be not conformed…Christian max vs Christian lite

“A God without wrath who brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Richard Niebuhr


(Bonaventure Cemetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

Hoopla versus stable
Facade versus reality.
Fanfare versus forthright
Worldly versus Godly…

The window is narrowing as two views are set on collision course of utter devastation…
and I am on the side of the narrowing window.

I caught a portion of the rousing speech, aka sermon, offered by the American cleric,
Bishop Michael Curry, during the ‘Royal Wedding’ extravaganza.
I was saddened as well as disheartened by the fact that a wedding ceremony,
which is an outward symbol of a Sacred Union—a reflection
of the marriage between Christ the Bridegroom with his bride The Church,
was joyously transformed into a puppet show of a cultural shift of thought.

Not that any such public spectacle would or could dare retain the level
of reverence that should be afforded to such a ceremony…
as many of you would berate me over what would I have expected…
and no, I did not expect anything more, but one can only hope…

Gone from the Anglican Chruch is the reverent full bow to the Sacred as all
has been long replaced by the cultural genuflect toward the embrace of all things secular.

Rather than holding a young couple accountable for the seriousness of their union set before
the eyes of God, as they each snickered at the citing of their vows,
this wedding was a mere media spectacle conducted by a long since lost crown and
an equally lost church.

Yet our good friend and former Chaplin to the Queen, Bishop Gavin Ashenden, has offered us his
keen reflection on what was once a sacred ceremony of a Christian religious observance
which has now sunk into the abysmal decay of cultural hedonism.

May we, the faithful be mindful that we have been instructed not to conform to
the world but that we must be set apart…

Michael Curry & the Royal Wedding. A star-turn offers the world ‘Christianity-lite’.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good,
pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

Prayers for Santa Fe, Texas

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(Julie Cook / 2018)

I was a high school art teacher for 31 years.

I loved my kids and I struggled with my kids.

The gifted,
the complicated,
the defiant,
the quiet,
the creative,
the difficult,
the angry,
the arrogant,
the athletic,
the popular,
the shy,
the academic,
the immature,
the kind,
the thoughtful,
the thoughtless,
the selfish,
the forgotten,
the struggler,
the spoiled,
the average,
the happy,
the sad,
the hard to crack…

My heart aches for Santa Fe High School and her entire community.
For those who have loved ones who will not be coming home at the end
of this school year.

Once again we are a nation wrapped in our shock, our sorrow, and our grief.

There are no clear-cut answers or explanations.
Anger, resentment, hate, indifference, intolerance, evil…
these are not simple issues.
Issues with no apparent clear-cut single solution …

Yet before we point our fingers, rile in our righteous indignation,
demand change or drown in our own emotionalism…
let us remember the families who are hurting…
families who are going through the unimaginable weight of unspeakable loss.

Let us mourn with them and for them.
As their arms ache to hold those they love just one more time.

May we ask a God, who is far greater than ourselves, to help us find our way.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.
The Book of Common Prayer
Burial of the Dead, Rite I

people of distraction

Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible.
It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude,
where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength before going out to face the world again.

Aiden Wilson Tozer


(one of my local bunnies, not distracted by my presence / Julie Cook / 2018)

We are a people of distraction.

“Oh no we’re not” you counter.
“People of distraction have ADD or some other affliction that keeps them
from focusing.”

And whereas that is partially true, I’m here to remind all of us that yes,
we are indeed a people of distraction.

This revelation began to dawn on me last evening when I caught the tail end of the evening news–
although I’ve actually been aware of it for many years it’s just taken the latest idiocy
racing around the country to actually bring this little problem of ours into full focus.

It seems there was some sort of sudden national obsession over the sounding of a word…
‘Was it Laurel or was it Yanny?’

Huh?

I don’t “do” FaceBook, thank the Lord, so I happily don’t catch a lot of this trending
buzzy mess bombarding the masses out there.
This is where I joyfully exclaim, much like Viva La France, yet rather
more accurately “ignorance is bliss!!”

