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

Hope is Springing

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Alexander Pope


(cue the Lenten Rose / Julie Cook / 2018)

We still have so much to talk about…
So many pressing issues of the soul and the salvation of man.

That being our salvation.

There is so much history that we need to recall, lest we be doomed to repeat it all.

Discussing those things of true importance while discarding those unimportant things
vying for control.

There has been such a wearisome heaviness pressing down on us…
The cold.
The snow.
The political circus of both country and globe.
The helter-skelter stock market.
The flu.
The sheer burdens of our individual lives…
The uncertainty of the uncertainness.

The list seems endless.

I have felt as if I have not been outside, really outside, taking stock
of a winter barren waste-laid landscape in a string of seemingly nonending months of time.

Its just been too cold, too wet, too grey…
just too, too…

Until Tuesday.

I actually went outside and filled up the birdfeeders.
The sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing.
In fact, I could feel the sun’s warmth.
An unfamiliar yet most welcomed sensation.

I cleaned out the bird boxes, ridding them of the old nests…
making ready for new residents who will soon be out house hunting.

I trimmed away a few dead and broken branches from plants, bushes, and trees—
all who had suffered under the weight of the snow and ice—
trimming wich I had simply not felt called yet to tackle.

To be honest, I think I’ve just not felt like doing much of any of it, period.
I’ve not felt motivated or excited to do so…
both of which are not me.

I chalk such lack of motivation, lack of get-up-and-go, to life’s wicked blows,
to the winter blues and to just the never-ending chill which
has delighted in reaching down to my very bones.

The good news is that I do not have the full blown hemochromatosis I spoke of
about a week or so ago.
I am however a carrier…only half mutant.
Yet it’s off for the nuclear stress test come Monday…
all to figure out the reason for a sedentary blood pressure for a non-sedentary individual…
of which probably points to another mutant gene…

My son made me watch the X-Men cartoons with him when he was a little boy—
I always did have a soft spot in my heart for Beast—
I mean, who doesn’t love a soft-spoken, Shakespearian reading
manly man who happens to be blue?

Yet I suspect some might simply call my winter languidness, age.

However my little outdoor excursion Tuesday offered up a marvelous surprise.

Tucked away in what is usually a dark tiny tree ladened little nook,
an unsuspecting patch of pine straw nestled between two small boxwoods…
rests 4 nearly hidden reminders that there is indeed life lurking, waiting and
really ready to get busy.

And as if right on cue, just in time for the beginning of this week’s coming Lenten season…
a time which happens to be bringing both Valentine’s day and a certain grandbaby’s
due date…
a reflective time of death, Ressurection, and life…
the Lenten Roses are in full blooming regalia.

Hope does Spring eternal does it not?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

Jeremiah 29:11-14

I’m not looking for trouble, honest…

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world,
the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s
different stresses.
Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.”

St. Boniface


(I wonder if any of these birds know anything about the missing owl decoy’s head? / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve gotten to the age where I really don’t go looking for trouble…rather,
trouble merely seems to come looking for me.

Now that’s not to say that I’d back down or run from trouble…
I’ve learned that it’s often best to simply brace oneself while stepping into the wind…
the wind of trouble that is.
Marching forward and dealing with it head on…that is, when it comes marching my way.

I say all this because I had four things yesterday that I found troubling all within about
the span of a blink of the eye—
I didn’t find them, they found me.

Like I say, I don’t go perusing for these sorts of things and I do my darndest to keep such
off my radar…but…

Usually, every time when I go in to fetch my email, a “news” feed page comes up first…
AT&T’s home page.
It runs a scrolling snippet of the day’s headlines…

Now the idea of what I’ve always thought of as a headline versus what our “society”
now considers a headline, separated and parted ways eons ago.

So before I could even click the ‘take me to my mail page’ icon,
I saw that John Kerry was making fun of President Trump’s girth,
Tom Brady stopped an interview over a reporter’s snide remark regarding his daughter,
that the Grammy’s were a huge “I am woman hear me roar” moment and that—
with that last one actually being a twofer—
it was a night of who’s who in Grammyville loving one another while hating the rest of
everyone else…as the women untied and wanted to bash the heads of those who
countered their endearing and de-masculating moment of unification…

Then in my email, I read that our friend the Wee Flea reviewed a movie that will probably be up
for best picture–a typical movie plot over racism in small town USA, a movie that he actually
hated—and left him sad and hopeless that we as a society have sunk to calling such a film
“entertainment” and actually a bravo moment…

Then before I could run and hide, a movie ad pops up for a totally different movie that I
actually looked into regarding the plot line as it too was claiming to be a best picture.
It’s that movie about the Shape of Water business and having read the storyline–
about a mute woman falling in love and actually having sex on screen with a mutant sea creature,
while they then swim off happily together into the sunset, left me shaking my head…

As in shaking to see if something was lose inside my brain cause I just don’t get any of this.

A, I’ve never heard of either movie until first, I saw the Wee Flea’s post and then secondly
when the pop-up ad for the other movie actually popped up…and I confess,
I fell for its ad and looked further. So they accomplished their desire of fishing for curiosity.
But that was enough because I was resolutely reminded once again as to why I really don’t
ever go to see a movie.

They are either ridiculous, full of hidden agendas, laced with unnecessary awful violence and sex
or just flat out stupid.

Then we have the notion of news…that which makes news news…
and whatever that actually is—and that I don’t care for any of it.

I miss Huntly and Brinkley…I’ve written about them before…and I’m still missing them.

I could care less about award shows such as the Grammy’s, the Oscars, the Tony’s,
the you name its.
Why do I want to see an elitist crowd who is so far out of touch with reality, patting one another
on the back, while they use their public platform to tell the little people why it
is they are so little and why they the elitists, are so indeed so elite…

Sigh…

Today’s quote is by St Boniface—an English Benedictine monk (675-754 AD) who was tasked with
spreading the Gospel into the pagan Germanic tribes while also working to bring reform
to what Christian Churches had previously been established in the land of the barbarian Franks.

Neither task was easy and keeping one’s life was not a guarantee.
As Boniface was eventually massacred as he was preparing to baptize a group of converts.

He was committed to his faith in Jesus Christ.
He knew the significance of leading others to Christ and to sharing the Gospel with those
who had not yet heard or seen or whose hearts had once known but were now hardened.

Boniface bore out the Christian rule: To follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross.
For Boniface, it was not only physical suffering or death, but the painful,
thankless, bewildering task of Church reform.
Missionary glory is often thought of in terms of bringing new persons to Christ.
It seems—but is not—less glorious to heal the household of the faith.

(Franciscan Media)

I imagine that today’s current society is not much different than that of the time of Boniface
in that he was tasked with healing an ailing household of faith during a time of grave
personal peril. The Germanic Chruch, what there was of it, had fallen back into Paganism
along with having fallen into corruption.
Much like the day of St Francis when he was told by Christ on the Cross to “rebuild my house”
And again, not much unlike today.

Seems that not only are Believers meant to share, live and spread the Gospel,
they are also tasked with keeping house…
and when that house falls into ill repair, they are tasked with the repair and
even the rebuilding.

So I actually take heart when I read and see most vividly the wantonness of our day…
everything from the anger, the hatred, the belligerent chatter of the tit for tat and the
global persecution of the faithful…
because from all of this, be it the current “news” feeds or the latest ailments within the Chruch,
all of which is certainly enough to make me feel almost hopeless, and yet I take heart
in the words of St Boniface–
words which resonate with both my heart and soul.

We must not abandon the ship…
but rather we must work diligently to make certain
that we keep her on course…as well as make any needed repairs…

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called,
and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

digging deeper

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil,
and let us see what we are made of.

Charles Spurgeon


(piping plovers dig deep into the sand in search of tasty morsels / Julie Cook / 2018)

What is it about digging that leaves us uneasy?
Not the type of literal digging with a shovel, but rather the digging into one’s self.
A metaphorical digging.
Digging deep within in order to discover what makes us who we are.

Chances are most of us don’t much care–
Or don’t much really want to know…

We live day to day, doing our thing, whatever that thing might be…
so to uncover anything extra is not seen as a necessity for survival.
Something more trouble than its worth.

Yet these little plovers spend every waking daylight hour poking and prodding deep into the
wet sand in search of something to eat.
They never tire nor abandon their quest.

The lives of plovers obviously depend upon their digging, poking, and prodding.

Our lives…not so much.

Our sustenance is dependant upon the digging of others.
So we don’t much worry about real digging.
So introspective digging is not considered essential to life.
And therefore, obviously not needed.
And if the truth be told, we find it uncomfortable.
And who wants to be uncomfortable??

And yet we are living in a time of the self-help generation, the hashtag generation,
the generation of whatever the latest cause is that’s coming down the pike.
We jump on the latest bandwagon believing, whatever bandwagon it is, that it will make us happy,
make us complete, make us real… all the while making us content in our lives of
here and now.

All the while we are an angry people, a self-consumed people, a distrusting people,
a sallow people a divided people, a lost people…
who just so happen to find ourselves longing only to be happy and content…

And yet we join the movements.
We jump on the causes.
We play the parts.
We profess the earthly falsehoods as some sort of lasting truth.

However…

Bandwagons are fickled.
Hashtags will come and go.
Angst will fester.
Worldly happiness is fleeting.
and fulfillment comes at a cost to self-worth…

Dig deeper for the what is pure, what is lasting.
Dig for that which will not fade, will not leave, will not falter, will not leave
you longing…
When you dig, what do you find…

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe,
lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,
should shine on them

2 Corinthians 4:4

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

the Grace of Thankfulness

“There is so much in the world for us if we only have the eyes to see it,
and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it ourselves-
so much in men and women, so much in art and literature,
so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful for.”

L.M. Montgomery

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies;
but the thankful heart will find, in every hour,
some heavenly blessings.”

Henry Ward Beecher


(Aunt Martha’s prized antique bronze turkey / Julie Cook / 2017)

As we gather together around this table of ours, to offer up our grateful hearts…
I am keenly, poignantly and even sadly aware as I take notice as to who is not
physically with us this year at our table….

Yet despite our losses and our sufferings, we continue to offer up our thankfulness
and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all that was,
for all that is and for all that will be…

For it is from Grace that we have each received so very much…
that which far exceeds what we have ever deserved….

May each of you, despite life’s current circumstance, find time to whisper or shout
your words of thanks…..
for each of us, despite this current moment in time, can indeed find
something in which to be grateful…..

Blessings and Peace to all who read these words….

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion)
endures forever.

Psalm 136:26

Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
giving thanks always for all things in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Ephesians 5:18-20

punctuating the ordinary

“On the single strand of wire strung to bring our house electricity,
grackles and starlings neatly punctuated an invisible sentence.”

―John Updike


(grackles on the line / Julie Cook / 2014)

I imagine it happens to all of us at some point or other…
and it’s always out of the blue…

It catches us totally off guard— when we least expect it.

Suddenly a lump is forming in our throat as we find the words catching, cracking and breaking as we can barely whisper along.

And just when we frustratingly focus on the fact that no sound seems to be
coming from a voice attempting to speak, stinging tears now form in our
eyes, rendering us both mute and almost blind…

Mute and blind with raw emotion.

We blink hard and swallow hard…as we hear our brain pleading “not here, not now….”

Maybe we’re just sitting on the couch…
Maybe we’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store pushing a cart full of
paper towels and cat food…
Maybe we’re sitting in the middle of traffic, stuck…
Maybe we’re sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting….

It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing…it happens…
and it happens when it wants to…never mind what we want.
And there is always some sort of trigger…
as the ordinariness of life is punctured like an over inflated tire…
our breath begins to release as we are helpless to hold it in….

It comes suddenly out of the blue..
Out of nowhere…and there it is…
A familiar sound, a familiar tune, a familiar voice…more oldie then goldie…

For me this time, it was Wichita Lineman and it wasn’t even Glen Campbell
singing the song but rather someone else…

Yet it mattered not—it was still that same melodious memory drifting in on
the passage of time… swirling down on the currents until settling sweetly, yet
painfully, in the recall of memory.

My mother loved Glen Campbell.

What woman in those heady days of the late 60’s didn’t?

Dashing boyish good looks…dimples, perfect hair, sculpted nose,
laced with a velvety voice.
He wasn’t Country, he wasn’t Gospel, he wasn’t Pop…
he was simply the complete package.

I can remember sitting with mother in 1969 on that old tweed couch
watching the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour—
This was a time when children could actually watch television without fear of hearing
or seeing things that children shouldn’t really see or hear emanating
from a television….

The line is iconic…
“and I need you more than want you….
and I want you for all time….
for the Wichita lineman is still on the line…”

…as heart tugging violins finish out the notes….

About two years ago, give or take,
Glen Campbell and his current wife (I say current because he had had four marriages
with one in particular making for tabloid drama) gave what was to be Glen’s
last public interview.

Glen Campbell was suffering from Alzheimers.
A disease that actually claimed his life earlier this year.

The selfish disease was robbing his family of the husband and father they loved
while robbing a man of the one person he’d known best his entire life…
that being himself.

He was asked about singing and his songs— what song had he loved the most….

A question I would think somewhat difficult for any musician / singer,
who had had such long careers, to answer—
As songs and melodies ebb and flow with the times—
Because it’s hard to compare what was a career starter with what came about
during one’s peak moment throughout such a lengthy career…

But he answered quickly and at first very effortlessly…
“it’s really the best line of all time in a song you know…. isn’t it???”
as he then turned to his wife with that lost look of one battling with a
memory-robbing illness, when he sadly and poignantly realized he didn’t
remember now what line he was talking about.

His wife offered a small airy couple of notes with the first word, which allowed
Glen’s mind to grab hold as he finished the stanza himself in beautiful A cappella
fashion.

And it is an iconic line.
A beautiful line.
A line that has for me, over time, changed it’s meaning.

Songs, lyrics and melodies all have that effect on us.

So much so that I think I’ve written about this before—and about this very same
song for most likely the very same reason—

It simply caught me off guard.

It reached out through the abyss of time grabbing hold of my arm while pulling
me to a bittersweet place I don’t often like to go.

The hot tears formed as I attempted to utter those familiar words….but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even speak the words because they had stuck in my throat…
as they achingly cracked coming from my mouth without sound…

And then slowly…the recesses of a memory came into focus,
I was seeing the one who had first loved that song long before I had.
She had her own personal reasons, her own personal recollections…

Things that, at the time, were unbeknownst to me.
Something that caused an overwhelming sense of melancholy…
Something that had left her with words which had no sound,
something that had left her eyes wet with warm tears…

I had no way of knowing then…no way of understanding…
for I had not lived yet what she had lived…

Yet sweetly and even oddly in that bittersweet moment of hearing that single song
with that most iconic simple lyric, I actually understood what she had known
all those many years ago…as warm tears filled my eyes and the words coming
from my mouth had no sound…I was transported one day closer to understanding
the woman I had lost so long ago…

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.

Psalm 102:18-22