recant no more, just start reading and what the heck is “an influencer”

“We are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20-year-old
worship singers as our source of truth,” he wrote.
“We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern
praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.”

John Cooper, lead singer for the band Skillet


(a bit of sea lettuce / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

I’ve been hearing a lot about a single word as of late.
The word is “influencer”

Now granted, I get it, I understand it…as in I know what the word means and all…
however, I’ll offer it as defined through the lenses of the 21st century…

What is an influencer?
An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others
because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.
An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.
The size of the following depends on the size of the niche.
It is important to note that these individuals are not simply marketing tools,
but rather social relationship assets with which brands can collaborate to achieve their
marketing objectives.

influencermarketinghub.com

Think social media and those who are constantly in some sort of limelight on
FB, blogging, tweeting or news thread.

They tend to be constantly on the web’s airwaves.
Their names, be it in or even out of their circles, are well known.
They’re usually young, trendy, progressive and the majority worship at the altar of the
latest culture gods.

They are liked and followed by the multitudes.
Matters not too much what they’re worshiping…they are liked and followed none the less.

They want to wield power with both their words and their ways…
all because of their choices and their likes and dislikes.

Their whims and fickleness actually have sway with the whims and fickleness of others.

And we must note that this influencer business has been in the news feeds a lot this
past week as there have been some “Christian Influencers” who have very publicly
recanted their faith.

I don’t know about you but when I feel lost and dismayed, I certainly don’t want to
be grandstanding.
Attention, especially public attention, is the last thing I want.
I actually want to be alone.

I don’t want to publicly shout my dismay or sense of shame over a life I only
thought I was living.
I would instead tend to fall into a deep abyss of introspective and perhaps even a bit
of depression.

Yet isn’t that how we are when we feel angry and disappointed by someone we feel
has deeply let us down?
We want to fuss and cuss the cutting sense of betrayal.
And we usually do so very loudly and very vocally…
We’ve been wronged by gosh and we want the world to know it!

And so I’d like to ask…is that what all of this current trend has been about??
This very public angst offered up by a bunch of young Christian ‘influencers’ who are
feeling wronged and let down by…God Himself?

And for what?

I have written about this before but I think the story is more than worth repeating
right about now…

I think we all know of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

You know…
that tiny little white and blue-clad nun who spent her life tending to the
needy and destitute of Calcutta?

Well—-long before she was known as Mother Teresa…
a young Albanian nun who was a member of the Sisters of Loreto out of Ireland
had gone to India as a teacher. It was in 1946 that Mother Teresa experienced what she
would later refer to as a “call within a call”

She was riding on a train heading off to a retreat when she plainly heard, what she
would eventually write, was the voice of Jesus.
He said to her, “I thirst”

Mother Teresa would go on to say that what she had heard was her call within a call…
her ministry was to change, leading to the formation of the Missionaries of Charity.

An order dedicated to caring for the least of the least.

Mother Teresa would toil from 1948 until her death in 1997, carrying out this
call within a call.
She would spend a lifetime fulfilling the need that Jesus had laid upon her heart.

However, it was eventually made public, years following her death,
that Mother Teresa had confided to her confessor that after that initial moment on the train…
she never heard the voice of Jesus again.

She would lament to a deep darkness and palpable sense of separation.
This, as St John of the Cross, would so famously record, was the Dark Night Of The Soul.
A seemingly and almost physical disconnect from God.
A life within a dark empty abyss.

Anguish filled her soul yet no one ever knew of her pain.

It mattered not that she felt a separation of faith, she had been told what to do and
she, in turn, spent the remainder of her life doing it—
despite the personal pain and suffering.
Doubt mattered not, the poor and ailing needed her.

Day after day, she’d spend hours in prayer—yet there was never again that
audible response.
Never was there that internal sense of oneness with God.
Only silence.
And yet Mother Teresa persisted.

There was no public display of angst or resentment.
There was no recanting of her faith due to a silence from God.

She had been told what to do and she remained faithful to her word despite her own sense
of personal loss.

That’s the thing about faith.
It is not based on feeling.
It is not based on recognition or of the feel good.

It can be very difficult and it can be very lonely.
Yet it is full of perseverance and consistency.

I recently read an article about an interview with Franklin Graham, the son of
the Reverend Billy Graham, regarding this recent spate of young Christian “influencers”
recanting their faith.

Graham said he is especially disturbed by Christians who publicly renounce their faith in Christ,
citing a warning from the Book of Revelation.

“(God) warns churches that turn their back on him and these young men who have renounced
their faith have made it so public,” he said.
“Why did they make it so public?
I think they just want publicity.
Otherwise, why didn’t they just leave their faith and just be quiet about it?”

He wondered if the reason why was so that other Christians might join them
and fall away from the teachings of the Bible.

“Shame on them,” Graham said.
“You’ll stand before God one day and give an account to Him.”

