free and self-determined…such is God

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


(hawthorn berries / Julie Cook / 2017)

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would
least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly,
the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

seeing or simply seeing through….

Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?
Do not ignore him when he is naked.
Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk,
only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad.
He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said:
“You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and
“Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”…
What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden
chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying
his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well

St John Chrysostom


(rainy cold day in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Winter arrived today in Georgia…a cold rain with freezing temps
as snow is predicted for later in the week…
But we don’t like to use that ‘S’ word here in Georgia as it tends to
send everyone into an apocalyptic tizzy.

I was out running errands in this cold rain, hitting the grocery store,
picking up odds and ends while playing the role of pre-Santa—
as in I was doing those things and gathering those things we usually do and gather
this particular time of year.

Once I was finally home, I felt pretty good about what I had accomplished
and actually started some more rounds of baking…
yet I had woken this morning with a rather fetid brow along with a
troubled spirit about the news of a friend…

I say friend but really she is just someone whose business I have frequented
for probably the last 25 years…as we’ve seen one another about once a week
or so…

Yet that’s pretty much been the extent of the relationship.
We each know one another’s families, because that’s how it is in a
smaller community. Particularly with those particular businesses that have been
a part of the community for eons.

This friend basically watched my son grow up and whereas I don’t sew,
she actually sewed his cub scout badges on his uniform for me.

I had also known her mother.
A genteel southern lady who worked at this family business until she was almost 90.
She always called me honey or sweetie and I appreciated that.

Over the years, I’d bring in small remembrances at the holidays as
they in turn would offer me and my family the same…
the appreciation of being a customer mixes with that of a true level of friendship.

This friend, as she is older, is not technologically savvy but did try
following my blog once.

That was when I actually learned that her grown son suffered from the same mental
illness that had plagued my brother—a tale which was in a post I had
once written about forgiveness.
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/)

The post had touched her so much that she tried delicately talking to me about it
one day when I had run in to pick up a few things.

She is older and very southern and was thus taught that there are just some
things “a lady” does not talk about in public…
and she adheres strictly to that notion.
So I knew and appreciated the great effort it had taken for her to share her
own story with me.

It was then, following our conversation, that I actually began to see her in
a very different light….
because I now knew she knew about dark heartache and hardships.

And it was then that it actually dawned on me that we only think we know people—especially those in our narrow corners of the world…
we see them, we chat with them, we keep up with them here and there…
but….

So I have to admit that I was a bit convicted with the thought that we
really don’t know our neighbors like we think we do.

For you see we don’t always tell folks things about ourselves.
Things that we are either burdened by, mistakenly ashamed about,
or things we really just want to hide away.

There is often the mindset that if anyone really knows the truth about us…
they will certainly feel differently about us…perhaps non accepting….

She always spoke of her daughter, very proudly—a daughter who doesn’t live in state….but a daughter who shares my same name…
so each time I’d come into the business, this friend would always call me
by a double name—her daughter’s first and middle name—
of which is not my first and middle name….
however, I never corrected her—I just let her call me by her daughter’s name
as I think the “connection” simply made her feel good.

Her health and age have both gotten the best of her…
so about 3 weeks ago, rather unexpectedly, abruptly and unceremoniously, she up
and announced to her brother, the business owner, that she was quitting….
right then and there—
and out the door she went.

Since then her brother and I have spoken rather candidly about his sister,
my friend, as he is keenly aware of how I have sincerely cared about her
well being—
he shared the worries, the concerns, the frustrations in her refusals in having
anything with doctors—doctors she’s needed to see for years…
all of which is coupled by a most stubborn demeanor.

Then last night my husband came home telling me that my friend’s brother
had come into my husband’s business and shared with him news that his sister
had fallen at home and no one had known.
She laid on the floor for about 3 or 4 days before the family checked in on her.

She was rushed to the hospital and had to have a leg removed….
due to a loss of blood flow and may have also suffered a stroke.

I went by the business today with an orchid..as visiting at the hospital is
not an option.

The prognosis, the brother told me, was not good but that the daughter
will be moving her mother out of state in order to be near her and her family,
when and if she can be released.

So the thoughts of the plight of this friend of mine weighed heavy on my heart today
much like the grey cold which added to that sense of heaviness.

Reading the post this evening, by an Orthodox believer, I was struck by the words
that were shared by the 4th century Archbishop, Doctor of the church and later saint,
John Chrysostom over his concern for the poor and the suffering whom he had
witnessed first hand one winter when traveling through a busy city
marketplace in Antioch.

