endure the hatred of those he loves…

Suffering is part of Jesus’ mission.
His power to effect conversion stems from the fact that he is ready to endure the hatred of those he loves.
He can conquer this hatred only by a love that is all the greater, a love that is stronger than death.

Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
from The Evangelizing Parish


(magnolia bloom / Julie Cook / 2019)

Reading on and off of the back and forth tit for tat regarding Chrisitan suffering vs joy…
I have concluded that in this life we will most certainly know both.

It matters not what side of the fence you claim…both will find us eventually.

We will suffer and we will rejoice.

And we just always pray that we will rejoice a great deal more than we should ever suffer.

But both are part and parcel to living.

And as odd as it may seem…some of us are simply prone to one of the two more so than the other.
Why that is, only our Creator can say.

Yet there are lessons to be found in both of our times of joy and in our times of suffering.

It’s just that during those suffering moments, learning lessons or finding truths revealed
during such a time, is not top on the list as much as it is to simply remove the suffering.

So it came as no surprise that I was moved when reading Cardinal Schönborn’s words…
that suffering was a part of Jesus’ mission…
and the fact that he endured the hatred of those he loved..loved despite and through the
hate He knew existed…thus a ‘suffering’ of abiding love meets a wall of hate.

How many of us can do such?
To love in spite of reciprocal hate?

No easy task.

But imagine…imagine if we met the hate that stares us in the face with only
love.
Boy…how this world could be so different.

But I’ll be the first to admit, that it seems to be our human nature to rile
against that which opposes us on such a very deep level.
It is almost instinctive to have that knee jerk eye for an eye mentality.

Hate for hate is easy is it not?

May we pray that we would rather offer love for hate.

“Helping a person in need is good in itself.
But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done.
If you show resentment because you are helping the person out of a reluctant sense of duty,
then the person may receive your help but may feel awkward and embarrassed.
This is because he will feel beholden to you.
If, on the other hand, you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully.
The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help,
but rather will feel glad to have caused you pleasure by receiving your help.
And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity
are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.”

St. John Chrysostom

the small gift of the holidays— or when a cousin comes to visit

“It’s an universal law–
intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.
An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience,
whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(the cousins on the couch resting after the big meal / Julie Cook / 2017)

With the arrival of this almost two month long “holiday” season–that time
prior to Thanksgiving, of which usually is now ushered in just following Halloween,
with the big lead up to feasting and fellowshipping—
all the way to just after New Years, with its big exhale and let down…
many of us will experience the comings and goings of family and friends
those who come home to roost or those who are simply passing through.

Perhaps it’s us who are the ones doing the visiting…
making those often precarious trips here, there and yon

Either way…all sorts of folks are coming and going.

College students return home.
Schools shut down for the holidays
Work schedules become erratic.
Vacations begin…
Things just become topsy turvy… for what was once just a couple of weeks
to something now which has morphed into almost a 2 month celebration.

As a kid, do you remember having family come visit for the holidays…
or maybe you were the one traveling with family to do the visiting?

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins…. folks you wouldn’t have seen but
maybe once or twice a year,
but folks who your parents would read you the riot act over….
Strongly reminding you as to what it means to being kind, patient, polite
and not to grouse when having to share your toys, your room, your time,
your space–or to, in turn, tolerate having to be the recipient of perhaps
the not so most hospitable relative.

Older great aunts who would pinch your cheeks, kissed your face with bright red lipstick
as their extra strong perfume lingered cloyingly in your nostrils….
Or of that very loud and very obnoxious uncle who just made for awkward conversation…
yet would always slip you a dollar when no one was watching.

You could see your dad biting his tongue, your mom “playing nice” and you’d figure
if they could handle it, you could handle the little cousin who constantly
followed you around the house while your older cousin hid your favorite stuffed animal while having to sit by that aunt who insisted on your trying her best pickled ham casserole.

Family…friends…visiting—it’s what the holidays bring.

And therein lies the hidden gift of the holidays…

I thought about all of this today when I finally sat down,
exhausted from the days of lead up cooking and the few hours of cleaning
for what amounts to about a 20 minute meal…
when looking at our son and daughter-n-law’s dog, Alice the grand-dog, who had jumped
up on one the end of the couch, making herself at home,
home on the end that one of our cats, Peaches, stakes out as her own.

Disgusted, she left the room.

