recant no more, just start reading and what the heck is “an influencer”

“We are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20-year-old
worship singers as our source of truth,” he wrote.
“We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern
praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.”

John Cooper, lead singer for the band Skillet


(a bit of sea lettuce / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

I’ve been hearing a lot about a single word as of late.
The word is “influencer”

Now granted, I get it, I understand it…as in I know what the word means and all…
however, I’ll offer it as defined through the lenses of the 21st century…

What is an influencer?
An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others
because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.
An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.
The size of the following depends on the size of the niche.
It is important to note that these individuals are not simply marketing tools,
but rather social relationship assets with which brands can collaborate to achieve their
marketing objectives.

influencermarketinghub.com

Think social media and those who are constantly in some sort of limelight on
FB, blogging, tweeting or news thread.

They tend to be constantly on the web’s airwaves.
Their names, be it in or even out of their circles, are well known.
They’re usually young, trendy, progressive and the majority worship at the altar of the
latest culture gods.

They are liked and followed by the multitudes.
Matters not too much what they’re worshiping…they are liked and followed none the less.

They want to wield power with both their words and their ways…
all because of their choices and their likes and dislikes.

Their whims and fickleness actually have sway with the whims and fickleness of others.

And we must note that this influencer business has been in the news feeds a lot this
past week as there have been some “Christian Influencers” who have very publicly
recanted their faith.

I don’t know about you but when I feel lost and dismayed, I certainly don’t want to
be grandstanding.
Attention, especially public attention, is the last thing I want.
I actually want to be alone.

I don’t want to publicly shout my dismay or sense of shame over a life I only
thought I was living.
I would instead tend to fall into a deep abyss of introspection and perhaps even a bit
of depression.

Yet isn’t that how we are when we feel angry and disappointed by someone we feel
has deeply let us down?
We want to fuss and cuss the cutting sense of betrayal.
And we usually do so very loudly and very vocally…
We’ve been wronged by gosh and we want the world to know it!

And so I’d like to ask…is that what all of this current trend has been about??
This very public angst offered up by a bunch of young Christian ‘influencers’ who are
feeling wronged and let down by…God Himself?

And for what?

I have written about this before but I think the story is more than worth repeating
right about now…

I think we all know of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

You know…
that tiny little white and blue-clad nun who spent her life tending to the
needy and destitute of Calcutta?

Well—-long before she was known as Mother Teresa…
a young Albanian nun who was a member of the Sisters of Loreto out of Ireland
had gone to India as a teacher. It was in 1946 that Mother Teresa experienced what she
would later refer to as a “call within a call”

She was riding on a train heading off to a retreat when she plainly heard, what she
would eventually write, was the voice of Jesus.
He said to her, “I thirst”

Mother Teresa would go on to say that what she had heard was her call within a call…
her ministry was to change, leading to the formation of the Missionaries of Charity.

An order dedicated to caring for the least of the least.

Mother Teresa would toil from 1948 until her death in 1997, carrying out this
call within a call.
She would spend a lifetime fulfilling the need that Jesus had laid upon her heart.

However, it was eventually made public, years following her death,
that Mother Teresa had confided to her confessor that after that initial moment on the train…
she never heard the voice of Jesus again.

She would lament to a deep darkness and palpable sense of separation.
This, as St John of the Cross, would so famously record, was the Dark Night Of The Soul.
A seemingly and almost physical disconnect from God.
A life within a dark empty abyss.

Anguish filled her soul yet no one ever knew of her pain.

It mattered not that she felt a separation of faith, she had been told what to do and
she, in turn, spent the remainder of her life doing it—
despite the personal pain and suffering.
Doubt mattered not, the poor and ailing needed her.

Day after day, she’d spend hours in prayer—yet there was never again that
audible response.
Never was there that internal sense of oneness with God.
Only silence.
And yet Mother Teresa persisted.

There was no public display of angst or resentment.
There was no recanting of her faith due to a silence from God.

She had been told what to do and she remained faithful to her word despite her own sense
of personal loss.

