loneliness or alone…a matter of perspective

Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses
the glory of being alone.

Paul Tillich


(somebody’s watching you, or acutaly they were watching me / Julie Cook / 2018)

You may remember about a week or so ago I posted a curious image of a pile of bluebird
feathers beneath one of my bluebird boxes.

I surmised from the mass of scattered feathers that something bad and somewhat
tragic had taken place during the veil of darkness.

I also knew we had marauding raccoons who often came to visit the yard at night,
scavenging the stale bread I often throw out back for the birds.

And I knew that raccoons were notorious for stealing bird eggs.

A quick internet search also revealed that they are not choosy when it comes to their
need for a meal.
They are equally notorious for snatching whole birds.

I was rather crestfallen when I thought that the poor bluebird family this year was not
to be thanks to my four-legged black masked visitors…

That was until I walked past the same box where previously a pile of feather lay…
and I suddenly felt that odd feeling when you realize you’re not exactly alone.

I turned toward the bird box and saw what I thought to be an eyeball staring at me.

Watching me ever so closely.

Over the course of a few minutes, the eyeball became two eyeballs…

And then an entire head…

And so it appears that Mrs. Bluebird is alive and well, yet I fear she just might
be a widow.

And as I stood staring at this lone little head peeking out of a birdbox, the notion of this
lone bird now having to sit on a nest of eggs, hatch said eggs and in turn work
like mad to feed the now filled nest of hungry mouths…filled me with a bit of melancholy.

And so I found myself overcome by the odd thought of loneliness and of being alone.

And whereas I know that birds don’t necessarily look at the circumstance of life as I do…
it’s just the fact that I have the knowledge of knowing how hard things will be for
her raising a brood without the help of a mate sharing in the endless search for food
for wanting little mouths.

It reminded me of my own bit of emptiness when it’s time for my little
granddaughter to go home.
Such as she did Sunday.
I find myself with such a lonely ache in my soul.
Not that bird’s heart’s ache or that they have a soul for that matter…

Yet despite these thoughts of a bird’s loneliness and of my own feelings and sense
of a lonely ache, I recalled reading recently an interesting article about
the skyrocketing epidemic in this country centering around loneliness.

The title of the article was
“God may have put you in a lonely place for an incredible reason”
by Pastor Rick McDaniel

Now I know that lots of folks will scoff at the linked thoughts of loneliness
to what we believe
to be a loving, all knowing, all powerful God…
I also know that there will those who will scoff at any sort idea of a God…
Plus that there will be those who will scoff at the notion of our being alone
as an impetus for our, in turn, reaching up and outward from ourselves…
oblivious and unaware of what gifts may actually await us just beyond our
aching empty hearts…

I know how hard it can be when one is in the midst of feeling so utterly
void and alone to imagine that God’s hand could or would be ever so close…

However, I have always been comforted by the words of Padre Pio, that mysterious Capuchin monk
who taught that it is in the depths of our greatest suffering in which God is actually the
closest to us.

There are many who will question such a statement…
but in the hindsight of my own life, I have seen the truth behind his words.

Yet for many, it is the depths of loneliness when there is a real feeling of anger and
resentment toward the unseen God who in our suffering, believe is choosing not to
“rescue” us from our plight of loneliness thus our belief that that is cause for
our feelings of anger.

Yet as Pastor McDaniel points out,
“Sometimes God causes us to seek him by driving us to him through the loneliness we experience.
We can get angry, depressed or we can see it as a gift.
Loneliness is a great benefit if we have drawn closer to Christ.”

While at the same time, I find this whole notion of skyrocketing loneliness an odd result
from the advent of social media where anyone can be connected to everyone with just
the click of a button…

And while our obsession with technological engagement has created a generation of
folks who more often than not feel utterly isolated,
albeit for the screen of an electronic device,
it is that very sense of isolation that can either lead us up and out of ourselves
to something much greater and so much more…or cause us to sink into despair…

I think it’s a matter of perspective…

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/05/26/god-may-have-put-in-lonely-place-for-incredible-reason.html

the melodies of woo

Men are April when they woo,
December when they wed.
Maids are May when they are maids,
but the sky changes when they are wives.

William Shakespeare

“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Alfred Tennyson


(sweetgum tree with a traveling minstral perched high above / Julie Cook / 2018)

I heard it long before I saw it.
Loud yet sweetly melodic.

