dedicating a life…

“The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is
because we have no Almighty Christ.
We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no
abandonment to Jesus Christ.”

Oswald Chambers


(the cake for the big day / Cakes by Darcy / Julie Cook 2018)

According to Bible.org, a dedication is:
Dedicating a child acknowledges God’s sovereignty not only over the child,
but also Mom and Dad. Parents present their child before God and His people asking
for grace and wisdom in carrying out their responsibilities.
Parents also come praying that their child might one day trust Jesus Christ as Savior
for the forgiveness of sin.

And so that is what we, our family and friends, have come together today to do.
To lift up and dedicate a little girl to God…
asking His grace and wisdom to be poured out over her as well as that same grace and wisdom to be
poured out over her parents and over all of those
charged with her care and raising.

Our prayer is that God’s light will always be the light which shines brightest,
the light to the lamp which will constantly illuminate her path throughout her entire
life’s journey.


(Autumn / Julie Cook / 2018)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7

inviting and yet locked

“By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision
to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path
toward a spiritual life.”

Thomas More

As polarized as we have been,
we Americans are locked in a cultural war for the soul of our country.

Pat Buchanan


(an inviting, yet closed and obviously shuttered, secluded entrance way / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a lovely Orthodox Christian blog that I follow…
Where I often find the most beautiful wisdom presented in the simplest of fashions.
This morning was no exception.

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/what-does-charismatic-despair-mean/

When I first read this morning’s posting’s title, with words such as Charismatic and despair…words that at first glance appear to be polar opposites of one another, I wasn’t prepared to find both a sweet reminder as well as an embracing
comfort all rolled into one.

I am reminded that as we each journey through this thing we call life,
we will each inevitably encounter times of great frustration, difficulty…
even overwhelming sorrow.

We will come to those places along on our walk where we find our pathway blocked
with the doorways, those apparent entrances beckoning us to continue forward, each shuttered and locked tight. There will be no obvious alternate path allowing for us
to continue onward, proceeding freely and unhindered.

It is at such a juncture on the path, where we are met by both doubt and despair.

Choice suddenly appears limited or even nonexistent.
Knowing we can’t progress forward and that we certainly can’t turn around,
going back from whence we came…for too much time has passed for turn arounds,
we are stymied. A rushing fear washes over us as we realize that we have
no other options, no choices.

And this is where we must look not obviously outward from ourselves
seeking our answers,
but rather we must look inward…traveling deeply within ourselves.

For it is in this very moment of inward verses outward, of how we will decide
to interact with the obstacles and locked doors,
which will eventually decide how we continue forward on our journey.

And so it is here, tucked gently away in this morning’s reading of simple words
offered by a simple monk, where we are gently yet profoundly reminded that
in our apparent despair, we are driven not by the seemingly overwhelmingness
of that very despair and its accompanying frustration, but rather by the divine interventions of the Spirit…
He who urges us, without our even being aware, to seek the only One who has
the key to unlocking those shattered doors, allowing for us to continue forward
on this odd little journey of ours.

It begins with a frustration or a pain or a sorrow and it ends with
an imploring prayer…


(the wisdom of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex from the book Remember Thy First Love)

splitting hairs, missing the knots

For while we say time marches forward,
all things in time move backward toward the middle and eventually to
the beginnings of history.
We are too vain; we think we are the summit of history.

Morris Bishop


(antique fishing balls encased in rope netting, Julie Cook / 2017)

I think we’d all agree that there’s a great deal happening in this world of ours.
Just as there’s a great deal happening in this country of ours.
And I’m pretty certain we’d each agree that we are all now standing at some sort
of a crossroads, a fork in the road, a diverging path.

Eney, meeny, miny, moe…
which is the path we now should go…?

Choices. Decisions. Options.
Yet are those choices, decisions and options really ours to make?

We’ve been inundated by protests, demands, demonstrations, violence,
disagreements, special interest groups, fake news, real news, marches,
angst, politics, policies, black lives matters, antifas, alt rights,
progressives, liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans,terrorists,
radicals, extremists, anarchists, LBGTs, atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and
anything else in between…

I recently read an article by The Rev. Gavin Ashenden.
Rev. Ashenden is that rather rebellious Anglican prelate I’ve referenced
previously in a past post or two.
My kind of priest actually.

