

Long ago and far away in a lifetime other than this current one, I was
a young, rather naive
no, make that a stubborn and hard headed 20 something.

20 something seems to be the age in which we tend to make
some of our more major decisions…be that college majors,
career paths, relationship choices, moving, staying, coming
or going…the ground work of life seems to really get serious
when we are in our early 20’s.

I have always been one who has tried desperately to listen to that
still small voice found within.

It’s just that the majority of my life, that voice has been more or less,
inaudible.
As in I really need, want, prefer to be hit in the head as I can’t ever
hear that resounding yes or no.

It just seems that I have had to guess throughout so much of my life,
feeling my way blindly in the dark.

For me, I have always believed that that still small voice is
not my own. It is to be the voice of God…
or simply put, the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

This is where the notion of discernment enters into the picture.
We listen, hear and prayerfully discern…God’s will for our lives

So what exactly is discernment you ask?
Well Merriam Webster tells us that discernment is the quality of being able
to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

Grasping and comprehending the obscure.

I think one’s future can certainly be the stuff of the obscure.

And since I’m recalling a past tale concerning an obscure future…
let me continue with said tale.
.
So yes…many lifetimes ago as a young 20 something,
I made a major life decision…hoping I had discerned correctly God’s
desired choice for my life.

The problem, however, was that I had never heard God’s audible yay or nay.
I was rather going on some sort of rote autopilot…following that
which I thought I was supposed to do.

And so, once I had made such a decision, I was set.
There was no turning back.

Obedience or stubbornness—that is yet to be seen.
But when I commit, I tend to do so with both feet.
It’s all in or nothing.
No waffling here.
It’s for better or worse.
Wise or stupid.

And so it was, at this point of my life, I can remember that my godmother
had gotten wind of this particular major decision of mine.

My godmother was a very Godly woman.
Wise yet doggedly determined…as in, her feet were firmly planted
and there was no straying…because she had prayed, heard, discerned
and was now firmly set.

She just always seemed to have a direct line to God and was always lead
by that very resounding direct line.

So when I went to tell my godmother of this particular decision of mine
on this particular day in time, a debate most severe ensued.

She did not think my decision was made with prayerful discernment
but was more of a youthful whim.

A 3 hour roller coaster of back and forth filled the afternoon.

Eventually, I left mad and more determined than when I had arrived
and she, I know, was frustrated and equally defiant.

She had time on her side…a lifetime of experience.
I had only but the gut feeling of a young person still
finding her way.

So where is all of this going you ask.

Well, the other day, our dear friend Oneta, over on Sweet Aroma
(https://onetahayes.com), made mention of this same sort of notion.

She wrote of decision making.
Decisions made inside and outside of God’s will.

Oneta spoke of discernment vs having to wander in a desert.
Meaning that if decisions are made outside of God’s will,
there will be consequences…as in wandering in deserts.
Meaning that God will allow us to wander…
allowing us to go nowhere no time fast.

That is until…

So back to my little story.

At this particular time in my life, I had a good friend who
was about 12 years older than me.
She had watched me grow over the years, often lending a guiding hand or
word.
She too got wind of my decision…plus she got wind of the rift
between godmother and goddaughter.

Unbeknownst to me this wise friend of mine went to my
equally wise godmother.

She told my godmother, as she later told me, that whether or not
my decision was, at the time, within God’s will or not…was not
my friend’s worry because what she knew was that regardless,
God would eventually, in His perfect time,
work that decision of mine to be within His perfect will.

My wise godmother yielded to the wisdom of another…
adding more wisdom to the arsenal.

Now how all that works is beyond my mere mortal’s brain, but I am grateful
that is does work.

The lesson here…
an oft decision can indeed become God’s will because of God’s will.

Not to say there won’t be struggles, frustration, or suffering.
God, however, works all things to His good…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

but wait…you want to know if I wandered or not right??

Well, I’m not certain.
If I’m like the Israelites, I might have two more years to figure that out.

But just know, there has been a lot of other wanderings I
been walking…

we are better than this

“Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy
from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after
they have got possession.”

George Washington

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
George Washington


(A Tattered American Flag Flies is a photograph by Dennis Drenner
which was uploaded on January 24th, 2018.)

“Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us no choice but
a brave resistance, or the most abject submission;
this is all we can expect –
We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die:
Our own Country’s Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous
and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail,
we shall become infamous to the whole world.
Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause,
and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is,
to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions –
The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us,
and we shall have their blessings, and praises,
if happily we are the instruments of saving them from
the Tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore
animate and encourage each other, and shew the whole world,
that a Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground
is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”

George Washington

“As Mankind becomes more liberal,
they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves
as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections
of civil government.
I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations
of justice and liberality.”

George Washington

education verses wisdom

Before He is power… God is Mercy, Love and Vulnerability
and He wants to make us into
that same image.

The Rev. Gavin Ashenden


(a section of the magnificent Library at Dublin’s Trinity College / Julie Cook / 2015)

As a former educator, whenever there is talk about our ailing school system–
-of which has been an instrumental part of the bedrock of Western Civilization since
the beginning of such time, my ears most assuredly are always piqued.

I have read, watched and lamented these many months now over the fracas and
sideshows that seem to be happening across our major universities and colleges—
even since before last year’s election was really heating up.

Tales of snowflakes, cupcakes, safe zones, coloring sessions, happy talk and
fairylands has left me both frustrated as well as sad.

The images coming from so many upscale universities and colleges of violent protests
have amounted to nothing more than overgrown temper tantrums…
as students, and even the supposed role models of educators, converge upon all things
they currently find themselves whining against….
All the while administrators are afraid…afraid of law suits, of life, limb and job security as they stand cowering, daring to say nary a word.

Be it speakers who have actually been invited to discuss various viewpoints,
writings or books that just so happen to run counter to the current self absorption
many students are currently wallowing in—-
Or the odd professor who tries to offer some actual sort of sanity by suggesting
that the students should maintain an open mind…..

These students will immediately either rudely walk out
on said guest in some sort of protest when the lecturer dares to
say something these students find “offensive”—or even worse, they will go into a
fit of violent rage….
as most everything said today seems offensive to them.

Were not our hallowed halls of higher education intended for a better purpose?

Intended not to only stir the consciousness of young minds but to challenge said
youthful minds to dig deeper and go further…all in a quest of learning while seeking knowledge and dare we say it, eventually a bit of wisdom….

Did we not ourselves, as students, seek to further our education in order to
learn new thoughts and ideas while venturing further into the
unknown of possibilities?

So I have found it perhaps no coincidence that two of my favorite clerics
from across the pond, just this very week, were discussing issues about both
learning and wisdom in this most modern topsy turvy world of ours.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson was musing about knowledge and wisdom from the standpoint of the Book of Ecclesiastes and King Solomon while The Rev Gavin Ashenden
discussed the growing concern that anyone who upholds traditional Christian views, particularly on a college campuses, is perceived as anathema and a cause for
censorship—or even worse.

Pastor Robertson reminds us that “in our Western cultures we have largely
forgotten what education is supposed to be about—[that being] the search for wisdom.”

He goes on—We live in a culture where there is lots of information –
but little understanding: what the Bible calls wisdom.

This lack of wisdom is what results in a great deal of argument, irrationality, confirmation bias, fake news, virtue signalling and ignorant prejudice.

He continues….
It is that human beings observe and what we observe in real life is not
always pleasant. There is a heavy burden God has laid on men.
We may live as secularists but the problems we face have been ordained by God.
Mankind thinks and plans. We have been wired that way.
We want to understand.
The problem of life is for us all not just a hobby for philosophers.
The quest of meaning is a quest for God and it is something that God has placed
in our hearts.

Today we may know a lot more.
But are we happier?

Have we progressed?
Are we wiser?
Lets be brutally honest – most of us cannot face the truth.
‘With much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.’
Is it not the case that the more we really understand, the more we ache?
Is that not why people escape into the fantasy world of films, dramas,
drink and drugs, celebrity gossip and computer games?

David Robertson

Wisdom and Meaning for the 21st Century – Ecclesiastes

Bishop Ashenden in the latest interview on Anglican Unscripted explains that
“our colleges are broken”

He notes one example as to just how broken with the story about the former Bishop of Rochester, who just so happens to be a greatly esteemed theologian and gifted orator,
had been invited to speak at Cambridge. Yet it seems that someone did a little digging
into the background of this intended guest and discovered that he was a priest
who actually held traditional views regarding marriage…
imagine that…
a priest with traditional views….
Who upon which discovery was quickly uninvited.

As it seems that anyone who has a counter thought, particularly one that is a
more Orthodox thought or standpoint, is no longer welcome on the campuses of
higher learning.

The good Bishop notes that Orthodox Christians are being grossly marginalized…
particularly by our more liberal society and on our campuses of higher learning.