Percy however was not to be displaced.
He loves his mother and doesn’t want to share her with his usurper cousin….
so he jumped up and settled in right by my side—

17 pounds of cat verses 85 pounds of black lab….both wanting, needing, to be
by the one they look to for food, comfort and security.
Yet not particularly caring for one another.

And so they tolerate one another…they share their space, albeit it precariously.
They “play nice” to coexist in close proximity because they are “family”—
like it or not.

Alice is here until Monday.
Percy is here for the duration.
Yet they will make the best of this not so favorable situation of time
because this time of year, these holidays just bring out the better, the kinder,
the more generous in us all.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

speaking wisdom

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart,
and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal
the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas


(late afternoon in Northwest Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.

For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.

They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.

Psalm 49:1-14

“do not seek the because”

“Do not seek the because –
in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

Anaïs Nin

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(sea oats / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

My life is no different from anyone else…
there are both highs and lows, ups and downs…

We all experience both the positive and negative moments in life…
as neither one discriminates…
Yet it seems that the negative moments will often last a life time…

Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that we are immune from getting…
sad,
depressed,
discouraged,
hurt,
angry,
sick,
or at times, even despondent…

For believers, simply put, are human just like everyone else…
Believers are humans who believe in God as father and Omnipotent Creator
and that His son overcame Death in His resurrection…

And as humans, we just do the best we can getting through the day to day living of life.

But it is because of the very fact that we are believers that the non believers,
those who are angry at God or those who are merely skeptical…
begin pointing the naysaying finger at us when our lives becomes bleak or tragic

It is the age old accusatory “where is your God now” sort of rhetoric…

And if the truth be told, there are times we wonder the same question…
because we are, remember, human…
falible
weak
foible
sinful

And as I was laying on the floor again this morning, as the pain in my back and leg were again
a bit more than I could bear…
as yes, tears, rolled down the side of my face in pain and in frustration…
as my heart was equally as heavy for what Dad and I
have been dealing with these many weeks now….

I recalled having watched a You Tube video yesterday of a young man
waiting out in Houston at MD Anderson, waiting to undergo chemotherapy.

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=j_wXcwI4IjE

I don’t know this young man—but from the video I gathered he has some sort of cancer,
he is a young husband and father,
that he’s from Atlanta,
that he’s been waiting for chemo
and that he is an ardent believer in the Risen Christ…

He shared in the brief video his spiritual journey as of late–
the prayers offered for and over him.
The words that have been shared in multiple settings, all by different individuals,
but all the same words none the less.
He mentioned a couple of Psalms that he’d been keying in on…
Psalms that I wrote down with the intention of turning to those same Psalms today….

I was encouraged by his own journey.
That he obviously wanted to be healed…prayed for such…
but that he also knew that God is a Sovereign God…
and no matter what the outcome…it is in God’s hands…

And I was stuck that he is finding gratitude in and for all sorts of things…
He is being grateful and thankful even while life is proving dire, frustrating and grim…

As we are reminded that in all things we are to rejoice, offering our praise and thanksgiving.
That in those moments of struggle, pain and suffering we are to utter the words—we may not
necessarily feel them, but we can still utter them, allowing God to do with them as He may….

I was also reminded that it is in our distress that we are drawn closer to God.
We don’t seem to “need” Him as much when life is golden…
as we tend to neglect the relationship…
It isn’t until we find ourselves in dire straights that we cry out,
like a frightened child in the night,
and always, He answers in our despair, He is there…despite our fickled ways…
He will always be there…waiting…..

And it is during those hard-to-grasp situations of life and death that
skeptics and non believers alike circle like buzzards…
as they look for a Lazarus or an empty tomb—
and when they don’t see such,
they collectively shout
“HA, we knew it…imposter, phony, sham!”

So after reading a few posts by friends this morning, after reading those Psalms that young man sited,
after reading the words of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Malcolm Muggeridge each regarding
both life, living, dying and death…
I again, felt a peace…despite laying on the floor in the midst of despair…

I may be hurting both physically and emotionally.
I may shed tears of frustration, depression and sorrow….
but I will not be broken nor deterred for I have the promise of a Sovereign God.

I was told that I should build a post around the following comment I left this morning for a fellow blogger…my friend Wally…
Of which I suppose I already had to some degree…

Here is Wally’s morning’s post as my comment follows…

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/faith-in-action-why-be-joyful-over-trials/

“it is hard and is not easy…but we are told time and time again—
to look to God in all things—good and bad, painful and joyful–
for God is found not only in the good, the joy and the happiness but He is there,
even more so, in the hard and difficult, the misery and suffering…
and this is where those who are not believers or those who reside in the anger
and sorrow keep wanting to point the finger of “if God is a God of Love and Omnipotent…
then why the hurting, why the unfairness, why the suffering…”

and it is there Wally in your very words and the words of James, so led by the Holy Spirit, that because God IS in everything…then we may find our HOPE!!

The things of this world…those good and those bad,
are all but temporary and they all point us back to Him—in our lack of knowledge and lack of true omnipotent knowledge, we cannot know, we cannot see how all things…
That all things, work together in God’s plan and God’s time—
yes there is Evil very much busy and very much at work…
working so very hard to counter the Benevolence of a Loving Creator…
but the thing is…despite the dark one’s vain attempts to derail us,
derailing our faith, our hope—
he can’t, he never can—
for his is a losing battle…
for our’s is the Victory in Christ Jesus!”

All of this brings us back, almost full circle,
to the the beginning of this post with the quote byAnaïs Nin—
for there is no understanding, no explanation, no reasoning, no answers, no because…
to be found in the Love offered to us by our God….

a shot of fortitude, knowing I can do anything for two weeks…

“True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace,
exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing
the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following
good affections and dispositions,
without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies…
Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and
counteracting the enemies that are without us;
yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us;
because they are our worst and strongest enemies and
have greatest advantage against us.
The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more
than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,
and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries,
strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this
evil and unreasonable world.”

Jonathan Edwards

dscn4419
(a jumbled mess of fishing line, fishing hooks and seaweed washes ashore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves at our favorite restaurant celebrating
a month late anniversary. This particular restaurant is a place we love to visit whenever we are fortunate enough to find ourselves at the beach.
The restaurant is very nice and the clientele can be equally as nice…with the exception
of some not so nice diners, but that’s for another story for another day.

As we arrived a bit early for our 7PM reservations, the host kindly asked if we
wouldn’t mind waiting as they prepared our requested table.
“Not a problem” I replied as it is often nice to sit for a minute and observe
those who have also opted to come dine…
Folks at the beach are always most colorful in a variety of ways….

As we waited, we watched as two couples entered together through the front door.
Very attractive couples…say, mid 60’s.
The women were puffed and coiffed to the Nines.
Giving the air of overtly well to do.

They waited a bit and were shown to their table as one of the men excused
himself from the group asking for the men’s room.
About two minutes later the other gentleman wandered back out for
what we assumed was to direct his friend to their table.
But rather than wait on his friend, he headed straight to the bar.
He appeared very impatient wanting the bar tender to hurry to his aid.

He ordered what appeared to be a triple shot of scotch.
I know these things as my dad use to be drawn to the same sort of amount and
libation back in his younger years….

The man took glass in hand bringing it quickly to his lips as he threw his head back,
draining the brown liquid from the glass in one quick swallow…
As he just as quickly plopped the glass on the bar.
No savoring, no sipping nor enjoying…
more like a “wham, bam, thank you mam, sort of moment.

At this point his friend emerged from the men’s room and
off they went to join their wives.

My husband and I kind of laughed to one another as we wondered aloud
if spending time over dinner with his wife was such that he
needed a heavy shot before continuing…

Fast forward to today…
I was back at the Orthopedic’s office following last week’s MRI.
I sat in the exam room almost 45 minutes before the PA came in.
How are you feeling she asked.

“Well…
imagine that the top of your thigh is numb yet at the same time it feels
as if your inner thigh and groin have been flayed wide open
while someone is constantly scrubbing said area with a brillo pad…
All the while someone else has a drill and is drilling right
into your hip bone and lower back, just a tad over from you lower spine…”

“Hummmm, that good eh?”

I flatly looked at her and stated more then questioned…
“I suppose the MRI didn’t show a thing did it?”

“Oh no, it showed something alright…
that’s what took me so long, the doctor had to keep looking over the MRI”
The scan wasn’t as high as we wanted it to go nor as deep…
but there is definitely a distribution of disc material outside of the
column on the left side…and it’s squeezing the emerging nerve.”

In other words, a bulging disc with severe nerve inflammation.

I asked if they wanted to repeat the MRI…
with her response being “only if we have to do surgery.”

Surgery?

“We have two options…we can be conservative and do therapy and traction….”

