the wisdom of a child

“One just soul can obtain pardon for a thousand sinners.”
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


(a contemplative little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

So I must make a confession on this Holy Saturday…

Whereas in years past my posts were reflective of this time of year…
starting with Ash Wednesday, those dark heavy 40 days of Lent leading up to the
Holy Week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—
as we culminate all of this on a triumphant Easter.

I’d pray earnestly.
I’d fast regularly.
I’d be diligent in my observance.
I would have even gotten some purposeful Lenten reading.
I would focus on the cross and that of an empty tomb.

However, this week has passed in a blur.
In fact, Lent passed in a blur.
As much of the year has passed in a blur.

I hardly even noted that yesterday was Good Friday as I was on the road in
torrential rains and horrendous traffic as my thoughts were elsewhere.

There was a time I would attend the 3 hours long Good Friday service while
purposely fasting this highest of Holy days.
I would go to the Great Easter Vigil…clutching my candle with deep intent.

However, this year has been different.
For lots of reasons I suppose.

Whereas there were both sorrow and loss in years past, I none the less managed to keep
the tires in the middle of the road.

This year, sadly, I pretty much simply fell off the tracks.

There are some distracting extenuating circumstances that will most likely be written
about when there is finally a bit of clarity…
But in a nutshell, my time and my focus have been pulled into a thousand different degrees…

And speaking of degrees—
I have been suffering through some sort of flu bug this past week that has left me hot
to the touch yet cold and shivery to the body.

Add in the Mayor visiting her satellite office and the walking dead comes to mind…
not in the zombie kind, but rather literally feeling dead while still walking.

There’s been little sleep, lots of heavy thoughts, as well as thoughts of anticipation with
a new little sheriff set to arrive any day now.

And having spent the past two days trying to keep an ever-growing, rambunctious, newly walking
borderline toddler out of harm’s way while trying to keep up at the same energy level has
been no easy task.

And yet I often find myself sitting back and simply marveling at her intense gaze.
I watch her little wheels turning while wondering what are her thoughts.

Her love, excitement, and openness to each and all she meets.
Be it animal or human or a stuffed animal or even an interesting plant.
Each one is met with a raised hand and a resounding “HI”

There is such an open innocence and trust that we adults,
who love her and are entrusted with her care, wish to warn her of the dangers
as we work to protect and keep her from harm.

Any parent or grandparent will tell you that that is a life long task that can,
in this current angry world’s day and age, leave anyone who loves a little one
both anxious and nervous.

Because we adults know that there is bad, there is danger and there is evil.

My husband noted this morning at breakfast,
as she gobbled up some bits of maple syrup-soaked waffles,
that if the world possed the same sort of sweetness and same refreshing innocence…
oh, how the world could be so different.

And so on this Holy Saturday, I am reminded that God is reminding me…
He is calling me to return to that same trusting spirit…
return to an openness…allowing Him to pour out His sweet balm
within this weary soul of mine.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


(the Mayor in such a pondering pose / Julie Cook / 2019)

“No one who follows Me will ever walk in darkness (Jn 8:12).
These words of our Lord counsel all to walk in His footsteps.
If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart,
it is His virtues you must imitate.
Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpasses that of all the Saints.
But to find this spiritual nourishment you must seek to have the Spirit of Christ.
It is because we lack this Spirit that so often we listen to the Gospel without really hearing it.
Those who fully understand Christ’s words must labor to make their lives conform to His.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.15
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

burdens and birth and a prayer

Christian prayer is not something you do.
Prayer is permitting the Trinitarian God to love you as you learn in childlike trust to acknowledge,
relate, receive, and respond within your heart to the Holy Spirit’s presence,
love pursuing you and desiring to communicate with you.

Fr. John Horn
from Heart Speaks to Heart

“Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.”
St. Gianna Molla


(Francis Schaeffer)

Burden, defined by Merriam Webster is: something oppressive or worrisome

But what about a different kind of burden?
The kind that creates a deeply-felt heaviness and furrows our brow?
One that pulls at our thoughts and leaves us with the feeling that there’s
something that needs doing but as to what that is…we are uncertain.

