God cannot be confined by our narcissistic ways

Man wounded by original sin often proves to be egocentric, individualistic, and selfish.
Inspired by Christ, he serves his neighbor.
Without Christ, he knows only his own interest.

Cardinal Sarah


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2019)

Slowly, as the time for a page or two is afforded, I continue making my
way through Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Day is Now Far Spent.

Each page is a new nugget of wisdom to be digested.

That’s another reason why this book takes so much time to read…
Each page gives its reader pause…making the reader stop, ponder, think and
inwardly digest what is being said.

I was waiting on my car to be serviced two weeks ago and was lucky to take in a few pages.
Sitting in the lobby on a rainy afternoon, I would read, highlight, re-read
and then sit and deeply reflect on what I had just read.

I felt my self lucky just to be able to take in a mere single page last night
before going to bed.

The following is what I managed to read last night…

Even if man wanted to, he would never succeed in confining God.

He must instead love, listen to, and adore God and follow Christ.

In our materialistic civilization, man thinks almost exclusively of his own narrow interests.
He sees God as the one who ought to provide him with what consumption does not give him.

God is utilized to satisfy selfish demands.
If he does not answer prayer, they abandon him.
Some even go so far as to blaspheme his holy name.
The religion that ought to connect heaven and earth then runs the risk of becoming a
purely narcissistic space.

Some Evangelical sects excel in this commerce.
They transform God into a pagan idol that is supposed to assure them of health,
happiness, and prosperity and to grant every human whim.
They command miracles, and he is supposed to shower us with then immediately.
This is how the sects ridicule God and mock the credulous persons who have neither
intelligence nor faith.

…the prayer of petition is based on trust in God’s will;
the rest will be given to us in addition.
If we love God, if we are careful to carry out his holy will joyfully,
if we first and most importantly desire his light,
that is, the law of God in the depth of our hearts so as to enlighten our paths (Ps 40:8; Heb 10:5-9),
then he will naturally help us in our difficulties.

just make mine vanilla

Love ice cream.
I let myself have that about once a week.
Vanilla.

Tim Tebow


(three old shots from back in 2013 when I was first making my vanilia extract–the longer it sits,
the better it gets…just add a new bean or two over time and top off with the sprit of choice)

I like to cook.
This much we know to be true.

I use to post a good bit about my cooking exploits but over time I’ve obviously shifted my
focus and attention to issues I find more pressing…
issues like those concerning Christianity
and the practicing of our faith in a post-modern, post-Christian era.

However, I will still raise the battle cry over other issues I think pertinent to this good fight
we call life…

Take today for instance…(or yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday)

I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items.
I needed some cat food and Grapeseed oil so while I was over in the cooking oil aisle,
I decided I needed to check out the spices.
I needed to peruse the spice area as there seemed to be a mental list somewhere nagging
in my brain, begging me to remember something from this particular section that I needed…

I grabbed some Adobo chili powder.
I’ve never used it before but I’d seen a recipe for slow-simmered chicken…a recipe for chicken tacos…remember, I’m trying to reduce the iron content while looking for foods that will avert the absorption—spicey things supposedly help.

While still perusing, my eyes stopped on a bottle of Vanilla beans.

Ahhh, the mental alarm clock sounded.

Yep, I needed some more beans as I’d used the last two I had in the recently poached pear recipe.
(also a tasty recipe I once posted)

I grabbed the bottle.
There were two measly beans in the bottle.
Vanilla beans are a precious commodity.
But why companies are so chintzy I’ve never figured it out.

I looked at the price—they are usually costly as I’ve paid almost 10 bucks a bottle before,
but I was wondering just how high they might be now.
I do prefer ordering my beans in bulk as it’s cheaper but I needed to have at least two on hand.
One never knows when an unctuous creme brulee is calling…

What to my wandering eyes did appear but a 2 and a 5 joined together…as in
25 dollars for the bottle!!!!!!

WHAT?????

Is this a misprint??? my panicky brain wonders.
I march myself, with the bottle in hand, over to a gal at a register.
“Is this price correct” I practically screamed at the unsuspecting cashier.
She scanned the bottle.
“Oh my gosh” she practically screams back.
“25 dollars for Vanilia beans???? she nervously screams again.

“That’s what I thought” I reply almost exhausted from our heightened sense of distraughment.

I use vanilla beans a lot.

I’ve actually made my own vanilla and bourbon vanilla extracts, a recipe in which
I’ve shared in prior posts from back in 2013.
A homemade vanilla extract is the best of the best!! And it lasts forever.

Making the extract required my having to buy a bunch of beans…
beans I had actually ordered from Amazon–
I used Tahitian and Madagascar beans as each offers a different floral warm scent and taste.

Once home from the store, I decided to go check out the Amazon site,
just to see what they were currently selling my bulk bag of beans for as I was going to order
a new batch just to store for when I needed them—

Immediately I see that 5 beans, just 5 little beans, were going for a whopping 27 bucks.
Which did, however, beat the grocery store’s two beans for 25 bucks.
My regular ordered batch of shrink-wrapped beans was going for…
sit down before I tell you…
1/4 of a pound of beans at $115.00 while a full pound of beans listed for $400!!!!!!!!

For a batch of homemade vanilla extract, you need a good 15 to 20 beans…
of which maturate in a bottle that is large enough to contain them with enough vodka or
bourbon poured over to cover…as they are left to steep until a deep rich brown color
appears and the heady spicy aroma of delicious warmth wafts from the uncorked bottle.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????? I practically wail.

I immediately race to the trusty all-knowing Google to type in ‘vanilla bean prices’
and sure enough, I found many articles and news stories regarding the exponentially
skyrocketing prices

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vanilla-bean-shortage-madagascar-drives-up-us-prices/

A precarious commodity that is a fragile commodity.
A product that is prone to drought, fickled growing seasons, poaching, farmers who don’t
allow the pods to fully mature in a race to get the pods to a demanding market and finally
it is simply a matter of time…for it takes three long years for a plant to produce a pod.

According to Wikipedia, vanilla is the second most expensive spice coming in right
behind saffron.
And gathering a ready pod is extremely labor intensive because these pods of
this particular species of the orchid family are each hand pollinated…pod per pod.

Vanilla, just plain old vanilla.

Consider its humble base taste…it is often the brunt of those who refer to things as
just being average..as in vanilla, as in plain jane, as in generic, as in nothing special,
as in the bottom of the list.

Yet vanilla is a great building base—a needed and important humble building block.
Imagine Chocolate chip cookies without that added splash of vanilla.
Think vanilla bean ice-cream, sour cream pound cake, pannacotta, rice pudding,
milkshakes, protein shakes, puddings, eclairs, cookies, candy, yogurt, chewing gum,
cosmetics, perfumes, aromatherapies…the list is nearly endless….
all without their needed vanilla.

There are four main types of vanilla beans used in our consumption: Tahitian, Indonesian,
Mexican and Madagascar

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/4-kinds-vanilla-beans-know

There are however those purists out there who do indeed favor the unadulterated flavor
of that simple, smokey, sweet, floral flavor of just plain old fashioned vanilla.
No swirls of caramel, no colorful sprinkles, not bits of cookie or peppermint or toffee,
or chocolate syrup or diced fruit…just simple, plain old vanilla.

So I suppose I might just have a little problem…a little expensive problem…
As we might all just have a largely flavorless problem…

Here’s to hoping the current growing crop thrives…
hopefully in time for this summer’s long-awaited and even yearned for home-churned ice cream…
because it just won’t be summer without a bowl of fresh homemade vanilla ice cream!!!

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are
a precious jewel.

Proverbs 20:15

the desperation for a happy ending

“The presence of conflict does not mean there is to be no peace…
Peace is God’s presence within that conflict…”

(the paraphrasing of a sign as seen outside of a small country church)


(Judi Dench in the role of Queen Victoria in the 1997 movie Mrs Brown)

My father adored Dame Judi Dench.
He was once willing to extend a trip to London just to catch this quintessential
actress on a London stage.

My aunt adored Dame Judi Dench’s haircut and had her hair stylist to cut her hair
just like Dame Dench’s despite the warnings from said stylist—
My aunt was too tall and had a double cowlick—simply not the right shape to pull off
such a cut—and yes, the truth be told, the cut looked much better of Dame Dench
than on Aunt Maaatha.

My son adored Dame Judi Dench in her role as M on the latest series of the Daniel Craig Bond films and was devastated when her character was killed off.

For me, I don’t think anyone has ever quite played Queen Victoria like Dame Judi Dench.

The first time I saw her playing the perpetually mourning monarch was in the 1997 movie Mrs Brown.

I had previously read the book The Empress Brown…a book written by Tom Cullen and published in 1969.
It is the tale of the life of the bereaved Monarch following the death of her beloved prince consort, Prince Albert.

John Brown was the Queen’s Scottish groom and attendant for 34 years
following the death of Albert.
It has been widely speculated that John Brown was more than just a key figure in pulling Victoria’s life back up following Albert’s death.
There has even been rumor that the two had been secretly wed.

As to whether the relationship was purely platonic or something much more will never
be known–but what is known is that the friendship was a strong remedy for a
broken hearted Queen. The friendship was a great comfort to a grieving Victoria who wore
mourning clothes for the remainder of her life.

Both Albert and Victoria were 42 when Albert died suddenly of typhoid fever.
Following his death, Victoria would continue to lay out Albert’s clothes each morning—leaving them on his bed only to be put away by an attendant each evening.

John Brown was held in great disdain by those closest to Victoria who resented any sort
of influence the brusk Scotsman may have had on the Queen as well as upon
her policy making. Yet the fact remains that John Brown was probably the closest friend
the overtly guarded Queen had during those remaining 39 years of her adult life.

There is a new movie soon to be out that once again has Dame Dench reprising her role
as an aging Queen Victoria.
This time the movie is entitled Victoria and Abdul.
The story based on the relationship between Victoria and an Indian servant,
Abdul Karim.

