What is Grace—I just keep having to ask

I have had to experience so much stupidity,
so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow,
just in order to become a child again and begin anew.
I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths,
to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”

Hermann Hesse

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of
extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”

Matthew Henry


(a tiny bloom of a strawberry to be / Julie Cook /2015)

****Even though this is actually a post that I wrote 6 years ago,
the notion of Grace has never been far from my thoughts.
For you see, I am very much a product of Grace.

Over and over, or so it seems.

Merriam Webster defines grace as:
a:unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

And so here’s the thing about this “unmerited Divine assistance”-
it is a gift that is freely given.

It is neither earned nor bought.
And it pricks the most tender part of one’s soul.

It pricks the hard steely, yet false, façade and bravado we call self.

It breaks down the walls and the hardened heart while it fills
a sea of endless wounds.

A flood washes over us and we find ourselves terrified of letting
go and letting Grace transform us.

So why is it so hard to receive something so welcoming and healing?
The answer is beyond my soul—it is not something I can logically comprehend…
and maybe that’s the thing.

Grace is not logical.

Grace brings us to our knees…because we know we have not earned this
gift called Grace.
Quite the contrary.
We have done everything in our power to shun it and even repel it.
We bristle at such tender warmth while being too cold,
too hard, too lost to see the simple Truth.

For me it’s seems to have come in phases–
throughout this thing I call life.

Maybe it’s just a matter of me needing to be reminded…
reminded that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as accepting
of the initial gift as I needed to be….
For I still have kept a deep part of my wounds hidden.

Too ashamed, too hardened, too wounded to think
Grace would or could ever make me truly whole.

I’ve recently been reminded of this most tenderest of gifts.
It’s broken my heart…broken my façade..
and that’s just what Grace does…
it breaks us and then it heals us and then it makes us whole.

And thus we are each the better for Grace…

And so I want to thank my dearest of friends who recently offered me Grace…
Grace coupled by her own graciousness.
A gracious heart…reaching to a wounded heart.
It is a gift she has freely given me—
a freely given gift that was not nor ever has been deserved nor earned,
yet one that was freely and lovingly given…no strings, no penalties.
And it is within this most generous gift that I have been poignantly reminded me
that God is not yet finished with me and that He continues to want
me make me whole.
Love can and does heal a multiple of sin…

and now the post from 2015–

Do you know Grace?
Have you seen it out and about?
During your comings and your goings?
Have you ever been properly or formerly introduced?

I truly much doubt so…
As Grace is often quiet and demure.
It prefers to go rather unnoticed until it is called upon…
More shy than bold.
It is neither garish or loud.
Nor is it boisterous or showy.

What exactly is Grace you ask…

Grace is the second chance when all other chances have been used up.
Grace is the peace in the midst of the fierce raging storm.
Grace is acceptance when the world screams rejection.
Grace is forgiveness when the act has been intolerable.
Grace is hope when none had been previously offered.
Grace is mercy when judgement should be called for…
Grace is life when one actually deserves death…

It should be noted that Grace is not cheap.
For it cannot be bought nor sold.
It can not be bartered over or traded.
It cannot be taken or stolen…
For it is actually free—free to both you and me.

Yet this free Grace was once actually rather costly.
For that which is free today to both you and me, once cost God a great deal.

Think of this question…
Would you ever hand over your child…
Your only child, to be brutally tortured and murdered before your very eyes…
Just to be able to offer someone else their freedom?
I would think not.
Yet that is exactly what happened.

A price paid for the healing power of Grace.
A tremendous price that cost God so very much–
Yet it was a price He willingly paid out of a tremendous love for both you and me. . .
and it is because of that very Grace that I am here, writing you today…

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.
The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin,
and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.
Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury,
from which she showers blessings with generous hands,
without asking questions or fixing limits.
Grace without price; grace without cost!
The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid
in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.
Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending
it are infinite.
What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,
baptism without church discipline,
Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship,
grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ,
living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field;
for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has.
It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.
It is the kingly rule of Christ,
for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble;
it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves
his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again,
the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear
a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

our dark night of the soul

“May God be pleased to give me His light,
that I may speak profitably of this;
for I have great need of it while treating of a night so dark
and speaking of a subject so difficult.5”

St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul


(2017 / Julie Cook)

Our days are shrouded by a shadowy veil…
as darkness yearns to cover what small light remains.

I feel the palpable trepidation…I know you do too.

Straddling a great divide, which widens day by day, we are
stretched nearly to a breaking point.

How much longer is our collective lament.
Yet I fear this is just the beginning.

“The reason why the soul not only travels securely when it thus travels
in the dark, but makes even greater progress, is this:
In general the soul makes greater progress when it least thinks so,
yea, most frequently when it imagines that it is losing.
Having never before experienced the present novelty which dazzles it,
and disturbs its former habits, it considers itself as losing,
rather than as gaining ground,
when it sees itself lost in a place it once knew,
and in which it delighted, traveling by a road it knows not,
and in which it has no pleasure.
As a traveler into strange countries goes by ways strange and untried,
relying on information derived from others, and not upon any knowledge
of his own—it is clear that he will never reach a new country but
by new ways which he knows not,
and by abandoning those he knew—so in the same way the soul makes
the greater progress when it travels in the dark, not knowing the way.
But inasmuch as God Himself is here the guide of the soul in its blindness,
the soul may well exult and say,
“In darkness and in safety,” now that it has come to a knowledge of its state.”

St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

living in the midst of Chaos

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created,
loved, upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.
Can you believe that?
Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot


(image from Parsons.com—chaos engineering)

According to Merriam Webster the word chaos
is a noun meaning a state of utter confusion.

And so I think we can go ahead and safely add a 51st star to our nation’s flag—
not the likes of a D.C. or Puerto Rico but rather because of our living in
the state of Chaos…
For chaos is seemingly alive and well…

Now as to where exactly this 51st state should be located might be
up for a bit of debate but I think it pretty much exists from sea to shining sea—
so therefore it’s really just one big massive state holding all 50 of the rest of us
‘states’ as bit of a hostage.

So rather than making it a state…let’s just make it a new continent….
bringing our 7 to a nice even 8.
Because it’s not simply the US that is living in and with chaos,
but pretty much most of the globe.

In case you need some clarification…a bit of reminding of what it is that
I’m talking about…let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane…

We started with a lab leak that ensued into a global pandemic
in what seemed like the course of a single day…

We locked down, masked up, shuttered our lives and livelihoods
all the while battling one another over the correct course
of treatment.

To vaccine or not to vaccine, that is the question.

We hoarded toilet paper.

We bought up all sorts of food items to freeze while waiting for the
apocalypse.

And now we fight over a thing called a vaccine passport—
Consider it a modern day matter of the haves and have nots—
think class warfare…
think paranoia, persecution, exclusion, and delineation in the most
sinister and divisive of manners.

Moving on…

Next we had an election.

I use the term ‘election’ very loosely and there’s not enough time
in the day to chat about all of that so just know…there was a
quote unquote election.

This little election situation has left us with a person in charge
who is publicly struggling under the weight of dementia while calling himself
the President of the United States.

My uncle has dementia and oddly claims to be the governor of South Carolina
despite having been born and raised in Georgia and having lived in
both Virginia and Florida.
Go figure.

This dementia / presidential thing is a bad thing but again,
there is not enough time to chat about such.
Just know that a president with dementia means the inmates are running
the asylum and things are not going well at all in that little department.

Think the Border.
Think immigrants.
Think Covid.
Think Afghanistan.
Think Socialism.
Think lawlessness.
Think trillions of your tax dollars itching to go piss in the wind
for the lack of a better example.
Think Big Brother.
Think defunding police.
Think CRT
Think the approving of transgenderism for little girls and boys as young as 4.
Think Judaeo / Christian persecution
Think the rewriting or total erasing of history
Think desecration.
Think division.
Think a nation run amuck.

Throw in mother nature with her earthquakes, hurricanes,
fires, tornados along with the mantra of climate change…
and well we’ve got a huge mess on our hands.

Don’t think you’re affected?

Well, if you are breathing, then you too are living in the midst of chaos.

It’s all just downright unsettling.
It’s frightening.
It’s depressing.
It’s a feeling of helplessness.
And it is so utterly surreal that it hurts the brain.

But just when I was screaming in my head, TAKE ME NOW LORD…
I stopped in order to play a little bogland catch-up—-
In doing so, I saw where our good friend IB posted an interesting tale…

Bitter Pills and Pharmakeia

https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2021/08/16/bitter-pills-and-pharmakeia/

Now where I found her post interesting for a myriad of reasons…it was
something else in her post that actually brought me to a beautiful sense of hope.

It’s really easy to quickly fall into the pit of despair these days.
IB lamented much the same.

All you have to do is to pop back up a couple of paragraphs of this post
and read about life under a president with dementia.
Read about Mother Nature.
Read about the decline of Western Civilization….
but I digress…

IB wrote toward the end of her post,
“I am sad and concerned about many things, the earthquake in Haiti,
the manmade humanitarian disaster unfolding in Afghanistan,
and the tyranny building here in the US.
And the Lord is like, Nope!
What matters first and foremost is your unmet emotional needs,
your well being, our relationship. God is a great multitasker,
He has the whole world in His hands, and still the time to give
me His undivided attention.
My being “shocked and sad” about what is going on in the world doesn’t
really help anyone anyway.”

And that’s what hit me deeply about her post—no matter what storm is raging,
God, who is always omnipresent, is in the midst of it all…
with me remaining at the center of his concern and love—
just as you are…deeply held in the center of His concern and love

The Master multitasker, who has the world constantly in His sight, keeps
each of us in His tender embrace. He will not fail us.
Our earthly leadership will come and go…human beings will continue
to fail one another…but our God will never waiver.

And it is that single thought that is what allows me to get up each morning as we
all prepare to face what this sorrowful world has in store for us—
Remember…in the end He wins and therefore, we win!

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples,
“Let us go over to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.
There were also other boats with him.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat,
so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
The disciples woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves,
“Quiet! Be still!”
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples,
“Why are you so afraid?
Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other,
“Who is this?
Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:35-41

police state

The treatment of churches during the Covid 19 scare has ranged from the
unreasonable and illogical to the illegal.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden


(A book store in Padua, Itlay (Padova) / Julie Cook / 2014)

When I was in high school enduring my tenure during those required lit classes,
be it American lit or British Lit, we had to read such books as 1984, A Brave New World,
Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter… ad infinitum.

And I made no bones about it, I hated each and every one of those books.
I was known for being a vocal student so I’m sure my teachers just loved hearing me
complain.

Dark, ominous, surreal…stories that showcased the devolvement of humankind…
that of the more sinister, twisted, demented, malevolent, cruel, sadistic…
tales that spoke of hopelessness…worlds without the Hope of Salvation.

During my teens, during those heady days of the mid-’70s, tales of the surreal
left me uncomfortable if not frustrated.

During those days, I was actively involved in my local EYC, my Episcopal youth group,
as well as the non-denominational Young Life Christian organization.
My lens was that of the Born Again, Charismatic, Jesus Freak movements.
I was focused on Hope springing from despair…not despair spawning deeper despair.

And yet oddly I preferred books such as The Catcher the Rye, The Old Man and the Sea,
A Farewell to Arms, The Red Badge of Courage…
but if the truth be told–
I actually loved what we had to read in my Sociology and Russian History classes—
classes where I read the likes of Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky.
Truthful books that examined humankind by authors who held to the knowledge of a
God greater than man.

So if I had discontent with my Lit. classes from way back in the day,
just imagine my discontent with our current world.
A world that is more like the sad world portrayed in those books we read in lit class.

A world that is fulfilling a prohpesy of the twisted, sinister, demented, malevolent,
cruel, sadistic and hopeless that men from a different time period foretold
in what was thought to be a far and distant future.

This little trip down memory lane came racing to my conciousness yesterday
after reading Dr. Ashenden’s lastest post.
His was a tale about a surreal police state and today’s Chruch…
both of which are caught up in life during a pandemic.

Life precariously and frigtheningly imitiating fiction…

Christians are being harassed in churches by police who did not know the law.

food for thought; Advent

Sometimes I don’t need God to tell me what he is like so much as I need God
to tell me everything will be alright.

anonymous


(Julie Cook / 2013)

So as the debates rage on…
Be it a draconian world supposedly led by science vs one of humanity’s common sense…
complicated by lockdowns, masks, vaccines…
I caught a few storylines yesterday that only seem to add to the confusing madness.

According to Fox News, Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme nutjob,
has ordered national executions, placed a ban on fishing as well as placing a
ban on salt production…
These various actions being his idea of handling Covid and preventing it from
entering his hermit kingdom.

Kim Jong Un has ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea,
and locked down the capital, Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against the
coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday.

One of the lawmakers, Ha Tae-keung, quoted the NIS as saying Kim is displaying
“excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” over the pandemic and its economic impact.

Ha said the NIS told lawmakers that North Korea executed a high-profile
money changer in Pyongyang last month after holding the person responsible
for a falling exchange rate.
He quoted the NIS as saying that North Korea also executed a key official in August
for violating government regulations restricting goods brought from abroad.
The two people weren’t identified by name.

North Korea has also banned fishing and salt production at sea to prevent seawater
from being infected with the virus, the NIS told lawmakers.

So I suppose if you can kill the people first before they even can get sick…
then that makes perfect sense.

Next came a more somber headline out of Japan–

You may or may not know this but Japan has a very dark secret…
it has the dubious distinction for a proliferation of suicide.
They even have a beautiful and tranquil forest that is known as a place where
folks go to end things…the suicide forest.

And given the added burden brought about from the pandemic, be it lockdowns, lost
economy…Japan’s fragile mental health is even more fractured.

The National Police Agency said suicides surged to 2,153 in October alone,
with more than 17,000 people taking their own lives this year to date, CBS reported.

By comparison, fewer than 2,000 people in the country have died from COVID-19 in 2020.

The forest might need to be exorcised.

Then there was this little cheery headline:
The US could face an ‘apocalypse’ by Christmas as COVID-19 cases surge

Apocalypse in one hand…Christmas in the other.
Notice how I am weighing them.
Tipping back and forth…yet Christmas just simply lifts higher.

Winter is setting down upon us.
Heavy, dark, and foreboding.
Yet we must not despair.

We must not allow the news outlets or our leaders to crush our hope.
We must not allow them to crush our Christmas spirit!
Let us not allow a pandemic to win.
Let us not allow despair to triumph.

We are preparing today to enter an ancient time of mystery.
And it is in this mystery that we have overcome the world…
This mystery has overcome pandemics, elections, wars, division, animosity,
hatred, pettiness, along with man’s small-mindedness.

We are allowed a small peek at the ending of the story…and in that glimpse,
we see that victory will indeed be ours.

Be clear-minded.
Be watchful.
Wait…
He will come…

God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather,
his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly
and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would
least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected,
the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

“Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume…”

“If God were our one and only desire we would not be so easily upset when our opinions
do not find outside acceptance.”

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Therefore, when God gives spiritual comfort, receive it with thanksgiving,
but know that it is the bounty of God, not thy merit.
Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume,
but rather be the more humble for this gift and the more cautious and fearful
in all thine actions; for this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.
When comfort shall be taken away from thee, do not presently despair;
but wait with humility and patience for the heavenly visit,
for God is able to restore thee a greater consolation.
This is no new thing, nor strange to those who have experienced the
ways of God: for the great saints and ancient prophets have often felt
this kind of variety.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

crying in need


(baby goat pic found on the web)

There I was on a hot Friday the 13th afternoon in October—
did I mention it was hot?

Mid October and there has yet to be any near sighting of the
long awaited and highly anticipated Fall…

Anywhooo back to our tale….

There I was just coming out of Lowes, one of our big home improvement centers, headed for my car when I first heard it…

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Was that a sheep?????

“Must be the heat” I mused as I continued on my journey to my car,
with air filters in tow….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the parking lot…listening.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Without skipping a beat, the baying sound filled the entire parking lot.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

A woman just getting out of her car stops dead in her own tracks right by me…
“What is that crying? she asks confused.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh

We both are standing still as statues, listening….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

“I think it’s coming from over there” as I point toward a yellow pickup truck
several lanes over.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

More people stop…mostly women.
The same question…”what is that crying?”

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

Finally I discern that indeed it is the yellow pickup truck that happens to have
a large animal carrier in the back of the truck bed.
The truck is one of those that has a full back cover for the bed,
of which was propped up as the animal carrier was wedged between bed and
cover. I could make out something white moving a bit side to side in the carrier.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

“Is that a sheep?” another woman walking passed asks bewildered.

“That or a goat” I respond as we all now stare in the direction of the truck.

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

By now I’m feeling a strong urge to follow the cry, but reason tells me
“take the air filters to the car and drive on home…”…
or maybe that was actually my husband’s admonishement from afar
telling me “do not stop, we do not need nor want a baby lamb or goat…GO HOME!!!”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Inside my car I can still hear the cries….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I roll down my window as I begin to pull out of the parking spot still feeling
a strong urge to go to this crying “baby.”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

I notice several other shoppers, all women, making a bee line for the truck.

Inquisitive?

Absolutely…
but this draw was something much more than mere curiosity.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

This poor baby goat or lamb was in dire straights as it was wailing for “mother”

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Finally pulling far enough away I no longer could hear the cries…
yet in my rear view mirror I could still see various women making their way over
to the truck…

Pondering as I drove….
was it the cries of a child, albeit animal, crying out in desperation that sent
out some sort of distress signal to the maternal instincts in the female
shoppers today??

The draw was strong to go attend to this crying baby…
I know because it was all I could do not to walk over to the truck myself.

And then the thought occurs to me—what of our own cries?…
those cries we utter and offer up to our unseen God and Father…Abba?

Those cries of anguish, despair, pain, desperation, sorrow…
Cries offered, or perhaps actually hurled outward and upward,
most often in distress or resignation…
cries of need and want…

And what of the One who hears those cries…is He not then drawn, even more powerfully
to our cries then we are to the cries of our own crying children….
So much so that He immediately runs to the sound each and every time!
As we rest assured, He runs…


(little lamb found on the web)

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

Psalm 18:6

inviting and yet locked

“By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision
to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path
toward a spiritual life.”

Thomas More

As polarized as we have been,
we Americans are locked in a cultural war for the soul of our country.

Pat Buchanan


(an inviting, yet closed and obviously shuttered, secluded entrance way / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a lovely Orthodox Christian blog that I follow…
Where I often find the most beautiful wisdom presented in the simplest of fashions.
This morning was no exception.

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/what-does-charismatic-despair-mean/

When I first read this morning’s posting’s title, with words such as Charismatic and despair…words that at first glance appear to be polar opposites of one another, I wasn’t prepared to find both a sweet reminder as well as an embracing
comfort all rolled into one.

I am reminded that as we each journey through this thing we call life,
we will each inevitably encounter times of great frustration, difficulty…
even overwhelming sorrow.

We will come to those places along on our walk where we find our pathway blocked
with the doorways, those apparent entrances beckoning us to continue forward, each shuttered and locked tight. There will be no obvious alternate path allowing for us
to continue onward, proceeding freely and unhindered.

It is at such a juncture on the path, where we are met by both doubt and despair.

Choice suddenly appears limited or even nonexistent.
Knowing we can’t progress forward and that we certainly can’t turn around,
going back from whence we came…for too much time has passed for turn arounds,
we are stymied. A rushing fear washes over us as we realize that we have
no other options, no choices.

And this is where we must look not obviously outward from ourselves
seeking our answers,
but rather we must look inward…traveling deeply within ourselves.

For it is in this very moment of inward verses outward, of how we will decide
to interact with the obstacles and locked doors,
which will eventually decide how we continue forward on our journey.

