love vs change

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon


(beauty found in shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2018)

“I am sent not only to love God but to make Him loved.
It is not enough for me to love God, if my neighbor does not love Him.”

St. Vincent de Paul

repentance, forgivness and forgetting…..

“If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self,
I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Past / A Christmas Carol / 1951)

I recently caught a news story this past week coming out of the Vatican,
and thankfully this story had nothing to do with the wording or
re-wording of the Lords’ Prayer.

Pope Francis is criticizing journalists who dredge up old scandals and sensationalize the news, saying it’s a “very serious sin” that hurts all involved.

Francis, who plans to dedicate his upcoming annual communications message to “fake news,” told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies.

But he reminded them to provide precise, complete and correct information and not to provide one-sided reports.

The pope said: “You shouldn’t fall into the ‘sins of communication:’ disinformation, or giving just one side, calumny that is sensationalized, or defamation, looking for things that are old news and have been dealt with and bringing them to light today.”

He called those actions a “grave sin that hurts the heart of the journalist and hurts others.”
ABC News (ironically enough)

The News media does seem to really enjoy the digging up of the past, particularly if
said past was a sensational sort of past—
heinous, gruesome, odious, or simply grievous.

Never mind that whatever it was has been dealt with and is now left in
the past… as those involved have either healed and or moved on—
The Media must be bored or simply enjoys opening old wounds.
They can’t seem to move on….let alone, dare it be said, forgive and then forget.

Watching one of the most recent episodes of Anglican unscripted,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden was addressing the latest befuddlement plaguing the
Church of England.
It seems that the current powers that be, i.e. the Archbishop of Canturbury,
Justin Welby, has been racing to cast judgement on one of their own, now long dead
yet greatly esteemed, clergy members, The Rt Rev George Bell (1883-1958),
former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The story is playing out that a now elderly woman, who doesn’t exactly have all her ‘remembrances’ in order or even in the right places or buildings, etc seems to
recollect that perhaps a member of the clergy had molested her when she was a
young girl and maybe it was Archbishop George Bell.

Well rather than sorting through the facts and accusations and remembrances….
or questioning the very murky recollections of a now very elderly woman, the current Archbishop and others have raced to cast judgement on this long deceased but highly esteemed clergyman.

And Bishop Ashenden, for one, is crying foul.

Bishop Ashenden, who does have a background and degree in Law, points out that
much of the logic here is all wrong. The handling of all of this by the Church has
been all wrong. And the reaction by the current sitting Archbishop is all wrong.

There is not nor has there been any corroboration to this woman’s story as others who,
now equally as elderly, in the same care of the Archbishop at the time—
as it was during the War and many displaced and refugee children had been taken in by
the Church with Archbishop Bell acting as overseer, do not ever recall any such
instances let alone remember this woman.

So Bishop Ashenden is publicly demanding that Archbishop Welby apologize for racing to
damning the dead while exploiting the troubled “remembrances” of an elderly woman.

The good Bishop notes that as Christians, repentance is such an integral part
of our faith.
“It is what sets us apart form all other religions other than perhaps Judaism.”
Yet to be able to acknowledge a wrong seems to be one of the most difficult things
for human beings to own up to. Just as it is equally difficult to utter
those three little words— “I am sorry.”

But what is “genius” about our faith, the good Bishop extols, is indeed that very fact
of repentance and forgiveness—as that is the very reason Jesus came into the world…
That we should repent and forgive, just as our Father in Heaven forgives us.

Yet how hard it is for us to ever admit that we have erred, that we have made a mistake,
that we were wrong and are heartily sorry…and so in turn, please forgive me.

So where the current Archbishop has not afforded a fair critique of this matter but
rather has raced to the shut and closed condemnation, before even having sorted
fact from fiction,
is incredulous as he now owes everyone on every side of this story,
an apology–

Yet that very act, that very Christian of acts, appears to be far from the
ability of this very prominent vicar of Christ…

If an Archbishop can’t say that he is sorry or that he has perhaps over reacted or not thought something thoroughly through, how on earth can he ever ask the same,
that notion of repentance and forgiveness, from others….

Anglican Unscripted – commentary on Welby’s intransigence on +George Bell – and Dame Sarah Mullally, ‘bishop-to-be’ of London.

And as I had just finished watching the video segment about this story on Anglican Unscripted, I went on to find the following observations by St John Kilmakos—
a commentary of points on that very thing…the remembrance of wrongs and
the ultimate in forgiveness.

2. Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, stopping of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling beloved in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.

3. This dark and hateful passion, I mean remembrance of wrongs, is one of those that are produced but have no offspring. That is why we do not intend to say much about it.

4. He who has put a stop to anger has also destroyed remembrance of wrongs; because childbirth continues only while the father is alive.