The thought of traction conjured an image of me flat on my back in a dingy cell
tied to a dark wooden plank as my hands and feet are chained to a roller
all the while as the masked torture master cranks the medieval rack…
stretching me till I snap.
Which mind you might feel better than flayed skin and brillo pads….

“Or, and this is my recommendation, we schedule a spinal nerve block.”

Ahhhh another torturous device where a large long horse needle is wiggled deep into the spin,
injecting steroids and anti-inflamation meds directly into the source….

“Ok, I’m in” I said probably a bit too eagerly…
but I think she grasped the fact that the pain has got to go…as in now.

“We’ll need to schedule it with one of the other doctor’s who normally does this sort
of procedure…and I’m afraid it could be a couple of weeks…”

“WHAT?”

Sure enough, the first available time is in two weeks.

“I can do anything for two weeks,” I hear myself chanting in my head.
That use to be my mantra when I was a much younger mother and teacher.

I would always have to take some sort of continuing ed training or coursework,
usually during the short summer, and it always seemed to be for two weeks.

I despised having to give up my precious home-time–
Whenever I was home, that’s when I savored being like a full time wife and mom…
Having to give up any of the sacred home-time was…in a word, torturous…

But….

I would always reassure myself that both my young son and me could manage anything for two weeks…

Just as I reminded myself today, “I can do anything for two weeks…”
even if it means living with constant pain, no energy and no moments of rest…
while now dealing with poor dad’s conundrum….

All this while as thoughts of just running around naked seemed to make perfect sense as nothing
would then be rubbing on the skin where angry nerves recoiled at the slightest touch.

Which brings us back to the previous observation of the gentleman at the bar…

Whereas I feebly attempted to soothingly reassure myself that I could do anything for two weeks,
perhaps this particular gentleman, who found that he needed a shot of fortitude just to endure
dinner with his wife, had it more aptly figured out…

As I quipped to the nurse, “two weeks is fine, but please call me if anything comes available
sooner… as you may just find me at a bar drinking heavily….”

Here’s to doing anything for two weeks…along with a shot of fortitude!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

What is truth

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
― Flannery O’Connor

DSCN2543
(Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

Truth…
an explanation or reflection of fact
The definitiveness of reality
No maybes, no what ifs, no possibilities
Only black and white
Clear cut
It is what it is….
Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet not all facts, not all reality, not all what it is, is… are welcomed.
Truth can be difficult, even painful.
It can be hard and humbling.
There are those who wish to distort, alter, change Truth…
Making it, the Truth, little and their own.

The Word of Truth was eventually made flesh
The flesh lived in the Word of Truth
There would be, could be, no denying Life as Truth.

Yet the Truth was perceived as difficult and hard…
It was disliked and greatly resented.

However Truth is Truth…
It has a way of exposing all that is veiled in false reality
Those steeped in the falsehood of deceit and the selfishness of half truths, fought the living Truth.
It was decided that Truth had to be destroyed.
Truth was quickly and readily betrayed.

The Truth, in the life lived, was uncomfortable, it was despised and even rejected.
How is Truth, that which is, the reality of fact, to be rejected and ignored?
How can facts and reality, all of what is, is…simply be dismissed and denied?
How can Truth, which is the black and white of plain sight, be disfigured, misconstrued or perverted?

There were lies and distortion, twists and bends.
Attempts to disprove the embodiment of Truth…

However all the lies, all the altering, all the denying, all the twists and the bends failed.
Truth persisted.
It was not to be denied.

The Life of Truth was then thought to be the key.
Silence the Life, silence the Truth…
The Life of Truth would have to be destroyed.
For if there is no Life, there is no Truth.

Yet the Truth would not, could not be silenced.
Truth could not, would not be easily nor neatly disposed of in Death.
For Truth has a way of persisting, remaining even triumphing over Death itself.

There continues to this day, those who labor to deny, to alter, to change, to warp,
to rewrite and to bend the Truth….
Preferring to live the lies, the half truths and the falsehoods of distortion, deceit and selfishness.

Yet Truth has a way of persisting, even outlasting all that which is not of Truth itself.
It outlasts all the lies, the distortions, the selfishness, the bending, the rewriting and the altering…
For in the end, that which is reality, black and white, plain and simple…
that which is of the Truth of the Word and of the Life lived through the Truth…
will be the only thing to endure….
Not even Death can deny the Truth…

“Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died.
Francis Schaeffer