Back to prayer…

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing,
to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised.
It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door,
and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness,
when all around and above is trouble.”

Andrew Murray


(side chapel in Saint Sulpice / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Now that it’s Monday, it’s time we get back to work as we figure out
our specific prayer that this little blog family of ours shall need to concentrate on.
Prayers for our ailing world.

We’ve had some great thoughts…such as the latest from
our dear friend Salvageable who offered this suggestion for our collective prayer…

Last night some thoughts came to may as I was lying in bed.
Not to hijack your project,
but just to make a modest suggestion, building on Kathy’s thought of using the
Lord’s Prayer/Our Father/Jesus’ Sample prayer to guide our praying.
On a certain time every Sunday we could all pray that God and his name would be
honored and respected in our lives,
in our nation, and especially in our churches (which are His Church).

On Monday we could all pray that his kingdom would come–
that the missionaries of the Church would faithfully bring his message to all the world,
and that we also would faithfully share his forgiveness with those near us.

On Tuesday, that his will be done by the leaders of our country,
by the leaders of his Church, and by each of us,
and that he would reveal his will to us as much as is good for us to know.

On Wednesday, that we would receive daily bread–and not just our small group,
but the poor and homeless among us, the victims of abuse and neglect and addictions,
the children born or unborn who are not wanted and loved–that they would
be granted what they need to live and to have better lives, whether that be bread,
advocacy, or strength to persevere.

On Thursday, that we be forgiven our sins, both known and unknown to us.
Also that we be channels of forgiveness to others,
even to our enemies with whom we disagree.

On Friday, that we, along with the leaders of our nation and those of his Church,
be led on proper paths pleasing to the Lord and kept safe from temptation.

And on Saturday, that we, our nation, and his Church be protected from every kind of evil.
Just a thought. J.

Now I do love this idea but I worry that some of us (me) could get confused as to what day it is
and what prayer we are to be focusing on for that particular day…

Then Marie offered this thought filled observation:

I have one more observation. We have outlined the basic object of our prayers.
How we ask it differs from one individual to another.
And I am always reminded that there are times when we don’t know what or how to pray
and that’s when the Holy Spirit takes over.
Romans8:26-27 tells us He intercedes for us through wordless groans and that it is
always according to the will of God.
Our hearts are an open book to our Lord.
What a blessing. We must not forget His sovereign will.
Yes, let’s pray as one body asking with all boldness before the throne of grace.
He knows our hearts so if we ask with different words He knows our intentions.
I threw out the 6:00 time only to emphasize that we need the time also.
As said, with all of the time differences here in the US as well as across the pond,
that might be a difficult task.
Would daily be a better option?
I intend to wear something as a reminder that I must not forget this great time of prayer.

I like Marie’s thought about wearing something as a reminder…because once again we (me) might forget
both day and time.

And so one thing I was thinking about—

If we just add it in, say to our already very full prayer plates during our regular
daily “Quiet” prayer time…
it might end up as a bit of a PS…an, ‘oh by the way God’…

I feel very strongly that this should be some sort of “Joan of Arc”, jaw set, sword raised high
sort of prayer…
Meaning a strong and Godly warrior sort of prayer—because things are indeed really that bad.

And yes, as IB reminded us, things have been bad from the get go…from our Fall from
Grace…from the Fall from our God, our Father…

I feel very compelled that the faithful must be focused more than ever
as we continue to stand our Holy ground.

This is because I feel very strongly that what we are currently seeing and witnessing is all
very much a result of Spiritual Warfare—meaning Satan is working fast and furious.
And so what we know when there is a rise in Darkness and a raging Spiritual battle that
is swirling all around us, Satan is feeling the squeeze.
He’s gone into overdrive…because his time of rule on this earth is drawing nigh.

Satan loves a ‘divide and conquer mentality’—separate the troops from one another,
then swoop in for the strike.

So it must be a firm and unified prayer.

And so yesterday as we were driving home from a late breakfast, the words
“The wages of sin is death” just popped into my head…out of nowhere.

So when we got home, I looked up the verse as well as the chapter….
Romans 6:1-23…
and so what was it in that chapter that was speaking to me?

Chapter 6 opens with the words…
“What shall we say then?”
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!
Because we know that in sinning, grace cannot increase…as in it actually decreases.

We are told not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies.
We are told that we are baptized in Christ, we are buried with Him, and…
we have risen with Him–as our old self is now crucified, dead and buried.
A new self has risen…one that has been cleansed and made whole.

We are now, in turn, instruments of righteousness.
Sin is no longer our master…for we are not under the law but under that of Grace.

“What then?” we are asked as the chapter continues.

We have been set free from sin and from our old selves…only to become ‘slaves to righteousness’.

Slaves to righteousness??!!

Odd thinking to most reading such—how is it that one can be set free only to become a slave?

We know that to be a slave means to be under the ownership of, under the authority of–
literally yoked, bound or tethered to something or someone.

So from this, we know that we are no longer to be a part of the sinfulness we once knew
nor are we to be a part of the sinfulness that we are currently witnessing each and every
day in this culture of ous—
because we are now products of Righteousness as well as Grace.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations.
Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,
so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death!
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So I find myself coming back around to the notion of a prayer that stands against Darkness…
A prayer that proclaims Light.
A prayer in which we, the Believers, proclaim our humility—proclaiming our role as the instruments of
God’s Grace, Peace as well as the reflections of His light—
A prayer in which we denounce Satan’s darkness cast over humankind…
standing in our place of Light–as Christian warriors…

Maybe it’s the memory of singing the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers as a child in children’s chapel.
The imagery of what a Christian Soldier would look like in the mind of a 7-year-old girl.

That having been a Joan of Arc or a Martin of Tours.

Defiant and focused soldiers.

Brave and unwavering in the face of Evil.

However that image today, in my more developed and “healed” mind and heart,
is a much different image…

It is the image of a Maximilian Kolbe—

The Catholic priest who died in Auschwitz in the place of a fellow prisoner who was not
a Christian but rather a Jew.

It is a seemingly meek and emaciated prisoner in Auschwitz who is now the image that comes to
my mind when I think of Christian Warriors…

Quiet, humble, focused, compassionate, sustained by a love of God and determined to live out The Fatih
unto death…

https://history.info/on-this-day/1941-nazis-execute-maximilian-kolbe-via-lethal-injection/

And so now we need to think of a time…

we are our own victims

We must take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Elie Wiesel


( a ripening persimon / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a massive and unrelenting tidal wave descending over us..
It is the tsunami of all things news and the resulting title wave of
sensational headlines.
It’s exasperating just trying to keep up.
Especially if one works hard to shift through the facts searching in vain
for the truth.

However…in the end, I think we all really know what matters most…

That being…helping and assisting people to put their lives back together…
With just one example being down in Texas and Louisiana following the most
unwelcomed visit by Harvey as we all now find ourselves wearily eyeing the sky
as Irma makes her way to come calling…

That’s what’s important.

Yet we are inundated with and by the latest protests, demonstrations and clamorings
of the latest and not so greatest hoopla and brouhaha which stems from something
the sitting president has done or has not done.

Yesterday I read the recent posting by my friend Citizen Tom, ‘Left Holding the Bag’
LEFT HOLDING THE BAG

Tom was recounting the story of King Hezekiah’s response to the prophet Isaiah’s admonishment for a rather arrogant and prideful desire of which Hezekiah was granted.
And yet the king was going to have to live with the fallout from his selfish wants…
of which would now greatly impact those who had been entrusted to his governance and leadership.

Tom went on to relate the similarities of that time long ago to our own time today…
of the current situation we seem to be finding ourselves
in with North Korea and why it’s as bad as it is now.

Tom explained how previous leaders and administrations basically pushed the
ever growing knowledge of the DPRK’s advancing and expanding nuclear progress aside.
Particularly the Obama Administration.
For reasons that appear more selfish in nature than examples of selfless leadership.