5. He who has obtained love has banished revenge; but he who nurses enmities stores up for himself endless sufferings.

6. A banquet of love dispels hatred, and sincere gifts soothe a soul.
But an ill-regulated banquet is the mother of boldness, and through the window of love gluttony leaps in.

—St. John Klimakos
The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

And so it is….we find in our repentance and sincere sense of regret and sorrow
for our misdeeds coupled by our forgiveness—
forgiveness from God which in turn produces forgiveness from one another
as well as from ourselves….and it is here where true Love is really to be found.
That Jesus Christ was born to save us from our constant state of wrongdoing…
otherwise known as sin.
And as we are forgiven, we in turn are to forgive—
and as is with the Father…He forgives and He forgets…..

I thank him who has given me strength,
Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,
appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor,
and insolent opponent.
But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
of whom I am the foremost.
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost,
Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who
were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:12-16

God being God

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times,
He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon


(dragonfly rests in the meadow / Julie Cook .

“So often we try to fit God in a box, making God be what we want him to be.
That can bring a lot of frustrations.
But letting God be God can be incredibly freeing.”

Lauren Green

submission

It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence –
“Not unto us,
not unto us,
but unto Thy name be glory.”

– Charles Spurgeon

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(image of Mary, Illuminated Manuscript)

Jesus.
The name of our Lord and of my Order [The Society of Jesus]
shall be the first word I write in the New Year.
The name stands for all the things I desire when I pray, believe and hope;
for inner and outer redemption;
for relaxation of all the selfish tensions and limitations I place
in the way of the free dialogue with God,
all the barriers to voluntary partnership and surrender without reserve:
and for a speedy release from these horrible fetters.
The whole situation is so palpably unjust;
things I have neither done nor even known about are keeping me here in prison. ”

The name Jesus stands also for all that I intended to do in the world,
and still hope to do among mankind. To save, to stand by ready to give immediate help,
to have goodwill towards all men, and to serve them. I still owe much to so many.

And in conclusion the Order, too, is embraced in my invocation of this name–
the Order which has admitted me to its membership.
May it be personified in me.
I have pledged myself to Jesus as his loving comrade and blood-brother.

The Name stands for passionate faith, submission, selfless effort and service.

Excerpt from Fr. Alfred Delp’s diary
January 1, 1945

In 1944, at the time of Father Delp’s arrest and subsequent trial for treason against the Nazi State,
the young Jesuit’s date for his profession of his final vows as a priest had been
indefinitely postponed.
And as Hitler had decreed that no priest was to study for the priesthood,
as he had shuttered all seminaries, Delp’s friends arranged to have a priest, a confrere
with full support of the German Catholic Church, visit Delp while in prison in Berlin.
He would hear Delp’s profession and receive him fully into his order.

The visiting priest, Father Tattenbach,
knew that he had to disguise his visit as merely a sympathetic gesture offered to
a condemned prisoner.
The visit could have no whiff of official Church business as such had been long outlawed.
Nor could he let it be known what the two men were actually doing.
He also feared that the prison guards would be suspicious especially as the vows
were to be made in Latin…
he worried the guards would think that they talking in code while passing secrets.

So Fr Tattenbach explained that he was going to be praying with Fr Delp in Latin
and actually wrote out what he would be saying in German…
yet the guards remained suspicious hovering about as the two men
entered into a sacred, holy and solemn moment in time…
and oddly allowed the two men to conduct their most important “prayer session”…

To be submissive.

It is a word that is growing ever more difficult to act upon as our
society deems the act of submission to be a serious and egregious act of weakness…
Something that is to be scorned, reviled and forbidden.

The negative connotations associated with acts of submission are endless.
Particularly as the militant feminist movement has cast the word into the realm of all things taboo.
As they claim that the very word seethes with all things vile and odious in nature.

Yet throughout this season of Advent,
we are constantly reminded of what complete and utter submission looks like.
It begins in the form of Mary’s selfless, obedient and submissive willingness to play a part in God’s grand plan…
spanning the chasm of time to the Springtime reminder of that same selfless,
obedient and submissive willingness offered freely by her son as he walks from
the start of his life in that obscure stable to his destiny on Golgotha.

And thankfully there remains those few souls among us who make wide their beings…
opening and allowing for the totally emptying of self.
They forgo all aspects of their own wellbeing…
in turn allowing for the betterment of all humankind… at the cost of their own existence.
They act as our polestar.

And just as Father Delp demonstrated,
with hands chained and a noose waiting to be placed around his neck,
submission to the service of God is an act so much greater than any fettered or
tethered limitation imposed by man.

So may we, this season of Advent, learn the importance of submission…
May we be both strong and courageous as we learn to yield our hearts, minds and our very beings
to the will of the One True God…

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Romans 13:1

Once again…

True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance.
It is far deeper than that–
it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Charles Spurgeon

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(broken sand dollar in the surf / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

Once again we are called to offer our prayers, our hearts, our thoughts to God for
ambushed and murdered police officers.
Our prayers are offered upward for these officers and their families who are left wondering why.

