speaking of signs

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him.

Luke 9:35


(Bible tract found tucked in the handle of my car door / Julie Cook / 2019)

So yesterday I made mention of two little rural church signs I saw during my recent back and forth travels.
Two little signs that opened both my heart and mind…more or less, reawakening my senses.

Another little sign made its way to me again yesterday morning.

Having not been home for any length of time over the past three weeks, a most needed grocery run
was greatly in order and the first thing on the day’s docket.

Nearly 45 minutes later, the bagger gal, who insisted on pushing my overflowing cart out to my car,
emptied the cart into my car as I finally made my way to back to the driver’s door.
Nestled in between the handle and car was a small piece of folded paper.

Upon further inspection, the paper folded up under my car’s door handle was actually a Bible tract.

It’s always a mystery to me how these things materialize.
I leave the car, buy some groceries, then poof, God’s word winds up tucked into my
car’s door handle.

The title: This Is My Beloved Son In Whom I Am Well Pleased…
Hear Ye Him!

Hear Ye Him…

I pondered that line.

It sounded archaic…perhaps King James.

However, upon a further later investigation of the line, which is from the Book of Luke,
it turns out that the version is actually from the American Standard Bible.

And so I pondered deeper…

Most versions read “Listen to Him” versus this version of “Hear Ye Him”

Hear versus Listen…the ‘ye’ bit I get— meaning you there…
but it was the balance of hear vs listen that had me ruminating.

Aren’t they the same?
Don’t both words mean the same?

Words and their meanings have always intrigued me.

According to Merriam Webster,
Hear: transitive verb
to perceive or become aware of by the ear
to gain knowledge of by hearing
to listen to with attention
transitive verb
to have the capacity of perceiving sound
to gain information
to receive communication

Listen: transitive verb
to give ear to

intransitive verb
to pay attention to sound
to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration
to be alert to catch an expected sound

So yes, I see that there is a difference between the two words…to hear vs to listen.

Firstly, to hear seems active whereas to listen appears more passive.

God is wanting us to perceive, to become aware of, to gain.
He also wants us to pay attention, to give consideration to and to be alert…
as well as to passively receive.

He wants us to lend our ear…but the question we must ask ourselves is to lend it for what?

We must be open in order to actually hear.
We must be wanting and willing.

We can hear something but are we truly hearing it?
Is it like white noise in the background or is it received into the cognizant part of
our brain for the processing of what it really is?

Seems more signs just keep coming my way…

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
John 4:48

poppycock, pagans and the post days of a slippery slope

“In this deconstruction of humanity there are several steps
yet to happen.”
David Robertson


(cemetary located on the grounds of St Kevin’s Monastary / Glendalough National Park/
Co. Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Over 76 million blogs, or so say their statistics, happily spend their time on WordPress.
That’s a lot of blogs, a lot of words and a copious amount of thoughts zipping out there
in cyberspace, rocketing their way to your favorite electronic device of choice.

And as I’ve been tied up with the wee one and short on time, I’ve not been able
to hunt down and breakdown the stats relating to how many of those 76 million blogs
are Christian related—
But I would surmise that the numbers would be a respectable percentage.

And so here’s the thing,
there are obviously a healthy amount of Spirit-filled voices canvasing the
airwaves–so to speak.

Much like that of Voice of America or Radio Free Europe, each of which got their
start during those fretful days of WWII and the Cold War when Nazi and Communist regimes
were rife with delivering propaganda…the airwaves were inundated with brave countermeasures
bringing real news and hope to those living under the oppression of fascism,
socialism, and communism.

Yet to have been caught even listening would mean certain reprimands such as beatings,
internment or even death.

Corrie ten Boom recounted in her book The Hiding Place the story of the family
keeping a radio against the Nazi’s allowance.
“Although the Germans demand seizure of all radios,
the family keeps the old radio and turns in the portable one.
Corrie feels bad for lying, but knows that the true reports,
although disheartening, are necessary to hear….”

Necessary to hear the truth.

I would like to think many words out there in the blogosphere are doing much the same for
those hungry for the Good News…spreading Truth.

Two things recently from our friend the Wee Flea brought to mind the notion of brave words
with the hope of the Good News coupled with the frightening reality of our times.

David, in a recent post written while on Sabbatical in Australia, noted that
our Western society is finding itself precariously perched on a terribly
slippery slope as recalls his clarion calls to the faithful…

In this deconstruction of humanity there are several steps yet to happen.
We will leave aside trans-human, trans-species and trans-abled, for the moment
(although we have already seen examples of people arguing for all three of these)
and instead turn to two more in the area of sex and sexuality.

