wonder upon wonder

“If you become Christ’s you will stumble upon wonder upon wonder,
and every one of them true.”

St. Brendan of Birr


(the vegatation on the forest floor / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Undertake courageously great tasks for God’s glory,
to the extent that he’ll give you power and grace for this purpose.
Even though you can do nothing on your own, you can do all things in him.
His help will never fail you if you have confidence in his goodness.
Place your entire physical and spiritual welfare in his hands.
Abandon to the fatherly concern of his divine providence every care for your health,
reputation, property, and business; for those near to you; for your past sins;
for your soul’s progress in virtue and love of him; for your life, death,
and especially your salvation and eternity—in a word, all your cares.
Rest in the assurance that in his pure goodness,
he’ll watch with particular tenderness over all your responsibilities and cares,
arranging all things for the greatest good.”

St. John Eudes, p. 363
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Saints

speed bumps, potholes, obstacles

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are.
I don’t believe in circumstances.
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look
for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

George Bernard Shaw


(ok, this is a speed hump, but you get the idea)

In a galaxy lifetime long ago and far away,
I was once a prolific writter.

Imagine that.

I use to actually write…

Not like I do here pecking away in blogville, but I actually used a pen and paper
and I wrote letters, cards, notes, journals…

A good many of those cards and letters were addressed to my godfather–
who in turn, wrote and sent letters and cards right back.

Over the years I saved every one of those pieces of correspondence.

They were the tangibles to our relationship.
I think we were each a tad freer when writing as expression and thoughts
flowed freely.

Those saved letters, notes and cards may be found in overstuffed bibles,
books, drawers, and any number of boxes from that past life of mine…

I recently found one of those letters.

At the time it was written, my godfather was probably just a little older than I am now.

In the letter, he made mention of some health issues he’d been dealing with-
adding that such was an ode to the aged.

Well, I kind of get that now.

I am now keenly aware of the obstacles, speed bumps, and potholes…
all of which are part of the distracting messes that get in our way,
while we attempt to move forward on that proverbial road of life.

As we age, the space between those bumps, potholes, and obstacles feels as if
it grows ever closer, more precarious and much more difficult to avoid let alone maneuver past.

There seems to be less road but only more things that force us to detour from our straight pathway.

I feel as if I’ve been riding those speed bumps, as of late, much like some sort of
downhill freestyle mogul skier.

There’s been a rising crescendo of health mysteries colliding into one another like
rouge asteroids out in space…bouncing me around violently like a ball in a pinball machine.

So last week, in between my running from test and test, doctor and doctor, I
actually had a long-standing scheduled routine mammogram.

No big deal right?
Well, right, it shouldn’t be ..but surprisingly it was .

The problem was, it became a big deal fast.

I went Wednesday morning for my scheduled appointment and by Thursday evening I received an email
that there was an ‘abnormality’—an abnormality that required a lengthy revisit with
some more intense testing.

Abnormality is never a good word.

Normally, alarm bells would be sounding.
The C-word would be swirling in a mind now on overload.
Imagined scenarios would be playing out in a now panicked mind like a
melodramatic soap-opera.

I read the note to my husband who suddenly looked stricken.

My response was atypical.

I laughed.

I laughed because it was an ‘are you freaking kidding me?!’ moment.

I suppose I could cry over the one more erratic pin suddenly being jabbed into the voodoo
doll with my name on it…or…I could laugh.

And so yes I opted to laugh.

It was about 18 years ago that I had had a scare following a routine mammogram.
Back then, the questioned concern was found within my left side.
I was told I would need to have lumpectomy…
And blessedly, pathology proved the scare to be benign.

All these years later, it was the same side…again.

And so I went today for my marathon re-do.
Plan on 2.5 hours they told me.
But they assured me that I would have all the results before leaving.

Was I nervous?

Somewhat because the unknown can always be scary.
I told my husband I wanted to go to the appointment by myself…
to be lost in my thoughts I suppose.