Uncertain until the burden and the revelation collide

It is called a burden of the Spirit…
And according to Watchman Nee:

There is a difference between the burden of the spirit and the weight of the spirit.
The weight of the spirit is from Satan, and its purpose is to cause believers to suffer;
Satan uses the weight to suppress them.
The burden of the spirit, however, is from God.
Its purpose is to make known His will and secure the believers’ cooperation.
The weight of the spirit has no other purpose except to suppress.
As such, it is useless and fruitless.
The burden of the spirit is a burden from God, and its goal is to cause men to work,
intercede, and preach for God.
Such a burden is purposeful, reasonable, and profitable.
Believers must differentiate between the burden in their spirit and the weight in their spirit.

Genuine spiritual work is an assault on Satan and a travail in birth for the believers.

There is indeed no joy to this!
This requires one to die to the self in the deepest way.
For this reason, no soulish believer can truly participate in spiritual work.
Having a happy feeling all day long is not a proof of a believer’s spirituality.
The right kind of believers advance with God without caring for their own feelings.
Many times when believers are burdened in their spirit to fight with the enemy,
they prefer to be alone and cut off all fellowship with the world,
so that they can concentrate in their warfare with the enemy.
At the end of this warfare, it is difficult to find any trace of a smile on their face.
Hence, all spiritual believers should welcome the burdens from the Lord.

(full excerpt here:
https://www.ministrysamples.org/excerpts/THE-BURDEN-OF-THE-SPIRIT-1.HTML)

Ever since I first put the post out there about a unified and collective prayer, I’ve
felt a burden.
Well, if the truth be told, I felt the burden long before putting the post out there.

We’ve had some good thoughts, suggestions, and ideas…
but I’ve still felt something gnawing and nagging at me.

I pondered, offered more posts while seeking more ideas…
I even solicited others not here in blogland as to their thoughts.

But I still felt conflicted.

So there it was again last night, more news about the third term abortions…
Abortions, where a full term baby is not aborted but accidentally delivered,
as in something went wrong with the abortion…
only to be followed by an ensuing debate over “to let live or let die…”

Allowed to die, well that, in my world, is considered murder, plain and simple.

And yet we are watching this “practice” being embraced by the Democratic party.
As this is not the same Democratic party I knew growing up.

And so the gnawing sense inside of me began rising upward, again.

Following the news, I read Oneta’s post concerning abortion…

THE MAN WHO LOOKS ON AND DOES NOTHING

More gnawing.

I sent her this comment:
this is a topic in tomorrow’s post…
the more I think and ponder and seek direction…
I just feel this is the issue of our prayer…a prayer for those whose voices are being silenced.
sigh…

Her response:
I think, Julie, that every Christian has their own “means/ways” of entering into prayer
that often includes acknowledging God’s goodness, repentance, forgiving others.
I think that is not so much what you are looking for as specific needs such as abortion,
addictions, materialism, election results, sexual sins, gender issues, etc.
I agree that now is a time when Christians should join their voices against the sin of abortion.
The country will just move more into extreme such as infanticide, euthanasia, etc
if it is not stopped by the cry of God’s people.
If we were together tonight I would like to pray for the Trump/North Korea issue.
Too late for that, but these kinds of issues could be called as you see them approach.
The Venezuela situation also needs our attention in prayer.
I kept on too long even raising more questions, didn’t I?
Just throw a topic out and we will pray until you feel another topic is called for.
Trust Jesus who is placing the concern in your hands.
Love your concern.

I now felt tears welling up in my eyes.

The words…”cry of God’s people” and “Trust Jesus who is placing the
concern in your hands”

In my mind, that ‘concern’ is a burden which is being placed in my spirit by The Spirit…of which
is what prompted my initial question about a prayer in the first place.

I went to bed feeling very weighted down about what we are now witnessing in
this nation of ours…not only a push to kill babies in the womb, that which we call abortion,
but to what we are now seeing as the plain outright murder of live births.

Then the next morning there was Citizen Tom’s post…
Another tale about this same issue…

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL

More gnawing…growing into a cresendo…

And then finally our friend Vincent reblogged a post from the Logos folks—
it was a letter written by Francis Schaeffer in 1954 to a friend.

I’ve actually read Shaeffer’s books since high school.

In that letter, I found more clarification for my “burden of proof” in one particular paragraph

“Events since we have seen each other make me more sure than ever that the Lord
is calling some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ and the indwelling
Holy Spirit should mean to us in this present life.
Increasingly, I believe that the Devil fears this above all else.
Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important,
but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship—and not as
ends in themselves.”

“that the Lord is calling some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ
and indwelling Holy Spirit should mean to us in this present life.

I believe that the pain you have felt, and I have felt, is not the pain of death,
but the pain of birth in a day of blessing,
as the whole body is made more ready for the Bridegroom’s coming.
Surely the birth pains mean little if such a result is born through our dear Lord’s grace.

Not a pain found in death, but a pain found in birth…birth in that ‘of our dear Lord’s grace’

And yet it is an odd juxtaposition of thought in that where there is pain in childbirth
that pain pales when we consider the pain experienced by those babies whose lives are being ended
in very real and literally horrific ways…through abortion.

And so it was in Mr. Schaeffer’s letter that I fianlly decided God has spoken…

The answer to the burden…I am to pray over and for the lives of those who cannot speak
for themselves…
Praying for the lives of those who are being litterally taken before they
even have the opportunity to live.

And it is for the children of not only abortion that I will pray for
but it will be for the children born, following a botched abortion.

You may join me if you like.

Below is Mr. Shaeffer’s letter—- however, before you read his letter, I’d like
to offer one more reminder about a book I read a few years back that is
actually the tale of an abortion gone awry…and in turn, the life of that now grown woman…

You Carried Me
A daughter’s memoir

by Melissa Ohden

The book came my way from our friends at Plough Publishing House.
It is a very powerful read…
Here’s the post regarding the book

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/adoption/

And now for Mr. Shaeffer’s letter…

Francis Schaeffer: Will Today’s Pain Lead to Death or Birth?

Faithlife Staff | Wed, February 27, 2019

Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) was an evangelical missionary, theologian, and writer,
best known for founding L’Abri with his wife, Edith.

After studying at Hampden-Sydney College, Westminster Theological Seminary
(where he studied under Cornelius Van Til), and Faith Theological Seminary,
Schaeffer pastored churches in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

In 1948, Schaeffer moved to Switzerland and founded L’Abri,
a community where people discuss philosophy and religion.
Thousands of people have passed through L’Abri,
and it has expanded into several other countries.

In the following excerpt from Letters of Francis Schaeffer—included in one of
several Schaeffer collections currently in Pre-Pub—we find Schaeffer reflecting on a
challenging season of his life and the earthly cost of entering into deeper
communion with God.

***

The Pain of Death or the Pain of Birth

[Written shortly after the Schaeffers arrived back in Champéry, Switzerland.
The person to whom the letter was written is not known,
though evidently he or she was close to the Schaeffers,
as is suggested by the last paragraph and the tone of the letter as a whole.]

October 11, 1954

Chalet Bijou

Champéry, Switzerland

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your note of September 20. It encouraged my heart.
How lovely is the Lord, and how wonderfully He is always waiting for us to come to Him
and know His peace and joy.

Yes, the time has been difficult, and yet the peace we have known through it makes
it exceedingly precious.
Since writing to you from the boat, our son, two years of age, has had polio.
He began it on the boat, but we did not know what it was.
His left leg is affected, but the doctor now gives us good hope that he may return to normal.

