The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

safety

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.
Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates.

Alexander Hamilton


(a squadron of brown pelicans skirt the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

As the birds of similar feathers tend to flock together…
dare we assume that the perception of safety is therefore found in numbers?

Venturing even a bit further…
it appears we often equate this said numerical safety with a perceived
sense of security.

As we gather likeminded, following blindly,
snuggled warm within the bosom of both kith and kin…
we surge en masse, with a liberating notion of freedom,
found only in the security of our assumptions.

While we see those wrapped within their holy writ…
brandishing a label oft worn so comfortably and smugly…
with that label acting as a false badge of complacency.

Remember ye oh so comfortable ones,
you who move to the sounds of contrived safety…
The command was to go…
Venturing forth boldly in the freedom found only in the one pure Truth…

To offer….
To speak
To share
To spread
To rejoice
To revel
To embrace
To Love

When and where there is no guarantee of welcome…
nor of acceptance
or of security
or of safety
or of success

Not going to the confines of the people and places where that which is safe and secure..
Not to where open arms are found holding tightly to the covey of likeminded numbers…
Not to the places that are necessarily across treacherous seas nor over impassable mountains…
but rather going to those places merely across the street or even across the room.

Go, and go most oft alone,
where there is neither promise of complacent security nor safety…
Go where there may not be found a warm embrace or a welcomed chair…
But rather go to Him and Him alone….

For it is only in Him that your true rest will be finally found…
Only in Him will there be eternal safety and security…
No falsehoods,
no breeches in the walls,
no holes in the nets….

For in Him, and Him alone, is your portion and your all.
Found only in the number of One…

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Mark 16:15-16

Hygee

“Religion died, from various diseases, and humanity died with it.
Or perhaps it is truer to say that humanity died of great possessions,
of modern development, of the pace of modern life and so on –
and religion died as humanity succumbed.”

Alfred Delp

dscn4457
(Sometimes all we need is just a sliver of Hope…
Deer Lake, Watercolor Resort, Julie Cook / 2016)

There I stood in one of the many long snaking lines at the grocery store early this afternoon.
I don’t care where you are, be it grocery store, the post office or a local fast food joint,
this time of year there will be long snaky lines.
That’s not mentioning the large discount stores, department stores or home improvement
centers where “snaking lines” pales in describing the madness currently taking place
at those spots…
but I digress….

As I made my way to the register and conveyor counter waiting to unload my cart,
only to have my items rung up, paid for, bagged and reloaded into my cart,
I noticed the array of magazines lining the shelves.
From tabloid to self help, from recipes to horoscopes….

There in all her blazing glory was an ever grinning Oprah appearing to levitate over
the Grand Canyon happily proclaiming that one and all should be living their grandest
life possible…as in living it oh so grandly and oh so largely.

“Easy for Oprah to proclaim” I hear my brain grousing.

I could live grand while levitating over the grand canyon rather than standing in
a long snaky, too close to Christmas line waiting to buy kleenex and chicken
if I had a boat load of cash, an entourage of folks
waiting with bated breath to do my bidding
all the while having no where to be or nothing particularly world altering to do.

Once at home, with said chicken and kleenex unloaded for the 3rd time today….
I sat down at the table in order to catch up on a few things.
Like considering addressing the few Christmas cards I just had to gather…
as in the few cards, according to my husband, that are essential that I send out….

With my small world derailing these days, Christmas and its more secular hoopla is
being held to a bare minimum…don’t ask where the tree is yet…I might get around to it.
As there is simply not enough time, energy, me nor joy lurking in my crumbling world.

My eyes wandered to an interesting little news article as I fought off the impending chore…

After reading the interesting little article I decided
I must be living under a rock.

Now mind you, I really don’t mind living under a rock…
as there is often a good bit of peace and solitude under said rock.

It’s when I read about some latest craze or word or trend that seems to have
“social media” or the internet, or the entire world for that matter all ablaze…
that I know I’m contently under my rock.

I really don’t miss hearing about or seeing those things that set popular culture on fire.
Those latest brouhahas in movements, foods, pastimes, clothing, music…
In fact I rather relish being left out of the hype.

Now I suppose that’s an age thing as there was probably a time I would have “died”
had I not been riding the latest band wagon….

So it seems there is this word…
“hygge”

It’s a Danish word pronounced either hyue-gar, or hoog-jar or hoo gah
maybe it depends on where in the country of Denmark you are from…
kind of like a regional dialect sort of thing.

Anywhoo, hygge is a word, or better yet, a state of mind,
that just so happens to be taking the UK by storm…
and it is predicted that very shortly that the very same world altering word
and blissful state of mind, will wildly descend upon life here in the States.

