to appear before man or God, that is our choice

“He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His.
He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.”

St. Ambrose


( a quiet January morning / Rosemary Beach / Fl / Julie Cook / 2020)

“A hidden and obscure life affords great security to those who sincerely desire to love God.
Our Divine Master Himself deigned to teach us this by His own example,
for He spent thirty years in the obscurity of Nazareth and the workshop of a humble carpenter.
In imitation of their Divine Model, many saints withdrew into the desert and lived
in remote caves to escape the esteem of men.
The desire to put ourselves forward and merit the plaudits of men,
to be regarded as very successful in our undertakings, is, according to St. Vincent de Paul,
an evil that causes us to forget our God;
it vitiates our holiest actions and more than anything else impedes our progress in the
spiritual life. To be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God,
we must therefore banish from our hearts the desire to appear before men to win their
approval and applause and especially the desire to rule over others.”

St. Alphonsus Liguiori,
p. 128-9
An Excerpt From
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation

it isn’t worth disappointing your grandmother


(Nany’s passport photo circa 1960)

Back in October, I penned a post that began with a look at our seemingly
“Royal” obsession.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/10/21/we-are-a-coveting-people-yearning-for-royalty/

The post touched on our coveting and yearning for a sense of royalty…
At the beginning of the post, I mused over the US obsession with all things Royal, as I
wondered where that may have come from.

A few weeks later I wrote a post about the Queen and her quintessential purse…

So many folks wonder as to why a Queen would constantly be seen carrying a handbag
hanging from her arm.
The post also touched on the boorish behavior displayed by some of the guests she
entertained during a dinner for the NATO leaders

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/12/05/the-purse-never-lies/

So should we think it odd that the Royal family is not even “ours” and yet they are
practically all over every news outlet we have?

We are Royal watchers even if we don’t mean to be as their faces, names,
and stories, especially in recent months, have been all we see.

They are there when we flip on our televisions.
They are there when we are standing at the check-out line at the grocery store staring out at
us from every tabloid stacked on the shelves.
They are there when we click on our computers.

I wonder, are our across the pond cousins equally as intrigued with their Royals as we are?

Elizabeth was crowned Queen on June 2, 1953.
My parents were married on June 16, 1953.

With those two events each taking place within days of one another, my parents
actually received several Royal pieces of china commemorating the coronation
as wedding presents.
Items I still have today.

As long as I’ve been alive, the Queen has always been…a constant during my 60 years of life.
Just as it should be as she is the longest-reigning monarch surpassing
her great grandmother Victoria and her namesake predecessor, Elizabeth I.


Sean Gallup Getty Images

When I was a 21-year-old college kid, I had spent my college summers up in
North Carolina as a camp counselor at a Christian girl’s summer camp.

Our home, when I was growing up, as many of you well know if you have read any
of my posts, was quite dysfunctional.

It was my saving grace being able to transition from my 9 months away at school
to my 3 month summers up in North Carolina.
Meaning, I was home only sparingly.

The last summer that I was working at camp prior to my senior year in college,
when the two sessions had each ended, I came home for a few weeks before I was to head
back to school.
I had several older friends who actually lived year-round on the grounds of the camp
or near the camp and I was already missing them terribly.
Despite being home for only a few days, I was homesick for my home-away-from-home.

If, following graduation, I could have made a full-time job working at camp year-round,
I would have done it.
At that time in my life, it was about the only place I actually felt God’s presence
deep in my being.

So one mid-August night when I was back home,
I’d come in from an evening out with friends finding my brother still up watching TV.
If you’ve ever read any of my posts about my brother, you know he was the lynchpin
of our family’s dysfunction having been diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic
several years later.

Our relationship was fraught, erratic and tenuous.
Yet that particular night we were actually having a civil conversation.
I remember lamenting aloud about how much I missed being back at camp.
I debated about just getting in my car and driving the 4 hours back for the
weekend.
My brother then offered that he’d go with me to see it if I’d like.

Whoa.
Really?

A road trip with my 16-year-old brother allowing me to share with him
something that I cherished…could this be a breakthrough for us???

Ode to the mind of a wistful 21-year-old.
Forget consequences, let’s just throw caution to the proverbial wind, shall we…

He had to work at the grocery store, where he’d gotten a part-time summer job,
the following afternoon so I calculated that we could drive up, getting there
in the wee hours of the morning, hang out with my friends having breakfast,
show him the camp and in turn, get him back in time for work.

