What say you my friends?

“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first
line of defense.
We pray when there’s nothing else we can do,
but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that
will get immediate results.
We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because
His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”
Oswald Chambers


(Praying hands by Albrecht Dürer 1508)

Back on February 1st, I wrote a post concerning the dire story canvasing the headlines…
that story being the notion of third term abortions—or what some folks have labeled as
4th term abortions.

The idea being that full-term delivered babies, followed by a discussion between parents and doctors,
could be left to simply die.
Personally, I call that murder but hey, what do I know.

Here is the post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/third-term-abortions-absolutely-not/comment-page-1/#comment-23198

It was on that post that I received the following comment by a fellow blogger, “Mother Hen”:
(mother hen’s site: https://mamahenprays.wordpress.com/about/)

Mother Hen:
“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God,
he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.
Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling,
deception, malicious behavior and gossip.
All of Romans 1
I would like to join you and others for a set time to pray.
What do you think”

My response:
I think that would be a very good idea!

Mother Hen:
If there is a certain day of the week..
when we could begin to individually lift up our prayers for this specific request or any other
that might come our way. But agreeing together as buddies here at wordpress..
would surely be a blessing.. and much needed.
If you are led you might consider opening it up to others here.
You are excellent with words. But I take into consideration that the mayor needs you right now,
so maybe easing into it might be best for you.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

my response:
I agree and I do believe prayer is a powerful tool.
I’m here in Atlanta with the Mayor until Saturday…and when I say I’m here with the Mayor…
it is 24/7 unitl mom and dad finally get home in the evening…
to say I’m tired is an understatement…but in a good way!
So this weekend I’ll write a post about our praying together—-
I figure we need to be specific—but in which direction?
For the Nation’s leadership?
For Christians in an ever increasing socialistic society?
Maybe I’ll just ask for a consensus….
but I think specific prayer and time will be key!

So when I recently read and later shared the story about our friend the Wee Flea’s testimony
and his near brush with death, my memory was quickly jarred back to my conversation with Mother Hen.

David’s health was rapidly failing so his church sent out an urgent email asking for
prayers for David’s healig at a set time daily.

David later responded…

“The churches responded.
You can call it coincidence.
But from that weekend on I began to get better.”

The power of a committed prayer.

What I call focused prayer.

God honors our petitions and cries.
Sometimes He answers us readily and directly…
Other times He answers in ways we do not always see nor understand.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,
it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 18:19-20

I think we all agree that we need to be praying for our Nation, our leaders,
as well as now for our unborn, or perhaps more correctly, our recently born children…

And so I ask you–
What say you?

What shall we pray for…percisely?

Shall we pray about this third term abortion debacle?
Shall we pray about our loss of morality?
Shall we pray about our oppressed Christian faith?
Shall we pray about our divided Nation?

What shall be our precise prayer?
When shall it be prayed?
And how often shall it be prayerd?

We all need to be in agreement on a specific prayer, a specific day and a specific time…
and then we need to join together in that prayer.

And so I ask each of your—what shall we, the faithful, be about?

Offer your thoughts and we’ll sort out our direction.

emotional reactions and directions

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

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Striking a healthy balance is key.

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

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

That is our nature as humans.

That is…for most humans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a snippet of what this gentle voice said…

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

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

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

(cleaned up grammatically just a tad)

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

More signposts pointing to God and God alone…

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 2:13

“I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse….”

“Jesus Christ is the source—the only source—of meaning in life.
He provides the only satisfactory explanation for why we’re here and
where we’re going.
Because of this good news,
the final heartbeat for the Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to
a meaningless existence.
It is, rather, the grand beginning to a life that will never end….”

James Dobson


(Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather)

A curious thing happened this morning in my little corner of blogland…
(yesterday if you’re reading this on Friday),

I noticed it when I went to hit the publish button to my latest post offering
for the day ….
I noticed that there was a comment waiting in moderation.

It was early and I had just poured my morning cup of coffee when I noticed this
pending piece of business that was asking for my attention.

Now granted I have been known to end up in many purgatories on the blogs
of friends and acquaintances…and even for some who I just comment on as I might
not be a regular contributor or reader…
obviously when the WP gods deem me unworthy…it is to purgatory I go.

And despite being a regular on the sites of friends,
or the fact that my comments are neither foul, nefarious or offensive,
I’m left relegated to the simple fact that I must accept the fact that it is,
at times, just part and parcel of an inconvenience of Word Press.

And yes, it does often bother me that my “friends” and fellow bloggers don’t
necessarily know or won’t realize that I’ve actually visited—
as I’m in some sort of spam bucket of moderation purgatory,
trapped without being able to say “hey, here I am….
way down in the bottom of this empty barrel…..

So as I was pondering moderation purgatory, I had a red exclamation point
staring at me on the admin page,
as well as an email notification, that a person’s comment was awaiting
my “moderation”…it all seemed a bit urgent—

I clicked to see who may have been discarded without just cause….

This is what I read (and it is rather crude):
“Do not comment on ______ site. (I’m not saying whose site I was
to stay away from in order to protect the innocent or in this case, the much maligned)
It is a repository for farters and fundie theology. Go to sites such as Jesus creed,
Roger Olson and Christianity today for real news. Bye Bye”

Naturally I hit the spam and trash buttons as well as trashed the e-mail as I was
none too amused.
And yet perhaps that was the point…to be irksome while I in turn offer
a bit of immortality to this trouble.

Firstly it was a comment both crass and crude and I don’t like crass nor crude.
And it was laced with sarcasm.
I dislike sarcasm.
I’m one who still believes in decorum and manners despite this current culture’s
love of all things angry, mean spirited, rude, crude and downright vile.

Secondly it had the air of an unspoken tone of a threat—
and I don’t like being threatened—because as a 58 year old Christian,
I certainly resent being told what to do, what to see, what to read by some
upstart irksome trouble….
as I think I’ve got that area well figured out by now.

Thirdly this nefarious individual was trying to redirect me from one
Christian blogger’s blog to some other type of Christian blog fodder…for what?
What kind of “Christian” is crass and vile defaming a brother in Christ,
while attempting to steer readers to other supposed Christian sites….

A nut job that’s who…..who I suspect is no sort of Believer whatsoever.

But rather a misguided, sinful lost troll…

All of this was swirling around in these early morning thoughts of mine when suddenly
I had visions of Don Corleone’s raspy voice giving me some sort of ultimatum…
leaving an unspoken ‘or else’ hanging in the air.
As in this dude was telling me to steer clear and steer here instead…
in an oh so crude sort of way with an unspoken notion of something bad happening
if I did not comply….

Really??!!

Now those of you who know me know that I don’t do Facebook, I don’t tweet,
I don’t Pin, I don’t instagram…I dont do much of anything but this blog and email–
I like to keep it simple…
plus as a long time educator, I often saw the darker side
of all things social media—so I consciously choose not to participate….

So with that being said, my blog following is low compared to those who attach
their blogs to say their Facebook, etc…
and thats ok with me as I decided long ago that if God wanted someone to read what
I had to offer, He’d bring them my way…He’s good that way.

It also means on the flip side that our Ancient Adversary equally enjoys
bringing people to places they have no business going or in that
their motives for going are grievously wrong…and in part because the
posts and or blogs do bring glory to God….
and we all know this Adversary despises God and all His Glory….

And so now enters the misguided and mean spirited trolls that seem to
find some sort of sick twisted pleasure from becoming human beggar lice.
You know…those little brown things that stick to your clothing when you’re
out walking in the woods or tall grassy fields….

You can’t brush them off because of the velcro like stickiness that
has them attaching to your pet’s fur or your clothing. You have
to pick them off one by one…

So yes, I disdain a troll.

I believe their activity of “trolling” is a waste of human life.
There is so much that needs doing in and for our world and our
fellow human beings in order to better their lives and our entire
collective lives etc…
that wasting time cruising blogs and the net in order just to be a thorn in
someone’s side is just, as I say, a waste.

And yet here is the rub in all of this…
most of these blogs that these human beggar lice opt to stalk and harass
are witnesses to the Faith…

It is a testimony…and we know from the early followers of Jesus, shortly
following his death and resurrection that witnessing and testimonies were often
a dangerous practice but a much needed practice none the less….

And so those of us who offer the Word of God to those who happen by our blogs—
be they by choice of desire or choice of the nefarious…the message remains the same.
Jesus Christ is the Salvation of all mankind….
Praise God!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12″10-12

It’s time to think

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

― Albert Einstein


(the sun hides behind the weed stalk / Julie Cook / 2017)

Notice how Einstein said “the world as we have created it…”
He meant man….
He did not say, nor did he intend to say, that it was God who had been doing the creating….not God, but man.