Another clerical voice in the ever shrinking pool of the global faithful
who is opting to do something quite novel…that being sticking to his guns,
his vows, his belief in the face of those who cry foul. His beliefs that God’s
word is just that, God’s word…not man’s, not some theologian’s, not some
special interest group’s, but God’s and God’s alone.

Rev. Ashenden’s article,
“The Trans Dilemma–Human Dysphoria & the Life of Brian”
is a response to the very public growing battle and preoccupation with changing,
what now appears to be on a whim, one’s sexual orientation.

No longer do our legislatures want those seeking, or the parents who are seeking,
the option of changing ones sex to have to wait for some sort of legal process.
Rather it should be something that one should be able to do by the checking
of a box or the proclamation of a particular day.

Rev. Ashenden notes that it seems that “we have shifted as a society to
a place where we treasure and respect feelings more than most other factors.
It’s part of a growing self-preoccupation.

He continues,
“If I feel something, it must be true or real.”
It’s the under-side of an “I want” consumerist society where a whole range of
very sophisticated agencies play on our feelings of how we would like to look or
like to feel, or like to be seen.”

The Trans Dilemma – Human Dysphoria & the Life of Brian.

This issue is just one more in a litany of growing issues that are bombarding us
on a daily basis.

It is a never ending sea of society telling us all to accept,
get on board or be damned.
Forget choice, decision or option because it is all one-sided really.

Yet are these issues really just a lost population’s attempt at grasping
straws…just as a drowning man grasps at anything afloat to save him?
Or is there something much deeper and much more grave taking place?

Are we as a society merely preoccupied with the business of splitting hairs
when in actuality we’re really missing the giant tangled knots glaring us
in the face….

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire
and enticed.
Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;
and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived…
(James 1:13-16)

decisions of life and death, as witnessed by the squirrel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

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(gray squirrel / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

If you’ve ever driven down a road, suddenly spotting a grey mass sitting in the middle of the road…
as you approach said mass, at a nice clip of speed…you quickly, and a bit sickeningly,
realize that the gray mass quickly coming into focus…is a frantic squirrel…
who now sits directly in your immediate field of vision and in the direct path
of your 50 mph plus some odd ton vehicle…
closing in for an immediate and deadly impact.

The squirrel seems stuck in time, shifting left then shifting right…
with this surreal dance of death going on a million times,
within what seems to be an eternity but in actuality is…
a mere few seconds…

If life is good–the squirrel makes the right 11th hour decision by darting
miraculously out of your path by the very hair of his tail.

If life is not good–it is a bad day for the squirrel as you feel badly for that slight bump you feel under your wheels….

I am that squirrel.

The car barreling down on me is dad with cancer…
add to that my on-going searing back and hip pain coupled by the myriad of tests
I’m squeezing in in-between trips to Dads.

The Radiologist oncologist told us today that radiation would be every day for 7 consecutive weeks—everyday I’d commute to and from Atlanta as dad would be zapped.

Not to cure him mind you…just to hopefully keep the tumor at bay….
but for how long, no one can say.

His primary care doctor says he is simply too weak and frail to endure such.
The side effects of radiation in the elderly is weakness, diarrhea and burning…
that is in the best of cases…

He’s already weak, already battles colitis and is not very well overall mentally or physically…
yet that did not seem to deter the doctor today who seemed
more concerned with his ever ringing phone…
as he would step out of the room for 20 minutes here and 10 more minutes there…

He told Dad that if he did nothing it wouldn’t be pretty with pain and misery…
which scared dad into wanting to begin zapping right then and there.
I explained to the doctor that we, as a family, would need to talk about all of this
and discuss this with Dad’s primary care doctor—
at which he seemed a bit incensed that I too didn’t agree to begin immediately.