But right there, on the closing segment of the national evening news was some sort of
nonsense about the ‘heard pronunciation’ of a word…or more accurately a name.
It was such a to-do that it even became fodder on Capitol Hill.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan actually closed-out the day’s session on the same note as
that of national news by telling all present what word he had actually heard.

Really??
You guys don’t have more pressing issues to contend with than the latest viral buzz
out there???

The following morning I went to get my hair cut.
I sat in the chair as the gal who cuts my hair got to work, yet there was a buzz in the room.
And the buzz was not the noisy din of hairdryers—it was more of that same nonsense
I heard the evening before…

“Do you hear Laurel or Yanny??

This as each person in the salon had an opinion.

I just sat there listening and looking back and forth.

Next, they quickly moved on to that craze a few years back over the color of a dress
that had also made the viral rounds—” was it blue, black, gold…??”
“and oh, what about those sneakers…pink, grey or white…??”

I couldn’t believe my ears.

All around me grown men and women were chattering about the colors of images of
dresses and shoes as well as the sounds of names all racing around the internet.

I was somewhat dumbfounded as the conversations all truly bordered on, dare I say it,
the dumb.

Hawaii is about to blow.
Half of the country hates the president and the other half that likes him.
North Korea is threatening everyone all over again.
Russia keeps buzzing our jets.
The American Embassy is finally in Jeruselum after a 23-year stall.
Great Britain and every news outlet is going bonkers over an impending wedding
(another copious wasted amount of time).
And everyone else is abuzz over sounds and colors on the internet????

Why am I reminded of the Israelites when Moses went up the mountain??
Throw in a golden calf and suddenly the Great I Am is all but a faded memory…

Our lives on this earth are short in comparison to most of Creation…our length
of time is not guaranteed.
And yet we fill this precious time and these precious days with mindless and idol frivolity.

When all is said and done, I don’t think a dress, a shoe or even a name will
truly matter.
And it might just behoove us to remember who loves the fact that we are
so easily distracted…

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes

James 4:14

Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

say it like it is

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once.
It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.
Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie ten Boom


(My local peter cottontail hiding amongst the grass / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yesterday while scrolling through my reader of blogs that I subscribe to, I came upon the
latest offering by Elihu over on Elihu’s Corner—
‘If you worry about it, You can pray about it’
(full post here:https://elihuscorner.com/2018/05/16/if-you-worry-about-it-you-can-pray-about-it/)

It was a personal reflection about worry— to be more specific, a worry verbalized by
her youngest daughter.
Elihu reminded us that no matter how insignificant a worry may be,
it is always important enough to offer it up to God—
Offering it up to God no matter how small or insignificant that worry may seem outwardly
to others.
Because as we all know, our worries are our worries and it matters not what anyone else
may think…because that worry is ours and therefore it is significant…
no matter what others may try telling us.

But it wasn’t so much the notion about praying or actually petitioning God over a
concern that stood out to me as I certainly already understood that and have always done that.
I know that there are all sort of prayers with one of the biggest being a prayer
of petition.

In the Book of Common Prayer, that ancient Anglican book of instruction dating
to 1549, the following direction precedes the various forms of
petitionary prayers:
The Prayers of the People
Prayer is offered with intercession for

The Universal Church, its members, and its mission
The Nation and all in authority
The welfare of the world
The concerns of the local community
Those who suffer and those in any trouble
The departed (with commemoration of a saint when appropriate)

Any of the forms which follow may be used.

Adaptations or insertions suitable to the occasion may be made.

Any of the forms may be conformed to the language of the Rite being
used.

A bar in the margin indicates petitions which may be omitted.

The Celebrant may introduce the Prayers with a sentence of invitation
related to the occasion, or the season, or the Proper of the Day.