That’s the thing about faith.
It is not based on feeling.
It is not based on recognition or of the feel good.

It can be very difficult and it can be very lonely.
Yet it is full of perseverance and consistency.

I recently read an article about an interview with Franklin Graham, the son of
the Reverend Billy Graham, regarding this recent spate of young Christian “influencers”
recanting their faith.

Graham said he is especially disturbed by Christians who publicly renounce their faith in Christ,
citing a warning from the Book of Revelation.

“(God) warns churches that turn their back on him and these young men who have renounced
their faith have made it so public,” he said.
“Why did they make it so public?
I think they just want publicity.
Otherwise, why didn’t they just leave their faith and just be quiet about it?”

He wondered if the reason why was so that other Christians might join them
and fall away from the teachings of the Bible.

“Shame on them,” Graham said.
“You’ll stand before God one day and give an account to Him.”

We must put our faith in Jesus Christ, not a celebrity influencer.
And when we find ourselves facing difficulties in life,
we must turn to the Bible instead of self-help books.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/todd-starnes-franklin-graham-has-a-warning-for-christian-influencers-renouncing-their-faith

Here is to the consistency of Faith…

“Reading the holy Scriptures confers two benefits.
It trains the mind to understand them;
it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.
Two kinds of study are called for here.
We must first learn how the Scriptures are to be understood,
and then see how to expound them with profit and in a manner worthy of them . . .
No one can understand holy Scripture without constant reading . . .
The more you devote yourself to the study of the sacred utterances,
the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled,
the richer the harvest.”

St. Isidore of Seville, p. 201
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

There is never coincidence, not even in the dark of night

“And I saw that truly nothing happens by accident or luck,
but everything by God’s wise providence …
for matters that have been in God’s foreseeing wisdom,
since before time began, befall us suddenly,
all unawares; and so in our blindness and ignorance we say that this is accident or luck,
but to our Lord God it is not so.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(Pieta in The Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France /Julie Cook / 20118)

“Many of the saints tell us that these times of God-ordained ‘desolation’ or dryness
are very important times of growth if we persevere through them by exercising a deeper
faith, hope, and love.
It is particularly important, they tell us,
not to give up our spiritual practices but to remain faithful.
God in His wisdom knows how long and how deeply we must be tried in order to come closer to Him,
and we should patiently trust Him during the trial while persevering in our practices.”

Ralph Martin, p.174
An Except From
Fulfillment of all Desire

With God, there are no accidents.
Never.

Even when, in our thinking, a near-irreparable tragedy, of which is a true accident and is
nonetheless horrific and simply unbearable…leaves both our lives and bodies shattered…

We are reminded that God is still very much present.

Yet such a reminder, to those who are living in and with the aftermath,
rings often empty and even bitterly insulting.

Our pain and our anger are both agonizingly palpable.

Yet such moments, more often than not, send even the most staunch religious
and spiritual among us into the depths of deep darkness.
A wasteland of sorrow, loneliness, bitterness and yes, a gnawing and seething anger…

The wasteland can last, for what can seem, an eternity.

Or…on the other hand…perhaps there was no accident…no tragedy…

There was no particular impetus for a sudden wandering into the wasteland of an empty soul…

We simply find ourselves, our souls, suddenly and oddly empty and cold.

At best, our faith remains shallow…
At worst, our faith seems lost forever…

However, we are reminded to hold fast.

To hold on.

Words, which to the hurting, the lost, the lonely, more often than not,
echo of emptiness and even the trite.

It will take a conscious act of totally emptying oneself to all that is.
It will take a complete letting go of all that we know and hold dear.
It will take a blind leap of faith.
It will take a willingness to trust in that which we cannot see while we cling to
a promise given to each of us long ago.

We have a choice…
we can choose to remain lost, bitter or angry.
Or we can cling to the one promise we have…

Be not afraid…

The tragedy, the accident, the sorrow which could not, cannot be prevented…
nor that of the painful results, while one seems to remain caught in the vicious cycle
of pain both physical and spiritual, that results from such situations…
is ours to either keep and hold on to or to let go of while we figure out how to find our way back…home

That is our choice, our conscious decision.

