wrestling and waiting

“Father, teach us all how to wait.”
Andrew Murray


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2017)

I must confess that I’ve been in a prayerful desert as of late.
Meaning I have been petitioning God long and hard…
yet it seems that my pleas just fall upon a vast emptiness….
as in…deaf ears.

However I know that I am not alone in my frustration or perplexity
of this seemingly one way spiritual conversation.

I am not the first nor will I be the last to beat upon the gates of Heaven
only to hear…what is perceived to be…..nothing.

Yet on and on I pray with little to show for my diligence.

Or so it seems…I go unanswered.

There are tears.
There is anger.
There is frustration.
There is indifference…
and there is a sense of hopelessness….
until….
It all begins all over again….
As a determined penitent rolls up her sleeves, continuing on, unabated.

It is because I will not be deterred…
not by the whispered doubts and naysaying….
not by the one who would like nothing more than for me to quit,
give up and walk away in disgust and frustrated anger.

And the truth is that somedays are indeed much harder then others…

And so today, as I was continuing to walk through the desert,
focused and imploring….
I actually stumbled upon a small respite of wisdom.

For I learn just how old my plight actually is….
As the wisdom of those who have trod this path before offer me a cup
of refreshing living water….

My child, hear about another delusion.
There are also other monks who work on all the virtues together,
and trust in their works. And when they pray and ask something from God,
they do not seek it with humility, but with insolence and pretension,
as if they have obligated God with their toils and therefore He owes it to them.
When they are not heard and the Lord does not do their will,
they are troubled and greatly grieved.
Then when the Devil our enemy sees them with this ignorance,
he attacks them with twisted thoughts and teaches them saying,
“See? You are struggling so hard even until death to work for Him,
and He doesn’t even listen to you!
So why do you work for Him?”
Then he pushes him to blaspheme the name of God,
so that he may enter inside him and possess him,
and then people bind him with chains….

But you, my beloved child in the Lord, since you are obedient,
and confess everything openly, do not be afraid.

excerpt from Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
An Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit. Chapter XII.

For the full reflection see the post:
https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com

There are times when our prayers seem so one sided.
On and on we pray, beseeching and imploring and yet….we hear no movement..
we see no results.

We often expect, or if the truth be told… we actually demand,
that after we’ve demonstrated an unrelenting persistence of time, energy and focus…
then surely God will move Heaven and Earth in order to show us how much He cares
and just how well He listens and just how much He agrees with each
and every component of our prayer…never mind if there are others involved in
said prayer…

As it is all just so utterly frustrating when we believe that all we see and hear
is merely empty silence.

No movement, no shifting, no little glimmer that things are working in the direction
of our desire, need, hope, want….

And for many, it seems almost cruel…this silence.

Yet we are told that no prayer goes unheard.

I once heard it put that God answers prayers in one of three ways….
Yes
No
Not now….

And more often then not, it is the ‘not now’ that is most vexing.

And so we pray on…

Because He knows and He sees and He is listening…

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end,
so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Hebrews 6:11

In between

“Pleased rather with some soft ideal scene,
The work of Fancy, or some happy tone
Of meditation, slipping in between
The beauty coming and the beauty gone.”

William Wordsworth

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(the dried remains of a crepe myrtle / Julie Cook / 2015)

Somewhere in between birth and death resides the beautiful. . .
Small and fragile, ever so demure, it begins. . .
Slowly at first, yet laced with excited energy. . .fullness eventually falls into place . . .
Bold
Strong
Even daring. . .
Yet never to be confused with
Pushy
Obnoxious
Or self-centered
Determination sets the cycle into motion
There is no turning back, no stopping what has started

And just as quickly as it began. . .
It all begins to fade, to go away, to change, to depart. . .
Slowly and ever so slightly
A tinge of brown,
A wilted droop,
A loss of vibrancy
Life juices dry as everything begins
Shrinking
Withering
Dying. . .

All that remains is the dried shell
A stiff skeleton of what was
No fragrance
No softness
No tender touch
Just sticky
Brittle
Brown

And so here we now sit. . .
Somewhere in between. . .
Waiting for the beautiful. . .

“Baby it’s cold outside”

Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

As the mercury in the old glass thermometer begins to make its steady descent, falling lower and lower in the tiny glass stem, reaching that crucial 32º F, magic begins to unfold in the ancient crumbling birdbath.
Liquid collides with frigid air as molecules slow.
Interlocking and spreading outward from itself as frenetic now becomes static. A surface oddly appears where moments before there was none.
Dripping, sloshing and evaporating, everyday miraculous occurrences taken for granted, are now trapped and caught in a single moment of time being transformed from the familiar to the foreign, as a season shifts and a cold stalk reality settles in making itself at home.