Tom muses that King Hezekiah seemed to be more concerned about his own legacy,
to such an extent that he was willing to allow his “people,”
and their future generations, to suffer due in part to his selfish wants.

Just as it seems the former president was more interested in the stats of the moment
and what good things he could be remembered for doing while willfully ignoring
the looming facts and threats of a growing nuclear North Korea.
With the mindset seemingly being “let the next guy worry about it.”

And so now we turn our attentions to the more recent current event…
that being the ongoing immigration debacle and DACA.
Which has resulted in once again, more protests and demonstrations.

Yet as we’ve given such programs the names of our very essence…
names that have made us the nation we are…such as “Dreamers”…
And so we grow angry thinking about those who would dare want
to smash ‘the dream’….

When I was still in the classroom I taught a wealth of different kinds of kids.
Many of whom were here in this country illegally.
How do I know this you ask….
They told me.

I loved my ‘kids’, all of my kids, and the knowledge that many were living
in our community and in our state and in our nation illegally created a difficult situation in my heart.

Yet the bottom line, which I knew and still know, was always the same…
the word illegal.

The word illegal as defined by the Oxford Dictionary :
Contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.

As in…the law.

We are a burdened society.

Our healthcare is a catastrophic nightmare with skyrocketing costs.
Our prisons are bursting at the seam while the monies can’t keep up.
Our public education budgets are stretched to the end.
Our public assistance programs are being pulled to their limits.
According to Forbes Magazine, “As of March 2016,
the U.S. government owes almost $19.8 trillion to creditors in both long and short
term debt.”
That was based on figures from a year ago, the numbers have only grown larger in that
year’s time.

But we are a people who are the victims of our own human nature.

By and large the majority of us are caring and compassionate people who want
both ourselves and others to be comfortable and happy.
We don’t like feeling uncomfortable and we don’t like seeing others uncomfortable
because their uncomfortableness makes us uncomfortable and we simply
don’t like being uncomfortable.

We like our friends…all of our friends..those who are citizens and those who
are not—those illegal ones amongst us.
We don’t like the idea of sending them away.
We see the tears and the torn families and our hearts become
empathetic and we just say “leave them alone and let them stay…”

But there are huge ramifications with such thinking.
And that is much of our trouble.
Staying only contributes to the already burgeoning burdens we’ve created.
There are simply not the funds, resources or abilities for such….

And so we have laws for a reason.
We try to have a lawful society.
It’s how order is kept.
It is how our society functions properly.

It may not always appear fair, but we have laws to protect ourselves
from ourselves.

People here illegally are just that, illegal.
No matter how much we love them or want them to stay they are illegal
and simply put,
there will always be repercussions for actions that are illegal.

There are laws and processes in place for those who wish to come here legally.
And for all those countless individuals who have done so, what a sham all of that
rigor now becomes as we are heard to now say
“let them all come and let them all stay.”

And what of our increasing burdens?
Those burdens that this stretched nation can no longer carry on under…
under the tremendous weight of resources that cannot and will not keep up…?

So whereas our hearts speak to the tears we see and the cries we hear…
our laws and our leaders, those who know that the laws are there for a reason…
laws which must be upheld despite all the seemingly unkind, unwelcoming,
uncompassionate byproducts and effects…they must be upheld for our own sakes.

And therefore we need leaders who can lead and who are willing to lead when
things become utterly difficult.
And right now, our times are just that, utterly difficult.

We don’t want nor do we need panderers.
We do not want nor do we need appeasers.
We do not want nor do we need those who care more about legacies,
numbers or even popularity…
Because being unpopular is often what is necessary.

But rather we want and need those who can say and do the more painful and unpopular aspects of leading despite the cost to self….
it’s what we need despite ourselves.