I scanned the area.
Surely it was close…but as I followed the harmonious calls,
my eyes carried me out toward the backfield meadow then high atop a sweetgum tree.

And there they sat…or more aptly put, swayed gently in the afternoon breeze,
balancing ever just so at the very top of the tender tip-top branch of the sweet gum tree.

Uncertain as to whom I was exactly listening to serenading his love, I grabbed my camera
in order to zoom in to identify this lofty crooner.

And low and behold, it was my resident mockingbird…singing ever so sweetly, ever so tenderly,
ever so joyously to the young lady of his fancy who just so happened to be sitting on
a nearby branch.

Ode to a young man bird and his fancy of love…
sadly, she flew away…

The Young Man’s Song
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

I whispered, “I am too young,”
And then, “I am old enough”;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
“Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair,”
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away,
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

dizziness, spectacles and extravaganzas

“This is quite a fight.
Orthodox Christians believe that we are caught up in a very serious struggle between Good and evil,
and evil tries to trick us and hide the good from us;
usually by dressing up something corrupt which pretends to be goodness itself.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

“It seems to me that there is ‘a spirit of dizziness’,
not only in the hysteria of the mob culture we live in,
not only amongst the liberal anti-Gospel leaders in the Church (such as Bishop Curry);
but now sadly even amongst good and faithful evangelical leaders,
who seemed to swallow the Bishop’s hook, line and sinker.”

David Robertson


(a curious jackdaw watches from the crumbling walls at The Rock of Cashel,
County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I am amazed more and more each day the way in which Satan is at work.

Yet here’s the thing…
most of us don’t like to acknowledge Satan because if we do, we scare ourselves.

Or if we do acknowledge him, we try to make him very small…for that same very reason…
that we tend to scare ourselves with such thoughts.

However we should know, he likes that.

The smaller the better…
An out of sight out of mind sort of approach.

Christians and most folks in general, don’t like being reminded of things
like Satan…that whole ying-yang business of Christianity, faith and a belief in God
countered by an acknowledgment of darkenss, evil, sin and Satan.

For where there is God, there is the polar opposite of God.
But we aren’t keen on the polar opposite of anything other than good, happy
or feel good.

So instead of filling our minds with the negative of bad things,
we prefer to just go about our daily business with little to no thought
of a devil, or evil, or names such as Lucifer or Satan.

That is until something really bad happens, forcing us to take notice…
But then we will, just as abruptly and quickly, turn away as a child with our fingers thrust
in our ears refusing to hear or acknowledge the truth for what it is.

So it is those quiet little day to day advances that Satan takes great pride in…
a stealthy approach to our demise.

I use to always remind my students to be careful about leaving the back door open…

That being the back door of their lives.

I would remind them that Satan does not like to use the front door…
because he does not like to be so obvious nor readily announced.
Rather he prefers using the back door.
A door that is most often overlooked, most often unlocked,
and if the truth be told, left propped open for easy comings and goings.

Elder Paisios, who was a well known Eastern Orthodox ascetic monk who spent the majority of his
life living in a monastery on the holy island of Mt Athos just off the coast of Greece,
once wrote that
“The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware,
those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict
them with self-assurance, logic, thinking criticism.
Therefore we should not trust our logical minds.”

And it is indeed along the lines of this spiritual affliction of ours,
or more aptly, this insidious spiritual warfare which is currently besieging Christianity,
that both our friends the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson, and our favorite rogue Anglican
bishop have each addressed in separate posts offered in just so many days apart.

In the last 48 hours, both clerics have been asked and have offered a few thoughts regarding
the gala which took place this past weekend in the UK.

And in case you missed it…the gala in question was a small wedding that transpired between
one of the Queen’s grandson’s and an American bi-racial, once divorced, actress.

It has been quite the fodder for the tabloids as well as all things news.

Let all of that sink in.
A British Royal former bad boy playboy and a divorced, bi-racial American actress.
Oh the cultural kumbiya found in such a union! Why then shouldn’t the Archbishop
opt to use a wedding as a commentary for the progressive culture wars?!

And whereas the spectacle itself was enough to send all of the entertainment industry,
Hollywood’s ilk and kin, as well as all things newsy into a royal dither, the Archbishop
of Canterbury had to add his own special touch by inviting an American Episcopal cleric,
an invitation mind you that was unbeknownst to the happy soon to wed couple, to come
participate in the ceremony and whip up the already salivating participants and the news
anchors into a higher level of a spinning tizzy then whence they previously were.