Events since we have seen each other make me more sure than ever that the Lord is calling
some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit
should mean to us in this present life.
Increasingly, I believe that the Devil fears this above all else.
Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important,
but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship—and not as
ends in themselves.

When you looked over my article in London for the Reformation Review I remember you said,
“They will not like this.” I replied that I knew,
but I did not realize how deep a wound I touched.
I find I am being pursued into my work here, and that a determined and successful effort
was made in Philadelphia to turn some of the Europeans away from these spiritual matters,
and to make them fasten their eyes on loyalty to the external machinery and human leadership.
I am sorry.
The personal may rest, but I grieve for the work of God.
Yet the Lord has given me many wonderful encouragements also;
and I do feel that He is calling many of His own into the place of deeper communion.

Would there ever be a time when you could come to Switzerland to meet with others of
like mind—to fellowship in the quietness of the Alps with a small number as we did
together that night in your home? We would like to entertain you in our home.
I believe that the pain you have felt, and I have felt, is not the pain of death,
but the pain of birth in a day of blessing,
as the whole body is made more ready for the Bridegroom’s coming.
Surely the birth pains mean little if such a result is born through our dear Lord’s grace.

With warm greetings in the slain and risen Lamb,

Francis A. Schaeffer

https://blog.logos.com/2019/02/francis-schaeffer-will-todays-pain-lead-to-death-or-birth/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LogosBibleSoftwareBlog+%28Logos+Bible+Software+Blog%29

Thank you Oneta.

Hope is Springing

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Alexander Pope


(cue the Lenten Rose / Julie Cook / 2018)

We still have so much to talk about…
So many pressing issues of the soul and the salvation of man.

That being our salvation.

There is so much history that we need to recall, lest we be doomed to repeat it all.

Discussing those things of true importance while discarding those unimportant things
vying for control.

There has been such a wearisome heaviness pressing down on us…
The cold.
The snow.
The political circus of both country and globe.
The helter-skelter stock market.
The flu.
The sheer burdens of our individual lives…
The uncertainty of the uncertainness.

The list seems endless.

I have felt as if I have not been outside, really outside, taking stock
of a winter barren waste-laid landscape in a string of seemingly nonending months of time.

Its just been too cold, too wet, too grey…
just too, too…

Until Tuesday.

I actually went outside and filled up the birdfeeders.
The sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing.
In fact, I could feel the sun’s warmth.
An unfamiliar yet most welcomed sensation.

I cleaned out the bird boxes, ridding them of the old nests…
making ready for new residents who will soon be out house hunting.

I trimmed away a few dead and broken branches from plants, bushes, and trees—
all who had suffered under the weight of the snow and ice—
trimming wich I had simply not felt called yet to tackle.

To be honest, I think I’ve just not felt like doing much of any of it, period.
I’ve not felt motivated or excited to do so…
both of which are not me.

I chalk such lack of motivation, lack of get-up-and-go, to life’s wicked blows,
to the winter blues and to just the never-ending chill which
has delighted in reaching down to my very bones.

The good news is that I do not have the full blown hemochromatosis I spoke of
about a week or so ago.
I am however a carrier…only half mutant.
Yet it’s off for the nuclear stress test come Monday…
all to figure out the reason for a sedentary blood pressure for a non-sedentary individual…
of which probably points to another mutant gene…

My son made me watch the X-Men cartoons with him when he was a little boy—
I always did have a soft spot in my heart for Beast—
I mean, who doesn’t love a soft-spoken, Shakespearian reading
manly man who happens to be blue?

Yet I suspect some might simply call my winter languidness, age.

However my little outdoor excursion Tuesday offered up a marvelous surprise.

Tucked away in what is usually a dark tiny tree ladened little nook,
an unsuspecting patch of pine straw nestled between two small boxwoods…
rests 4 nearly hidden reminders that there is indeed life lurking, waiting and
really ready to get busy.

