storms will rage

“I know well that the greater and more beautiful the work is,
the more terrible will be the storms that rage against it.”

St. Faustina

(early signs of change / Julie Cook / 2018)

March enters like a lion and exits like a lamb…
while April showers bring May flowers…

or so we are reminded.

Spring is a tumultuous time here in the South.
It might snow one day while tornados wreak havoc the next.
A good two months of a seasonal roller coaster ride.

I’m beginning to feel much the same with regard to our Christian faith.
Our lives have become a roller coaster ride of ups and downs of attacks and assaults—
physically, verbally, mentally, and of course, spiritually.

It is the season of our times as Believers as we are reminded:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms

Ephesians 6:10-12

That we may be ready, come what may…

“Throughout Sacred Scripture, we find that when God’s people fast,
the power of their prayers is increased, especially when they are engaged in spiritual warfare.
In the Old Testament, the Lord told Isaiah that a fast properly undertaken would
‘loose the bonds of wickedness … undo the thongs of the yoke…
let the oppressed go free’ (Is. 58:6)…
In the New Testament, we find that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the
wilderness in preparation for His battle with Satan,
who came to tempt Him (see Lk 4:1-2)…
If prayer is a spiritual weapon, fasting is the spiritual whetstone on which it is sharpened.
It’s the spiritual muscle that,
when exercised regularly,
strengthens the thrust of that weapon to pierce the Enemy and drive him away.”

Paul Thigpen,
Manual for Spiritual Warfare p. 42

I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

little flower

“He does not come down from Heaven each day to stay in the gold ciborium.
He comes down to find another Heaven He cherishes infinitely more than the
first, the Heaven of our souls, made in His image,
living temples of the Most Blessed Trinity!”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 31
Meditations with the Little Flower

(the blooming quince, a sign Spring is nigh / Julie Cook / 2018

“If a little flower could speak,
it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it,
without hiding any of its gifts.
It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty,
or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals,
or the storm bruised its stem,
if it knew that such were not the case.”

― Thérèse de Lisieux

early and above average

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

(the forsythia is blooming / Julie Cook / 2018)

“No one denies what everyone knows, for nature herself teaches it:
that God is the Creator of the universe, and that it is good,
and that it belongs to humanity by the free gift of its Creator.
But there is a vast difference between the corrupted state and the state of primal purity,
just as there is a vast difference between Creator and the corruptor. …
We ourselves, though we’re guilty of every sin, are not just a work of God: we’re image.
Yet we have cut ourselves off from our Creator in both soul and body.
Did we get eyes to serve lust, the tongue to speak evil, ears to hear evil,
a throat for gluttony, a stomach to be gluttony’s ally, hands to do violence,
genitals for unchaste excesses, feet for an erring life?
Was the soul put in the body to think up traps, fraud, and injustice?
I don’t think so.”

Tertullian, p. 11

Since, then, you have been raised with ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears,
then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

emotional reactions and directions

“This is no surprise to me at all.
Something has happened in the last 30 years or so that makes it increasingly difficult
to separate emotional reactions from ideas,
and emotional reactions from our assessment of other peoples’ humanity or lack of it.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

(it sure looks as if this winter worn shrub is more of a hand pointing toward something /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Earlier this week I wrote a post in which I stated that there would inevitably be
“someone to jump on a soapbox scolding me”…reprimanding me regarding my post
that particular day…
And low and behold there was….but, as I quickly discovered,
it really wasn’t about my post.

The scolding quickly dissolved into a diatribe of what all is wrong with and about
Christians…in particular American Christians.
As even gun control and the President was thrown in my face…
not because either one was a part of my post but rather because I paused Thursday morning
asking that we remember the families of and the individuals who had lost their lives in the
shooting Wednesday afternoon in Florida.

The comments became rapid fire and somewhat more and more bizarre.
It went on for two days.
A few others joined in the fracas and were indeed most welcomed to come on over
and sit a spell.

I saw the questioning and demands for answers, answers to open-ended questions
that really have no answers…
As this was more diversion than substantial thought and idea.
More attack then substance.

It was with all of this monkey business, of which I am calling ‘Christian mongering’,
along with several thoughtful comments offered during my foray into the world of
Christian trolling, that I found something of keen interest in the recent posting
by our dear friend the good Bishop Gavin Ashenden…
Who by the way is prayerfully recovering from another detached retina surgery.

Yet the good Bishop did manage to offer his readers an article that had appeared recently
in one of his local papers.

The article was based on the observed change that has been taking place in “our”
collective social conversation.
Of which is not a pretty picture.

The article focuses on the obsession our society has with sex…a slippery slope topic
which dissolves into the emotionalism of same-sex marriages, spiraling into
transgenderism as it swirls down even further to the growing notion of things beyond.
We are reminded how emotionalism, connected to such an emotional
topic, creates its own barrier as the voices of support work to silence the
voices of opposition–
As freedom of speech becomes the first casualty and victim of the war.

And so I was reminded of the tit for tat diatribe which had been taking place
in the comment section of my previous post the past couple of days—
Freedoms, thoughts, beliefs being questioned.

