To the place where God is hidden

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross


(mushrooms found along my walk in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

The point is simply that without God’s grace we cannot be good.
Without love, justice turns to cruelty.
Without hope, courage turns to blind despair.
Without faith, this-worldly wisdom is foolishness to God.
The two levels, natural and supernatural, hang together.

Peter Kreeft
from Back to Virtue

the soul humbles herself…

“Our perfection does not consist of doing extraordinary things,
but to do the ordinary well.”

St. Gabriel Possenti


(Julie Cook / 2020)


(Julie Cook / 2020)


(Julie Cook / 2020)*

“No human motive should lead us to pray:
neither routine, nor the habit of doing as others do, nor a thirst for spiritual consolations.
No, we should go to prayer to render homage to God.
It is not, however, a common-place visit of propriety,
nor a conversation without any precise object;
we want to obtain from Him some definite spiritual good,
such or such progress in the uprooting of some vice, in the acquisition of some virtue.
We have, therefore, a purpose upon which we are bent, and all our considerations,
affections, petitions, and resolutions should combine for its attainment.
God is there, surrounding us and penetrating us;
but we were not, perhaps, thinking of this.
We must, therefore, withdraw our powers from the things of the earth,
gather them together, and fix them upon God;
thus it is we place ourselves in His presence.
Naturally, we approach Him by saluting Him with a profound and humble act of adoration.
In presence of so much greatness and holiness,
the soul perceives herself to be little and miserable;
she humbles herself, purifies herself by an act of sorrow;
apologizes for daring to approach a being of so lofty a majesty.
Powerless to pray as she should, she represents her incapacity to God,
and begs the Holy Ghost to help her to pray well.”

Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, p. 91
An Excerpt From
The Ways of Mental Prayer

(Fall’s wild persimmons hang and fall from the tree)

‘patches of Godlight’

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could
never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’
in the woods of our experience.”

C.S. Lewis


(shelf fungus oddly existing on the dry red dirt of Georgia / Julie Cook / 2020)

I think we need to go to the woods.
Why?
Because we need a diversion from ourselves.

I am oh so weary from the vitriol and hatred that is eclipsing our senses.

We need to be reminded that we are truly small and that there is a world out there that is
actually much greater than ourselves.

We actually need to be put back in the food chain in order to grasp
the bigger picture—-
however sadly, we tend to run in the realm of human predation…so what can I say.

Let’s get out of our cities, our lockdowns, our narrowmindedness.
Let’s get out from under the bickering and hatred racing around our lives.
Let’s go to the woods…

But before we actually get into the woods, we’ve got to park the truck.
We’ve got to start walking…
and here’s what we see before we even get into the woods…

We see a lone downy turkey feather covered in the morning dew…


(turkey feather covered in dew / Julie Cook / 2020)


(detail of turkey feather covered in dew / Julie Cook / 2020)

Before we venture much further, before we leave the rutted red dusty path and diverge
into the thick stand of trees and vines, we see a carpet of dew-covered netted webs…


(a spider web covered in the dew / Julie Cook / 2020)


(detail of dew covering a spider web/ Julie Cook / 2020)

More tomorrow when we finally venture readily and willingly deep into another world…

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

humility of the heart

“Love proves itself by deeds, and how shall I prove mine? …
I can prove my love only by scattering flowers, that is to say,
by never letting slip a single little sacrifice, a single glance, a single word;
by making profit of the very smallest actions, by doing them all for love.
I want to suffer and even rejoice for love, for this is my way of scattering flowers.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 4-5
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(wildflowers at the beach /Julie Cook / 2020)

“The true reason for which God bestows so many graces upon the humble is this,
that the humble are faithful to these graces and make good use of them.
They receive them from God and use them in a manner pleasing to God,
giving all the glory to Him, without reserving any for themselves…
It is certainly true that he who is humble is also faithful to God,
because the humble man is also just in giving to all their due, and above all,
in rendering to God the things that are God’s; that is,
in giving Him the glory for all the good that he is,
all the good that he has and for all the good that he does;
as the Venerable Bede says:
‘Whatever good we see in ourselves, let us ascribe it to God and not to ourselves.’
To give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received and are continually
receiving is an excellent means of exercising humility,
because by thanksgiving we learn to acknowledge the Supreme Giver of every good.
And for this reason it is necessary for us always to be humble before God.
St. Paul exhorts us to render thanks for all things and at all times:
‘In all things give thanks.’ (1 Thess. 5:18).
‘Giving thanks always for all things.’ (Eph. 5:20).
But that our thanksgiving may be an act of humility it must not only come
from the lips but from the heart, with a firm conviction that all good comes
to us through the infinite mercy of God.”

Rev. Cajetan da Bergamo, p. 87-8
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

timing is not mine

Truth has no special time of its own.
Its hour is now – always.

Albert Schweitzer


(a very fearful and shy visitor / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Time has never been my own.

It is not mine, nor is it yours.

Time is truly not any of ours to claim.
Time is beyond control.
It is beyond ‘our’ control.

And guess what…we humans don’t like that.

So what that all means is that “things” happen.
They happen whether we like it or not.

We have two cats.

Both cats were rescue cats.
Cats who found us to rescue them rather
than our finding them to rescue.

Now whereas most folks go to a shelter or have a friend who contacts them regarding
a found stray animal, we had two animals who actually found us.
Each about 7 years apart.

They sought us out.
We did not go looking for them.

Percy, who was in dire straits at just about a month old, was in the most desperate of shape.
Peaches, on the other hand, was about 8 months old, wandering alone in a back field,
and was very very hungry.

They were in need and each one had some innate drive which brought them to where they
each believed help would come.

Help came.
Love came.

Fast forward to present day.

Two days ago, I saw a dark blur dash across our front porch.
Huh?
What the heck??

I told my husband about seeing this odd blur and he told me that he meant to tell me
that he’d also seen a dark blur race across the back patio that he thought was certainly
a cat.

UGH! was my response.

We live on 5 acres in a mostly rural area with a few subdivisions nearby.
Stray animals, obviously, are not strangers to our area.

So I poked around the yard, bent over nearly on my head peeking through the lattice
covering our front porch, when low and behold, up under that front porch, first,
I heard a small mew and then I could make out two small ears.

UGH…agian
Oh, did I mention Percy has blown out his other back knee and really needs another
expensive and ardrous surgery??

This kitten, who appears to be part calico, is not like Peaches or Percy, whereas he, she, it
is not necessarily seeking us out–it has merely taken up residence in the dirt under my front porch.

I sumise that it is about 3 months old.

And yes, as you can see from the pictures, I have obviously offered free food and water.
Call me a softie but St. Francis is constantly whispering in my ear…

A friend of mine told me that her sister would take the kitten.
The problem is that I can’t “get” the kitten.

It is so skittish that I can’t get near it.

I tried yesterday…as it readily ate the food I offered, to pet its head after I coaxed it out
from under the porch…
.
I thought I had a perfect moment and tried to scoop it up, wraping it in a towel
as I hoped to move it to a cage that I’d set up with food, water, a litter box and cushion
until I could transport it to my friend’s sister.

And that’s when it bit me.

It then jumped and ran.

Great.

Rabis or cat scratch fever…maybe worms.
UGH!

So needless to say, the kitten ran and remains under our porch.
I continue to place dry food and water near the front porch in the evening
and by morning, each have disappeared.
Call me a sucker.
But like I say, St. Francis speaks loudly in my heart and soul.

So this story of three different cats, each needing and wanting, got me thinking about us
as humans both wanting and needing.

Sometimes we humans go forth needing…we seek because whe innately know we need.
Yet at other times we are needing but we dare not acknowledge such…I think we call that
hubris and pride.

Yet God, our Father, knows of both our needs and wants.

He is the consumate Gentleman.
He’ll place the food and water out by the porch..knowing we’ll come out
at some point, in the cover of darkness, in order to find our necessary sustenance…
but He will not force us out to take what He offers.

He is patient, dilentgly waiting.

He’s been bitten more times than can be counted…yet He still puts out
the sustenance, that being His own Son, and continues to sit and wait on the steps…
waiting with open arms…
He knows His children and He waits until they can actually figure their needs and wants.

Sometimes they, we, will readily come out from under that porch.
Sometimes they, we, will never come out.
Sometimes they, we, know their needs.
Sometimes they, we, know their wants.
Sometimes they, we, are humble enough to seek out what we know we need.