To be honest, I felt overtly pressured.
He didn’t seem to consider that dad is weak and frail or that he is struggling with his cognizant abilities…
It was more like checking off a list…then wham bam you’re good to go, lets sign you up now…

I called a dear friend who had been one of dad’s nurses over the past year for her input.
I called back to dad’s primary care doctor for his opinion.
I called my husband
I called my cousin.
I called my aunt…
and I cried the entire rush hour traffic ride home…

Everyone who knows dad knows treatment is not the correct route.
But dad is scared.
And dad is very much like a little child.
And the cancer doctors are chomping at the bit…

So this squirrel is at a loss.

I may dip in and out of blogland here and there.
The first time in 3 years.
But I’m feeling my energy, creativity, my very life, ebbing away….
Depression is closing in fast…
it’s wicked hot breath has been on the back of my neck now for months.

Decisions have to be made…
and sickeningly, like the squashed squirrel, the buck stops here.
For I am now the parent of the parent who can no longer make those calls himself.
What is the right decision???
What is the right call???
Quality of life…
length of life…
yet at what state??
How much longer either way?
Aggressive cancer…
Fast growing…

I danced this dance with Mother 30 years ago…
I never would have envisioned walking down this road again…

I pray for a revelation or a Divine intervention—
One that directs our path without regrets, without second guessing…
That the road we go, is to be the right road…the only road…

I’ll be in and out as my strength and mindset allows…

dscn2434

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

directions

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.
We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Zig Ziglar

DSCN0412
(path up the mountain side, Glendalough National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m not the best with directions.
I tend to get turned around and a bit confused as to
the lefts and rights, the norths and souths….

Now I do actually love a good map…
yet sadly maps are going the way of the 8 track tape cassette…
And anyway…the truth is that I’m not really that great at using maps.
I get turned around as to whether I’m heading east or west, up or down, or side to side…

However I have always found old antique maps to be beautiful pieces of art—
Especially really old ones that were once done by hand,
with cartographers doubling as artists.

It’s as if maps are the tangible pictures of our city’s, country’s, world’s inner workings…
almost like a scan image of a skeletal system is for the human body,
a map is the picture for our collective spacial lives.

And whereas I am thankful for the modern convenience of GPS…
What with the plugging in of an address, place or coordinates only to then be directed
to wherever it is that we wish to be headed…
turn by turn, step by step…

However I can be as equally ungrateful when said turn by turn step by step is incorrect,
outdated or simply wrong.

Ever thought you were headed to where it was you wanted to go,
with the nice GPS lady finally and triumphantly stating that you have “reached your destination”
as you find yourself in the middle of some desolate road in the middle of nowhere?!

So with all this map talk, I read a most marvelous little story today on the BBC about
a letter being mailed from Reykjavik, Iceland.

It seems that the sender was mailing a letter to a farm
where she had visited but was uncertain of the address—
so she did the only intelligent thing she knew to do…
that when all else fails sort of approach…

she drew a picture, actually a mini map, as to where the letter should be headed…
all the while adding a few little written directions on the envelope to accompany the tiny map…
Just a few small helpful cues to the postal person who would be delivering the letter.

The small remote town’s name was listed,
the fact that the letter was going to a couple with three children…
The fact that the intended recipient worked at a supermarket there in the small town
plus the fact that they lived on a horse farm with lots and lots of sheep…
it was all nicely included with a wonderful plotted picture of a route…

( you can read the story here by clicking on the link:
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37233913 )

The letter was actually delivered to the correct place.

Such a story does my heart good.

So…
Whereas the postal system here in the US is, in a nutshell, not often stellar.
Mail seems to get lost, delivered to the wrong address, or damaged so badly in the system
that it is “returned to sender” …
that is, if the return address is still legible.
Or there have even been times when things mailed may have taken weeks,
months or even years before randomly appearing…

Now that’s not to say that it’s all bad or always a lost cause in this
maddening bureaucratic system of US Postal Service…
but sadly it seems there are more horror stories than good these days…

So the fact that a map was drawn out by hand, then someone actually took the time to “study” it,
then correctly followed it…
in this ever technological world of ours…
is indeed a joyous event.

Add to that maddening bureaucracy that we are now all finding ourselves living in this
ever uber modern world of all things technological of ours…
what with our smart devices, our GPS, our self braking, self parking,
and soon to be, self driving cars…
so it seems as if we won’t have much use for our ol noggins
when we’re trying to make our way in this life…as it will actually be already done for us…
Yet the concern should be…will it be in the right direction that we are lead…?

And that’s the thing…
We all need to make our way in this life…
with that way being…
the right way,
the spiritual way,
the way of Life and not the way of death…
to which so many signs sadly point to these days…
We still so desperately need a play by play list of directions.

Yet, I think if I remember correctly, we already have a directional manual…
One that is thousands of years old….having stood the test of time…
One that has recorded the verbal commands of the only One who truly knew
and still knows…
the way…
the truth
and the life…

We just need to remember to always reach for that directional map,
actually taking the time to read it and actually follow it…
for it will never mislead or misdirect us…

Happy travels….

Jesus answered,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Do you prefer taking the easy way or the hard way…

DSCN0320
(An iron cross sits in the cemetery of Saint Cóemgen’s better known as St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Given the current mess throughout this world of ours…
the fighting, the dying, the martyrdom,
the lack of choice, the excess of choice, the lack of tolerance the overt tolerance,
the whole “she said, he said” tit for tat bickering and feuding over beliefs…who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s in, who’s out, who’s with, who’s against, is it a yes or is it a no…or is it or else…

Is it then any wonder that so many folks around this globe claim to be either atheist or agnostic or something else entirely… sans any sort of deity or set belief system…?! As if believing in nothing or, say a tree, would be easier than believing in a deity that requires a great deal of follower…or seems to be the very reason for all the current ruckus in the world…?!

Anyone looking closely enough would be hard pressed not to understand why, given the sad plight of so very many people globally who are displaced, living under cruel regimes, suffering from disease, hunger, homelessness, isolation, torture, loss, fear… with nary a ray of hope in sight….that there is such a deep mistrust and skepticism when none of those folks who profess to be followers of the All knowing and All caring come to offer aid, succor, comfort, help, assistance, support or relief yet rather choose to squabble, bicker, fuss, cuss, fight, kill and destroy one another….

Is it any wonder that folks find it difficult believing in as well as following Something or Someone they’ve never seen, spoken to face to face, touched, hugged, shaken hands with, shared a meal with or simply hung out with…

Yet that’s exactly what those who believe in a monotheistic “god” do…they believe in the unbelievable while they, those very believers, are to be the living embodiment of that monotheistic Deity by giving others a glimpse as to whom and what that monotheistic “God” is all about….compassion, caring, trust, integrity, honesty…

We, the body of believers, must ask ourselves…are we doing a good job at such?
And if we answer no… then we must ask ourselves—why not?

Yet those of us who do believe, who have chosen to follow the Son of that very Deity… the One True God, have chosen what seems to be the most difficult task in a world of ever growing disbelief, mistrust, skepticism, resentment and down rate hatred… to believe and follow when a world turns in the opposite direction.

Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun or on your knees with hands tied behind your back as a sword is raised at your head or as you’re being hoisted up a tree with a rope around your neck or as you lay on the ground with a cold knife pressing into your neck as you’re asked one simple question—a question between life and death…”are you a Christian??”
with the easy answer being “NO!”

Yet those who have chosen the harder path, the path less traveled by the world resoundingly respond…
“YES!”

Do you prefer easy or hard?

Just around the bend

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)… Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”
C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
― Vincent van Gogh

DSCN2173
(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives, there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are no particular clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers, no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain being…there is a path with the choice of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around, heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward, feeling as if he or she is blinded by the loss of direction, merely feeling one’s way along in the dark as it were, thinking that after every curve, after every bend along the path, surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be something familiar or something offered as some sort of informational directional compass… that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed both physically, mentally and emotionally.
It is as if we are wandering lost within the massive forest, with no end in sight or welcoming safe haven as there are those who are not seen… those who wait hidden in the shadows who wish us harm as we journey onward.

As all who journey must realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey ever taken…as every journey and every path is left to chance and the whims of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey when even the very path, the journey, the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked, definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice to the one setting out on the trek? What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies in wait with its unseen snares and traps, hoping to catch the innocent trekker ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah…there is but One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort, direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13