And so it is here, tucked gently away in this morning’s reading of simple words
offered by a simple monk, where we are gently yet profoundly reminded that
in our apparent despair, we are driven not by the seemingly overwhelmingness
of that very despair and its accompanying frustration, but rather by the divine interventions of the Spirit…
He who urges us, without our even being aware, to seek the only One who has
the key to unlocking those shattered doors, allowing for us to continue forward
on this odd little journey of ours.

It begins with a frustration or a pain or a sorrow and it ends with
an imploring prayer…


(the wisdom of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex from the book Remember Thy First Love)

always optimistic

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank


(my new tomatoes in my “containers” / Julie Cook / 2017)

All my life, I’ve tried to be optimistic.
Yet at the same time….
I am fully aware that there is a difference between being optimistic
verses being a perpetual optimist.

I am optimistic but I also know, as I expect, that the positive will be met by the negative—
as in…for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction…
kind of like a tug of war…..

I have always been fully aware of the notion that if it can go wrong, it most likely will…
It’s like Newton’s Law but more like Murphy’s…

Yet at the same time, I honestly believe that the final outcome can and will be good.
It’s just that it most likely won’t be a bed of roses getting there.

I call that being a realist.

For I can see the trials and tribulations,
the “what if” scenarios,
the “if it can go wrong, it will” sort of life’s moments….
Because I firmly believe in a great battle that is constantly raging all around us…
as in a deeply troubling spiritual battle….

Yet in the end I believe, as I know, that “all things work together for good to
them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)…
As in the Good guy not only doesn’t finish last but in reality He wins,
And not only does He win, He actually triumphs…
In turn, making those of us who have believed,
the real winners…

So on the one hand, I try very hard to be optimistic and always ever hopeful….
yet as a realist, I know that the end result will not come readily nor easily…
but I know, without a doubt, it will come….

I think we call that perseverance…

So therefore during these day’s of doubt and despair,
in this uncertain time of anger and hate,
in these days of trepidation, mistrust and missteps…
may we each remain ever hopeful…for in the end…
there will always be the winning Love and Grace of God…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

impossible seperation

“Wherever an altar is found,
there civilization exists.”

Joseph de Maistre


( guillotine located in the Museum of the Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

There is nothing like a good ol revolution followed by the feeding frenzy of the lopping off
of heads to turn one’s thoughts to say, a more conventional path to life….
Or so it seems to have been so for the author of today’s quote.

A life, shall we say, consisting of the anchors of morality sprinkled with a steady dose of
conservatism….particularly if one was previously giddy over a life of anarchy and wanton
enlightened liberalism.

Yet it seems that time and time again…
man precariously rides the ever swinging pendulum of time,
swinging both left and right….
as he works to swing himself ever closer to living life simply fast and furious
while claiming to be both footloose and fancy free…

However the pendulum will always come back to the elephant in the room…
that being…. man verses a Divine Creator…

Deny and decry as oft man does….
As ego and pride take center stage as the masters of all that is,
societies will continue going to hell in a hand basket.

All the while as everyone is busying themselves… trying to separate the notion of morality
from Western Civilization’s Christian / Judaeo lynchpin….
which is like trying to separate the moon from the night sky….

It has always seemed to me completely inconsistent that existentialism should deny the
existence of God and then proceed to use the language of theism to persuade men to live right.
The French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance,
states frankly that he represents atheistic existentialism.
“If God does not exist,” he says, “we find no values or commands to turn to which
legitimize our conduct.
So in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us.
We are all alone, with no excuses.”
Yet in the next paragraph he states bluntly,
“Man is responsible for his passion,” and further on,
“A coward is responsible for his cowardice.”
And such considerations as these, he says, fill the existentialist with “anguish,
forlornness and despair.”
It seems to me that such reasoning must assume the truth of everything it seeks to deny.
If there were no God there would be no such words as “responsible.”
No criminal need fear a judge who does not exist;
nor would he need to worry about breaking a law that had not been passed.
It is the knowledge that the law and the judge do in fact exist that strikes fear
to the lawbreaker’s heart.
There is someone to whom he is accountable;
otherwise the concept of responsibility could have no meaning.

A.W. Tozer