He will never force us…
He just patiently waits.

I’m thankful He waits.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18

Flames of love

Let us remain very far from all that sparkles; let us love our littleness;
let us love to feel nothing. Then we shall be poor in spirit,
and Jesus will come to look for us, and however far we may be,
He will transform us in flames of love.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux
from a letter to her oldest sister Marie, September 17, 1896


(a brush pile / Julie Cook / 2020)

You know I’m not one for the notion of coincidence but rather the working of the Holy Spirit.

So when we had a guy come to use a dozer to push out a brush pile we’d had growing
and growing over the years along the edge of our woods, all in order to finally burn it,
imagine my thoughts when that very same day the quote by St. Thérèse of Lisieux
showed up in my inbox.

“He will transform us in flames of love”

It seems however that the fellow who pushed out the brush pile was a bit too zealous
in his bulldozing.
He pushed lots of dirt in with the brush…lots and lots of dirt.
Dirt, particularly wet dirt saturated by the remains of Hurricane Delta, will not burn…ever.

We jumped the hoops, gotten the necessary burn permit, and my
valiant husband tried his best to burn that brush—

Even late into the night…

And yet it only smoldered.

For hours it smoldered and smoked as if a wet blanket lay atop…
All the smoking made me wish that I had a pig put inside all that mess in order
to have a fabulous BBQ.

Yet the wet dirt and wet matted grass clippings piled on top of the real brush underneath
smothered any attempt to burn the actual wood, limbs, and shrubbery.

And so by this afternoon, we had a shorter pile in height, but still a pile nonetheless.

No flames here.

But in the end, the one thing I do know is that we will all need the burning flames of God’s love
to transform our hearts from the trappings of this world…
and it was the Little Flower, St.Thérèse of Lisieux, who reminded me of such exactly when
I was searching for a flame.


For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God,
which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power,
love, and self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.
Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done
but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus,
who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Timothy 1:6-10

O mortal

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


(a blue heron caught trapsing through the woods on a my husband’s trail cam / 2020)

When I read my ‘daily verse’ Friday morning,
a new verse for each new day that I receive each morning,
I read Friday’s verse, over my phone, early while still rather bleary-eyed.
BAM
it was like being stung by a hornet from out of the blue.
An electric shock ran through my entire being.
I simply put my phone down…staying silent for quite some time, stung by
what I had just read.

O mortal.
What does the Lord require of you?

Talk about a wave of real humility washing over me.
And that’s when it hit me.

We are each, indeed, mere mortals.
And we are here to do the work of The Creator…
not the work of man…

And so when have you heard that on the news..

We are the created, not the Creator.

How do I behave toward my neighbor?
How toward my brothers?
If I except a single one, it is not Jesus Christ I consider in them.
If I love them, it is merely so that I may be liked and considered,
or because their character suits mine. Let us each one see Jesus Christ in his neighbor.

St. Claude de la Colombière
from The Spiritual Direction of Claude de la Colombière

real hard truth found in life’s warfare

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a wandering willet / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“We live in a fallen world.
We must therefore work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth,
we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit in which
we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

“Objective evidence is irrelevant”

Christians are now being punished for what others think
David Roberston

Yesterday I shared a post by our friend Gavin Ashenden–his post was about mob rule
and the cancel culture.
It was a post which highlighted the cancel culture attacking J.K. Rowling and her
defense of biological sex.

Despite Rowling being an ardent feminist, the mob has cared not…
all because in the mind of the mob,
biological sex does not exist and don’t you or anyone else dare to say otherwise.

Dr. Ashenden noted that in today’s topsy turvy society, truth is considered to be anathema,
an abomination…and because truth is perceived as hurtful and in turn hateful,
it is something that must now be canceled because the mob will not tolerate it.

So let that sink in…this current culture of ours will not tolerate truth—
because truth runs contrary to the mob’s own beliefs.

Truth has become the foremost casualty in this insidious culture war of ours.

And so I found it more than coincidental that yesterday, a day following Dr, Ashenden’s post,
our now down-under friend David Roberston wrote a column for Christianity Today based
on this very notion of the mob, truth, personal thought, and the lack of tollerance

The story focused on the firing of a young, UK Christian teacher, Kristie Higgs
for something, she had posted on her personal Facebook page.