Not that these officers were unaware or naive to the dangers of their job, their calling..
The potential that each day could be the day that they are called upon to offer their all…
Yet to be ambushed…purposefully and willfully cut down…in cold blooded murder…
is difficult to process.

We wonder, we worry, if we are now growing numb and jaded to the almost daily news of
the heinous taking of life …
Numb to the daily images of grieving families…wives now widows, children now without a parent…
As a part of our society has decided that any and all police officers are no longer worthy of living…

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8

red tape

“The atmosphere of officialdom would kill anything that breathes the air of human endeavour, would extinguish hope and fear alike in the supremacy of paper and ink.”
― Joseph Conrad

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times,
He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon

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(side door at St Ann’s Church, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2016)

Number 45 flashes in bold bright red across the suspended matrix box perched over the counter as a monotone voice calls out “Number 45 to counter number 6, number 45 to counter 6…”

After an hour and a half of waiting you have pretty much tuned out the monotonous din of chatter in the very aseptic, yet somewhat dingy, waiting room which has all but swallowed you whole.
A television protruding awkwardly out of the wall, way too close to the ceiling, runs a slew of continuous infomercials concerning the very agency in which you currently find yourself…
As those around you cough, sneeze, hack and shift in the uncomfortable metal chairs as others chat incessantly while still others scattered throughout the cramped waiting room are being entirely too loud on cell phones…while the signs posted strategically around the room glaringly display a cartoon cell phone with a giant red circle and slash with the words “no cell phone use in the waiting area…”

Suddenly, as if jerked back to the land of the living, it registers in your consciousness that you are holding ticket number 45.

Eagerly and a bit bleary eyed you hop up while looking overhead at the various signs hanging over the long line of counters, scanning the corridor for counter number 6 which is now serving ticket number 45…
Finally you feel as if it’s your lucky day…

Who among us hasn’t found ourselves, on any number of occasions, in this same sort of scenario…be it at the DMV, the Social Security Office, the IRS, a health clinic, the VA, a court house, a hospital, a records office, a government agency…as the list is almost endless.

We jump through hoop after hoop to deal with so many aspects of our lives or of the lives of those we’ve been entrusted to care for…our loved ones…
Only to become overwhelmed, discouraged and simply worn out by the system that we now deem has been put in place to simply break our will….

We have to gather up identifying document after document…photos, social security numbers, voter registration numbers, account numbers, passports, registration cards… chasing each and every last one down as we phone, e-mail, write, shuffle to and from as we seek and search…
While at the same time being required to make certain that each piece of paper, photo and number matches and is current, up to date as well as recognized as 100% legal…
and if not…if one letter, number or identifying marker varies from one to the next,
then it’s back to the end of the line and back to square one.

We call, we wait, we push buttons, we wait some more, we listen to music, we listen in silence, we plead for a representatives, we push zero, we yell at robot voices, we try to enunciate our english, we get call backs if we’re lucky…
We have countless pieces of important papers, we wait in long lines, we shuffle from one office and building to another as we wait to take care of whatever very urgent, gravely important and time sensitive issue happens to be currently dogging us or the loved ones we are charged with caring for.

We have created a bureaucratic nightmare…
and there is absolutely no end in sight.
No fix.
No solution.
No easy answer.
No politician, no matter how much they promise that they can eliminate or make it all go away…can help…
Like it or not we are simply entrenched in the red tape nightmare we have created for ourselves…

Created through all of our agencies, our offices, our lawyers, our layered system of life, our “move um in and move um out” livestock mentality….
All the while more and more agencies and offices are being imgained, formed and created in order to help streamline the maddening chaos…
Which has all been put in place, in the first place, to deal with the general populace…ie…you and me.

No wonder there are countless television shows allowing those haggard, bleary eyed souls, overloaded and system beaten victims, opportunities of watching those who “survive” off the proverbial grid or the shows that allow all the sad sacks to wonder and hope what to do when the grid is finally so totally overwhelmed that it self-destructs…leaving life as we know it a forgotten memory…

And then it hits us..
Smack dab between the eyes…
God has never issued numbers!
He has never once put us on hold.
Never have we had to jump through hoops in order to reach Him.
He has no mountains of entangling red tape snarling the path or journey to meet Him.
He simply and quietly is there…or here…or wherever we may find ourselves….
waiting..
waiting on us…
not the other way around with us endlessly waiting…
but rather it is He who waits…
waiting for that time when we finally decide we’ve had enough and we simply need to vent about this thing called life….

God waits for you to communicate with Him.
You have instant, direct access to God.
God loves mankind so much, and in a very special sense His children,
that He has made Himself available to you at all times.

Wesley L. Duewell

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)