Bishop Ashenden notes that “The dear couple had no idea who was being asked to
preach at their wedding.
It was an idea that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
had suggested to them.
They were hardly in a position to know or refuse…

So when Justin Welby suggested Michael Curry as the preacher on this astonishing
world-wide stage, he was also signing up one of the most effective street fighters
for progressive, distorted Christianity who – with great charm and verve –
presents his own preferred version of Jesus to the real one we find in the Gospels.

And yet many folks will have missed the full impact of such a speaker at such an event.
The good bishop reminds us that by having such a speaker as a Bishop Curry this
“matters very much.”

Curry spoke of fire, love, slavery, sex and yes, Jesus in a very lively, entertaining and
most animated fashion.
In other words, he was the entertainment.
However entertainment that many mistakenly thought to be great Gospel teaching…
but the problem was that his “teaching” was anything but that of Holy.

Bishop Ashenden observes that “Curry’s Jesus is preoccupied with social Justice and the
celebration of romance and sexual love wherever it finds you.
The real Jesus warned that social justice would never happen in this world,
that heterosexual marriage was to be between a man and a woman,
and that equality had nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven.

Curry twists that round and turns it upside down. He says Jesus likes homosexual marriage
and favours the quest for equality that left-wing politicians have made their life’s work.
Curry says wherever you find ‘love’ you have found God.
But when Jesus defines love it sounds very different from Curry.

Love for Jesus starts with honouring and obeying the Father who created us and
renouncing anything that displeases Him and pollutes his holiness.

Jesus warned his followers time and time again against people who would come in
His name and teach different things.

What we have in the Anglican world at the moment is a struggle for the soul of the Church
and a struggle to tell the truth about God and present the real Jesus.

There is a wonderful saying from Orthodox (Eastern) Christianity,
that our aim ought to be ‘to stand before the real God with the real self with our mind
in our heart’.”

And so what we have is just another back door we’ve left open.
The back door to a very worldly and cultural event in which we’ve allowed to become
something it is not…that being a sanctioned and ordained act of God.

And whereas I am not inferring that an Archbishop nor a Bishop are of the devil, I do
believe however that their own personal backdoors have been left wide open as they
work very hard to twist and rewrite the Gospel to suit today’s most progressive
agenda-

Could we, in our wildest imagination and dreams, think that those who wear collars or
those who stand in pulpits or those who hold bibles could ever be capable of a
distorting, twisting or even changing the very doctrine of our faith,
our beliefs or rewrite the very words of God???
Surely not.

Yet were we not warned that even the devil’s own can easily quote scripture?

“In truth there is only one freedom – the holy freedom of Christ, whereby He freed us from sin,
from evil, from the devil.
It binds us to God. All other freedoms are illusory, false, that is to say, they are all,
in fact, slavery.”

St. Justin Popovich

Links to both posts here:

The struggle to tell the truth about Jesus. Welby, Curry and the integrity of the Gospel.

Right Royal Preaching

something sinister

People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
Hermann Hesse


(birdhouse / Julie Cook / 2018)

So do you remember the other day when I posted a few pictures of one of my bluebird houses
with a wad of straw appearing to be pushed out of the hole?
I made mention of how I clean out all the boxes in February as birds like to basically start fresh
each season.
Much like we do—when buying a house and moving, we usually like to buy a cleaned up house in
which to move in to.

The image got me thinking about spring cleaning…
of how we not only literally seem to find renewing projects each new spring season that
we must be about—such as the cleaning out of the old while making way for the new…
but that Springtime is also a good reminder for the need to be about our spiritual cleaning
and renewal needs as well.

So imagine my dismay when I walked past the birdhouse yesterday and noticed, oddly, that
the straw was no longer poking out of the hole but was now rather pushed back inside.

Yet upon further inspection, I noted a single blue feather stuck to the box.
Hmmmmmmm…

It began to dawn on me that I’d really not seen the bluebirds as of late scooting in an out of the
box like I normally do.
They are typically really quite busy this time of year as I often hear the chattering chirps of
a young brood emanating from deep within the box.

I’ve not heard that.

Upon further inspection, I spotted something most alarming…

I also notice that one of the bird feeders is hanging precariously on two of the three chains as if something had unchained the feeder—the feeder which is oddly completely empty…

My suspect…

So yes, I have raccoons that frequent our yard.
I’ve caught them many a time at night rummaging around the feeders as well as grabbing up the
stale bread that I’d tossed out earlier for the birds.