For it is a world very much which man has indeed created…ever since that
fateful day in a now sealed garden…
Very much a pandora’s box sort of world—as all manner of things, both good and bad,
have been unleashed…..

And it is with that notion that several thoughts have been coming to light over
the last week or so…as time has allowed for such thoughts and tidbits, if you will,
to percolate, fester or ferment in this mind of mine….

Firstly the other day, I read a comment by a young gal on the site of a fellow blogger,
who happened to be a young lady of color.
I couldn’t tell but guessed that her feelings about Christians and or Christianity
was a bit ambivalent to actually being somewhat hostile as the tone in which
she wrote / spoke rung of mixed signals, mixed messages and outright
hypocrisy regarding Christians / Christianity and the current witnessing of the
whole Black Friday consumerism mayhem she had been seeing, as it sounded as if
it had seen as a bit up and personal—
All of which, if the truth be told, has sadly become the notable marker
to the this whole holiday season—
never mind that it use to the the lighting of an Advent candle.

Somehow the lighting of a candle verses being the first in line for a door buster
goodie just doesn’t seem to ring of the same sense of importance.

This young woman sees it as if ‘they speak of all things love and acceptance
but act like hungry crazy sharks who’d punch a fellow human being in the face
over the last door buster flat screen TV…

ahh humanity……

She went on about sharing the Thanksgiving holiday with a Middle Eastern friend who
was Muslim, along with the friend’s entire family. And that she found them
(the friend and friend’s family) to be warm, gracious and hospitable which was a
stark contrast to what she presumed to be the Christian hate of all things Muslim….

Would it help any if I defended “us” by saying we’re not suppose to be calling it
Christmas in the first place….but rather ‘winter holiday’… or some other similar generic winter mumbo jumbo…
a time that just so happens to be earmarked as a time of over the top giving????

How are we to help the fact that the savvy marketeers of all things materialistic
have turned Christmas gift giving into some sort of high end art of a feeding frenzy….

And therein lies much of our trouble—
we have allowed this to grow out of control by playing right into the middle
of it all.

And secondly, I don’t recall it being a Christian mantra that “we hate Muslims”…

But either way, this young lady obviously had been given some sort of bad vibes in
order for her to “feel” this level of resentment for Christians and Christianity….
because I don’t think she just pulled all of this out of thin air…

As in what kind of Christians / Christianity has she been witnessing???

The other thing that has been resonating with me as of late is the fact that
there is evil in the world.
I’m talking real serious evil.

I bring this up because evil is something that has always been
at the forefront of my relationship with God as Father and Christ as Savior….
As in I’ve always known that the devil is real and there is a raging spiritual
war all around us…and it was Christ who went to hell to do battle
over our very salvation.

I just think we the faithful often prefer to down play the real ugliness of evil….
except only when it’s convenient or practical—as in ‘that violent act was so evil’…
never mind the guy punching the other guy in the face on Black Friday at the mall
as also being an evil act…it just wasn’t “as” evil as we like to define our evils.

We tend to gloss over it, him, whatever…
I think in part because it’s a topic we don’t much like to think about nor do we
consider it a tasteful topic…preferring to think of Flip Wilson and Geraldine
“the devil made me do it” sort of nonsense…saving the sinister one and his
minions for Halloween.

So in the comfort and safety of our homes how much are we willing to
recognize such as really being real?
We tend to ignore or just push aside that which we don’t like to talk about because
gloom and doom and the Devil are not things we really think we need to talk about or address.

Those of us “Christian” bloggers, as much as we talk about what it is we
talk about…that being of faith and or witness, is all well and good but
I wonder if we are really reaching our target and or are we truly presenting our
case, testimony, witness or whatever it is we’re presenting as well as we should??

Oh we have our “friends” who read our words, offering their supportive “amens”,
and we even have our atheist “friends,” whom we’ve gotten to know over the years,
who we truly do like as we both simply seem to enjoy our daily or weekly tussle and arguments…

But what of our real message and target…the one with words and the one with actions?
The ones this young lady missed, or maybe didn’t miss and those things we’re afraid
to talk about??

Satan is slick.
Just ask Eve as she was engaged in conversation with a smooth talking serpent.

When Rio was about to host the Summer Olympics, I think it was 60 Minutes who had gone
to Rio to do a story about its darker side.

Rio is rife with poverty, crime and drugs.
That is a fact but a far cry from what the Olympic Committee or the Government
wanted anyone to see or realize as images of the Girl from Ipanema was to be the
focus and not what was going on in the slums just up the hill.

The reporter was granted an interview up in those slums with a drug lord.
Jabba the Hut came immediately to mind.
This large slimy looking man was surrounded by geeked out followers just waiting
for the next offered hit—he was more than creepy… he was downright evil.
His vantage point was one of looking directly down on those beautiful Brazilian beaches.

That man, I had no doubt, would put a bullet in your head so fast, if he felt one
inkling of betrayal…it would literally make your head spin before you fell over dead
as he was / is the type of person who does indeed scare me.

Those very cold unfeeling people who have no regard for human life.
Think Mafia and organized crime…think psychopaths like Charles Manson.

I’m currently reading the book A Very Expensive Poison,
The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West

by Luke Harding.

If you don’t think there is real evil out and about—then you are living much too sheltered under your rock or much like my aunt, preferring the covering of sand
over your head. And if you think it is far removed from your safe little
corner of life, again you are sadly mistaken.

There is so much going on that the average human being really has no clue.

And much of it will simply manifest itself in the ugliness of greed, materialism and
entertainment that is so far removed from a Christian’s mindset but is consumed
mindlessly as we rationalize away any thought that it could actually be harmful
or dare we say it, evil.

And I don’t say this as some paranoid Henny Penny the sky is falling chicken running
about with hands to head wailing ‘oh woe is me.’

I think it is time that Christians really need to start thinking about what it is
that makes them, us, you, me…believers.
We need to figure out our faith and how that faith is to manifest itself to a world
rife with evil.
And anyone promising a happy life of pie in the sky is simply delusional and lying—
because being a Christian is so very much more.
It is to truly be at battle….as very real battle indeed.
And it is not a pretty battle.

Yet maybe the route you’ve taken is because you were raised as such and
that’s just how it is? A quiet simple go the Church on Sunday sort
of deal with that being that.
Maybe it is because you go to church on Sunday, maybe even on Wednesday night, and that makes it all good—as in you’re checked off for the week?

Maybe it’s because you are the typical and dying breed of WASP and that’s
just the history of how your life has always been…?

Maybe you throw money in the red kettle this time or year, give a little extra something
to those who cut your yard, your hair, carry your groceries, etc…and that’s
your humanitarian effort for the year?

Are you just living your life, doing your thing, while all the bad guys are out there,
over there and far removed as you rationalize you and yours are good to go
as those “others” out there are busy in the world of all things destructive
and evil?

I’m afraid itsjust not so simple.

And until we as Believers can figure that out—that we keep allowing the bad,
the Evil one, to get and keep that upper hand while we politely turn our backs….well
it certainly is more comfortable to be cozy in this kitchen of mine as I chat about such
and as I oddly find myself humming the Girl, or in my case the boy, from Ipanema….
all the while folks are still putting cold compresses on those black Friday beatings…

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

bitterness

“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable,
Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”

Euripides

“Up from behind a sand dune close beside her rose the form of her enemy Bitterness.
He did not come any nearer, having learned a little more prudence,
and was not going to make her call for the Shepherd if he could avoid it,
but simply stood and looked at her and laughed and laughed again,
the bitterest sound that Much-Afraid had heard in all her life.”

Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places


(image of wormwood)

Anyone who spends any amount of time in a car alone… commuting or traveling…
knows that such time is spent basically as a virtual prisoner of one’s car…
yet it is time spent providing one with ample time for thought and reflection.
That is if the radio isn’t blaring or you’re not jabbering on the phone.

Finding myself commuting to and from Dad’s these days….
Just one way I am alone in the car from anywhere from a little over an hour to upwards
to 4 hours and beyond given the happenstance of life on Atlanta’s interstates….
One little wreck or stall or the never ending construction projects…
and I can find myself with plenty of “alone” time in which to ponder, reflect or fret…

The other evening I found myself quickly playing catch up with some of
my favorite blogs.
One of my brother’s in Christ and his wife are currently in Israel.

