real hard truth found in life’s warfare

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a wandering willet / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“We live in a fallen world.
We must therefore work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth,
we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit in which
we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

loving as God loves, no matter what…

We might say the whole mystery of our redemption in Christ, by his incarnation,
his death and his resurrection, consists of this marvelous exchange:
in the heart of Christ, God has loved us humanly,
so as to render our human hearts capable of loving divinely.
God became man so that man might become God—might love as only God is capable of loving,
with the purity, intensity, power, tenderness, and inexhaustible
patience that belong to the divine love.
It is an extraordinary source of hope and a great consolation to know that,
by virtue of God’s grace working in us
(if we remain open to it by persevering in faith, prayer, and the sacraments),
the Holy Spirit will transform and expand our hearts to the point of one day
making them capable of loving as God loves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 67-8
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom


(St Sebastian tended by St. Irene / HT Brugghen/ 1625)

Bet you didn’t see the following story.

I hadn’t heard about it or seen anything about it either…
that is until I finally sat down, at the end of a long busy Friday, and decided to scan the
various news sites I usually scour to see what’s happening in the world.

Way down toward the bottom of one news site, following all the typical stories about
impeachment, elections to be, and entertainers talking about their sex lives,
was the headline :
ISIS savages behead a dozen Nigerian Christians at Christmas

We haven’t heard much regarding Daesh lately…
I think a few months back, the President basically proclaimed that ISIS was
pretty much toast.
Meaning they had been basically defeated…
That news was then hit with an exclamation point when the latest story broke of the
tracking down of the ISIS leader Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi and his subsequent taking
of his own life vs being caught.

Triumphant we all thought.

The scourage of the West, and particularly that of the Christian West,
had been defeated.
We need not fret or fear any longer.

Or so we were told and reassured.

Since the news media does not seem to think these sorts of stories
are significant or overtly worrisome…well, that in turn, worries me.

Over the years, since first blogging nearly 8 years ago, I’ve written so many posts about
the vicious attacks on Christians around the globe at the hands the likes of
Militant Islamic groups such as ISIS, Boku Haram, the Taliban, Abu Sayyaf,
Al-Shabaab et el—so much so that it makes my head spin.

Kidnappings, brutal rapes, the burning of villages, tortures, beheadings, bombings…

And it appears that there are strongholds that remain.

Chances are that these groups that hate all things Christian, Jewish and Western,
will always dwell among us…because much like the mythological beast, the hydra,
when one head is cut off, another remains or even grows back.

So as long as Islamic militants persist in building their armies of hate and murder,
and our leadership in the West continues to pretend that there is not a strategical
focus on destroying all things Christian…well, I will continue bringing awareness
to the globally conducted atrocities targeting the Christian faith.

Just like the days of the Roman persecutions, Christian martyrs continue
dying for the faith…
And the single difference between a Christain martyr and that of an Islamic martyr
is simple…it is the single matter of love vs hate…

ISIS released a video Thursday that purportedly shows militants in black masks beheading
10 blindfolded Christian men and shooting an 11th in Nigeria,
as part of a grisly campaign to avenge the deaths of its leader
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the group’s spokesman.

The militant group’s video was produced by its own so-called news agency, Amaq,
and was released the day after Christmas.
The 56-second video has Arabic captions but does not have audio.

In the video, ISIS soldiers wearing beige uniforms and black masks are lined up behind
the Christian men.
One captive in the middle is shot while the other 10 are pushed to the ground
and beheaded.
Not a lot of details were given about the victims other than they were male,
Christian and “captured in the past weeks” in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno State.

In an earlier video seen by Reuters, the captaives pleaded for the
Christian Association of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene to save them.

“We killed them as revenge for the killing of our leaders,
including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and (ISIS spokesman) Abul-Hasan al-Muhaiir,'”
said a member of the terror group’s media unit, according to journalist Ahmad Salkida,
who was first sent the video shot in an unidentified outdoor area.

In October, Baghdadi killed himself during a U.S. raid on a compound in northwest Syria,
seven months after the so-called ISIS “caliphate” officially crumbled as the terrorist group
was defeated in its final swath of Syrian territory in March.

Raphael Gluck, the co-founder of Jihadoscope, which monitors online activity by Islamist extremists,
told Fox News that ISIS affiliates are rising across Africa – almost unchecked.

“We saw a terrible ambush of U.S. forces in Niger in 2017,
that played into ISIS propaganda for months and really put Africa in focus,
it has only grown in strength since,” he said.

Calls by Fox News to the Christian Association of Nigeria for comment were
not immediately returned.

Fox News’ Hollie McKay contributed to this report.

https://www.foxnews.com/world/isis-beheads-christians-nigeria-baghdadi

they came, they played, they departed and now they’re in the ER


(the Sheriff today for Father’s day / Julie Cook / 2019)


(James currently at Children’s Hospital in Atlanta / 2019)

If you’ve ever had grandchildren, you most likely already know how quickly your
neat, orderly and tidy little world transforms when they are tiny, young and small.

Your life turns upside down while your heart grows both deep and wide.


(what was our family room)


(The Mayor’s new Woobooville office / Julie Cook / 2019)

You get tired, overwhelmed, happy, crazy and filled beyond measure…
You are not as young as you once were…the heightened momentum can leave you lagging.
Your stamina lessens, your bones and joints ache and as my husband loves to remind me,
“you’re no spring chicken anymore you know.”

The heck I’m not!!!

You work to keep up.
Chasing, running, scooping up, rocking, kissing, holding, feeding, cleaning, bathing
soothing…
Never stopping until they drop…

And then they look at you and smile or they kiss you, or they cling to you sobbing when
it’s time to leave, and your heart simply explodes…it nearly shatters from what can only be
explained as pure love…
because it is at these moments that you actually realize that this is all about
something so much more than yourself.

When you are the young parent(s), you are so busy living the day to day, getting everyone
through the day by day in one piece…working, living and surviving, you don’t have the time to actually
step outside of the moment and see it for what it is.

That’s the joy of becoming a grandparent…you have that ‘outside of the madness’ perspective
that shows you just how precious all of this really is…

That’s why you jump right in and roll up your sleeves.

And so it was…
For the past four days, our own world has been transformed.
We babysat, we enjoyed, we worked and then we celebrated Father’s day on many different levels…

And as the day waned and it was time to go, the tears began to flow.

And once they all returned back home, the call then came.

“His fever is high again, we’re going to the ER like they told us to do if it spiked again.”

And so I ask that you will please join our little family in prayers over our little James.
Prayers for healing from the lingering fever and infection.

As I type we are waiting on the cultures to return to determine if they keep him again.
We are praying they will send them back home.

It’s up in the air as to whether I will go or stay.

Happy Father’s Day to all and thank you for saying prayers for our little James.

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

Innocence and wonderment…

“In any case, you must remember, my dearest,
that the main strength of innocence is innocence itself.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
Albert Einstein

DSCN3849
(an alert fawn in the backyard / Julie Cook / 2016)

It is now time that we all just stop for a moment.

Time to stop with all the…
malice and ill intent.

It is time to stop the…
polarization,
the divisions,
the anger,
the lies,
the slandering,
the accusatory nonsense…

It is time we stop just long enough….
Just long enough to remember…
to remember and recall that there is still a world…
a world where we can find…
innocence,
joy,
wonderment,
rapture,

A world still full of the…
amazing
miraculous
mystifying
and the loving…

A world where God’s Grace still remains…

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 8-10

Just do. . .

We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee
makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season
without thinking of the grapes it has borne.

Marcus Aurelius

DSC02727
(a muscadine growing in the wild / Troup Co. Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just do. . .it. . .
As in “just do it”
That most famous marketing phrase for NIKE,
you know the one. . .
Where the folks at NIKE extoll the virtue of athleticism by “just doing it”

But I rather like the concept of “just do. . .”
As in simply doing because it’s the thing to do. . .
Not because you have to think about it, not because it focuses on yourself,
not because you were told to do it. . .
but rather doing, because it’s what’s as natural and as simple as a vine bearing a grape. . .
because it’s just what the vine does and it’s just what you do. . .
kind of like breathing but better. . .

As in just doing for others as you would have them do unto you. . .
As in just loving, because it is better than hating
As in just caring because it is better than indifference
As in just helping because it is better than turning one’s back
As in just being because sometimes those who hurt just need you there
As in just smiling because it may be the only smile the other person receives all day
As in just offering a hand because it is better than pulling away
As in just giving of yourself rather than holding on
As in just crying when others hurt because you feel empathy
As in just offering your time because it is often stronger than your money
As in just speaking kindness instead offering deserved hurtfulness because you know kindness
heals where hurtfulness only begets more hurtfulness
As in just listening because it is better than ignoring
As in just giving because it’s better than receiving. . .

So for today, and every day, remember. . .just do. . . .


“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Proverbs 19:17

Your song to me

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
Plato

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Psalm 27:6

DSC00955
(cardinal singing high in the tree tops / Julie Cook / 2015)

Head down,
busy doing,
lost in thought

When a delightful sound,
A lyrical tittering cadence,
calls for my attention

My head lifts
My eyes search
Seeking the source of the call

I careen my neck
Looking high into the trees
The lush new foliage hiding your presence

Elusive yet persistent
Sweet and inviting
You call out, seeking

Your tenderness I cannot ignore
I listen with intensity,
for your persistence is rhythmically inviting

You call out to me,
wooing me with your song,
pulling me ever closer

Your delight is directed toward me
as it intoxicatingly draws me in. . .
I continue. . .
listening,
watching,
seeking

As you continue. . .
calling,
singing,
loving. . .
me

“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy
Zephaniah 3:17