speaking of signs

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him.

Luke 9:35


(Bible tract found tucked in the handle of my car door / Julie Cook / 2019)

So yesterday I made mention of two little rural church signs I saw during my recent back and forth travels.
Two little signs that opened both my heart and mind…more or less, reawakening my senses.

Another little sign made its way to me again yesterday morning.

Having not been home for any length of time over the past three weeks, a most needed grocery run
was greatly in order and the first thing on the day’s docket.

Nearly 45 minutes later, the bagger gal, who insisted on pushing my overflowing cart out to my car,
emptied the cart into my car as I finally made my way to back to the driver’s door.
Nestled in between the handle and car was a small piece of folded paper.

Upon further inspection, the paper folded up under my car’s door handle was actually a Bible tract.

It’s always a mystery to me how these things materialize.
I leave the car, buy some groceries, then poof, God’s word winds up tucked into my
car’s door handle.

The title: This Is My Beloved Son In Whom I Am Well Pleased…
Hear Ye Him!

Hear Ye Him…

I pondered that line.

It sounded archaic…perhaps King James.

However, upon a further later investigation of the line, which is from the Book of Luke,
it turns out that the version is actually from the American Standard Bible.

And so I pondered deeper…

Most versions read “Listen to Him” versus this version of “Hear Ye Him”

Hear versus Listen…the ‘ye’ bit I get— meaning you there…
but it was the balance of hear vs listen that had me ruminating.

Aren’t they the same?
Don’t both words mean the same?

Words and their meanings have always intrigued me.

According to Merriam Webster,
Hear: transitive verb
to perceive or become aware of by the ear
to gain knowledge of by hearing
to listen to with attention
transitive verb
to have the capacity of perceiving sound
to gain information
to receive communication

Listen: transitive verb
to give ear to

intransitive verb
to pay attention to sound
to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration
to be alert to catch an expected sound

So yes, I see that there is a difference between the two words…to hear vs to listen.

Firstly, to hear seems active whereas to listen appears more passive.

God is wanting us to perceive, to become aware of, to gain.
He also wants us to pay attention, to give consideration to and to be alert…
as well as to passively receive.

He wants us to lend our ear…but the question we must ask ourselves is to lend it for what?

We must be open in order to actually hear.
We must be wanting and willing.

We can hear something but are we truly hearing it?
Is it like white noise in the background or is it received into the cognizant part of
our brain for the processing of what it really is?

Seems more signs just keep coming my way…

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
John 4:48

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

truth found in the silence

He who does not understand your silence will probably not
understand your words.

Elbert Hubbard


(more images from last week’s snow / Julie Cook / 2017)

When I was still teaching, our school’s debate team was known statewide for always finishing in the top list of schools as they brought home trophy after trophy.

I taught many a debtor and my son even took a semester class but found the high pitched dithering none to his liking.

If you’ve ever observed, monitored or overseen a segment of one of these tournaments,
then you know that these kids talk faster then one’s ears and mind can process what is being said. As in how does one even comprehend what’s being said as the goal is to say
as much as possible within a short amount of time.

It reminded me more of some sort of rapid fire chanting rather than, well, debating…
and much less some sort of civilized conversation…

So this business of rapid fire gibberish came flooding back to the forefront of
consciousness Friday evening and much of Saturday morning when I found myself visiting
the blog of a Christian who was currently under fire from a barrage of atheists…
and to say that they were a bit rabid and foaming at the mouth was a vast
understatement.

I detest nothing more than those who “troll” about looking to cause trouble.
A sort of pack of wild animal mentality.
En masse they are ferocious, but separate them one from another and they tend to
dissipate rather quickly.

And I really don’t know why it has to be that way…that they want to gang up
and proceed to spout off without stoping long enough to listen—to themselves as well as to anything offered by in response.

Its’ all about civil discourse and I for one don’t know where it has gone.
Lord knows we’ve seen nothing akin to civility taking place, in these past many months,
on either a national or global stage.
As sadly both civility and decorum have gone by the wayside.

I know a wealth of grandmothers who are turning over in their graves, like whirling
Dervishes, utterly distressed as to how society has lost her way.

The whole business last evening and this morning of the rolling comments
boiled down to the atheists proclaiming that Hitler was indeed a Christian.

Huh???…really?
As if this sort of commentary was serving the betterment of mankind in any sort
of form or fashion.

Why does everyone now a days kick around the notion of Hitler representing this or that
without truly comprehending what it is they’re attempting to glue him to—?
I’ve addressed such before, so we won’t rehash all of that….

And well naturally this history loving teacher had to jump into the fray by pointing
out the facts to the contrary.
And as I said, I’d go into it here but it’s not worth reiterating the facts
behind their continued arguments of myth…like the skipping of a needle on a
scratched vinyl record….making the same stuck sound over and over and over.

However Mr. Atheist, much like the debate kids, jumped on some sort of
frothy diatribe of merely cutting and pasting rapid fire gibberish…
much like the arguing for auguring’s sake.
I noted that it would be more beneficial if he, Mr Atheist, spent more time reading and digesting rather than spewing verbiage simply for the sake of spewing..

Oh he jabbered on with more of his lengthy cutting and pasting of this and that
mumbo jumbo…loud and ramling on and on he went.
as I was simply marveling over the fact that despite his time and excessive wordage,
he really wasn’t saying anything worth while….all the while as he refused to listen…
listening to anyone offering anything logical in response.

So it dawned on me that God, the Masterful and Almighty Creator of all that ever was
is, or will be has never been one to scream or rant, or debate….

Imagine that.

God the Omnipotent Master comes to us not in might and force, not in fierce winds
or fires, or earthquakes or storms….but He comes to us in the silence

So it would behoove us all to be silent…..and simply listen….

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.

Psalm 37:7-18

When God speaks

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa


(a bluebird laying claim to the birdhouse / Julie Cook / 2017)

χάρισμα—xárisma–chrisma
a gift of great Spiritual proportion…
a favor Divinely given despite the lack of deserving merit…

During the course of one’s life, knowing one soul who seems to speak words that come
from a place that is beyond the confines of this world…words of Divine origin…
it is a gracious gift most precious and rare.

Most will pass through this world without ever hearing the words spoken by one who
has been gifted, or burdened, with listening, discerning and then sharing.
Many will claim such a knowledge…
and many will be wrong…
being caught up in the emotion of something greater than that which can be comprehended.

Divine Grace operating within a few, directed by the Holy Spirit.

I have known 3 such persons.

One of those three has spoken…
reminding me…
and I have listened…
as I am reminded that…

God has spoken…to me, again

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139

a darker side of play….

“Grown ups are complicated creatures,
full of quirks and secrets.”

― Roald Dahl

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(Gaylord the walking dog circa 1960)

No, this isn’t a tale about child predation or anything as awful or evil as that.

No…. this is actually a story about the naiveté that we use to find in our
favorite childhood toys…
and to what those once happy and comforting memories may be sadly morphing into
during these odd days of the 21st century….

Candice Bergen has often lamented that when she was growing up she was actually
jealous of Charlie McCarthy.
Charlie was the ventriloquist doll, aka “dummy” that her Dad, Edger Bergen,
used during his early days of Vaudeville…
moving to radio and eventually television.
Candice was often introduced to audiences as Charlie’s little sister.

charlie_mccarthy_edgar_bergen_x
(Charlie and Edgar 1938)

Yet there has always been something rather creepy about a ventriloquist’s doll.
Hollywood cemented that notion deep within our psyches with the creation of those
infamous B rated horror flicks featuring the puppets dating back as early as the 1960’s.
Even later with children’s shows such as Goosebumps in the early 1990s,
our need to be creeped out was capitalized on with the notion of a puppet having a mind,
albeit evil, all to itself.

When I was a little girl I had a Chatty Cathy doll.
Not a ventriloquist’s doll, but one that “spoke” none the less.
I don’t really remember her but my Dad tells me about it all the time.
She was a doll who, when a string was pulled, would speak.
An early prototype to a conversing playmate.

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She was large for being a doll and had a complete ensemble of clothes that she could change into
with the aid of her “playmate”…aka me.

Personally I preferred Gaylord.
I actually remember Gaylord…although I am told I referred to him as gayhog….
He was a dog, complete with plastic bone that would stick to his magnetic nose.
Gaylord could actually walk when pulled on a leash.
My love for Gaylord was probably because we didn’t have a dog…

So yesterday afternoon as I was reading the latest headline offering from the BBC, imagine
my alarm over the words “German parents told to destroy “spy” dolls.”

Naturally I opted to read further…

It seems that the latest and greatest “talking” doll Cayla,
which somehow uses the internet in order to “talk,” can be hacked…
Allowing for the doll’s conversing with, say her real-life playmate,
to be anything but innocent or naive.
There could be all sorts of responses or commands that would be more sinister and twisted
in nature.

I have provided the link to the story…
be sure to click on the brief video clip as that it most telling

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39002142

I suppose we are sadly learning that there is no bastion of innocence remaining….
Which I suppose leads us to just another reminder that we can’t ever be too careful
as to who or what we listen to…

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

it isn’t rocket science

“In keeping silent about evil,
in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface,
we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers,
we are not simply protecting their trivial old age,
we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Voices from the past…
voices not so long past…
continue reaching out…
Their words remain drifting along the currents of time.
Individuals from a different life are now born into the prophets of our day.

Their words…
now more urgent…
now more critical…
No longer merely mentioned in a speech or interview…
but rather crying out for our attention.
This now lost and stumbling generation…

Will the scales fall finally from our eyes,
Will we turn our hearing their way…
Opening our hearts and minds to the Truth

Or have we now all gone simply too far…
drifting further away from that offering of Salavation

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical
confrontation humanity has ever experienced.
I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society,
or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.
We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church,
between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Antichrist.”

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, 1976

parched

I am the vessel.
The draft is God’s.
And God is the thirsty one.

Dag Hammarskjold

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(It is so dangerously dry as we have had no rain since the first of June that even the springs and creek beds, deep in the woods which are always full of flowing waters, are dry and empty / Julie Cook / 2016)

Dry and dusty are the muffled cries of the earth…
which now aches and groans.

The Creator has spoken and yet man’s ears have grown deaf
All the while the faithful are left to wonder…

Man readily dismisses any sign, any reminder of God’s sacred word..

Are the waters now dry?
Do the rocks quiver and shake?
Have the seas overtaken the land?
Are the stars falling from the sky?
Have the storms blotted out the sun…
As man turns away from his God?

May my longing and my thirst,
that only seems to increase during these waning days,
be quenched by You and You alone oh Lord…

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’
Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up
from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

A.W. Tozer