Our new fancy-schmancy medical complex is a sleek modern sterile facility.
Gone is the once warm and fuzzy homey feel to the Women’s Center…
Today’s further testing seemed rather void and cold leaving me feeling
detached…of which might have been a good thing.

I had two intense procedures in the course of my time today at the center.
And the final word was there were only cysts showing within the normal range.

Whew!
Speed bump cleared.

So now it’s time to gear up for the next obstacle…stutter-stepping in order
to clear the next hurdle life throws up my way.
And how do we gear up for such you ask???

We take the hand of the One who has long asked to travel this journey with us.

He even offers to carry us when we really grow weary…

So I think I’ll take Him up on His offer…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

It only takes a sign

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14


(James / Julie Cook / 2019)

So the past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy as well as exhausting.

We had another bit of a scare yesterday morning with our little fellow concerning a
potential liver disorder…and so another trip to the pediatrician has us
thankfully monitoring for the time being rather than doing something much more serious.

This little brother is proving to be a far cry from his big sister…
as he is just more fragile and not as seemingly tenacious…

And speaking of The Mayor, she is none too keen having this new usurper in
her midsts.


(first outing for the Mayor and new sheriff—pizza for the family / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks in Atlanta with a drive or two home
for a day of rest and regathering.
Nerves, for all of us, have been both frayed and raw…
Fatigue, exhaustion, and worry have dominated our days and nights.

So since I have been driving back and forth over these past many weeks,
two small rural church signs have caught my eye…

The first sign:
God is speaking.
Are you listening?

The second one:
I Am is coming

Both signs piqued my tired soul’s interest.

The first sign offered a good wake up call.

For despite my willy nilly running around all frantic, coupled by a self-absorbed burden of worry…
I fear I’ve not been listening…I’ve not been listening to anything around me let alone
listening to the Great I AM.

Secondly, when I initially saw this second sign, I had to do a quick double take…
because grammatically I was a bit perplexed…

I.
am.
is.
coming.

I am is…??

Huh??

And then it dawned on me….ahhhhh….

The great I AM is coming…

And it was in those two statements that I found a sudden rush of calm along with a sense of
great humility.
Because it was twice the Great I AM spoke to my weary soul.

The One who is greater and bigger than any burden or worry I may have on this earth.
He sees.
He knows.
He hears.
He is listening.
And He is present.

Sometimes it only takes a sign…or two.

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

the Sheriff has arrived for duty

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
― George Washington


(the Sheriff dressed for his arrival at home…finally)

It’s been a whirlwind of time and activity…
trying and hard as well as grateful and good.

It’s like I told Tricia the other day…when our family’s newest addition ended up in the
neonatal unit shortly after his birth, it was as if the world simply stopped and stood still.
Nothing outside that hospital mattered…

no politics
no societal or cultural idiocy
no countries
no governments
no Democrats
no Republicans
no tit for tat…

Absolutely nothing mattered but that our little guy would rally.

In hindsight, we learned that one of his lungs had collapsed and he “strangled” on amniotic fluid—
of which was suddenly realized when the “crisis” occurred while he was being kept in the nursey
following his birth.
Hence the surge of staff presence and the rapid removal to the neonatal care unit.

Add to that a few other issues that would delay circumcision for at least 6 months.

When my son and daughter-n-law returned home without a baby…
the very baby they had raced to deliver Sunday night, it was a sad arrival back home
and it was hard.

I had just returned home from having spent 4 days with them—we thought we still
has about 3 days when at midnight I got the call…
“Mother, I need ya’ll to come back, NOW!”

But how many couples experience such…?
How many parents continue to leave for the hospital only to come back home without the baby
they had left to go deliver?

It quickly put a spin of reality on birth…
something that we in the “civilized world” now take for granted.

We treat delivering a baby much as we do a trip to the dentist— a simple in and out.

100 years ago…folks knew not to take such for granted…

Perhaps it is our technological advances that have left us jaded and smug while feeling
almost infallible and indefensible to those worst-case scenarios…
situations that a century ago our grand and great grandparents knew better than to assume
that all would be well.

I learned as an educator to expect the worst, but rejoice when the success comes…

Maybe that’s why I consider myself more or less a pragmatist…
despite the fact that I claim and often cling to the positive…
I know, however, that life can change on a dime.

We were fortunate.

His initial tests came back negative and he got to come home to us late Thursday afternoon.

He weighed nearly a pound less than and was shorter in length than that of his sister,
The Mayor, when she was born nearly 15 months ago.

He lost weight in the hospital…backtracking from his birth weight.
But is slowly making a come back to the weight he arrived with.

Lanky and spindly vs a sister who was more round and full.

And speaking of the Mayor…she was a bit apprehensive on the day of her brother’s birth.

And note that face on The Mayor when she clamored up to sit by Mopie (aka “Biya”) when holding
the new Sherrif…

The Sheriff now wears a tiny monitor on his foot which measures his heart rate and oxygen levels…
And thankfully so far so good.

He’s just so tiny and seemingly frail…but I suspect that having to live under the tutelage
of his new boss, the Mayor, will require a ramp up in fortitude…
something I suspect our little Sheriff will certainly rise to occasion for…

I have no doubt…

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again:
Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

say it like it is

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once.
It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.
Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie ten Boom


(My local peter cottontail hiding amongst the grass / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yesterday while scrolling through my reader of blogs that I subscribe to, I came upon the
latest offering by Elihu over on Elihu’s Corner—
‘If you worry about it, You can pray about it’
(full post here:https://elihuscorner.com/2018/05/16/if-you-worry-about-it-you-can-pray-about-it/)

It was a personal reflection about worry— to be more specific, a worry verbalized by
her youngest daughter.
Elihu reminded us that no matter how insignificant a worry may be,
it is always important enough to offer it up to God—
Offering it up to God no matter how small or insignificant that worry may seem outwardly
to others.
Because as we all know, our worries are our worries and it matters not what anyone else
may think…because that worry is ours and therefore it is significant…
no matter what others may try telling us.

But it wasn’t so much the notion about praying or actually petitioning God over a
concern that stood out to me as I certainly already understood that and have always done that.
I know that there are all sort of prayers with one of the biggest being a prayer
of petition.

In the Book of Common Prayer, that ancient Anglican book of instruction dating
to 1549, the following direction precedes the various forms of
petitionary prayers:
The Prayers of the People
Prayer is offered with intercession for

The Universal Church, its members, and its mission
The Nation and all in authority
The welfare of the world
The concerns of the local community
Those who suffer and those in any trouble
The departed (with commemoration of a saint when appropriate)

Any of the forms which follow may be used.

Adaptations or insertions suitable to the occasion may be made.

Any of the forms may be conformed to the language of the Rite being
used.

A bar in the margin indicates petitions which may be omitted.

The Celebrant may introduce the Prayers with a sentence of invitation
related to the occasion, or the season, or the Proper of the Day.

So I certainly grew up understanding the act of putting things before God while
imploring His aid and assistance…
however here, in Elihu’s posting, I had that “aha moment”…
that sudden realization that the act of coming before God with my worries goes well beyond
petitionary prayer… so much so that I’ve now figured out, a peaceful knowing now deep in my bones,
that it’s certainly ok and even perfectly fine to simply let God know, ‘hey, I’m worried’
simple as that…
“I’m worried”

No long drawn out wording of the best way to present a situation before God…
no tendency to lean toward to the begging, the yearning all accented by a
growing and heightened sense of panic…

No formal “dear Lord hear my prayers” is necessary as I would have normally proceeded to
fill in the blank with whatever it was I was offering up…
but rather the revelation here was that, just like I might confide to a close friend or
confident the heaviness of a real concern or worry over some issue or over someone,
here I could simply do the same in the same simple language that I would use with any friend…
with that friend just happening to be my loving Father.

“God, I’m just worried…”

A pretty simple statement I might share with a friend…
A pretty simple prayer I can share with Abba…as in Father…
all because He already knows.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

it was a good day

Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
‘Til your good is better and your better is best.

St. Jerome


(for unto our little family, a child is born / “Moppie” Cook / 2018)

Lots to share from the past 36 long unslept hours when life took a sharp curve…
careening nearly out of control.
I’ll eventually journey into more detail regarding tale about the panicked what-if’s,
the tremendous burden of concern,
and the seemingly miraculous turn from potential devastation to the long-awaited
satisfaction of life…

The highs and lows that can still, in this modern 21st century of ours, become a by-product of birth.

And as each birth is indeed the same…that being a miracle of the unknown and unseen…
we were actually afforded the grace of this miracle of life of our own…

7 Lbs 14 oz
19 inches
arriving at 4:15 Saturday afternoon.

I’m home for a bit of sleep, a most welcomed treat, before hitting the road again…
But I wanted to thank all of you who joined us in prayer these past 9 months and especially these
past precarious 36 hours…

Autumn has blessedly arrived…


(my son with his brand new daughter…who he actually named / “Moppie” Cook / 2018

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

spiritual abuse, double standards and changing times

“In a world of ‘safe spaces’ it appears that no space is safe.
So it was with interest and a degree of concern that I heard of a new term
about to be added to our legal vocabulary.
As well as sex abuse, child abuse, racial abuse, hate crime abuse,
emotional abuse, psychological abuse and domestic abuse,
we now have ‘spiritual abuse’ SA”

David Roberston on the Wee Flea


(a bumper sticker as seen from sitting in a parking lot/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“Mother, what are you doing?!”

“I’m taking a picture of that bumper sticker.”

“Mother, why are you taking a picture of that sticker?”

“I think I may want to use it in a post on the blog”

“MOTHER! NO!
Do Not Cause Trouble!”
Life isn’t that easy Mother, you can’t call people out like that!”

I’m not calling anybody out Son…nobody knows that car, where it is, who it is
or who you are for that matter.
I’m just wondering what would happen if I had the same sort of sticker on the back of
my car—something like…
‘Why Christianity.org”…Faith, Hope, Love…”

“Somebody would probably throw something at your car or slash your tires Mother.
And who says there isn’t already some sort of organization out there
pushing Christianity like that?
Mother why do you want to cause trouble?
This is not the same city you knew growing up.
Times are different…
Muslims recruit and you’re not supposed to be bothered by that.”

“Exactly.
I’m not supposed to be bothered by that, yet everyone would be bothered
if I was the one out recruiting for God and Jesus…
I’d be ridiculed, mocked or branded a homophobic, or NeoNazi or the racist…
the list goes on…
And I for one don’t like a double standard.”

He may be almost 30 but I can still sense the eyes rolling when he’s seated behind
me in the car.

After lunch, we’d run by the grocery store while his very pregnant wife ran into
the store to grab her last bottle of prenatal vitamins.
She’s decided to give up being pregnant for Lent.
The doctor told them that it’s any time now…
but if our little baby-to-be decides that the womb is a happier place,
they’ll induce next week.

I’m with her—the womb just might be a happier place!

And as sure as shootin’, there would be those who would jump on some sort of box
scolding me for actually really noticing the bumper sticker in question.
They’d tell me that “they”, whomever the “they” may be,
have just as much right to advertise, recruit and spread the love as anybody else…
that is…
all but for me…
the American Christian who doesn’t like a double standard.
Throw in my gender and ethnicity and we’ve got a real scandal on our hands.

And no, I’m not trying to cause trouble…
because I for one believe in our freedoms…
those very freedoms that men and woman have been dying for since before 1776.
Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from tyranny…and freedom from being
bullied because I will not hide that I am a Christian.

So yes I pretty much believe in freedom…
Yet I am discovering, each and every day, that that same notion of Freedom
does not apply to me as a Christian nor does it apply to Christianity as a whole.

Now we should all know that I really don’t care that a Muslim wants to put a bumper
sticker on a car.
Nor do I care if a non-Muslim wants to put a sticker about an Islamic organization on a car.
Just as I don’t care if a Jew, a Buddhist, a Pagan or even me, the Christian, puts a bumper
sticker on a car…becasue we are free to do so—I think we call that freedom of speech.
I’ve even seen offensive ‘F’ word bumper stickers that I find highly offensive…
but that whole freedom thing doesn’t give a didly that I’m offended.

What I do care about however is the growing contempt for Christianity.

So it should come as no surprise that today our friend the Wee Flea Scottish Pastor
writes a post about some new nonsense now out there being touted as “spiritual abuse”

Now when I think of “spiritual abuse” things like Scientology comes to mind.
Cults come to mind.

The sort of things my mother was always worried over when I was growing up.
Because I grew up during those late 60’s and 70’s–a time rife with movements and cults…
Think Charles Manson. Think David Koresh.

Kids were all the time running off to crazy places and things—
places and people who witnessed parents having to kidnap their own kids and
have them “deprogrammed.”
Things my parent’s generation were afraid of for their children, my generation…
just as I am now most worried about my grandchild growing up in a civilization where
Christians are now more globally persecuted than ever before,
while no one says a darn thing.

A bit tongue and cheek, a bit heavy-hearted, our Wee Flea friend lists the definition,
as he sees it, as to what Spiritual Abuse is all about…

What is Spiritual Abuse?

From my point of view those who take their stipends from the church but do not teach
what that church teaches are being spiritually abusive.
Those who manipulate in any unbiblical way are abusive.
Liberal theology is abusive.
Legalistic theology is abusive.
Most BBC religion I find to be quite manipulative and abusive.
Should they be prosecuted?
Should we ban Jehovah’s Witnesses?
The Mormons?
Catholics?
Anglicans?
And what about the dreadful Free Church of Scotland –
with all their ‘keeping the Lord’s day and refusing to work on Sunday’ nonsense….
is that not abusive?
What about the Baptists putting psychological pressure on people to almost drown them?
Or charismatics ‘laying on hands’ –
surely that sounds dodgy?
Almost anything or any group can be termed ‘abusive’.

The trouble is that the term ‘spiritual abuse’
(as opposed to emotional, physical and psychological abuse)
is so lacking in definition that you are going to end up with the government
telling us what is really spiritual and what isn’t.
Do we really want the government and lawyers determining theology?
How ironic that in the name of the secular state,
the separation between church and state will be broken down,
as the state starts telling the church what it should teach and do.
It will be the end of religious freedom in this country
(and given that religious liberty is the foundation stone of all freedom,
it will lead to the end of all freedom – as the authoritarian state,
led by the civic priesthood, determines all our thoughts, words and actions).

The Real Danger

Where this madness could lead was exemplified at the Anglican General Synod last week
where one member asked if the spouses of clergy who had had extra-marital affairs
could be described as ‘survivors of spiritual abuse’.

A Catholic woman could claim that she has been spiritually abused because the
Catholic Church does not allow her to become a priest.
Jayne Ozanne could claim spiritual abuse if Christian Today published an article
that upheld the biblical teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.
A child brought up in a Christian home could claim spiritual abuse because they
were made to go to church with their parents.
The list is endless.
And so are the dangers.
The bottom line is that, whatever the good intentions of some,
this is not primarily about stopping abuse or protecting children,
it is about using the danger of abuse in order to control and suppress.

The crime of spiritual abuse: One of the most dangerous ideas in decades

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.

1 Peter 2:15