fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

Moving on, to the next

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien


(the mounded rocks to help break the storm waves at The Breakers Hotel /
Palm Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

“It was too perfect to last,’
so I am tempted to say of our marriage.
But it can be meant in two ways.
It may be grimly pessimistic—
as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it
(‘None of that here!’).
As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests
the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation.

But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection.
This had become what it had in it to be.
Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.
‘As if God said,
‘Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In that place of sheer isolation and utter vulnerability,
deep within the quagmire of mourning and sorrow of which we find ourselves
sinking helplessly into the quicksand of our losses and suffering…
we humans are fast and keen to denounce the omnipotent God..
we proclaim Him to be most cruel, sadistic and menacingly cold hearted.

For we are hurting for heaven’s sake….
can He, does He, not see…
does He not know…
or worse….
does He simply not care…??

As C.S Lewis reflects on the loss of his wife—
he, in such typical Lewis fashion, expresses the thoughts and feelings that
are our own…
that of our angst and misery culminating from the overwhelming painful experience
we all eventually experience from our living, death and loss…

As he sums it up nicely in one wonderful notion…

“Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

And so we are…ready to go on
on to the next….
to the next whatever…
the next whatever God has in store…
all the while nursing our wounded hearts,
we move on, by His Grace, to that which comes next…

(for a wonderful movie about Lewis, his marriage, the death of his wife due to cancer and how Lewis wrestles with God…see the 1993 movie Shadowlands staring Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger—a marvelous and timeless movie)

God’s work

The spirit and the soul are two totally different organs:
one belongs to God, while the other belongs to man.
By whatever names one may call them,
they are completely distinct in substance.
The peril of the believer is to confuse the spirit for the soul and the soul
for the spirit,
and so be deceived into accepting the counterfeit of evil spirits
to the unsettling of God’s work.

Watchman Nee
March 8, 1933


(Gulf fritillary butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

God’s work…
that is what this is all about is it not?
That being this thing we call life….

Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was an ardent Chinese Christian Church leader.
He was also a profuse author.
I was first introduced to Watchman Nee and his books when I was in college
by a friend who was a bit older and had lived and weathered more of life than
I had up to that point.

Nee is not easy to read, for me at least,
In part because of the sheer depth of his faith.
as well as because much of his work spans the course of a century
that was full of great change.
It is as if one is reading the words of a mystic.
Deeply spiritual, deeply profound.

I have ebbed and flowed over the years with Nee.

Nee’s words have resurfaced recently in my life…
at a time when such words have not only been needed but most certainly
welcomed.

My road as of late has been difficult as I’ve watched my already small family
shrink even smaller. Losing the shoring piers to a heart that is being
battered and tested.

I remain consumed by what all it is taking to get dad’s life, post dad,
to a place of management.
The legal and financial aspect is simply daunting.

Add to the loss of dad, coupled by this organization and bureaucratic nightmare,
the untimely death of my aunt…a death seemingly so sudden.
Granted we knew she had been gravely ill,
despite the doctors saying “not to worry” give the meds time…”
As her body could simply no longer hang on.

My husband and I will be driving the 10 hour journey southward at the
end of the week in order to attend the memorial service.
We will remain for a few days sorting through what made Martha’s life her own.

On top of all the sorrow and frustration we are dealing with the early news of
becoming grandparents…as we worry over our son and daughter-n-law as they are
in the midst of job changes, long commutes and a bit of uncertainty.

So there is certainly a great deal of emotional overload…both up and down…
both good and bad.

That is why the words of those such a Nee are ever so important.

A wise friend of mine…
as I am fortunate in that I have many friends who are indeed wise,
recently shared with me his thoughts on my latest stand of sorrow and worry.
He told me that…
“Only when we realise that we can not do it all [alone]
(whatever the it might be in our lives)
we then cry out…
I believe God is so close to you at this time because you are crying out to him…”

I too believe that when we cry out, God draws ever closer despite our feelings
of isolation…
for it is in the isolation of loneliness…
when we are stripped bare of all distraction and false protection.

In 1949 when China became a Communist Nation, Nee was imprisoned—
He had refused to stop preaching, speaking, writing and sharing the Word of God.
A practice counter to all things communist.
An underlying theme in Communism is that it is important, if not essential,
to create false accusations in order to arrest, impression or even execute
those who speak Truth against the atheistic beliefs of the Communist state.

This was not an exception in the case of Nee.
He was falsely accused of crimes he never committed, arrested and sentenced to
spend what would be the last 20 years of his life in a forced hard labor camp.

His final words where found scribbled on a sheet of paper that had been tucked
beneath his prison cell pillow…

“Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and
resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe.
I die because of my belief in Christ.”

Watchman Nee

So what we must come to understand, as hard as it often is, that this life
that we claim as our own, is not for our benefit and glory but rather for
that of God’s…it is for His work, and His alone…
as we learn that we both live and die because of Christ Jesus….

“The greatest advantage in knowing the difference between spirit and soul is in
perceiving the latent power of the soul and in understanding its falsification
of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just last night I was reading what F. B. Meyer once said in a meeting shortly before
his earthly departure. Here is a section of it:
‘This is an amazing fact that never has there been so much spiritualism outside
the church of Christ as is found today…
Is it not factual that in the lower part of our human nature the stimulation of
the soul is quite prevailing?
Nowadays the atmosphere is so charged with the commotion of all kinds of counterfeit that the Lord seems to be calling the church to come to a higher ground.’
Today’s situation is perilous.
May we ‘prove all things; hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thess. 5:.21)
Amen”

Watchman Nee
March 8, 1933
(forward from The Latent Power of the Soul)

Martha Watson Pasley…aunt maaathaaaa

Martha Watson Pasley
February 2, 1939–July 12, 2017

Aunt Martha went home today at 12:40.

And for those of you who don’t understand why Christians always talk about
“going home” it is because we know that both life and death are transitory…
for our hearts, our longings, our souls belong at home,
with God the Father
Christ the Son
and the Holy Spirit

Martha knew about home and often talked about seeing my mom, her sister.
And in keeping with the humor that she and I would and could find
when our hearts were sad and heavy–

I’m left wondering how mom is feeling about
this sudden rash of company.

First Dad in March, who had to explain, no doubt, this business with Gloria…
and now Martha who was mother’s little sister…
and as sisters, there were always those moments…

There will be more on Aunt Maaathhhhaaaa later but for now,
my heart felt thanks to all of you who have prayed and offered thoughts of hope
since she first had the kidney surgery three years ago to this latest
reoccurrence and treatment….


(on our last big trip outside of Ashford Castle, County Galway, Ireland 2015
note the turned down collar to the vest—she always wore it like that, which drove me
crazy but it itched her neck)


(the two of us prior to my son’s wedding, her great nephew, in Savannah, Ga. at
Forsyth Square 2014 –she’d cut her hair all off because she wanted to look like
Judi Dench…I liked the style better on Dame Dench)

demanding

“He didn’t ask “Where will you spend eternity?”
as religious the-end-is-near picketers did but rather,
“With what, in this modern democracy,
will you meet the demands of your soul?”

Saul Bellow


(the ripening little peaches / Julie Cook / 2017)

God’s love is a demanding love…
this much we know….

And unfortunately we, as in you and me and all of us, are not very good with “demanding.”
We don’t listen nor we do we do what we’ve often been told to do…
this since the dawn of time.

An example you ask…?
Well we just have to look to the Israelites…

Folks just don’t wander around in a desert for 40 years because they’re
doing everything they’d been told to do…
wandering while looking and hoping to find one’s way usually means a wrong
turn was taken somewhere along the way and the recalculating voice has yet to reset….

For it just seems that in our heart of hearts we, me, you…simply aren’t up to the
demands of answering the call of this demanding Love.
We simply don’t, or perhaps it’s more apt to say we can’t, do “demanding” very well.
There’s just something about that rebellious nature of ours….

And since we’ve basically spent the history of time stumbling about lost to ourselves
while totally avoiding demanding Love…of which means we’ve not been very good at
offering said love outward….
well, it all sounds really quite hopeless actually….

And yet…

Yeshua, the Son of the Omnipotent Creator…
the very Creator of this very demanding Love,
came to this earth in order to live the very example of the oh so demanding Love…
demonstrating that it is hard, that it can be painful and that it is extremely costly but…
it can be done and when it is done…it is actually the gift of everlasting Love….

And he did all of this for you and for me and for all of us who are lost in our
rebellious ways….

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—–
though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood,
much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,
much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received our reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-11

obscura

“As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression.
In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged.
And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air–
however slight—
lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

William O. Douglas


(just a sliver of moon /Julie Cook / 2017)

Obscura…latin for darkened.

“The times are grievous.
The whole world is in turmoil because it has become worse than at the time of the deluge!
Everything is in suspense, like a thread;
when this thread breaks,
the justice of God will fall like a thunderbolt and will complete its terrible
course of purification.”

(Prophetic Vision of Sr. Elena Aiello,
Foundress of The Sister Minims, Dec 8, 1958)

Twilight has indeed settled over the land.
Yet most are unaware…merely basking in the madness of the current
Time’s waning light.

In response to someone who begged him (Saint Pius X) to “go soft” on
the Modernists, He retorted:
“Kindness is for fools!
They want them to be treated with oil, soap, and caresses but they ought to be beaten
with fists!
In a duel you don’t count or measure the blows, you strike as you can!
War is not made with charity, it is a struggle a duel.
If Our Lord were not terrible
(as in awesome and fearful / my words)
he would not have given an example in this too.
See how he treated the Philistines, the sowers of error, the wolves in sheep’s clothing,
the traitors in the temple.
He scourged them with whips!”

Taken from the Sacred Liturgy: Auferte gentem perfidam credentium de finibus
(Take the faithless tribe from the borders of the believing)
(Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology…. Wikipedia)

Because you have kept my word of patient endurance,
I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world,
to try those who dwell upon the earth.
I am coming soon;
hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

Revelation 3:10-11

heart of the matter

Lord…
our heart is restless, till it rests in Thee.

St. Augustine


(heart of a purple cabbage / Julie Cook / 2017)

“You must pray not only with words but with the mind,
and not only with the mind but with the heart,
so that the mind understands and sees clearly what is said in words,
and the heart feels what the mind is thinking.
All these combined together constitute real prayer,
and if any of them are absent your prayer is either not perfect,
or is not prayer at all.”

St.Theophan the Recluse

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you,
and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

Ezekiel 36:25-27