Both men agree that there is rather  a sad and frightening trend that we are turning out generations of individuals who have not actually gone to college to seek knowledge or
even wisdom but rather those who have been coddled and merely given a piece of paper

The good Scottish Pastor Robertson notes that “we live in a culture where there is lots of
information – but little understanding…
adding that perhaps it would behoove us to
“stop following the marketing and ‘knowledge’ ways of this world.
Instead let’s return to the ancient paths of wisdom and seek the Lord whilst
he may be found.
We can chase the wind – or we can build on the Rock!

Perhaps a suitable motto for every school and University and church would be these
words from Hosea 14:9.

Who is wise?
Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning?
Let them understand.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea 14:9.

We all have them…

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
Elisabeth Elliot

images
(Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II / image borrowed from the web)

Elizabeth has had them….
She’s actually had what she referenced as an annus horribilis
An entire bad year…

Churchill had them…
just mention the word Gallipoli

Eddison had them…
think electric chair

David had them…
think plotting to have someone killed just to cover up your own bad choices…
As it just seems to get worse and worse…..

Joseph had them…
think betrayal by your own brothers…

Paul had them…
as it took three days of blindness to figure it out that raging murderous ways were not
the best use of ones talents.

Peter had them…
something about crowing roosters

Einstein had them…
A Nobel Prize winner actually failed his college entrance exam

Louis Zamperini had them…
think plane crash, 47 days in a life raft and over 2 years as a POW

FDR had them…
one word…polio

Indeed, we’ve all had them…
bad days,
bad weeks,
bad months,
bad years,
bad turns,
bad runs,
bad lives…

Times we would just rather forget.
Times we wish we could ask for the re-do or the re-start
Times we found unbearable, insurmountable and devastating…
Times we thought we’d not survive…

The thing is we will all face them…
bad times,
hard days,
difficult periods in our lives.

Some will seem endless as others will seem to be the end of us…

It will not be a matter of when they come…
because they will come whether or not we are ready, prepared or armed…

The important thing will not be what they do to us,
But rather what we do in spite of them…

Will we be beaten?
Giving up,
Lying down,
Rolling over,
Giving in…
growing bitter
resentful
resigned
hateful…

Or will we come out of it…
better,
stronger,
wiser,
kinder
even more courageous than before….

Unknown

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

The Shadows of our Illusions

If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.
Herman Hesse

Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.
George Orwell

DSC02241
(a western setting sun reflected from one of the many skyscrapers on the Nashville skyline / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02245
(Nashville skyline at dusk / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

Man creates, builds and constructs.
Why?
Because he can.
Always bigger, always taller, always grander. . .
Why?
Because he wants to be bigger, taller and grander than the next guy. . .
Endlessly seeking that which is exquisite, beautiful and spectacular. . .
Why?
Because he looks to fulfill a longing. . .
For what is it that man so longs. . .?
Man longs to fill a void. . .
An emptiness of that which is greater than man himself. . .
A void of that which is Divine
Why is that?
Could it because man longs for that part within his being that is open, unfulfilled and yearning for something which he simply cannot recognize as greater than himself. . .
and so he makes, he creates, he builds, he looks, he longs. . .

The Great Disturbance of Our Illusion
The idea that there is something eternal and infinite makes our souls anxious in their mortality.
They want to reach beyond themselves to immortality;
they themselves want to be immortal but know not where to begin. . .
Out of this disquiet of the soul have come the mighty works of philosophy and art:
The systems of Plato and Hegel, the Adam of Michelangelo,
the quartets and symphonies of Beethoven, the Gothic cathedrals,
the paintings of Rembrandt, and the Faust and Prometheus of Goethe.
They were all overpowered by the idea of something eternal and immortal. . .
At the same time, the most grandiose and delicate of all human
attempts to strive for the eternal out of the heart’s anxiety and restlessness is religion. . .
Human beings have found the way to light, to joy, to eternity.
The human race could proudly point to the flourishing of its spirit,
were it not for one thing namely, that God is God and grace is grace (Romans 11:6).
Here comes the great disturbance of our illusions and our blessed culture, the disturbance that God himself causes and that is made graphic in the old myth of the tower of Babel. Our way to the eternal was interrupted, and with our philosophy and art, our morality and religion, we fall into the depths from which we came. For another way had penned up, the way of God to humanity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Barcelona, Berlin, Amerika 1928-1931
I Want to Live These Days with You