looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

seeing or simply seeing through….

Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?
Do not ignore him when he is naked.
Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk,
only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad.
He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said:
“You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and
“Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”…
What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden
chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying
his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well

St John Chrysostom


(rainy cold day in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Winter arrived today in Georgia…a cold rain with freezing temps
as snow is predicted for later in the week…
But we don’t like to use that ‘S’ word here in Georgia as it tends to
send everyone into an apocalyptic tizzy.

I was out running errands in this cold rain, hitting the grocery store,
picking up odds and ends while playing the role of pre-Santa—
as in I was doing those things and gathering those things we usually do and gather
this particular time of year.

Once I was finally home, I felt pretty good about what I had accomplished
and actually started some more rounds of baking…
yet I had woken this morning with a rather fetid brow along with a
troubled spirit about the news of a friend…

I say friend but really she is just someone whose business I have frequented
for probably the last 25 years…as we’ve seen one another about once a week
or so…

Yet that’s pretty much been the extent of the relationship.
We each know one another’s families, because that’s how it is in a
smaller community. Particularly with those particular businesses that have been
a part of the community for eons.

This friend basically watched my son grow up and whereas I don’t sew,
she actually sewed his cub scout badges on his uniform for me.

I had also known her mother.
A genteel southern lady who worked at this family business until she was almost 90.
She always called me honey or sweetie and I appreciated that.

Over the years, I’d bring in small remembrances at the holidays as
they in turn would offer me and my family the same…
the appreciation of being a customer mixes with that of a true level of friendship.

This friend, as she is older, is not technologically savvy but did try
following my blog once.

That was when I actually learned that her grown son suffered from the same mental
illness that had plagued my brother—a tale which was in a post I had
once written about forgiveness.
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/)

The post had touched her so much that she tried delicately talking to me about it
one day when I had run in to pick up a few things.

She is older and very southern and was thus taught that there are just some
things “a lady” does not talk about in public…
and she adheres strictly to that notion.
So I knew and appreciated the great effort it had taken for her to share her
own story with me.

It was then, following our conversation, that I actually began to see her in
a very different light….
because I now knew she knew about dark heartache and hardships.

And it was then that it actually dawned on me that we only think we know people—especially those in our narrow corners of the world…
we see them, we chat with them, we keep up with them here and there…
but….

So I have to admit that I was a bit convicted with the thought that we
really don’t know our neighbors like we think we do.

For you see we don’t always tell folks things about ourselves.
Things that we are either burdened by, mistakenly ashamed about,
or things we really just want to hide away.

There is often the mindset that if anyone really knows the truth about us…
they will certainly feel differently about us…perhaps non accepting….

She always spoke of her daughter, very proudly—a daughter who doesn’t live in state….but a daughter who shares my same name…
so each time I’d come into the business, this friend would always call me
by a double name—her daughter’s first and middle name—
of which is not my first and middle name….
however, I never corrected her—I just let her call me by her daughter’s name
as I think the “connection” simply made her feel good.

Her health and age have both gotten the best of her…
so about 3 weeks ago, rather unexpectedly, abruptly and unceremoniously, she up
and announced to her brother, the business owner, that she was quitting….
right then and there—
and out the door she went.

Since then her brother and I have spoken rather candidly about his sister,
my friend, as he is keenly aware of how I have sincerely cared about her
well being—
he shared the worries, the concerns, the frustrations in her refusals in having
anything with doctors—doctors she’s needed to see for years…
all of which is coupled by a most stubborn demeanor.

Then last night my husband came home telling me that my friend’s brother
had come into my husband’s business and shared with him news that his sister
had fallen at home and no one had known.
She laid on the floor for about 3 or 4 days before the family checked in on her.

She was rushed to the hospital and had to have a leg removed….
due to a loss of blood flow and may have also suffered a stroke.

I went by the business today with an orchid..as visiting at the hospital is
not an option.

The prognosis, the brother told me, was not good but that the daughter
will be moving her mother out of state in order to be near her and her family,
when and if she can be released.