And as if right on cue, just in time for the beginning of this week’s coming Lenten season…
a time which happens to be bringing both Valentine’s day and a certain grandbaby’s
due date…
a reflective time of death, Ressurection, and life…
the Lenten Roses are in full blooming regalia.

Hope does Spring eternal does it not?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

Jeremiah 29:11-14

work done while sleeping….

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long.
If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


(tiny prayer box / Julie Cook / 2018)

The above image is that of a tiny, badly tarnished silver, prayer box.
This particular little box, along with others like it, was very popular in the late
80’s early 90’s.
This is the one that I had at the time.

Just inside the tiny box, you can see a bit of blue paper.
And might I add, that is a very tiny piece of blue paper with an equally tiny
written prayer.
But we might note that the prayer was anything but tiny.

Below is an image of another prayer box.
This particular box was discovered buried along a street in the old City of David sandwiched between some tile during construction taking place in a car lot.
This tiny box, made of some sort of animal bone, dates from either the 5th or
6th century AD and is considered to be a Byzantine prayer box.

Rather than a tiny piece of paper with a tiny scrawled prayer resting inside the tiny box, there is actually a small and very worn Icon, or painted image, of what is thought to be Mary.
Such a prayer box was intended to be carried in a pocket or pouch and acted as a
tiny traveling church, as one could open the box and pray before a holy image…
taking one’s prayers directly to the source.

The Byzantine time period from which this little box dates was a very tumultuous time
for the Middle East along with the whole Mediterranean region.

The Roman Empire had fallen to the Visigoths and Carthage had fallen to the Vandals…
add in the push from Attila’s Huns and it was a very dangerous time to be either
Jewish or Christain.

I can only imagine the prayers offered before this ancient little box…
as I am left to wonder whose box it was and how did it come to rest buried
in a parking lot in Jerusalem.

Right before Christmas a longtime blogging friend emailed me that she wanted me to
look into something she had just purchased.
This friend has since moved on from the blogging world, as she is a working mom
with young children whose time has not been her own.
She is an extremely devout Christian with a deep Jewish heritage.

She is very familiar with the idea of prayer, particularly those that are written and
placed before God.

It is a tradition that at the Wailing wall in Jesurelum, prayers are written down and placed in the crevices of the wall, as the wall is considered Holy by Jews as well as many Christians.

Often seen rocking slightly back and forth as their heads gently touch the wall, Jews will stand for long periods of time before the Wall, hands resting outward with palms facing upward or either with hands reverently folded…they will be immersed in deep meditative prayer.
Others, be they tourists or locals, merely push tiny bits of paper into the cracks as they lay their written prayers before what it thought the Divine Presence of
God Himself.

The Wall is considered Divine because it is a remnant of the actual Temple.

Human beings seem to have a very deep need for the tangible when it comes to their relationship with the Divine Presence of God…to be able to touch, to write to physically connect is of the utmost importance to many of the faithful.

Be it prayer beads, a knotted prayer rope, icons or even a prayer box–the
tangible and physical connection between penitent and God is a deeply profound
yearning as well as a mystery.

What my friend wanted me to look into was what is known as a sleeping Joseph.

Now that might sound odd and even appear odd but the story behind the small figurine is anything but strange and is actually rather full of gentleness and a gracious sense of comfort.

We know very little about Jesus’ earthly father Joseph.
He is only mentioned early on in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke and later in the books of Mark and John
It is in Matthew (1:1-18) that we read of his lineage harkening back to
David.

It is also when we read of the importance of dreams regarding Joseph as God came to Joseph at the most key moments in his life as a husband and father during his sleep. First Joseph is reassured that Mary is indeed telling the truth regarding her pregnancy and that he is to follow through with marrying her.
Secondly, Joseph is warned to take his young family to Egypt in order to flee Herod’s wrath and the killing of the Innocents.

I can remember my Godpoppa, the Episcopal priest, giving a sermon one Father’s day
about Joseph.