So whereas some leaders have been more preoccupied with self, others have not…
and yet how unkind it is that there are those who have had to pick up the pieces
left hiding by those who ignored the difficult and hard…

For truly good leaders understand the burden that is placed upon their shoulders.
Of which consists of protecting ourselves from ourselves…

So is our current president such a man?
At times it appears that he is…but only time will truly tell…
And what we can do in the meantime is to allow him his elected right to try.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Isaiah 35:4

Leaving a mark

“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”
― Bill Graham

DSCN8564
(the remaining remnants of leaves faded onto the concrete / Julie Cook / 2014)

When all is said and done, what will be said about you?
What will people remember?
Or the question may beg. . .will they remember?
Will it be . . .
“that old rebel rouser”
or
“that old stick in the mud”
or
“they were so very angry”
“they were so terribly lazy”
“they were so selfish”
“they were such a martyr”
“they were so very mean”
“they had the first dime they ever made”
“they were nothing but a workaholic”

Or. . .
Will they say that the world was a better place for having had you in it?

It’s never too late you know.
There’s still time.
Time to turn things around if need be.
Right a few wrongs.
Turn over that new leaf.
Make a few changes.
Nothing drastic.
Just a little tweaking here and there.
Letting go of a few bad habits.
Figuring out what’s really important,
what really matters. . .

Will your mark be negative, rebellious, selfish, destructive
or
will your mark be positive, compassionate, generous, constructive.

There’s still time, but how much. . .I have no idea.

There is both compassion and malice in this world

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

Every day in the year there comes some malice into the world, and where it comes from is no good place.
Lady Gregory

DSCN7281
(a tiny friend trapped in a garage, weary and waiting for assistance / Julie Cook / 2014)

As I opened the kitchen door, I heard the familiar sound of heavy and intense buzzing–as if a swarm of giant bees was laying siege to my garage. And as it is, I have grown somewhat accustomed to this sound, as I immediately did an about face heading back in the house to fetch the telescopic duster.

For whatever reason, during the summer months, as long as the hummingbirds have taken up residence at my feeders, inevitably one of their clan seems to find its way into my garage yet cannot find its way out.

Our garage / carport is finished on the inside and is painted white. I’ve often wondered about the color white and whether or not the hummingbirds, or birds in general for that matter, have any sort of depth perception as far as color is concerned. Once in the carport, the birds frantically fly about the ceiling, as if they think it is the sky and they should simply be able to take off as it were. Instead, the tiny birds exhaust themselves buzzing along the ceiling, around and around hoping to be free of the invisible barrier. Sometimes they head to the windows with the same flying intensity as if the glass boundary will magically disappear. As the tiny birds grow increasingly fatigued, they often light on the windowsill or garage door lift. This is where I come in. . .

Careening my neck to an almost backwards breaking point, I precariously wander about the carport holding up a telescopic pole used for dusting ceiling fans following the erratic flying pattern, attempting to get near enough to the small lost creature, hoping he or she will grow so weary that they will simply perch on the soft duster at the end of the pole.
I look much like I’m practicing some sort of odd balancing circus act.

Inevitably and thankfully the bird lands. If I’m lucky, I can gently lower the pole, dipping it low enough, past the overhead garage door, allowing the exhausted bird to fly off to freedom. Sometimes they still have just enough energy to panic, taking off again for another round of “fly around the ceiling.” Other times, if the bird lights on the windowsill, I can usually crawl up on the brick ledge, gingerly picking up the weary bird from off the sill and gently carry it out to freedom—as was the case yesterday.

DSCN7282
(a grateful and soon to be liberated friend / Julie Cook / 2014

Happily no one is any worse for the wear as I can often be found later in the day sitting on the back deck reading and watching the feeders when, out of the blue, one of the birds darts under the awning, right up to my face hovering around a bit as if to offer a bit of thanks before darting back out to the feeders. A most humbling interaction with one of Nature’s smallest creatures.

And as I sat yesterday afternoon, thinking about my encounter with a tiny bird in need of a little help, a little human compassion, my thoughts turned to the latest tragedy which unfolded in the Middle East this week with the execution of Steven Sotloff. Was it not just last week that our attentions were turned to the execution of the American journalist James Foley?!