This blogging friend has been dutifully posting pictures of his trip along with a bit
of historical commentary as time has allowed.
I’ve enjoyed playing virtual tourist as have others who read his blog.

Yet sadly there have been a few commentators who have been very negative and even critical
of my fiend’s trip….likening such a trip to Israel, Jerusalem in particular,
as a type of Disneyland experience.

Now I understand that any sort of historic tourist draw is going to have its fair share
of those hawking to make a fast buck made on the backs of unsuspecting tourists.
Think posing with Roman clad gladiators outside of Rome’s Colosseum…paying
upwards of 20 to 40 euros for a shot and you get the idea of money being made
at historical sites.

I experienced a very similar sordid encounter at another overtly tourist site
on a trip once to Pompeii.
Pompeii being the ancient Italian city, just outside of Naples, that was destroyed in the year
79 AD by a catastrophic eruption from the volcano Mt Vesuvius.
The city is frozen in time and is a sad and eerie testament to what it means living in the
shadow of a volcano…

Pompeii is an ongoing archaeological site as well as a protected and perseved historical site.
Buildings have been identified as various homes, governmental offices, stores….
as well as the identification of even a local brothel.
Pompeii was a port town and well, one has always heard about sailors on leave…

The brothel was readily identified because of the stone carved man’s genitalia placed above
the threshold of this particular building.
It seems that the locals now capitalizing on the universal interest in sex and so
replicas of this particular “carving” are for sale all over the area outside the city gates.
Think Disney and Mickey’s ear and Pompeii has, well, male body parts for sale.

So I get the whole Disney mentality of tourism…
But there was more to this viewer’s comments than that of causal observation…
as his comments actually turned bitterly hateful.

For you see, this particular blog visitor is an avowed nonbeliever.
He is not a stranger to my friend’s blog, my blog, nor others who profess to
be believing Christians.
It would probably be more accurate to note that this fellow is a former believer now
turned ardent atheist.

I don’t know much about him but that he enjoys taunting Christians.

His taunts on my friend’s site, concerning this trip to the Holy Land, actually
began to border on almost sick…even as he alluded off color to my friend’s wife.

So naturally when I found myself in my car, alone, I began to recall those vicious words,
as well as the words of those who did not care for this
“raining on the trip parade” as it were.
The volley of insults began bouncing back and forth…

What I do know is this man lost his father several years ago—
to cancer is my understanding.
That he was a believer and also what I understand was actually a minister.

I realize that by watching those we love who suffer,
grievously suffering in anguishing pain,
can certainly test and try the faith of the most ardent among us.
And I must confess that I’ve been known to raise my fist to God during the various trails
throughout the course of my own life… so I do not begrudge anyone those emotions
of sorrow and frustration associated with heartbreak and agony.

Yet as I ruminated over those rather wicked words…reflecting even on the tone
to which they were delivered…
only one word kept coming to mind…
bitterness.

Pure unadulterated bitterness.

Bitterness, according Merriam Webster, is a deep-seated ill will caused by anger,
distress or sorrow.
Chances are we have all experienced bitterness or its fist cousin resentment, at some
point during life.

Yet bitterness which is not eventually banished, takes root within one’s being…
Allowed to fester and ferment it is easily recognized.
It is highly unattractive and the outward seeping and spewing of bitterness,
which easily bubbles up to the surface,
is readily and regrettably tasted by any observer.

Bitterness creates an isolating barrier…
Repelling anyone who dares to offer an open hand.

Bitterness is not a welcomed human trait nor is it tolerated for long by others…
It becomes a never ending cycle of brokeness….
as bitterness simply begets more bitterness…

It seems to me that more often then not, non-belivers and bitterness
often walk hand in hand…
whereas the followers of Christ are grounded in what many note as
an unexplainable settled peace…

So as I continue my journey of commuting and ruminating,
I know my friend is throughly enjoying his trip, just we are…
those of us who are enjoying reading of his travels as we
enjoy being virtual tourists…

As one thing I have gleaned…there is certainly no time for bitterness when one is selflessly
sharing with ones friends…
Happy travels Wally….

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

hands

“I take comfort in the fact that somehow,
in the mysterious resources of the human spirit,
even pain can serve a higher end.”