It is my view that, unless we wake up to what is happening,
the next barrier to fall will be incest and that will then be followed by a gradual
acceptance of pedophilia
(first of all as a sexuality and then as a normative way for some people).

Revealed – The Next Step on the Slippery Slope

Then just yesterday David posted a three-minute interview on his reflections of the difference,
or perhaps more aptly, the similarities of Christianity in 1st century Europe versus
Christianity of today.

David notes that the early family of Believers lacked the convenience and speed of travel
as well as the speed of communication that we readily take for granted today.
Add to that the fact that living during Pagan-Grecco / Roman times meant society was run amuck
with hedonism and wantonness that clashed with the new religious “cult”

The “cult” had to be severely dealt with.
People were rounded up, tortured and killed until those Believers were forced underground.
And yet the “cult” prospered.

David notes that despite the depraved times, the slowness in the travel of news and word,
the dire times, the persecutions, the executions, the torment…
the early Chruch prospered.

David also notes that our society is in a tailspin of regression. Regressing rapidly backwards
to those early days of a Pagan-Grecco way of life…all we have to do is to look around at television
advertisement, the news, the movies, and we readily see the depravity,
the twisted view of sexuality along with the death of the traditional nuclear family unit…
It is more than obvious that we are beginning our descent on that slippery slope.

when disagreeing becomes a hate crime

The idea of opposing dangerous ideologies is not foreign to Americans,
but the idea of opposing an ideology that is also a religion is more problematic.
It has become increasingly problematic now that we live in an era in which merely
disagreeing with another’s opinions is tantamount to a hate crime.

William Kilpatrick
excerpt from LifeSite.com


(statue of homeless Jesus outside of Christ Cathedral Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ideology versus religion.
Disagreement versus hate.

We seem to be having a very difficult time discerning between these 4 words.

Ideology:
a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
c: the integrated assertions, theories, and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

Religion:
a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Disagreement:
the state of being at variance

hate:
a: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury:
b: extreme dislike or disgust

I stumbled across the following article that I found most telling.
The title alone grabbed me and reeled me into reading further.
The Catholic Church Needs to Wake Up to Islam

The article focused on the hierarchy of the Chruch,
in particular the Catholic Chruch, and its inadequate response,
handling and understanding the difference between a religion versus that of an ideology.

With the religion and ideology in question being Islam.

A religion and ideology that has minced no words in its disdain for
those of the Judeo/ Christian world.

The problem is that church leaders seem not to understand that the two are indeed the same…
as in one in the same…a mindset along with a belief system.
Mr. Kilpatrick pointedly explains that the church fathers just don’t seem to “get that.”

Not only does the hierarchy of the Catholic Church struggle with the difference…
most of the Christian fold struggles.
They, they being you and I, struggle along with most of the secular west.

For you and I need to understand that a basic ingredient to our western DNA psyche is
the fact that we like to and want to “play nice”—it’s who we are.
We’re a kumbaya lot.

And that’s because we think and feel that that’s just how normal civilized human beings act…
People want to play nice right?

We want to and desperately try to give the benefit of the doubt to each and all—
along with that whole notion of ‘do unto others as you would want to be done unto you…
despite any religious inclination or not…that mindset is really at our core.

The problem is that various ideologies do not “play nice” nor do they care to play nice.
And we westerners just don’t get that.

And in our rush and zeal to always play nice, we’ve raced off half-cocked
decreeing that anyone who disagrees with an ideology…
well, they are guilty of being hateful…as in committing hate crimes.

So we’ve basically thrown the concept of disagreement out with the bath water and
hopscotched all the way over to hate.

Remeber when we use to acquiesce to those we couldn’t come to terms with by
saying “well, let’s just agree to disagree” …meaning that we realized that we were at
an impasse of thought on a topic or issue but we’d remain civil, cordial and even peaceful
by letting the disagreements pass without driving a wedge of contention—
each of us would keep our independent thoughts without fussing or bickering or
forcing our ways, thoughts, ideas upon the other.

It’s what civilized folks did.

Unfortunately, our society has morphed into something else entirely.
We no longer allow for disagreements but rather equate the word disagreement
with the word hate.

Two entirely different words with two entirely different meanings yet we’ve twisted them
together…melding the two into one.
Yet unlike Islam which is both a religion and ideology,
disagreement and hate are not one and the same.

And so sadly we are now seeing the various leaders of both the Christian and Jewish faiths
failing to understand the trouble in all of that thinking.

Yet what is most worrisome in all of this is that the Judaeo/ Christian faiths are
not offered or afforded the same gift of tolerance or global acceptance and the right
to disagree as, say, the ideology of Islam receives…
or even atheism for that matter…but that issue of thought
is for another day.

So now Christians and Jews are expected to bend to the wields of the very ideology
that actually seethes a deep hatred toward their very existence.

So it was with great interest that I read the following words and article by
William Kilpatrick in an article in Crisis Magazine.

Mr. Kilpatrick offers a warning that it would be wise that our religious leader stand firm
against ideologies…while explaining that to stand firm does not mean that we are to hate…
merely that we hold true to the tenants of our faiths…

By contrast, Church leaders and Pope Francis in particular, have become,
in effect, enablers of Islam.
Pope Francis has denied that Islam sanctions violence,
has drawn a moral equivalence between Islam and Catholicism
(“If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence”),
and has campaigned for the admittance of millions of Muslim migrants into Europe.
Moreover, he has criticized those who oppose his open borders policy as hard-hearted xenophobes.
In return for his efforts,
he has been publicly thanked by several Muslim leaders for his “defense of Islam.”

One might be tempted to use the word “collaborator” instead of “enabler.”
But collaborator is too strong a word. In its World War II context,
it implies a knowing consent to and cooperation with an evil enterprise.
It seems clear to me that the pope and others in the hierarchy are enabling the spread
of an evil ideology; however,
it’s not at all clear that they understand what they’re doing.
Francis, for instance, seems to sincerely believe that all religions are roughly equal in goodness.
Thus for him, the spread of any religion must seem like a good thing.
It’s an exceedingly naïve view, but one that seems honestly held.

But one can’t plead ignorance forever.
Eventually, the reality of the situation will become plain to all but the most obtuse.
At that point – at the point the threat is undeniable –
we assume that the people in power will wake up and take the appropriate actions.
But what if the awakening comes too late? The pope, for one,
has shown little evidence that he will change his views on the subject.
If anything, he has doubled down –
recently going so far as to say that the rights of migrants trump national security.
We should not look to the pope to lead the way on this issue.
He seems constitutionally incapable of entertaining doubts about his Islam policy.
It looks like the impetus to change course will have to come from bishops,
priests and Catholic laity.
They had better get busy.
There is no time to waste.

Published with permission from Crisis Magazine

https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/the-catholic-church-needs-to-wake-up-about-islam

a dichotomy of time

“There are two kinds of light –
the glow that illuminates,
and the glare that obscures.”

James Thurber

the-melting-watch
( melting clock, 1954, Salvador Dali)

It was almost 31 years ago and I was soon to turn 26.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
It was around 9PM
I was just merging from the downtown connector onto I20—heading west,
It would be about an 80 minute or more drive home.
Mother had just recently turned 53.
She had been in the hospital now for about 4 weeks…
and they had finally just diagnosed her with an aggressive lung cancer
that had already metastasized throughout her body.

I was tired, weary and devastated but intent and focused on driving.
I spoke out loud in a wavering voice, flat and matter of fact…
“I know I’m probably going to mad at you before this is all over”
Because I knew none of this would go well and that when it was all over,
I would be left stripped bare of both heart and soul.
And I knew that in my eventual frustration, God would take the brunt.

I was correct.

I did get mad and also very lost…
for about the next 8 years, I was lost unto myself.
I was on a inward downward spiral turning my back away slowly
from a life sustaining relationship…
And at times I didn’t even realize what I was swirling down into….
Yet it took what seemed a lifetime of getting myself back together.
Seeking and needing both healing and Grace.

It came, slowly, painfully and almost devastatingly ending… but come it blessedly did.
Life like an onion–layer upon layer of stripping away self destruction.
Known to no one but myself.

Fast forward to last Saturday.

I’d spent the day with Dad.
Helping the caregiver clean him, bodily functions no longer self controlled,
as he withered with pain at each turn, touch and move.
Seeing more of poor ol’ Dad to last a life time…
I administered the morphine.
He had asked my son to bring him the movie Hacksaw Ridge because he wanted to see
it before he died.
We all sat together watching it.
I readied to head home as I was feeling sick.
Not the kind of sick from catching a bug but rather
a deep down inside sick.
I left them to their movie.

I felt the hot stinging tears fighting for release before I merged onto the interstate.

I made my way over to my far left lane when the flood started.
On and off it ebbed and flowed for my 75 minute drive home.
Sorrow mingled with the melancholy of recalled memories.

But the difference between Saturday and that lone night 30 years ago…
Time.

Time filled with a continuation of both healing and Grace.
Gone is that youthful resentment and anger.
Replaced rather by a solemn resignation and acceptance of the inevitable.
But not in a negative defeatist sense…
rather with a sense of determination while standing
in the face of the storm and knowing I won’t succumb to the maelstrom and tumult.

Feeling shored up by something greater than myself.

It is the now the reality of the ‘is what it is’ of living and dying.

Does it make any of this any easier?
No.
It’s just a hard time.
Hard in a myriad of ways as there are many more involved that
require my attention, my decisions, my time, my words…
and there’s just not enough of me for all of the this and thats….

…and there are still those nagging ruptured discs, slowing me down.

Yet through all the tears and the stretching beyond imagine of this single self…
driving with the flow of the breakneck speeds, focusing on the road ahead
through swimming eyes, I feel a presence…not in some sort of otherworldliness…
but rather a steeliness that is silently yet relentlessly there…
ready to catch me when I finally let go, and fall—
because before it’s all said and done, I will fall…
There is this knowledge of a force which is allowing the heartbreak and overwhelming drowning
to flow,
all the while, being ready to steady me when the time finally comes.

And in that car on that late Saturday afternoon, I suddenly hear my own trembling voice…
uttering ancient words…
words of acknowledgement of the One to whom it is I cling….

“for you are my refuge, my portion…”

I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142:5

remembering one of the good guys

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation.
Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people,
but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say,
“Wait on time.”

Martin Luther King Jr

sir-nicholas-winton
(Sir Nicholas Winton / Foto: SITA/Nina Bednáriková)

This past week, the BBC ran a story about a recent memorial event held at London’s Guildhall.
The event was a tribute honoring one of Britain’s own, Sir Nicholas Winton.

On more than one occasion I’ve written about Sir Winton and of his tremendous gift of life afforded to the children of a very hopeless and dark time in our world’s history.
His was an unassuming selflessness quietly extended by one human being, freely given to another human being, and then another and another…given upwards to 669 times.

669 which grew exponentially over time to 7000…

We must never doubt that one person can make a difference—

Nicholas Winton continues reminding each of us, even a year following his death, that
one person is not only capable of making a positive difference in the lives of others but that that difference has the chance of tremendous growth…

Revisiting the humble heroism of Sir Nicolas Winton….

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-36329801

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36325187

the simple difference

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Winston Churchill

“Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”
― A.W. Tozer

DSCN2061
( a leaf dances along the wind, Cades Cove, TN /The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Today was busy…
It was a day of cooking, preparing and sharing.
It was a day for an early Thanksgiving celebration… for one part of my husband’s family.
It was a day of reconciliations of sorts.
A day for some healing…between an elderly in-firmed father and two of his three grown children…of whom he had estranged himself from years ago.

Lives have been lived…as grandchildren have grown, as now great-grandchildren have grown as well…as time has, all too casually, been allowed to pass…
when it never should have been allowed pass,
for such a very long time in the first place…

The two now grown children had suffered grievously as children under the destructive blanket of abusive alcoholism–only to have suffered again years later as adults..
Odd how that cycle of hurt and pain seems to simply ebb and flow over the odd passage of time…

A small bridge was crossed today…and that was good.
One can never give back nor take back the words, the abuse, the pain, the embarrassment, the resentment and the grievous loss of place, time and years…and yet one can’t help but see the positive effort now taken in the writing of one small wrong in a sea of many wrongs—as it is the uplifting conscious admission of this one said wrong which is what now really seems to matter most.

And as I feel that a small bridge was indeed crossed today, it obviously will never erase or take away that which was…yet it does however bring a bit of peace to two sorrowfully long grieved hearts…

And as I silently stood back watching these tiny hopeful events unfolding during the course of this very cold yet sunny Sunday, resting gratefully in the idea and concept of thankfulness…my mind has not been far removed from the heavy thoughts of Paris and now of the black cloud which hangs heavy and low over Belgium…

I found myself pondering over the “us verses them” divide…that great crevasse which separates the sane and insane within the whole craziness of ISIS Islamic extremism and that of the rest of us…

…As I have labored racking my brain as to what it is that makes a person, or in this case an army of people, to be filled with such seething disregard for the gift of life and living…I have merely been left mystified and stymied–scratching my head in a totally overwhelming disbelief.

The recent pictures of that young woman flashing a familiar hiphop / rap hand sign, garbed in the hijab, who would later don a suicide vest, detonating herself in hopes of taking out as many law enforcement and civilians as possible, goes beyond the average human being’s comprehension.

What sets us apart from these mostly youthful members of an army of hate and destruction…?

Oh we hear the familiar bleeding excuses of disenfranchisement, of socioeconomic disadvantagement, the lack of schooling, the barriers of culture, language, religion, the inability to assimilate to a new country….etc, etc, etc…
…none of that holds water nor is a true paving stone filling the gulf between right and wrong, hate and love, murder and life….

And then it dawned on me—
As simple and perhaps even childlike that it may sound, the divide rests not in the amble abundance of vehement hate, as there is certainly plenty of that found in both words and deed, but rather the difference, the separation, is found in the lack of the simple ability to find and produce a true sense of heartfelt thankfulness.

It all boils down to the simple matter of hating verses gratitude and thankfulness.
–or rather the ability to offer genuine gratitude and thankfulness.

True genuine thankfulness…not the insane thankfulness to Allah that they all died, or all were blown up…but rather the genuine ability to feel real thankfulness which is found in the simplest of places and gestures.

Thankfulness and gratitude not for the materialism of life…not for the gathering of things, the loftiness of status of position, the greedy accumulation of wealth and prestige…but rather thankfulness for the simple and genuine gratitude of the heart…for the most simplest of pleasures—the pleasure of a smile, the thankfulness found in reunions, the gratitude for the bridging of gaps, the thankfulness for waking each day, the marveling in watching a leaf dance across the wind, the delight felt in a single touch, the joy felt in being alive on a cold but sunny November day…

And whereas all of the experts and the powers that be who continue sifting through and within the dust of the whys and hows…it really comes down to something as small and as tiny and as simple and seemingly insignificant as thankfulness and the ability to offer a true heartfelt “thank you” — which is the actual barrier, the true great divide between the us and the them…

Gratitude and thankfulness to, for and in something greater than ourselves…
to Something that revels in life not death, love not hate, freedom not imprisonment…
The gratitude in knowing that there is indeed a Creator who gives and a Savior who waits for us all in the midst of this ever growing turmoil…..

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
Psalm 28:7

Dots. . .

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
― Thomas Merton

When a poor person dies of hunger it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.
― Mother Teresa

DSC01212
(Dragonfly / Julie Cook / 2015

DSC01214

DSC01215

Have you ever looked at the world population clock?
A vast string of numbers that is constantly turning, adding, updating.
An overwhelming and incomprehensible number that ticks off at an alarming speed. . .
adding individual numbers to the bigger number, constantly.
You can’t stop it.

So now you’ve got to ask yourself . . .
What am I living for. . .
Who am I living for. . .
and maybe even. . .
Why am I even living. . .

Some of us are too busy to be bothered with such nonsense.
We race here there and yon. . .
Gotta work in order to pay those bills you know. . .
No time for philosophical or esoteric sorts of silly questions that have no answers.
No time to look at a spinning counter of numbers that is really irrelevant to my life.
Busy, busy, busy. . .

The world is a big place.
Is it big enough?
And anyway, I’m just a dot in a sea of billions of faces. . .

7 billion and counting dots. . .or numbers or faces. . .

As each one of those billions of dots is an individual who lives, breathes, hurts, cries, laughs
and does so with a wider circle of dots.

Some of the dots are good, some of the dots are bad.
Some of the dots are happy, some of the dots are sad.
Some of the dots are babies, some of the dots are dying.

The questions begs, do you make a difference to any one of those 7 billion and counting dots?

There is not a single dot. . .
Nor a single face. . .
Nor a single individual. . .
Which exists without purpose or merit.

Every life matters.
No life is greater than another.
No life is less than another.
Not the rich, the beautiful, the popular, the famous, the brilliant. .
Not the handicapped, the crippled, the dysfunctional, the diseased, the alienated. . .
Each and every one matters. . . attributes, merits, failings, or sins . . .each matters.

What is it that you do to make your small corner of the 7 billion and counting dots better?

God knows those 7 billion and counting dots, faces, individuals.
He sees each one
He hears each one
He’s always right beside. . .each individual dot, number, face. . .

Can’t comprehend such?
Well you’re not always suppose to.

Don’t think you can make a difference?
That’s an awful lot of numbers, dots, faces, individuals. . .
Yet if you touch one dot, one individual, one life. . .
ripples begin to reverberate outward from the center,
Spreading wider and further than you will ever be able to see in your life time.
And when each dot begins touching other dots. . .all those dots, those lives, those individuals,
each touched by the loving, caring, hoping and praying of other dots, lives, individuals. . .
Well, the ripple effects become infinite.

The questions remains, what will be your ripple?
Will it be a part of God’s Word, Grace, Peace, Love, working to make each dot, face, individual better, happier, safer, healthier, fed, clothed, secure. . .
or are you too busy just being a dot?