There are no accidents with God, no coincidence.
And when in the desert, He remains steadfast despite a perceived silence.

I say all of this as I am in the midst of reading a book that is a tale
of the horrific, the unthinkable, the unimaginable and yet a tale
of the hope, the healing, and the Saving Grace…
of which far outweighs that of the Evil.

More on this story as time allows.

It does indeed seem empty to say to those who suffer the unimaginable that they must simply
hold on and hold tight…
but that is exactly what we all must be willing to do…
and to “will” ourselves takes a conscious act…

Something Beautiful Happened
A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil
by Yvette Manessis Corporon

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:10-13

the unbreakable appointment

Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.

It is because of death that life is so precious.
It is because life is so precious that death is such an evil

David Robertson


(cemetary at St Kevin’s Monastary / Glendalough National Park / Co Wicklow, Ireland /
Julie Cook/ 2015)

Maybe it’s because I’ve read and written a good bit recently concerning the life and death
of the young child Alfie.
Maybe it’s because the shadowed dark veil still occasionally longs to blow across my heart,
or maybe…
it’s just because I’m tired…

I saw a really sad story yesterday about an elderly Chinese man who is afraid of dying
alone…so he’s put himself up for adoption.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2018/05/04/lonely-chinese-old-man-puts-himself-up-for-adoption.html

Being adopted myself, this story caught my attention for all sorts of reasons.

Our Asian brothers and sisters have always done such a fine job with their elderly.
They don’t neglect them.
They don’t ship them off to homes as we do here in the West.
They don’t turn their backs on them when they become infirmed, sick or simply
too old.
And they don’t decide to simply kill them because they’ve apparently run their course of
contribution and no longer serve a viable purpose.
Nor have they ever been viewed as a burden to society.

Our Asian kin have always taken their elderly into their homes,
caring for them as these now old ones once cared for the
younger others.

Yet sadly, that might be changing.

It seems that this particular man was a widower and was estranged from his sons.
The story noted that there is a growing shift in Asian culture these days
that the idea of a family caring for the elderly is not the given as it once was.

So this gentleman, who posted he is a retired scientist and is still in good
physical condition, just wants a family to spend his final years with.
He wants to contribute to the family by helping to shop, cook, pay bills…
but when the time comes, he wants to be cared for then properly buried by those who
in turn care for him.

He is doing this as he is gravely opposed to having to go to “a home.”

So all this talk of death and dying, life and living…the juxtaposition of
the whole bloody lot just keeps falling flat and heavy in front of my feet.

There’s just no getting around either one.
Because you can’t have one without the other.
There must be life if there is to be death…
That’s just the way it is.

I am not a morse person.
Not obsessive.
Not negative.
Not a fatalist.
I do however believe I am very much realist mixed in with a hardy dose of pragmatism.

When reading David Robertson’s latest post, which was actually an article written
for Christian Today, there I was again meeting death, or actually the notion of death
was meeting me at my door….or actually in my kitchen on my computer screen.

David was writing about death and life and destiny all based on the writings of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes.

But it was really the one line that jumped off the page, or shall we say screen, that
hit me squarely between the eyes…

Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.

Like most folks, I don’t much care for the whole death and dying business.
I don’t like much to talk about it.
I don’t like to acknowledge it…because that way, maybe it will just go away and leave
me alone.
And I certainly don’t like to think about it.
Not many of us living do.
Because the whole death thing really just tears me out of the frame.

Yes I will say it…despite being a Christian and despite knowing my Redeemer lives and
despite the knowledge that there is life after death…death still bothers me.

Life is for the living is it not?
Not for the dying…

Yet I think it is really a fear of the unknown that is what troubles us most.
Or at least it is for me.

As a planner, a teacher…I kind of like things all neatly mapped out.
Whereas spontaneity sounds glamourous…I’m not one for throwing caution to the wind.
I’m pretty set on point A to point B with no deviations in between.

However, I think it is that big black hole in our lives..the hole of separation
that’s the real kicker.
We are not a separating lot.

It’s the being cut off from and away from those we love that makes death so hard.
Going on living… without…
That is the burden…the burden of the living without.

So maybe that’s why our society is so fixated on trying to control both…
We want to be the masters of our own destinies…our entrances and our exits.
We want to call the shots.
And so we wrap it up in a fancy word and call it euthanasia.
A fancy way for us to call the shots…not God.
Nothing random there..no loss of control.
We, in essence, become our own god.

But it was that line of David’s that’s kept nagging at me…
“it’s not an accident–it’s an appointment which only God can change or cancel.”

David notes in his reflection from King Solomon’s words that
“He is saying that death comes to all, indiscriminately, good or bad:
‘Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…
‘(Hebrews 9:27). Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.
He is not saying that we are to live passively or that we are not to prepare.
But he is saying that it is only God who knows the future.

So there is both power and assurance in that statement.
An appointment that only God and change or cancel.

Not me, not you, no man…only God.

A burden becomes lifted.
It’s not my call.
Not my responsibility to say yay or nay…it’s there when God says its there.
It’s no longer my worry, our worry…my call, our call or truly my schedule or our schedule.
It’s God’s schedule.

And I need to be reminded, I was with that one line that I am small and He is not…

God’s power over death…so much greater than anything man could ever attempt to counter.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-9 – Death, Life and Destiny

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

A place where everybody knows your name

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart,
and all they can do is stare blankly.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald


( the wall inside the Bull and Finch Pub in Boston that was the inspriation to the television
hit series Cheers / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve always considered myself a rather independent individual,
as well as one who relishes in the quiet of being”alone”…
yet for the notion of loneliness, I am, like most folks, not a fan.

I’ve spent most of my married life on my own—not so much because I wanted to
or because my husband was always traveling or in the military but rather because he’s
owned and run a smalltown family retail business for right at 50 years.

He has worked 6 days a week, often 12 or more hours a day, for most of his life…
and he was working in the family business long before I came along.
The Christmas holiday season saw that time of working up to 7 days a week
at 14 or more hours a day.

At first, this wasn’t an easy adjustment.

My dad, for most of my growing up, worked for the County–a 9 to 5 sort of dad.
At one point early in his life, he had been a traveling salesman for my
Grandfather’s company, but Dad had hated it.
Dad was more lazy than not, so the idea of being on the road 24 /7 was less than appealing.
So as soon as my Grandfather died at the young age of 67 in 1967,
my dad and his brother sold the family business and dad went to work as an engineer
for the Fulton County Health Department.

So I was used to a dad who got home at a reasonable hour for supper
and who was always home on weekends.

That was not the case for the man I married.
For he has worked more than he’s been home.

He carries a great deal of regret with all of this as far as our son’s growing up was
concerned–but I continue to reassure him that he did the best he could and managed to
squeeze in good quality time with our son when it was most needed.

And I too have rendered my time to the store, especially during the holidays—
but as a career educator and eventually both teacher and a mom, my own time was
equally filled. Yet it seems that the two of us have, more or less,
been more apart then together…

So I was intrigued this morning when I caught the title of our friend the Wee Flea,
Pastor David Robertson’s title to his latest blog post—
Loneliness-the cord of three strands- Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

The Cure for Loneliness – the Cord of Three Strands – (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

It seems that the idea of loneliness, as a rife problem, was recently noted in
a commissioned report produced regarding life in the UK…
and it is now seen as such a real problem that the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May,
has just appointed a minister to be in charge of the UK’s problem of loneliness, having
named Tracey Crouch as the new Minister of Loneliness.

A rather interesting title…and I imagine there’s a song in there someplace…
such as the song ‘One is the Loneliest Number’ by the 70’s rock group, Three Dog Night,
which suddenly comes racing back into present-day focus.

Our Wee Flea friend notes that “according to the aforementioned Jo Cox report there are
9 million people in the UK who always, or mostly, feel lonely.
It’s a problem recognised in our media.
The long-running Australian soap reminds us of the importance of ‘good neighbours’
who become ‘good friends’.
Yet how many of us live in streets when we don’t even know the names of our neighbours
(other than when the Amazon parcel arrives),
never mind identify them as friends?
Likewise, Netflix has just introduced a new generation to the ever popular
Friends with its instantly recognisable theme tune, ‘I’ll be there for you’.
How many of us have friends who will be there for us?
How many of us have substituted the handful of friends that come from deep and
committed relationships, with the hundreds of online friends who mean virtually nothing?”

The long-running comedy series, Cheers was the show that first popped into
my mind when thinking of the notion of loneliness along with friends and family
being found is the some of the oddest of places.


(yours truly, along with the ever working husband who, on a business trip, found time
to go visit that place where everyone knows your name / 2014)

The story, if you recall, was set in Boston at a fictions pub named Cheers.
The actual real-life pub that was the inspiration for the TV show is named the
Bull and Finch; a Bostonian pub dating back merely to 1969.
The Bull and Finch is a much smaller place than the television version’s pub
known as Cheers–yet is set up in a rather similar fashion.

One does indeed descend down a small set of stairs from the street level while walking
into a more cramped, low ceilinged sort of tightly configured quasi-tavern.
The bar, however, is long and somewhat spacious. There is a bronze plaque screwed
to the end of the bar, commemorating the iconic seat reserved for the character Norm who
always appeared arriving at the bar after work.
He’d take his usual place at the end of the bar where he would receive his usual,
an icy cold mug of beer while he was often heard to lament about life with his wife who
was obviously home…alone.


(a plaque on the bar at the Bull and Finch Pub commemorating where Norm always
would sit / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is also a back set of stairs similar to the stairs in the TV show, that does lead up
to another restaurant, along with, of course, a Cheers gift shop.

This was a show about the lives of the hodgepodge mix of folks who were each connected
to the pub. From the bar owner, bartenders, barmaids down to the patrons–
and how they had all developed their own sort of close-knit family despite having lives
outside of the bar.

The bar was a place where regular patrons could come, having their very own seat…a place
where the bartenders knew what to serve without the patron ever having to say a word—
simply coming and sitting down said it all…as strangers each gravitated to
this nondescript little pub while eventually becoming most important one to another…
much like an extended family.

A place where everyone knew your name…your likes, your dislikes, your history,
your story, your ups, and your downs…

And whereas our friend the Wee Flee was drawn to the book of Ecclesiastes and the
pinning of a now wizened old king found in Solomon…

Ecclesiastes 4 deals with the oppressed having no comforter, a man without
the companionship of family and friends and a lonely king.
The early church had some quite fanciful interpretations of this passage.
Jerome, for example, saw in the three-fold cord the faith, hope, and love of 1 Corinthians.
Ambrose was more interesting – in speaking of Christ as the friend who sticks closer
than a brother he sees him as the one who lifts up the companion when he falls,
the one who warms, and the one who went from the prison to be a king.
He points us to the real solution for loneliness.

I myself seem to find much more comfort in those words and thoughts
offered by our friend St Ambrose rather than that wisdom uttered by the aging King Solomon.

That being the notion of Christ being closer to us than that of our very kin…

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.”
He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His.
He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.

And thus we find that it is in our very relationship with Christ in which our loneliness
dissipates as He and His very essence of being seeps in turn, into our very being,
filling every void and crack within often lonely lives.
Thus being truly the One who knows our name, our ups, our downs, our dislikes, our likes,
our best and our worst—staying right by our side despite what He knows about us
and sees—because He is us and we are Him…

Abide in me, and I in you.
John 15:4

choosing the the gift wisely…..

“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover
as the love of the giver.”

Thomas à Kempis


(the tiniest treasure found amongst the debris / Julie Cook / 2017)

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King.
Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree.
Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness
to God didn’t have a price.
He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the
greatness of God’s kingdom.
They come in any form of fame, fortune,
or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag.
His services weren’t for sale.
No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission.
He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage;
the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon.
David and Jason Benham

I really do have a great deal of disdain for this time of year.
I’ve written about it before.
Not because it is Christmas mind you, but rather because it is Christmas.

Huh??

Yes, I know, you probably don’t understand that last bit of redundancy.
Yet I would lay money that many of you actually do.

Yesterday a title to a post from a wonderful blog I follow,
jumped out at me from within a computer screen

“Keep your gifts”

Keep Your Gifts

There was a sense of defiance in the title that I found to be almost
exhilarating….
“Exactly!!” I practically shouted as I recalled just how much
I’ve been fretting the ticking of the impending season’s gift giving time clock.

I’m having a really hard time getting “into the spirit of the season….”

Be it this balmy weather, the heaviness of loss, the overwhelming worrisomeness
over this world of ours or the madness that is currently besetting our nation…

Ho hum is apparently beating out Ho, Ho, Ho….

Our family has drastically declined this past year,
leaving more names than I care to actually acknowledge as MIA from our
Christmas list.
Yet there are those who remain who do deserve a little something
under the tree…this as we look forward to a family addition come February.

But within all of that…those who are missing, the list of names, the cards,
the baking, the cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the working, the tree….
which by the way I have no idea when it’ll go up as it seems like it was just
June when my husband and son finally manhandled the thing
down to the basement.
And whereas it takes two to haul the blasted heavy thing
anywhere it must go, I in turn must wait upon strong abled bodies to
happen by my door in order to assist….yet I digress….

So in a nutshell this is a season of tremendous expectation.

And not in the notion of expectant as in the anticipation of waiting but rather
in a societal demand of what is expected.

There are those who fret how they will afford a gift for those they love.
There are those unable to physically seek out a gift for those they love.
There are those who will be away from those they love.
There are those who are simply alone with no one to love,
as they find this time of year so very difficult.
And there are those who go overboard while there are those who take
the path of Scrooge.

It’s just really gotten to be so much more than it was ever meant to be.
And I wonder when it will all finally explode, taking most of society with it.

So it is good, perhaps even life saving, to be reminded that Christmas
is not what the world keeps telling us it is…

As this world and her culture gods and the gods of commercialism and materialism
call out to us like a haunting and enticing siren…
singing a luring and hypnotic call coming from within a television,
or from the myriad of computer popups, from the endless shiny billboards
bedecking the roadways, to the festive sounds from the radio or the
the endless sea of periodicals and catalogs…
all singing the song of falsehood, greed and emptiness.

The quote from the book Living Among Lions, which I must confess I did just order,
sums all of this up so wonderfully—-Daniel offered us the best example—
“keep your gifts or give them to someone else….”
because Daniel neither needed nor wanted these earthly gifts offered by man.

Simply put, Daniel’s gift was God and God alone.

So as you peruse those catalogs and fight the endless throngs at the mall,
or sit glassy eyed and glazed over while staring at the computer as you endlessly
surf and search for that which is to be deemed special and perfect….
all the while as those credit card totals rise and those debit card totals shrink….
be mindful that nothing bought will ever fill the need of both the heart and soul.

For all things bought will eventually break, be outgrown, fade, get lost, or become
quickly outdated.

For the only true “gift” that really matters to any of us is the priceless
gift of Salvation…
Found in a lonely little corner of the world in a forgotten time and place…

In all of my years of service to my Lord,
I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised.
That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability
to out give God.
Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him,
He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles H. Spurgeon

The weight of silence

“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

Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.

–St. John of the Cross

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

There is nothing more crushing, more suffocating, more humbling, more welcoming…
nay more invigorating than Silence.
It is penetrating, lonely, encompassing, exhilarating and greatly needed.
Silence is soothing, healing, teaching and utterly necessary.

Yet it is feared.

It is avoided and fought with the frantic filling of each and any void with noise…
Loud, raucous and incessant…
Jabbering nervous nonsense…
Anything to stave the penetrating and uncomfortable knowingness of Silence.

For it is more familiar and more knowing than self ever dares on its own

There is a sickening dread and queasy uneasiness because vulnerability is glaringly exposed…
Yet there is truth within it’s vast and sweeping depths…
As truth must be fully purged if one is ever to become pure.
It is required if one is ever to hear the stillness found
in the presence of the The Great I AM

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Habakkuk 2:20

The old couple next door

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
― Fred Rogers

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How appropriate that today’s quote is by Fred Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

My neighborhood consists of about 40 rodeo bulls which live across the street (see the post Meet the Neighbors”) in a rather large pasture and a couple of horses which belong to the lady next door. Factor in the deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, owls, coyotes, hawks, buzzards and the occasional rumored bear sighting and ours is a rather wild neighborhood. . .and we won’t, however, count “the chicken little the sky is falling” lady who swears a Big Foot lives in the surrounding woods.
We, on the other hand, have two cats.

The horses were old when we moved here about 15 years ago, making them much older today. I’m no horse person, meaning my knowledge of horses is somewhat limited, but if the one on the left, whose back is sagging rather notably, is any indication of age, old pretty much sums it up.

The lady next door is rather elusive and not at all sociable. She is, however, what I would consider to be, a gentleman farmer, or in her case, a gentlewoman farmer. She supposedly runs some sort of company, but seems to retreat to this “farm” as a home. At one point she had about 8 cows but that was short lived. As long as we have lived here, I’ve never seen her ride the horses nor actually pay them much attention. We are also wondering if she may not have moved closer to town as she seems to be gone a good bit of the time, returning every blue moon.

I do know the horses names. . .Logan and Nick—however I don’t know which is which. Don’t tell anyone but I have been known to wander over to the electric fence she has up between our two properties with a couple of carrots for the lonely pair who gratefully seem to nibble the lanky orange sticks from my hand. Sadly, this is the type of woman who would most likely not appreciate my giving her horses carrots. Nevertheless the animal lover in me just hates seeing lonely or neglected animals.

Upon close observation the casual viewer will note that both of these two horses are inseparable. We have never seen one without the other–always in close proximity one to another. Neither allowing the other to wander too far from sight. They have obviously lived a long time together and seem almost dependent upon one another.

There is much about the relationship between these two horses which can be said for and about us all. Companionship is such an essential aspect of the human psyche. Even for those of us who consider ourselves to be a bit of a loner, the comradeship, if not the companionship, of another like minded soul is often most comforting. We were and are wired for connection with other living creatures–be they human or animal.

It is during this bleak time of year, when the weather turns most foul—when it is neither fit for man nor beast, that my thoughts turn to our homeless population—both human as well as animal. I do not live in a major metropolitan urban area. My life is that of a rural dweller. I have, however, traveled far and wide on this planet of ours and I have seen those cities which seem to have many a homeless dweller.

The need for the creature comforts of shelter and warmth are indeed paramount but I believe that the need for the kind interaction of one’s fellow man is what is truly most essential. To be acknowledged as a living breathing being is imperative. But how often have we all walked along a sidewalk not giving the person nestled in the crook of an empty doorway, or huddled under a piece of greasy cardboard a second glance?

I say all of this as I was driving home yesterday from Atlanta. It was raining with temperatures in the low 40s. Along the side of the interstate, just a stones throw from a city center, sat a lone tent pitched in a clump of weedy bushes. As I barreled along the interstate, racing past this lone little wet tent, my thoughts wandered to the whats and whys as to a tent pitched just off a major interstate artery leading either to or from Atlanta–depending on ones perspective.

I suspect it is not only a very hard life to live without a place to call ones own, but more disconcerting is the thought of the loneliness. Having no one to help bare any of the tremendous burden. No one to offer comfort or solace. No one to hear the cries, the mutterings, the empty anguish. No one who can offer a warm touch, an embrace, a whispered “I love you”. . .

All of which brings us back to my 4 legged friends next door. My thought is that if something happens to one of the horses, the other one will most likely mourn himself to death. Just as we often hear happening with older couples who have been married for many many years.

As the exuberant joy of the holidays has now passed us by and we find ourselves settling into the long darks days of a cold bleak winter, may we all work at being mindful of those who are less fortunate than ourselves—particularly the homeless and the oh so very lonely. . .

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:37-46)

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