As morning breaks

“The longest way must have its close –
the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

(morning at the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

As morning breaks I look to You, O God
To be my strength this day, Alleluia
As morning breaks I look to You, O God
To be my strength this day, Alleluia
O God You are my God
For You my soul is thirsty
My body pines for You
Like a dry weary land without water
So I gaze upon You
In Your sanctuary
To see Your strength and glory

As morning breaks I look to You, O God
To be my strength this day, Alleluia

For Your love is better than life
My lips can speak Your praises
I will bless You of my life
In Your name I will life up my hands

And my soul shall be filled as with a banquet
My mouth shall praise Your name with joy

As morning breaks I look to You, O God
To be my strength this day, Aleluia
As morning breaks I look to You, O God
To be my strength this day, Alleluia… Alleluia

(lyrics to As Morning Breaks by John Michael Talbot based on Psalm 63
Frome the album Come to the Quiet—a favorite album since my early college days)

between darkness and light

(sunset at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

****Firstly, may our hearts and prayers be with the students, parents, faculty, staff
and entire community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward Co. Florida.
Our hearts break for those families whose lives will never be the same.

Secondly, I read an updated post offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Tuesday
that he was going in for emergency surgery Wednesday due to a detached retina—
this being the second and unforeseen such surgery. He asked for our prayers…
and pray we shall.

With this past Sunday marking the Christian observation of the Transfiguration, the
event in which Jesus is “transfigured” before his friends who had accompanied him to a
mountain to pray…one might find that such an event is perhaps odd fitting falling on
Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent…
because here we have a significant moment
of light versus a significant time of difficulty and darkness.

As this seems to be one more example of the juxtaposition of our faith as Christians…
Darkness versus Light….Light versus Darkness.

Bishop Ashenden notes this event in his Sunday homily taking place on the last Sunday
before Lent.
He opens his homily with the reading from Mark regarding the event we Christians
know as the Transfiguration of our Lord.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a
high mountain, where they were all alone.
There he was transfigured before them.
His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.
Let us put up three shelters (some say altars)—one for you, one for Moses and
one for Elijah.”
(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain,
Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man
had risen from the dead.
They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things.
Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?
But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished,
just as it is written about him.”

Mark 9:2-11

I personally have always found the timing, or rather revealing, of Jesus’ Transfiguration
being remembered on the Sunday before Lent as a bit odd as it seems somewhat out of sync.
Here we have the Church calendar making its way toward Ash Wednesday and the
beginning of Lent, a time of solemness and yet we are given a story of Light and Glory.

Lent is a hard time for Christians–it is a 40 day lead up to the walking of the Via Dolorosa–
or the Way of Sorrows…
There is such a seriousness and heaviness and yet here we have a moment of shared and
exposed Glory with the marking of Blinding Light.

And of course, the voice of God telling those disciples present that
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”

I can only imagine how those three disciples must have felt.
First and suddenly, Jesus is consumed by blinding light.
Then just as suddenly they are seeing men that needed no introduction or explanation
as to who they were, the disciples just seem to know…
the prophet Elijah (who according to Wikipedia as in The Book of Malachi prophesies Elijah’s
return “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD”,
making him a harbinger of the Messiah and of the eschaton in
various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible) and also Moses,
the man chosen by God to continue the lineage of mankind and all of Creation
following the near world-ending flood.

Pretty mind-blowing and unbelievable stuff.

And yet they seem to take it all in stride.

That’s the thing about the Bible—we are given specifics with very little in the way
of emotions.
“so afraid”, “trembling”, “sorrow”… descriptive words but not much in the way of
“hey!!! What just happened here??!!”

Yet Bishop Ashenden reminds us that their breath, that of Peter, James, and John,
must have been taken away by Glory…

For these three disciples suddenly found themselves out of the concept of both
space and time.

Both being humanly grounding concepts simply disappearing in the blink of an eye.

We aren’t told of the duration of this event—and I would suspect,
much like a dream that seems to last an entire night yet in actuality is but a minute
or so at best, this moment of absence yet consumingness must also be brief.

The good bishop states that time and space…of which is infused with Glory, simply melts…
Just as it does so later for both Paul and Stephen…
Just as we know that they, and eventually us, must melt ourselves in order to
truly see this Spiritual reality.
Because we can not be of either space nor time in order to be in the presence of God—
because God is not and cannot be, contained by either.

And so the Transfiguration is our moment when both space and time melt away, affording us
a Light cast just before we enter into the darkness.

For “Hope and the promise of Glory–pierces the darkness.
And we need this encouragement found in Christ’s transfiguration to feel the encouragement
in our perseverance through our own Via Dolorosa.

For we live our earthly lives caught up in darkness…
The recent shooting yesterday at the high school in Florida startingly jerks us back
to the knowledge that we live in a fallen world caught in the power play of
Light and Darkness.

As we will soon one day hear those long-awaited words…
“Behold I am with you always—until the end of time…

When both space and time and even ourselves will melt away and
we will find ourselves in the Light.

what matters most…

“In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal,
hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.”

St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

“Listen with the ear of your heart.”
– St. Benedict of Nursia

(the Gulf of Mexico as seen from Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s so much we could be chatting about.
So much to be talking about…
So much I’ve been thinking about.
Because if we just check in on the world, just the mere checking in swings wide the doors
of conversation both vast and far…

Yet today that all seems to be of little consequence.

However we do continue to get caught up in all of that, don’t we?

The ‘he said, she said’ of all things political, entertainment or merely worldly.
As we allow it to fuel our wrath, our angst, our sick perversions as we jump
on the neighboring soap boxes of others, prepared to pick up a sword and duel it out.

Such duels are done publically each and every day on the news just as duels are
done here in the blogosphere.
We trade jabs back and forth, parlaying a thrust here and an attack there to those we perceive
to be our enemies…

I’ve not watched much news this week–it’s been kind of nice missing out…
Yet I did catch a snippet of the breaking news out of Kentucky and of the high school shooting
which took place this past week—
a shooting that took the lives of two teenagers—while 12 others, I think, are now
suffering from their wounds…
All the while, a teenage gunman has been taken into custody—
As no motive has yet been shared.

I taught high school for over half my adult life…
After Columbine, I knew what it was like to always hold in the back of my mind the notion
that one day ‘one of ours’ could go off the deep end, or worse, someone from outside could go off
the deep end, coming inside to our world with that empty lostness,
that personification of evil, bringing that unseemingly senseless havoc into our world.

There is an utter helplessness when such happens.
Life stands still for the never-ending seconds while lives change forever.

And now that those seconds of change have passed, as lives are once again lost and changed,
the rest of us prepare to jump up on those boxes of ours with swords held high,
as we once again prepare to go to battle over mental health, gun control, safety,
security… on and on goes the list of ills…

But the bottom line is that lives are gone and lives are changed and people are hurting.

That’s the bottom line.

I was moved reading the tale today of the dad whose son was one of the two victims who lost
their young lives in that high school in Kentucky…

That dad raced to the high school and knew that the body on the stretcher being rushed from
the building was that of his son’s because he recognized the socks on the feet of the body
on the stretcher—because they were the socks he’d laid out the night before for his son
to put on the following morning.

I always made certain my son had his clothes laid out too—all through high school,
as I’d remind him, as he’d found himself too old for me to continue laying them out for him,
all so he wouldn’t have to rush around figuring out what to wear the next morning.

I wept for this father who was miraculously given the time to tell his dying son how much
he loved him.

I wept for the first responder mom who made her way to the school only to discover that her’s
was the son who was the shooter.

I wept for the family of the young lady also killed, just as I weep for the other victims in the
various hospitals.

I weep for all those who no longer have a sense of innocence or a sense of safety
or a sense of faith–as those things become victims as well.

I weep for all of us, for humankind, as we forget and are jolted back to reality as we
grapple with the understanding that we live in a broken and fallen world.

I weep because we have become so jaded by such stories that we can no longer weep but prefer rather
to immediately jump on the soapbox of battle.

Never mind the necessary mourning.
Never mind our pain, our sorrow, our brokenness…
For we have long decided that to deal with our mourning is to ignore our pain,
to ignore the hurt…

And maybe it will just go away.

There will be those rallying cries from those soapboxes,
that is if they haven’t already started crying—
that if we could just gather up every gun, identify every person before they are pushed one
step too far, if we could just do this or just do that…

But what we fail to grasp, is that life will always remain precarious.
Trgeday and Death will never leave us alone.
And none of us are exempt from the tears of sorrow…

I can only hope that in all of the sorrow, in all of the tragedies,
in all of the loss, be it public or private, that we will remember to find our compassion
at such times and not our hate.
That we can find our prayers and not our accusations and that we can remember to be the
the tangible and physical embodiment of God’s love offered freely to those who now hurt…

Since all our love for God is ultimately a response to His love for us, we can never love Him,
in the same way, He loves us, namely, gratuitously.
Since we are fundamentally dependent on God and in His debt for our creation and redemption,
our love is always owed to Him, a duty,
a response to His love. But we can love our neighbor in the same way that He loves us,
gratuitously—not because of anything the neighbor has done for us or because of anything
that we owe him, but simply because love has been freely given to us.
We thereby greatly please the Father.
God the Father tells Catherine [of Siena]: This is why I have put you among your neighbors:
so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me—that is,
love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself.
And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.”

– Ralph Martin, p. 261
An Excerpt From
Fulfillment of all Desire

“Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God.
A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so.
As soon as it turns away, it stops praying.
The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all
that is not God.
That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement.
Prayer is essentially a ‘raising up’, an elevation.
We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise
ourselves up to the Creator.”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 91
An Excerpt From
The Prayer of the Presence of God

“We find rest in those we love,
and we provide a resting place for those who love us.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

digging deeper

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil,
and let us see what we are made of.

Charles Spurgeon

(piping plovers dig deep into the sand in search of tasty morsels / Julie Cook / 2018)

What is it about digging that leaves us uneasy?
Not the type of literal digging with a shovel, but rather the digging into one’s self.
A metaphorical digging.
Digging deep within in order to discover what makes us who we are.

Chances are most of us don’t much care–
Or don’t much really want to know…

We live day to day, doing our thing, whatever that thing might be…
so to uncover anything extra is not seen as a necessity for survival.
Something more trouble than its worth.

Yet these little plovers spend every waking daylight hour poking and prodding deep into the
wet sand in search of something to eat.
They never tire nor abandon their quest.

The lives of plovers obviously depend upon their digging, poking, and prodding.

Our lives…not so much.

Our sustenance is dependant upon the digging of others.
So we don’t much worry about real digging.
So introspective digging is not considered essential to life.
And therefore, obviously not needed.
And if the truth be told, we find it uncomfortable.
And who wants to be uncomfortable??

And yet we are living in a time of the self-help generation, the hashtag generation,
the generation of whatever the latest cause is that’s coming down the pike.
We jump on the latest bandwagon believing, whatever bandwagon it is, that it will make us happy,
make us complete, make us real… all the while making us content in our lives of
here and now.

All the while we are an angry people, a self-consumed people, a distrusting people,
a sallow people a divided people, a lost people…
who just so happen to find ourselves longing only to be happy and content…

And yet we join the movements.
We jump on the causes.
We play the parts.
We profess the earthly falsehoods as some sort of lasting truth.


Bandwagons are fickled.
Hashtags will come and go.
Angst will fester.
Worldly happiness is fleeting.
and fulfillment comes at a cost to self-worth…

Dig deeper for the what is pure, what is lasting.
Dig for that which will not fade, will not leave, will not falter, will not leave
you longing…
When you dig, what do you find…

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe,
lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,
should shine on them

2 Corinthians 4:4


The Royal Navy is not a humorous institution, sir,
and insubordination is no laughing matter.

Vice Admiral William Bligh

(1814 painting of Vice Admiral William Bligh)

Time hasn’t been much my own as of late so I’m a bit behind in wanting to address,
add to, or simply acknowledge the most recent offering in the way of my
favorite former Church of England prelate.

And with the recent addition of a black eye patch, Bishop Ashenden is looking quite
the part of a rebel…
but in the case of the good Bishop, he is a rebel with great cause.

The other day I referenced Bishop Ashenden having had emergency surgery to reattach
a torn retina—hence the patch.
My understanding is that he will make a full recovery,
which is a tremendous blessing.

The latest video uplink of Anglican Unscripted covers a couple of issues
that I have previously touched upon as noted by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
One being the the church school that kicked out a Christian organization
from presenting a program in the school…an organization that was considered to
be “too Christian” for some of the more secular leaning parents.

If you’re going to enroll your child in a Christian Church school,
I think it would be a safe bet to assume that Christian organizations would,
at some point, come calling.

I liken such thought to the notion of whether or not there is salt in sea water??

The real concern of the matter however is over the headmaster who capitulated to
these complaints and demands of these put-upon parents.
The headmaster acknowledged that Cross Teach, the Christian organization that has been operating now for 16 years, does a wonderful job with the kids but he cowardly
“uninvited” them and let it be known that they are not welcome to come back.

This is not only a shame and a pity, but this is really actually a travesty.

A Church School feeling compelled to dismiss a very respected and noteworthy Christian organization from visiting the school and working with its students,
students who by the way greatly enjoy and greatly benefit from the interaction
with the Cross Teach team, all due to a few parents not wanting a “Christian”
influence on their children…in a Christian School of all places

Again…let it sink in… concern over Christian influence within a Christian church school… all within a Church of England school.

What about any of that makes any sort of sense!!??

Yet the greater area of concern and or worry is with the Church of England’s response.
The Church is in full agreement with its headmaster….who if the truth be told
is not wanting to ignite the ire within the hierarchy of the Church.

Bishop Ashenden notes that there is a new spiritual discourse taking place that
is changing Christian anthropology…and that there is actually a spiritual
disease now affecting the Church.

Whereas the Church will “offically” state that the Love of Christ is a truism,
in turn they are hard at work making a new culture within the church—
and this new culture is a Christian crisis…
as it runs counter to the Word of God and the Gospel as we have known it.

The good Bishop notes that there is a tragedy of ethics taking place as we see
leading clergy within the same diocese at odds on church teaching…
much like talking out of both sides of one’s head really….
Be it same sex marriage, women in the priesthood, transgenderism or any other cultural issue to come down the pike…the clergy, let alone the Church,
are not on the same page.

So how will the sheep of the fold know which shepherd to follow….

It is such a crisis that we now have leadership in a global Church
reinterpreting of Scripture in order to appease popular cultural progressivism…
and this will indeed be the Church’s undoing.

Bishop Ashenden notes that there is a great deal of pride in the Church and within
her leadership as it and they feel a sense of superiority for embracing cultural norms. There is that sense of being cutting edge,
as in leading the oh so progressive way…and in that pride lies her sin and her
eventual undoing.

Perhaps it would behoove us to put the hierarchy of the Church of England, and her cousins
running the Episcopal Church of America, adrift at sea…as perhaps a bit of mutiny
might be in order Mr. Christian…

Anglican Unscripted- The Diocese of Hereford goes heterodox & ‘Crossteach’ is excommunicated by a C of E school.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7

an earthly perception of hell

“The Christian is not just to rage against the darkness…
we are to proclaim the light”.

David Robertson

(a lone sanderling at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2017)

In the course of the past two days I have read, in two vastly different places, the
notion of what hell actually is as it is perceived by those still earthly
bound mortals…

And as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence…but rather in the intervention
of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the two views has come from a member of the clergy, one being a former Church of England prelate who now hails as a Reformed Anglican Bishop and the other–
an Eastern Orthodox monk who passed away 24 years ago.

Each man relates a similar thought concerning hell…
that being an absence.
As in a permanent and perpetual void.

I can only think, for us humans, to be able to understand this concept of absence
and void is if, and only if, we have experienced the death of a loved one.
For in death there is a separation…an earthly permanent seperation.
As in a state of no more…as in no more—ever….
at least not on this earth.

If we are Believers, then we know that death is not a permanent situation…
perhaps on this earth yes, but in Heaven no.
And if we are not Believers of the Christian faith…
then there is perhaps even a keener awareness of this state of ‘no more.’

And in that state of emptiness, for both the Believing and unbelieving,
there is an almost unconsolable sorrow of loss.
And this utter cutting off and separation, for some, is often more
than can be borne by both soul and flesh.

Both of these clerics express this notion in very different ways.

Bishop Ashenden recently had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina.
He explained that the healing process is most arduous—
He had to lie very still on his right side, at a 45 degree angle for 10 days—
24 hours a day of laying very still in a particular position
with only a 10 minute break here and there to use the bathroom.

The pain, when using the drops which aggravated his wound, was as if someone was
taking a screwdriver and was constantly digging and twisting it in his eye with no
easing off or letting up.

This reminds me of cancer patients and those with severe nerve damage where the
pain is a constant state of the unbearable.

I saw this with my mother when the cancer had spread to her bones and later with my
dad who had developed a severe Kennedy ulcer the last two weeks of his life.
The wound developed a horrible infection and opened all the way to his bone…
The slightest movement for both my parents was excruciating and yes, unbearable.

Bishop Ashenden said that in his pain he got to the point that the pain was such a
constant persistency, that it was to the point that he could not even pray—
his prayer being simply “help me Lord”—the prayer of suffering and agony.

And in that pain there was a consuming sense of isolation—
For that’s how pain is—it is totally consuming to such an extent that there is
no sense of communion with God—rather there is no sense of God…only agony.

Be that a physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain….

And it is often in such moments that many a Believer and even non-believerer
will actually be to the point where they say “to hell with God”
“If He cannot help me, relieve me, then let Him just be damned.”

That is to the lowest we go as humans.
And it is a tragic state.

Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993) offers us a bit different vision
of a mortal’s interpretation of hell.
He shares what he has learned from those monks who have gone before him…
in the way of what is known as a “custom house”

The customs houses about which the Fathers write are symbols of a reality.
The Fathers understand them as follows: after the fall of man,
the soul is nourished by the body, in other words,
it finds refreshment in material pleasures.
After death, however, these bodily passions that used to divert the soul
no longer exist, because the soul has left the body,
and they choke and stifle the soul.
These are the customs houses and eternal torment.
Abba Dorotheos says that eternal torment is for someone to be shut up
for three days in a room without food, sleep or prayer.
Then he can understand what hell is.

Elder Sophrony of Essex. I Know a Man in Christ

Bishop Ashenden admonishes us all that it would behoove us to be of a constant
state of prayer—during those times in life when we are free to offer up our prayers…
be they of worship and praise, adulation and jubilation, thanksgiving and awe,
or simply intercession—
For we must do so with a fervency…because none of us are exempt from pain.

Just as it would behoove us to understand that hell is very real, very lasting
and it is not the sort of place we should want to or settle on going—
For if we find the early glimpse unbearable, what would eternity be….

For during each our lifetimes we will inevitably be faced with this glimpse of hell,
and when we are, we must know that we are ‘shored up’…
that during those times when all we can do is cry out “help, please” that we may rest
in knowing that He has heard us and we are not as we feel, alone and tormented…
For He has already walked our journey long before we were even conceived.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

Reasoning of the what ifs

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human
history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—
the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis

(a lone pigeon surveys the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

‎”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind.
In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking.
It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen,
for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way,
this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.
But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true?
It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself
will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking,
of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism,
and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else.
Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought:
so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

C.S. Lewis

In determining relationships we must begin somewhere.
There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured,
where the law of relativity does not enter and we can say “IS” and make no allowances.
Such a center is God. When God would make His Name known to mankind He could find
no better word than “I AM.”
When He speaks in the first person He says,
“I AM”; when we speak of Him we say, “He is”;
when we speak to Him we say, “Thou art.”
Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point.
“I am that I am,” says God,
“I change not.”

As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun,
so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God.
We are right when and only when we stand in a right position relative to God,
and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.

A. W. Towzer