We must put our faith in Jesus Christ, not a celebrity influencer.
And when we find ourselves facing difficulties in life,
we must turn to the Bible instead of self-help books.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/todd-starnes-franklin-graham-has-a-warning-for-christian-influencers-renouncing-their-faith

Here is to the consistency of Faith…

“Reading the holy Scriptures confers two benefits.
It trains the mind to understand them;
it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.
Two kinds of study are called for here.
We must first learn how the Scriptures are to be understood,
and then see how to expound them with profit and in a manner worthy of them . . .
No one can understand holy Scripture without constant reading . . .
The more you devote yourself to the study of the sacred utterances,
the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled,
the richer the harvest.”

St. Isidore of Seville, p. 201
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

Even when overwhelmed…. always try to make things less bad.

“You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds…
What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can.”
St. Thomas More


(a gulf fritillary butterfly visits the Pentas / Julie Cook / 2019)

Whether it is doubt, despair, uncertainty, a burden, a heartache, a loss, an accident
a sorrow, even the saints have asked…”Where is Jesus”
It is in the depths of the misery and wondering and questioning that we must continue to make
things a little less bad…

We can never know what other people experience before the Blessed Sacrament.
Some people will say they feel ‘nothing’, and this is not wrong.
In Adoration, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once wrote on a piece of paper,
‘Father, please pray for me—-where is Jesus?’, and passed it to the priest at the front.
She, who had had direct inspirations from God in prayer, spent decades in a dark night
where she could not feel his presence.
Remember: he owns the veil.

Sally Read
Annunciation: A Call to Faith in a Broken World

Righteous activistism

“I really only love God as much as I love the person
I love the least.”

Dorothy Day

I know that God is really good at giving us a kick in the pants when it is most needed…
and maybe I’m at the place where I might need that kick….
For you see this little book in the above picture, arrived in the mail about a week ago,
right in the midst of when things were coming to a head with Dad.

We had his funeral Wednesday and it was truly lovely…
and I’ll talk about all of that at some point in the near future…
but for now, I just need decompress a bit…

I’ve told friends that I’ve yet to really mourn or grieve as I know I should and
really need to….
but because life is still demanding a great deal of me and my time…
that grieving and morning are simply on hold…

But soon that too will come.

I did however actually visit the grocery store today, stocking back up on real
food for our house.
Yet I almost fell apart walking past the candy section…
which was just up from the soups and broths…

As everyone knows I always had to buy Dad chocolate…
However, sadly in the end, even his desire for chocolate waned.
The last thing I was privileged to feed him was a requested bowl of chocolate ice cream
3 days before he died.

He couldn’t utter words but he could move his lips..
I could tell he wanted something and so I ran through a litany of what that could be,
when I said ice-cream, his eyes sparkled wide…

But as I say, more about all of that later…

It’s time now for a little diversion…

So back to the book…

My editor friend at Plough Publishing House is good to me…as she sends books that she
thinks I will enjoy pursuing…

So my interest was piqued when I opened the latest envelope and saw the little book
on Dorothy Day.
I confess… about all I knew about Dorothy Day was that she was an ardent Catholic
covert and what I’d call a Holy and Righteous activist.

This little book is not an autobiography but rather focuses on Dorothy’s thoughts…
on those almost mystical inner musings, worries, concerns and yearnings.
For as ardent as she was to be that living example of Christ…
she also suffered from those moments that St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross
so clearly share….that being of the Dark night of the Soul….

So I immediately felt as if there was a strong connection between both Dorothy Day
and Mother Teresa.
I don’t know if these two soldiers of Christ ever knew of one another during their lifetimes…
but they were certainly two souls cut from the same cloth.

I’ve not had much of an opportunity to wade very deeply into the book but one
of the first sentences by Dorothy that I read was
“if you have two coats, you must have stolen one from the poor”

That one sentence resonated deeply with me—for I have more than one coat.

So I will keep today’s post brief by leaving you with food for thought offered by
our friend Dorothy…

Faith came before understanding.
And Faith is a gift of God.
It cannot be imparted by any other person.
I cannot give it to you.
Only God.

You are certainly going through the sorrowful mysteries.
But if you don’t go through them to the glorious,
you will be a hollow man and considered an opportunist and a fraud…

Certainly good words to chew on during these final weeks of Lent……

the portrait of a saint

I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like,
but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us,
He will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’
rather He will ask,
‘How much love did you put into what you did?”

Mother Teresa

DSC00398
(photo A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

It matters not whether you are a fan of the Catholic Church.
It matter not whether you believe in saints and sinners…
It matters not if you are a fan or critic of this particular individual…

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, a humble woman from Skopje, Albania was canonized yesterday…
To you and I, she was known simply as Mother Teresa.

I’ve written extensively about this tiny woman before…

the following link is more about the feet…
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

But what does exactly matter is that despite her detractors,
for she had many,
is that she spent a life time
tending to the lesser of the least…

There are those who felt she was too difficult a task master…
Demanding the impossible from those woman who gave up all to follow her way and direction.

There are those who criticized her notoriety, her popularity,
but one glance at those feet begs to ask if these feet belonged to someone who played to
the limelight.

She spent 50 years of her life feeling cut off and disconnected from the very God she
sacrificed her entire life to serve.

And yet…
she served…
She never publicly complained.
She never threatened to quit.
She never gave in.
She never gave up.