And he noted what we already know, that historically, we know very little regarding Joseph as he seems to simply “disappear” from scripture once Jesus begins
his earthly ministry.
He is not mentioned throughout the three years of ministry as being present and is not by Mary’s side at the crucifixion.

And so we simply and sadly assume he died at some point during Jesus’ growing up.

As we are left to wonder about this earthly father of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ earthly father actually brought tears to my Godpoppa’s eyes as he had lost his own father when he was only 16. His was a heartfelt observation about what a life Joseph must have lived.

He most likely taught Jesus the skills of carpentry.
How to be a craftsman using both his mind and his hands.
He taught Jesus what it meant to be reverent and prayerful
He taught Jesus the demonstrative nature of what Jesus intuitively knew,
how to worship His actual Father…no doubt a precarious balance and a heavy burden
for the earthly father.
He also taught the young boy respect.

There was a humble yet focused obedience that Jesus learned from Joseph.

And he learned about the importance of prayer…

The small figurine my friend shared with me is a prayer box of sorts.
The idea being that as you ready for sleep you place your concerns, worries, prayers
written down while placing them under the sleeping Joseph.

How often is your sleep disrupted by the heaviness of concern and worry?
Your thoughts, including your subconscious, consumed by the weight of whatever it is
that is eating at you. Your family, your friends, your work, your health, the health of those you love…there is a quickening of need that plays out even while you attempt to sleep—you pray as you drift off only to toss and turn…

The Joseph “prayer box” asks that you write down these concerns and or petitions,
laying them beneath Joseph—a man who was accustomed to Godly encounters during his sleep through his dreams, as you literally give your concerns over to God.

Trusting that He will, as He does, see, hear and know…

This is not a discussion on the topic of Saints nor of the notion of their interventions or of denominational differences, infighting, and angst…
it is rather a reminder of the human need and desire for a tangible and or physical connection as we literally acknowledge the weight of our concerns, worries and thoughts along with the very real need to literally give them over to God.

For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,

Job 33:14-15

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

Sailors delight eh….

“He replied,
“When evening comes, you say,
‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning,
‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:2-3

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(a view from the driveway on a sultry August Georgia evening / Julie Cook / 2016)

Red sky at night,
sailors delight….

Getting out of the car, at sunset, after a very, very long day
ferrying dad between this doctor and that doctor,
this lab facility and that medical center….
then spending almost 3 hours in traffic fighting to get home….
I look back, over my shoulder, toward the western sky.

The air is thick and heavy with the humidity of August.
Exactly how I’m feeling…weighted down and heavy ladened.

I sigh…

The evening is quiet.
A far cry from where I had just come.

Our son and daughter-n-law will be moving soon..
moving to the city I never seem to miss when I leave it.
But I can’t think about helping with packing and moving…
not yet…

I often think it not wise to write when life is so heavy
or…maybe that’s exactly when one should…write…
pouring out thoughts and feelings…
searching to match the right words with the right feelings…
sorting and making sense of the senseless…

A body that is tired and hurting
joining thoughts with feelings that now are swirling…
I look toward the red western sky…
as if seeking some sort of reassurance…

Surgery on Friday for dad…
the tumor too large to remove…
but trying to shore things up while buying some time…
Time…
another heavy thought…open-ended
full of uncertainty…

A red sky.

Signals a sailor’s delight…

In other words,
smooth sailing…

Hummm….

Again, a sigh…before heading inside…

Signs of the time…

As I am reminded, while looking at the sky…
in the midst of all the madness and heaviness,
That the Master of the sky…
and of the clouds,
and of the stars,
and of the land
and of the sea…
remains….

forever…

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For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise can mean that a high pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.

(courtesy the Library of Congress, Fun Science Facts)

burdens and berries

“Just as Christian came up to the Cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders,
fell from off his back, and began to tumble down the hill,
and so it continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre.
There it fell in, and I saw it no more!”