His words and the recalling of seeing those physically suffering, much
maligned and overlooked human beings…
human beings who were looked through as if invisible….
rather than being looked at as living beings,…
stuck me in a most profound sense.

I thought of my friend and of others who we see, but don’t really see.
Not just the obvious individuals who are perhaps homeless and suffering…
but those who we see on a daily basis and are also suffering, only in
a different and more quiet sort of way.

And so I pray that we—meaning you and I— may be more mindful of those
individuals who we pass by either mindlessly or even purposefully–yet do not see.

Each of us has a story…and each of us has a connection…
We are each created by the same Creator…and we are precious
in His sight despite being scorned upon in the sight of others or simply
never seen in the sight of others…

And at the same time we are each called to be compassionate and to serve those who
cannot serve themselves…..

As the words of this most astute saint haunt us to this day:

I have come hither today to undertake a righteous mission among you,
a mission profitable and suitable for you.
By no others than the poor who dwell in this city of yours have I been
appointed the spokesman.
I have been sent not by word of mouth,
nor by vote of the citizens,
nor by a decree of the senate,
but by a most grievous and piteous spectacle.

For as I was hastening to preach before this congregation,
I passed through the market-place and the alleys,
and I saw many lying in the midst of the crossings,
some lacking hands and feet, some without eyes,
some filled with ulcers and running sores and exposing
as much as possible those parts which because of the suppuration
should have been covered.
And I thought I would be most inhuman if I did not appeal to your
charity in their behalf, especially since,
in addition to the reasons I have just given,
I am constrained thereto by the season of the year.
For although it is always fitting to preach about alms
(seeing that we in our dealings with other men are wanting in the
great mercy of our Lord and Creator)
yet at this season especially it is meet so to speak,
when the cold is so urgent.

He did not say, “Now concerning the collections for beggars” or
“for the poor”, but “for the saints”;
instructing his hearers to honor the poor—that is,
of course, if they were devout—and to spurn the rich if they despised virtue.

Come, let us in place of employers hold out compassionate hands to them,
and on this mission let us take as our companion Paul,
the true patron and protector of the poor.
For he more than anyone else concerns himself with this question.
For this reason, when he divided the disciples with Peter,
he did not divide the care of the poor; but when he had said,
“They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship:
that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision,” he added,
“Only that we should be mindful of the poor:
which same thing also I was careful to do.” (Gal. 2:9–10).
In fact, throughout his epistles he preaches about these things,
and you will not find a single letter of his without an admonition of this kind.
For he knew, he knew with certainty of how great moment this question is;
and therefore, as if he were placing an exquisite dome upon a building,
so to his other admonitions and counsels he adds his teaching in regard to charity.

(Delivered at Antioch by St John Chrysostom
After Passing Through The Marketplace In The Wintertime,
And Seeing The Paupers And Beggars Lying There Neglected)

for the full text click the following link:

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/i-have-come-hither-today-to-undertake-a-righteous-mission-among-you/

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

It’s time to think

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

― Albert Einstein


(the sun hides behind the weed stalk / Julie Cook / 2017)

Notice how Einstein said “the world as we have created it…”
He meant man….
He did not say, nor did he intend to say, that it was God who had been doing the creating….not God, but man.

For it is a world very much which man has indeed created…ever since that
fateful day in a now sealed garden…
Very much a pandora’s box sort of world—as all manner of things, both good and bad,
have been unleashed…..

And it is with that notion that several thoughts have been coming to light over
the last week or so…as time has allowed for such thoughts and tidbits, if you will,
to percolate, fester or ferment in this mind of mine….

Firstly the other day, I read a comment by a young gal on the site of a fellow blogger,
who happened to be a young lady of color.
I couldn’t tell but guessed that her feelings about Christians and or Christianity
was a bit ambivalent to actually being somewhat hostile as the tone in which
she wrote / spoke rung of mixed signals, mixed messages and outright
hypocrisy regarding Christians / Christianity and the current witnessing of the
whole Black Friday consumerism mayhem she had been seeing, as it sounded as if
it had seen as a bit up and personal—
All of which, if the truth be told, has sadly become the notable marker
to the this whole holiday season—
never mind that it use to the the lighting of an Advent candle.

Somehow the lighting of a candle verses being the first in line for a door buster
goodie just doesn’t seem to ring of the same sense of importance.

