the gift of the miraculous

“There are many going afar to marvel at the heights of mountains,
the mighty waves of the sea, the long courses of great rivers,
the vastness of the ocean, the movements of the stars, yet they leave themselves unnoticed!”

Saint Augustine


(The Mayor has discovered she can drive her limousine up under the kitchen table in order
to investigate what makes the table tick / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve been marveling recently.

Marveling at the development of a wee small person.
No surprise there I would imagine.

Yet this marveling of mine, however, goes beyond the mere grandmotherly marveling over the
leaps and strides made by a baby who appears to miraculously change and grow,
if not day by day, but more like minute by millisecond…

As each new moment brings a brand new advancement.

To roll,
to sit,
to pull,
to stand,
to eat,
to chew,
to taste,
to utter sounds,
to express likes and dislikes…
to demonstrate joy and anguish,
to recognize pain and self-satisfaction.

The discoveries made of both self and surroundings are each incredible to behold.

Quite amazing really.

I think back to the time when I was once a new parent myself.

I was so caught up in what that responsibility entailed…
coupled with my working outside of the home while just trying to get us all from one day
to the next, in one safe piece…
so much so that all of that overrode my ability to actually marvel.

Of course, there were glimpses and revelations that would leave me without words but life
would demand its way…leaving me running at such a frenetic pace that basking in the
minute by minute miracles was only afforded in increments of breaths.
Life called for a family to step up to the plate and I had to answer…
no luxury found for stopping to marvel…albeit fleetingly.

It is only now in my older age…an age that gives way to both collected knowledge and wisdom,
that I can thankfully step back from the moment while blessedly stopping to take it all in.

And I am left speechless.

What we take for granted, or rather what we merely assume as we are just too busy to
acknowledge anything else, is truly nothing less than spectacular.

And so no, I am not the first nor will I be the last grandparent to marvel over a grandchild…

And yes, there have been countless numbers of psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists,
doctors, and psychiatrists over the past millennium who have all closely
studied child development…

So this marveling of mine, as it were, is really nothing new nor even very special…

But…

This marveling, this wonderment, of which I speak is not found in the science of
human development…
It is not found in the measurements of statistics or in averages…
It is not found in numbers or sequential advancements…
But rather it is found in that which makes no sense…
found in that which is beyond comprehension.

Because what I am currently witnessing taking place, day by day, breath by breath,
within one small person, over the course of these past nine months, is nothing less than
miraculous.

So I suppose we could say that her first nine months were hidden from view…
yet were no less amazing.

The fact is that I have been given the opportunity of actually viewing the past nine months
a bit more up close and personal as those first nine months were watched not only by doctors
but moment by moment by the One who breathes life into all that is…

I suppose we could say she has actually lived both seen and unseen now for 18 months…
all of which have been cemented in my heart.

And so as the calendar prepares to give way to a new season, we find ourselves standing
before the door of the impending season of Advent.

A season that brings humankind together–
offering the heightened sense of anticipation as we prepare to both watch and wait…

Is it, therefore, a coincidence that as I watch and marvel over one growing baby,
God so chose the same miraculous gift of a baby?
A gift that has been freely given to anyone who is willing to receive it?

A baby who grew both seen and unseen…
A baby who was formed in the miraculous…
A baby whose family marveled, just as I marvel, over his milestones.

Explanations will always fall away when given the gift of the miraculous…

And Mary said,
“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

God consciousness

Paul believed that in the whole field of Christian experience the first
step is with, and remains with God.
Thought, feeling and endeavor must find their basis and inspiration in,
the sovereign mercy of God.

Duncan Campbell


(image of Rodel Chruch, Lewis and Harris courtesy the web)

A couple of weeks back, my friend David, over on Ebbs and Flow, offered a couple of posts
regarding a bit of obscure history in his recounting of the tale of the
‘Revival in the Hebrides.’

This “revival” actually took place on the island of Lewis-and-Harris
during a time period running from 1940-1953.

I was not familiar with this “revival” but my curiosity was piqued–so I ordered the two books
David had recommended regarding this spiritual phenomenon.

The impetus…two elderly octogenarians, one blind, literally laid on the floor prostrate
before God immersed in a state of deep and earnest prayer…seeking a promise.
They did this for three nights each week until their prayers were fulfilled.