She brought attention to life, to love, to living and…
to dying.

Think what you will, but know that we are all the better for her life….

“By blood, I am Albanian.
By citizenship, an Indian.
By faith, I am a Catholic nun.
As to my calling, I belong to the world.
As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

Mother Teresa

Dark and Light

“What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.”
Rumi

Sometimes a post has no particular impetus of origin. Nothing dictated, no particular catalyst.
Other times there is an inner nudging–an internal pushing of the writer toward a specific topic and / or subject.
And so it is today. . .

No Light:
DSCN3076

Now with light:
DSCN3078

One minute we’re void of color, perched within a tonal world of black, white and grey.. .
Add a little light. . .
and Voila, bathed now in full warm radiant color!
Amazing what a little light on the subject, or in this case, under the subject, can do!!

Which brings us to the quote by the 13th century Persian poet, Rumi. . .
I think most of us would be hard pressed to agree with the afore mentioned sentiment “what hurts us, blesses us.” Not unless some of us like that sort of thing and then I think that just brings up an area that deals in negative psychology, human behavior, masochism. . . and that is certainly not where I’m wishing to go this morning.. .

Now back to darkness and blessings. . .
St John of the Cross, the 16th century Spanish Mystic, wrote extensively on this very subject in both his Ascent of Mount Carmel as well as the follow-up, the Dark Night of the Soul
With the latter acting as a balm to ones tried and tired soul, albeit a bit heavy and deep to wade through. The language is of the poetic and very deep indeed. Remember, we’re talking about mysticism which is indeed rooted in a deep internal journey to the discovery of a relationship with God as Creator on a level other than the obvious and more than what most of us tend to be familiar with.

It is this very “book” and of St John of the Cross himself, in which Karol Wojtyla, a once young Polish catholic priest, chose to write his dissertation– actually writing it in Spanish as to fully understand and appreciate the original translation of St John’s work. We should note that this young priest later went on to become Pope John Paul II.

I dare say we have all suffered through dark nights of the soul throughout our lives at some time or another. Sometimes these dark times seem to last an eternity. Other times, thankfully, they are brief encounters. It is my experienced belief that those of us who are deep feelers, meaning those who internalize a great deal as well as those who tend to ruminate over much of life, tend to be a bit more inclined to these darker bouts.

Churchill had his “black dog” and Mother Teresa is said to have confessed in her private journals of a very dry and dark suffering which she felt throughout much of her adult life as her life seemed terribly void of God’s presence. Parents who have lost children suffer grievously this darkness, as do any of us who have lost loved ones.

Be it circumstance or disposition, the Darkness can be a very real and a very difficult place to find oneself–particularly for any length of time. Which brings us to the Light.

Padre Pio, a recently canonized capuchin monk, from a very impoverished area in Southern Italy, also knew a thing or two of the struggles with Darkness. His is indeed an interesting story, one we don’t have time to delve into here but I do recommend that you perhaps find a good biography to peruse as his is a story of stigmata’s, struggles with evil, bilocation, healing, witch hunts, humility and endurance.

It is Padre Pio who tells us to take courage when we feel as if we are plagued by sadness and Darkness– it is during such times that God actually draws closest to us. I’ve written on this subject before yet I feel it has much merit in being repeated as we all suffer at some point in this life. If we live, inevitably we will suffer—sadly that’s just the way of life.

I have been known to curse the darkness as well as the light, Life— and I have even been known to yell and scream at God. Anguish can be a very lonely frustrating place. I certainly have not felt heavenly supported during such dark times but it is said that an army of God’s angels envelope us during such trials—which in hindsight is a welcomed blessing.

All I know is that God is not immune to our suffering. He does not cause it, puppeteer it, manipulate it, or sadisticly enjoy it as many have attempted accusing Him of throughout history. He weeps with us and His anguish is deep. As beings who live with free will, in a fallen world, there will always remain sickness, sadness, evil, pain and suffering–such is life in a fallen world.
I say that as not to cause discouragement. Remember there is hope, kindness, mercy and Grace…but this is not that post. This post is merely about dark and light.

To offer comfort to those of you who are currently in a place of dry darkness is not an easy task. I personally tend to go within myself and there’s not much anyone can say or do which helps at those times—it is only once I emerge that I can appreciate the loving intentions of others. It also does me a wealth of goodness to read such works as St John’s —as well as the words of the Psalmist as his lamentations and yearnings are so very timeless. Often knowing that others have suffered in one form or another and yet survived can, to me, act as a morsel of hopefulness.

May you, who are currently in the midst of a dry and dark place, find the solace of a loving Father. May you weather the storm raging within or bear that of the silent emptiness. May you be encouraged that you are never alone–as countless fellow journeymen have borne similar burdens as there is a host of the unseen warriors of Heaven who have readied themselves to engulf you Life is hard, often heavy with its share of darkness–yet thankfully it is always countered by the light of love, laughter and that of the human connection.

“Bear in mind that the more the enemy assaults you, the closer God is to your soul. Think about, and penetrate this great and comforting truth.” Padre Pio