This young woman sees it as if ‘they speak of all things love and acceptance
but act like hungry crazy sharks who’d punch a fellow human being in the face
over the last door buster flat screen TV…

ahh humanity……

She went on about sharing the Thanksgiving holiday with a Middle Eastern friend who
was Muslim, along with the friend’s entire family. And that she found them
(the friend and friend’s family) to be warm, gracious and hospitable which was a
stark contrast to what she presumed to be the Christian hate of all things Muslim….

Would it help any if I defended “us” by saying we’re not suppose to be calling it
Christmas in the first place….but rather ‘winter holiday’… or some other similar generic winter mumbo jumbo…
a time that just so happens to be earmarked as a time of over the top giving????

How are we to help the fact that the savvy marketeers of all things materialistic
have turned Christmas gift giving into some sort of high end art of a feeding frenzy….

And therein lies much of our trouble—
we have allowed this to grow out of control by playing right into the middle
of it all.

And secondly, I don’t recall it being a Christian mantra that “we hate Muslims”…

But either way, this young lady obviously had been given some sort of bad vibes in
order for her to “feel” this level of resentment for Christians and Christianity….
because I don’t think she just pulled all of this out of thin air…

As in what kind of Christians / Christianity has she been witnessing???

The other thing that has been resonating with me as of late is the fact that
there is evil in the world.
I’m talking real serious evil.

I bring this up because evil is something that has always been
at the forefront of my relationship with God as Father and Christ as Savior….
As in I’ve always known that the devil is real and there is a raging spiritual
war all around us…and it was Christ who went to hell to do battle
over our very salvation.

I just think we the faithful often prefer to down play the real ugliness of evil….
except only when it’s convenient or practical—as in ‘that violent act was so evil’…
never mind the guy punching the other guy in the face on Black Friday at the mall
as also being an evil act…it just wasn’t “as” evil as we like to define our evils.

We tend to gloss over it, him, whatever…
I think in part because it’s a topic we don’t much like to think about nor do we
consider it a tasteful topic…preferring to think of Flip Wilson and Geraldine
“the devil made me do it” sort of nonsense…saving the sinister one and his
minions for Halloween.

So in the comfort and safety of our homes how much are we willing to
recognize such as really being real?
We tend to ignore or just push aside that which we don’t like to talk about because
gloom and doom and the Devil are not things we really think we need to talk about or address.

Those of us “Christian” bloggers, as much as we talk about what it is we
talk about…that being of faith and or witness, is all well and good but
I wonder if we are really reaching our target and or are we truly presenting our
case, testimony, witness or whatever it is we’re presenting as well as we should??

Oh we have our “friends” who read our words, offering their supportive “amens”,
and we even have our atheist “friends,” whom we’ve gotten to know over the years,
who we truly do like as we both simply seem to enjoy our daily or weekly tussle and arguments…

But what of our real message and target…the one with words and the one with actions?
The ones this young lady missed, or maybe didn’t miss and those things we’re afraid
to talk about??

Satan is slick.
Just ask Eve as she was engaged in conversation with a smooth talking serpent.

When Rio was about to host the Summer Olympics, I think it was 60 Minutes who had gone
to Rio to do a story about its darker side.

Rio is rife with poverty, crime and drugs.
That is a fact but a far cry from what the Olympic Committee or the Government
wanted anyone to see or realize as images of the Girl from Ipanema was to be the
focus and not what was going on in the slums just up the hill.

The reporter was granted an interview up in those slums with a drug lord.
Jabba the Hut came immediately to mind.
This large slimy looking man was surrounded by geeked out followers just waiting
for the next offered hit—he was more than creepy… he was downright evil.
His vantage point was one of looking directly down on those beautiful Brazilian beaches.

That man, I had no doubt, would put a bullet in your head so fast, if he felt one
inkling of betrayal…it would literally make your head spin before you fell over dead
as he was / is the type of person who does indeed scare me.

Those very cold unfeeling people who have no regard for human life.
Think Mafia and organized crime…think psychopaths like Charles Manson.

I’m currently reading the book A Very Expensive Poison,
The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West

by Luke Harding.

If you don’t think there is real evil out and about—then you are living much too sheltered under your rock or much like my aunt, preferring the covering of sand
over your head. And if you think it is far removed from your safe little
corner of life, again you are sadly mistaken.

There is so much going on that the average human being really has no clue.

