How do I contact you in Heaven?

If you tell God no because He won’t explain the reason He wants you to do
something, you are actually hindering His blessing.
But when you say yes to Him, all of heaven opens to pour out His
goodness and reward your obedience.
What matters more than material blessings are the things
He is teaching us in our spirit.

Charles Stanley


(my godpoppa and me on the day of my wedding–with Mother looking on,
he was the priest who presided over my wedding in 1983)

I use to write letters.

Real letters with a real pen and real paper.

Real words.

Real scratched out mistakes.

Numerous misspellings.
Typos.
Grammatical errors.

There was no spell check—only a dictionary.

Sometimes your letters were typed, sometimes written by hand.

Mine were always by hand.

I use to write you so many letters.

You use to write to me as well.

I still have a box with so many of those letters and cards.

If the truth be told, we really meet through a letter, you and me.
In 1975.

I still have the card you sent.

When I went away to college, I use to sit at the bus stop writing feverishly before the bus arrived,
whisking me off to yet another class miles across campus.

I’d sit in the park, back propped against an ancient oak tree, writing.

I sat up late on the night before my wedding, writing.

We wrote one another long before there were computers…
ages before there was texting.

We wrote on paper and cards.
We put stamps on envelopes and we put letters in a post box.

We would each excitedly spot that telltale script…written and addressed
with our name—
it would arrive in the day’s mail.

I checked my box at least twice a day.

Wonderment and even excitement filled our thoughts.

We’d each steal away…to a quiet private place as we’d tear open the postmarked envelope.
Savoring the “Dearest Jules” or the ‘Dearest Godpoppa”

Apprehensive and anticipatory wonder mixed with anxiousness…
coupled with a deep sense of joy…
accompanied the arrival of each letter and every card.

What was the word?
What was the news?
What was the need?
What was the advice?

We wrote for nearly 40 years…back and forth…just you and me.

The subject matter growing often hard and difficult with time.

Those letters…the writing and the receiving.
The intimate words shared between a surrogate father and his adopted goddaughter.

The pouring out of the most sacred and secretive thoughts from the novice to the wizened
sage.

Confessions.
Encouragement.
Idle chatter.
Hope.
Love.
Compassion.
Warnings.
Advice.

You were born in 1922
You were adopted in 1923.
I was born in 1959
I was adopted in 1960

Lessons taught and lessons learned.

And yet now, now when I need to hear from you the most, how do I write to Heaven?
How do I address such a letter?
What would you tell me now…how do I proceed?
What should I do?
What would you say?

I’ll be waiting…and I’ll be listening.
Somehow I know you know.

“Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.

Deuteronomy 4:36

It only takes a sign

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14


(James / Julie Cook / 2019)

So the past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy as well as exhausting.

We had another bit of a scare yesterday morning with our little fellow concerning a
potential liver disorder…and so another trip to the pediatrician has us
thankfully monitoring for the time being rather than doing something much more serious.

This little brother is proving to be a far cry from his big sister…
as he is just more fragile and not as seemingly tenacious…

And speaking of The Mayor, she is none too keen having this new usurper in
her midsts.


(first outing for the Mayor and new sheriff—pizza for the family / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks in Atlanta with a drive or two home
for a day of rest and regathering.
Nerves, for all of us, have been both frayed and raw…
Fatigue, exhaustion, and worry have dominated our days and nights.

So since I have been driving back and forth over these past many weeks,
two small rural church signs have caught my eye…

The first sign:
God is speaking.
Are you listening?

The second one:
I Am is coming

Both signs piqued my tired soul’s interest.

The first sign offered a good wake up call.

For despite my willy nilly running around all frantic, coupled by a self-absorbed burden of worry…
I fear I’ve not been listening…I’ve not been listening to anything around me let alone
listening to the Great I AM.

Secondly, when I initially saw this second sign, I had to do a quick double take…
because grammatically I was a bit perplexed…

I.
am.
is.
coming.

I am is…??

Huh??

And then it dawned on me….ahhhhh….

The great I AM is coming…

And it was in those two statements that I found a sudden rush of calm along with a sense of
great humility.
Because it was twice the Great I AM spoke to my weary soul.

The One who is greater and bigger than any burden or worry I may have on this earth.
He sees.
He knows.
He hears.
He is listening.
And He is present.

Sometimes it only takes a sign…or two.