I knew raccoons would steal eggs from the nest of birds, but would they actually take a bird?
And a quick little search revealed that yes, raccoons will take a bird from a nest…

Whereas it does sound cruel and even sinister, I suppose I have to view this nature
doing what nature does.
Yet it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Unsuspecting, living life, taking care of a brood, then disaster and devastation strikes
in the dark of night…

This sad reminder of wildlife doing what wildlife does brings to mind another who
prefers to come in the dark shadows of night..taking that which is truly not his…

his is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of
light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

groanings

“A revival may be expected when Christians have a spirit of prayer for a revival.
That is, when they pray as if their hearts were set upon it.
When Christians have the spirit of prayer for a revival.
When they go about groaning ouheart’sr hearts desire.
When they have real travail of soul.”

Charles Grandison Finney


(no visitors to the flowers / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day a fellow blogger, Colorstorm over on The Lion’s Den, offered a post musing
about Genesis and the stories of God’s Cheribum.
Cheribum are found in various pieces of scripture throughout both Old and New Testament.

However, CS digressed somewhat to a different thought…that being the latest news on
Hawaii’s volcanic eruptions with the following observation:
“What fool would not enjoy the mercy of God?
We currently see the fiery lava flows in Hawaii, and should beg God to spare us,
but we do not, and act as if this freak of nature is common as the underappreciated rain
from heaven. (but I digress)”

(full post here:
https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/not-particularly-now/#comment-18179)

And so it was his digression that got me thinking.

My mind went to the mention in Scripture about the groanings of the earth.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth
right up to the present time.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship,
the redemption of our bodies.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?

Romans 8:22-24

Which brought my mind around to my own more up close and personal observations.

This Spring has been a bit quiet.
Quiet in an odd and unsettling sort of way.

The usual and almost taken for granted flurry of activity in the yard between the birds,
bees, butterflies, etc.,
has not been what is typically seen for this time of year.

Truthfully, I consciously first took notice of this back in February when I had not seen a
single robin bobbing about the yard in search of stirring grubs and worms.
Usually, by February my yard is awash in robins—yet nary a one had been seen until just the
other week. And then it was merely two birds.

My hummingbirds, my typical clan of three, showed briefly in April, disappeared for several
weeks while just yesterday I noticed a single male dashing about.

Usually when the blueberry bushes are blooming, of which takes place in late March into early April,
the bushes are a buzzing melee of bees of every shape and description along with a myriad
of butterflies.
But do you know that I can count on one hand how many butterflies I’ve actually seen visiting the
yard this Spring?
A tiger swallowtail, a little coastal skipper, and a small white butterfly.
This coming from a yard that could typically pass as a butterfly house.

All of which is so very very out of sync for my small neck of the woods.

Now biologists, who have already raised the alarm over the slow yet noticeable disappearance
of frogs and that of their kin, would chalk my observations up to climate change or perhaps
even just a fluke of a year….or maybe some overuse of pesticides in the area…

But that I don’t buy.

Vulcanologists are most likely chalking up Hawaii’s volcanic activity to the natural
occurrences taking place deep down within the earth…
As those Pacific islands were formed by volcanos, it should come as no surprise
that there’s still volcanic activity on islands where there are active volcanoes.

However the haphazard and precarious in all of this is that people happen to live
near the volcano.

Houses have been destroyed and thousands of folks are now dispersed, evacuated and devastated
while tourism is a bit on hold as this area of the world just happens to be what the US
consider’s her own personal piece of paradise…
and paradise just happens to be currently teetering on a molten and burning inferno.

Yet my thoughts rest not readily nor so easily on the dismissive reasons found within the
pages of the textbooks of the geothermal world or that of climate change.
Not that I don’t believe man and his quest for bigger, better and more has not had a
progressively negative impact on our environment…we have and we are currently doing
a nice job of destruction…
however…

The earth is groaning.

The smallest indicators of this world are bothered…

Yet the earth has groaned since that fateful day when the gates to Paradise were forever
shut to man…yet shut with a promise that those groanings would only increase with time…
for the time is approaching when a Holy foot will touch the mountain that will split
under the power of something greater than this world has yet to ever see or experience.

The tiniest amongst us know.
The earth groans—for she knows.
And all of mankind will soon tremble…

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant.
And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder,
an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

Revelation 11:19

Spring cleaning

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once,
“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very
splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.”