And much of it will simply manifest itself in the ugliness of greed, materialism and
entertainment that is so far removed from a Christian’s mindset but is consumed
mindlessly as we rationalize away any thought that it could actually be harmful
or dare we say it, evil.

And I don’t say this as some paranoid Henny Penny the sky is falling chicken running
about with hands to head wailing ‘oh woe is me.’

I think it is time that Christians really need to start thinking about what it is
that makes them, us, you, me…believers.
We need to figure out our faith and how that faith is to manifest itself to a world
rife with evil.
And anyone promising a happy life of pie in the sky is simply delusional and lying—
because being a Christian is so very much more.
It is to truly be at battle….as very real battle indeed.
And it is not a pretty battle.

Yet maybe the route you’ve taken is because you were raised as such and
that’s just how it is? A quiet simple go the Church on Sunday sort
of deal with that being that.
Maybe it is because you go to church on Sunday, maybe even on Wednesday night, and that makes it all good—as in you’re checked off for the week?

Maybe it’s because you are the typical and dying breed of WASP and that’s
just the history of how your life has always been…?

Maybe you throw money in the red kettle this time or year, give a little extra something
to those who cut your yard, your hair, carry your groceries, etc…and that’s
your humanitarian effort for the year?

Are you just living your life, doing your thing, while all the bad guys are out there,
over there and far removed as you rationalize you and yours are good to go
as those “others” out there are busy in the world of all things destructive
and evil?

I’m afraid itsjust not so simple.

And until we as Believers can figure that out—that we keep allowing the bad,
the Evil one, to get and keep that upper hand while we politely turn our backs….well
it certainly is more comfortable to be cozy in this kitchen of mine as I chat about such
and as I oddly find myself humming the Girl, or in my case the boy, from Ipanema….
all the while folks are still putting cold compresses on those black Friday beatings…

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Mortal enemy

“You remind us that how you treat somebody defines who we are”
Quote by Col William Percival regarding his meeting with Gunter Grawe
a former German POW who was interred in Washington St at what is now
Joint Base Lewis-McChord— who, some 70 odd years later, returned at age
91 to visit the camp)


(a spotted orb weaver just outside my closet window—too close / Julie Cook / 2017)

He was mad at his ex mother-n-law and that’s why he did it.
Makes sense right?

No, I didn’t think so either….

But more on that in a bit….first the spider…

Those of you who know me know that I am quite terrified of spiders.
And much to the chagrin of my husband and daughter-n-law, my son seems to
have inherited this fanatical fear.
Some call it a phobia, I call it a state of paralyzing terror ….

Dealing with any kind of snake, any sort of reptile…is a piece of cake…..
but let an arachnid show up— and it’s all over but the screaming!

So when I opened the shutters the other morning in my closet, I was greeted
with the sight of this orb weaver having set up camp right outside my window.
It was all I could do to take the picture without perishing.

Yet don’t they say facing one’s fear is how to best beat it??

Well personally I think stomping, swatting, smashing or simply running away
screaming works just as well.

So you would think that I consider the spider to be my mortal enemy right?

Well, yes and no.

Now whereas a spider can indeed kill a person, chances are that is not going
happen, not unless you live in say Australia where their spiders are truly lethal.

But here in Georgia we have just a couple of “deadly” spiders.
We have the Black widow, the brown widow and the brown recluse—
with each one causing terrible reactions when one is bitten…
and if bitten just in the right spot, a bite could actually lead to death—-
Yet those odds are not as great as just suffering form severe tissue loss
at the site of the wound.

And whereas I do “fear” spiders, they are not my true mortal enemy.

My true mortal enemy however does walk this earth.
He is very much, and for the loss of a better association of words,
alive and well.

I’m talking about that which comprises all evil…

Satan, a dark and sinister ironic bearer of light.

On Sunday our Nation witnessed another unimaginable horror.
The senseless and tragic mass shooting of a church congregation.

Just like most everyone else, a peaceful fall November Sunday was suddenly
punctuated by Breaking News…with word coming out of a tiny town in Texas that
a gunman had gone into an equally tiny Baptist Church shooting, killing and
wounding almost the entire congregation present during that morning’s service.

I sat glued to the television as I kept checking my phone and computer for the latest
updates. Like Newtown’s Sandy Hook…it seemed as if madness had once again,
crossed that imaginary uncrossable line.

Not that each time we have a mass tragedy it isn’t madness…it’s just that we,
as humans, seem to believe that some things are off limits when it comes to
that which is horrible….
yet sadly we are learning that nothing, absolutely nothing, remains “off limits” to
that which is Evil.

I was perplexed, as I was reading the updates, as they were laced with the personal observations of those who immediately began calling for the banning of guns or that
this had somehow been Trump’s fault…
on and on went the litany of blame.

Because that’s how we now seem to be as a people—it’s how we seem to deal with
things—
We don’t even wait for full details.
We don’t allow for shock which gives way to grief and sorrow…
Rather we immediately seek a reason, a rationale, an answer—
because, by God, there has to be an answer…otherwise we have no option but to
acknowledge that there are just some things totally beyond us and beyond our control…
and we just can’t handle that idea…

I posted a comment the other day on a fellow blogger’s site with much the same
sentiment—as person after person kept asking how and why…
I knew how and I knew why.

People were pointing accusatory fingers…”this is the fault of the NRA,
“it’s the fault of the Republicans”,
“this is the fault of those who support the President”
“this is the fault of white America”….on and on went the ugly banter….

Was it President Clinton’s fault for Columbine?
Was it President Obama’s fault for Sandy Hook?
No.
Just like this is not the fault of President Trump.

A man who claimed he had issues with his former in-law’s.
A man who had actually filed legally for the application to possess
a gun license despite having a criminal past.
A man who had been courtmartialed.
A man who had been held in Military detainment for a year.
A man who had beaten his wife and fractured his stepson’s skull.
A man who had assaulted his own dog…
A man who had been dishonorably discharged from the AirForce….
…this man walks into his former in-law’s church and destroyed as much life
as he possibly could….as the in-laws weren’t even present.

There are no reasons…
because anything remotely attempting to be a reason
would merely be an excuse—because simply put, there are no reasons for this.

It would not have mattered if all the guns were gone.

I heard last night some stats to the effect that if all the guns were banned right
this very moment, there would still be 5 million out there.
So then you’d have those folks going door to door collecting—

You can collect all the guns you want but when you have Evil intent on evil,
it matters not if there are guns, or trucks, or bombs, or hatchets, or
planes or poison—
Evil will destroy everything in its wake when it so desires…
that is what Evil does.

And so we now consider the opening quote I chose to use this morning…

I follow a terrific blog—Pacific Paratrooper—a great blog about the history
of WWII with the specifics being confined to the fighting on the Pacific front.
The history lessons are excellent as well as the stories of those brave men
and women who fought and served, yet are leaving us daily due to time and age…

Yesterday’s story was about a former German POW who was interred actually here in the States for three years until the War’s end.
It seems that 4000 or so German prisoners of war were actually held here in the
states…
Their experience here being a far cry from those prisoners who were held in the
Death Camps of Nazi Germany and even later, those held in the Gulags of the USSR.

Herr Grawe, at 91, wanted to come back to visit the US camp,
wanting to see one last time, the place that he has long admitted actually
saved him.

He declared his capture by the Americans at the age of 18 was “his luckiest day,”
“No guard called us nasty names. I had a better life as a prisoner than
my mother and sister back home in Germany.”

On the flip side we have seen those former surviving prisoners who have returned,
albeit reluctantly or be it defiantly, to view the German death camps…
camps they survived but places in which left them permanently damaged.

A contrast of human survival…survival at the hands of fellow human beings.

Col. Percival reminds us that we are defined by how we treat others.

So in the upcoming days, weeks and months we as a Nation will be judged by a world
who looks intently at how we will react to our latest sorrow.

But in all of this, it would behoove each of us to remember who the real enemy is….
and that is Satan…..
the master of all lies and deception, the creator of all hate and division.
Our mortal enemy…..

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.
On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/wwii-german-pow-returns-to-say-thanks-intermission-story-27/

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

who’s listening?

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis

The Son of God suffered unto the death,
not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.

George MacDonald


(Percy surveys the rain / Julie Cook / 2017)

iF God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy,
and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.
But the creatures are not happy.
Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”
this is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

C.S Lewis’ opening sentence from the book The Problem Of Pain

When I initially read the quote about God shouting to us in our pain…
The sheer notion that God is indeed shouting when we are at our lowest,
most often at our most vulnerable and even most desperate…
I found it to be, well, oddly comforting.

For Mr Lewis reminds us that while God knows we are having trouble listening…
trouble hearing Him speak to us, wooing us, comforting us….
He has no problem in shouting at us, to us, in order to get our attention.
For He is steadfast that way….

