my whole world could shatter

(Autumn / Julie Cook / 2018)

I had another post written for today but there was a nagging urge to put it on hold.
I kept trying to push through the writing, trying hard to ignore the unseen force
moving me in a different direction, but I couldn’t push it down,
keeping it from consuming my thoughts.
So somewhat reluctantly, I put the post on hold and started writing what seemed to be
pouring from my heart and thoughts.

Groovy Kind Of Love
It was a song that I first remembered hearing back in 1988…
although it had first been a hit in 1965.

The lyrics were written by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager, both teens at the time.
It was first recorded by Diane and Annita then later by The Mindbenders.
Eventually, it was covered by The Turtles and finally Phil Collins

And it was Phil Collins’ rendition that left the most lasting impression on my heart.

My mom had died in 1986 at the ripe ol age of 53.
It was lung cancer…
and whether it was just odd or rather just an odd blessing, the entire ordeal only lasted
from July 25th until September 6th.
However, I suspect Mother had been sick much longer than any of us had realized.

In hindsight, I was very much crushed and even broken.
I was 26.
I had been teaching for 3 years plus I had been married for 3 years.
And if the truth be told, it was not the smoothest sailing marriage.
And now I suddenly found myself having to care for my distraught and very inept father
who lived in another city over an hour away.

My plate was now overtly full while my heart was undeniably broken.
And I was very much alone.

When I first heard Phil Collins sing the song in 1988–with that near hypnotic rhythmic
tempatic resonance, I would always catch myself singing softly along.
And every time I got to the line, “my whole world could shatter…”
the words would catch in my throat like a choking rock…
for despite it now having been two years since my mom had died,
my world was still shattered…yet no one knew it but me…
and even I didn’t actually realize how broken I truly was.

The song reminded me of my loss.

My world was shattered…

I knew that I still loved my mom and she, despite being gone, still loved me.
Although it was now in a different dimension with a love that transcended time.
A thing I suppose I now felt was, as the song said, a groovy kind of love.

And so all these many years later…that song has come flooding once again to mind.
Not because I’ve recently heard it playing but rather because the Spirit brings
it to my mind.

So now as I look down upon this tiny granddaughter… I am reminded that
yes, a world could shatter, just as a rock still catches in my throat…
but there will always be that groovy kind of love that transcends time…

When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue
When you’re close to me, I can feel your heart beat
I can hear you breathing near my ear
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love

Anytime you want to you can turn me onto
Anything you want to, anytime at all
When I kiss your lips, ooh I start to shiver
Can’t control the quivering inside
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love, oh

When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue
When I’m in your arms, nothing seems to matter
My whole world could shatter, I don’t care
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love, oh
We got a groovy kind of love

take it on the road

“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are
the critics, blaming or praising him.
What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage;
he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings,
reminding them of their lost lines.”

Søren Kierkegaard

(ready for the first road trip to visit Moppie and Poppie / 2018)

Often times, we are required to leave the shelter of our wombs…
the warmth and protectiveness of a familiarity we have grown accustomed to cherish.

Because we have been called…to go.

(Uncle Percy is a bit perplexed by this new visiting neice/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners.
It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating.
A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching,
so we accepted their [the communists’ ] terms.
It was a deal; we preached and they beat us.
We were happy preaching.
They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ

Sometimes we are called to go to places we’d rather not go.
In order to share with those who have not heard or do not know
that which we do know…

And we must speak to them about that which we know and they do not know
because it is what we are called to do…

I learned about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand when I was early on in high school.
I ordered the book, Tortured for Christ.

I’ve written about Wurmbrand before…

“Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909—2001) was an evangelical minister who endured 14 years
of Communist imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania.
He is widely recognized there as one of the country’s greatest Christian leaders,
authors and educators.”

The knowledge of the scourge of Communism, along with its anti-Christian hatred,
during the midst of the Cold War, only heightened my interest behind the story
of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand—-
his preaching, eventual arrest, tortures, rearrests, more tortures, solitary confinement…
all of which left a deep impression upon me.

I don’t know if I could go, live, share and do as those who have each suffered so grievously
at the hands of their tormentors—only to continue on, day after day..offering hope and love
to those very ones who tormented and tortured…all because of the calling and the love…

I think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who also knew to go and to share…
sharing all the way to Auschwitz…and who would continue sharing even unto his own death…

How many have gone and shared long before all of us, only to offer the ultimate offering?

Our prayer is that we might all have the courage to go, to do, to share and to say
when we are called to do so…
no matter how great the cost…

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

measuring time

“In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence,
and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

St. John of the Cross

(she’s already cheering on her DAWGS despite her great-grandfather’s love for Tech / Julie Cook
/ 2018)

We are a measuring sort of people.
We measure heights, weights, sizes, shapes, lengths, distances, amounts, numbers,
comings and goings…
You name it, we’ll measure it.
And we particularly like to measure time…

We enjoy measuring time so much that each year we mark time with a New Year’s celebration.
Just as we mark days of birth.

Any kid will tell you just how important the marking of a birthday really is…

And so it is that I am bittersweetly reminded that this time last year, on March the 10th,
we marked Dad’s 89th birthday.

You may remember he was gravely ill but was so excited to have “lived” long enough
just to have one last piece of cake.
Dad loved his sweets—chocolate especially.

He was born on his mother’s birthday in 1928 and died just hours before what would
have been his brother’s 97th birthday–
a brother who had preceded him in death by 8 years.

Dad died just 9 days after we celebrated his birthday.

The passing of a year’s time has brought with it a great deal of change.
All from one March to the next.
Seasons have come and gone… just like they usually do…
but within those seasons there has been a great deal of measuring…
both pluses and minuses.

This time last year, here in this house of my youth, we held a vigil for a life slipping away.
This year, 365 days later to the very day, we joyously mark a 3 week birthday of a new
life full of expectant hopes and dreams.

I find myself sitting in the same room that I once called my own, rocking a
young new life blessedly to sleep.
One who now claims my old room as her own.

I sit in the dimly lit room, illuminated only by a single bulb closet light
that cuts softly through the slats of the closet door. A small projected patch of stars
dance across the ceiling emanating from a novel little owl nightlight.
The sound of crickets and tree frogs gently pierce the silence, also coming from the
little owl nightlight.

The walls are the same.
The windows are the same.
The closet is the same…
Gone is the carpeting, long since stiped away, now exposing the original hardwoods of
this 1950’s house.
Gone are the gossamer sheer drapes, replaced by white wooden shutters.
The colors of paint have evolved with the changing times.

My thoughts drift back and forth over the near 60 years that I’ve known this house.
With memories and feelings being mixed—some pleasant, some not.
There is an unsettling mixed with a calming sense of hope.

My prayer is that for this new precious child, this house, this home, will be one of
I am reminded of the prayers and anointing of both house and crib.
The imploring of God’s grace to be poured down abundantly upon this family’s
new generation.

So happy birthday Dad and happy birthday to your new great-granddaughter…
a great-granddaughter who now calls the house you were so proud to purchase so long ago,
A house you and mother were so proud to have for your own young family.
As a new generation calls it their own…

By wisdom, a house is built, and by understanding, it is established;
by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4

we stand on the periphery

We should weep as we watch our society regress into the pre-Christian Greco-Roman/pagan
view of the world.

David Roberston

(Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble,
copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC.
Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.)

It’s no secret that I ardently follow and read the words and observations of two very
different, yet actually very similar, clerics who both happen to live in the UK.
One is a Free Church Presbyterian Pastor in Scotland the other is a former Chaplin
to the Queen and former Anglican priest,
who now happens to be Bishop of the Christian Episcopal Chruch.

They are evangelical, conservative, orthodox, traditional–clerics of two vastly
different denominations yet both are much more similar than they are different.

I’m not sure as to whether either man is familiar with the other but I would suspect
that they have some sort of knowledge of one another as each man has had his
fair share of attacks by a more liberal press for holding to and freely voicing a
strong Biblically rooted Christian faith.

When it comes to defending the Christian teachings, neither man is afraid to
take on MPs, authors, professors, reporters or other clergy members.
They are each, in their own right, true defenders of the faith.

They are both very learned men and well read.
And they can certainly hold their own and not think twice nor bat an eye when
it comes to professing the Truth as it is met with every form of attack and or assault.

I admire that in them.

They do not buy into the feel-good dribble being passed off in so many churches these days
as a modern take on Christianity—that when stripped and pared down to the bare bones,
it is nothing more than the self-proclaimed gospel of the individual verses
the Gospel of the Risen Christ.

In Christianity, there are some very hard truths.
Truths that we in this 21st century of ours have grown unable to stomach as we find them
difficult as well as uncomfortable and therefore intolerable to acknowledge or accept.

Jesus did not come into this world to pat us on our heads and tell us of the marvelous
job we are doing.
He did not come to applaud our half-hearted efforts nor the notion of ‘if it feels good,
it is good’ nonsense.

Jesus came to save the sinner.
And the sinner is each one of us.
Each of us is at fault.
If you don’t believe that then your ego is bigger than your very soul.

Each one of us falls short.
Each one of us needs a savior…if not saving from the world…saving rather, from our
very selves.

The fact that our culture is not progressing, as we so often quip with our labels of post
modern progressivism… but rather, in actuality, we are regressing…
Regressing back to a time of self-absorption and intolerant barbarism as we live
our lives preferring the paganism of a myriad of self-created demi-gods to the One True God.

We are slowly becoming what we so smugly deemed of those in the past as primitive,
ignorant, egotistical, ancient and primal.

Hedonistic is the better description.

I am encouraged knowing that there remains those who continue to speak the Truth despite
the world’s desire to dispel it.

Whereas those of us who hold steadfast to the Christian faith know that the battles
continue to rage, the war has already been indeed won—
Yet we may still weep as we take stock of the battles we are beginning to fight.
As fight, we must.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,
rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of
teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist,
discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

Once was blind….

But…and this is a vital truth of the Christian Gospel –
Jesus does not invite and accept ANY of us just as we are.
He came to save us.
He came to make us a new creation.
He came to give us new life.
It makes a mockery of Christ to regard him as some kind of affirming angel
who wants to tell us how good we really are.
Christ did not die on the cross to keep us in our sin,
he died to save us from them!

David Robertson

(blooming loropetalum / Julie Cook / 2018)

It is a hymn written in 1779 that I’d lay money that both Believer and non-beliver alike
could easily and readily recite…

“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”

I actually prefer the bagpipe rendition myself.

It’s such a familiar tune that we might just find ourselves humming it subconsciously…
unaware that we were even humming…

Yet the back story, as I have discovered with most things that seem larger than life,
is usually far more amazing than the actual “thing”—
and in this case, that thing is a beloved hymn.

Perhaps it is the story that simply adds to the majesty and beauty behind those
haunting words.

In 2006 a wonderful movie come out showcasing the tale behind the famous hymn—
And as with most movies…liberties were undoubtedly taken to “enhance” the emotional
impact upon the viewer.

But the story behind the hymn—involves a man haunted by 20,000 ghosts and another man
who makes his sole mission in life to bring everlasting freedom to countless men,
woman and children.
Colliding tales that need no outside enhancements.

The story, as most already know, focused on William Wilberforce, a young idealist member
of the British Parliment, ardently campaigning to end the British slave trade industry.

The British Empire had been involved in the abducting, buying, selling and trading of
African slaves since the mid 1500’s.
Obviously, this was long before the colonies of a new Nation followed suit.
And yes it was tragically a longstanding yet prolific form of enterprise for the
British Realm…

Slave labor was an integral component in the production of the sugar from the
sugarcane plantations scattered about on the various British owned Caribbean Islands…
Sugarcane equates to sugar which equates to the making of rum.
So the use of slave labor, which was key in the running of the sugarcane plantations,
eventually became an important asset to the early British colonies in
what became the new American settlements in their production of cotton.

And so it was a former English slave ship captain turned Anglican cleric named John Newton
who actually penned the lyrics to what would become the most beloved Christian hymn.
For it was Newton who was the haunted man of the sins of not only his past but of the
past sins of those he had known as well as his own Nation.

Newton and Wilberforce had a long lasting relationship, a relationship that acted as a
catalyst in spurring on the young idealist politician’s lifetime quest as an abolitionist…
A quest which finally in 1807 lead to the eventual end of the British Realm’s
trading in slaves.

Our friend the Wee flea, the Scottish pastor David Robertson, offers a wonderful
observation about a small essay that was written by John Newton concerning his
thoughts and lessons learned about his participation in the slave trading of human beings…
reflections that David believes are just as important for our 21st-century lives and
the current #metoo movement….just as they were almost 200 years ago as an Empire and her people
wrestled with the sins of its past.

#MeToo: 7 lessons for the movement from slave trader John Newton

David follows that post with another equally insightful post concerning the Chruch in Scotland
and it’s reaction to the growing phenomena known as self-identifying along with the transgender
movement which is now invading the lives of the UK’s grammar school children.

Two Churches Struggling with (Gender) Identity

little flower

“He does not come down from Heaven each day to stay in the gold ciborium.
He comes down to find another Heaven He cherishes infinitely more than the
first, the Heaven of our souls, made in His image,
living temples of the Most Blessed Trinity!”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 31
Meditations with the Little Flower

(the blooming quince, a sign Spring is nigh / Julie Cook / 2018

“If a little flower could speak,
it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it,
without hiding any of its gifts.
It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty,
or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals,
or the storm bruised its stem,
if it knew that such were not the case.”

― Thérèse de Lisieux

And the winner is…

“If one does away with the fact of the Resurrection, one also does away with the Cross,
for both stand and fall together,
and one would then have to find a new center for the whole message of the gospel.
What would come to occupy this center is at best a mild father-god who is not
affected by the terrible injustice in the world,
or man in his morality and hope who must take care of his own redemption.”

Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Cross For Us

(empty tomb image courtesy the web)

The hype has been rising to an unbridled level of hysteria—
with the grand and glamorous culmination reaching a deafening crescendo.

Flashing lights and snapping cameras…

The Oooos and ahhhs ripple along the magical red carpet.

Glittery, showy and dazzling
Empty, shallow and fleeting…

All breath is held at the utterance of the enchanted phrase…
‘And the winner is…”

All of us who so choose to believe…

There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us.
There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered.
There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us,
and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross,
we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit,
that new life which will reach its fulfilment in the resurrection.
This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.

St. John Paul II

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.”

St. John Chrysostom,