the gift of the miraculous

“There are many going afar to marvel at the heights of mountains,
the mighty waves of the sea, the long courses of great rivers,
the vastness of the ocean, the movements of the stars, yet they leave themselves unnoticed!”

Saint Augustine


(The Mayor has discovered she can drive her limousine up under the kitchen table in order
to investigate what makes the table tick / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve been marveling recently.

Marveling at the development of a wee small person.
No surprise there I would imagine.

Yet this marveling of mine, however, goes beyond the mere grandmotherly marveling over the
leaps and strides made by a baby who appears to miraculously change and grow,
if not day by day, but more like minute by millisecond…

As each new moment brings a brand new advancement.

To roll,
to sit,
to pull,
to stand,
to eat,
to chew,
to taste,
to utter sounds,
to express likes and dislikes…
to demonstrate joy and anguish,
to recognize pain and self-satisfaction.

The discoveries made of both self and surroundings are each incredible to behold.

Quite amazing really.

I think back to the time when I was once a new parent myself.

I was so caught up in what that responsibility entailed…
coupled with my working outside of the home while just trying to get us all from one day
to the next, in one safe piece…
so much so that all of that overrode my ability to actually marvel.

Of course, there were glimpses and revelations that would leave me without words but life
would demand its way…leaving me running at such a frenetic pace that basking in the
minute by minute miracles was only afforded in increments of breaths.
Life called for a family to step up to the plate and I had to answer…
no luxury found for stopping to marvel…albeit fleetingly.

It is only now in my older age…an age that gives way to both collected knowledge and wisdom,
that I can thankfully step back from the moment while blessedly stopping to take it all in.

And I am left speechless.

What we take for granted, or rather what we merely assume as we are just too busy to
acknowledge anything else, is truly nothing less than spectacular.

And so no, I am not the first nor will I be the last grandparent to marvel over a grandchild…

And yes, there have been countless numbers of psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists,
doctors, and psychiatrists over the past millennium who have all closely
studied child development…

So this marveling of mine, as it were, is really nothing new nor even very special…

But…

This marveling, this wonderment, of which I speak is not found in the science of
human development…
It is not found in the measurements of statistics or in averages…
It is not found in numbers or sequential advancements…
But rather it is found in that which makes no sense…
found in that which is beyond comprehension.

Because what I am currently witnessing taking place, day by day, breath by breath,
within one small person, over the course of these past nine months, is nothing less than
miraculous.

So I suppose we could say that her first nine months were hidden from view…
yet were no less amazing.

The fact is that I have been given the opportunity of actually viewing the past nine months
a bit more up close and personal as those first nine months were watched not only by doctors
but moment by moment by the One who breathes life into all that is…

I suppose we could say she has actually lived both seen and unseen now for 18 months…
all of which have been cemented in my heart.

And so as the calendar prepares to give way to a new season, we find ourselves standing
before the door of the impending season of Advent.

A season that brings humankind together–
offering the heightened sense of anticipation as we prepare to both watch and wait…

Is it, therefore, a coincidence that as I watch and marvel over one growing baby,
God so chose the same miraculous gift of a baby?
A gift that has been freely given to anyone who is willing to receive it?

A baby who grew both seen and unseen…
A baby who was formed in the miraculous…
A baby whose family marveled, just as I marvel, over his milestones.

Explanations will always fall away when given the gift of the miraculous…

And Mary said,
“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

brave knights and heroic courage

“I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me.”
Andrew Jackson


(Autumn and Poppie or Papa, depending on who you ask / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Andrew Jackson and Autumn seem to have much in common / Julie Cook / 2018)

Sometimes life is more than simply chasing the proverbial dream…

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

C.S. Lewis

the innocence of a child

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

“For children are innocent and love justice,
while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”

G.K. Chesterton


(Autumn with her new sheep that Joy brought her)

I marvel daily at the tiny small gains of growth and knowledge.
I look into those glistening blue eyes highlighted by feathery little lashes…
small tiny hands reaching with the herky-jerky battle of involuntary versus control.
The longing to touch, to hold, to move, to sit upright…

How do you look at a child and question the existence of God?
How do you look at a child and consider an abortion?
How do you look at a child and selfishly put them in harm’s way?

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Matthew 19:13-15

measuring time

“In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence,
and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

St. John of the Cross


(she’s already cheering on her DAWGS despite her great-grandfather’s love for Tech / Julie Cook
/ 2018)

We are a measuring sort of people.
We measure heights, weights, sizes, shapes, lengths, distances, amounts, numbers,
comings and goings…
You name it, we’ll measure it.
And we particularly like to measure time…

We enjoy measuring time so much that each year we mark time with a New Year’s celebration.
Just as we mark days of birth.

Any kid will tell you just how important the marking of a birthday really is…

And so it is that I am bittersweetly reminded that this time last year, on March the 10th,
we marked Dad’s 89th birthday.

You may remember he was gravely ill but was so excited to have “lived” long enough
just to have one last piece of cake.
Dad loved his sweets—chocolate especially.

He was born on his mother’s birthday in 1928 and died just hours before what would
have been his brother’s 97th birthday–
a brother who had preceded him in death by 8 years.

Dad died just 9 days after we celebrated his birthday.

The passing of a year’s time has brought with it a great deal of change.
All from one March to the next.
Seasons have come and gone… just like they usually do…
but within those seasons there has been a great deal of measuring…
both pluses and minuses.

This time last year, here in this house of my youth, we held a vigil for a life slipping away.
This year, 365 days later to the very day, we joyously mark a 3 week birthday of a new
life full of expectant hopes and dreams.

I find myself sitting in the same room that I once called my own, rocking a
young new life blessedly to sleep.
One who now claims my old room as her own.

I sit in the dimly lit room, illuminated only by a single bulb closet light
that cuts softly through the slats of the closet door. A small projected patch of stars
dance across the ceiling emanating from a novel little owl nightlight.
The sound of crickets and tree frogs gently pierce the silence, also coming from the
little owl nightlight.

The walls are the same.
The windows are the same.
The closet is the same…
Gone is the carpeting, long since stiped away, now exposing the original hardwoods of
this 1950’s house.
Gone are the gossamer sheer drapes, replaced by white wooden shutters.
The colors of paint have evolved with the changing times.

My thoughts drift back and forth over the near 60 years that I’ve known this house.
With memories and feelings being mixed—some pleasant, some not.
There is an unsettling mixed with a calming sense of hope.

My prayer is that for this new precious child, this house, this home, will be one of
peace.
I am reminded of the prayers and anointing of both house and crib.
The imploring of God’s grace to be poured down abundantly upon this family’s
new generation.

So happy birthday Dad and happy birthday to your new great-granddaughter…
a great-granddaughter who now calls the house you were so proud to purchase so long ago,
home…
A house you and mother were so proud to have for your own young family.
As a new generation calls it their own…

By wisdom, a house is built, and by understanding, it is established;
by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4

Sleep Deprivation or brainwashing

“My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching,
but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of
all I might have learned at home by myself.”

George Bernard Shaw


(Oh to sleep like a new grandbaby / Julie Cook / 2018)

The older I’ve become the more I’ve found that the notion of a precious night’s sleep
is not only alluding me but has become a fleeting fancy.
Meaning, it just seems to be a dream rather than a reality.

And how poetic that the inability to sleep should be but a dream…

Being able to finally fall into a bed of something that is somewhat welcoming and inviting–
providing a bit of respite and a place to temporarily sever the maddening ties of the day…
is the hope and desire of most human beings.
For we were wired to rest and to sleep—a time period given us in order to repair
and replenish ourselves.

Yet as we age, falling asleep no longer comes readily.
Staying asleep seems impossible… so much so that waking is a near depressing event as in
it signals another passing night of weary failure.
They chalk it up to age, stress, hormones and life…
sigh…

Enter the new grandchild.

As all new parents and grandparents know,
tending to a new baby that has decided to be an owl,
meaning that said newborn prefers to sleep during the day while choosing to be wide-eyed
at night, is an exhausting affair for all involved but the new babe.

A sleep-deprived brain has been compared to the same as if a person is intoxicated.

Poor choices, poor coordination, poor processing…
A dangerous mix.

Many an enemy combatant has opted to use sleep deprivation as a means of “torture” on their
captured prisoners in order to break the will while hoping to glean a few loose lip secrets.

So today, in a bleary-eyed state, when I read the latest offering by the renegade Anglican
bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding cultural brainwashing, it reminded me of my own sleep-deprived state.

In such a weakened state of brain fog and fatigue, it’s really quite easy to yield or to succumb
or to simply give in to all sorts of notions…

Anything anyone says we readily agree to, adhere to or adopt as our own as we are simply too tired,
too weak, too lacking…to resist.

So it would behove us, the Faithful, to be vigilant and to hold fast to our faith as the
current cultural trend is to brainwash the masses into accepting and eventually believing
a wealth of lies and falsehoods…

The following is an excerpt of the Bishop’s latest take on the current leanings of brainwashing
a gullible society…brainwashing both Believer and non-believer into accepting that which runs
counter to the natural and Holy intentions of a Divine Creator…

“The death of Billy Graham reminded me of how terrified I had once been of
being brainwashed.

I remember deciding to go on a quest to discover if Christianity was true or not and walking
into an Anglican Cathedral to hear an evangelist talk about Jesus.
His day job was being a vicar in York.
He wanted to help people examine who Jesus actually claimed to be.

“What if they try to brainwash me” I found myself thinking?
Someone, at some time, had managed to plant that thought in my head and it had stuck.

What I didn’t know was that these mild Anglicans were the last people on earth to want to
do any brainwashing, but that other people and other ideologies would be along shortly
who would be much more likely to try.”

In Bristol this week, some parents fought back against the brainwashing of their children
in infant school. The national campaign to destabilise childrens’ understanding of their
own sexuality has now reached down deep into our childrens’ childhoods.
Drag queens have been recruited to do workshops on gender identity for our 5-10-year-olds.
‘Diversity’ is the propaganda cover mantra.
Confusion is what the parents fear.

Christianity- the antidote to cultural brainwashing.

‘So remember what you have received and heard;
and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up,
I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
Revelation 3:3

spiritual abuse, double standards and changing times

“In a world of ‘safe spaces’ it appears that no space is safe.
So it was with interest and a degree of concern that I heard of a new term
about to be added to our legal vocabulary.
As well as sex abuse, child abuse, racial abuse, hate crime abuse,
emotional abuse, psychological abuse and domestic abuse,
we now have ‘spiritual abuse’ SA”

David Roberston on the Wee Flea


(a bumper sticker as seen from sitting in a parking lot/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“Mother, what are you doing?!”

“I’m taking a picture of that bumper sticker.”

“Mother, why are you taking a picture of that sticker?”

“I think I may want to use it in a post on the blog”

“MOTHER! NO!
Do Not Cause Trouble!”
Life isn’t that easy Mother, you can’t call people out like that!”

I’m not calling anybody out Son…nobody knows that car, where it is, who it is
or who you are for that matter.
I’m just wondering what would happen if I had the same sort of sticker on the back of
my car—something like…
‘Why Christianity.org”…Faith, Hope, Love…”

“Somebody would probably throw something at your car or slash your tires Mother.
And who says there isn’t already some sort of organization out there
pushing Christianity like that?
Mother why do you want to cause trouble?
This is not the same city you knew growing up.
Times are different…
Muslims recruit and you’re not supposed to be bothered by that.”

“Exactly.
I’m not supposed to be bothered by that, yet everyone would be bothered
if I was the one out recruiting for God and Jesus…
I’d be ridiculed, mocked or branded a homophobic, or NeoNazi or the racist…
the list goes on…
And I for one don’t like a double standard.”

He may be almost 30 but I can still sense the eyes rolling when he’s seated behind
me in the car.

After lunch, we’d run by the grocery store while his very pregnant wife ran into
the store to grab her last bottle of prenatal vitamins.
She’s decided to give up being pregnant for Lent.
The doctor told them that it’s any time now…
but if our little baby-to-be decides that the womb is a happier place,
they’ll induce next week.

I’m with her—the womb just might be a happier place!

And as sure as shootin’, there would be those who would jump on some sort of box
scolding me for actually really noticing the bumper sticker in question.
They’d tell me that “they”, whomever the “they” may be,
have just as much right to advertise, recruit and spread the love as anybody else…
that is…
all but for me…
the American Christian who doesn’t like a double standard.
Throw in my gender and ethnicity and we’ve got a real scandal on our hands.

And no, I’m not trying to cause trouble…
because I for one believe in our freedoms…
those very freedoms that men and woman have been dying for since before 1776.
Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from tyranny…and freedom from being
bullied because I will not hide that I am a Christian.

So yes I pretty much believe in freedom…
Yet I am discovering, each and every day, that that same notion of Freedom
does not apply to me as a Christian nor does it apply to Christianity as a whole.

Now we should all know that I really don’t care that a Muslim wants to put a bumper
sticker on a car.
Nor do I care if a non-Muslim wants to put a sticker about an Islamic organization on a car.
Just as I don’t care if a Jew, a Buddhist, a Pagan or even me, the Christian, puts a bumper
sticker on a car…becasue we are free to do so—I think we call that freedom of speech.
I’ve even seen offensive ‘F’ word bumper stickers that I find highly offensive…
but that whole freedom thing doesn’t give a didly that I’m offended.

What I do care about however is the growing contempt for Christianity.

So it should come as no surprise that today our friend the Wee Flea Scottish Pastor
writes a post about some new nonsense now out there being touted as “spiritual abuse”

Now when I think of “spiritual abuse” things like Scientology comes to mind.
Cults come to mind.

The sort of things my mother was always worried over when I was growing up.
Because I grew up during those late 60’s and 70’s–a time rife with movements and cults…
Think Charles Manson. Think David Koresh.

Kids were all the time running off to crazy places and things—
places and people who witnessed parents having to kidnap their own kids and
have them “deprogrammed.”
Things my parent’s generation were afraid of for their children, my generation…
just as I am now most worried about my grandchild growing up in a civilization where
Christians are now more globally persecuted than ever before,
while no one says a darn thing.

A bit tongue and cheek, a bit heavy-hearted, our Wee Flea friend lists the definition,
as he sees it, as to what Spiritual Abuse is all about…

What is Spiritual Abuse?

From my point of view those who take their stipends from the church but do not teach
what that church teaches are being spiritually abusive.
Those who manipulate in any unbiblical way are abusive.
Liberal theology is abusive.
Legalistic theology is abusive.
Most BBC religion I find to be quite manipulative and abusive.
Should they be prosecuted?
Should we ban Jehovah’s Witnesses?
The Mormons?
Catholics?
Anglicans?
And what about the dreadful Free Church of Scotland –
with all their ‘keeping the Lord’s day and refusing to work on Sunday’ nonsense….
is that not abusive?
What about the Baptists putting psychological pressure on people to almost drown them?
Or charismatics ‘laying on hands’ –
surely that sounds dodgy?
Almost anything or any group can be termed ‘abusive’.

The trouble is that the term ‘spiritual abuse’
(as opposed to emotional, physical and psychological abuse)
is so lacking in definition that you are going to end up with the government
telling us what is really spiritual and what isn’t.
Do we really want the government and lawyers determining theology?
How ironic that in the name of the secular state,
the separation between church and state will be broken down,
as the state starts telling the church what it should teach and do.
It will be the end of religious freedom in this country
(and given that religious liberty is the foundation stone of all freedom,
it will lead to the end of all freedom – as the authoritarian state,
led by the civic priesthood, determines all our thoughts, words and actions).

The Real Danger

Where this madness could lead was exemplified at the Anglican General Synod last week
where one member asked if the spouses of clergy who had had extra-marital affairs
could be described as ‘survivors of spiritual abuse’.

A Catholic woman could claim that she has been spiritually abused because the
Catholic Church does not allow her to become a priest.
Jayne Ozanne could claim spiritual abuse if Christian Today published an article
that upheld the biblical teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.
A child brought up in a Christian home could claim spiritual abuse because they
were made to go to church with their parents.
The list is endless.
And so are the dangers.
The bottom line is that, whatever the good intentions of some,
this is not primarily about stopping abuse or protecting children,
it is about using the danger of abuse in order to control and suppress.

The crime of spiritual abuse: One of the most dangerous ideas in decades

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.

1 Peter 2:15

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12