John Bunyan

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(ripe blueberries / Julie Cook / 2016)

There’s something otherworldly about losing oneself in the task of picking blueberries.
I suspect it may be found elsewhere…
probably while picking other such things…
or for some, found while engaging in those other, mostly mindless, rhythmic sorts of activities like ironing, digging, mowing grass…
however….
for me, it is found in reaching and bending under burgeoning spindly branches, dangerously drooping, under their heavy load…
as I labor to lighten their said load.

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I stood out in the sweltering afternoon heat today, thankful for the ever slight periodic breeze as I labored breathing under the oppressive humid blanket of stagnant air.
Words uttered earlier during this seemingly endless day, in what now seems to be a surreal glitch in time, came racing back to the forefront of thought as I strained to reach for the most ripened berries.

‘May we not allow our mere mortal thoughts and words to diminish the sheer magnitude of Heaven’
I ruminated over that sentence as it was uttered….
just as I do now, much later, while rummaging through the heavy ladened branches.

‘…And as we are in shock over the suddenness of this premature loss, God was and is fully aware, ready and very much waiting as nothing is sudden nor premature to Him.’
Again, another nugget of thought pushes its way to the surface of consciousness.

Such burdensome thoughts churned through my brain as I worked my way up and under a particularly heavy bush.

Filling my bowl with the black and blue jewel like orbs, my thoughts were full of the mysteries of both life and death and of the fact that there is both a burden to living as well as a burden in its guaranteed passage precipitated by death.

All of which plays out on a tiny stage within the seasons of these very bushes I now pick.
For there is a time of expectation and longing coupled with fruitfulness and waning…

Not only are we mere mortals weighted down by the burdens of life’s ebbs and flows…
those found within our immediate realm and arm’s reach…
but we must also bear up under the burdens found in the wider and greater world around us.

This as the thoughts of mass shootings,
the far reaching ramifications of tomorrow’s voting in Great Britain…
and of our own impending fall elections…
all of which now weighs heavily on each of us,
whether we care to admit it or not…

As believers we know all about this life and death paradox…yet such knowledge never makes any of it easier nor less difficult to bear.
As that is the pivotal key part of it all—
as in…
we bear it.
We bear our own burdens found in the living of life…the ups and downs, the highs and lows…
Just as we do, subsequently so, in the bearing of the reality of death.

Death is something that is impartial to both the religious and the non religious schools of thought.
It discriminates not.
Besides birth, it is the only other certainty for each living being.
It comes.
Ready or not, it comes.

Whereas there may be the exception in the expediting of death, there is, on the other hand, absolutely no avoidance…as it will come like it or not.

And whereas some deaths are seen as melancholy, while weighted by a bittersweet relief for those who have suffered…
it is, in turn, a burden to be bourn by those who remain behind—those left to carry on in life’s burden of picking up pieces and moving forward…
Albeit now with an unquenching loneliness coupled with a gaping wound within the heart.

Carrying on and moving forward is much more burdensome, much more of a hinderance and much more difficult than that of death itself.

The living are left with the burden, the heaviness, the weight, the strain, the aching and an endless sea of tears…

And today, amongst the blueberries, I am struck by the irony of this all as I realize in which lies the rub of life…that being the burden of carrying death.

Yet we are told and told again that “in a little while, we shall hurt, suffer and cry…no more…”
Death has indeed been beaten and overcome—and it is through the cross that that overcoming and victory is to be found.

Yet in our earthly bound and gravity ladened thoughts and limitations, weighted by the heaviness of our aching and longing hearts, we simply must carry on while shouldering those burdens…
the burden found in both living and the burden found in death…
that of our own and that of those we love…

All of this burden and weightiness as we are reminded that there are no surprises to the God Omnipotent…
For there is no burden, no sorrow, no pain too big, too great nor too much…
for it is in Him, and Him alone, that our burdens of both living and dying are truly lifted …

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Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything.
John 16:20-23