All of which will soon be spilling out into the outlets of all things news as
Wednesday’s horror consumes us while we desperately try to find answers…

The greater community and our legal eagles will not be willing to truly explore the
obvious as it is of a Spiritual base…as they will simply not go there…
for in their minds that has nothing to do with any of this…
But the nagging question remains…Does it not?
Does it not have everything to do with the Spiritual and that which is lost?

You may find the Bishops full article here:
‘Sex’ is no consolation for the loss of free speech, and the capacity to test & discover the Truth with each other.

And whereas I agree wholeheartedly with everything the Bishop says…
it is to the more nuanced observations that actually caught my eye…
that being the notion of emotional reactions.

We all have them…emotions and emotional reactions…
and they are both good and bad, happy and sad.

Striking a healthy balance is key.

When we see, read and or witness such events as what unfolded at
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl on Wednesday—
our emotions are consumed–as well they should be.
For if we didn’t feel pain, sorrow, suffering, and empathy…
then that’s the time to worry.

We cry as we see the faces of those who were killed.
We ache reading their individual stories.
We yearn to embrace their surviving loved ones and friends who are experiencing
inconsolable anguish.

That is our nature as humans.

That is…for most humans.

That was not the nature of the young gunman in Florida.

And yet we must allow our emotions time to do what it is they do…
which is often taking us on the roller coaster of drastic highs and
sinking lows during these sorts of tragedies.
We will be angry and we will be sad.

Decisions that are often made at the height or low of an emotional roller coaster
ride are not always the wisest decisions made.
And that is because we are leading with more of a feeling of heart and even guilt
versus that of a more rational thinking brain…
History tells us that is best to use both.

Yet not all of us, as we witnessed again Wednesday, have the correct heart response
or logical brain response.

And now we owe it to our children to do something to change this ongoing madness…
A change that uses both heart and brain.

And it was in the midst of the arguing going on in the comment section over on cookieland, as
well as the raw emotions we Americans were feeling Thursday morning, that a wee small voice
managed to find it’s way to the surface…and this voice had nothing to do with the
latest breaking news or the rabid dog chatter happening in my small corner of blogland.

Out of the blue, a small voice had risen to the top of the clanging gongs…
a missionary working with orphans, widows and the poor in India.
They asked for prayers and offered me their own…
and I was deeply moved.

It was the humblest of the voices that I had heard the loudest.

It was as if God was gently yet strongly redirecting my focus.
“Get off the cerebral world’s merry-go-round for just a minute Julie and see…
See and hear…
Hear the reality of others around this world.
Those who are doing My work for and among those in desperate need…
Hear the need of prayer…know the power found in that prayer…
Yet be mindful… there must be more willing to pray and work…
and pray without ceasing”

Here is a snippet of what this gentle voice said…

I, bound by the spirit and preaching the Good news among idols and gentiles and
poor and for orphanages.
I know afflictions wait for me– but all afflictions allocate as joy for
the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is my aid and weapon?
And all secret is known to God– that is without ceasing prayers day and night and fasting,
with tears of prayers.
Hallelujah and praise his holy name.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.
In whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation my strength and stronghold.

Oh, my Dear Heavenly Father,
I know that you open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing in the world.
Please open doors of mind through your righteousness of right hand for my ministry
desires and vision.

MY Vision: (Romans 5:8) The God Jesus Christ is love to all in the world and I want to
share his great love to all creatures and in way of Salvation.

(cleaned up grammatically just a tad)

And throughout the afternoon, these small voices continued percolating to the top
over the din of maddening chatter…

More signposts pointing to God and God alone…

The idea of water pouring and flowing outward…literally manifest itself.
As well as an all-consuming cleansing of water…
Living Waters…

And finally much later in the day, gratefully, I read these words on a fellow bloggers post…

“Richard Alleine expresses that feeling in this way,
“He who knows what it is to enjoy God will dread His loss;
he who has seen His face will fear to see His back.”

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

what is prayer

“Why must people kneel down to pray?
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do.
I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep,
deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if
there was no end to its blueness.
And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

L.M. Montgomery

(the quince are slowly forthcoming / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to Merriam Webster prayer is:

1. a (1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought said a prayer
for the success of the voyage

2. a: set order of words used in praying
b: an earnest request or wish
2: the act or practice of praying to God or a god kneeling in prayer
3: a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers —often used in plural
4: something prayed for
5: a slight chance haven’t got a prayer

Books have been written, lectures have been given and the search engines are endless…
Everyone has an idea, a thought, a notion…
as to what prayer is…
Both personally and publically

For you see prayer can be both.

There are the: ‘what types’, ‘which ways’ and ‘how-tos’…

Gandhi, a Hindu, offers one nice thought on prayer…
“Prayer is not asking.
It is a longing of the soul.
It is the daily admission of one’s weakness.
It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

While Mother Teresa, a modern day saint, offers another thought —
“Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition,
and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Yet both saint and Hindu offer similar thoughts along a similar line…

Asking or not asking
Longing yet nothingness
Listening versus hearing
Words or silence.
Knees or standing
Thoughts or shouting
Loud versus quiet
Individual versus group
Need or praise
Hope or hopelessness…

We know that Jesus both wept and prayed..much as many of us do to this day.
He also implored…as in an earnestness that almost borders on begging.

Moses prayed and implored
Abraham prayed and implored
Just as every prophet, every apostle and every saint on down the line has done since.

I saw a sign outside of a church not long ago that read ‘to worry is an annoyance to God
As in God tells us not to worry…and yet our prayers are so often overflowing with
the very worry that this sign tells us is an annoyance to God–for it is a manifestation
of our doubt…our lack of faith…
and to some, it is even considered sinful…as in a lack of trust….and did not God state
to us to pray without ceasing, and to trust.

So I suppose I’ve annoyed God considerably over the years.
Sometimes more than others.

Sometimes I’ve known Him to listen, other times I’ve been left to wonder.

This is where the nonbeliever loves to pounce…taking hold of that latter notion with a
sneering “see, I told you so”…”for there is no God.”

But none the less, I pray.

Because none the less,
I believe.

Silence and frustration
Sound or emptiness
Annoy or implore
Wordless or shout
Anger or sorrow…

I pray.

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa

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

life and death never cease to amaze me…

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood
becomes a matter of life and death to you.”

C.S. Lewis

“I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die.
The world will keep on turning without me, I can’t do anything to change events anyway.”

Anne Frank

(dried hydranga blooms / Julie Cook / 2018)

I had a couple of posts that I had been working on that were waiting in the wings.
Posts I was all geared up to finish writing and excited about sharing today.

I had just watched the latest offering by Bishop Ashenden–of which makes for excellent sharing…
And of course, there’s our friend the Wee Flea…and his latest observations…
of which it seems, often needs to be our own observations…as he is always spot on.

Then there’s the story of the animal folks out there and stories of the types of animals that
they’re trying to pass off as “service animals” as they try their darndest to get these
service creatures on planes.
It actually makes for a humorous, ridiculous and rather captivating tale that is now sadly
an indication as to the nuttiness of our society…

And of course, there is the on again off again notion of the Russians coming, going
and not coming or going…

I mean just open any newspaper or click on any news feed or watch ‘the news’—
and the supply of material for the offering of reflection is endless…

Or maybe it is simply a sign that we need to be more earnest with our prayers…as in
never ceasing….of which I believe is actually the case…never ceasing.

But as luck would have it today,
both life and death decided they each needed to intervene in my life.

If I haven’t mentioned it lately, we are officially in baby watch mode.
This first granddaughter of ours is due any day now.
There are however a few glitches that have popped up…but the doctors are assuring us that
we are not to be worrying…for what we see as a glitch, they see as nothing new.

And so as we now hold our breath as we prepare for a new life…today,
which is yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday, is/was Aunt Maaaatthhhaaaa’s birthday.
She would have been 79.
Remember we lost Martha suddenly and unexpectedly in July.

And so whereas she and I had already had an adventure planned which we should have
lived out this past fall,
as I should have been sharing the tales of our latest exploits…
rather than exploits, I am offering the bittersweet remembrance of her passing.

And to add insult to injury…this morning, which is yesterday morning to you,
just as I was thinking about how much I was missing my aunt,
this accomplice in all things of adventure…
her daughter–that being my cousin….well her fiancee called me, totally out of the blue,
to inform me that she, my cousin, had actually died suddenly while out walking the dog.
On her mom’s birthday.
She was just 48.

She had had a nagging cough and had been tested for the flu but they were treating it as
chronic asthma. I think they are suspecting blood clots in the lungs but I also suspect
that as was very much overweight, I think her heart simply gave out.
She leaves behind a 26-year-old daughter who struggles with autism and a totally shocked
and bereft fiancee who had just proposed on New Year’s Eve.

Both my mother and her sister, Aunt Martha, clung to the old-school
wive’s tales and adamantly held to the notion that bad things always happened in threes…

I say this family has had its three.

And so now no one remains on my mother’s side of the family but for the daughter of
this cousin and me.

And so I am poignantly reminded that we human beings are a people who mark our
days by the significance of the calendar…the passing of time marked by events.
As there will always be ironies found in both our births and in our passings.

I was all ready to be heading off in one direction today when life saw that I should
head in a totally different sort of direction…one that is much more deeply reflective.
And just when I thought we couldn’t get any more reflective then perusing the thoughts of
Bishop Ashenden or the Wee Flea, David Roberston…life teaches us otherwise.

It seems that there will always be joy and sorrow constantly rolled into one another…
Some would call that a ying and yang of living or simply karma—the coming and going around
of the good and bad in the universe…

I simply call it life.

The ebb and flow of this gift we have been given.
Nothing on earth is a guarantee…all but for the love, God has for His children.

And whereas none of us know or are guaranteed another day, let alone another hour…
Knowing that our lives, as precarious and fragile as they are,
are at all times found safely in the hand of the Father, is comfort enough for me…
May it be comfort enough for you…

For despite the markings of the calendar, none of us know the day nor time
our earthly life will come to a close…I pray to be in the hands of the Father
when that day should come for me…

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
What is your life?
For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14