She wrote the post using her maiden name and did not mention anything about being a teacher
herself, nor anything about the school where she worked but rather she wrote a post as a mother
who was concerned about what her young son was being taught in his school.

According to David’s article, “She was concerned about her nine-year-old son being taught
that gender is just a social construct and you can change your gender if you wish.
She objected to the mandatory Religious and Sex Education,
which the government had determined was to be taught to children as young as four.
She argued, correctly, that it was brainwashing.”

“She was concerned about the impact of transgender ideology being taught to young children –
a concern which is more than justified by the evidence becoming available which describes
the harm that is being caused to children.

But an anonymous complainant went to the headteacher and described her posts as
“homophobic and prejudiced to the LGBT community”.
The headteacher is then reported to have asked the complainant to find more offensive posts.
Kristie was subsequently investigated, suspended and fired.
The panel which investigated her, said her views were “pro-Nazi”
and she was told to “keep your religion out of it” when she tried to defend herself.

According to the tribunal, her dismissal
“was the result of a genuine belief on the part of the school that she had committed
gross misconduct”.
Kristie was not dismissed for her beliefs but rather because of the beliefs of the school.
I have a genuine belief that the tribunal was being irrational, discriminatory and prejudiced
by the criteria the tribunal uses,
so that means they should find themselves guilty! Unless my belief is irrelevant,
that is, and only some beliefs count.

It gets worse. The tribunal states that Mrs Higgs was found guilty of posting items
on Facebook that “might reasonably lead people who read her posts to conclude that she
was homophobic and transphobic”.
Yet that same tribunal admitted that Mrs Higgs was not transphobic or homophobic,
nor did they state that the posts themselves were transphobic or homophobic –
just that some people might think they were, and thus they would cause upset.

That is why this ruling is so important. If this judgement is allowed to stand,
it will mean two things. Firstly, the whole standard of law will now be changed.
Guilt is now determined not upon evidence but simply upon the faith and feelings
of the prosecuting party! Based on an anonymous complaint, a tribunal decided that
a private post (which was not available to the public) was sufficient grounds
for an employee to be fired. This means that anyone who finds what someone says
to be potentially upsetting or offensive, now has the ability to get them fired.
Objective evidence is irrelevant. (my bold text)

Except it does not mean that.
It does not mean that ANYONE who finds something offensive can get someone else fired.
It just means that only certain approved and protected groups have the ability to use
the law to enforce their views.
I suspect that the school would not have fired a teacher who posted a message
that I would find offensive about Christianity. If this judgement stands,
we will have lost the principle of ‘all are equal before the law’.

In the Brave New Britain, some are now more equal than others and a society
is emerging where pluralism is disappearing and along with it, freedom of religion,
freedom of speech and freedom of thought. State approved indoctrination within the schools
is now going to be backed up by the law, which in effect bans all other points of view.

It is ironic that Mrs Higgs was accused of holding Nazi-like beliefs by a school
which is using Nazi-like authoritarian methods (kangaroo courts, anonymous complainants,
transgression of state ideology) to impose its own exclusive ideology.

David rounds out his piece with a similar lament which we read yesterday by Dr. Ashenden…
the real help in this mad mad world of ours is going to have to come from the Chruch.

But what of this Chruch of ours—this global community of believers?

“The church needs to be united on this and I realise how difficult that
is when so many churches have sold out to progressive ideology.
It speaks volumes that Steve Chalke, in light of this case,
not only warned that churches who do not accept this ideology face prosecution,
but also suggested that even expressing pastoral concern or praying for people with
gender confusion or unwanted same-sex attraction was “psychologically abusive”.
In these times of moral confusion,
those of us who love the Lord and want to stand on his word need to stick together.

Christians Are Now Being Punished For What Others Think – CT

“it isn’t hate to speak the truth”

And there you have the heart of the matter:
‘it isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

Dr. Gavin Ashenden


(the surge of the storm / Julie Cook/ 2020)

The truth isn’t always pretty but it is, in the end, still always the truth.

I just read our dear friend, Dr. Gavin Ashenden’s latest post
“Cancel culture attacks people rather than ideas”

He begins his post by examining the latest brouhaha that has engulfed the famed Harry Potter
author J.K. Rowling along with the quagmire she stepped into when she chose to defend the idea
of biological sex.

This time, Mr. Rowling’s issue is not about witchcraft and anti-Christian rhetoric
but rather it’s all about biology.

Biological sex to be specific—meaning that a male is a male and a female is a female.
It seems that that basic biology lesson is oh so passe in our current culture.
Forget that there are males and females…we are all now one big hodgepodge of this and that.
Who and what ‘this and that’ may be is totally up for grabs.

Say you are a 9-year-old little girl who decides you should be a boy.
Our current culture will say “Great!” “You may get a sex change
(even without parental consent mind you) or, if you prefer,
you can simply call yourself a boy despite being still a girl.”
“It’s all totally up to you. Forget biology!”
And tomorrow if you change your mind, no problem…except that is,
if you went through with the surgery then there’s a bit of a problem.
Oh well…

And yet this is not to say that there is not a tiny percentage of people who actually do
have a disorder known as gender dysphoria where they actually feel trapped in the wrong body.
But that percentage is minuscule compared to the wave of pick and choose we’re currently
witnessing.

In his post, the good doctor examines the bizarre growing trend against biology
along with those who still cling to the obvious notion of male and female.
Something I suspect most of us do.
A notion Ms. Rowlings opted to defend despite her being quite the feminist.

Yet it appears that even feminists are not exempt from the mob.
This current cancel culture mob has proclaimed itself to be the gatekeeper
to all things choice…and if you dare veer from their view, woe be unto you.

Dr. Ashenden explains,
“Cancel culture’ is a new phrase.
It’s only been around two or three years.
It represents something as horrible as it is dangerous.
It involves the mob closing someone down, and taking away either their freedom to speak,
their job or their place in society.

What is so odd about it is that we have become sharply concerned as a society
about hate and bullying.
You would think that if there was any consistency around,
anything that acted as a weapon for bullying and hatred would be found repulsive and rejected?

But the opposite has happened.

A lot of small vulnerable people have been ‘canceled’.
They have lost their jobs, and had their reputations as decent people trashed.
No one seems to have been willing to stand up against this politically correct bullying,
until they targeted JK Rowling.

It’s just possible she is rich enough and powerful enough and admired enough to see off
the mob, but it’s not guaranteed.
Amazon is full of fake hate reviews trying to trash her latest book and stop it being read.

He continues:
But I found myself asking how we got here?
Just in case there is any chance of escaping from this cultural mob violence
in which no one is safe.

A psychologist called Jonathan Haidt found himself asking the same questions and wrote
a very perceptive book about it.
‘The Coddling of the American Mind.”

He suggested that three very well-intentioned but utterly disastrous attitudes
had been slipped into the education system in America and the anglophile world.

The first was about suffering and took the form of
‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”

The second was about the relationship between feelings and thoughts or analysis;
and became “whatever you really feel is really true.”

The third was that the world was made up not of good and bad ideas,
but good and bad people, and you had to destroy the bad people to be made safe.

So we now have a generation who are terrified of suffering and feeling hurt in any way.
In fact Haidt felt that the constant catastrophizing in the media,
was bringing a generation close to a state of almost clinical mental illness.

One of the most powerful antidotes to depression has been found to be
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT.
At its center lies the skill of recalibrating feelings so they come second to a more
sane and well-judged mental analysis.
If that’s true, you can see what emotional paralysis we face by being unable to
discipline or re-inform raw feelings in a counseling obsessed culture where getting
in touch with feelings has become paramount, and trumps everything else.

Most mature philosophical and religious traditions recognise that it’s ideas rather
than the people who hold them, who are good or perverse.
So you fight the ideas, and try to change peoples’ minds.
But cancel culture settles very happily for destroying the people.

How do we escape these three disastrous attitudes?
We may need to find a philosophy or religious tradition with deep roots that exposes
them for dangerous charlatans they are.
If schools and universities won’t or aren’t doing it, that just leaves the churches.
It may be that the sanity of our civilisation depends on a group we have spent the last
century ridiculing; to our cost.

Naming but not shaming. Fighting back against ‘Cancel Culture’.

And so there we have it.
The cure for our ailing society and the antidote for our failing educational system…
It all goes back to the teaching of The Chruch.
Back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The very One our culture continues to attempt to cancel.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral,
sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake
that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 21:8