And as we are told that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” we must remember, know and claim that even in the simplest act of water changing from a liquid to a solid, from the overflow of rain water in an old birdbath to a thick sheet of ice, this act of the miraculous, does not pass or escape the knowledge of the Master Creator.
Something as commonplace as water freezing during the coming of the winter months, all takes place with the knowledge and observation of a Heavenly Father who has set the planets and the seasons in motion, who has cast light into the darkness, and who continues to offer hope in a world full of hopelessness.

Even in the insignificant discarded birdbath, God’s mastery is on display for any and all to take note. His fingerprints are present in the warmth of the sun as well as in the devoid nature of ice.
Who is this who has set forth the scientific laws of motion, gravity, combustion, transformation, energy. . .man may be able to replicate and create change, for good or bad, but he can only take from what he has been given—and much has been given.

Rejoice then shall we, in the light of day, the twinkling stars by night, the warmth of the sun, the blooming of the flowers, the abundance of the field and even in the barren, harsh frozen nothingness of the silence known as Winter. For there is no place on this planet where God is not—that we may learn to rejoice even as the earth transforms from the welcoming and enveloping seasons of warmth and abundant color to a time of lonely cold and unforgiving ice.
. . . As this amazing lesson and reminder now unfolds and is on full display in a lone and forgotten birdbath.

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

It all comes from the center of One

“The Earth is cylindrical, three times as wide as it is deep, and only the upper part is inhabited. But this Earth is isolated in space, and the sky is a complete sphere in the center of which is located, unsupported, our cylinder, the Earth, situated at an equal distance from all the points of the sky.”
― Anaximander

The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.
Empedocles

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(close up images of snowball crepe myrtles / Julie Cook / 2014)

Two ancient Greek philosophers whose lives overlapped eons ago.
Both curious men.
Curious as to man’s existence and of his relationship to his planet—and of that planet’s relationship to the sky, the moon, the stars and the sun–the known universe of the day.
There had to be a center to it all did it not?
A single place of origin.
A single place in which it, as in everything, had all emerged.
Doesn’t it make sense that everything comes from a center?
As in spreading outward from a single point—just as the ripples on the water when a stone is dropped into a pond–reverberations of energy moving outward from the original point or source of the expanding energy.
Yet the true answer seemed to elude each of them.
Each statement, each observation, remaining somewhat open-ended as in not conclusive, merely observant—as if they each knew there was indeed more to the observation.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:17

Letting God be God

“Faith and repentance mean letting God be God also in our actions and being obedient to him precisely in our deeds”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Except taken from the Berlin Papers 1932-1933

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(image of a single remaining leaf on the tree we had “removed” this past week / Julie Cook / 2013)

Letting God be God is often one of the most difficult tasks we all face at some point or other in our lives. I know most personally that this is one issue which I most often face as I tend to be rather headstrong, often feeling the need to “take over” the situation or task in which I have asked for God’s very help.

I like to think this little tendency of mine is due, in large part, to the teacher in me—as the need to be the one in the room who is facilitating and leading comes rather natural. The person who directs and oversees the group. The person who is responsible for the lives entrusted to one’s care. With that responsibility comes the need to guide and care for. . .

Not surprisingly, when I take back whatever task I’ve attempted leaving in God’s hands, the results are most often a disastrous mess—I allow myself to get worked up into a terrible dither with a soaring stress level, when I could have simply “let go, in order to let God”–resting in the knowledge that He’s in charge, that “He’s got this” —-whatever the “this” may be.

Have you ever been in the midst of some situation which seems to suck the very life out of you as your time and energy is totally consumed and tied up in and with this particular issue? You are at your wits end both emotionally and physically. You feel as if you’ve done all you can do and yet things are no better than they were—when suddenly, thankfully, someone else steps up— someone with a fresh perspective who is full of energy—who is ready to give the issue a go as you find yourself reluctantly acquiescing, yielding to the new strength this person possesses which is what you lost long ago—you finally let go, sigh, and fall back. . .thankful it is no longer in your hands. . .?

It never has to get to that point.

If only we, you, I could learn to let God be God. . .

To let go, to be obedient in both our actions and in our deeds. A life long quest that seems to come easily to others than it has to me I must sadly report. But the glory of it all is that it is never too late, time has not run out, there is still time to yield, to turn, to begin the steps towards obedience.