It is a word that describes the approaching, or perhaps better yet, the attacking of life
with a mindset of all things positive…
all the while as one embraces the enjoyment of everyday life experiences.

Hummmm…..a rather oddly familiar concept

Seems that the world altering events of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump has folks
all across this globe in a peculiar dither..
as in the masses are in a state of ‘inability’…a feeding frenzy of inability…
as in an inability to function, to embrace life, or to even appreciate life…
let alone finding the strength to simply enjoy living.

And leave it to the Danes, those same northern folks who have been voted time and time again
by all things travel to be the happiest folks on the planet,
to perfect that very state of happiness into a new global phenomenon….
while all the other poor souls who are still languishing in the events of the past year,
seek some sort of solace from their woes.

Enter hygge…

Yet…
Despite this latest feel-good phenom making the most of the empty cultural voids…
this latest and desperately sought after placebo for an ailing populace…
is actually a state of mind that’s been around for quite some time…

Or perhaps, better yet, it’s really more of a command as to how one should actually live…

And as for me…
it is a very timely reminder….
that despite my overwhelmingly imploding small world…
I have long known the secret to a contented life that goes far beyond the
limited understanding of this oh so jaded and self centered world…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

And that my friends is God, in Christ Jesus, our very own hygge….

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

We choose to celebrate life

Each day holds a surprise.
But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.
Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise,
whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy.
It will open a new place in our hearts,
a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.

Henri Nouwen

DSCN3376
(black eyed susans / Watercolor Beach Resort / Julie Cook / 2016)

To celebrate life is not always an easy option.

For life is not always easy…

Nor is it…
perfect,
happy,
joyful,
or smooth…

Yet we find in its ups and downs, in its ins and outs, in its rhythmic breathing…
our joy.
our peace.
our hope.

We choose to live and let live.
We choose to embrace and be embraced.
We choose to go forward and not back.
We choose Grace…

We are given one more day…
Yesterday is no more
Tomorrow is not guaranteed…

We rejoice or we lament
Yet we live…
and that is the gift..

Celebrate

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

Exalt life

“Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value. To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live”
Albert Schweitzer

DSCN2805
(Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

We live in a world that not only embraces but is equally embraced by violence….
We warp ourselves tightly in the maelstrom of discord and bloodshed
It oozes in and out of our entertainment…
It’s become our way of life
And serves us as a means to an end.

Gangs
Bullying
Abortions
Terrorists
Wars to end wars…

Teetering out of balance…out of control…
the scale is tilting…

Has it tilted too far?

Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.

Psalm 25:1

it’s just one of those days to wonder

There are good days and there are bad days,
and this is one of them.

Lawrence Welk

“Promise me you’ll always remember:
You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.”

Christopher Robin to Pooh, A.A. Milne

DSC01886
(a lone gull looks out to sea / Henderson St Park, FL / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ever wonder what the gulls wonder?
What are their thoughts as they stare forlornly out to sea?
Do they watch the waves rolling in, one on top of another,
wondering where they have been and to where it is they now come?

Are they lost in wonderment and awe, mesmerized by the rhythmic breathing of the sea?
Do they feel loneliness, separation, isolation?
Wondering, as they stare outward, as to what once was and to what could have been?
Do they have hopes and dreams that tomorrow will be different, better, happier?

Perhaps they are merely watching, as they scan ever outward,
wondering where the next elusive small tasty fish may be?
Perhaps they merely watch, looking for what may come their way. . .
As in an opportunity, a new start, a fresh beginning. . .

Does their wondering lead to questions, those without answers?
Do they wonder about that which is definitive verses that which is uncertain?
Do they wonder if they will ever have the right answers?
Are they listening for the cries of the other gulls, only to be lost in the sound of the crashing waves?

Are they lost in their wondering, as their thoughts wander across time?
Do regrets lie in the heart of a gull?
Do their hearts break?
Do they yearn for that which seems impossible?
Do they stand at the ocean’s edge longing to hear the voice of the Creator?
Wondering if they will ever feel His embrace. . .

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

Psalm 40:5

Open your heart to me oh Lord

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

DSC00374

DSC00375

DSC00385

DSC00382

DSC00386

DSC00381
(various stages of a blooming tulip / Julie Cook / 2015)

Standing
Staring
Watching
Waiting
Wondering
Hoping
Longing

I raise my head
You lower yours

I watch you closely
You turn my way

Instinctively I lift my arms
Tenderly you reach your arms outward

I long for your embrace
You take me in your arms

I wonder if you’ll let go
You hold me even tighter

My wounded heart longs to be made whole
Your heart knows no boundaries

I can feel myself finally letting go
You whisper you will never let go

His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:11-12