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

The pleasure of your company is requested

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”
― Baltasar Gracián

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(Compliments of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the UK Dailymail / Windsor Castle State dinner preparation)

The table has been lovingly set
The finest linen and china are on hand.
Your invitation was printed eons ago.
It’s an open invitation of sorts.
There’s no RSVP so no worries as to your response.
Nor is there any particular dress code, no black tie or formal wear required.
Come as you are. . .
It’s one of those sorts of events that will go on with or without you,
Yet the hope is that you will indeed attend.

It isn’t a fancy sort of fete.
Not a jovial or raucous party, but rather a somber sort of affair.
It’s a yearly gathering, a remembrance, of a time long ago.
The yearly marking of hardships and struggles of a different era.
A special dinner to recall what was with a slight nod to what may be. . .

Yet on one such annual occasion,
One of the yearly gatherings, something was unnervingly different.
There was a deeper heaviness than usual.
There was a sense that things would never really be the same.
Year in and year out the words, the ceremony, the food, had always been the same. . .
But not so on this one particular evening.

Everyone had gathered as requested.
All were present and accounted for.
The food and beverages were to be the same,
The ceremony the same,
The words, the prayers all the same. . .and yet, this time, it was different,
It was all very different.

Sorrow had already taken his seat at the table,
along with Betrayal who was dressed to the nines.
Whereas Sorrow was often mentioned as a past participant, this year,
he had actually arrived earlier than expected.
Betrayal seemed almost excited to be included this year.
Sitting off to the side, Denial and Questioning were in deep conversation.
Thankfulness took his rightful seat.

Humility arrived fashionably late, as he had been detained washing up.
Kindness, Graciousness and Empathy sat together, offering a gentle smile to all who entered.
Anxiousness paced around the table, as Doubt visited with each guest.
Greed rubbed his hands while Treachery made excuses for an early departure.
Love’s warmth filled the room
Sadness began to sing.

Each guest was offered new bread and wine,
as a parting gift before departing—
It was a taste of the labors and fruits that had been gathered by both Glory and Hope. . .

Only the Wise,
The Needy,
The Poor,
The Castaway,
The Forgotten,
The Humble,
The Mournful,
The Peacemakers,
The Hungry,
The Meek,
The Penitent,
The Sinful,
The Lonely,
The Obedient,
The Hopeful,
reached in to take the Gift. . .
as the others hurriedly raced off to the shadows. . .

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:17-30