The gift Giver who allows you to set the world on fire

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
St. Catherine of Siena


(plover along the surf /Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cool / 2019)

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way;
it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet. …
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful,
nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth;
for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things, from Whom all other good flows and proceeds.
They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 108
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

Seize us oh Lord

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back.
Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness.
Let us love.
Let us run.”

St. Augustine


(flower stall / Zurich, Switzerland /Julie Cook / 2018)

“When you sit down to eat, pray.
When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you.
If you drink wine,
be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness.
When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes.
When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars,
throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way.
Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises,
when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God,
who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know,
love and praise their Creator.”

St. Basil the Great

how a panic gets started…

“I always thought a shipwreck was a well-organized affair,
but I’ve learned the devil a lot in the last five minutes.”

Erik Larson, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania


(a decadent chocolate treat from The Confiserie Sprüngli / Zurich, Switzerland /
Julie Cook / 2012)

I think most of us know that it is unlawful to yell “FIRE” in a crowded
public venue when there is actually no fire.

The original use of the phrase “shouting fire in a crowded theater” actually
dates back to a Supreme Court case from 1919.
It was a case that dealt with the distribution of anti-war pamphlets and whether such
an act was a violation of the original Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 / 1918—
and was such an act in opposition, as well as a violation, of free speech or was it considered ‘a clear and present danger.’

It was actually Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who coined the phrase when
he wrote the unanimous ruling over the case.

And according to Wikipedia:
People have indeed falsely shouted “Fire!” in crowded public venues and
caused panics on numerous occasions, such as at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall
of London in 1856, a theater in New York’s Harlem neighborhood in 1884,
and in the Italian Hall disaster of 1913, which left 73 dead.
In the Shiloh Baptist Church disaster of 1902, over 100 people died when
“fight” was misheard as “fire” in a crowded church causing a panic and stampede.

All of this came flooding back to the forefront of thought when I saw a news report
with the near cataclysmic title
“Start Hoarding! Chocolate on Track to Disappear in 40 Years”

WHAT????

Chocolate gone in 40 years????

We might just say down here in the South, “thems fighting words”

After reading that title I felt a sudden urge to run to the kitchen, throw open
all the kitchen cabinet doors and take immediate stock of all the chocolate I have
stashed away for baking purposes….
Do I need to run the the grocery store and purge the shelves of 70% Cacao bars for all
my baking and dessert purposes????

Visions of pandemonium breaking out on the candy aisle at the local grocery store
as visions of a bunch of older ladies on walkers and kids with sneakers that light up fighting over bags of M&M’s…not a pretty picture.

And so goes the latest in a string of earth shattering headlines that when all
is shifted and shaked out…are not exactly as life shattering or life ending as
the words allude.

Clicking on the story and reading the tale behind these alarming headlines and
whereas the dwindling supply of chocolate is truly a real concern…
the headlines are not as dismal nor as damning as they lead one to believe.

And therein lies our trouble.

Sensationalism.

The “news” media has learned that they can grab and stir up the masses into
a frenzy of epic proportions with just a couple of carefully lined up words.

And we, the receivers, fall hook, line and sinker to the gurus of verbiage.

The moral of this tale you ask…..
well perhaps it is two fold…..
Firstly do not take headlines at face value….

In education we call such headlines “a hook”—-as in it grabs your audience…
pulling the recipient quickly into a state of curiosity while knowing that they,
your target audience, will be naturally curious… wanting to know more,
experience more, participate more….

And secondly–yes, in the reality of life, the cocoa plant is in peril….
yet is the peril as grave as we are being lead to believe?

I think the jury is still out on that….
and therefore, it would behoove us to be a bit more cautionary when it comes
to feeling the need to race to the store…grabbing up those precious bags of M&Ms
out of the hands of the grandparents and those fighting grandchildren…

https://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/world/2018/01/02/start-hoarding-chocolate-track-disappear-40-years/109090682/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatodaycomworld-topstories

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

we didn’t start the fire

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Billy Joel


(image courtesy ABC News / Santa Clarita fire of 2016)

I agree we didn’t start the fire,
but…..
I’m not so certain that I agree with Billy Joel that we’ve really tried to fight it.