But wait…. what about our parents?

They were fast asleep.
They were not ones to embrace such impulsive acts.
Nor was I ever the type of kid to do something so daring.
And in hindsight, something so selfish.

Yet throwing caution to the wind, I scribbled a quick note, leaving it on
the kitchen table.
The note promised we’d be back in time for my brother to be at work…
And with that, in the middle of the night, we headed out the door.

The drive and time we spent at camp were quick but truly nice.
And nice was a very rare experience that he and I ever shared.

I found that I actually enjoyed the civil time we shared on the ride.
I explained how I wished it was light enough for him to see the mountains
cresting over the horizon.
It was as if we had bonded over the thrill of the clandestine.

When we got back home, with time to spare for my brother to go to work,
our parents were so incensed, they did not speak to me.
Not a word.

So with no one speaking that afternoon, I opted to go see my grandmother, Nany.
Nany and I were very close.
She had afforded me a great deal all my growing up and I adored her
and our times spent together.

When I walked into her condo, she was sitting in her usual spot in her den
watching the television.
When I entered the room, she turned her back on me.

Whoa.

Never had my grandmother ever shown anything other than generosity, kindness, and love.
Anger and disappointment were each relegated only to parents and not grandparents right?!

All she said was “you should have seen how sad they were when they came
by here after church.”

Under the weight of a very heavy silence, I showed myself out the door.

Yet as it is with life, both time and my actually growing up worked to heal all gaping wounds.
Soon forgotten were both my youthful stupidity and folly as life pressed us all forward.

However, I have never forgotten my grandmother turning her back to me.
That image has remained in the recesses of my memories.

I was crestfallen back then and it still pains me to this day.

It hurts knowing that I hurt her like that.
That I was capable of hurting her so much.
Funny how hurting her was more troubling than how much I had hurt my parents.

I had been thoughtless and selfish—yet are we not so during our youth
as we often learn the hard way by surviving our many mistakes?

We can only pray that we learn and survive those youthful errors and
often self-destructive ways, hoping to go forward, carrying with us the gift of wisdom
rather than the burden of selfishness and recklessness.

I was but 21—Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is a 35-year-old man.
And yet it appears as if Harry is acting more like a selfish child
than that of a grown man. Putting his wants before responsibility.
He continues to hurt his “Granny,” as she is affectionately known by
her grandchildren, with his on-going selfish and reckless actions.

It has been reported that The Queen had asked Harry to wait before making a
public statement regarding his desire for life’s role reversal,
but he ignored her request– going forward anyway.

I cannot presume to understand the complexities of their tangled
relationships but if I could offer one word to Harry, it would be the word of caution.
I would caution Harry to never put his wants above his relationship with his grandmother–
Of which, if we have ever read much about their lives, is one of
closeness and caring.

One day, sooner than later, she will no longer be here as a tangible and physical
part of his life.
I know all too well that he does not want to look back, with her no longer in his life,
with either sorrow or regret for how his actions may have pained her.

And so perhaps there is a lesson here for all of us…

The lesson being that we need to stop before we act.
Stopping to think while considering the lives of those closet to us…
Thinking about them before we boldly opt to march triumphantly forth—
So bold and headstrong that we go marching gallantly forward carrying those
wants and desires of our hearts on silver platters without ever considerating the
thoughts and feelings of those who are dear to us.
Those who are hurt the most by our misguided and self-centered actions.

Selfishness can be a heavy burden.

Be very careful, then, how you live—-
not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is

Ephesians 5:15-17

won by One who makes imperfection perfect

Satan has a kingdom here on earth.
It’s called the culture of death, but his kingdom has an expiration date.
That’s good news.
Jesus has a kingdom as well.
There is no expiration date.
It will last forever.
Remember, Church, we have been won by One.
The next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

Jesse Romero
from The Devil in the City of Angels


(deer moss / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Do they desire to join me in thanksgiving when they hear how, by your gift,
I have come close to you, and do they pray for me when they hear
how I am held back by my own weight?

A brotherly mind will love in me what you teach to be lovable,
and will regret in me what you teach to be regrettable.

This is a mark of a Christian brother’s mind, not an outsider’s—
not that of ‘the sons of aliens whose mouth speaks vanity,
and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity’ (Ps. 143:7 f.).

