fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

out of chaos

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved,
upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.
Can you believe that?
Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot


(another shot of the dead loon I found on the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Loons are fresh water birds so to say that I was more than a little shocked
finding a dead loon, partially buried in the sands along the ocean’s shore,
is an understatement.

There had been a bad storm the day prior…
I could only imagine the bird flying over the surf from one of the nearby dune lakes,
having tired as it was battered by fierce winds and torrential rains,
and simply succumbing to the raging maelstrom…
or maybe it was just old and sick.

Yesterday, several times throughout the course of my day,
I ran into a word, along with its resulting concept.
It is a word and meaning that I really prefer not to dwell on as it can be
unsettling and troubling.

That being the word chaos.

The word crept up and into the forefront of my focus more than once throughout the day.

Again, I am not one to believe in coincidence or happenstance but rather the
working of the Holy Spirit….sometimes gently whispering while at other times loudly shouting.

The word chaos kept coming to light in my reading perusals through the day.
And not only was it sitting before me in the printed word,
I found that I had to actually admit that it has certainly been a very real part of my
own life for these past many months.
Much more than I cared to realize or admit.
Because aren’t I always in control of me and my life?

As that was part of the revelation.

That despite my attempts to ignore, push down and to quell…
chaos has been wickedly swirling in my life.

Not a visible chaos necessarily, but a raging internal swirling turbulence.

Yet it was on a fellow bloger’s post yesterday that I had actually read a quote by a
gal named Lore Ferguson Wilbert.
The quote more or less just hit me in the face.
One of those times when you’re broadsided, from out of the blue,
getting literally knocked off your feet.

“Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

It was more than just a simple reminder or statement…
it was a signpost.

It’s that whole question of what does one tie life’s anchor to?
Something real, sound, secure…
or instead….
does one opt for no anchor while simply allowing all things to drift off towards
an expectant and hopeful ending?

What have I been doing?

Is it simply a matter of casting out, allowing the anchor to randomly sink, hoping it
will grab hold, to something to anything…
hoping to be kept secure and steady…yet not really certain.

Or does one rather tie off to something much more solid and sure?
Anchoring to something that will hold tight and fast?

It is not a matter of merely drifting happily toward the hopeful sunset.

For there found in the drift…lies the ensuing troubles…
No anchor hold to keep one from being tossed and battered…
left to drift off course into dire storms.

In my faith and in my life, I found that question being asked…

Am I holding fast to God and God’s word or am I more focused on the
outcomes of my journey?
Focusing more on me and my end down the road verses
His choices and directions for my life…

In wisdom have I anchored?
Anchored and holding fast to God and His desired outcome?
Because I know in the end that that’s the only thing that matters…
His outcome and His alone.
Nothing that is of me.

For I am constantly reminded that it is He who is Creator and master of my ship
as I am but the created…
I am reminded of my constant need to tie off to Him…
trusting and holding tight through all the storms…
Claiming and knowing that His desired outcome is far better than that to which
I’ve been blindly holding to and racing off toward.

Him being the only lasting matter of my life….or of anyone’s life.

As we must anchor to that which is certain and sure
verses our ignorant and arrogant choice to simply drift while hoping for the best….

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
The disciples went and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked,
“What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

Peril

Grüß Gott
(German for Go with God)

“So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril,
and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is;
for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart,
and the mask is torn off, reality remains.”

― Titus Lucretius Carus

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(a small section of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2012)

Peril.

We don’t much care for peril or that which is perilous.

Yet our world, our society, our civilization is consumed by peril.
Yet we prefer not to think about this.

We prefer to be distracted.
Distracted by that which is…
bright and colorful,
soft and sweet,
happy and nice…
and for some even dull and dark…
anything to take our minds off of all that is now in peril.

Because who wants to sit around pondering peril and perilous…
when one can look at a shiny baubles, happy videos about kittens and puppies
or lose oneself to reality TV—nothing better than watching the lives of random folks
on television fall apart, or lose massive amounts of weight or dance their socks off….

