No ifs

“Everything in this life passes away–
only God remains, only He is worth struggling towards.
We have a choice:
to follow the way of this world, of the society that surrounds us,
and thereby find ourselves outside of God;
or…
to choose the way of life,
to choose God Who calls us and for Whom our heart is searching.”

Seraphim Rose

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(remembering blooms / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Don’t say it Corrie!
There are no if’s in God’s world.
And no places that are safer than other places.
The center of His will is our only safety—-
Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!”

(Betsie ten Boom to her sister Corrie during the German occupation in Holland)

Laying awake each night now at 3AM, my mind shifts back and forth between Dad
and to the current unrest sweeping this Nation of ours.

I lay there wondering if this will be the night that the phone will ring commanding me
to hurry to Atlanta.

Trying not to think about that,
trying to settle the rising nervousness,
I shift my thoughts to
what is currently taking place in and around the country…
as I have a growing sense of real concern.

I had grown up during the Vietnam War…during the Civil Rights movements,
all the while, having grown up in the South for heaven’s sake…
I know all about news and trauma…
bad news, troubling news…
complete with its pictures and individual stories…

But this is now all different…
this is not a war weary Nation,
this is not a Nation learning how to be both black and white…

No, this is not ‘that’ Nation…

Rather this is an angry Nation….
angry for all the wrong reasons….

So I found myself now turning to read a story that I had known about for most of my life
as the book was first published in 1971. I should have read this in high school or
even college but for some reason, I never did…

It is Corrie Ten Boom’s book ‘The Hiding Place’
The story about an unassuming 50 some odd year old Dutch Reformist spinster’s
work with the Dutch underground’s resistance against the Nazi juggernaut…

A story I knew but for whatever reason had yet to read.

I began the book about a month ago.
Reading a page or two each evening…as much as I could muster after spending
each day with Dad.
I now find myself immersed in the story written by a woman who could have
been my friend.
Her writing is such that one feels as if an old friend is merely reliving
a tragic episode of life.

While I currently hear and see angry people, mostly women, screaming like
crazed individuals at television cameras about Nazis now taking over this country
all due to the election of a new president…
And after reading Miss Ten Boom’s story,
I am again keenly reminded as to who the actual Nazis really were and that they,
along with their leader Adolf Hitler, have nothing in common with our country’s current
new presidential administration.

But more importantly I am profoundly reminded about what it means to choose a life as a
true follower of Christ.

Corrie and her entire family had been arrested by the Nazis when it was discovered
that they were working as part of the Dutch Resistance.
Corrie and her Sister were subsequently beaten and imprisoned,
eventually being sent to the Death Camp Ravensbruck.

At one point after enduring severe brutality, hardships and heartbreaking loss,
such that my mere words fail to recount, Corrie is struck by her sister’s Christian focus.
Despite deprivations, ill and failing health as well as being treated no better than
herded cattle, Betsie sees God’s hand….
Where Corrie only had seen evil and hate,
here was her sister Betsie, who had endured so very much seeing not so much hate and evil
but rather humans, much like herself,
who were also victims…
victims of the same evil…just like them…

“This was evil’s hour: we could not run away from it.
Perhaps only when human effort has done its best and failed,
would God’s power alone be free to work”

And there in the dark and frustrating silence of those wee morning hours…it struck me
Are any of us truly living the life of what it means to follow Christ…
to honestly follow Christ…not the Christ we imagine or model in our own image…
not a Christ who places limits or demands…
Not a Christ who has all of life’s endings working happily to
our own personal fairytale closure…
but rather the real Christ, the God made man whose words were pointedly specific and seemingly,
as assumed by much of mankind, as harsh and almost impossible to carry out…

Or are we simply following our own focus…deferring to our twisted idea of how
a world should run according to the Gospel of self…..

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant
brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with everything good for doing his will,
and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

The paradox, the conundrum and the dichotomy

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds the emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints . . .”
― Flannery O’Connor

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(ball moss found in a tree in San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am called to die.
For to follow Christ means death.
Death in the eyes of the world

A Christ follower must die unto self.

If therefore, I am dead to self, I am, in turn also, alive
For it is in death, and only in that death, that I might live

For if I am dead to self, I am now born again in the Spirit

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am therefore charged to love those whom I hate and those who hate me
If I am struck, I am to turn, allowing myself to be struck again
For I am not to return evil for evil

Being careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone
(Romans 12:14)

If someone takes what is mine, I am to give them more
If I have riches I am to give it all away. . .
only to become poor

For it is only the poor who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am to forgive those who do me harm,
and forgive those who harm the ones I love
I am to forgive seventy times seven

As 490 was once believed to be a perfect continuum.

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am in the world, yet not of the world
I am a foreigner in my own country
As I become an enemy of the world

I am charged to offer only love to those who call me their enemy

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am a prisoner, yet, I will find myself free
I may be bound and persecuted in body, yet I will be free in Spirit

For if the Son sets you free, then free you are, indeed
(John 8:36)

If I am a follower of the Christ
I must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
Yet I am to give my heart and soul to Christ alone.

For I can not serve two masters

If I am a follower of the Christ
I may be lost, yet, I am newly found
I may suffer, yet, I will also rejoice
I may cry, yet I will be filled with joy

I may die, yet I will live
For it is only in Christ that we are offered new life

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

(A thank you to Lynda for reminding me of the dichotomy of our faith)