A brotherly person rejoices on my account when he approves me,
but when he disapproves, he is loving me.

To such people I will reveal myself.
They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones.
My good points are instilled by you and are your gifts.
My bad points are my faults and your judgments on them.
Let them take heart from the one and regret the other.
Let both praise and tears ascend in your sight from brotherly hearts,
your censers. …
But you Lord…Make perfect my imperfections”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

on board and out dated

“Recent generations seem to consider ‘old-fashioned’ thinking as out-dated
and without place in the modern world.
I beg to differ.
After all, who has greater faith?
He who looks to and learns from the past, or the man who cares
not for consequence?”

Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life – Fennel’s Journal – No. 1


(a shirveled little pear / Julie Cook / 2014)

The other day I caught a fellow blogger’s post regarding the soon to be splitting of
the United Methodist Church over the issue of recognizing gay marriage as a
sanctified union and thus conducting said weddings.

And I took issue with some of his thoughts.

I didn’t immediately respond, as I wanted to think about my words,
but I knew I disagreed with his take on things.

According to a separate article I read regarding the split, things appear amicable in
the proposed negotiating of the soon to be un-united Methodist Church–
An amicable split might just border on being an oxymoron when talking about divisions
stemming from differing views over foundational doctrine…with everyone seeming to
be all good with the parting.

“The United Methodist Church has decided to divide over the issue of same-sex marriage.
This is not surprising, given the longstanding disagreements on this matter that have
afflicted the denomination.
The UMC has arranged the separation in a remarkably civil way:
The proposed solution, formulated by a committee of members drawn from both sides of the debate,
will (hopefully) avoid the rancor and distress and disputes about properties and pensions
that have marked other such denominational splits in recent times.

Carl R. Trueman

The blogger’s post, for which I took umbrage, mentioned that he had been reared in the
Methodist Church and was naturally troubled by the proposed split…

I think we’d all agree that “splits” are never the desired outcome.
We really do want to keep things united as one.
Or so it seems we once did.

Yet think of this…we began with what was known as the Latin West Church,
otherwise known as The Church of Rome.
Shortly thereafter, we had the Eastern Orthodox Church of, naturally, the East…

So splits seem to be in our nature because from those original two,
we have spiraled into countless denominations,
of which each feels as if they are the ones who’s gotten it right and all figured out…
but I digress.

This particular blogger wrote that other denominations had “come to terms” regarding
same-sex marriages and that scientific facts now showed that the Bible was outdated and
out of step with said scientific facts.
Homosexuality was prewired and not a choice and therefore the Church, big C,
needs to step up and get in step.

I read just a bit more before I had to close out the post and leave for an appointment
but I made a mental note that I wanted to go back to the post and eventually respond.

Well, a few days passed and I went back into my reader looking for the post.
It is no longer there or at least I couldn’t find it if it was.
I scrolled and scrolled but just couldn’t find it.
It was not a blog that I follow but a blog post that I had seen as a
re-post by another blogger.
Since I couldn’t remember the particular blog’s name from whence the post
in question had come from, I suppose it was not meant for me to get into a
tit for tat with another blogger…
Because that is pretty much what happens when we comment often to the contrary of
what someone else has written.

A war of words so to speak.
A small microcosm of what is ailing our entire Nation, but again, I digress.

And so I will briefly share my umbrage here…as in, you are now the lucky recipient.

Unequivocally, and to the contrary, most denominations are NOT on board with gay marriage—
hence why ‘splits’ have been taking place for nearly a decade.

My dear ol’ Episcopal Chruch comes to mind.

The thought of schisms in the Episcopal Church can be traced back to the ’70s
when the notion of allowing women into the priesthood first took flight.
There was an exodus then with communicants going to more traditional “Rite I”
sort of churches.

Next came gay clergy and gay marriages all intertwined.
We saw another exodus with the founding of Anglican Chruch in North America.
Hence the split from the more liberal Episcopal Chruch to the more conservative
Anglican body of North America.

We are also seeing a huge exodus across the pond by more traditional Anglicans from
the very liberal body of the Chruch of England who is just all over the place
with what is being called “Queer Theory” and transgenderism as the issue over gay clergy
is now simply passe.

The Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Methodists and yes even the Baptists are all wrestling
with the same divisive issue of a traditional fundamental belief in scripture verses a more
liberal interpretation and the progressive view that the Bible is outdated and simply
put, wrong.

The argument is that God is Love, Jesus is Love and the Church should, therefore, be love…
and so the thinking is that this should all be quite clear.
Clear that there is love within the LBGTQ communities.
So come one, come all because we are all about love.

And thus any church member who thinks otherwise is so last century and entirely out
of step with the new way of the world…so if you don’t like it or argue that
it is entirely against Scripture, then you, my friend, are considered hate-filled
and need to go elsewhere because the new church has no room for such thinking.

However, I find that the Bible is very specific when it comes to homosexuality,
sinfulness, sexual deviations, pansexuality, gender, etc.

It is not the Bible that needs changing but rather man’s sinfulness.

No one disputes that God is love.
He has a deep and abiding love for… the sinner….that being you and me.
Hence the birth, eventual killing, and resurrection of His Son.

So no, I don’t see that other denominations are basically “on board” with gay marriage
or all the new sprouting ‘life choices.’

To sin or not to sin is a choice is it not?

The Bible is very specific about sin and what constitutes sin.
God hasn’t changed His mind.
He has not had that “ah ha” Oprah moment of “yeah, I think they are right. I suppose
I do need to rethink my thinking on say, all those commandments…”

God is immovable.
He does not waver.
No matter how much we work to convince ourselves that our choices are ok
and therefore He’s ok with said choices.

So, in a nutshell, that’s my comment.

I the Lord do not change.
So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and
have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:6-7

be not anxious

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and position,
with thanksgiving, present your requests before God.

Philippians 4:6


(male and female urinary tract medical chart)

This is the chart that was staring at me today from the back of the door inside
the procedure room where I sat waiting.

I felt it was a waste of my time, not to mention money,
to be sitting and waiting on this final of three procedures.
The race down this particular rabbit hole was not, is not, a part of my current issues…
or so was my non-medical opinion.

Ever since July, I have been slowly riding a bit of a medical merry-go-round.

Bloodwork results resulted in more bloodwork.
More bloodwork results resulted in more specialized doctors.
Waiting on specialized results resulted in waiting to be seen by more specialists.
All kinds of specialists.

It seems this Sjögren’s business leads to soft tissue disease,
eye troubles, mouth troubles, kidney troubles, joint troubles,
even upping lymphoma possibilities.

Over the years, I’ve had the eyes, mouth and joint issues that I just thought
were odd individuals annoyances and not linked together.

Turns out they were linked.

Now throw in the soft tissue disease…gees.

The bloodwork results were all somewhat unsettling.
Elevated levels here, diminished levels there.
Ups and downs all over the place.

Add to that a suspected pancreatitis attack this past weekend…of which
could be gallbladder related…or not…
And thus the mystery deepens.

Now the doctors seem to keep multiplying and the merry-go-round keeps spinning.

Occult blood means that blood is detected via the labs and not seen by the naked eye.
It raises flags and eyebrows by the medical world.

It seems they found occult blood—hence my sitting and staring at a urinary tract chart.

Before her death three years ago, when my aunt was diagnosed with kidney cancer,
she had had no symptoms, no clues… but she did have occult blood.

I will admit, that despite my feelings that my third visit to this particular specialist’s
office was just a waste of time and money, a slight worry did gnaw at the back of my mind.

Thankfully, my non-medical expertise was correct…
All was indeed well…
all but a small kidney stone that has been in the same kidney in the same
spot for the past 4 years.

It is, however, the looming MRI in two weeks, the doctor’s appt on Thursday, what tests
will be added, and the other doctor appointments following the MRI—
all of which will hopefully be more telling.

Casting a bit of light into the darkness so to speak.

It’s not that I’m worried.
I just want to know, finally, what is what.
And then, how to go about dealing with the what.

That’s what doers like to do—they want to know what is what and then what to
do with that what.

However, I am a bit aggravated riding this merry-go-round of the medical world.
It is slow and it is time-consuming.
Yet I suppose many of us will all ride the merry-go-round at some point sooner or later
in our lives.

I couldn’t help but marvel in the day’s verse that came my way…
“Do not be anxious about anything…”

Those words echoed in my mind as I sat on that exam table.