I read the review offered by our good friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
The good Wee Flea pastor did go to see the movie and offered a more historical and more accurate view of an aging Queen and an Indian servant based on the facts of the House of Hanover.

The script writers, in typical Hollywood fashion, have decided that their take on the historical facts and the relationship between a monarch, who was also the head of the Church of England and her Muslim friend, made for a much better story than that of the actual truth.
Going so far as to even insinuate that the Queen may have even had a death bed
conversion from Christianity to that of Islam.

(https://theweeflea.com/2017/09/26/victoria-and-abdul-re-writing-history-to-indoctrinate-todays-society/)

The good pastor, in his picking apart fact from fiction, references another Hollywood attempt at portraying a historical figure as something ‘other than’ in the depiction of
the Scottish warrior, William Wallace, in the film Braveheart

Whereas the legendary Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace is certainly the stuff of legend and lore, the underlying story of love and loss in Hollywood’s adaptation of the life of William Wallace makes for a much better storyline and movie than the straight
facts behind the man himself.

As I must confess that I was certainly taken by Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Wallace as to this day I often think I catch that most valiant cry of FREEDOM riding in on
an easterly blowing wind.

Yet that’s the thing.
We love a good story.
We love a happy ending.
We actually yearn for a happy ending.

Throw in some rich cinematography, a beautiful musical score and we’ll have bought in, hook, line and sinker.

As we prefer our history lessons to be of such entertaining wonderment.

But contrary to Hollywood, or anyone else for that matter, life, real life,
is not all about happy endings.

We’ve just witnessed such in the latest mass shooting coming out of Vegas.

There is no happy ending there nor will there ever be.
Yet we want desperately to hear of such.

And so our news folks, our media, our politicians and eventually our very selves will
each spin, twist and distort whatever we can in order to assuage the overwhelming and incompressible pain.
There will be continued deflection in an attempt to dodge the very real and very sad
hard truth.

We can pass laws, we can rewrite the events as we distort the facts…
but when all is left open and bare…the truth is that there will always be man…
a fallen and broken creature who makes his (and her) way in a fallen world that is the battleground of both Good and Evil.

Gun laws will come and go, other laws and demands will come and go, arguments
and hateful rhetoric will come and go as we desperately try to stave the literal bleeding….but man, bent on evil acts, will continue to carry out the heinous and
the unbelievable because there is no stopping the Evil that walks
this planet.

There is no Nirvana, no Heaven nor Valhalla on this earth…no perfect place where the people live in some sort of scripted perfect unity and utopia and despite all the laws written and all the regulations passed and all the rhetoric spewed forth…
we can never rid ourselves of the duality of ourselves—
that being both the Good and Evil of man.

That is not to say that we can’t do our best to safe guard our way of life—
but we know that those broken, wounded and lost will continue to carry out acts of
hate and destruction and violence despite our best efforts.
Despite the current finger pointing and ranting.
We can’t rewrite, let alone stop, what took place that fateful day in a garden
so long ago.

No matter how hard we want to rewrite this fact into something other than, into
our own lovely notion of some far fetched happy ending…the only fact,
the only healing, the only saving Grace will be found in the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ—bottom line and end of sentence.
The saving Grace found in the Blood of the Lamb….

And until that fact is figured out—we will live in the middle of a fallen, evil,
hate filled world.

Hollywood and the politicians can’t write us out of that….

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not
justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified
by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law,
because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?
Absolutely not!
If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained
through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Galatians 2:15-21

seeking daybreak

“There is a spiritual loneliness, an inner loneliness, an inner place where God brings the seeker, where he is as lonely as if there were not another member of the Church anywhere in the world.
Ah, when you come there, there is a darkness of mind, and emptiness of heart, a loneliness of soul, but it is preliminary to the daybreak. O God, Bring us, somehow to the daybreak!”

A.W. Tozer excerpts from various sermons…How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

DSCN2413
(grave of a forgotten young man, Colonial cemetery, Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

When excavating the locked chambers of the soul…
that quest for the missing piece to wholeness…
The path is narrow, fraught with both emptiness and loneliness
And the darkness will be exacting.

It is a journey few care to traverse…
Isolation is a key requirement…
The striping away of all exterior noise and distractions…
leaves exposed the innermost secrets of one’s very being.

God is exacting.
He is a selfish God, who wants all and will not settle for any less.
He wants not that which is freely offered, willingly given…
He wants, nay demands, that which is desperately held back.

The re-union of created and Creator is inevitable.
There are those who eagerly seek the synthesis, the rejoining…
While others vehemently fear it…
The fragility will shatter…into a million fractured shards…

Out of the mire, the sucking and suffocating quicksand of death…
The spirit longs to reach upward, yearning for home…
Yet it is in the depth of death’s vast darkness that the fractured soul searches…
While the Creator waits…

Bring us home oh Lord
Strip us of that which prevents us from being with you..
Deliver us out of…
the brokenness,
the loneliness,
the emptiness,
the isolation…
of self
Bringing us to the daybreak of You…