So I certainly grew up understanding the act of putting things before God while
imploring His aid and assistance…
however here, in Elihu’s posting, I had that “aha moment”…
that sudden realization that the act of coming before God with my worries goes well beyond
petitionary prayer… so much so that I’ve now figured out, a peaceful knowing now deep in my bones,
that it’s certainly ok and even perfectly fine to simply let God know, ‘hey, I’m worried’
simple as that…
“I’m worried”

No long drawn out wording of the best way to present a situation before God…
no tendency to lean toward to the begging, the yearning all accented by a
growing and heightened sense of panic…

No formal “dear Lord hear my prayers” is necessary as I would have normally proceeded to
fill in the blank with whatever it was I was offering up…
but rather the revelation here was that, just like I might confide to a close friend or
confident the heaviness of a real concern or worry over some issue or over someone,
here I could simply do the same in the same simple language that I would use with any friend…
with that friend just happening to be my loving Father.

“God, I’m just worried…”

A pretty simple statement I might share with a friend…
A pretty simple prayer I can share with Abba…as in Father…
all because He already knows.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

something sinister

People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
Hermann Hesse


(birdhouse / Julie Cook / 2018)

So do you remember the other day when I posted a few pictures of one of my bluebird houses
with a wad of straw appearing to be pushed out of the hole?
I made mention of how I clean out all the boxes in February as birds like to basically start fresh
each season.
Much like we do—when buying a house and moving, we usually like to buy a cleaned up house in
which to move in to.

The image got me thinking about spring cleaning…
of how we not only literally seem to find renewing projects each new spring season that
we must be about—such as the cleaning out of the old while making way for the new…
but that Springtime is also a good reminder for the need to be about our spiritual cleaning
and renewal needs as well.

So imagine my dismay when I walked past the birdhouse yesterday and noticed, oddly, that
the straw was no longer poking out of the hole but was now rather pushed back inside.

Yet upon further inspection, I noted a single blue feather stuck to the box.
Hmmmmmmm…

It began to dawn on me that I’d really not seen the bluebirds as of late scooting in an out of the
box like I normally do.
They are typically really quite busy this time of year as I often hear the chattering chirps of
a young brood emanating from deep within the box.

I’ve not heard that.

Upon further inspection, I spotted something most alarming…

I also notice that one of the bird feeders is hanging precariously on two of the three chains as if something had unchained the feeder—the feeder which is oddly completely empty…

My suspect…

So yes, I have raccoons that frequent our yard.
I’ve caught them many a time at night rummaging around the feeders as well as grabbing up the
stale bread that I’d tossed out earlier for the birds.

I knew raccoons would steal eggs from the nest of birds, but would they actually take a bird?
And a quick little search revealed that yes, raccoons will take a bird from a nest…

Whereas it does sound cruel and even sinister, I suppose I have to view this nature
doing what nature does.
Yet it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Unsuspecting, living life, taking care of a brood, then disaster and devastation strikes
in the dark of night…

This sad reminder of wildlife doing what wildlife does brings to mind another who
prefers to come in the dark shadows of night..taking that which is truly not his…

his is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of
light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

groanings

“A revival may be expected when Christians have a spirit of prayer for a revival.
That is, when they pray as if their hearts were set upon it.
When Christians have the spirit of prayer for a revival.
When they go about groaning ouheart’sr hearts desire.
When they have real travail of soul.”

Charles Grandison Finney


(no visitors to the flowers / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day a fellow blogger, Colorstorm over on The Lion’s Den, offered a post musing
about Genesis and the stories of God’s Cheribum.
Cheribum are found in various pieces of scripture throughout both Old and New Testament.

However, CS digressed somewhat to a different thought…that being the latest news on
Hawaii’s volcanic eruptions with the following observation:
“What fool would not enjoy the mercy of God?
We currently see the fiery lava flows in Hawaii, and should beg God to spare us,
but we do not, and act as if this freak of nature is common as the underappreciated rain
from heaven. (but I digress)”

(full post here:
https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/not-particularly-now/#comment-18179)

And so it was his digression that got me thinking.

My mind went to the mention in Scripture about the groanings of the earth.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth
right up to the present time.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship,
the redemption of our bodies.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?

Romans 8:22-24

Which brought my mind around to my own more up close and personal observations.

This Spring has been a bit quiet.
Quiet in an odd and unsettling sort of way.

The usual and almost taken for granted flurry of activity in the yard between the birds,
bees, butterflies, etc.,
has not been what is typically seen for this time of year.

Truthfully, I consciously first took notice of this back in February when I had not seen a
single robin bobbing about the yard in search of stirring grubs and worms.
Usually, by February my yard is awash in robins—yet nary a one had been seen until just the
other week. And then it was merely two birds.

My hummingbirds, my typical clan of three, showed briefly in April, disappeared for several
weeks while just yesterday I noticed a single male dashing about.

Usually when the blueberry bushes are blooming, of which takes place in late March into early April,
the bushes are a buzzing melee of bees of every shape and description along with a myriad
of butterflies.
But do you know that I can count on one hand how many butterflies I’ve actually seen visiting the
yard this Spring?
A tiger swallowtail, a little coastal skipper, and a small white butterfly.
This coming from a yard that could typically pass as a butterfly house.

All of which is so very very out of sync for my small neck of the woods.

Now biologists, who have already raised the alarm over the slow yet noticeable disappearance
of frogs and that of their kin, would chalk my observations up to climate change or perhaps
even just a fluke of a year….or maybe some overuse of pesticides in the area…

But that I don’t buy.

Vulcanologists are most likely chalking up Hawaii’s volcanic activity to the natural
occurrences taking place deep down within the earth…
As those Pacific islands were formed by volcanos, it should come as no surprise
that there’s still volcanic activity on islands where there are active volcanoes.

However the haphazard and precarious in all of this is that people happen to live
near the volcano.

Houses have been destroyed and thousands of folks are now dispersed, evacuated and devastated
while tourism is a bit on hold as this area of the world just happens to be what the US
consider’s her own personal piece of paradise…
and paradise just happens to be currently teetering on a molten and burning inferno.

Yet my thoughts rest not readily nor so easily on the dismissive reasons found within the
pages of the textbooks of the geothermal world or that of climate change.
Not that I don’t believe man and his quest for bigger, better and more has not had a
progressively negative impact on our environment…we have and we are currently doing
a nice job of destruction…
however…

The earth is groaning.

The smallest indicators of this world are bothered…

Yet the earth has groaned since that fateful day when the gates to Paradise were forever
shut to man…yet shut with a promise that those groanings would only increase with time…
for the time is approaching when a Holy foot will touch the mountain that will split
under the power of something greater than this world has yet to ever see or experience.

The tiniest amongst us know.
The earth groans—for she knows.
And all of mankind will soon tremble…

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant.
And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder,
an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

Revelation 11:19

Spring cleaning

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once,
“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very
splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.”

Robert Frost


(blue bird box obviously under some sort of construction / Julie Cook / 2018)

Pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car, I hear the familiar chatter of the
resident birds that grace our yard. Glancing over at the birdhouses dotting the trees,
I think I see a bluebird poking its head out of one of the boxes.

Instinctively I race for my camera as I’ve not had much opportunity this spring to
take many pictures of life in the yard.

Focusing in with the camera, I quickly realize that I’m not seeing a bluebird poking her
head out of the box but rather a wad of straw…
as if it’s being pushed up and out of the box.

Each year, usually late February, I always open up all of the boxes in order to clean out
the old nests and straw….because who wants to move into to someone else’s leftover mess?

However, it appears as if someone, bird or not, is busy with a bit of spring cleaning…
As I am reminded of my own bit of Spring cleaning waiting for me…

However my cleaning, where much of it is to be of the literal…
that of scrubbing, washing, and sorting…
my cleaning also needs to be taking place from within.

Each of us must be mindful in our remembrance that Springtime is not merely the time
in which all of Creation sheds the old while producing the new, the fresh, the radiant
and the young…
Spring is also the time for us, mankind, to shed our old while taking on a newness
of fresh beginnings as well.

Shedding the dust and weight of the heaviness of our old sinful selves—
Ridding ourselves of that ever-present sinful nature of man, as we step outward and forward
with the Resurrected Christ into the light of a new dawn…

There is certainly no rest for the weary!

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