Amen..be not anxious.
Prayer and thanksgiving…

Fast forward to the day’s end.
The day’s news is unfolding as I type, while missiles now fly across the skies in Iraq.
Breaking alerts keep interrupting the evening’s quiet…

My thoughts race back to that verse—
I took it as a fine-tuned spoken word for me today as I sat staring at that medical chart,
waiting for an unknown scope.

So now I cling to those same spoken words as this Nation sits wondering and waiting.

Do not be anxious—petition, pray and give thanks.

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

Prayers for Australia

“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get
us involved in His plan for the answer.
If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf
of the people for whom we pray.”

Corrie ten Boom


(Newsweek)
The map shows active fires across the country of Australia as of 9:14 p.m. AEDT, January 6, 2020
GOOGLE MAPS / MY FIRE WATCH

Day in and day out, I am overwhelmed when watching the news reports regarding the
constant fires raging across the land of our brethren down under.

Simply put, Australia is on fire.

Millions and millions of acres are now burned and scorched.
Thousands of homes are now gone.
Thousands of people are now homeless, having lost everything.
There have been at least two dozen fatalities.
Thousands will suffer the health effects of breathing in air from the ash-laden skies.
And there are an estimated half a billion (480 million) animals killed.
Read that again…half a billion.

Many surviving animals are severely burned and wounded—many are being cared
for at various facilities around the country.

As Corrie Ten Boom reminds us in her quote—when we pray for others,
God will draw us into the answer—in some capacity or other.

Frustratingly it doesn’t seem as if there is anything I can do from here in Georgia
to help those affected by the fires in Australia…
So I researched for various charities and aid
foundations that are taking donations.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/118605092/australian-bush-fires-how-to-help-watching-a-continent-burn-from-our-skies-we-can-all-do-something

I know we must be careful when making credit card donations to various sites on-line
so if you decide you want to do so—make certain the site is reputable.

Normally I would donate to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army but those donations
will go into their general crisis aid accounts—
I wanted something that would be specific to Australia.

I opted for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
for their rescue efforts of the native wildlife.
But St Vincent’s is also a good choice to help with providing food, shelter and clothing
for those individuals who have lost everything.

May the fires be extinguished.

“True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that
seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude
toward that person or circumstance.
People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.”
That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place;
it is having His mind and His perspective.”

Oswald Chambers

it’s all in the translation–mi vida di por ti

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2


(Christ Crucified, VELÁZQUEZ, DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ DE SILVA Y/ 1632/ Museo Del Prado)

There is an Evangelical Hispanic Chruch that I pass by on almost a daily basis.
There has been a sign in front of the church with the same lettering, sentence, for the better
part of a year.

Now you should know, I love church signs—
they are the quick little lessons I glean during my travels.
Some or cute.
Some are funny.
Some are thought-provoking.
And it matters not the denomination or size of the church—
for God has certainly spoken to me over the years via the signs I’ve passed.

I have found that church signs tend to be found in smaller towns or more rural areas.
Growing up in Atlanta, the churches didn’t really have signs that made statements
or offered tidbits of wisdom…they were more or less signs with simply the name
of the church.

So the signs in these smaller towns and more rural areas really speak in greater ways
than what their congregations may even realize.

The sentence that I’ve passed by now for so very long reads:

mi vida di por ti

So with my limited understanding of foreign languages, I was pretty certain I
was reading it, every day to and fro, with the correct meaning.

I had known enough ‘spanglish’ to get by with my students when I was still teaching,
so I figured I had this.

But those of you who know me or read this site know that I struggle enough with my own
native tongue—throw in another tongue and there’s no telling how that will go.

And to think, I had had French in school from the 4th grade all the way to my sophomore year
in high school–
Yet I think I’m still good with merely ‘Je ne sais pas’—as in ‘I don’t know’–
as in, I really don’t know.

So while driving past this sign, with my infinite wisdom intact, I deduced that ‘por ti’ must mean
door, as in portal.
So I was convinced that the sign read, ‘I am the door’.
Made sense to me.

Yet given my lack of depth with language, I knew it was best to doubt myself.

So I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.

And to say that I was wrong is an understatement.

‘Mi vida di por ti’ translates to ‘I gave my life for you’

Now a well understood and powerful daily reminder that puts a smile on my face each day
I pass this church…
No wonder they’ve left it up so long as that pretty much says it all…

“A dead Christ I must do everything for;
a living Christ does everything for me.”

Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself