discernment, obedience and wandering…

“A man must go through a long and great conflict in himself before
he can learn fully to overcome himself,
and to draw his whole affection towards God.
When a man stands upon himself he is easily drawn aside
after human comforts.
But a true lover of Christ, and a diligent pursuer of virtue,
does not hunt after comforts, nor seek such sensible sweetnesses,
but is rather willing to bear strong trials and hard labors for Christ.”

Thomas a’ Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ


(a lone willet wanders in the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook /2021)

Long ago and far away in a lifetime other than this current one, I was
a young, rather naive
no, make that a stubborn and hard headed 20 something.

20 something seems to be the age in which we tend to make
some of our more major decisions…be that college majors,
career paths, relationship choices, moving, staying, coming
or going…the ground work of life seems to really get serious
when we are in our early 20’s.

I have always been one who has tried desperately to listen to that
still small voice found within.

It’s just that the majority of my life, that voice has been more or less,
inaudible.
As in I really need, want, prefer to be hit in the head as I can’t ever
hear that resounding yes or no.

It just seems that I have had to guess throughout so much of my life,
feeling my way blindly in the dark.

For me, I have always believed that that still small voice is
not my own. It is to be the voice of God…
or simply put, the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

This is where the notion of discernment enters into the picture.
We listen, hear and prayerfully discern…God’s will for our lives

So what exactly is discernment you ask?
Well Merriam Webster tells us that discernment is the quality of being able
to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

Grasping and comprehending the obscure.

I think one’s future can certainly be the stuff of the obscure.

And since I’m recalling a past tale concerning an obscure future…
let me continue with said tale.
.
So yes…many lifetimes ago as a young 20 something,
I made a major life decision…hoping I had discerned correctly God’s
desired choice for my life.

The problem, however, was that I had never heard God’s audible yay or nay.
I was rather going on some sort of rote autopilot…following that
which I thought I was supposed to do.

And so, once I had made such a decision, I was set.
There was no turning back.

Obedience or stubbornness—that is yet to be seen.
But when I commit, I tend to do so with both feet.
It’s all in or nothing.
No waffling here.
It’s for better or worse.
Wise or stupid.

And so it was, at this point of my life, I can remember that my godmother
had gotten wind of this particular major decision of mine.

My godmother was a very Godly woman.
Wise yet doggedly determined…as in, her feet were firmly planted
and there was no straying…because she had prayed, heard, discerned
and was now firmly set.

She just always seemed to have a direct line to God and was always lead
by that very resounding direct line.

So when I went to tell my godmother of this particular decision of mine
on this particular day in time, a debate most severe ensued.

She did not think my decision was made with prayerful discernment
but was more of a youthful whim.

A 3 hour roller coaster of back and forth filled the afternoon.

Eventually, I left mad and more determined than when I had arrived
and she, I know, was frustrated and equally defiant.

She had time on her side…a lifetime of experience.
I had only but the gut feeling of a young person still
finding her way.

So where is all of this going you ask.

Well, the other day, our dear friend Oneta, over on Sweet Aroma
(https://onetahayes.com), made mention of this same sort of notion.

She wrote of decision making.
Decisions made inside and outside of God’s will.

Oneta spoke of discernment vs having to wander in a desert.
Meaning that if decisions are made outside of God’s will,
there will be consequences…as in wandering in deserts.
Meaning that God will allow us to wander…
allowing us to go nowhere no time fast.

That is until…

So back to my little story.

At this particular time in my life, I had a good friend who
was about 12 years older than me.
She had watched me grow over the years, often lending a guiding hand or
word.
She too got wind of my decision…plus she got wind of the rift
between godmother and goddaughter.

Unbeknownst to me this wise friend of mine went to my
equally wise godmother.

She told my godmother, as she later told me, that whether or not
my decision was, at the time, within God’s will or not…was not
my friend’s worry because what she knew was that regardless,
God would eventually, in His perfect time,
work that decision of mine to be within His perfect will.

My wise godmother yielded to the wisdom of another…
adding more wisdom to the arsenal.

Now how all that works is beyond my mere mortal’s brain, but I am grateful
that is does work.

The lesson here…
an oft decision can indeed become God’s will because of God’s will.

Not to say there won’t be struggles, frustration, or suffering.
God, however, works all things to His good…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

but wait…you want to know if I wandered or not right??

Well, I’m not certain.
If I’m like the Israelites, I might have two more years to figure that out.

But just know, there has been a lot of other wanderings I
been walking…

extend love and forgiveness

God wants us to receive His mercy and, in turn,
be merciful to others through our actions, words, and prayers.
He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He extends
love and forgiveness to us.

Fr. Chris Alar, MIC
from his book Understanding Divine Mercy


(hidden creatures amongst the rosemary /Julie Cook / 2021)

Free me from evil passions and heal my heart of all disorderly affections,
that being healed and well purified in my interior,
I may become fit to love, courageous to suffer and constant to persevere.
Love is an excellent thing, a great good indeed,
which alone maketh light all that is burdened and makes all that which is bitter sweet and savory.
The love of Jesus is noble and generous;
it spurs us on to do great things and excites us to desire always that which is most perfect.”

Thomas á Kempis, p. 89
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

Love is a strong force

“I see clearly with the interior eye, that the sweet God loves with a pure love
the creature that He has created, and has a hatred for nothing but sin,
which is more opposed to Him than can be thought or imagined.”

St. Catherine of Genoa


(Da with a tired Mayor and Sheriff / Julie Cook / 20201)

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way;
it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance
what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet.
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger,
nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth; f
or love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things,
from Whom all other good flows and proceeds.
They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 108
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

love, family, holiness

“O Holy Family—the Family so closely united to the mystery which
we contemplate on the day of the Lord’s Birth—guide with your example
the families of the whole earth!”

Pope St. John Paul II


(Bartolome Esteban Murillo / circa 1660 / Hermitage Museum)

Joseph, the man tapped by God to be the earthly father of Jesus,
is more or less an enigma…just as he remains an enigma in
ecclesiastical history.

As a preteen, after Jesus was lost from the family’s caravan having hung back in Jerusalem to
visit the Temple following the family’s pilgrimage for the festival of the Passover,
we simply don’t hear /read much more regarding Joseph or of his presence in the boy Jesus’s life.

By the next time we hear about Jesus, he is a grown man who has a predestined meeting
with John the Baptist for baptism.
It is simply assumed that Joseph must have died, leaving Mary a widow.
And oddly, throughout the ages, artists have more or less depicted Joseph as an older man…
as we know that Mary was a young woman when she was engaged to Joseph.

Perhaps that has been the rationale…Joseph was older and therefore passed
away when Jesus was just an adolescent.
But I wonder…was he really that much older than Mary?

There seems to be more questions about the man Joseph than there are answers.
And perhaps that is all part of the Holy mystery that embraces our lives.

But the one thing I know…
the most important thing that we do know, is that Joseph had to be
quite the man to be chosen by God the Creator to be the earthly father to God’s only son.

The example of a man as to what a father is meant to be…
the type of man that our sons and daughters so desperately yearn for in their lives.

Our children, now more than ever, need their fathers.
Joseph reminds us of this.

“Love is an excellent thing, a great good indeed, which alone maketh light
all that is burdensome and equally bears all that is unequal.
For it carries a burden without being burdened and makes all that which
is bitter…sweet and savory.
The love of Jesus is noble and generous; it spurs us on to do great things
and excites us to desire always that which is most perfect.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 87
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

By the Grace of God

For the sake of the world, for our own sakes, and for the sake of God,
we desperately need, as individuals and as a Church,
not to behave as if what we have in the way of spiritual or material goods is due
to our own merit or a result of our own will or strength.
Rather, it is the pure grace of God

Ralph Martin
from Fulfillment of All Desire


(a bumble bee buzzing the new blossoms of the blueberry blooms / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal man?
Today he is, and tomorrow he appears no more. Fear God, and thou shalt have no need of
being afraid of man. What can anyone do against thee by his words or injuries?
He rather hurts himself than thee, nor can he escape the judgment of God whoever he be.
See thou have God before thine eyes and do not contend with complaining words.
And if at present thou seem to be overcome,
and to suffer a confusion which thou has not deserved,
do not repine at this and do not lessen thy crown by impatience.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.148
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

peace stands firm

” While the world changes,
the cross stands firm.”

St. Bruno


(peony / Julie Cook / 2018)

“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make peace between other people.
Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.
Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and readily believe the worst.
But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good and are suspicious of no one…
It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people,
for they are always well liked.
And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those who agree with us.
But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live at peace with the perverse,
or the aggressive and those who contradict us, for this needs a great grace…
in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing of suffering and contradictions,
not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace,
for such persons are masters of themselves, lords of the world,
with Christ for their friend, and heaven as their reward.

Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73
An Except From
Imitation of Christ

Above all else, there will always be God

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Psalm 8:4

“Therefore, my brother, scorned as you are by men,
lashed as it were by God, do not despair.
Do not be depressed.
Do not let your weakness make you impatient.
Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face.
Let the joy of your mind burst forth.
Let words of thanks break from your lips.”

St. Peter Damian


(grapefruit tree, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal man?
Today he is, and tomorrow he appears no more.
Fear God, and thou shalt have no need of being afraid of man.
What can anyone do against thee by his words or injuries?
He rather hurts himself than thee, nor can he escape the judgment of God whoever he be.
See thou have God before thine eyes and do not contend with complaining words.
And if at present thou seem to be overcome, and to suffer a confusion which thou has not deserved,
do not repine at this and do not lessen thy crown by impatience.”

Thomas á Kempis
Imitation of Christ p 148