it’s happened again

“Man’s extremity is God’s appointment”
Pastor Rasmussen, Danish Pentecostal pastor

“First God gives to us–
Then we give back to God–
Finally God gives back
again to us–blessed and multiplied beyond our power to imagine”

Lydia Prince regarding the story of Abraham and Isaac
from Appointment In Jerusalem

“I can only bless that which is freely yielded to me”
Lydia Prince hearing the words of God
from Appointment in Jerusalem


(Panorama of Jerusalem old city / Israel / courtesy the web)

Remember the other day when I was cleaning off the bookshelves and that little
book by that Franciscan Monk just fell out of the pile landing at my feet…
a book entitled, There Are No Accidents by
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel…

Well after I had painstakingly moved the sea of books that would not be going back
on the shelves into another room where I could spread them out, looking through
them, sorting over who would stay and who would head to the Goodwill,
I had to then move and relocate the books which would be staying down
to the basement.

Remember, like I said the other day, I was an art teacher for 31 years…
having minored in both history and art history who happens to have a keen
interest in Christian spirituality…
so there are books,
lots and lots of pretty, heavy, expensive books.
Books that I still love and want to hold onto but there is just only
so much room…

So as I was gathering up stacks to carry down the stairs,
another book literally fell out of the pile at my feet.

Appointment in Jerusalem by Derek and Lydia Prince.

I vaguely recalled buying the book while still teaching.
The copyright of this updated edition is 2005 but the original story was
actually written thirty years prior in 1975.

Why I opted to just shelve the book obviously many years ago, I don’t know,
but is seems as if Someone was wanting me to read the book, as in now.
And who am I to argue when I have most recently learned that there are
no accidents?

Curious I picked the book up off the floor and set it aside for later
so I could look over what the book was all about.

I started the book Saturday and finished the main original story Wednesday–
as I’m still picking through the added post epilogue to this newer edition.
Mind you, I’m not a fast reader but this story has been such that it has
totally captivated my thoughts and attention.

I was not familiar with either Lydia Prince, whose story the book is about,
nor her husband Derek, but I have since done a bit of research.

It seems the book has been very popular– for in 2005, over two million copies
were in print.
The Princes had a global Christian ministry that was going strong up to Lydia’s
death in 1975.

Just a quick bit of background as it is not the back story that has spoken to me
but rather the person of Lydia herself and of her voracious hunger for God.

Lydia was born in Northern Denmark in 1890, making her 6 years older than my own grandmother.
Lydia was also born into a very affluent family so she was never one to have to
fret over finances.
She was very smart and well educated.
She began a very successful teaching career in the Danish School system,
becoming a global teaching pioneer in what would be known as home economics.

Teachers were highly esteemed in Danish society and Lydia enjoyed the stability
of both career and lifestyle.
By her mid thirties, a fellow teacher had asked for her hand in marriage,
a union which most felt was a natural progression,
especially given the fact that Lydia was only getting older and needed to settle
down.

But settling down was not something she felt inclined to do.

This was during a time when Lydia had began questioning the scope and depth of
her life as a nagging feeling seemed to be engulfing her very being…
She kept feeling, thinking and finally believing that there was something missing
and something more to life..in particular…her life…
and she needed to find out what it was.

Lydia began an in-depth study of the Bible, even fervently praying as in actually
talking to God rather than simple prayer recitations.
Like most in Denmark, Lydia was Lutheran—with the Lutheran Church being the
state Church of Denmark, so to suddenly begin such a quest would be looked upon
as most odd.

Yet she had never felt particularly fulfilled with that aspect of life—
it was something that had been expected and she attended Sunday services
but as for “feeling” something…
that was all that was to it—simply attending a service, nothing more.

She began seeking out the counsel and even attending the services offered by a
local Pentecostal pastor.
The Pentecostal Church was something new and looked upon cautiously and
skeptically by the Danes.
Attending such a service was akin to totally losing one’s mind…
no decent Danish Lutheran would be caught dead attending a Pentecostal service,
let alone associating with Pentecostals.

But Lydia did just that…eventually receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In her small town and school, this new found faith of hers became nothing
less than a scandal.
She was threatened with termination.
Ostracized by her colleagues and students.
Even the Danish Government took up the case.

Her quiet simple life had blown up in her face…yet she was undeterred
and even found a peace in her continued pursuit of God.

She had given herself totally and unequivocally over to God and His directing
and there was no looking back

And such directing it was…

In 1927 she resigned from her teaching post as she now felt called to move
to Jerusalem.
She had no job awaiting her, no mission sending her, no backing from a church
and she had previously given away most of her life’s savings.
Yet there was no mistaking God’s direction.
Jerusalem it was to be.
She believed she was not to worry with any of the details…
not even fretting over not having proper funding because God would be
providing all– Lydia’s only responsibility was but to trust.

And Lydia might as well have been going to the wild west.
Because this was Palestine pre Israel.
A sandy territory under British authority with an uptick in
sectarian violence between Jew and Arab.
Living conditions were hard as well as dangerous….
especially for a single European woman in her late 30’s who spoke neither
Yiddish or Arabic and who knew absolutely no one in her soon to be new home.

However since the end of WWI there had been a steady inflow of Jews, from all over
the globe, moving into what was then Palestine, coming home as it were—
and this was something that the local Arab population
found gravely troubling…to the point of outright bickering and fighting
eventually erupting into deadly battles.

Yet both Arabs and Jews were equally weary of Christians as both groups had
suffered at some point or another at the hands of Christians….so
whereas Jews were unwelcome, Christians were even more unwelcomed.

I will stop here with Lydia’ back story—
saving it for another day.
As there is still a great deal more…
but for now I want to concentrate briefly on Jerusalem and the notion of faith.

I’ve written about the importance of Jerusalem before, and in turn the
importance of Israel, something that God has stated over and over and something
our family of Believers have most collectively and sadly forgotten or chosen to
disregard.

I’ve also explained how dangerous it is for any nation to turn it’s back on Israel…
for such an act is to turn one’s back of God himself.

This is all but spelled out throughout the Books of the Prophets…
throughout both Old and New Testaments.

And this is a fact that Lydia discovered and kept on the forefront of
her ministry for the remainder of her life.

Reading of Lydia’s pure unabashed dependent faith is now challenging me.

Her complete dependance upon God for every single need and detail shakes my
false perception of life’s security.

Her utter surrender of everything, holding nothing back…
from those she fervently loved down to her very life as nothing
was perceived to be an impossibility for God to attend to.

As the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac to
the God of all Creation…all because God said so…and knowing that Abraham,
obviously shaken and distraught over God’s request, still obeyed…
made such an impression upon Lydia that she too believed that there should
never be a time to ever deny or hold back from God whatever He asked for…
this as He worked to temper Lydia’s fatih and life within his
purifying furnace of Love.

There are many lessons to be gleaned from Lydia’s century old story and
the subsequent story of her life’s ministry and caring for orphaned children.
And I know that I will be eventually sharing those here with you…

“And yet the truth is that God’s plan of peace and blessing for all
nations can never come to completion until both Israel and Jerusalem are restored—
and He expects us to be His coworkers in bringing this to pass.”

Lydia Prince / Appointment In Jerusalem

And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zachariah 12:9

iustificatio / justification

“No creature can be in a position of
justice before its Creator”

Bishop Karol Wojtyla November 1962 (Pope John Paul II)


(a determined visiting box turtle / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is nothing I can add to this reflection by the then acting Bishop of Krakow.
It is a reflection of created and Creator,
man and God…
And that of man’s fallen nature which in turn precipitates the need for Grace
which is provided by and through Jesus Christ.

The dogmatic topic that requires a deeper spiritual reflection is the
mystery of justification (iustificatio).

Man cannot be ‘just’ before God: he can only be’justified’ before Him.

The former is proved by the fact that man is not equal to God, his Creator,
and the latter by Christ and the entire order of Grace.

No creature can be in a position of justice before its Creator.

Man is in a way a synthesis of creatures.

As a creature in general, he and his existence
are unconditionally dependent on his Creator;
he is dependent also by virtue of his nature and, consequently,
unequivocally subordinate.

As a being endowed with vegetative (sensual) life, he is subject to the laws of life
and death (generatio et corruptio) like other creatures.

As a ritual being – a person – he bears a more special resemblance to the Creator,
which obligates him to maintain the order of justice,
i.e. to give to everybody what rightly belongs to them (which also includes paying
religious worship to God).

The fact of personhood does not render invalid man’s vegetativeness and
animalitas (animal nature), which turns him into “ash and nothing” before his Creator.
As a person, man can enter into personal contact with the Creator;
this contact, however, has to be initiated by the Creator.

When He initiates it, it consists (like the act of creation) in an act of mercy,
because man as a creature is fully dependent and subordinate.
In particular, he needs to be justified because of his sin,
which, as an offense to God, does harm to the very essence of this personal
contact understood in the way it is understood and intended by the Creator –
and it is His prerogative to define the essence of the contact He establishes
with His rational creature.

Justification comes through Christ, the Son of God,
who initiates this essential contact and gives it,
to a certain extent, the qualities of His contact with the Father.

Therefore, justification is expressed in us as the new esse (being) –
‘esse ad Patrem’ (being towards the Father) (i.e. sanctifying grace),
and the continuation of this personal contact consists in faith, hope and love.

Bishop Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
Personal diaries November 1962
In God’s Hands

passage of Providence

dscn4787
(the quince are about a month early / Julie Cook / 2017)

“In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel,
because they are dependent upon one other.
So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus,
how do you know how many things depend upon this thing?
God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence
that falls out this day or this week.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

Walking stick or prop

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.”

Bill Withers

“Conceit may puff a man up, but never prop him up”
John Ruskin quotes

DSC02128
(walking stick made by a craftsman in Townsend,Tenn. / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02129
(my son when he was much much younger with the same walking stick on a hike in Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook)

The above images are photographs featuring a single stick–
yes, you read correctly, a stick—
but this is not just any old stick. . .
This stick is a fine hand carved Tennessee walking stick—
built to aid one when traversing the paths and trails, for this particular stick,
throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And as we see, this particular stick did indeed fulfill its duty for an eager young hiker. . .

Now all this talk of sticks has brought to mind a recent bit of dialog. . .

The other day I received a very kind comment on one of my recent posts from a gentleman in Cameroon.
He noted that in the bio section of my blog it stated that I had opted to retire from teaching as I needed to be free and flexible in order to help take care of my dad who lives in a different city than my own.
I needed to be able to drive over for scheduled appointments to doctors, the bank, etc as well as for those unexpected and unplanned drives when I would, and do, need to drop everything, making the mad 70ish mile dash to Dad’s. . .

This most kind gentleman in his comment equated my being the child who now serves as
a walking stick—being there to offer aid and support to an
aging father along this most latest journey.

His comment or perhaps observation stuck me as deeply profound.

It’s not that I feel as if I am doing anything out of the ordinary–certainly not to receive any sort of recognition–because I’m merely doing what is necessary–
Simply that which needs doing—

It should be noted however that in certain countries and cultures, other than my own, that it is often considered part and post to offer aid, support and comfort to one’s aging parents—even considered a privilege to tend to the elderly as the elderly are revered and seen as viable and important.

Sadly my observation of life here in the US is in stalk contrast to such as is seems our Nation’s opinion of aging is a bit skewed and warped as we tend to view aging as something tragically bad and something we will fight with our last dime and breath.

We Americans are not very good with this concept of aging as we’ve never been lauded as a country which truly honors it’s aging senior citizens.
We are, are we not, the country of youth and vigor—relishing in the freedom and mobility of perpetual agelessness as we continue searching for the elusive fountain of youth.
We work hard not to age— fighting it tooth and nail.
Those worn out, tired, aging and ill bodies are often seen as a hinderance to our
youth-minded and action packed lives.

But my thoughts today are not so much about aging or America’s view of its elderly but rather of the role of a simple stick, a walking stick. . .

A devise used to aid and assist verses a device meant to act as a mere prop. . .

The roles we hold throughout our lives vary as much as the seasons.
We first arrive into this world in a very dependent state, eventually transitioning to that of being independent with a final swinging back to that of being dependent again—all throughout the course of a single lifetime.

Ideally life flows from dependence to independence and briefly back to dependence toward the end of a long and well lived life. Yet sadly,for some of us however, life deals a cruel hand or two as we find ourselves at the height of independence suddenly falling rapidly back into a state of dreaded dependence.
Finding ourselves in desperate need of the aid and assistance offered by those walking sticks within our lives.

There are times that it is to a literal stick we turn, but more often than not, it is to the living walking sticks—those who come to our side offering their support– physically, financially, mentally and emotionally aiding us in moving forward.

A walking stick is active whereas a prop, which can indeed be a stationary walking stick, is more static. Props do serve a purpose but they are usually placed, then quickly forgotten. . .that is until they begin to fail and need replacing.

A walking stick however becomes a constant interaction—sometimes silent sometimes not.
A steady companion of sorts—allowing us to move forward, albeit aided and perhaps a bit slowly, but forward none the less–whereas a prop does not afford motion or progress.

Which begs the question of each of us—
are we a walking stick or merely a static prop?
I think I like the thought of being a walking stick myself. . .


***a thank you offered to Ngobesing Romanus at The World’s Best Success Inspirer blog for his most thoughtful comment

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all things acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your way.
Proverbs 3:5-6