For man, in his inestimable knowledge, has concluded that if humans are in pain,
hurting, tortured, agonizing and grossly unhappy…
man falsely concludes that any being that boasts to be an
Omnipotent God who can do all things…why would this God of supposed Love, Compassion and Grace
sadistically allow all the anguish and pain to not only continue, but
to exist in the first place?

The conclusion…there is no God…
or if there is…He is cold, calculating and menacing….

And that is very much like us is it not?

We find something to our disliking, our displeasure, and we expunge it from our world
or we label it as an enemy to our living…
For we believe we are a people of absolutes…but the truth of the matter is, we are not.
For we do not tolerate absolutes…we rebel against the notion of the definitive.

And in this world of absolute verse definitive,
we have hardened our hearts and chosen the side of the secular…
In part because we cannot tolerate the fact that we live in
a world full of pain and in that pain we actually find our need and helplessness…
And it is in that helplessness that we seem unable to allow our ego and pride to go…

For in our defiance against the Absolute Creator,
our hearts have grown cold as our eyes are now blind and our ears now deaf.
We are weak and vulnerable, yet we defiantly, as little children,
stomp our feet while displaying our anger and resentment within our proclaimed disbelief.

All the while our God shouts as we stand with our fingers jammed in our ears.

For God continues to speak louder and louder…
Patiently, steadily calling us one by one,
name by name… to His open arms, to His side…
because the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow,
no more anger, no more grief, no more pain…

And soon a senseless world begins to make sense to the believer…
Because the believer knows that he has never been a part of
this limited pain filled world….

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my folly.

Psalm 38:3-5

it’s baaaaaaaackkkkkk….

“Yea, I shall return with the tide.”
Kahlil Gibran

dscn4408
(a flock of gulls, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

Today I thought we’d take a break, venturing far from the tales of woes of my
on-going trials and tribulations…
preferring rather to take a gander at the behavior of seagulls and the similarity they seem
to have with repetitions in history….

Have you ever walked along the shore and approached a
flock of gulls milling about the sands?
They congregate en masse, especially near where any humans congregate…
all in hopes of snagging forgotten scrapes of food…

If you don’t believe me…offer said mass a piece of bread and suddenly…
you’re Tippi Hedren in a scene right out Hitchcock’s The Birds….

Anywhoo, back to our train of thought….

While out casually strolling the beach, all one must do is to
venture too closely to a group of gulls and the birds immediately scatter…
either scurrying out of a perceived harm’s way or quickly taking to flight.

dscn4406

Once you, the perceived danger passes, they return right back to
said spot of just hanging out and waiting…
It’s what gulls do…

This gull image came to mind yesterday when I came across the following news story
regarding Vladimir Putin’s desire to “resurrect” the KGB…The former Soviet Union’s
dreaded and oh so mysterious Secret Police…

An odd correlation perhaps…
but actually really rather appropriate.

We must remember that Putin is a former KGB man who rose through the ranks to where he is today…
One of the most powerful men on the planet.
Whereas you younger ones may think that lofty position belongs only to any US president,
perhaps it’s time for a small history lesson…

Old school USSR days were nothing like this new Mother Russia business
of a happy Federation today…
It was the old school dark days of a Cold War…
as the cloyingly murderous scent of Joseph Stalin still lingered heavy in the air.

It was the days of suspicion, mysterious deaths, poisonings, spies, counter spies, double spies,
mysterious disappearances, iron fists, gulags, suppression, oppression, lies,
total power control… and lots and lots of secrets…

So just when you thought it was safe to be Russia’s friend again….
Here comes the following story…

http://abcnews.go.com/International/russian-president-vladimir-putin-reportedly-planning-reforms-effectively/story?id=42190514

It’s as if the world went out one day walking, much as we do at the beach…
but for our story here, the world was out walking and demandeding an end to Soviet Communism…

Those die hard Soviets, feeling the surmounting world pressures, quickly scattered.
However the die hard and dyed in the wool Soviets, never disappeared…
much as the world had thought and hoped.
They merely flew away and waited…waiting until the perceived threat passed…

They simply waited until the world passed by and forgot…

Because that’s what happens with us human beings…
we tend to adhere to that whole ‘out of sight out of mind’ school of thought…

So just when you thought Putin’s Russia was now more like us, you might want to think again…

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:16-19