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

the underdog who wants its Sunday’s back

But I will go down with this ship
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I’m in love and always will be..
.

White Flag lyrics by Dido

The great danger for family life,
in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence,
lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.

Pope John Paul II


(Alice, our grand-dog, is not an underdog necessarily, rather a very much loved dog
/ Julie Cook / 2017)

I have always been a person who likes to pull for the underdog…
that team, group or individual who has the odds stacked against them, him or her.

Maybe that’s because, as a wife and mother, I have often felt my brood has
at times fallen into the category of the underdog.

Those who stare from the bottom of the barrel upward at those perceived to be bigger,
better, brighter, smarter, richer, luckier, more successful, more this and more that.
As the bottom is pitted against the upper—
with the odds never being good or favorable.

Maybe it’s that little college team that has no chance playing against that top
ranked huge opponent but who must play anyway…all in order to bring much needed
revenue in to their less advantaged school.

They are out coached, out weighed, out numbered and out financed..
To play is a risk both physically as well as mentally…but nonetheless,
play they do.

They go forward despite the odds.
The roll up their sleeves despite the inevitable.
They hold their heads up knowing they will soon be knocked down.

Yet there is never shame in trying and holding ones ground.

And so when I read the latest post, of which I have provided the link…
a post from a delightful blog I follow—
a blog that doesn’t post often, but when there is a post, it is usually very profound
and or powerful….
I was reminded again of why I like an underdog….

The blogger and family wouldn’t dare consider themselves profound or powerful—
for theirs is a simple sort of life but one that possesses a deep
rooted spiritual faith.
They are a Catholic family living in the shadows of Notre Dame…
who are just one more link in the chain of defenders of this collective
Christian faith of ours….

Thoughts from the side of the House…..

America Implodes on “Black Friday”…. Meanwhile, POLAND Leads the Way Towards Sanity

This post captured my feelings exactly of how I feel not only about Black Friday
but how I feel as to how America, along with most of Western Civilization, has turned
Christmas into something totally unrecognizable.

And maybe that has been the goal all along.
No longer is it Christmas as we thought we knew Christmas…
but rather it is a “winter” moment, or if in the Southern Hemisphere,
it is a “summer” moment…a moment that just so happens to have copious gift
giving attached.

And just when we thought the world had gone mad with all things materialistic
and secular… in steps the often mocked, maligned and overlooked nation of Poland.

I have written about Poland before, for various reasons.

I don’t think many of us living in this Western Civilization of ours actually
realizes the debt of gratitude we truly owe to Poland.

Poland for well over 1000 years has stood on the defining line between
Western Civilization and all sorts of barbarism, communism, socialism, Nazism, totalitarianism and now secularism.
For every ‘ism’ out there—Poland has stood against it as the defining line
of right verses wrong.

Poland was the line between the Mongols, the Saracens, the Nazis and the Communists…
just to name but a few of the invading hordes whose sites were always set on
freedom and democracy.

But Poland has said “NO!” time and time again,
even at the greatest cost to herself and her people.

She sacrificed herself more times than not…and yet was the butt of
every American’s jokes in the late 60’s and 70’s…
“how many Pollocks does it take to unscrew a light bulb?”
You remember the jokes.
Even Archie Bunker of All in the Family fame helped fuel the ridiculing fires.

Yet it is to Poland and her people who those of us enjoying life in the Western World
owe a great deal of gratitude to…
gratitude for the very freedoms we each enjoy today as it was Poland who stood on the
defending line of “us verses them” for over 1000 years.

Selflessness verses the often sought self preservation

She has even disappeared off the map more than once when she was gobbled up by
usurpers who ate the nation and her people only to later spit them back out.
A sacrifice made and given as that has been her lot and her role.

When we think of mighty nations, Poland does not come to mind.

Yet it was in Poland that Hitler had the majority of his Death Camps.
And it was Poland who was sacrificed to Stalin by Roosevelt.
And it was Poland who stood up to the mighty USSR.

And it is now Poland who wants her Sundays back.

Sundays back you ask…???

Sundays yes…because out of all the nations, Poland is still considered to
be a decisively Christian nation.

No other nation is considered such—not even
France, Ireland or Italy…as most of the the West, along with most of North America,
has fallen to the god of all things secular.

Here in the West, we have gotten quite accustomed to living life 24 /7
Meaning we can go, do, buy, see whatever it is we want on any given
single day of the week.

It use to not be that way.

Sunday was the sabbath….
It still is but most folks have forgotten that little fact.

Most everything was closed in observance of the Sabbath.
People were off from work, they would attend church, they would spend time
visiting, eating together, being a family together….

In the West we had what was known as blue laws—laws that restricted certain
activities on Sundays as Sunday was to be a day of Christian religious observation.
Malls were closed, banks and the Post offices were closed, many stores were closed,
bars were closed, most restaurants were closed, the sale of beer, wine and liquor was prohibited…on and on it went.

Then that all changed.
For a myriad of reasons— profits, selfish wants, greed…
The notion of wanting and having when and how one wanted things took precedence.
Laws were changed.

But Poland wants to see all of that changed…reversed back to Sunday being a day of
reverence, a Sabbath, a day for family….
“Just this week the lower house of the Polish parliament passed a bill to phase out unnecessary consumer spending on Sundays.
The law would curtail most shopping in order to allow the Polish people
to spend time with their families.”

Once again, Poland, that underdog of nations, demonstrates that despite being small
and considered by others as less than….no one will ever say that Poland is afraid
to stand up against what she perceives to be wrong,
standing even that means she stands alone for what is right…..

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all
kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:10-12

it isn’t rocket science

“In keeping silent about evil,
in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface,
we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers,
we are not simply protecting their trivial old age,
we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Voices from the past…
voices not so long past…
continue reaching out…
Their words remain drifting along the currents of time.
Individuals from a different life are now born into the prophets of our day.

Their words…
now more urgent…
now more critical…
No longer merely mentioned in a speech or interview…
but rather crying out for our attention.
This now lost and stumbling generation…

Will the scales fall finally from our eyes,
Will we turn our hearing their way…
Opening our hearts and minds to the Truth

Or have we now all gone simply too far…
drifting further away from that offering of Salavation

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical
confrontation humanity has ever experienced.
I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society,
or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.
We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church,
between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Antichrist.”

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, 1976

An open and willing vessel

“I am the vessel.
The draft is God’s.
And God is the thirsty one.”

Dag Hammarskjold

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Advocata Nostra [our advocate], The oldest icon of Mary in Rome, Italy / The Dominican sisters Convert /
Its origin is traced to ancient Jerusalem and is attributed to the hand of St Luke who painted
it at the request of the Apostles )

[That]A peace would settle over the planet like a velvet coverlet drawn over a sleeping child.
The world would recollect itself and discover itself held in the womb of the Mother of God.
We would be filled with all the fullness of God,
even as we filled the emptiness of the Savior’s heart with ours.

Loretta Ross-Gotta

heightened senses….

“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
William Faulkner

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(Victorian Christmas Greeting card)

Every memory seems more keen.
Every sight seems more bright.
Every tear seems more heavy.
Every scent seems more strong.
Every sound seems more bold.
Every heartache seems more piercing.
Every loss seems more painful.
Every joy seems more complete.
Every touch seems more dear…

Each year, finding ourselves standing before what makes Christmas just that,
Christmas…
Our senses,
our thoughts,
our tastes,
our recollections…
seem hopelessly more intense, more sharp, more profound…

Be that a blessing
or
be that a curse.

Pain is greater.
Suffering is more fierce.
Joy is more contagious.
While satisfaction hangs precariously in the balance.

There are those who gravitate toward this more mystical and magical time
full of giddiness and glee…
while others wish to close their eyes,
not openning them again until mid January.

The sensory overload can be overtly overwhelming or palpably underwhelming.

And yet it is in that overload, be it over or under,
that we actually become more….
raw…
more open…
and even more vulnerable.

And it is in that vulnerability that the ego slightly abates….
the guard slips ever so quietly,
While pretense evaporates as the dew in first light…
As we are splayed wide open.

And it is in that moment of pure raw vulnerability that
the heart finally realigns,
beating rhythmically for the first time since the tragic Fall,
as it is once again, albeit briefly, in sync with all of Creation…

For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37

in or out… or both

“There are three kinds of men.
The one that learns by reading.
The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Will Rogers

DSCN3673
(my cat Percy who wants the best of both worlds / Julie Cook / 2016)

You and I want it both ways.
The best of both worlds.
You know, the whole having our cake and eating it too scenario.

Sadly, I just think it’s in our nature.

Take my cat for example.

Percy is a rescue.
Percy, short for Perseverance.
Long story…
I’ve written about him and his story on a previous post entitled “my best friend”…

Percy has no bottom teeth…due to a horrific injury he endured at the hands of some bad humans…
Bad humans who had an encounter with him when he was just a few weeks old.

As a tiny kitten he came to us in a near death condition…
And because he has had to have several repairs (aka surgeries to deal with smashed teeth)
he is strictly an indoor cat.
Sometimes much to his chagrin.

We live in a rural part of our county where more things than bad humans prowl about.
Coyotes and fox are keen to set their sights on family pets.
Having no teeth for defense can be problematic—so indoor he is.

Percy has access to our back deck.
A deck that is basically two stories off the ground and would spell the breaking of limbs
should anyone, cat or human, decide to jump.
So everyone seems content just to sit and relax.

The deck is covered and protected from the elements…with the exception being the heat.
The black awning seems to only intensify the summer sun’s heat.
It is therefore for that very dangerous hot reason that I keep Percy inside during the heat of the day.

Percy enjoys his early mornings and late afternoons lounging on “his” deck.
He watches the hummingbirds and will occasionally “hunt” a wandering wasp…
which results in a usually painful hunting experience…

I leave the kitchen door to the deck slightly ajar when he’s out on the deck.
Loud noises, from both passing trucks and motorcycles, terrify him.
Upon hearing any loud vehicle noise, Percy will frantically push the door open, flying into the house.
I think it goes back to his traumatic childhood experience with the cruel humans.

As the morning wears on and the heat sets in, Percy likes to push open the door and lazily lumber into the kitchen where he will immediately plop down on the cool wood floor enjoying cool while keeping “his” door to his kingdom open for easy viewing and easy access.

This is problematic.

It is neither wise nor cost effective in the South, in the dead heat of summer, to leave a door open allowing for the hot heat from the outside to enter into the comfortable AC cooled inside..nor is it wise having the cool AC from the inside…escaping to the hot heat outside…
either way, you get the point.

This is a real sticking point with my husband.
He tends to get very angry whenever he spies the door just sitting wide open while no one is near…
as he sees money exiting the door.
He has that gift…
The gift of seeing invisible money flying out both doors and windows when no one is looking.

So I have two choices…
Stop leaving the door ajar, therefore causing Percy to have apoplexy while being stuck outside near loud noises…
Or,
I don’t let him out, period.

Or…there is a third choice…I could teach Percy to close the door.
Which would be perfect…
yet sadly I don’t think I would live long enough for him to master such a feat.
He’s a slow learner.

So a conundrum has arisen.

Percy wants the best of both worlds.
He wants in and out…both at the same time.
He doesn’t understand why that is not a good idea.

I think we are a lot like Percy…
We, as in me and you, want the best of all our worlds.

We want to have our cake and eat it too.
We don’t want to be told what we can and cannot do.
We don’t want God, the Church, or anyone for that matter, telling us what we can and cannot do.
We like our world, our things, our gizmos and our gadgets…
We like our vices, our often poor choices and the things that we know are actually bad for us.
We like our possessions, our shiny baubles, our stuff…
We don’t want to “sacrifice” or give up our wants…
We have mastered the fine art of convincing and justifying every aspect of our lives.

If we must give up “this,” then we’ll make do with “that.”
We’re ok with trading, just not sacrificing.

We prefer sitting on the fence with the world on one side and God on the other.
Sitting in the middle makes perfect sense….
We think if we can keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, it’s all good.
We think that’s all zen-like as we have the perfect harmony of balance…
hence, the best of both worlds….

But what we don’t get, what we fail to understand and comprehend,
is that we’re balancing between Heaven and Hell…

and that is problematic.

God is not an either or sort of Creator.
He’s never been big on us having our cake and eating it too…as that just doesn’t work.
He never said that we could keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven.
He’s always been an all our nothing sort of Creator…

He did not say that He would share us with Satan.
He said we are His and His alone…

Yet…
and here’s the rub…
He then turned around and gave us the final choice to decide.

We can either be His and His alone….
or…
not…
Our choice.

The only thing is, we can’t be both…
end of sentence…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go close a door…

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Unconditional invitation to love

To give and not expect return,
that is what lies at the heart of love.

Oscar Wilde

Love means to love that which is unlovable;
or it is no virtue at all.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

We are called to show utter commitment to the God
who is revealed in Jesus and to all those to whom
His invitation is addressed.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

DSCN2710
(blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

Like a flower, it opens regardless…whether you want it to or not…
It opens.
The heart of God opens…
It opens for you, toward you, for you… whether you want it to or not…
It opens.
You didn’t do anything, of your own accord, to warrant its opening…
On the contrary…
It opens with or without you..
You ignored it.
It opened.
You disregarded it.
It opened.
You never much cared for it.
It opened.

It beckons to you…
Asking you…
Inviting you…
Wishing only to woo you…

The invitation stands…
Wide open…