Dr. Paul Brand

“I don’t pray that you may be delivered from your troubles.
Instead, I pray that God will give you the strength and
patience to bear them.”

Brother Lawrence

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(the hands of Mother Teresa / A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

The other evening a visitor to my blog made a comment on a post that I had actually
written 3 years ago…

It was a post about feet.

And the feet in question were not just any pair of feet,
but rather the tired and worn feet of a relentless saint of a woman.

A woman, mind you, Pope Francis most recently declared a saint.

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

For some, especially my high school students…at the time I had originally shared the photograph,
the image of her feet were hard to look at…
for the image was that of a pair of feet that had not lived a pampered life
but rather a life of back breaking labor, toil and work….

And we are each the better for those feet.

In the commentary of the post, a dear friend of mine lovingly and sweetly reminisced
about the rough and worn hands of her grandmother.
Recalling the vivid details that had been etched on her young heart.

The new visitor added to that very train of thought with her own poignant memories of the rough and worn hands of her aunt…and of the very touching response from her uncle to her aunt’s weary anguish over her “ugly worn out hands”…

There is a post unto itself in her very touching words…

And it was today that I read the most beautiful tale of hands that I thought most appropriate to share with this most current thought of hands…

“What practical effect does Christ’s identification have on the person who actually suffers?
A dramatic example of the effect of this truth was seen in
the ministry of Dr Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.
There he preached a sermon, one of his best known and best loved.
At the time, Brand and his workers were among the few in the area who would
touch or closely approach a person with Hansen’s disease—townspeople quarantined them.
Brand slipped in late to a patients’ gathering,
sitting on the mat at the edge of an open courtyard.
The air was heavy with combined odors of crowding bodies,
poverty, stale spices, treated bandages.

The patients insisted on a few words from Dr Brand,
and he reluctantly agreed.
He stood for a moment, empty of ideas, looking at the patients before him.
His eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them,
most pulled inward in the familiar “leprosy claw-hand,” some with no fingers,
some with a few stumps.
Many patients sat on their hands or otherwise hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he began and waited for the translation into Tamil and Hindi.
“So when I meet people, I can’t help looking at their hands.
The palmist claims he can tell you your future by looking at your hands.
I can tell your past.
For instance I can tell what your trade has been by the position of the
calluses and the condition of the nails.
I can tell a lot about your character,
I love hands.”

He paused and looked at the eager faces.
“How I would love to have had the chance to meet Christ and study his hands!
But knowing what he was like, I can almost picture them, feel them.”

He paused again,
then wondered aloud what it would have been like to meet Christ and study his hands.
He traced the hands of Christ,
beginning with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, futilely grasping.
Then came the hands of the boy Jesus, clumsily holding a brush or stylus,
trying to form letters of the alphabet.
Then the hands of Christ the carpenter—
rough, gnarled, with broken fingernails and bruises from working with saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer.
Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them,
so much so that when he touched people they could feel
something of the divine spirit coming through.
Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

“Then,” continued Dr. Brand,
“there were his crucified hands.
It hurts me to think of a nail being driven through the center of my hand,
because I know what goes on there,
the tremendous complex of tendons, and nerves and blood vessels and muscles.
It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.
The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me
of what Christ was prepared to endure.
In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled
human beings in the world.
Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor,
weariness with the tired,
but–clawed hands with the cripple.”

The effect on the listening patients,
all social outcasts,
was electrifying.
Jesus—a cripple,
with claw hand like theirs?

Brand continued.
“And then there were his resurrected hands.
One of the things I find most astounding is that though we think of the
future life as something perfected,
when Christ appeared to his disciples he said,
“Come look at my hands,’ and he invited Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nail.
Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity?
Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an eternal reminder
of the sufferings of those on earth?
He carried the marks of suffering so he could continue to understand the needs
of this suffering.
He wanted to be forever on with us.”

As he finished, Paul Brand was again conscious of the hands as they were lifted,
all over the courtyard,
palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.
The hands were the same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches.
Yet no one tried to hide them.
They were held high, close to the face, in respect for Brand,
but also with new pride and dignity.
God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

T.S. Elliot wrote in one of his Four Quartets:
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
the questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

The surgery of life hurts. It helps me, though, to know
that the Surgeon himself, the Wounded Surgeon,
has felt every stab of pain and every sorrow.

Philip Yancey
Jesus’ Reminders

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https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/