Our politics are in peril
Our colleges are in peril
Our environment is in peril
Our National Security is in peril
Our athletes are in peril
Our foreign relations are in peril
Our race relations are in peril
Our children are in peril
Our veterans are in peril
The family is in peril
Our healthcare is in peril
Many of our fellow human-being’s state of health is in peril
Christianity is in peril
Judaism is in peril
State Governments are in peril
The US Postal Service stays in peril
The TSA seems to cause peril
Our airports are in peril
Our opinions are in peril
Our Country’s infrastructure is in peril
Our young people are in peril
Our safety is in peril
Much of our drinking water is in peril…
on and on and on and on…
ad infinitum…

You get the picture…

With so much peril all around us, it’s no wonder the hits and likes of
the puppy’s and kitten’s videos are skyrocketing.

I like to read but sadly time is not always my friend allowing me to do so.
I have a book that I purchased a while back but have made a point recently to grab it
when running out the door to rush dad to this or that procedure and doctor.

Church of Spies
The Pope’s secret war against Hitler
by Mark Rielbling

It’s a great book.

Spies, intrigue, narrow escapes, secrets, murders, tortures, codes, double agents
double crossing….
and it’s all true.

Real life high stakes espionage involving all sorts of folks…some folks in the most benign places you’d never expect to find double agents, accomplices, or spies.

I have been troubled over recent current events in this country where folks, mostly younger folks, have taken to labeling various political minded individuals as Hitler.
No one in this country comes anywhere close to possessing any sort of similarities to Adolf Hitler.
It is flippant but even more egregious to label anyone as Hitler.
It insults the 6 million individuals who were murdered in his concentration camps–not counting the countless numbers of soldiers and civilians killed during the course of the war…it cheapens and lessens each one of their tragedies.

But most folks today don’t really understand the total enormity of what Hitler’s ideology, atrocities to mankind, and reign of terror did not only to the people of the greater world almost 80 years ago, but what his deluded visions continue to do to us today…

For most of us today this is all merely fodder for the history books…
a bad blip on the radar of the past.

Maybe our generation who has been taxed, as has been the generations before us, with reminding current as well as future generations of the enormity of all that was in those dark days of World War II are not doing our job.
Maybe reminding others of past perils and of the similarities to today’s perils is simply too much, too challenging—- so therefore ignoring it has become the better option….

Opening the backdoors to incoming troubles.

Words uttered in 1940, the words of Helmuth von Moltke, a German lawyer involved in the resistance, ring as true today as they did all those many years ago…
“totalitarian war destroys spiritual values. One feels that everywhere. If it destroyed material values, the people, whose thinking is mostly limited by their perceptions, would know how and against what to defend themselves. As it is, the inner destruction has no correlative in the perceived world of things, of matter. So they fail to grasp the process and the possible means of countering or or renewing themselves.”

Our spiritual lives are currently in peril…shall our means of countering such be also lost, in turn allowing for a new sinisterness to fill the vacuum?
Extremism and radicalization loves to fill in where the spirituality of mankind has faded…

Those brave men and woman who worked silently and secretly to oppose Hitler and the Nazi regime, those who risked everything in order to stop, who even attempted to assassinate the ensuing madness, had to consider not only removing Hitler but what to do in the void following his removal.
That is, should they have succeeded in that removal.

As they were keenly aware of what could fill the vacuum should Hitler be disposed or eliminated.
For chaos often begets chaos….

Father Ludwig Kaas, an exiled German priest turned abettor for the resistance, noted that “the elimination of the furor Germanicus of Hitlerism will leave particularly among the young and restless generation a spiritual vacuum which will have somehow to be filled if another explosion is to be avoided”
As an alternative order-principle, the Vatican proposed European unification. An economic federation, Kass argue, would prevent anarchy, exacerbated patriotism, aggression and war

(Church of Spies p94)

The similarities of then and today are eerily mirrored.

Rather than Hitlerism, Nazism, the Nationalist Socialist Worker’s Party of then, today it is ISIS, the Islamic State, and an extremist Islamic Caliphate. Many of the young men and even woman who leave families in order to go join this barbaric rising regime are most often the restless of their generation.
They are those who are lost, bored, disenfranchised, angry, even oddly hopeful…

Many of the young terrorists who were responsible for the attacks in Paris and later those in Belgium had been no stranger to the local authorities as they had been versed in petty crime, local drug dealing, unemployed, foreign nationals..lost, living on the fringe of a country not their own.
There have been a few however who had been educated, integrated and accepted, yet felt a calling back to something buried deep within their core…

Has our world allowed this latest void, this vacuum, to expand?
Have we allowed the lessons of the past to pass us by…
Have we allowed the perils of the past to lessen over time?
Are today’s perils only those same past perils that have evolved over time into something
new yet equally perilous….

It took brave individuals willing to risk all they had to eliminate the perils of their time
to ensure the safety and wellbeing for us…the future generations they didn’t know.
But it was for those future generations that they did not know, but believed to be worth fighting for…

Have we forgotten that there are further generations worth fighting for?

Maybe we need to think about, taking a closer look at this perilous world of ours, and consider what we need to do in order to make things less perilous…..for not only ourselves but for our future hope…

Grüß Gott

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

out of sync

This search for happiness can knock us out of sync with God. As the life of Jesus makes clear, keeping in sync with God is about obedience. Any other pursuit will get in the way.
Franklin Graham

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(the grackles are back / Julie Cook / 2015)

A common visitor to the yard, in the quiet dull grey winter months, is the common grackle.
A lanky gregarious bird who reminds one of that over the top boisterous relative who comes periodically to visit, wreaking havoc on one’s usually quiet, calm and orderly world.
The grackles swoop in by the hundreds, like a giant black undulating cloud, shape shifting against th bleak cold backdrop of sky.
Loud,
noisy,
obnoxious. . .

So imagine my confusion today when that oh so familiar black squawky loud cloud of winter descended on the yard in the middle of a hot, sweltering August morning.
Hummmm. . .

They swooped in by the hundreds—darting through the early morning sprinklers spraying a desperately thirsty lawn. They chased the regular birds from the feeders. They pecked and groused at the mourning doves. They filled the trees like a million black frigidity leaves. They devoured the stale bread I’d thrown out for the crows. Even the rabbits ran for cover when the shifting black cloud landed, blanketing the lawn like a heavy black curtain.
The silent genteel Southern morning calm now punctuated with the herky jerky jabbering din of chaos.

As to why this unseasonal visitation, I can’t exactly say—but I will say that it has brought a bit of lively vigor to this otherwise oppressively hot, dog day, sensory dulling, summer’s end. . .
I can’t help but feel a bit out of sync with this topsy turvy season business and wonder what, or more precisely who, just might show up next. . . .

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“Do not repay evil with evil”

“Anger is a brief madness.”
Horace

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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(a new crop of mockingbirds waiting to hatch / Julie Cook / 2015

Ours is an ever increasing culture of anger.
Where anger begets violence.
While in turn, anger and violence are answered by the lack of personal responsibility.

Turn on the news, read a newspaper, witness it first hand. . .
Road rage as the result from the slight of a thoughtless driver. . .
Rage and violence at the workplace. . .
Unmitigated violence in our schools. . .
Violent eruptions at the mall, the movie theaters, a parking lot. . .
Multiplied by the madness that ensues from the perceived sense of the witnessed injustice. . .
all of which spiral downward into death, murder and pure chaos.

The victims of arrests, or near arrests, or searches gone bad,
which in turn cast entire cities into the descent and abyss of the madness of anarchy.
Communities angry over injustices, lose sight of the issues at hand when mob mentality masks frustration, sadness, disbelief with an ill conceived blanketed notion
to the “right” to loot, steal, destroy, hurt, kill.
With everyone having lost sight of one original death,
which has only begotten an ad infinite chain of violent acts and deaths.

Yet no one wants to address reasons why.
No one wants to take responsibility.
No one really wants the truth.
Everyone prefers pointing fingers.

Everyone shouts. . .
“It’s their fault. . .”
“NO, it’s their fault. . .”
“It’s his fault. . .”
“NO it’s her fault. . .”
“It’s the police’s fault”
“It’s the poor people’s fault”
“It’s the rich people’s fault”
It’s the black people’s fault”
“NO, it’s the white people’s fault”
“It’s the Latino’s fault”
“NO it’s the Asian’s fault”
“It’s the immigrants fault”
“It’s the Government’s fault”
On and on and on it goes. . .

Anger, morphed into violence will only beget more anger and more violence.

All actions, good or bad have consequences, good or bad.
Responsibility must exist for all actions, good and bad. . .otherwise mob rule and anarchy are allowed to fester, breed, and grow.