So the thoughts of the plight of this friend of mine weighed heavy on my heart today
much like the grey cold which added to that sense of heaviness.

Reading the post this evening, by an Orthodox believer, I was struck by the words
that were shared by the 4th century Archbishop, Doctor of the church and later saint,
John Chrysostom over his concern for the poor and the suffering whom he had
witnessed first hand one winter when traveling through a busy city
marketplace in Antioch.

His words and the recalling of seeing those physically suffering, much
maligned and overlooked human beings…
human beings who were looked through as if invisible….
rather than being looked at as living beings,…
stuck me in a most profound sense.

I thought of my friend and of others who we see, but don’t really see.
Not just the obvious individuals who are perhaps homeless and suffering…
but those who we see on a daily basis and are also suffering, only in
a different and more quiet sort of way.

And so I pray that we—meaning you and I— may be more mindful of those
individuals who we pass by either mindlessly or even purposefully–yet do not see.

Each of us has a story…and each of us has a connection…
We are each created by the same Creator…and we are precious
in His sight despite being scorned upon in the sight of others or simply
never seen in the sight of others…

And at the same time we are each called to be compassionate and to serve those who
cannot serve themselves…..

As the words of this most astute saint haunt us to this day:

I have come hither today to undertake a righteous mission among you,
a mission profitable and suitable for you.
By no others than the poor who dwell in this city of yours have I been
appointed the spokesman.
I have been sent not by word of mouth,
nor by vote of the citizens,
nor by a decree of the senate,
but by a most grievous and piteous spectacle.

For as I was hastening to preach before this congregation,
I passed through the market-place and the alleys,
and I saw many lying in the midst of the crossings,
some lacking hands and feet, some without eyes,
some filled with ulcers and running sores and exposing
as much as possible those parts which because of the suppuration
should have been covered.
And I thought I would be most inhuman if I did not appeal to your
charity in their behalf, especially since,
in addition to the reasons I have just given,
I am constrained thereto by the season of the year.
For although it is always fitting to preach about alms
(seeing that we in our dealings with other men are wanting in the
great mercy of our Lord and Creator)
yet at this season especially it is meet so to speak,
when the cold is so urgent.

He did not say, “Now concerning the collections for beggars” or
“for the poor”, but “for the saints”;
instructing his hearers to honor the poor—that is,
of course, if they were devout—and to spurn the rich if they despised virtue.

Come, let us in place of employers hold out compassionate hands to them,
and on this mission let us take as our companion Paul,
the true patron and protector of the poor.
For he more than anyone else concerns himself with this question.
For this reason, when he divided the disciples with Peter,
he did not divide the care of the poor; but when he had said,
“They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship:
that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision,” he added,
“Only that we should be mindful of the poor:
which same thing also I was careful to do.” (Gal. 2:9–10).
In fact, throughout his epistles he preaches about these things,
and you will not find a single letter of his without an admonition of this kind.
For he knew, he knew with certainty of how great moment this question is;
and therefore, as if he were placing an exquisite dome upon a building,
so to his other admonitions and counsels he adds his teaching in regard to charity.

(Delivered at Antioch by St John Chrysostom
After Passing Through The Marketplace In The Wintertime,
And Seeing The Paupers And Beggars Lying There Neglected)

for the full text click the following link:

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/i-have-come-hither-today-to-undertake-a-righteous-mission-among-you/

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

speaking wisdom

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart,
and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal
the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas


(late afternoon in Northwest Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.

For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.

They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.

Psalm 49:1-14

no distinction

“There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything
and feels as if all one does is wrong,
and there maybe some truth in it-
do you think this is a feeling one must try to forget and to banish,
or is it ‘the longing for God,’ which one must not fear,
but cherish to see if it may bring us some good?
Is it ‘the longing for God’ which leads us to make a choice which we never regret?
Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle.
And not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil.”

Vincent van Gogh

“No people is fully civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office
and stealing a purse”

Theodore Roosevelt

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(turban squash / Julie Cook / 2016)

God does not draw a distinction between the beautiful verses the plain
The haughty verses the lowly…
the well to do verses the insufficient…

We are the ones who have drawn the line between inviting verses common
extravagant verses meek…
slick verse slow,
powerful verses humble…

Preferring always the greater verses the lesser
the influential to the simple
the rich to the poor…

As we are left to wonder who is the better for this distinction of choice….

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:3

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“Do not repay evil with evil”

“Anger is a brief madness.”
Horace

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

DSC01223
(a new crop of mockingbirds waiting to hatch / Julie Cook / 2015

Ours is an ever increasing culture of anger.
Where anger begets violence.
While in turn, anger and violence are answered by the lack of personal responsibility.

Turn on the news, read a newspaper, witness it first hand. . .
Road rage as the result from the slight of a thoughtless driver. . .
Rage and violence at the workplace. . .
Unmitigated violence in our schools. . .
Violent eruptions at the mall, the movie theaters, a parking lot. . .
Multiplied by the madness that ensues from the perceived sense of the witnessed injustice. . .
all of which spiral downward into death, murder and pure chaos.

The victims of arrests, or near arrests, or searches gone bad,
which in turn cast entire cities into the descent and abyss of the madness of anarchy.
Communities angry over injustices, lose sight of the issues at hand when mob mentality masks frustration, sadness, disbelief with an ill conceived blanketed notion
to the “right” to loot, steal, destroy, hurt, kill.
With everyone having lost sight of one original death,
which has only begotten an ad infinite chain of violent acts and deaths.

Yet no one wants to address reasons why.
No one wants to take responsibility.
No one really wants the truth.
Everyone prefers pointing fingers.

Everyone shouts. . .
“It’s their fault. . .”
“NO, it’s their fault. . .”
“It’s his fault. . .”
“NO it’s her fault. . .”
“It’s the police’s fault”
“It’s the poor people’s fault”
“It’s the rich people’s fault”
It’s the black people’s fault”
“NO, it’s the white people’s fault”
“It’s the Latino’s fault”
“NO it’s the Asian’s fault”
“It’s the immigrants fault”
“It’s the Government’s fault”
On and on and on it goes. . .

Anger, morphed into violence will only beget more anger and more violence.

All actions, good or bad have consequences, good or bad.
Responsibility must exist for all actions, good and bad. . .otherwise mob rule and anarchy are allowed to fester, breed, and grow.

Yet no one wants to take responsibility for wrongs. . .
it’s wrong to kill
it’s wrong to steal
it’s wrong to beat
it’s wrong to hate
it’s wrong to hit
it’s wrong to loot
it’s wrong to burn
it’s wrong to hurt
and therefore the wrongs are simply left to multiply. . .

Maybe, it’s just everyone’s fault.
Or maybe, it’s the fault of ignorance, prejudice, skepticism, and an inward hatred. . .
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fault of a lack of faith in our hearts in the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the begotten Son of God and the power in that Resurrection. . .

“Do Not Repay Evil With Evil”
Do not raise your hand to strike.
Do not open your mouth in anger, but remain still.
How can the one who wants to do evil things against you hurt you?
It does not hurt you: it hurts the other person.
Suffering injustice does not hurt the Christian, but doing injustice does.
Indeed, evil can do only one thing to you, namely make you also become evil.
If it does, then it wins.
Therefore, do not repay evil with evil.
If you do, you will not hurt the other person; you will hurt yourself.
You are not in danger when evil happens to you,
but the person who does you wrong is in danger and will suffer from it,
if you do not offer help.
Therefore, for the sake of the other person and your responsibility for that person—
do not repay evil with evil. . .
How does that happen?
Not by our giving nourishment to the other person’s evil,
hate to the other person’s hate,
but by letting evil strike out into empty space and find nothing
that can inflame it.
How can we overcome evil?
By our forgiving it endlessly.
How does that happen?
By seeing enemies as they really are: as people for whom
Christ Died, as people Christ loves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I Want To Live These Days With You
A year of Daily Devotions
Reading for May 11
taken from Illegale Theologenausbildung: Finkenwalde 1935-1940