Robert Frost


(blue bird box obviously under some sort of construction / Julie Cook / 2018)

Pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car, I hear the familiar chatter of the
resident birds that grace our yard. Glancing over at the birdhouses dotting the trees,
I think I see a bluebird poking its head out of one of the boxes.

Instinctively I race for my camera as I’ve not had much opportunity this spring to
take many pictures of life in the yard.

Focusing in with the camera, I quickly realize that I’m not seeing a bluebird poking her
head out of the box but rather a wad of straw…
as if it’s being pushed up and out of the box.

Each year, usually late February, I always open up all of the boxes in order to clean out
the old nests and straw….because who wants to move into to someone else’s leftover mess?

However, it appears as if someone, bird or not, is busy with a bit of spring cleaning…
As I am reminded of my own bit of Spring cleaning waiting for me…

However my cleaning, where much of it is to be of the literal…
that of scrubbing, washing, and sorting…
my cleaning also needs to be taking place from within.

Each of us must be mindful in our remembrance that Springtime is not merely the time
in which all of Creation sheds the old while producing the new, the fresh, the radiant
and the young…
Spring is also the time for us, mankind, to shed our old while taking on a newness
of fresh beginnings as well.

Shedding the dust and weight of the heaviness of our old sinful selves—
Ridding ourselves of that ever-present sinful nature of man, as we step outward and forward
with the Resurrected Christ into the light of a new dawn…

There is certainly no rest for the weary!

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this
day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates,
or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15

Sometimes God just grabs you by the collar…

“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”
William Hazlitt


(yellow finch / Julie Cook / 2018)

If you are familiar with the prayer practice of Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading,
then you understand what it is to be reading a piece of scripture only to have a
portion, or entire sentence, just jump right off the page demanding your full attention.

According to BibleGateway…
Lectio divina (pronounced “lec-tsee-oh di-vee-nah”),
Latin for “sacred reading,” “divine reading,” or “holy reading,”
is a spiritual practice that has been in use for over a thousand years.
It was originally practiced by monks (Benedictine*) who spent a large portion of their days
praying and reading Scripture.

While reading they noticed that at times individual words, phrases, or verses seemed
to leap off of the page with a special personal importance.
Have you had the same experience?
These special words or verses can give a sense of encouragement,
comfort, thankfulness, or conviction that often applies to present situations
and can draw us closer to God.

Lectio divina is an intimate way of communicating with the Lord.
All too often in prayer and worship, we talk to God but don’t give him a chance to
communicate back to us.
Lectio divina employs God’s own words to have a personal conversation with him.

(*my insertion)

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/scripture-engagement/lectio-divina/home

I have read many a book about this ancient type of prayer but have not been as “religious”
in my own practice of such.
Probably in part because I tend to not be as disciplined as I should with Divine reading…

Oh don’t get me wrong, I do have my morning prayer routine where I read scripture and
then pray the Divine office as I then move on to begin on my own personal prayers.

But neither time nor life has ever afforded me the opportunity to actually sit
and ruminate for any real length of time.
Rather the demands of the day usually force me to move on while the ruminating lingers…
banging on the back of my brain until I finally zoom my focus on that banging noise.

However, yesterday morning as I began reading the daily reading and came to the Psalm
verse used for the refrain for the Morning lessons, I was met with one sentence
that grabbed for my attention as if pleading with me to stop.

“I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous;
I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High”

Psalm 7:18

And it was that second part of the sentence, the “I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High”
that seemed to be vying for my full attention.

And maybe that’s the thing…I’ll admit that I don’t praise or offer thanksgiving
as much as I should because it seems that I’m spending most of my time busying myself
entreating God to please, oh please, hear me and hear these prayers of mine…
these prayers of need…

As it is always the prayers of ‘need’ that seem to take precedence…needs for health,
needs for jobs, needs for watchfulness, needs for protection, needs for safety,
needs for guidance…

Prayers not so much for me mind you but for those whom I’m praying for…
all of which, I suppose do, in turn, bring me into the picture as I’m the one imploring
because of a vested interest…

So since it seems that God has been throwing out a few signals my way…
A prayer of petition followed by a big loud “Thank you!!!” is obviously in order…

So Thank You, God!!!
Thank you for hearing my petitions and for knowing long before I do,
how it all turns out despite my fretfulness!!!

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.

Psalm 113