Yet no one wants to take responsibility for wrongs. . .
it’s wrong to kill
it’s wrong to steal
it’s wrong to beat
it’s wrong to hate
it’s wrong to hit
it’s wrong to loot
it’s wrong to burn
it’s wrong to hurt
and therefore the wrongs are simply left to multiply. . .

Maybe, it’s just everyone’s fault.
Or maybe, it’s the fault of ignorance, prejudice, skepticism, and an inward hatred. . .
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fault of a lack of faith in our hearts in the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the begotten Son of God and the power in that Resurrection. . .

“Do Not Repay Evil With Evil”
Do not raise your hand to strike.
Do not open your mouth in anger, but remain still.
How can the one who wants to do evil things against you hurt you?
It does not hurt you: it hurts the other person.
Suffering injustice does not hurt the Christian, but doing injustice does.
Indeed, evil can do only one thing to you, namely make you also become evil.
If it does, then it wins.
Therefore, do not repay evil with evil.
If you do, you will not hurt the other person; you will hurt yourself.
You are not in danger when evil happens to you,
but the person who does you wrong is in danger and will suffer from it,
if you do not offer help.
Therefore, for the sake of the other person and your responsibility for that person—
do not repay evil with evil. . .
How does that happen?
Not by our giving nourishment to the other person’s evil,
hate to the other person’s hate,
but by letting evil strike out into empty space and find nothing
that can inflame it.
How can we overcome evil?
By our forgiving it endlessly.
How does that happen?
By seeing enemies as they really are: as people for whom
Christ Died, as people Christ loves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I Want To Live These Days With You
A year of Daily Devotions
Reading for May 11
taken from Illegale Theologenausbildung: Finkenwalde 1935-1940

Turning point

From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.
Franz Kafka

We have come to a turning point in the road. If we turn to the right mayhap our children and our children’s children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word.
Charles Spurgeon

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(twilight in the western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a rising moon in an eastern Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

In the stillness of the in-between time known as twilight,
Sandwiched between sunset and moonrise. . .
Stepping briefly away from the never-ending emotional assault of manmade turmoil,
The otherworldliness found in Nature’s landscape, offers a respite to overwhelmed senses.

There is silence.

In front lay the setting of a December sun, offering a palette of warm and cool hues swiped across the western sky—the day’s final mark of the Master Artist’s dripping brushstrokes.
Behind rises a brilliant white disc shrouded in the purple gauze of a cloudy eastern sky. Each canvas offset with the royal shades of blues and purples as well as a few touches of soft pink whimsy.

Pivoting and turning both ahead and back, as each landscape’s offering is vastly different yet captivatingly mystical, a great sense of calm descends over the Earth.
Greater and more grand then anything made by man with the overstimulating offering of electronics, technology, and artificial this and that, the heavens above leave no doubt as to what is truly important.

The world stands at a crossroads.
Behind, lay the remnants of what was.
There in the shadows hides civility, morality, compassion, understanding, kindness, and the common goals of unity . . .
Ahead, the seemingly sinister rages of anger, anarchy, chaos, violence, looting, hatred, mistrust all coupled with a strong helping of individual self-centered agenda, set about ready for destruction. . .
The tragic results of falling away and turning from God’s word.
Yet many scoff at such simplistic explanations of the sad state gripping our world—
As the concept of an Omnipotent God competes with the more modern theology of Self.
Appeasement and all inclusiveness seem so much nicer than the following of certain tenants as stated in the covenants established between God and man.

. . .as that would require the belief in such a God and the yielding of self to something much greater. . .

The following words spoken by the late exiled dissident Russian author and Noble Prize Laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, given during a speech in the late 1970’s, eerily ring deeply more prophetic for us today than perhaps the writer could have ever known:
“We have become hopelessly enmeshed in our slavish worship of all that is pleasant, all that is comfortable, all that is material — we worship things, we worship products. Will we ever succeed in shaking off this burden, in giving free rein to the spirit that was breathed into us at birth, that spirit which distinguishes us from the animal world.”

Time is of the essence, yet who is listening. . .
as the sun continues to set and the moon continues to rise. . .


Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!
Amen.

2 Peter 3:17-18

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(sunset in a western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(soon to be full moon / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a full December moon / Julie Cook / 2014)