my highlighter dried up

“Despite the violence of the attacks that she may suffer,
the Chruch will not die. This is the Lord’s promise,
and His word is infallible.”
…theologians amuse themselves by deconstructing dogmas and emptying morality
of its profound meaning
Relativism is the mask Judas disguised as an intellectual.

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(morning skies / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Here are a few more gems gleaned from Cardinal Sarah and his latest book,
The Day Is Now Far Spent.

I shared with you the other day that I had practically highlighted the entire first
two pages of his introduction and since then, the highlighter I was using has run dry.

The following snippets offer some very powerful words…words offered to
to the collective body of Christian believers who are finding themselves bewildered by the
attacks taking place on the bride of Christ, that being his Church.

Cardinal Sarah shares…
This book is the cry of my soul!
It is a cry of love for God and for my brethren.
I owe to you, to you Christians, the only truth that saves.
The Chruch is dying because her pastors are afraid to speak in all truth and clarity.
We are afraid of the media,
afraid of public opinion,
afraid of our own brethren!
The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.

Today, in these pages, I offer you what is at the heart of my life:
faith in God.

In a little while, I will appear before the eternal Judge.
If I do not hand on to you the truth that I received, what will I say to him then?
We bishops ought to tremble at the thought of our guilty silences,
our complicit silences, our over-indulging silences in dealing with the world.

Christians are trembling, wavering, doubting.
I want this book to be for them.
To tell them: do not doubt!
Hold fast to doctrine.
Hold fast to prayer!
I want this book to strengthen faithful Christians and priests.

Cardinal Sarah has likened our current time to the mystery of Judas.
The mystery of betrayal.
He tells us that “The mystery of Judas, the mystery of betrayal, is a subtle poison.
The devil seeks to make us doubt the Church.
He wants us to regard her as a human organization in crisis.
However, she is so much more
than that: she is the continuation of Christ.
The devil drives us to division and schism.
He wants to make us believe that the Chruch has betrayed us.
But the Church does not betray.
The Chruch, full of sinners, is herself without sin!
There will always be enough light in her for those who seek God.

Judas is for all of eternity the traitor’s name, and his shadow hangs over us today.
Yes, like him, we have betrayed!
We have abandoned prayer.
The evil of efficient activism has infiltrated everywhere.
We seek to imitate the organization of big businesses.
We forget that prayer alone is the blood that can course through the heart of the Chruch.
We say that we have no time to waste.
We want to use this time for useful social works.
Someone who no longer prays has already betrayed.
Already he is willing to make all sorts of compromises with the world.
He is walking on the path of Judas.

I will leave us today with one last thought offered by Cardinal Sarah.
One last thought that we must all ruminate over…that of our purpose as believes in Christ.

Do we Christians, priests, bishops have some reason for existing other than to stand before
God and to lead others to him?
It is time to teach this!
It is time to put it into practice!
The one who prays is saved, the one who does not pray is damned, St Alphonsus said.
I want to insist on this point,
because a church that does not have a prayer as its most precious treasure is headed for ruin.
If we do not rediscover the meaning of long, patient vigils with the Lord, we will betray him.
The apostles did this: Do we think we are better than they were?

practice prayer…

“A soul which does not practice the exercise of prayer is very like a paralyzed body which,
though possessing feet and hands, makes no use of them.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(baby morning glories found in the woods /Julie Cook / 2019_

[Today] invite Jesus to heal you and to touch any hurt or sadness.
Invite Him to help you walk in forgiveness.
Ask Him for the graces you need to respond in faith to what He revealed to you.
Ask Him to help you live out His love toward others.

Karen L. Dwyer, Ph.D. & Lawrence A. Dwyer, JD
from WRAP Yourself in Scripture

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disbelief and consequence

“But again He is equally present in sudden unexpected moments,
and it is the neglect of these moments that is the most fruitful source
of disbelief in Him.”

Charles Williams


(a hidden squirrel enjoys supper / Julie Cook / 2017)

the following is a question posed by a novice to his master teacher,
Elder St. Paisios the Athonite….

Q. Geronda (common name referring to a Greek Orthodox monk),
why was Moses deprived of the Promised Land for a minor fault?

A. It was not a minor fault; it was disbelief.

God had provided for the Israelites’ passage across the Red Sea [ Exodus 14:1-31],
and provided water for them at Sinai [Exodus 15:22-25; 17:1-7],
nourished them with manna [Exodus 16:1-36].
He had shown them so many marvels.
And yet, when they were once again without water, they complained.
And when God told Moses to strike the rock to get water, he doubted Him:
‘Is it possible for water to come out from the rock’ [ Numbers 1-13]?