But of course you can still hang on if you prefer, fighting the losing battle, being headstrong and defiant. If that is what you want you may certainly continue carrying the burden. . .but I would beg to ask “how’s that working for you?’ Are you being successful? How are the lives of the people around you being affected? Are you miserable with that miserableness pouring out to the lives around you? Sounds all rather toxic to me.

Learning to yield to God doesn’t mean that the trials won’t come as the obstacles to cross will still be there and the challenges will still arise—but the glory is that you, that I, are no longer alone. There is One who is greater as He sees the big picture, not your, not mine, micro image of the issue at hand but rather the entire issue from start to finish.

It can be such a relief if only you, if only I, let Him do what He does best—being Father, being God—I must constantly remind myself that God is the Creator and I am but the created. He’s got this—-I can thankfully let go. . .

Here is to walking towards obedience and towards a life of allowing, yes allowing, God, to thankfully be God. It is all a matter of our “allowing” as He will not demand and/ or take—He is indeed a gentleman, He will not take over unless we allow Him to.

Are you willing yet to allow Him to be God or do you still want to try your hand at that? I’m personally ready for a little help.

Transition

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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The hauntingly beautiful sanctuary of Saint Sulpice, Paris, France / Julie Cook/ 2011

When I first took on this adventure of writing a blog several months ago, my life was in the midst of transition as I was navigating from a lifetime in the classroom to a new life sans my kids, my school, my 31 year routine….and so it was with that whole balancing of life, otherwise known as transition, that this little blog of cookiecrumbs was born.

One notion which has continually presented itself, as I have written and addressed a myriad of topics from my life’s adventure, is that of life’s balancing act. The seminal passing to and from one shade to the next, or simply put, transition. I had started all of this business thinking that transition was a singular momentary event..something that happened and then was, most thankfully, over.

I am one who likes my world steady, my ducks in their nice neat orderly rows, “my people” (family and friends) happy and content and perched where they normally perch on my tree of life….I can handle the transitions of life but that’s not to say they’ve not torn me up on the inside. It’s what people can’t see. My insides seem to rise to some invisible crescendo of nerves with the inevitable crashing down chorus…all hidden from observations but known only to me and my nervous system.

But who likes that sort business anyway?…no one I suppose. The one glaring epiphany I seem to have been enlightened by during the course of my little blog, is that life is but one big transition. It is as if we float throughout our lives form one transition to the next–never really stopping at any one spot for any particular length of time..be that a blessing or a curse.

I was struck by the image I chose for today’s post due in part based on an unspoken sense of determination and power which the image seems to invoke. At first glance the average viewer may not pick up on anything other than a dark image of what appears to be some church with someone walking up the aisle.

The average viewer most likely sees a dark, overwhelming and intimidating ancient interior of what must be the image to an unknown cathedral located who knows where. But fortunately you have me to tell you that this is the interior of the Cathedral of Saint Sulpice in Paris. A very ancient church indeed.

I visited this magnificent marvel of human ingenuity and deep spiritual thirst on a work day which equated to very little traffic to and within this cavernous Cathedral of the Rive Gauche. There is indeed something akin to transcendence when one enters such a vast solemn capacious sanctuary.

Sounds echo and are greatly amplified reverberating deep within one’s entire body. The air is cool yet heavy with the years of burnt incense and dust. The lighting terribly subdued– given this being an early Thursday Morning. There is an overwhelming sense of feeling “less than” and of being swallowed alive.

Intimidating….and yet inviting.
This space evokes a humbling sense of awe—that I am quite insignificant. It is a similar feeling that I have experienced when standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or in the middle of the wilds of Alaska.

Witnessing this lone individual walking boldly forward towards the altar with such determination and purpose—no fear, no cowering, but rather walking towards an unseen entity which is obviously beckoning—the path of two entities on a direct course of collision meeting head on with a world altering impact.

Finally, the tie to transition. First there is a lone individual. There is also something unseen calling. There will be a collision. Two entities, one seen, one unseen, will collide. There will be a change in energy. I think science refers to the meeting of two bodies as… elastic and inelastic collisions— one producing no loss of kinetic energy and the other in which the kinetic energy is transformed into some other form. The transition of two energies.

It is this energy altering event that is the result of our seeking, walking towards and in turn meeting our Creator, our God. Our eyes cannot see the collision. But there is indeed a world altering impact.

This individual walked directly toward the great high altar, alone yet purposeful and determined. God was there. He was waiting. This person knew that God was there and waiting. The need to go forward was greater than the inevitable meeting and collision. The transition, then the change.

Nothing is ever the same.