David offers a bit of background…
These ladies carried a burden so great that they prayed on their faces in front of the
peat fire in their crofter’s cottage three nights a week.
Three nights a week for months on end these two ladies persistently cried out to God in Gaelic
claiming a promise from Scripture:
I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon dry ground (Isaiah 44:3).
Their burden was for the folk of their parish, especially the young.
They had no idea of when God might answer their prayer,
or of how God might answer their prayer.

https://nwelford.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/clean-hands/
https://nwelford.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/a-distant-generation/

With my small corner of the world being currently consumed by all things new baby, I’ve
not had the time nor opportunity to delve further into the story of the Revival nor of the
Scottish minister, Duncan Campbell, who played a key instrumental part in the Revival.
Not until last evening when I finally managed to crack open the small blue book,
The Price and Power of Revival by Duncan Campbell, taking in a couple of pages before
closing my eyes from the weight of a month plus of pure exhaustion.

When I first read David’s initial post regarding this revival and of these two
elderly women who came before God entreating Him to fulfill a promise…
the promise of pouring water and floods upon a dry thirsty ground,
I was actually moved to tears.

Whereas their prayers were for their entire community, their focus was primarily
on the youth of their community.

These two humble elderly women believed God…without doubt…
and they believed in His promises…
so it was only natural that they went about imploring God to fulfill His promises.

The faith of a mustard seed…
a tiny smallness in which greatness is found.

Oh so simple and yet oh so profound.

They believed.
They prayed.
Their earnestness and honest heartfelt prayers, in turn, answered in miraculous fashion.

Duncan Campbell offers the following…

The Divine in the human:
In God’s creative plan, man holds a unique place,
distinct in this respect that he alone of God’s creation is capable of God-consciousness.
“This consciousness, or feeling,
is as much a verity as any other fact of human consciousness:

The notion of ‘God-consciousness’ is something that I think lies buried within the heart each
and every human being…be it dormant or not.

And it is the moving of the Spirit which awakens this sleeping giant.

I’ve recounted this little story before but it came flooding back when I
had read David’s post…

Years ago when I was a teenager, still in high school, I was running errands with
my “godmother” who was the wife of the dean of our Chruch. Ours was an Episcopal
Cathedral so the lead priest of an Episcopal Chruch is known as a dean.

They were a deeply spiritual couple who were actually actively involved in the current
spiritual revival taking place within the Catholic and Episcopal denominations known
as the Charismatic Movement.

This was during the mid 70’s…it was a time of cultural settling yet spiritual growth
following the contentious 60’s.

I don’t recall how our conversation got on the subject but my godmother commented
on the obvious curiosity behind my apparent draw to a deeper spirituality…
this given the fact that I was an angst-filled teenager whose family was not exactly
the most religious–
So how in the world I had stumbled upon my current path of a Spiritual journey,
all of which seemed more than a bit odd, was beyond her soul…

But she had a clue…

From first glance, I was not exactly one who others would imagine to be a deeply seeking person…
seeking deeply what Catherine Marshal called “Something More” —
which was the title of one of her numerous books and one that I just happened to be reading.

Knowing my history…that I had been adopted, my godmother turned to look me in the
face and proceeded to tell me that she believed someone who had known of me and of
my existence had prayed…
that someone had prayed for me for all these years…
as those prayers had been directing my path all these years…

And so yes, we pray earnestly because we have been told to pray without ceasing…
God has made us a promise and He will not turn a deaf ear to that promise…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

heads of serpents

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage
and the family.
Do not be afraid,
because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be fought and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

Sister Lucia


(Madonna and Child with St Anne / Caravaggio / 1605-1606 / Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Caravaggio was a masterful late Renaissance painter who seems to have been able to
capture the overwhelming importance of certain biblical moments with merely the tip
of a brush.
He mixed both arrangement, size, light and proportion to make both impressive,
as well as tremendous, visual impacts.

Yet for many art historians, this particular painting is not considered one of his better works.
However workmanship aside, the visual representation based on the verse from Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

is indeed a powerful painted statement none the less.

A little history behind the painting, taken from the site Caravaggio.org

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne was painted between 1605 and 8 April 1606,
when a final payment to Caravaggio was recorded,
for the Confraternity of Sant’ Anna dei Palafrenieri, or Grooms, of the Vatican Palace.
The composition depicts Christ and the Virgin treading simultaneously on the serpent of heresy,
watched by the Virgin’s mother, St. Anne, who was the patron saint of the Palafrenieri.
It was an unusual although topical theme based on an ambiguous biblical passage, Genesis 3:15,
which does not make it clear whether it was Eve, the antetype of Mary, the ‘New Eve’,
or her offspring who was meant to strike at the serpent’s head.
What started as a theological dispute became caught up in the wider debate between
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
with the Protestants not unnaturally arguing in favour of the offspring and, hence, Christ.
The issue was resolved on the Roman Catholic side, however, with commendable textual accuracy,
not to say religious tact,
by a Bull of Pius V which ruled that ‘the Virgin crushed the head of the serpent
with the aid of him to whom she had given birth.’
It is this interpretation which Caravaggio followed, possibly basing himself on a
slightly earlier picture by the Milanese artist Figino.