I see the current images of protesters, marchers, demonstrators…
full of contempt and vile discord.
I see the looting, the vandalism, the cars overturned,
the broken glass, the fires started…
once again, in the name of cause.

I hear the rhetoric of anti this and anti that…
the blaming, the finger pointing,the divisive dismissal of one human to another…

Maybe your mindset is that none of this is your fault.
You didn’t cause any of this to happen.
For better of worse you and me, we’ve merely inherited this mess….
right?

As each generation bemoans the generation before it while present generations
opine about the future…

Rather than igniting new fires, fueling fires or fanning fires…
all of which this country has gotten really good at doing,
perhaps it would behoove all of us to simply start extinguishing the fires…..

The one who sins is the one who will die.
The child will not share the guilt of the parent,
nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.
The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them,
and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Ezekiel 18:20

The work in becoming

I have but shadowed forth my intense longing to lose myself in the Eternal and become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God
meant you to be when He thought of you first.”

― George MacDonald

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8

DSCN1720
(an area of bog being dug…peat bogs, the spongy base which makes up so much of Ireland is dug up, cut or formed into bricks, dried and used for fuel, it is also becoming a medium for artists who sculpt and carve beautiful images from the intense black bog / somewhere along Gleann Cholm Cille / County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Any potter, ceramist, or sculptor will tell you that before there is a mug, a plate, a bowl, a vase, a statue, a figurine, a sculpture…
there is a lot of digging, mixing, processing, rolling, watering, wedging, pushing, shoving, beating, slapping, pinching, moulding, slamming, overlapping, smashing, smushing, forming, pulling, prying, poking, smoothing, burning, cooking, heating, coloring, glazing….

Clay…before it becomes something of beauty or of purpose, or even both, must first go through a complete overhaul–both physically as well as molecularly. It is considered to be a perfect medium in the minds of many an artist as it is forgiving, up to a point, and can be transformed into almost anything…

A naturally occurring raw product taken directly from the earth, add in a little refinement, then placed in just the right hands, a seemingly magical if not mystical transformation from mere dirt and a little water, emerges into something of both practical use and amazing beauty. A new creation emerging from something initially so simple, mostly overlooked and certainly taken for granted… with just the needed and necessary work, results in an amazing metamorphosis.

Is it then any wonder that man is so often compared to clay which has been given over the hands of the master Creator?
That which was formed from dust and ash…
In the heavenly eyes of the One True Creator, a raw natural product, incomplete and in great need of forming, shaping, prodding, moulding, firing and finishing…

That when eventually transformed, becomes a thing of beauty that is both strong and fragile all rolled into one.

We live our entire lives in the hands of the One who works tirelessly and lovingly forming, shaping, reshaping, heating and coaxing out that which is within.
Forever patient, as is any potter, He tenderly yet persistently works and reworks His clay into a thing of wonder.

It is however a life long process, one not always realized—this forming, moulding, making and becoming….
At times it is most painful and difficult, trying and even excruciating… yet when all is said and done, the final result is indeed a treasure to behold…

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:15-16

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands;
so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me.
He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Jeremiah 8:2-6

peaks and valleys

Life is supposed to be a series of peaks and valleys. The secret is to keep the valleys from becoming Grand Canyons.
Bernard Williams

“As the valley gives height to the mountain, so can sorrow give meaning to pleasure; as the well is the source of the fountain, deep adversity can be a treasure.”
William Arthur Ward

In the mountains, the shortest way is from peak to peak: but for that you must have long legs”
Friedrich Nietzsche

DSCN1827
(somewhere on the road in Gleann Cholm Cille in County Dongeal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m sorry.
You should know.
For what good it is, I’m not sure.
Yelling and screaming with the full force of fury– into the nothingness of air…
At you…
You who remain so silent and painfully elusive.

You who are up there, out there, somewhere high above the clouds.

Do you see through those gossamer layers way down here…to me…?
To me who was knocked to my knees in overwhelming frustration?
The me who continues to claim, to speak and hold on to all that is…
all that is of you…
While you continue to remain so oddly distant and so painfully silent.

Persevere,
Forge the path forward
Fight the good fight
Have faith
Be bold
I hear you
I see you
I know you
I will answer you….

Words that trail off into the frustration, the sorrow, the pain, the heartache of all the ages combined…

We have always lived our lives in hopes of being bourn upward and aloft…
To be able to take wing, as the birds, soaring heavenward…
high amongst the peaks, riding the wind while looking down…
Always with the knowledge that ‘up there’ is so much better than down here.
For high up along the tips of those peaks there are no worries nor concerns.
The air is cool, crisp, thin, yet dangerously exhilarating.
The perspective is massive as all the woes and trials of below seem tiny and insignificant.
And it is up among those peaks where you reside…seemingly without me.

Those of us in the valleys far below are constantly looking upward, wondering, wandering, wishing and hoping to be high and up above. The weight of the world does not seem to weigh heavy on the backs of those high above…not as it does on us here below.
Those of us here below who feel the full heaviness of the crushing gravity of every iniquity, every misdeed ever committed…for we are nearly crushed under the weight of all we bear…

Yet it is here, down in the valleys, where the scars are forged and the skin is thickened.
For it is down here in these valleys low, where the trials by fire reside. Where mere mortals are tried and tested true…annealed in the furnace of an ever fallen, broken world.
Hard fought, arduous and painfully endured.
Products of all the damnation that ever was, is or will be…which is found within an imperfect fallen world.

And yet…
It is you and you alone who knows of our yearning and desire to be among the peaks…
You who knows of our desire, dare it be said desperate need, to reside with and where you are. Our hopes and dreams to be bourn aloft and carried far far away from the sufferings, the agony, the mere frustrations endured down here… down within these valleys of our lives.
And it is You….the One who sees, the One who knows and the One who longs to have us up, among the clouds with You…where the weight of all that is…is simply no more…

And so He comes…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn…

Isaiah 61: 1-2

In the blink of an eye. . .it can all suddenly disappear

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.
I do not judge the universe.”

Dalai Lama

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Hermann Hesse

DSC02301
(honey bee visits a purple cone flower in Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

We live our lives rhythmically, lulled into the complacency of the ebbs and flows of our routines-
Yet. . .in the blink of an eye, our lives can be altered forever. . .

I ask for your prayers. . .

My dear daughter-n-law’s childhood home, the home of her grandparents, was destroyed in an early morning fire yesterday.
The cause is still under investigation.
There was currently some renovations taking place and that construction is being eyed as a possible cause.

We do give thanks however that her grandparents and mother all escaped harm—yet they have lost everything.

It is to those cherished family heirlooms and photographs—those momentous and images from the birth of children and grandchildren, to the wedding albums, wedding dress, cherished children’s toys, to the tokens remaining from a parent taken far too soon. . .those sacred items of the past which help to shape a family. . .those things which are now suddenly lost, seem to be the hardest loss to bear during any sort of tragedy of this nature.

A home which seemingly offered strength and stability. . .the representation of ones family’s structure and unity, having now vanished in the blink of an eye, leaves a bewildering sense of the surreal gnawing deep within ones psyche.

My daughter-n-law began her nervous first day in her new school yesterday only have to suddenly leave in order to travel across the state back home, to see with her own eyes that her family is indeed thankfully intact—alive and well of body yet shaken of spirit.
She and my son will now join them to mourn the loss of what was. . .as my daughter-n-law now offers her piece of fabric to the quilt which has made them, and will continue to make them, a family. . .

As we now join in the prayer. . .Oh Lord, that all things shall be made new. . .

You make all things new
You make all things new
Yesterday and forever
Your love never changing
This hope never fading
Hallelujah

Hillsong Worship
All Things New Lyrics

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. . .”
Revelation 21:5