That is why God later gave him that rule:
‘As punishment, you will see the Promised Land only from a distance
[ Deuteronomy 32:48-52].

Now if God had not provided water for them before in such a miraculous manner,
then Moses could have been somewhat justified for his disbelief.
At this point, however, there was no justification for his disbelief,
which is why God did not permit him to enter the Promised Land.”

— From the book Passions and Virtues:
Counsels of Elder St. Paisios the Athonite, vol. 5.

“This is what the Lord says:
‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words,
who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods
to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!
For as a belt is bound around the waist,
so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’
declares the Lord,
‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.
But they have not listened.’

Jeremiah 13:9-11

unchangeable

“I the Lord do not change.
So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees
and have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you,”
says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:6-7


(a little toadstool deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

On my current path I have traveled to a place of impasse—
where the circumstances of life are changing while I am left at a loss….
I find myself now wrestling with the silence of God…

There are lies which are laced within a hot and ever-slight breeze,
whispering an ancient tale of abandon…
as the sweat upon my brow beads droplets of doubt.

Rage multiples upon itself.
Anger returns to the seemingly empty silence
while God’s word proclaims it will not return void…
and yet I wonder how do I know…..

Poignantly I am reminded, once again, that He is God and I am not.
His ways are not my ways…nor will they ever be…
and in that fact resides my assurance.

He does not and will not change, despite my life’s circumstance.
For He shall supply my needs despite my pleas and questions…

“The winds of change and circumstance
Blow in and all around us
So we find a foothold that’s familiar

And bless the moments
That we feel You nearer

When life had begun
I was woven and spun
You let the angels
Dance around the throne

And who can say when
But they’ll dance again
When I am free
And finally headed home

I will be weak
Unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer
Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer
Lord and King, Beginning and the End

I Am
Yes, I Am”

Nichole Nordeman
Lyrics I AM

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

doubt

“In these times I don’t, in a manner of speaking, know what I want;
perhaps I don’t want what I know and want what I don’t know.”

― Marsilio Ficino


(a small creek in the middle of nowhere LaGrange, Ga / Julie Cook / 2013)

The other evening I heard a really interesting observation…
with wording basically to the following effect….

“the demise of a nation begins when that nation begins to doubt itself”…

If you were ever a kid, let alone an adult for that matter,
out in the woods enjoying a hike, and you came across an old tree that had
fallen across a stream…
a stream that you were somehow going to have to get across…
chances are you had no other choice but to balance your way across the stream on
this fallen tree.

And yet chances are that if you stopped long enough, at the base of this fallen
tree, just as you were about to wobbly balance your way across,
you probably found yourself backing down as you were now full of trepidation
verses the moment’s prior determination of crossing.

Questions of safety, feasibility, accuracy, confidence now playing a dangerous
internal game of ‘can you or can’t you…’

Is the tree study?
Is there anything to hold on to?
How will I carry my stuff across with me?
Can I ‘one foot over one foot’ edge myself to the other side without falling off?
Is it too dangerous if I do fall?
What if I get dizzy?
Can I really balance all that well?

Finally…this self on self, back and forth conversation comes down to the
single conclusion….
‘I simply can’t do this’….

However, on the other hand….
there’s a better chance that if you had not hesitated, and were most confidant now doing
what other’s had done before you, each with safe success…
powering your way on and over without looking down and considering the worst—
you went about your merry way without another thought while
happily on the other side.

But if you did stop, pondering and weighing your options,
you most likely had to find another crossing or simply returned from
whence you came.

Doubt has a powerful way of stoping us dead in our tracks and often getting us into
more trouble than when we fist happened upon the very situation we’re
currently now finding ourselves doubting.

So as we now observe the dangerous path most in our Nation seem to prefer that we
as this Nation journey…
one of doubt, second guessing, self denouncing, self loathing, and misguided action…

I wonder…
have we simply stopped at the fallen tree, afraid now to cross the steam,
more than hesitant and almost apologetic about going forward along our merry way…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8

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

Unblemished

“It is far more important to me to preserve an unblemished conscience than to compass any object however great.”
William Ellery Channing

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(new beauties snapped on the IPhone at the local garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

A trip to the garden shop, especially this time of year, is nothing short of mesmerizing topped off with a color filled overload of spectacular.
Rows upon rows of picture perfect annuals, perennials, biennials and any other ennial you can imagine. . .
Talk about things that sell themselves.
Who wouldn’t want to walk away with a cart, or two, filled to the brim with the likes of such beauties. . .large, tall, spiky, showy, red, blue, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, lavender, green, black, two tones, monotone, sweet, sassy, demure, austere, even those of the exotic bordering on the erotic. . .

These flowers and plants are perfect.
Nary a blemish to be found.
Perfectly watered.
Fertilized to perfection.
Protected from wind, rain, and the relentless burn of the sun
Picture perfect and gorgeous.

But just get them home. . .
Get them repotted and replanted,
Add your own special TLC, step back and bask in the glory. . .
That is until the blooms begin to fade, eventually dying–oh did you forget to deadhead?
The leaves curl or turn yellow.
Wooops, you forgot to water when you went away for the weekend. .
Talk about drying out.
Looks like you over watered. . .
And it actually died from root rot.
Applied too little or too much fertilizer. . .
Wait, whoa. . .what about those Japanese beetles, aphids, white flies. . .
and the birds—who knew they liked to eat those flowers or was that the deer, or chipmunks,
or rabbits, or armadillos or. . . .

Things always look better in the store as there is an army in place to ensure such.
As in it obviously takes a massive village of caregivers
to keep everything prime for the shopping public. . .

For those of us who are Christian believers. . .
do you remember how it felt when you first made that conscious decision to be a follower of Christ?
That moment in time when you were brought to you knees. . .
Do you remember those first couple of days of the giddy excitement?
You felt clean and no longer bruised or full of blemishes
You basked in the warm glow of joy, peace, acceptance.
Your burdens had been reduced and you actually felt good for the first time in a long time.
You felt strong and bold, unafraid.
You felt like the teflon king or queen, as in nothing any one threw your way would stick or hurt.
You were walking on cloud nine.

And then, without your cognizant acknowledgement, life crept back into the picture.
What once seemed like a life of endless joy and energy gave way to frustration and irritability.
You quickly discovered you weren’t exactly indefensible or indestructible.
Your significant other decided to leave.
Your boss gave you your walking papers.
Your kids got in really bad trouble.
You got sick.
You got in a wreck.
You got robbed.
That joyous high that you had been riding seemed to crash right down on top of you. . .

“Oh where is your God now” they whisper?
What?
Does Mr / Ms religious have a temper?
Did you just curse?
Are you feeling guilty for thinking all those bad things about those who have hurt you?
What happened to all that forgiveness and pie in the sky loving of yours. . .
All of this as the bitterness creeps slowly back in.
You’re heard to murmur sarcastically “thanks a lot God”
A slick voice is heard encouraging you that you’ll be better off without Him.
“Forget about Him, see how He deserted you, let you down. . .He wasn’t really real. . .”
“Come back to your old ways, your old friends, your old life. . .you were comfortable there, accepted. . .”
As in. . . all the current misery is loving all the present company. . .

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded everyone in attendance, who had decided to establish or reestablish their relationship with Jesus, not to be surprised if they actually lost their job the following day. . .
Hummmm. . .

Was that what you signed up for?

Be mindful. . .
Where the Sprit works, there also dwells Satan.
A power struggle ensues for each and every heart and soul.
The faithful will be battered and hit with all manner of harm.
For ours is a fallen world.
We cannot change that fact.

We are like the pretty plants and flowers we bring home,. . .those that are so full of hope.
Yet we get a hold of ourselves and things don’t go so well—either by our own devices and ignorance, or at the hands of Life which is beyond our control, delivering a one two punch.

Doubt
Despair
Hate
Resentment
Pride
All of which rapidly creep in whispering into our ears the endless lies. . .

But all is not lost.
For God has never walked away despite those lies we are told.
He has never left, never given up. . .
on you or I. . .

Yet let us be reminded once again, we live in a fallen world.
A battle zone of Good and Evil
Yet thankfully we live with a God who Loves without ceasing.
He tells us to get back up, again and agin. . .and to simply follow Him
Never mind the bruises, blemishes, cuts and scrapes. . .
He tells us to gird ourselves with the armor of Truth.
His armor, His Truth.

However, for any of that to be true, to be real. . .
You’d have to believe in Good and Evil
You’d need to admit that there is indeed a God in Heaven
Or that there is evan a Heaven
Or a Hell
Or a Satan. . .

You’d have to admit that the soul of man hangs in the balance
You’d have admit that there is a Divine Design and not a random design
You’d have to let go of self, ego and pride
You’d have to be willing to become less in order to get more. . .

Many may scoff that unlike those unblemished flowers in the garden shops, ours is a life
full of imperfection, struggles and challenges, falls and scrapes, bruises and blemishes. . .
Yet just like those well tended and pampered flowers,
We too have an arsenal, a team waiting in the wings offering aid, assistance, defense from the struggles and trials of life. . .

We have a Master Gardener who has given us His all,
In order to afford each of us the chance to not merely survive,
but rather the gift to thrive . . .

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. . .
Psalm 92:12-13