Yet Papal Bulls, Reformations and denominations aside…
Today’s faithful know that the head of the serpent was indeed crushed following that fateful
Friday afternoon outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem.
And if the truth be told, the vice hold on the head began that lone starry night
in Bethlehem 33 years prior.

The quote from above is offered by Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three shepherd children
who, while tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, were visited by a strange yet
lovely lady.

And yet it matters not where you are on your Christian journey as to whether you
take stock in the tale of the shepherd children or of the tale of the miraculous..
Just as it matters not as to whether you believe that there was indeed such a heavenly
encounter now 100 years passed…
The important thing here however is to understand that wisdom and warning both
come to us in a myriad of fashions.

There are many in today’s world, both believers and ardent non believers,
who wonder and even argue that those tales of miracles and those outspoken prophets of
the bible are found only there…
in between the pages of ancient texts…
and that our world has not been privy to such powerful and outspoken voices, with such
names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, John, Peter, Paul and that we have not witnessed such
miraculous examples as to partings of seas, or to the raising of dead bodies,
or to waters that turn either to blood or wine…
but if truth be told,
both believers and non believers, yearn for that very thing.

It is a yearning for the tangible being found in the miraculous of that of the intangible.

Our current time is precarious at best…
Where persecution of the faithful becomes seemingly more elusive yet more sinister….
as it is an intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

While that which was once overt is no longer clearly visible but rather is now veiled in
the gossamer shadows of confusion.
It is a place where the notions of acceptance and approval pervasively reign for that
which is upside down.

What was once accepted as Truth has now been twisted into something other than
as we are being spoon fed a most palatable mix of half truths and lies…
all the while we continue to clamor for bite after tasty bite.

Yet the time has come…
shall the faithful speak up and speak out?

A final battle will eventually ensue..
there have been preparations, when he left us, he made certain we were well equipped.
As he has provided ample opportunities, all of which have been freely offered..
all the while as a holy foot has held the head of the serpent at bay…

So the choice is now clear, either we opt to crush the head of the serpent or
we become his prey…

He who commits sin is of the devil;
for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him,
and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:8-10

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

layers

“Wherever you come near the human race
there’s layers and layers of nonsense.”

Thornton Wilder

DSCN3520 (1)
(cliff wall at Little River Canyon State Park / Alabama / Julie Cook / 2015)

Upon first glance the casual observer is greeted by an unassuming rock cliff,
gently embraced by summer’s lush growth…
The rich sensuous greens of life enveloping the hard unmoving foundation of a planet.

But upon closer inspection one is met with the…
complexity of striation,
the melding of coloration,
the confusion of abstraction
and the frustration of complication.

DSCN3520

And then after scrutinizing what was initially the obvious,
which has now emerged into something more along the lines of the miraculous…
we see the wonderment of the unique individual fingerprints of an Omnipotent Creator…

And yet sadly…
some observers simply continue to see a bunch of rocks…..

DSCN3521

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other…
Isaiah 45:5-6

Beware the gators

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion”
Egyptian Proverb

Z-nmg4ohtaPTJzNtpVn_ABo5G7GItu8y
(image borrowed from web of a gator crossing an interstate near Naples, FL)

Maybe you’ve heard about them…
or
maybe you haven’t…

Interstate alligators…

And no, I’m not talking about actual alligators crossing the road as in the image above…
Rather I’m talking about something that is equally as dangerous and equally as deadly…
The only caveat is that it’s just not a living creature.

So now that your interest is piqued and you understand that we are not discussing reptiles…
I will explain what exactly an interstate alligator is all about.

An interstate alligator is the dubious moniker for the remnants of the shredded tires from tractor trailer trucks.

shredded_tire_roadside

More times than not, those big rigs, which are driving on very worn tires, will lose the most worn tires off their rigs to the rigors of constant wear and tear…all while driving on car infested roadways.
As they race up and down the highways, freeways and interstates across this grand country of ours, these worn steel belted tires will basically begin to disintegrate and shred while the truck is clocking 70 to 80 mph.

semi-tire-blowout
(image courtesy Real Truck Driver Blog)

Add to that the heat of summer, as the pavement reaches deadly hot temperatures…
With worn tires riding along an inferno of cement and asphalt, we’ve all got troubles!

Imagine huge chunks of tire being slung off a spinning rim, most often unbeknownst to the driver, as the driver isn’t about to be slowing down or moving over to the far right lane in order to exit or move to the emergency lane in order to stop…

Next imagine being the cars behind and beside these big truck as the tire is shredding.

Needless to say there have been many a damaged vehicle as there have been many a fatality as a result of these shredding tires.

The alligator part comes into play when the remnants of these tires are left where they fly then fall—that being the middle of lanes, along the shoulder of the road…just anywhere they finally lose the momentum of flight—as they now lay in wait, lurking and waiting for those poor unsuspecting drivers who are on top of them before being able to slow down or swerve safely out of the way while attempting not to ram into a fellow driver…

Today’s journey to Atlanta, on its infamous perimeter, was like navigating a backwater bayou at full speed while trying to dodge and miss a plethora of both big and small gators all before it being too late before an impending collision.

Cars were slamming on their brakes, erratically changing lanes, hoping the cars beside and behind could get stopped in time.

Holding on for dear life as I made my way through the cement minefield,
I smelled it before I saw it as the air was rife with the acrid smell of burning rubber.
Dodging debris big and small, I soon road past the culprit. A big rig’s second to the back tire was disintegrating faster than he could move over and slow down.
Tire was slinging left and right as cars did their darnedest to dodge the deadly shrapnel.

As I miraculously made my way past the truck and the sea of tire parts without being hit, without running over anything and without being hit by my fellow dodging drivers, I was struck (not literally thank God) by the sheer magnitude of how things can change in one’s life from good to disastrous in literally the blink of an eye.
A ‘now you don’t see it, yet now you suddenly do’ sort of life’s scenario..

Yet we don’t much like thinking of life in that regard.

We don’t like to dwell on the possible and potential negatives of life…
those ‘could be’s’ or those ‘what if’s’ in life…
but what of the sudden and sheer catastrophic…??

We don’t want to live life constantly fretting and worrying.

Yet we do need to always be ready…
Ready for those very instantaneous what if’s.

As in…what if I’m taken out by this interstate monster right here, right now—am I ready for that?
Am I ready if my life is snuffed out just like that?

There’s no time to think,
No time to suddenly and quickly introduce yourself to a God you’ve just kind of always kept in the back of your head…
Kind of like a Santa Claus—
calling on Him in a pinch or when you really need or want something….

This isn’t like the “oh please God don’t let me get caught by that red light again” sort of thing…
Rather this is…there’s a big black chunk of rubber and steal, that’s just come up out of nowhere, hurdling through both time and space with lightning speed right for your windshield and face sort of thing, leaving you nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, leaving you nowhere to duck and cover….

Your relationship with God cannot wait.
It’s that dire, that urgent.

Not because you need to be saved from flying projectiles or hungry debris alligators who are lurking and waiting for when you lest expect it…but because time will not always afford you the luxury of waiting, pondering and deciding, if you want your soul to be lost or to be found…

There is true comfort in knowing that no matter what happens in this life…no matter the dangerous and deadly perils that await us…the catastrophes, the accidents, the random horrible things …
that in and through it all…God is yours and you are His…forever and ever…Amen!!

May you travel in safety my friends…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Beauty in difficulty

Out of difficulties grow miracles.
Jean de la Bruyere

DSCN2953
(thistle / Julie Cook / 2016)

Throughout our lives we will each encounter thorns…
Moments and experiences that are laced with those more troubling struggles which are simply unavoidable.

These encounters will obviously be uncomfortable, earth shattering and more often than not,
unbearably painful…

Such encounters will range from mildly irritating and bothersome,
to excruciatingly sharp, piercing and even most torturous.

Yet within each of these uncomfortable and painful encounters…
resides a mystery…

A mystery of rare, unexplainable and even unimaginable beauty…
Moments of pain and sorrow,
suffering and agony…
which are actually honed by the miraculous…

For from these enigmatic encounters…
those irritatingly painful experiences caused by the thorns scattered within our lives,
emerges a hidden majesty and beauty.

It is the blacksmith who must anneal his metals…
making them stronger by the raging fires of the furnace…
following each pass into the furnace, the metal’s trial by fire, comes the process of tempering the steel..
The hammering and beating of the heated and softened metal into a strong composition ready to withstand the rigors of use….

Within these difficult encounters of suffering, heartache and frustration, resides the mystery of our beauty and of our strength…

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:8-9