What is a saint?

A saint is somebody who has learned to love God.
Learned to love. It’s nothing extremely mystical.
It’s that a person really tries to be united to God, to love our Lord with all his heart.
To escape from that prison that we find ourselves in sometimes of our personal
selfishness and self-centeredness, which we carry with us.
In spite of the fact that we have all sorts of shortcomings and sins and so forth,
if we are striving to love our Lord with our whole strength,
that is a growing in the sanctity of life.

Fr. Jerry Gehringer
from Being a Saint in the World


(mother’s tea rose bush is blooming again / Julie Cook / 2018)

“God creates out of nothing.
Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren Kierkegaard,

glimpses of the rising

“For me the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes
to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.”

Brennan Manning,
Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging


(blooming clover / Cades Cove, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Think, dear friends,
how the Lord continually proves to us that there will be a resurrection to come,
of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising him from the dead.
Contemplate the resurrection that is always going on.
Day and night declare the resurrection to us.
The night sinks to sleep, and the day rises;
the day departs, and the night comes on.
Look at the crops, how the grain is sown:
the sower goes out and throws it on the ground, and the scattered seed,
dry and bare when it fell on the ground, is gradually dissolved.
Then out of its disintegration the mighty power of the Lord’s providence raises it up again,
and from one seed come many bearing fruit.”

St. Clement

there be varmints

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap,
baits it, then steps in it.”

John Steinbeck

“Say your prayers varmint…dead rabbits tell no tales”
Yosemite Sam


(this is all that remians/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Remember this image from early Spring?


(my spring crop looking ever so hopeful / Julie Cook / 2018)

This was just one of the four apple trees burgeoning with the hoped-for abundance
of a season that was not quite yet to be.

There was excitement, as well as anticipation, both abounding as thoughts of pies, stews
and all sorts of baked treats swirled around our thoughts.

The air just seemed heavy with sweetness and cinnamon…

That is until this week…

Out of all of those hoped for beautiful apples from those four fully ladened trees,
only 7 measly apples have been salvageable.

There is a culprit…or perhaps even multiple culprits.

But the question remains…Whom?

Deer?
Raccoons?
Birds?

I suspect all three…but the teeth marks are telling.

This tale is to be continued as I go about my stealthy sleuth work…

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today,
the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Deuteronomy 28:1

The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

all in a day’s walk in the park

“With beauty before me, may I walk
With beauty behind me, may I walk
With beauty above me, may I walk
With beauty below me, may I walk
With beauty all around me, may I walk
Wandering on the trail of beauty, may I walk”

Navajo: Walking Meditation

Did someone say walk???
As in a stroll?
As in an outing?
As in outside?

And so as the notion of a nice leisure stroll was considered…
we decided to venture out for a walk.

We ventured forth…
We ventured out.
We ventured up
And we ventured away…

Away throughout a city that magically transforms itself into something else and
into something so much more…

But it takes a bit of really hard looking…looking in just the right places…
to see what makes a certain ordinary and otherwise crowded, noisy place…
something so much better than what one quickly sees when looking at things with a cursory
first glance.

All strapped in and ready go, after multiple outfit changes, we departed…

We first walked the three-mile loop around Chastain Park.
A 268-acre wedge-shaped park, the largest park in the city of Atlanta that happens
to be in the northeast area of the city and only about 3 miles from where I grew up.

It’s a park where I first learned to swim.
The park where my dad took me when I was a little girl to go sledding in my first
real snow.
The park where I attended the yearly Brownie and Girl Scout jamborees.
The park where my brother played little league baseball.
The park with the swingset where I secretly rendezvoused meeting the boy I had a
crush on in the 8th grade…
And the place where my mom learned to play tennis…a game that actually helped
my mom find her own place in life.

Originally the land belonged to the Creek Indians but in 1840, 1000 was acquired by the
state of Georgia.
There would be built an almshouse and a TB sanatorium as well as a paupers cemetery.
Eventually, in the mid-1940’s, a golf course was designed, a community pool was built,
an amphitheater was created, riding stables and a barn were added as well as
cabins and cookout areas….as the almshouse and sanatorium were eventually transformed
into a private school.
A school that has only grown in size and scope along with the growing park.
Chastain is now the site of the city’s major outdoor concert venue.

But we were ready and even excited to take in what this transforming area had to offer…

Walks and parks are always good for both body and soul.
But they can be exhausting…

Here’s to many more days of walks in the park…

Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you,
so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Deuteronomy 5:55

hospitality while staying the course

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.
And this happens although the praise of God should know no limits.
Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Do not seek to be regarded as somebody,
don’t compare yourself to others in anything.
Leave the world, mount the cross, discard all earthly things,
shake the dust from off your feet.”

St. Barsanuphius


(a tiny ladybug rumaging about the hydranga blosoms / Julie Cook / 2018)

June, albeit already being known as National Icecream month, is quickly becoming
my national babysitting month…
This as I am here and there, acting as said keeper of the wee one, as work schedules and
summer workshops are currently on a collision course.

However, you won’t hear any complaints coming from me…more than happy to oblige…

But this balance of both distance and time, of which are each keeping me overtly busy and
currently stretched thin, is hindering my ability to fully contribute and offer meatier
and tastier posts… as well as forcing my unintended negligence to those day to day interactions
with those of you who are my friends and kind enough to offer your own thoughtful reflections,
feelings and words of wisdom.

And speaking of interactions…

I suppose I’d like to say a word or two regarding some rather interesting interactions
I’ve had with those who have been wandering into cookieland…
wanderings taking place from say, a week or so ago.

I’ve written about this sort of thing before.

As it’s an odd occurrence really.

Let us reflect a moment on the notion of hospitality.

I’m Southern born and raised and those of us who hail from the South are usually known
for our Southern Hospitality.
A graciousness in opening our doors, our homes, our lives our hearts…welcoming and inviting
others to ‘come sit a spell’…inviting others to come rest while we offer a
bit of respite from the pressures of life.

I shared this very notion, just the other day with Tricia, from over on
Freedom Through Empowerment.

I explained to Tricia that years ago I had read a small book that had actually been
written centuries prior.
It was actually more of a manual rather than a book.

The book is known as The Rule of St Benedict and it was written by Benedict of Nursia
in the 1st Century.

Benedict wrote the book as an instructional manual for those who were wishing to follow
in his footsteps…living life as a Christian monk…
an order of Christian monks known as the Benedictine Order.

It was written for those Christians living during the persecution of the Roman Empire…
a time not known for its hospitality toward Christians.

The little book has had amazing staying power as many a Fortune 500 company has their upper
management read the book as a lesson in how to work with others as well as how to treat others.

According to Wikipedia “The spirit of Saint Benedict’s Rule is summed up in the motto
of the Benedictine Confederation: pax (“peace”) and the traditional
ora et labora (“pray and work”).
Compared to other precepts, the Rule provides a moderate path between
individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism;
because of this middle ground it has been widely popular.
Benedict’s concerns were the needs of monks in a community environment:
namely, to establish due order, to foster an understanding of the relational nature
of human beings, and to provide a spiritual father to support and strengthen the
individual’s ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that is required for the fulfillment
of the human vocation, theosis.

However, there was one rule in particular that spoke to me more so than the others…
it is the Rule of Receiving Guests.

All guests who arrive should be received as Christ so that he will say,
“I was a stranger and you took me in” [Mt 25:35].
Show honor to them all, especially to fellow Christians and to wayfarers.
When a guest is announced, let him be met with all charity.
Pray with him, and then associate with one another in peace.
(Do not give anyone the kiss of peace before a prayer has been said, in case of satanic deception.)
Greet guests with all humility,
with the head bowed down or the whole body prostrate on the ground,
adoring Christ in them, as you are also receiving him.
When the guests have been received, let them be accompanied to prayers.
Then let the Abbot, or some he chooses,
sit down with them.
The divine law be read to the guest for his edification,
and then you should show him every kindness.
The Abbot should break his fast in deference to the guest,
unless it is a day of solemn fast,
which cannot be broken.
The other brothers however should keep the fast as usual.
The Abbot should pour the water on the guest’s hands,
and the whole brotherhood should join him in washing the feet of all the guests.
When they have been washed, let them say,
“We have received your mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple” [Ps 48:10].
Let the greatest care be taken, especially when receiving the poor and travelers,
because Christ is received more specially in them.