Executions which are more reminiscent of medieval times verses a modern 21st century. The sinister and malicious, if not sadistic, performance of the macabre. It is beyond my soul how a person can raise a knife to another person’s throat and proceed to cut off that individual’s head. I simply can’t wrap my mind around that. And maybe that’s part of the problem. This middle aged American wife, mother, educator, cannot comprehend what it takes, what exists inside of a person, do such a horrific act on another living soul.

Frighteningly, there is obviously a cold and empty detachment.
Perhaps this is the living definition of Evil.

I understand that there are sick individuals out there who commit horrific crimes–for a myriad of reasons all equally twisted and sick. Yet we must be mindful that the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known by its acronym, ISIS, is not composed of a single sick deprived individual—rather, it is a movement. A movement that is growing at an alarming, frighteningly and exponentially rate of high speed.

Oh I suppose we can say what we will about journalists who perhaps get a little too close to the action in the name of capturing “the story.” Some may say that these reporters and journalist know the risks going in. I suppose we may say the same about the aid workers who rush in to war torn and disease ridden countries in order to offer just that–aid, comfort, help and hope to the millions of innocent souls caught in the middle of chaos or those unfortunate enough to live in plague ridden areas with limited medical care. . .

Yet I for one do not buy the excuses of the jaded who write these individuals off as merely folks who unfortunately end up on the wrong side of the statistics of the risk.
No human being deserves to suffer mercilessly at the hand of another human being.
How empty my words sound to the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

About this same time last year, a Paris based organization, Reporters without Borders, reported that the estimate was that there were at least 60 “news providers” being held captive, or “detained”, as well as 110 or more individuals who had already been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorist groups across the globe.

Kidnappings, torture, exorbitant ransoms and ultimately grizzly executions.
All for what?
A new world order?
A new dogma?
World domination?
Sounds all rather Orwellian, yet ominously, it seems to be a very real and swiftly growing worry and threat.

Recently reported by a New York Times investigation, published last month, “Al Qaeda and its affiliates had brought in at least $125 million through ransom payments since 2008, including $66 million in 2013. That money came largely from European governments.”
As reported yerterday in The Guardian, “After telling MPs that the UK would not pay ransoms to secure the release of hostages in the hands of Islamic State militants, the prime minister, David Cameron, said Britain and the US would step up attempts to persuade other governments to cease making such payments.”

There are currently three known aid workers being held by ISIS. One being a 26 year old female American who was kidnapped last year. An Italian and Brit are the other two known captives. The American aid worker, as had her European and British counterparts, had gone to Syria, by her own volition, to offer her help, comfort, support, hope–to countless numbers of refugees, many of whom are children caught up in the tangled web of extremist chaos.

We may choose to sit back, reading our papers and watching our news reports of such stories as these–stories of the ugliness of “over there.” We may have missed the fact that there are now American and European citizens who are counted among the members of this growing extremist movement. We may continue feeling comfortable and safe in our chairs in our homes as we read and watch the news about this latest war. . .over there. . .

What of the aid workers? What dare say we will be their fate at the hands of these depraved terrorists? There has been a confirmed ransom demand of 6.6 million dollars for the American. Our government has long said it will not negotiate with terrorist. I agree. Obviously David Cameron agrees. Yet if I was the mother of that aid worker, I know I would feel differently. I would most likely beg, borrow and steal to have my child safely back in my arms. The question begs to be answered. . .can nations continue paying barbaric thugs astronomical amounts of money, which simply in turn goes to further funding the deepening madness and chaos of thuggery and terrorism. . .a precarious price of extortion and blood money given in the name of buying, albeit a brief, peace of mind?

How long will the cost of that peace of mind last until the next demand of payment to the proverbial piper?
The concern should be that groups such as ISIS will not be content to merely take hold of a town, a city, a country. They are parasitic and they are hungry. Their hunger is ravenous and knows no limit.

The compassion of the innocents, in this case the aid workers, has been met with the malicious hate of evil–in this case, a cohesive malevolent movement. It is merely a matter of time until we learn the next move in this latest and costly game of chess. May our thoughts and prayers remain steadfast for theses individuals and their familiars.

When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.
Pearl S. Buck