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

Xena, princess warrior

I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin,
or to be against God’s will.

Jean d’Arc

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war,
while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Sun Tzu


(image of St Joan of Arc–Jean d’Arc / Joan of Arc, c.1450, Illuminated manuscript on parchment, Musée de l’Histoire de France, Paris)

No this is not a picture of the fictional character Xena, Warrior Princess but
rather an image of Saint Jean d’Arc otherwise known as Joan of Arc .

Joan was a warrior…a righteous warrior.

Myself you ask….
well, for as long as I can remember, I have often felt that I’ve been called to be
some sort of a warrior…like Joan…a holy warrior who has been called to
raise the sword of righteousness….

And adding the word princess behind the notion of warrior just seems to be
an added nice touch…
allowing any and all female warriors to still be a girly girl if she so chooses.

Yet my calling however may be more along the lines of a Queen Margaret of Scotland
or even a Queen Adelaide of Italy and the Holy Roman Empire…a role of leading
by example without the sword….as the word “Queen” simply adds a bit of umph and sophistication to the role…

For all of these were sainted women who lived virtuous and holy lives….
heeding the call of God by following the internal compass of the Holy Spirit…
be it with sword in hand or generosity of heart.

Holy warriors, be they of the literal role like Joan who led the troops into battle
or more like our two queens who opted to lead lives of holy virtue,
while living in the face of all that was not virtuous nor holy,
as each was following their gift and calling.

Yet both of these sorts of hearty holy souls heard God’s call and in turn
yielded to His instruction.
They do this by way of deep prayer, contemplation,
reflection, study of Holy Scripture as they then follow the God given
directions offered by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

They are not knee jerk individuals.
Nor are they passive pushovers.

They are tempered.
For their faith has been tried and tested and refined in a furnace of righteous indignation.

I am neither necessarily virtuous nor holy but I am willing to take my stand,
raising my sword and my standard when I see it necessary….
as I continue to learn how to bide my time, bite my tongue…
while holding my knees at bay.

Which is hard in today’s world with its current run of chaotic lunacy.
I keep telling God, “just say the word”…
and I’ll take off running and screaming into the fray like a banshee brandishing
my sword of righteousness….

Funny thing, He’s yet to sound my call into battle.

This country is currently teetering on the edge of a very dangerous precipice.
The slippery slope that our leaders, on both sides of the aisle, have chosen,
which is only pushing us even closer to the loss of balance.

Things around this nation and around this globe are an absolute mess.
The worst I’ve ever seen.

Not even during WWII followed by Korea which beget Vietnam,
or even the psychotic Cold War…because in each of those incidences, we
pretty much knew the enemy or at least what we were fighting for and against…
Western Civilization rallied together to stand united against blatant
evils and tyranny.

Not so in today’s world…for today we have seen the enemy and he is
actually us…as in ourselves

It is us with our ungodly choices of liberalism, socialism, Marxism, materialism,
anarchy, along with a free and open society..
all of which are not working…

Why isn’t it working?

Because we are a nation, we are a Western Civilization, that has turned
our backs on our God….
and there are repercussions for a people who turn their backs on God.
As we are living those very repercussions and they will only grow in
severity as we continue down this road of self destruction.

The global Christian family has become not only the whipping boy to an
out of control society, but the sacrificial lamb for all the worlds ills.
Well, maybe the first blame usually falls to our sitting President, but
eventually it comes around to those conservative, moralistic Christians.

(This is where I wrote about 4 more paragraphs that I had the presence of mind to
go back in and cut due to that pesky problem of knee jerkitis….)

Because the intolerant and childish behavior of the
‘oh so pious pseudo tolerant, materialistic, human rights, anarchist, liberal
loving, socialist blind ignorant progressives who clump everyone they can think
to blame, other than themselves,
into a single basket of their own perceived ills as they’re working fast and furious
to be our own true demise….

And just to make certain folks “get it” this “new” no holds bar liberalistic
society will riot, picket, protest, sue, demonstrate and demand capitulation…
and just incase you don’t get the point, they’ll break some windows,
block the streets, threaten your livelihood, scream and kick until you
bend to their will.

Yet during all of this, many Christians are simply turning the other way hoping
it will all just go away.

Yet the picture however has been painted and the die has been cast…
as the masses are demanding a head on a platter…
and that head is Christianity.

So they proclaim that the teachings of the Church, the words of Christ,
the teaching of the tenants of our very God… are in a word… passé…
as in no longer suitable,
no longer relevant,
no longer tolerable.
and therefore are no longer allowed.

And if you think such talk baseless or extreme or fanatical…
then you have failed to see the headlines from around the globe.

As we the faithful passively sit silently watching while allowing the masses to
chip away at the footings of the very structure that has upheld the life of our
monotheistic Western Civilization since Emperor Constantine conferred
the first council of Nicaea and Gregory the Great in 590 set the western
Christian Church in motion.

So I’m standing,
with a nervous hand upon the hilt of my sword,
as I await the call.

As our dear friend Citizen Tom so eloquently stated in his comment on yesterday’s post…the time for being nice is over.

(If you want some Christian perspective and wisdom regarding our nation, her history
and how God’s hand is a part of each and all, please visit Citizen Tom…. https://citizentom.com/2017/08/20/what-you-must-learn-from-white-supremacists/)

For we are not contending against flesh and blood,
but against the principalities, against the powers,
against the world rulers of this present darkness,
against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

Faith without content

“Don’t ask why, ask what—
What am I suppose to do?”

St Padre Pio


(a killdeer hunkers down on Mackinac Island, MI /Julie Cook / 2017)

In reading through the the tiny book that literally fell off the shelf
the other day, landing squarely at my feet,
There Are No Accidents / In All Things Trust God
by the late Fr. Benedict J Groeschel
with John Bishop

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/there-are-no-accidents/)

I have naturally circled and highlighted things that happen
to “speak” to me as I go.

The first half of the book is a running dialog between and interviewer
(John Bishop) and interviewee (Fr Benedict)

The book was published in 2004 but as I’m reading through
all comments, questions and responses,
I’m finding them to be ever most timely.
As in not much seems to have changed in 13 years time…
but perhaps only grown wider in both depth and scope.

Fr Benedict notes that “there is a decline in society in the western world.
Because, after all, sexual morality, among its many purposes,
is the protection of family life.
That is a very high, primary responsibility.
Family life is decaying everywhere.
The cause is a naïveté of the pro-abortion group,
and particularly Planned Parenthood.
They not only have done everything possible to undermine the sacredness of life,
but have done everything to undermine sexual morality.”

He goes on to explain how “the media” follows along these same lines of thought.
Fr. Benedict points to a study /survey that was conducted in California,
around the same time of the interview, of approx. 200,000 media folks.
The results showed that 92% of them favored abortion on demand…
and that 94% favored public acceptance of homosexual relationships.

Opinions that obviously ran/ run very counter to the teachings of the Church
(and I mean the universal Christian Church not only the Catholic Church).

Next Fr Benedict points out that there were also numbers showing,
once again numbers true to the time of the interview,
that 94% of folks in the US believed in a personal God.
92% believed in meeting God upon departing Earth and 86% believed that Jesus Christ
was the Son of God.

Yet Fr Benedict also points out that despite the high percentage numbers,
in actuality, he notes that most of those folks have no idea of what all any of
that really means—of which basically boils down to “faith without content.”

Which obviously made me think.

Faith is indeed a noun but I believe it also a verb…
as in Faith, our Christian Faith, is not merely something passive,
but rather active…as in it seeks, searches, serves…

Christianity is not a passive religion.
God is not a passive God.
He expects more from us than a lukewarm, quasi connected relationship.
He expects that we follow and live out His commands, His words.
There is no picking or choosing,
no this but none of that…
It is not easy and most everything He tells us runs counter to what
the world would have us say, think and do….
It’s all or nothing.

And it appears that more and more of those who profess to have faith,
are currently opting for nothing….

“Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways,
to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies,
according to what is written in the Law of Moses,
that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,
so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying,
‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in
truth with all their heart and with all their soul,
you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

1 Kings 2:3-4

Waiting and arrivals

“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”
Simone Weil

boucicaut-meister
(Illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, the Annunciation 1410)

We have entered a new season within our faith…
Those seasonal cycles of the Church.
For we have now entered the season of waiting…
Otherwise known as Advent.
Taken from the Greek word, parousia, meaning arrival.

As in we are waiting for an arrival.

Yet do we not seem to spend our lives waiting?

Waiting on things to take place, to happen, to hurry up, to change, to come or to go….

However Father Henri Nouwen, in his essay Waiting For God, reminds us that
“for many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.
And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something.”

So waiting seems to be something we are relegated to suffer.

But Father Nouwen continues…
“Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state
determined by events totally out of our hands.”

“But there is none this passivity in scripture.
Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.”

“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction
that somethings happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waitng person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and to live the situation
out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and
therefore want to go elsewhere.

“Waiting, then is not passive.”

“To wait open-endedly is an enormous attitude toward life.”

So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that
God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.
The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment,
trusting that new things will happen to us,
new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.

“That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

And so we begin to wait…
actively and radically waiting….

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8

(Father Henri Nouwen’s words taken from Watch for the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
/ Plough Publishing House

Hope found in a love that does not seek control

“He is lifted up as a passive victim, so the cross is a sign of desolation.
And he is lifted up in glory, so the cross becomes at the same time a sing of hope.
Suddenly we realize that the glory of God, the divinity of God,
bursts through in Jesus’ passion precisely when he is most victimized.”

Father Henri Nouwen
From Action to Passion
Bread and Wine
Reading for Lent and Easter

RSCN2935
(the blackberries are blooming / Julie Cook / 2016)

Father Henri Nouwen recounts in his reflection From Action to Passion the story of a dear friend who was dying from cancer. This friend, who was in his early 50’s, had been very active his entire life. As an adult he had worked tirelessly as a social activist.
Always doing, always giving…

This once active, constantly moving, individual was now finding himself lost in his illness and the maddening and ever growing frustration of his inability to go, to do, and now simply even to move.
His body weak and ravaged by disease, he was now on the receiving end of constant care by nurses and doctors. He was beginning the downward decent into that dark place of despair…
not knowing how to cope as he was now on the receiving end of life verses the active giving and doing end.

The thought dawned on Fr Nouwen that there were many more like his friend who were suddenly finding themselves at the same crossroads of life…being faced with that haunting question…
“how can I still do?”
Be it illness, accident or age at some point or another we all will be faced with the same challenging question…

Father Nouwen realized that his friend, as well as others, had come to see their self worth based solely in their ability to “do”.
And if they were no longer able to do, then what good were they…

Father Nouwen found his answer, the answer not only for his friend but for all of us, playing out during the final days of Jesus’ life on earth.
It was found in the dark of night, found in the garden of Gethsemane, on the fateful night in which Jesus was handed over to the authorities and arrested on grounds of treason.

It is noted that in the Greek translation of the Bible that Jesus was “handed over.”
Other translations offer the word betrayed…but it is within the phrase “handed over: that we find our answer to our question…

Father Nouwen notes that Jesus’ life can be divided into two very distinct parts and or actions.
The first part of his life and ministry was one of doing..preaching, teaching, traveling, healing..
The second half, and maybe even the most important,
was when he become the recipient or the one who was now “being done to”—
He was now on the receiving end verses the doing end.

His passion in turn became a type of waiting.
Waiting for things to be done to Him…
Waiting for questioning,
Waiting for a trial
Waiting to be flogged
Waiting to be sentenced
Waiting to be executed
Waiting to die
Waiting to rise…
All done with quiet determination, patience and a willingness to wait rather than control the situation.
Whereas Jesus could have easily orchestrated things in His favor, He willingly submitted to “being handed over” and to what all that would entail, even unto death…

So now we all come to see that our life’s vocation(s) can become one of receiving and waiting verses giving and doing.
Yet at the same time we know that there is a very real and difficult relinquishing of this control.
And it is in the ultimate giving of Jesus that we see our own example of action within the waiting and the receiving…

These are hard words to hear for those of us who are active, have found our worth in doing, giving, offering, speaking, teaching, helping…
“How on earth,” we hear ourselves lamenting, “can I be of service, viable, helpful, productive, beneficial, worthy… if I am to become passive, a recipient, a receiver…?”

Yet the answer is found and must be claimed in the Passion of Christ.

To be handed over, willingly…
to relinquish,
to let go,
to let God…

“Into your hands…”
“It is finished…”

We see that it has been a Love freely given…
It is a passionate Love steeped in selflessness
It is a Love that receives as much as it gives
It is a Love that gives of itself rather than seeks control
and it is a patient Love content on waiting

“So together we began to see that in the midst of our suffering and passion,
in the midst of our waiting, we can already experience the resurrection…”

Fr Henri Nouwen