Chrisitianhistoryinstitute.org

In other words, how to be a gracious host.

Benedict admonished those managing the various monasteries to always be willing to
open their gates and doors to all who would venture to knock…
no matter the time day or night.
He told the brothers to get up in the middle of the night if necessary in order
to warmly welcome both stranger and friend should anyone come knocking with a need.

The brothers were to open their doors, offering food and drink as well as a place of rest to
wayward travelers.

That one “rule” made a strong impression upon me because early in our marriage,
my husband would often call me at the last minute to inform me that he’d received a call
from a “friend” who just happened to be passing through and informed my husband
that he wanted to come for a visit.

Such news would usually leave me grousing as I scrambled to tidy up,
put out fresh linens while rushing to prepare an impromptu meal usually after
I had worked all day.

So much for feeling very gracious.
Rather, I reluctantly confess, that I selfishly felt put out.

Yet over the years, I’ve come to understand that the giving of ourselves,
our time, our attention,
our skills, our food, our home, our possessions are really not so much about “us”,
but rather it’s about something far greater than ourselves…

And so it’s with St Benedict’s Rule in mind that I have faced a bit of a conundrum here
in my little corner of the blog world.

For you see, I tend to write about mostly Chrisitan related content.
Content that I’m pretty passionate about.

Be it my sharing of the insights and observations from two of my favorite clerics
from across the pond to my serious concern over those ancient Middle Eastern Christian
sects that have come under violent attacks by ISIS, to my dismay over
living in what has quickly become known as a post-Christian society to
the unraveling of what we call Western Civilization.

And yes, I am often outspoken as well as passionate about my concerns.

But the thing is, I’m writing a blog…small as it is.
There is no social media tied to this blog.
No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest…
Why?
Because I don’t participate in “social” media…only that of a blog.

Therefore my little corner is small and limited, yet passionate none the less.

I’ve always found that I like to learn, share and grow in my own faith…
as I still have so much to learn.
I like to do so by reading and learning from what others teach.
I consider my blog, and those I enjoy reading, an extension of a Chrisitan
Community.

I grow in the Spirit by reading and learning from other Chrisitan Spiritually based
individuals.
I don’t go looking for trouble.
I don’t go trolling.
I don’t care for those who do.
Trolling is a waste of time.
Nothing good comes from such.
Why waste life’s precious time by doing such?
I’ve yet to figure that out.

And at times I do believe that I am a bit of a Christian Apologist…
a defender of the Faith as it were.
God’s Word being God’s Word.
No mincing.
No rewriting.
No twisting.
No changing because we as a people feel the need to change.

Speaking what I sincerely believe to be Truth.
God’s universal Truth.
Speaking His Truth here on this blog.

All here on a blog that is here if you want to read it…
or not.

And that’s the key…or not.

Meaning no one has to come here and read anything I write.
That’s kind of the magic of a blog…you have a choice…
to read or not to read.

In fact, that’s how I do it.
I seek to read those who teach me and fulfill me with that which is edifying….
meaning it is rich in the Word as it offers up a hearty offering of Life in the Spirit.
Offering the positive because why would I want the negative?

Not the hostile.
Not the angry.
Not the hateful.
But rather that which is edifying, uplifting, and even liberating.

So imagine my surprise when I was hit by a barrage of those doing just the opposite.

Professing agnostics and atheists who had come visiting, en masse,
speaking of indoctrination, dinosaurs, lies, falsehoods, contraception, abortion,
young earth creationists, the Bible as fairytale, no Noah, no Moses, no flood, Jews,
science…as the list and comments grew and grew in number.

As cordial as I could be while standing my ground, the sneering, the questioning,
the snideness, the belittling, and the vehemence only escalated or rather more
accurately devolved into a swirling quagmire of running in circles.

Demands of justification, clarification, debate, arguments, proof, and defense
continued not over the course of a few comments but rather such ran on and on for days.

Verbal attacks and the pushing downward into the unending rabbit holes of nothingness…
down into the black abyss of nonsense.

Other’s jumped in, in defense.
Words grew heated and even ugly.
The word was spread by the nonbelieving to rally because the Christians were now
proclaiming.

A real shame.

But I hear that is the plan.
Divide, confuse, conquer.
Or so they say.

My thinking…you don’t like what you’re reading, go find what it is you do like.
Don’t berate.
Don’t harangue.
Don’t belittle.
Don’t be smug.
Don’t be snide.
Don’t be divisive.
Don’t be hateful.
Don’t be crude.
It benefits no one…especially yourself.

But don’t pretend you’re confused and that you don’t understand.
Don’t pretend you truly want explanation and clarification because all you want
is to publicly mock, accuse and berate.
You are sly and cunning…as those are the pages that come from your playbook.

However, my door will remain open to anyone who comes to visit.

The invitation will always be extended to one and all to come…
to come put up one’s feet and to sit a spell.

But come because you want to come…
Come because you want to visit, feast and fellowship.
Come because you want to share, to learn, to grow.
Come because you want to offer to others…
Come because you want to offer more, not less.
Come with peace, not hostility…

Or simply don’t come…

Don’t come but go elsewhere…
Go where you find your fulfillment because obviously, you’re not finding that here.

As St Benedict so wisely instructed, “Do not give anyone the kiss of peace before a prayer
has been said, in case of satanic deception”

So, therefore, may we pray for discernment over deception while we continue to extend the hand of hospitality.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2

breadcrumbs to home…


(mom’s magnolia tree is in full summer to be regalia / Julie Cook / 2018)

Few things are more indicative of life in the South than the large white billowy blooms
of the Magnolia.

Well, maybe a few other things such as mosquitoes, heat, and humidity might also come to mind…
but if the truth be told, the Magnolia is by far, the best of the bunch.

The large majestic blooms are hailed as the state flower for both Louisiana and Mississippi.

These are not dainty, delicate nor demure flowers by any means…
words which are often associated and used to describe life here down South…

Rather these beauties are large, tenacious, enduring and oh so sweetly fragrant.
Words I prefer to use when I think of those native Southerners.
Words such as tenacious…think fire ant.

I’ve spent the better part of the week up in Atlanta babysitting and I am happy to report
that Mother’s magnolia tree is in full bloom.

While the grass was still damp with the morning dew and the air thick and heavy with the
lingering damp humidity from the day’s prior thundershowers,
I walked out into the backyard while holding my tiny yet curious granddaughter.

I know that this little girl will never meet nor ever know either of my parents…
yet their presence permeates her small world like the lingering smoke circling the
air from a smoldering brick hearth.

I was greeted this misty morning with a deep sense of satisfaction and great comfort
being able to point out to this wee one of mine those long lasting and enduring
breadcrumbs that had been originally and randomly scattered long ago by my own mom…

Breadcrumbs that were, at the time unbeknownst to Mother, being left as trail markers…

And after all these many years, these inconspicuous directional markers remain to this day,
firmly in place.

Be it the tiny tea rose bush Mother never knew would live let alone thrive now decades later…
to a stand of currently runaway and run amuck monkey grass…
to this now stately and massive magnolia tree…
A tree I vividly remember planting with my mom and my grandmother when I was
just a little girl.

A tree whose blooms will, for this new generation, act as a polestar as to how to
recall finding one’s way back to “home.”

And whereas we all have that place we hold in our mind’s eye as to what constitutes the notion
of home, be it a fond treasured memory or rather a memory preferred to be long forgotten,
we each have that place.

Yet what many of us never truly realize is that that place of which we all oddly
so long for despite often already thinking we are there, is not to be found here
among the trees or buildings, fields or roads…

Home, that most sacred place we often seem to ache for despite often being physically
in the place, we think we call home, is not to be found here on this earth…

And so as we are left to navigate our way to this place where we will know
without doubt that we are indeed truly Home, we remain continually seeking those
often overlooked breadcrumbs left to us by the One who has come, gone and will come again…
breadcrumbs of hope and salvation, of which will rightfully lead us to that place
where we finally can claim that we are Home.


(the four stages of a magnolia bloom / Julie Cook / 2018)

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed,
we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,
because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened,
because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our
heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God,
who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home
in the body we are away from the Lord.For we live by faith, not by sight.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home
with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him,
whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body,
whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10