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

what is prayer

“Why must people kneel down to pray?
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do.
I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep,
deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if
there was no end to its blueness.
And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

L.M. Montgomery


(the quince are slowly forthcoming / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to Merriam Webster prayer is:

1. a (1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought said a prayer
for the success of the voyage

2. a: set order of words used in praying
b: an earnest request or wish
2: the act or practice of praying to God or a god kneeling in prayer
3: a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers —often used in plural
4: something prayed for
5: a slight chance haven’t got a prayer

Books have been written, lectures have been given and the search engines are endless…
Everyone has an idea, a thought, a notion…
as to what prayer is…
Both personally and publically

For you see prayer can be both.

There are the: ‘what types’, ‘which ways’ and ‘how-tos’…

Gandhi, a Hindu, offers one nice thought on prayer…
“Prayer is not asking.
It is a longing of the soul.
It is the daily admission of one’s weakness.
It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

While Mother Teresa, a modern day saint, offers another thought —
“Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition,
and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Yet both saint and Hindu offer similar thoughts along a similar line…

Asking or not asking
Longing yet nothingness
Listening versus hearing
Words or silence.
Knees or standing
Thoughts or shouting
Loud versus quiet
Individual versus group
Need or praise
Hope or hopelessness…

We know that Jesus both wept and prayed..much as many of us do to this day.
He also implored…as in an earnestness that almost borders on begging.

Moses prayed and implored
Abraham prayed and implored
Just as every prophet, every apostle and every saint on down the line has done since.

I saw a sign outside of a church not long ago that read ‘to worry is an annoyance to God
As in God tells us not to worry…and yet our prayers are so often overflowing with
the very worry that this sign tells us is an annoyance to God–for it is a manifestation
of our doubt…our lack of faith…
and to some, it is even considered sinful…as in a lack of trust….and did not God state
to us to pray without ceasing, and to trust.

So I suppose I’ve annoyed God considerably over the years.
Sometimes more than others.

Sometimes I’ve known Him to listen, other times I’ve been left to wonder.

This is where the nonbeliever loves to pounce…taking hold of that latter notion with a
sneering “see, I told you so”…”for there is no God.”

But none the less, I pray.

Because none the less,
I believe.

Silence and frustration
Sound or emptiness
Annoy or implore
Wordless or shout
Anger or sorrow…

I pray.

“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

where does the truth go

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Aldous Huxley


(dried seed pod / Julie Cook / 2018)

So yesterday we took a bit of a diversion, traveling off in a different direction—
one of health, leeches, mutants and Sophia Loren…an odd mix but hey,
somebody has to cover it…
And as there is no new news to report on any of those fronts, it’s best we get back on track,
getting refocused and back to the matter at hand…

Today the issue is that of truth…that which is real and that which is not.

Our dear Bishop Ashenden, in the latest version of Anglican Unscripted,
explains that society is witnessing a new phenomenon which is known as “identity politics—
or rather a “near Marxism identity politics”
of which is the idea of immersing people into a collective identity versus the notion of God
having made each one of us as a unique being whom He holds individually precious…
a being He views as a unique individual, one that has been wonderfully and mysteriously formed.

Yet we are a people who are rapidly becoming “ideologically closed off” one from another…
If we perceive a person to differ from or oppose our ideology, then we choose not to listen.
We’d rather close ourselves off, putting up the barriers and divides of anger and hate.
In essence being unable to love, evangelize or unable to be in communion one with one another—

The notion that folks have allowed their ideologies to be their soul
defining image—and in turn, who now believe that they cannot afford to lose everything
they’ve invested into and with their personalities—in turn leaving an unbridgeable divide.
Thus we are witnessing, when pushed or perceived to be threatened, a volatile
outcome by the uber-aggressive feminists or Marxists or whatever the flavor
of the day may be toward those who refuse to be “immersed” into this new and dangerous
form of identity politics.

It is the notion that folks are no longer listening with their souls but are
rather vetoing such, preferring to yield to “the will to power”
or that being what they have now allowed themselves to become—
which in turn creates a tremendous internal conflict.

And we’re watching this conflict boil over nearly daily and sadly…
We’re watching it boil over even within the church as She wrestles with what she now
accepts and believes falsely as truth…and we’re seeing this from top leadership.
All the while as ideologically motivated human beings continue to find it difficult,
if not impossible, to communicate one with one another.

In his post from over the weekend, the good Bishop tells us that
“Truth has been one of the casualties of the growth of the influence of the
post-modern in our culture. It has been knocked down the hierarchy of values by
different narratives, particularly those that have to do with a redistribution of power.

The whole safeguarding culture, which began as a sensible and responsible response
to decades of irresponsibility, has become inflated into a tool of power itself;
but re-distributive power.
The power that intends to dethrone the old agents of influence in society
(mainly white, Christian, elderly men) and redistribute it to those
perceived as their victims.

There is no doubt at all that people who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of predators
are indeed victims. But the whole dynamic of safeguarding culture has exploded into
something far beyond taking more sensible protective steps to diminish
the opportunities for predators.
It has become a tool of control in itself.
You only have to adduce ‘safeguarding concerns’ in any context within the Church or society
to exercise complete power.
No one can challenge you.

And this shift of re-empowerment of the victims which began easily enough with the egalitarian
insistence of equality of outcomes between the genders in the Church in the face of
both Scripture and tradition, got extended to homosexuality too.
Once again, still in the face of Scripture and tradition, gay pride
(didn’t the pride give just a clue as to the spiritual flavour of the movement?)
and gay rights began to take precedence over the virtues of chastity and continence,
enjoined on all people, straight, bi- or homosexual, outside Christian marriage.

When Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus made a pact with the devil,
he knew what he was doing. But the disaster that befell him as the devil came to claim
his soul in return for the exercise of power that Faustus has enjoyed, undid him.

“The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.
O I’ll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?
See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul, half a drop: ah my Christ—
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ;
Yet will I call on him—O spare me, Lucifer!”

The tragedy for Faustus was that although he had once served Christ,
he had consciously changed masters. He knew what he was doing,
which is why having called on Christ as a reflex,
his final fruitless beseeching is to Lucifer – his real master.

Gavin Ashenden

The questions which now sit plainly before us today are:

What cost are we willing to pay in order to stay the course of following
the Truth found in Christ Jesus…?

Will we capitulate to the growing maelstrom of society and culture?

Will we allow the mass growth of the uber-aggressive feminists and Marxists
to rule the day?
Those who possess closed ideology and refuse to even listen to that which
runs counter to their own manifesto?

Will we bend to a society that has chosen to rewrite God’s Law and Will into a totally
unrecognizable policy of tolerance and acceptance thinly veiled as a mandate of
the people’s will… as such rewriting is at odds with God’s original intent?
That being God’s Word versus man’s word.

There was a time when we knew the enemy of Christianity.

He walked, as he still walks this earth…as Earth remains his dominion.

He came in the form of ruthless empires such as Rome or any other number of bloodthirsty regimes
that have vied for power down through the ages. Empires and regimes which attacked
tortured and persecuted the faithful.

Just as we still witness today those current ruthless powers who hide behind the curtains
of Communism or radical Islam or any other ideology, as well the various forms of dictatorships,
which refuse to accept the rights of human beings to live and worship freely …

Christians knew exactly who the enemy was…just as some still clearly recognize him and it today,
Yet for many of us in the West, our persecutors are not as recognizable or definable as
those often found in the annals of history.

Today our persecutors are actually within the very walls of the places we find sacred and holy.

The time has come that we must carefully choose our Truth—that of God’s or that of man’s.

Anglican Unscripted – Jordan Peterson, Cathy Newman & Justin Welby

Welby’s Will-To-Power:   Pride & Ego- Sanity & Sanctity, in the Saga of George Bell.

wrestling and waiting

“Father, teach us all how to wait.”
Andrew Murray


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2017)

I must confess that I’ve been in a prayerful desert as of late.
Meaning I have been petitioning God long and hard…
yet it seems that my pleas just fall upon a vast emptiness….
as in…deaf ears.

However I know that I am not alone in my frustration or perplexity
of this seemingly one way spiritual conversation.

I am not the first nor will I be the last to beat upon the gates of Heaven
only to hear…what is perceived to be…..nothing.

Yet on and on I pray with little to show for my diligence.

Or so it seems…I go unanswered.

There are tears.
There is anger.
There is frustration.
There is indifference…
and there is a sense of hopelessness….
until….
It all begins all over again….
As a determined penitent rolls up her sleeves, continuing on, unabated.

It is because I will not be deterred…
not by the whispered doubts and naysaying….
not by the one who would like nothing more than for me to quit,
give up and walk away in disgust and frustrated anger.

And the truth is that somedays are indeed much harder then others…

And so today, as I was continuing to walk through the desert,
focused and imploring….
I actually stumbled upon a small respite of wisdom.

For I learn just how old my plight actually is….
As the wisdom of those who have trod this path before offer me a cup
of refreshing living water….

My child, hear about another delusion.
There are also other monks who work on all the virtues together,
and trust in their works. And when they pray and ask something from God,
they do not seek it with humility, but with insolence and pretension,
as if they have obligated God with their toils and therefore He owes it to them.
When they are not heard and the Lord does not do their will,
they are troubled and greatly grieved.
Then when the Devil our enemy sees them with this ignorance,
he attacks them with twisted thoughts and teaches them saying,
“See? You are struggling so hard even until death to work for Him,
and He doesn’t even listen to you!
So why do you work for Him?”
Then he pushes him to blaspheme the name of God,
so that he may enter inside him and possess him,
and then people bind him with chains….

But you, my beloved child in the Lord, since you are obedient,
and confess everything openly, do not be afraid.

excerpt from Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
An Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit. Chapter XII.

For the full reflection see the post:
https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com

There are times when our prayers seem so one sided.
On and on we pray, beseeching and imploring and yet….we hear no movement..
we see no results.

We often expect, or if the truth be told… we actually demand,
that after we’ve demonstrated an unrelenting persistence of time, energy and focus…
then surely God will move Heaven and Earth in order to show us how much He cares
and just how well He listens and just how much He agrees with each
and every component of our prayer…never mind if there are others involved in
said prayer…

As it is all just so utterly frustrating when we believe that all we see and hear
is merely empty silence.

No movement, no shifting, no little glimmer that things are working in the direction
of our desire, need, hope, want….

And for many, it seems almost cruel…this silence.

Yet we are told that no prayer goes unheard.

I once heard it put that God answers prayers in one of three ways….
Yes
No
Not now….

And more often then not, it is the ‘not now’ that is most vexing.

And so we pray on…

Because He knows and He sees and He is listening…

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end,
so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Hebrews 6:11

a continuation of beginnings and comings

See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.

Thomas More

dscn4719
(the frozen demise of the mint / Julie Cook / 2017)

Despite our having just journeyed through the season known for all things of anticipation…
that sacred time of observing Advent, which then culminates with the wondrous arrival
of the illuminating Nativity…
we actually, in this silent and slumberous time of deep winter,
continue finding ourselves waiting and watching.

Found in the Latin word adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia,
we find a word and meaning that has traditionally been used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.
Not so much denoting a single and initial birth, but rather embracing the anticipation of
a second birth…a sort of re-coming…

Yet, as William Stringfellow observes,
“we live now, in the Untied States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent
(or any other Christian “season”)*
is no longer really noticed, much less observed.
The commercial acceleration of seasons,
whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy
Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.
But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized
that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.
*(parentheses mine)

And so it seems that our secular and worldly selves have given way from our
continuation of waiting and watching to rather the glossing over of a key
observational time within our faith.
We have allowed, as it appears we have preferred, to move away from that which should
still be our focus, yielding rather, to the superficial luster of the fleeting.

For it seems that the notion of Advent, or any other of the “seasons” of the church,
has fallen way to the more glamorous secular association of what should actually be the truly
innate spiritual rhythms of our beings.

Yet as unrelenting and ever-faithful,
we now find ourselves transitioning from the anticipation found in Advent and the Nativity
to Epiphany, leading way to Ash Wednesday and the heaviness of the somber Lenten season…
as it too shall give way to the unending promise of Hope…

We enter, once again into a time of waiting and watching…
waiting not so much for the first birth with its earth shattering life that was cut
tragically short by a brutal yet necessary death…
but rather we, the dwindling yet tenacious faithful, both wait and watch
not for an ending associated with death but rather for the continuation of what is to come…

Life anew and everlasting…

As we find ourselves listening to once again, as well as claiming, those prophetic words of that
lone figure who cried out to the masses so long ago…
as his words continue to resonate in our hearts…

MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
Matthew 3:3

Are you listening

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure.

Henri Nouwen

DSCN1694
(sheep sit along a hill near Teileann as two look away, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The precursor
The forerunner
The messenger
The prophet
The announcer

The mission always the same…
To proclaim
To pave the path
To announce
To herald

The message…
The story
the prophecy
The declaration
The Word

The coming of…
Hope
Redemption
Salvation
Life…

All for you…

As in…
Your Hope
Your redemption
Your Salvation
Your life…

So are you listening?
Or have you turned your back, your head, your heart…closing your ears…
like so many who have gone before you…
refusing to listen and refusing to claim what is rightfully yours…

“They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.
Nehemiah 9:17