News

“I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged
to read the newspapers.
Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known
before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation,
if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance.
Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn;
and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism
and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn
how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France,
and quadruplets born in New Zealand.”

C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

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(C.S.Lewis busy at his desk / The New York C.S.Lewis Society)

Had I not known that Mr. Lewis had penned these observational words in 1955,
I would have thought they were but a mere reflection of our own current times and condition.

However Mr Lewis may actually have been more soothsayer than mere observer,
as it seems as if our current crisis of all things “news”…fake or real,
is actually what Mr Lewis opines..albeit these 50 years later…
that we have succumbed to believing that our news must smell of the vulgar
and the sensational…
while being heavily accented with that of the unreal, surreal and the fake.

Yet man is so caught up with himself,
spinning about in his tiny world of chaos,
that he has failed to see the real breaking news of the day…
A story that in all truth has the makings of sheer sensationalism, sans the vulgarity.
A story offering both life and death with high stakes drama involved.
A story that is so far beyond us that it seems to be more fiction than fact…

But…that is where the glory is to be found…
in the mere fact that it is a story that seems more impossible then possible…

In 1945, a young Jesuit priest sat in a foreboding jail cell, condemned to death.

Enduring beatings and torture, as he awaited execution, this young priest,
whose hands were shackled both day and night,
began writing profusely about a news story of which he was all too familiar…

One might only imagine that the small dank cell and the overwhelming isolation of
solitary confinement, along with the added weight of certain death hanging over
his head, would diminish any sense or need, let alone excitement or utter joy,
that actually engulfed this young priest who felt compelled to relay this particular news story…
Yet it was to be to the contrary, for the darkness of his current situation only heightened his
sense of wonderment and the urgent burning desire that he share this story at any and all costs.

So each day, with shackled hands, this young priest would write and each day his writings,
one by one,
were secretly smuggled out of the prison.

The news that this young priest felt so compelled to share,
the news which was not of death and passing
but was rather a story of hope and salvation…
is still as relevant and news worthy today as it was during those dark days of 1945…

“The horror of these times would be unendurable unless we kept being
cheered and set upright again by the promises that are spoken.
The angels of annunciation, speaking their message of blessing into the midst of anguish,
scattering their seed of blessing that will one day spring up amid the night,
call us to hope.”

“Let us ask for clear eyes that are able to see God’s messengers of annunciation;
for awakened hearts with the wisdom to hear the words of promise.
Let us ask for faith in the motherly consecration of life as shown in the figure of
the blessed woman of Nazareth.
Let us be patient and wait, wait with Advent readiness for the omen when
it pleases God to appear in our night too, as the fruit and mystery of this time.
And let us ask for the openness and willingness to hear God’s warning messengers
and to conquer life’s wilderness through repentant hearts.”

“Let us then live in today’s Advent, for it is the time of promise.”

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(Father Alfred Delp)

Alfred Delp
excerpt:
The Shaking Reality of Advent / 1945
Watch For the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
Plough Publishing House.

who becomes the enemy?

“If we as Christians do not speak out as authoritative governments grow…
eventually we or our children will be the enemy of the society and the state.
No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have a real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes”

(Francis Schaeffer
How Should We Then Live, 1976)

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(gulls, Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016

While we’ve been busying ourselves with life,
resting in the falsehoods of our comfort…
With steely precision, an insidious force has been set in motion,
casting forth a lie of epic proportion…

It is a growing and troubling lie…a lie now readily held as truth…
Held and spread by those who now claim that you and I, who call ourselves Christian,
are the true enemy of the people.

The world cannot abide by any absolute other than its own fickled whims and wants.
It is the ego of both pride and carnal knowledge that cannot tolerate the Holy Absolute.
That same Holy Absolute to which both you and I hold fast.

And so it now appears that the enemy is closer than we may care to imagine…

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.
At the end all his disciples deserted him.
On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.
For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.
So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.
There is his commission, his work.
‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.
And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ;
he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies,
not with the bad people but the devout people.
O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!
If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

life has turned

“What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.”

― A.W. Tozer

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(a camouflaged baby lizard lounges on the lemon tree / Julie Cook / 2015)

The funny thing about life is that God always has a way of whittling away the superfluous until He exposes the bare bones of the necessary.

And that necessary is here and now.

Because you see, life has taken a turn.

Not just my life but all our lives.

When an 85 year old priest, in a small town church has his throat slit while saying mass
as our media outlets offer but a mere passing mention because
they are too busy covering the
feeding frenzy of a political convention,
life has turned.

Oh we can all look the other way because that is there and we are here….
We can pretend that the reality isn’t really happening.
We can ignore the obvious growing importance of events in our world..
We can use the same smoke and mirrors our leaders and politicians prefer…
in order to alter the stinging truth…

but you see, there is no hiding the truth.

Because the truth cannot be hidden by the darkness for long.
All that is… will eventually come to light.

We are living in the midst of a war.
And there is an urgency growing by the day…

Yet very few wish to acknowledge the importance, the urgency, the raging battles.
Better to ignore the chaos, in hopes it goes away.
Better to decry the reasoning in hopes it isn’t real.

The lines have been drawn…long ago.
With each of us having our own personal battles…while the bigger war rages on…
As each individual battle links to the greater fight.

Yet sadly the majority still wants to ignore the reality of the truth.
They want to proclaim the obvious isn’t real.
They want to go about life as though everything is perfectly normal and fine…
Tiptoeing through the broken glass…

They want to desensitize themselves while gorging their insatiable appetites…
Growing fat and lazy so that when the time comes, they won’t be able to
heed the call….

Yet the call has been sounded.

The troops are amassing…
The smoke is rising on the horizon
and the sound of footsteps can be heard along the winds.

With life’s turn now taken,
there is no more time for looking back.

There are no longer those hidden places to hide.

The darkness will not be permitted to remain…
as all that has remained hidden is soon to be exposed…

The time to choose your position is now…
You have been called to ready the fortress, we all have been called…
Yet only a handful will answer….

What more will it take for you to understand…

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
Second Timothy 3:1-5

exacting

We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures…
If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.

John O’Keefe

“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world.
And no places that are safer than other places.
The center of His will is our only safety –
let us pray that we may always know it!”

― Corrie ten Boom

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(heat lightening in a hot Georgia July night sky / Julie Cook / 2015)

For some it comes gradually…painstakingly and agonizingly slow…

For others it comes in the fury of immediate energy found in the flash of lightning…
precise…
pinpoint…
and near deadly…

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of the word Exacting is: requiring much time, attention
or effort from someone : very difficult or demanding

And it is to that exacting end, of the often difficult and demanding road,
that Christians are dutifully bound….

For ours is an exacting God and a demanding fatih.

He is a God who requires much from us, His created.

For the life of a believer is not a passive experience.

It is not a life of basking in the wonderment of being created,
the rhythmic marvel of breathing…
or the mystery found in forgiveness.

It is not a life of prestige, or comfort, or even ease.

Rather it is a life that runs against the grain.
It is rough as raw cut wood
and yet it is as smooth and as slick as polished stone.

It is faith both trying and challenging and not for the faint of heart.
For the cross we carry is not light nor ever manageable but rather cumbersome and weighty.

This faith of ours is not for those who choose to tarry, often taking their sweet time…
For it is that very thing called time that is of the true essence…

This living faith is not for those who believe in immunity, free from pain, or hurt or sorrow.
As believers, we often face the tempest storm, alone…for the world will turn its back.

We live in a time of reality’s denial.
And a time of mandatory tolerance…yet the tolerance is not ours to know.

He asks His own to stay while the world chooses to go.
He calls upon His own to go when the world decides to stay.

He asks, He commands, He requires…

For it is ultimately a choice between life and death…

And it is for that very Life that we each have so chosen to die…

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Romans 6:6

Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.
Jeremiah 7:23-24

living in the shadows

“Gregory of Nyssa points out that Moses’s vision of God began with the light, with the visible burning bush, the bush which was bright with fire and was not consumed; but afterwards, God spoke to him in a cloud. After the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light. The shadows are deepening all around us.”
Madeleine L’Engle

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(shadows cast on the grounds of Adare Manor / Adare, Co Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

While no one seems to take notice,
Distortions and false precepts gather around the faithful…
like opportunistic buzzards circling overhead …

All the while a noose tightens…

The hard truths have been concealed by the naive,
who with their blankets of all things happy,
dole out feel good prosaics offering only false hope…
numbing the reality of all those who prescribe.

Like a spider’s sticky web, the lies have been beautifully spun…

Reality was decided long ago yet it appears to be more than most care to bare…
So a heavy dish of falsehoods and half-truths have been offered up with limitless appeal

And now discernment must play a pivotal role.

Not all who follow claim the one and only Truth…
they’ve been chasing after the elusive shadows…
which disappear with the fading light

Judgement now dances a strange dance with confusion.

Time has arrived with its decisive ultimatum…
Choose Light
Choose the Life
or…
remain hidden within the shape shifting shadows of your own distorted illusion…

These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:17

Lost to the lies

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your Cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus Toplay
Rock of Ages

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(snapdragon / Julie Cook / 2016)

“We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy
and allowing somebody else to pay for us.
The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take.
We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.”

John Stott

My dad is an exasperating man.
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while,
you already know this.
I’ve gotten where I don’t write about it or him as much as it
is mostly overwhelming.

He holds two college degrees.
He is a retired civil engineer.
He sent two kids to college.
He lives in the same house he bought in 1961.
He has been retired for nearly 30 years…
and he has lived a comfortable life.
But at 88, he is now exasperating.
Very very exasperating…

For my dad lives in a constant state of denial…

He refuses to acknowledge the truth.

A hard truth that it is, but he will deny it all day long.
He will vehemently fight it—
me, you, whomever…tooth and nail,
as if demanding the truth to be something other than what it is,
willing the facts to be false.

Yet his willfulness will not, cannot, change the facts.

I can see, hear and be very well aware of this particular truth,
with him knowing that I am only too aware, but he will argue with me,
or anyone holding to that truth,
working himself into a tizzy of epic denial.

When his colitis rears its ugly head, as it has today,
it is the signal to all of us that he does indeed know the truth…
but he is fighting deep within himself, willfully lying to even himself.
And so his body reacts.
His body negatively reacts to his hostile denial of the truth.

For my dad lives in a state of constant fear, denial and conflict.
All three going hand in hand.

It frustrates me to absolutely no end.

The constant fighting and denial is not good.
It is not healthy.
And it is a lie to not only us and the reality of it all, but it is a lie to himself.
It is utterly counter productive to the care that both he and my
stepmother are being provided…
Yet he thinks that if he can deny it long enough,
fight it long enough, he thinks he can change it.
Making it work out in his twisted childish favor.

It leaves those who are tasked with his care utterly frustrated.
And it makes me nuts.
Yet there is nothing any of us can say or do to turn him around to the truth.

For in his mind, the truth is worse than the lie…

And that, to me, is the saddest thing…

He will have temper tantrums, shouting and pouting.
He will “sull up” as a small child…
Wearing a deep frown, refusing to talk.
Any sort of possible verbal or physical demonstration,
in order to change the truth to his yearned for lie…

This is not a case of just letting him be…
living happily with his half truths and lies of his aged demented unreality.
Leaving him alone to his skewed view of reality these final years…
It’s not that easy.
It’s much more serious and much more complex than that…

It is a battle really.
With serious repercussions.

One that I must continue fighting…until, as one insightful care provider noted, something
catastrophic will have to take place in order to finally shake some light on the reality…
And unfortunately it is believed that that will happen most likely sooner than later…
as my dad has painted himself into a corner, and I’m stuck in that corner with him.

My dad will fight God on this one.
Refusing to let go.

Up his meds they suggest.
Maybe….

But until he can stand before God, offering this mess of his up,
up to the one true God who in turn is the only real Truth,
this mess will stay a mess, taking all of us charged with his care, with it…

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

what shall we suffer

I pray that we may be found worthy to be cursed, censured and gunned down, and even put to death in the name of Jesus Christ, so long as Christ himself is not put to death in us.
Paulinus of Nola

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

The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy.
Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering…

Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps harden them.
Endurance alone is not consecration.

Suffering is consecrated to God by Faith–not by faith in suffering but by faith in God.

Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead.
And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good,
not because they have meaning,
but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.

Thomas Merton

The quickest and easiest way in which a hurting world will dismiss God, and especially the love of God, can be found deep within the black pit of suffering.

Suffering verses the embodiment of God as Loving Creator are each at the juxtaposition of comprehension.

The human mind cannot grasp, let alone digest, that there can be both suffering as well as a God who espouses to be Love personified existing within the same universe of both space and time simultaneously.

And yet the faithful hold tightly to the single fact of truth… that God hates suffering.
How can this be?
Why then won’t He simply wave a hand freeing us mere mortals from Suffering’s both evil and horrific grasp?
“Make it stop, please…”
pleads and begs the anguished, broken, pain ridden heart of the one so deeply wounded by the merciless hold of Suffering.

And Suffering, with its law of averages, and as painful as the reality is, will visit each and everyone of us at some point during our lifetime.

It will visit us up close and intimately personally…
or
it will visit those whom we love and hold dear
or
it will descend upon others… and it will be only thorough our deep empathy for humankind that we will in turn rage against it there as well.

Or even worse….
It will, void of all mercy, descend upon us on all fronts of our lives…relentlessly hammering us and appearing almost sadistically calculating, until we beg to be released from this life…

And yet there is but one explanation for suffering…

It is found in the cross.

That damned cross…

The cross of both death and damnation

Yet that same cross of both Grace and Salvation…

That same cross worn around my neck.
That same cross that is our bridge…mine and yours…
Our only hope,
The only way…
Which will lead us finally Home…

And as difficult as it is, that same saving cross is the raw epitome of Suffering…

We must all face the cross…
Just as we breathe a breath, we must face the cross…
There will be no avoiding it, no getting around it, no denying it.
It is the impassable road block to our journey and it must be dealt with,
by each of us, on our own individual journey home in our own unique way.

We simply cannot believe, live or profess that Jesus overcame death if we cannot, in turn, face the cross.
As hard and as painful and as difficult as that will be, we must each face the cross and all that it entails.

Many of us will spend a lifetime running from it, hiding from it, denying it…

It will be the hardest and most difficult thing any one of us will ever do,
but it is something we will all have to do…
if we are to share in the conquering of death by God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:4-5