speaking of signs

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him.

Luke 9:35


(Bible tract found tucked in the handle of my car door / Julie Cook / 2019)

So yesterday I made mention of two little rural church signs I saw during my recent back and forth travels.
Two little signs that opened both my heart and mind…more or less, reawakening my senses.

Another little sign made its way to me again yesterday morning.

Having not been home for any length of time over the past three weeks, a most needed grocery run
was greatly in order and the first thing on the day’s docket.

Nearly 45 minutes later, the bagger gal, who insisted on pushing my overflowing cart out to my car,
emptied the cart into my car as I finally made my way to back to the driver’s door.
Nestled in between the handle and car was a small piece of folded paper.

Upon further inspection, the paper folded up under my car’s door handle was actually a Bible tract.

It’s always a mystery to me how these things materialize.
I leave the car, buy some groceries, then poof, God’s word winds up tucked into my
car’s door handle.

The title: This Is My Beloved Son In Whom I Am Well Pleased…
Hear Ye Him!

Hear Ye Him…

I pondered that line.

It sounded archaic…perhaps King James.

However, upon a further later investigation of the line, which is from the Book of Luke,
it turns out that the version is actually from the American Standard Bible.

And so I pondered deeper…

Most versions read “Listen to Him” versus this version of “Hear Ye Him”

Hear versus Listen…the ‘ye’ bit I get— meaning you there…
but it was the balance of hear vs listen that had me ruminating.

Aren’t they the same?
Don’t both words mean the same?

Words and their meanings have always intrigued me.

According to Merriam Webster,
Hear: transitive verb
to perceive or become aware of by the ear
to gain knowledge of by hearing
to listen to with attention
transitive verb
to have the capacity of perceiving sound
to gain information
to receive communication

Listen: transitive verb
to give ear to

intransitive verb
to pay attention to sound
to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration
to be alert to catch an expected sound

So yes, I see that there is a difference between the two words…to hear vs to listen.

Firstly, to hear seems active whereas to listen appears more passive.

God is wanting us to perceive, to become aware of, to gain.
He also wants us to pay attention, to give consideration to and to be alert…
as well as to passively receive.

He wants us to lend our ear…but the question we must ask ourselves is to lend it for what?

We must be open in order to actually hear.
We must be wanting and willing.

We can hear something but are we truly hearing it?
Is it like white noise in the background or is it received into the cognizant part of
our brain for the processing of what it really is?

Seems more signs just keep coming my way…

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
John 4:48

punctuating the ordinary

“On the single strand of wire strung to bring our house electricity,
grackles and starlings neatly punctuated an invisible sentence.”

―John Updike


(grackles on the line / Julie Cook / 2014)

I imagine it happens to all of us at some point or other…
and it’s always out of the blue…

It catches us totally off guard— when we least expect it.

Suddenly a lump is forming in our throat as we find the words catching, cracking and breaking as we can barely whisper along.

And just when we frustratingly focus on the fact that no sound seems to be
coming from a voice attempting to speak, stinging tears now form in our
eyes, rendering us both mute and almost blind…

Mute and blind with raw emotion.

We blink hard and swallow hard…as we hear our brain pleading “not here, not now….”

Maybe we’re just sitting on the couch…
Maybe we’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store pushing a cart full of
paper towels and cat food…
Maybe we’re sitting in the middle of traffic, stuck…
Maybe we’re sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting….

It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing…it happens…
and it happens when it wants to…never mind what we want.
And there is always some sort of trigger…
as the ordinariness of life is punctured like an over inflated tire…
our breath begins to release as we are helpless to hold it in….

It comes suddenly out of the blue..
Out of nowhere…and there it is…
A familiar sound, a familiar tune, a familiar voice…more oldie then goldie…

For me this time, it was Wichita Lineman and it wasn’t even Glen Campbell
singing the song but rather someone else…

Yet it mattered not—it was still that same melodious memory drifting in on
the passage of time… swirling down on the currents until settling sweetly, yet
painfully, in the recall of memory.

My mother loved Glen Campbell.

What woman in those heady days of the late 60’s didn’t?

Dashing boyish good looks…dimples, perfect hair, sculpted nose,
laced with a velvety voice.
He wasn’t Country, he wasn’t Gospel, he wasn’t Pop…
he was simply the complete package.

I can remember sitting with mother in 1969 on that old tweed couch
watching the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour—
This was a time when children could actually watch television without fear of hearing
or seeing things that children shouldn’t really see or hear emanating
from a television….

The line is iconic…
“and I need you more than want you….
and I want you for all time….
for the Wichita lineman is still on the line…”

…as heart tugging violins finish out the notes….

About two years ago, give or take,
Glen Campbell and his current wife (I say current because he had had four marriages
with one in particular making for tabloid drama) gave what was to be Glen’s
last public interview.

Glen Campbell was suffering from Alzheimers.
A disease that actually claimed his life earlier this year.

The selfish disease was robbing his family of the husband and father they loved
while robbing a man of the one person he’d known best his entire life…
that being himself.

He was asked about singing and his songs— what song had he loved the most….

A question I would think somewhat difficult for any musician / singer,
who had had such long careers, to answer—
As songs and melodies ebb and flow with the times—
Because it’s hard to compare what was a career starter with what came about
during one’s peak moment throughout such a lengthy career…

But he answered quickly and at first very effortlessly…
“it’s really the best line of all time in a song you know…. isn’t it???”
as he then turned to his wife with that lost look of one battling with a
memory-robbing illness, when he sadly and poignantly realized he didn’t
remember now what line he was talking about.

His wife offered a small airy couple of notes with the first word, which allowed
Glen’s mind to grab hold as he finished the stanza himself in beautiful A cappella
fashion.

And it is an iconic line.
A beautiful line.
A line that has for me, over time, changed it’s meaning.

Songs, lyrics and melodies all have that effect on us.

So much so that I think I’ve written about this before—and about this very same
song for most likely the very same reason—

It simply caught me off guard.

It reached out through the abyss of time grabbing hold of my arm while pulling
me to a bittersweet place I don’t often like to go.

The hot tears formed as I attempted to utter those familiar words….but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even speak the words because they had stuck in my throat…
as they achingly cracked coming from my mouth without sound…

And then slowly…the recesses of a memory came into focus,
I was seeing the one who had first loved that song long before I had.
She had her own personal reasons, her own personal recollections…

Things that, at the time, were unbeknownst to me.
Something that caused an overwhelming sense of melancholy…
Something that had left her with words which had no sound,
something that had left her eyes wet with warm tears…

I had no way of knowing then…no way of understanding…
for I had not lived yet what she had lived…

Yet sweetly and even oddly in that bittersweet moment of hearing that single song
with that most iconic simple lyric, I actually understood what she had known
all those many years ago…as warm tears filled my eyes and the words coming
from my mouth had no sound…I was transported one day closer to understanding
the woman I had lost so long ago…

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.

Psalm 102:18-22

what they really mean

“Socialists cry ‘Power to the people’,
and raise the clenched fist as they say it.

We all know what they really mean——
power over people, power to the State.”

Margaret Thatcher,
Speech to Conservative Central Council, March 1986

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning:
just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes,
we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

C.S. Lewis


(a buckeye butterfly enjoys a sunny day / Julie Cook / 2017)

I wonder if anyone really knows what anyone really means anymore.

Our leaders, politicians, statesmen, media personalities, legal eagles, entertainers…
none of them seem to know what they mean anymore…
simply because they’re always apologizing or deferring or deflecting these days.

The headlines splash across our eyes daily with the current mea culpas turned defense…
“I didn’t mean it”
“That’s not what I meant”
“My attorney won’t let me answer that”
“That was just a joke taken the wrong way”
“I didn’t say that”
“That wasn’t me”
“This has all been blown out of proportion”
“You heard wrong”
“You took that out of context”
“The devil made me do it / say it”
“The sky is falling… uh, just kidding….”

It’s all fun and games until there’s a push back, a backlash or a pure revolt….
Then the last laugh is no longer on the targeted but rather is now turned back around
to the one who was attempting to initiate the laughs, or the claims,
or the accusations in the first place.

And within all the mea culpas comes the deferments, the denials, the deflections,
the blind eyes…
as in…
“well, that wasn’t even my idea”
“he, she, it made me do it”
“I have no recollection of that”
“I didn’t do that, say that.. but rather he, she, it did”
“I plead the 5th…the 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd and whatever else I can plead….”
“No habla inglés, or suddenly any other language for that matter…
“Who me?”
“I wasn’t even in the country”

The list is endless.

And hidden within the denials, the confusion, the lies, the excuses
is the anger, the rage and the resentment…
of the “how dare you not think me funny, factual, fair…”
“how dare you not think I wasn’t joking”
“how dare you take what I said / did the wrong way”
“how dare you, be you, who now makes me look bad / feel bad”

Actually it’s all really confusing because not only do we not know what
“they” mean anymore…we’re being told that we no longer know what we mean…
as what we thought we believed and knew to be true…is nothing but an illusion
of what we once knew…

The only meaning that has stood the test of time, the test of man….
despite man’s best attempts to alter it, change it, rewrite it, deny it, ignore it…

God’s word…..

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

Hebrews 4:12

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Homesick

“I felt a pang — a strange and inexplicable pang that I had never felt before.
It was homesickness.
Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it, I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape, to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.”

Alan Bradley

“Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart,
if they exist,
I will still not have the power to forget you.”

Ovid

God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart

DSCN0881
(sheep on a teaching farm / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A fitful night…
dreams seemingly more real than not…
To wake…
On and off, over and over…
as the dream simply picks up where it left off.
A continuous movie playing out inside my head, all night long…

Trying desperately hard to find you, to call you…
Yet I can’t reach you.
I am there, not here…
but I am lost…
I need for you to come find me…
for it is only you who can help me….

Yet why is that?
Why do I seek you and your help?
Are there not others…?
Others even more capable…
Those who are more near and not so far away…?

Waking….
Perplexed, exhausted, wondering…
What ever does it mean…
or not mean…?
As the thought,
the memory,
the utter physical uneasiness…
hangs heavy over the day.

Homesick, yet here at home.
Missing and longing…
Aching for something else…
someplace else…
something more…
Yet what could it be…and why…?

You are there and I am here.
A melancholy heaviness clouds my thoughts.
It was all but a mere brief crossing of paths.
Yet with a lasting effect.
There was a change.
Deep and profound…
And I am the better for it…
Yet there remains a yearning, a hunger, an aching…
for more…

So very much more.
For hearing,
for seeing,
for feeling,
for learning.

Yet frustration is found in the simple being…
of so very far away…

My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.

Isaiah 26:9