“And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force,
because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one,
but only proposes, invites and counsels.”
St. Angela Merici
(Julie Cook / 2022)
On a snowy Sunday afternoon…way down here in the deep South—
a day full of anomalies…meaning….
that the two notions of a deep South and a snowy day are not usually
found within the same sentence, it seemed to be a perfect day for pondering.
Merriam Webster tells us that the definition of the word ponder is: to weigh in the mind or to think about or reflect on…
And so, on this stay inside sort of day, this day of a deep South’s
day of ice and snow, pondering simply seemed to be a perfect pairing.
To weigh, to think, to reflect…
I found the following quotes, both above and below, to be so full
of thoughtfulness..so full of deep reverberations…
so full of infinite truths…
all of which each echo within the walls of any longing soul…
so much so that each quote has caught my breath.
Words which speak of purpose…
words which speak of freewill…
words which speak of accepting actions…
words which speak of burdens…
words which speak of conscience…
words which speak of opportunity,
words which speak of forgiveness…
All three quotes give us much to contemplate, examine and reflect upon…
all during these dark days of winter…
Tis the season to ruminate…to ingest and to ponder…
“We have difficulty understanding this,
just as a blind man has difficulty understanding color,
but our difficulty doesn’t alter this fact:
God’s omnipotence and omniscience respects our freedom.
In the core of our being we remain free to accept or
reject God’s action in our lives—-
and to accept or reject it more or less intensely.
God wants us to accept him with all our ‘heart, soul, mind, and strength’—-
in other words, as intensely as possible.
But he also knows that we are burdened with selfishness and beset by the devil,
so it will take a great effort on our part to correspond to his grace.
Every time our conscience nudges us to refrain from
sharing or tolerating that little bit of gossip, every time we feel a tug
in our hearts to say a prayer or give a little more effort,
every time we detect an opportunity to do a hidden act
of kindness to someone in need,
we are faced with an opportunity to please the Lord
by putting our faith in his will.”
Fr. John Bartunek,
The more I wanted to pray for my father and could not,
the more I realized how much my hatred of him had harmed me
instead of harming him.
I can’t remember where I heard this saying,
but it came back to me then:
Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and hoping that
the other person will die.
from her book From Islam to Christ
“The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship,
their oneness with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit,
and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”
(shelf fungus hidden in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)
Time is a funny commodity.
Whereas we are each allotted 24 hours within a single day’s time, those hours are
not always necessarily our own…
Ebbing and flowing like the tide, what is ours and what is not, comes and goes.
Sometimes plentiful, sometimes fleeting…
And as I’m finding myself currently without the ample time I’d prefer
allowing for say our, as in you and me, being able to chat more in-depth
about those things I think most important for our current track of exploration…
I must settle instead for the reflection of a quick observation.
There was a ‘Verse of the Day’ that came in around Saturday or so….
“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
And like most mornings and time, I did my due diligence in opening, reading and
in turn, mentally ticking off the one more item on the packed list of to dos
thus far for the day.
Yet it was there, right then and there, that I stopped suddenly,
almost stumbling over my own feet as I read….
“I the Lord search the heart AND EXAMINE THE MIND…
I totally understand the use of the word ‘heart’…that’s a plentiful enough word when
reading scripture….but it was the notion that God was / is not only reading,
but was / is rather actually examining my mind.
that one little thought made me shift my weight from side to side
as if I were a bit uncomfortable….hummm…
Examining is not just a cursory passing or glancing over but more like a
thorough inspection….a pretty image was not now what I was watching unfold.
You know that thing that is basically like a steal trap…??
that thing we call a brain which houses a mind that runs and races
Racing even while we sleep, racing with all sorts of positives accented by a
plethora of rubbish???
Rubbish that no one on earth is ever privy to unless we allow those thoughts to
then flow from moving lips—-but chances are…the lips don’t slip.
Our thoughts, we fiercely believe, are our own.
For both good and bad, they are ours.
By all outwardly appearances, we can look to be a paragon of virtue,
but peel away our head and read that racing ticker tape….
and any notion of virtue flies right out the window.
Yet we are the only ones who know such—everyone else just sees the exterior
And yet here, in what I’m reading, I’m being told that He reads my mind.
My ugly, dirty, selfish, self absorbing thoughts…
thoughts that are less than loving, pleasant, gracious or kind.
This is bad…
this is really really bad.
I know my thoughts and if God is picking through them,
then I might as well be toast.
So I go seek out the full passage…
and I see that there is actually a ray of hope sitting a bit further
down the page….
Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.
As I am reminded that not only is it important to physically tick off my daily
chores and actions…it shall behoove me to be mindfully focused…
that I may be healed and in turn saved…from particularly myself….
The closet of the soul is the body; our doors are the five bodily senses.
The soul enters its closet when the mind does not wander hither and thither,
roaming among things and affairs of the world, but stays within, in our heart.
Our senses become closed and remain closed when we do not let them
be attached to external sensory things, and in this way our mind remains
free from every worldly attachment, and by secret mental prayer
unites with God its Father. “And thy Father which seeth in secret shall
reward thee openly,” adds the Lord.
God who knows all secret things sees mental prayer and rewards it
openly with great gifts. For that prayer is true and perfect which
fills the soul with Divine grace and spiritual gifts.
As chrism perfumes the jar the more strongly the tighter it is closed,
so prayer, the more fast it is imprisoned in the heart,
abounds the more in Divine grace.
So, brother, when you enter your closet and close your door, that is,
when your mind is not darting hither and thither but enters within your heart,
and your senses are confined and barred against things of this world,
and when you pray thus always, you too are then like the holy angels,
and your Father, Who sees your prayer in secret,
which you bring Him in the hidden depths of your heart,
will reward you openly by great spiritual gifts.
One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.
(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)
Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”
I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….
I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..
Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….
And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.
Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.
So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…
And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—
A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…
And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.
And I for one delight in that.
In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….
Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….
Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….
And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…
All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..
But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.
Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
As in The Coming….
I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.
The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.
He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.
Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.
The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.
So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.
And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….
John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…
The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.
Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!
Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.
We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.
Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.
For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.
Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…
None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?
I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…
Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….
“And then, just as Wilbur was settling down for his morning nap, he heard again the thin voice that had addressed him the night before.
“Salutations!” said the voice.
Wilbur jumped to his feet. “Salu-what?” he cried.
“Salutations!” repeated the voice.
“What are they, and where are you?” screamed Wilbur. “Please, please, tell me where you are. And what are salutations?”
“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice. “When I say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning.”
― E.B. White
(images of a praying mantis resting on a sweet bay / Julie Cook / 2014)
How gracious and kind most creatures seem to be upon first meeting.
It all begins with the startling moment of the initial encounter.
There is an equal and somewhat awkward moment of contemplation.
Not so much a confrontation, but more of a cautious observation.
Both parties wary yet curious.
A wide berth is usually offered by both opposing parties.
Plenty of space with the avoidance of claimed territory.
Eyes remain intently locked on one another’s every move.
No one wants any trouble, as the curiosity remains.
A healthy respect provides a safe barrier.
Heads pivot as glances are exchanged
Each partner vies for the best viewing advantage
One scampers under as the other moves in a bit closer
A minuet of odd dance partners befitting an eloquent choreography.
Slow step in, slow step out, turn, up and under all in 3/4 time.
And just when each entity grows more relaxed, more comfortable,
the exchange is suddenly over,
as each individual returns to the world of other.
Appreciation, respect, wonderment and awe,
it all begins with a simple greeting