living in the world…

Where we see sin, God sees pain;
and He wishes to heal us, refresh us, and free us.

Fr. Éamonn Bourke
from his book Make Your Home in Me: Reflections on Prayer


(quince blossom / 2017 /Julie Cook)

“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment,
that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.
By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties,
problems, successes and failures.
In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God,
taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world.
That, I think, is faith.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

thoughts

“Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross;
he waited until one of them turned to him.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(bluebird / Julie Cook / 2017)

“I’m still discovering, right up to this moment,
that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.
I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems,
successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.
In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

persevere to Truth

“God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(acorn in the leaves / Julie Cook / 2021)

The crown will be given neither to beginners,
nor to the advanced, but to the victorious,
to those who persevere to the end.

St Margaret Mary Alacoque

a gift freely given

God has done everything; he has done the impossible:
he was made flesh. His all–
powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding:
the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“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

And so He has come…

God of God
Light of Light
Very God of very God…

Begotten of woman, not made
Born man
Crucified
Dead
Buried
and yet Risen again for our Redemption and Deliverance

And so it is on this Christmas day…
this day of Light and Hope…that we find not only life…
but it is in that life that we must also find death…

For it is in the miracle of both life and death…
That of His birth, His life and eventually His death…
it is there that we actually find our most necessary Hope…

It is a hope found in both life and death—
of which each mingle together so blessedly and painfully…
yet oh so poignantly…
melding into that single transcendence of the Resurrection.

So on this Christmas day we are reminded, once again, that yes,
we are to rejoice…
We rejoice because we have each been invited to a grand banquet…
We have been invited to claim our rightful place at the table…
taking in all that is freely given and yet that which is gravely
undeserved…
but miraculously given nonetheless.

So in that Hope, found in both birth and death,
is a brilliance of illumination…scattering the
darkness from wherever it yearns to spread.

A great Light has shown in that darkness.
And that darkness scatters
because that Light has overcome the darkness.

Hope
Joy
Salvation
Redemption
Deliverence
Resurrection
Life…

All of which is offered to each man and woman, young and old,
sick and in-firmed, lofty and simple…underseved, yet a gift
freely given…

So yes, we are told to rejoice…

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Again I say,
Rejoice!

“What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension?
The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God,
entered the Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity.
He who upholds the universe, within whom and through whom are all things,
was brought forth by common childbirth.
He at whose voice archangels and angels tremble,
and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted,
was heard in childish wailing.
The Invisible and Incomprehensible,
whom sight and feeling and touch cannot measure, was wrapped in a cradle.”

St. Hilary of Poitiers

the mystery in misty memories

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved
and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour
because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones,
vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(a misty rising of the superman / Julie Cook / 2017)

(a timely tweaked re-post from 2017)

Whispers slip out from scented branches…
all while caught lingering between twinkling lights.

Each bauble, each ball, each special tangible memory calls out from ages past…
transporting the now to the then.

Broken, chipped, bent or faded…it matters not–
the flood of what once was cascades down upon the unexpected.

Voices long since silenced are suddenly as clear as a bell…
as a clock chimes upon a stocking draped mantle.

Each box, now reopened once again…
as each unearthed trinket is removed…
dusty and now worse for the wear from the years of in and out,
dangles precariously on a needle encrusted branch…
bridging both space and time…yet caught between a sea of red and green.

A story line begins to unravel….as a tale of love, loss and even hope sits
arranged, ever just so, inviting all to come behold.

For better or worse, we begin again…
Carrying on with and without…
and if we’re lucky, year in and year out…
a Mystery breaks through the barriers of both life and death.

And we are the better for that Mystery…

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.
A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.
We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.
Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.
They are not yet finished with this world;
they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.
We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary
of our being,
because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal,
and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…
Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life,
nothing of the mystery of another person,
nothing of the mystery of the world;
it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world.
It means remaining on the surface,
taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated
and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.
Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of
life at all and even denying them.”

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

The advent of Advent

The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle,
the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time,
what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature,
descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him.
It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there
is nothing specifically Christian left.

C.S. Lewis


(a golden red carpet / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park /
Julie Cook / 2015)

(an advent post from 2015)

Advent—the season of waiting, watching and expectancy…

As in waiting and watching with expectant anticipation.

With the anticipation being so wonderful, so indescribable,
so over the top…you can barely contain yourself.

This is not the worrisome dreading sort of waiting.
Not the “oh no we’ll never make it” gloom and doom of the negative waiting.
Not the looking constantly over your shoulder with fear rising up from the pit
of your stomach while you fret waiting for the other shoe to drop sort
of the anxious dreading type of waiting, watching, looking,
fretting and worrying…

This is rather the oh so great and oh so grand magnificent, I can’t wait,
I’m so excited, as this is going to be really really good and really really big…
full of sheer giddiness that I’m about to explode sort of joyful
waiting and watching…

As in I can’t wait because there is going to be such wonder,
relief and good things that all thoughts of bad, negative,
dread and woe are simply nonexistent…

Yet is this the season that you’re all excited and giddy over because of the
getting and receiving of more stuff?
The I can’t wait to go to the mall and bask in the holiday specialness
and magic of mega retail savviness sort of excited…??
Is it because this is the season you’ve long awaited because of the gathering
and the getting of those gifts and presents and all manner of things
that you’ve decided you just can’t live without sort of season…??

Is it the season that you’ve been long waiting and watching for as
your calendar will now be filling up with all manner of parties,
gatherings, galas and events…each offering the excuse of buying shiny and
sparkly outfits with the expectancy of seeing and being seen while
you imagine all the goodies to be sampled and savored…??

Is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over those things of this planet,
this world, this generation’s idea of a good time?

Or is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over something else?
Something that is much bigger, more awesome, more unimaginable and more over the top
than any of things of this life…
those things and events which pale in comparison as they are simply fleeting
and merely passing by…

For there is something really big and really monumental that is soon
to be taking place and for those of us who wait, who watch, who look,
who anticipate, who are full of expectancy, wonder and awe….
well, we are not to be disappointed…

“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

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

Incarnation

The fact that theology also considers the body should not astonish or
surprise anyone who is aware of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation.
Theology is that science whose subject is divinity.
Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh,
the body entered theology through the main door.

St. John Paul the Great


(bumble bee on sunflower / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Christ took upon himself this human form of ours.
He became Man even as we are men.
In his humanity and his lowliness we recognize our own form.
He has become like a man, so that men should be like him.
And in the Incarnation the whole human race recovers the dignity
of the image of God. Henceforth, any attack on the least of men
is an attack on Christ, who took the form of man,
and in his own Person restored the image of God in all that
bears a human form.
Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord,
we recover our true humanity,
and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism
which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with
the whole human race. By being partakers of Christ incarnate,
we are partakers in the whole humanity which he bore.
We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity
of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means
that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others.
The incarnate Lord makes his followers the brothers of
all mankind.
The “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3:4) revealed in the Incarnation
is the ground of Christian love towards all on earth that bears
the name of man.
The form of Christ incarnate makes the Church into the Body of Christ.
All the sorrows of mankind fall upon that form,
and only through that form can they be borne.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“The kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom…”

“The truth of the matter is that the whole world has already been turned
upside down by the work of Jesus Christ”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


(Lady Banks roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“[Saint] Paul understood that the suffering he was going through somehow allowed him
to share in Christ’s suffering for the world…
In his own life, there was a time when he asked the Lord three times to remove a
particular suffering from him (see 2 Corinthians 12:8).
The response he received from the Lord was not “Oh, my oversight.
That’s right, I took care of all that suffering.
You don’t have to do anything.”
No, God’s response was, “[Paul], my grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)…
It is completely opposite of the way the world thinks…
What looked like the worst thing that ever happened on earth—Christ hanging on a cross,
bleeding to death—became the source of salvation for the entire world.
The point of weakness became the point of strength;
it was transformed into the power over death and Hell.
We have to get it through our heads that the kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom
according to the world’s perspective.
Weakness confounds the wise.
The poor and obscure confound the rich and famous…
Whatever you are going through right now, remember that God has a plan for you.
He wants to be united to you so closely that it resembles a spousal relationship…
your suffering is not inconsequential; it is extremely valuable in the economy of God.”
Jeff Cavins, When You Suffer

An Excerpt From
When You Suffer

give my your Light

“Everything becomes more and more itself.
Here is joy that cannot be shaken.
Our light can swallow up your darkness;
but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis


(they take the bulbs and shades…so life is in the dark / Julie Cook / 2020)

Transition seems to bring about a variance of both light and dark.
I can have a lamp, but without a bulb or electricity, I have only darkness.

The same remains true for the soul.
If there is no light, there is only darkness.

We pray for light.
Give us you light oh Lord…

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer