Adequate grasp

The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain
is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us.
In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell
in him and shine through him.
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility.
The holiest will be the humblest.

Andrew Murray


(the sea is His and He made it / psalm 95:5…Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

“lacking an adequate grasp on the holiness of God…”

As I was reading a fellow bloggers post yesterday morning, this particular line jumped out at me.
It was a profound notion……

adequate,
grasp,
holiness,
God…

Four seemingly simple words…yet when combined…massively powerful…

Chances are that if you’ve bought into the sweeping wash of secularism that is
currently blanketing most of the landscape….
then you do not have an adequate grasp on the holiness of God…
because chances are…
you don’t give much credence to the concept of either holiness or God.

We’ll assume that you certainly know and understand words like ‘adequate’…
and we’ll even wager that you probably don’t much like a word like adequate
because you actually prefer things like big, grand, plentiful, extra, great,
more, bar none, superior….
you don’t like just plain adequate.

You also, hopefully know the word grasp…as in…you get it, you understand it,
you comprehend it…
Yet because you’re a secularist and because secularists don’t like to do
the ‘grasping’ of anything too far and beyond…
preferring rather such notions of a mass acceptance of what is simply sitting right
in front of one’s face, words like grasp don’t go far in your limited view.

And as for matters of holiness and God…well…
those concepts are most likely not much on your radar either…
Because that’s how secularism is…
it separates…
it separates God from everything else…as in…
He’s over there and we and all our stuff are over here…
as in separate, as in secular…..

For secularism has no need of the notion of holiness nor of God because those things
speak of things and beings and places that are ‘other than’…
as in something or someone who is elsewhere and beyond….as in Greater than…

Secularism likes things that are here, now and readily available and easily grasped…
as in less than actually…simple and easy…
Not being bothered with that which is greater than….
because cutting out the greater than makes things easier to handle…

Yet you should know that you can’t cut God out of anything because
He is in and of everything…
As that my friend is more than of an adequate grasp of the holiness of God…

The knowledge that He is of and in absolutely everything…
as in there can be no separation…
no secularization where God is concerned…
because He and His being permeates absolutely everything and therefore
it is impossible to cut Him out of that which He belongs….

and thus…we now have an adequate grasp on the holiness of God……

For thus says the high and lofty One
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 57:15

high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
President.
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your
address.

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

RESPECT

Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
You’re runnin’ out of foolin’ (just a little bit)
And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)
(re, re, re, re) ‘spect

RESPECT Lyrics, Aretha Franklin

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”
Leo Tolstoy

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(a sheep enjoying the sun, Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Respect.
It seems as if it was Aretha Franklin, the grand dame of RB music, who almost single handedly made the word respect famous as she belted out her famous 1967 chart topping hit…leaving the indelible mark of not only how to spell the word, but how to shout it out with great soulful authority…
“All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…”

To give and to get respect seems to be an age old issue of man’s…
Throughout our history on this planet, we’ve painstakingly and even joyously divided ourselves into the the hierarchy of social casts and levels. We’ve attempted to afford but only a few the esteemed pleasure of immeasurable respect, leaving countless others left out and run over in its wake….
Creating the haves and the have nots…and somehow mistakenly bestowing the have nots with little to no level of respect.

Both the late Pope John Paul II and the Blessed Mother Teresa each worked tirelessly to bring the concept of respect as well as the respect for life for each and every individual to the forefront of their earthly ministries as each one aptly noted that we currently live in a “culture of death”…

“Today this proclamation is especially pressing because of the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenceless. In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale.”

“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all things that they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24).
Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae

Nakedness is not only for a piece of clothing; nakedness is lack of human dignity, and also that beautiful virtue of purity, and lack of that respect for each other.
Mother Teresa

We have placed prestige and wealth, occupations and education, materialism and gain on the side of the respected.
Allowing intellect, knowledge, popularity and talents to stand as the signal markers,
marking the where and the with whom the markers of respect should be placed.

And yet all we have to do these days is listen to any sort of altercation and one will immediately hear the defensive cry of “I had to hit him, shoot him, kill him, beat him, curse him….because he disrespected me”

“because he disrespected me”…..

This coming from a society that uses the F word as casually as they use the word “hello”
This coming from a society that tolerates music boasting the using of women as mere objects of sexual satisfaction then discarding them as a waded up piece of trash.
This coming from a society that will casually take a life in an act of rage over the disagreement as to who got to a parking space first.
This coming from a society that is rife with hate groups, mistrust and a glaring and abject wealth of, dare I say it, blatant disrespect…

Disrespect for authority, for life, for color, for worship, for age, for having, for not having…
A society and culture that screams tolerance, yet is anything but and is full to the brim with a selfish disrespect.

It has become almost laughable that our society bends over backwards to be so uttlerly neutered on the issue of political correctness yet won’t tolerate, let alone respect, a single individual who dares to hold a counter opinion.

And yet this all runs counter to God’s command and His exhortation of how we are to live.
We have even disrespected the Omnipotent God of all creation
We’ve removed His sovereignty, His place above us..
We’ve removed the capital G replacing it with a small little g, tossing Him into a box along with all our other little demigods.

We’ve lost our respect for one another, for ourselves and for our Creator—
lowering our place on this earth to perhaps that which is lower than most animals.

And yet we continue to tolerate the disrespect….all because we don’t want to “call anyone out” preferring to appear overtly full of respect by saying and doing absolutely nothing…because we’ve basically neutered ourselves.

How odd then is it that God, the Creator of all that was, all that is and all that will be would come to us in the form of something so small, helpless and unassuming as a mere baby and even as one who is depicted as a defenseless and hapless lamb…
The Greater taking the form of the lesser…
the very least of the less…

A baby and a lamb…each being something we more or less disregard, something that isn’t afforded much thought, much respect…things not looked at twice as far as power, might and bravado are concerned yet still He, the Great I AM, comes to us in these less than states…
Maybe, just maybe there’s a lesson or two buried in there someplace about respecting and looking toward and finding the greater in the lesser turning our whole thought process about respecting and admiring upside down….

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord of hosts to you…
Malachi 1:6

to infer

Since reasoning, or inference, the principal subject of logic, is an operation which usually takes place by means of words, and in complicated cases can take place in no other way: those who have not a thorough insight into both the signification and purpose of words, will be under chances, amounting almost to certainty, of reasoning or inferring incorrectly.
John Stuart Mill

The idea of a God we infer from our experimental dependence on something superior to ourselves in wisdom, power and goodness, which we call God; our senses discover to us the works of God which we call nature, and which is a manifest demonstration of his invisible essence. Thus it is from the works of nature that we deduce the knowledge of a God, and not because we have, or can have any immediate knowledge of, or revelation from him.
Ethan Allen

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Limitation collides with the Limitless
Try as it must, it cannot describe that which is beyond description.
The human mind labors to find the words…
even just one word…
but it fails.

An Entity that is without time, without form, without definition, without words…
Efforts are made to contain, to explain and to chain…
To detect, to dissect as well as inspect
Yet to do so has proven impossible.

Is IT greater than?

Of course IT is…
Without exception…

Yet…

The ego must see, must touch, must measure….
in order to claim, to believe and to state that something is indeed real.

The masses are left to merely inject, project, and to infer…
their own words…
their own thoughts…
their own meanings…
as well as
their own feelings…

Making IT forever less than…
less than IT should ever be…

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
1 Chronicles 29:11

lowly

“Only in God is found safety
When my enemy pursues me
Only in God is found glory
When I am found meek and found lowly. . .”

Lyrics Only in God by John Michael Talbot
based on Psalm 62

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(tiny toadstools / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2015 )

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(tiny toadstools / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2015 )

How often do we as Christians, who are in this world yet not of the world, find ourselves in need of a source of strength, of a place of refuge or even a sanctuary of solace?
Most likely we have a church body, or a bible study, or a group of committed friends who are often our spiritual mainstay—the meat and potatoes of one’s faith.
Yet, for some of us, that is not the case and we may find that we are more alone than not, cast adrift as it were, floundering on the seas of the tempest of temptation and struggle.

No matter where we may find ourselves along our Christian journey, chances are we will find that there are those moments and times when we need, when we desperately long, to retreat inwards.
We yearn and need to seek a time of quiet—-a time for reflection, a time of prayer and a time of meditation.

For me it has been those stolen interludes, here and there over the years, of solitude when I could lose myself within the music of John Michael Talbot. Ever since I was a senior in high school, I have been drawn to the songs–to the lyrics of this rather unassuming musician.
A man whose soothing voice, as he is accompanied usually by only his guitar, would / could worshipfully sing the psalms.

There has always been a pinpoint accuracy to his simple songs of worship, adoration, imploring and lamentation. . .
Reverence, honor, genuineness and honesty.
Singing the psalms, as I imagine them to have been sung by a lone cloistered monk or nun in his or her cell, alone, lost in deep thought before both Savior and God.

I have written a previous post about John Michael Talbot and his music, as well as the impact it has had on my own spiritual journey.
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/o-divine-master/

John Michael Talbot, who is more monk than anything else, is a Third Order Franciscan who lives, along with his wife, in a Catholic Community– The Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, Arkansas.

http://littleportion.org

An odd place to find a cloistered community of both lay and religious folk alike who live in a place named for St Francis’s original cloistered community in Assisi, Italy—yet it is a comfort knowing that there are such places that exist in this ever maddening world of ours.

Psalm 62 has always been one of my favorite psalms as it speaks so rawly to my own inner struggles with the unseen God of my Salvation.
It is truly in Him where I find my rest.
It is to Him I run when the world has had its way with me–leaving me battered and bruised.
A stronghold and anchor in which I may tether myself as I wait out the storms of life.
He is always greater, while I am reminded that I am indeed, forever smaller.

Yet even in all of His greatness, He not only sees and notices, but He actually knows. . .me.
And it is during such times that I am often reminded, rightfully so, that I am indeed less than.
That I can separate myself from the world—a world that so often puffs up its inhabitants steeping them in arrogance and self-centeredness.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for those who feel their worldly importance to ever humble
themselves to the Creator of all of Creation.

John Michael Talbot’s simple yet powerful rendition of Psalm 62 has always helped to recenter me—as it has always had a way of bringing me back to the beautifully complicated relationship I have with the Creator of all of Creation. . .

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 62

You are one of a kind, which makes you a stand out

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
― Dr. Seuss

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(lovely Black Skimmer on the beach, Henderson State Park, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

We are each formed and made as a unique and individual creation.
We are not produced as multiple items, as poured from a single mold, nor cut out cookie cutter style with each one made just like the one before it–nor are we laid out assembly line style, piece by piece like the piece before that.

We are each a unique creation.
Even twins, triplets and those of multiple births may share many of the same characteristics, DNA and molecules yet each is a unique individual as each has a unique personality.

Therefore we are each unique and in turn special.
One of a kind.
Priceless.

Hear that what I say. . .we are each one of a kind and therefore priceless.

Not worthless.
Not less than.
Not useless.
Not to be thrown away.
Not to be written off as a nobody.
One of a kind.
A stand out.
Necessary.
Valuable.
Precious.

The Creator of the Universe has proclaimed that:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you. . .”

Jeremiah 1:5

You–so wonderfully and skillfully known, formed and made.
You who are precious to a loving and masterful Creator.

Feel free to stand boldly tall–to stand out
for you, dear child, are one of a kind.

Priceless.

Beauty and the beholders

“…as neere is Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose, as the stalke to the rynde, as the earth to the roote.”
John Lyly (English dramatist 1588)

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Translating Mr. Lyly’s quote from above into a more understandable english, simply put, …”beauty is in the eye of the beholder” …

Did you ever watch the seasonal cartoon classic A Charlie Brown Christmas? It first aired in 1965. I was all of six years old. I would look forward to that special night all year, with the timing being shortly after Thanksgiving. I don’t know who was more excited about watching it, me or my dad. Dad is a big kid at heart and he loves cartoons.

Every year, on that special night, we’d race through dinner, having long finished any homework, bathes quickly taken, pajamas donned, all before propping up on the floor of the den with pillows in tow. Dad was right there with us, just as excited. It was the same way when The Grinch Who Stole Christmas aired. These are the happy memories from childhood which make me wistful for days gone by as I think about the same ritual which played out years later when my own son was a little boy. Some family traditions are indeed magical.

I love that cartoon to this day for several reasons.

There was the story within the story of Snoopy and the Red Baron..the WWI flying ace which all played to my blooming love of the history. Snoopy had swag before we knew what such was…he was slick and lovable all at the same time…an endearing instigator when it was most appropriate, like the time he planted a big wet kiss on Lucy, who always needed knocking down a notch or two. Was it any wonder why I declared that we would name our pet cat Snoopy?

I love / loved the solemn monolog reading by Linus of the King James translation of Luke 8:10-14…the lights dimmed with one spotlight shining upon Linus, his blanket wrapped around his head giving way to his appearance as one of the shepherds present on that most holy of nights…..“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'”
“…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

His words so respectful, articulated so clearly and confidently. Always seemingly so much older than his young character was ever portrayed to be. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked those Peanuts cartoons as much as I have as the kids all possess an old soul persona—something I too was burdened with growing up.

But it was that tiny measly stick of a tree that Charlie Brown chose to be THE tree for the pagent that is most memorable. Maybe it’s because I too have a soft spot for the runt of the litter, the wallflower, the less than, the forgotten, the one never chosen–the one the others all shun and ignore.

Maybe it was because of Charlie Brown and of his choice of that little tree all those many years ago which prompted me to look beyond the glamour and the glitz of all those show pumpkins when I ventured out this year to gather the fall pumpkins. I opted for the “ugly” one.

I really like this whole craze we now seem to have for all things heirloom— as in heirloom tomatoes, heirloom apples—the original real deal of the fruit and vegetable world…species of such that harken back to “back in the day” when food was food and no one had ever heard of genetically engineered, hybrids, or altered foods. We didn’t go for the biggest and prettiest, we went for taste and use. But suddenly someone in the marketing world of food decided bigger was better and therefore we’d do what we could to make perfectly giant pretty food. Who does that? We do that’s who…sadly to say.

The irony of our tampering with Mother Nature has unexpectedly lead to a new skyrocketing micro industry in the food world—NONGMO…no growth hormones, all organic, no cloning, no antibiotics, no overt fertilizers, none of that science altering business, just good ol growing of not so perfect looking food—Thank God.

So when it came time for me to gather my pumpkins I walked past all those beautiful orange pumpkins. I wasn’t looking for the perfectly shaped beautifully hued orange jack-o-lantern…no sir-ree…I went for the forgotten little odd ball over in the corner of the hay bales. It was labeled, believe it or not, an “ugly pumpkin”.

Just like Charlie Brown, I proudly scooped up my little pumpkin / gourd looking thing, and proudly carried it to the register. The sales girl makes some snide remark over the intercom about needing a scan for the ugly pumpkin, making her opinion of my choice quite clear. I pay her for my prize and lovingly carry it to my car.

Once home, I give my special pumpkin a place of honor by the back door. The other pumpkins are out along the walk exposed to the elements and blasted fire ants—none of that for my special friend, he has a place of honor.

My husband comes home form work. I meet him at the door. “Oh my gosh, what have you bought? Could you have picked any uglier of a pumpkin?! What is that? Is it rotten? Is it even a pumpkin? How much did you pay for that thing?!” The litany of his negative barrage goes on and on….
No matter, I’m happy and proud of my pumpkin. It has character and it has class—a class all its own….

And that’s what it’s all about Charlie Brown!