when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


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


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Conduct of God, conduct of man

“Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.”
St. Clare of Assisi


(winter shells cast across the surf / Julie Cook/ Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

“Consider not only that God your benefactor is present but also that He acts continuously
in all His creatures.
And for whom is this continual action, this work of God in nature?
For you.
Thus, He lights you by the light of day;
He nourishes you with the productions of the earth;
in a word, He serves you by each one of the creatures that you use;
so that it is true to say that at every moment the bounty,
the wisdom and the power of God are at your service and are exercised in the world for
your wants or pleasures.

This conduct of God toward man should be the model of your conduct toward God.

You see that the presence of God in His creatures is never idle;
it acts incessantly, it preserves, it governs.
Beware, then, of stopping at a sterile contemplation of God present in yourself.
Add action to contemplation; to the sight of the Divine presence add the faithful
accomplishment of the Divine will.”

St. Ignatius, p. 182
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

courage, courageous or more of the same ol’ lies…

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point,
which means at the point of highest reality. ”

C.S. Lewis


(image from the movie of Hacksaw Ridge)

Okay, so lately we’ve been reading, hearing and seeing a lot being made mention
concerning the notion of courage.

You know what I think of when I hear or see the word courage?

Hacksaw Ridge.

If you have not seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge…well you need to watch it in order
to understand the notion of courage.

It’s the courage of being both verbally and physically abused…not by some twisted
martyristic desire but rather as a result of one’s convictions.
To be beaten to a pulp because you’ve opted to stand up for your Christian faith of
pacifism because you feel deeply called to do your part against the onslaught and scourge
of fascism during a world war.

A subjugation of abuse simply because of your belief and faith.
Ridiculed and maligned because you know deep down, God has called you to serve and you
believe that serving means to do so without a gun.

And as a faithful servant, you know you must answer God’s call…
it is simply what you must endure.

And yet there are a myriad of examples of courage…
it’s just that that one example first came to mind.

Of course, you can walk down any children’s hospital across this Nation and you will
readily see courage on a day to day basis on each and every face of each and every child
in each one of those hospitals…
but that is a different tale for a different day.

However, the courage we keep hearing about these days is a different type of courage.
It is a man-made notion of courage that has been molded to fit neatly into a post-Chrisitan era.

Courage as in it is courageous to come out of “one’s closet”
Courage as in it is courageous to admit to being gay.
Courage as in it is courageous to be born, say, a man, and decide to be a woman…
or visa-versa…only to decide differently agian…and on and on…
Courage as in it is courageous to stand up for beliefs that are for all things progressive
as in contrary to anything conservative or even orthodox…

Yet it seems that this modern-day courageous business hits a speed bump when
one thinks that being courageous simply means to speak out and against middle American
conservative values…

Values such as the concept of a traditional family, sexual morality,
life versus abortion, to possess a strong work ethic versus a governmental handout,
opposition to illegal immigration, patriotism etc…

Today’s society believes it is courage to scorn traditional beliefs.

That is not courage…that is egotistical arrogance pretending to be courageous.

And so when reading our friend the Wee Flea’s latest post,
I am reminded of the importance of courage.

Well actually…it’s from reading his last two posts…
as one is a book review and the other is a piggyback from both the book and
its review as well as a rebuttal to the author.

His is a post that was written to refute the latest adulations over a former Chrisitan singer
(Vicky Breeching / Undivided)
who has let herself out of the proverbial closet and who has written a book describing her
now liberating ordeal as brave because she has been a lifelong victim of
conservative Christianity…

So that’s it now???

As a sinner, one is now simply a victim??

A victim of sin…but what of repentance?
Sin, it seems is now without a cross, without a Savior and without saving Grace…

Well, that certainly lets us all off the hook now doesn’t it…

This woman is currently making the US and UK book tour circuit and has been met with a
resounding level of applause from the liberal press, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and those of the LGBT sector.

David reminds those of us who remain opposed to any sort of notion of a Biblical
condoning of a homosexual relationship as being perfectly fine that we are not,
in the eyes of God, wrong…
no matter how much our progressive society tries to paint us as wrongheaded
and backward in our thinking.

This new trend that seems to be known as “Gay Christianity” is actually a most
dangerous trend that is working fast and furious to drive a wedge straight into the heart
of the Chruch.

And so David, in his recent post, list points for Christians to hold to and to be
accountable to in this latest fight…
with one such point being that of courage and courageousness.
And it is with courage that we stand united against the growing assault by a
progressive post-Christan culture.

8) We must not be cowards – we respond with courage.

One person wrote and told me that after they posted a ‘like’ to my review on
‘Undivided’, they were reported to a British Government institution for being homophobic!
This is the kind of intimidation that causes many to be silent.
Vicky talks about British evangelical churches putting their heads in the sand and being silent.
She is right. We need to speak out against the intimidation and the lies…
even, or especially, when it comes from those who are pleasant and plausible.
Are you prepared to speak out with grace and truth?
And we need the courage to rebuke those who would take the same view as us but are abusive
and full of hatred.

David concludes his post with a lesson…

One final lesson I have gleaned from Vicky’s book and interviews.
In her woundedness and hurt, she has become a very intolerant and demanding person.
She won’t attend churches that hold non-affirming theology, like HTB.
She demands that churches she goes to should never have someone in the pulpit who says
that marriage should be between a man and a woman –
because otherwise she might be triggered.
(I note in passing that there is not a great deal of humility or tolerance in her approach…’
do what I want or I will condemn you’ is the mantra.
She has also ‘unfollowed’ me on Twitter…which kind of gives the lie to
‘lets have respectful discussion’ –
I find that most liberals are like that –
we have to agree with them, or we are beyond the pale).
She wants the warmth and friendliness of the evangelical church –
just without the evangel.
My fear is that there are far too many of us evangelicals who are dangerously
close to a similar position – in private if not in public.

Liberal evangelicals want a God without judgement, a Cross without atonement,
a Bible without hard things and a church without the Jesus of the Bible.

Those of us who believe in that Jesus must hold fast and not be intimidated or deceived
into giving up on him.
I leave you with these apposite words from that Jesus to the church in Thyatira –
Words that today would see him accused of ‘hate speech’ and condemned by the liberal
evangelicals of being ‘unChristlike’!

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet
are like burnished bronze.
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance,
and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Nevertheless, I have this against you:
You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.
By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of
food sacrificed to idols.
I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
So I will cast her on a bed of suffering,
and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely,
unless they repent of her ways.
I will strike her children dead.
Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds,
and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church about Vicky Beeching and ‘Gay Christianity’

The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

Above all else, there will always be God

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Psalm 8:4

“Therefore, my brother, scorned as you are by men,
lashed as it were by God, do not despair.
Do not be depressed.
Do not let your weakness make you impatient.
Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face.
Let the joy of your mind burst forth.
Let words of thanks break from your lips.”

St. Peter Damian


(grapefruit tree, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal man?
Today he is, and tomorrow he appears no more.
Fear God, and thou shalt have no need of being afraid of man.
What can anyone do against thee by his words or injuries?
He rather hurts himself than thee, nor can he escape the judgment of God whoever he be.
See thou have God before thine eyes and do not contend with complaining words.
And if at present thou seem to be overcome, and to suffer a confusion which thou has not deserved,
do not repine at this and do not lessen thy crown by impatience.”

Thomas á Kempis
Imitation of Christ p 148

power balance in the middle between Love and Hate

A strong contender for word of the year for 2018 is already ‘hate’.
Every day we hear about hate speech,
hate groups and numerous slogans along the line of ‘love trumps hate.’

David Robertson

I think this time of year, the lead up to Easter, is always a perfect time for those of us
who profess to be followers of the one true Savior, to stop, taking time to reexamine the
notion of both love and hate…that age-old polar opposite condition—
the duality of man.
That constant struggle and fight of the inner being as it is connected to its outer world.

Because if the truth be told, love and hate were, when the dust actually settles,
the true culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

It is the concept of ‘no greater Love’ versus the hate of Satan made manifest in man…
all of which actually goes back to the Fall of man…
of which brings us directly to the foot of the cross…
and will eventually bring us to the final coming again of Christ.

A continuum of the fractured nature…of which Jesus is the ultimate restorer.

And as man so often does, he ebbs and flows with this counter opposite nature of his…
that being hate.

Man spews out hate while shouting all about love…making totally no sense.

Our Wee Flea friend David Roberston points this out in an article written for Christian Today,
The Power of Hate

David writes…
“The relationship between love and hate is very close.
One of the observations I would make is the way so many people use ‘love’ as a badge that
justifies their hatred.
Go on an anti-hate march and feel the hate!
Dare to question any of the current shibboleths in our culture and watch how
the online mob expresses their hate for you, in the name of love.”

You may find the full article here…

The Power of Hate

As we all find hope in the cross of Christ…

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar,
because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the
Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

1 John 5:10-13

what was that about animal or angel…

“I see clearly with the interior eye,
that the sweet God loves with a pure love the creature that He has created,
and has a hatred for nothing but sin, which is more opposed to Him
than can be thought or imagined.”

St. Catherine of Genoa


(image courtesy a UK internet news outlet)

Yesterday we took a brief look at what it is that separates man from beast…

That being the conscious conscience–

Our ability to make a conscious choice to believe…in say, that Jesus Christ was and
is who He said He was…as He remains to this day—that being the Son of God…

So a conscious conscience separates us.

Otherwise, we’re pretty much alike as in that we are born of both male and female, we
eat, sleep, play, seek shelter, have similar bodily functions…

And yet we possess a higher order of thinking—a conscious conscience.

We can choose to follow something rather than said following being simply an innate
reaction or some sort of imprinting.
We can follow literally or we can follow figuratively and consciously…or, choose not to…

It’s no secret that I love football—
that being American football and not the soccer version of futbol.

And we can whittle that down even further in that I prefer college ball…
but I will always take what I can get.

So needless to say, I joined the rest of this football and commercial loving Nation,
all who gathered either in person or around a thousand and more televisions in order
to watch the big game Sunday night…the Super Bowl.

I am neither Eagle fan nor Patriot fan…and despite being from Atlanta and having the
Falcons being my team by proxy…Green Bay is actually MY team of heart…

And as to why that is—is beyond my soul.. but I bet it goes back to childhood or the adoption…
just saying.

So in such a competition as a Super Bowl, one usually opts to pull for one team or the other…
and as I am tired of the Patriot Dynasty constantly winning and Coach Belichick’s
sloppy sideline apparel along with his monotone one-word press conference interviews,
add in a constant dour demeanor, I thought we should give Philly a go.

And so perhaps in hindsight, I was wrong in that notion.

Following the Eagles routing over the Patriots Sunday night, Philadelphia,
that city of brotherly love, broke out into insanity…

And not mind you the type of joyful, happy, triumphant, euphoria of insanity witnessed
at the moment of a victory…such as in the…
“Hey, Nick Foles, what are you going to do now that you’ve won the Super Bowl???…
with that joy-filled, confetti swirling answer being a triumphant “I’m going to Disney World”

But rather this victory swirled down into the insanity of hate, destruction, violence,
and lawlessness.

More like, dare we say it, animals…

Add to the fact that the image I found today was from a UK news site,
as in the world watched how badly “we” behaved.

And I say ‘we’ because ‘we’ are, for all intent purposes, Americans…
As in I just happen to be from Georgia, and the game just happened to be played in Minnesota
and it just happened to be a game between New England and Philidelphia players—
so “we” are all, when the dust settles, in this together…as Americans.

Sigh.

I for one find the behavior seen in Philidelphia, bottom of the barrel, awful.

However, the questions remains…are these “fans” going to be held accountable?

Maybe some were arrested.

Yet I’m pretty certain many more slipped into the dark
of night over those who actually were arrested for “disorderly” conduct—
throw in a little looting and destruction of private property to that citation.

Whose cars were those flipped over and torched?
Or what about sending those regular citizens who were caught in the middle of the madness,
sending law-abiding folks who just happened to be in downtown businesses and hotels,
into some sort of panic attack, so afraid they would become victims of the animal mob?

Not a pretty picture to say the least.

And so I think about all of this ugly Americaness of ours…these seemingly selfish,
self-centered acts of consciousness…decisions made which are,
when all pretense is stripped away, acts of the demonic-
As in the very lesson, we learned yesterday, that being it’s man’s choice when
he leans toward anger, hate, violence lawlessness, sinfulness..in other words, acts of evilness,
of which has its impetus in the demonic and certainly not the angelic or saintly…

And just as we have the conscious conscience of choice to be more like the animals—
we also have the conscious conscience to choose that of the angelic, the saintly and that
of love.

May we choose love….

Once again, another life lesson brought to us by a mere game.

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light,
and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet…
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger,
nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth;
for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things,
from Whom all other good flows and proceeds. They look not only at the gifts,
but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis