The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

can you read between the lines or do I need to loan you my glasses?

Others have commented that it was such a powerful message and it should
get people to reading the bible.
Still others that even if it wasn’t spot on we should take the Philippians 1:18
attitude “But what does it matter?
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true,
Christ is preached.” –
But that is the key question – was Christ preached?
Was the love of Christ preached?

It wasn’t.
David Robertson


(what will be/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

I suppose I should clarify a few things.

I do not describe myself as an evangelical, a charismatic, a reformist, a progressive,
a liberal, a right winger, a holy roller, a Calvinist, a Wesleyan, a Lutheran,
or even a Henry the VIII follower for that matter…although I was raised in his brand of
the church…

Rather simply put, I claim that of being orthodox—-
Meaning that which is “sound or correct in opinion or doctrine,
especially theological or religious doctrine.
Conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early church.”

As in God said it…therefore it is.

It’s quite simple really as there are no mincing of words.
As the mincing of words, God’s word to be exact, is a practice that so many Believers,
as well as nonbelievers alike, deeply enjoy engaging in these days.

It’s a cut and paste sort of mindset.

Meaning we cut out that which we don’t like while pasting in the parts we do like.

We embrace words such as love, inclusive, wide, happy, feel-good, acceptance, united,
renewal and even embrace itself…
all the while rejecting words such as truth, covenant, tenant, consequence, choose,
narrow, difficult, hard, fact…

My orthodoxy is a very far cry from today’s post-Christian, post-modern, anything goes,
feel good ideology that’s currently spreading like wildfire throughout Western Civilization.

And you should know that I’ve tried it my way, the world’s way, other’s way, no way…
but the only way, of which I’ve always learned the hard way, is that in the end,…
it can only be God’s way.

And so when I hear, see and read so much heightened excitement over a sermon delivered
during a wedding that has been passed off as some sort of faith grounded Christian
new age theology, I am perplexed.

In oh so many weeks I have uttered the same words over and over again…words steeped all
within the same and similar vein…
that of false prophets, false doctrine, cultural shifts, culture gods…
as I remind all of us that the Devil’s minions can recite Scripture with the most
sound theologian.

I have long stated that we are at war…

A deep and divisive Spiritual war.

I know that the battles will rage on but the actual war has already been long won…
I know this good news.
This while many of us are left here to continue the good fight.
As well as left to sound the clarion call into battle.

The sheep and goats are being separated.
There is no getting around that fact.

And that is not a gloom and doom prophesy but sound Scriptural fact.
One of those facts our post-Christian society hates to acknowledge.

So when an animated prelate delivers cut and paste words of which our culture
longs to hear is it a wonder we embrace them??
We say “see, he get’s it…”
He uses the right words…words of love, inclusiveness, union, Jesus, acceptance…

But what our itchy ears fail to hear is that the words don’t fit in sequence with one another.

Chunks of mandates are left out.
Entire tenants are ignored.
A whitewashing has taken place of the original facts.
All being passed off as an old Gospel that is actually quite new.

I could hear all of that in his sermon.
Why do so many others not hear?

Gavin Ashenden heard what I heard.
David Robertson heard what I heard.

“I don’t believe that 2 billion people heard the Gospel in this sermon.
The only people who heard the Gospel in it were Christians who already know Gospel.
Instead of rejoicing in the crumbs we get from heretics,
we should be seeking to learn more of Christ ourselves and get out there and tell the world
about the real Jesus – one person at a time!

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
David Robertson.

David has offered a reflection for Christian Today, here is a link to his thoughts with only
more to follow…

Bishop Michael Curry’s Sermon – A Distorted Gospel Divides the Church

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

Blessings in the busyness

“One of the most convicting things I have recently come to realize about
Jesus is that He was never, not once, in a hurry.”

Mark Buchanan,
Your God Is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control


(blooming lilly / Julie Cook / 2018)

It was Sunday evening after a long busy day—
7:30 PM, and I was sitting in my car in the Publix shopping center
in Atlanta near dad’s house, aka my son’s, waiting for my daughter-n-law who
had run in the store.

She had run in to pick up a few items for my son who would be staying behind
while the rest of us hit the road back home to Carrollton.

Ode to the logistics of our lives right now.

We’d spent the day visiting my dad’s side of the family…they all had wanted my
94-year-old aunt to be able to “get to know” her new great, great niece.

My aunt is in a word, a hoot.
She’s never met a stranger.
She is elegant and high class yet one of the funniest people you’d have the
pleasure of spending time with.

She still drives, solo travels, drinks… and yes…smokes regularly.

And has been a widow now for nearly 10 years.

She’s old school Atlanta and old school southern.
But not pretentious whatsoever.

She was my dad’s sister-n-law who had married, what I always said, was the better
of the two brothers.
She married the older and more “normal” of the two—and so we’ll leave it at that.

Growing up, I did feel a bit intimidated by her and their whole side of the family
as my parents were quieter, more subdued and not social whatsoever.
We were a more casual family, more simple and yet more splintered and dysfunctional.

Yet she always went out of her way to make me feel welcomed and a part of their clan
when I’d be sent off for weekends to spend time with my older cousins.

There are only two of my dad’s “people” who remain—his sister-n-law and his first cousin,
both now in their mid 90’s.

Today, it was my cousins and me who are now the grandparents…
Complete with greying hair, extra pounds, wrinkles, pains, and wobbles.

These are the days, these sorts of gatherings, of which are now both few and far between,
which only make me long for day’s long gone…

Yet as I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store, I grabbed my phone and pulled up
the latest homily offering by my favorite rouge Anglican Bishop.

It was a homily offered for the third Sunday after Easter and focused on the
Resurrected body of Christ and the Renewed Mind…

A comfort as I sat in my car, on a chilly, wet Sunday evening,
ruminating over the whats that once were, as I sat pondering those yet unanswerable whats will be…

The humble crabapple

“What plant we in this apple tree? Sweets for a hundred flowery springs To load the May-wind’s restless wings, When, from the orchard-row, he pours Its fragrance through our open doors; A world of blossoms for the bee, Flowers for the sick girl’s silent room, For the glad infant sprigs of bloom, We plant with the apple tree.”
– William Cullen Bryant

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(Images of the massive crabapple in the back pasture / Julie Cook / 2014)

This year is no exception.
We smelled the heavenly scent long before we noticed that the tree’s buds had actually opened.
As we busied ourselves in the yard Sunday afternoon, we all turned to one another at the same time stating the same marked observation “something sure does smell good”. . .

Immediately we realized that the massive overgrown crabapple had begun to bloom.
This massive tree sits just over the fence which divides our property from our neighbors.
This section of fenced off land had actually served, many moons ago, as a small pasture for a mere grouping of 8 black Angus cows. Deciding that her investment was not as profitable as first imagined, our neighbor sold the cows, allowing this small section of land to be reclaimed by Mother Nature herself as it is now an overgrown jungle of brambles, small pines, weeds and grasses.

This jumble of land is also home to several lovely trees. Dogwoods, Sweetgums, as well as several massive crabapples which at first glance resemble massive bushes rather than stately trees—with the one pictured today, growing well over the barbed wire fence, flowing and pouring itself onto our side of the fence.

This tree is home to the small family of deer which call our area home. The tree provides wonderful protective cover for mothers and fawns, as well as shelter from the heat of the oppressive Georgia summers. For us, the tree is a powerful reminder for all who are fortunate enough to first smell, then view, it’s heavenly presence, that the cycle of life is once again beginning. Always as if right on cue, happily again we are all reminded that Spring is indeed a time of renewed hope and joy. The comfort of the expected routine of life, which is happily observed from the cycle of the humble crabapple tree, reassures any observer that despite the woeful headlines which greet us each morning on the news, life is still happily hard at work.


He has made everything beautiful in its time

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thought to be lost. . .

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Anais Nin

The first step toward finding God, Who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself: and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error.
Thomas Merton

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(current azalea bud and tiny new leaves after the devastating winter)

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(this is the azalea in bloom last spring)

The tiny buds and gently unfurling leaves of this native azalea are a most welcomed site! Currently this bush should be in full bloom. However so many of the shrubs and bushes in this area of our state suffered grievously during the unprecedented bitterly cold winter coupled by the devastating ice storm.

I was certain the azalea was lost.

As this is the time of year for Georgia to come into full flower, it is a bit unsettling that currently all things are actually quite behind schedule—with my yard being no exception. I had resigned myself to the fact that some of my beloved flowering plants would be total losses. That is until today.

Upon further inspection, those crunchy dry gray leaves are now giving way to, can it actually be true, new life.
That which was considered to be lost, is thankfully now found to be full of life. The first little buds and tiny leaves, those lost to cold and ice and having shriveled away, have given way to an entirely new set of tiny new leaves and buds.

An amazing recovery by dear ol Mother Nature.

The concept of loss, and then that of ultimately being found, is a most timely concept.

I do not believe it is mere coincidence that this Spring of ours, a season for new growth and new life, which follows the season of emptiness and void, mirrors the most sacred season of Christendom—the church’s Season of Easter.

Perhaps it is having the ability to actually visualize the concept, that of a seemingly certain death which miraculously gives way to life, as carried out within nature, is what helps to make the spiritual concept much more concrete. It’s one thing to read about this most unbelievable phenomenon, it is entirely something different to be able to actually witness it taking place.

I have witnessed this first hand in my unsuspecting azalea–a plant that I was pretty certain was dead and gone. I held the crumbling gray buds and leaves in my hands as proof to its loss of life. I had even decided to dig up the small tree-like shrub in order to move it on to the compost pile, yet opting to wait just a little longer— as I tend to be lean toward the hopeful side of life.

What was by all signs dead, is now offering new growth and new life.

A beaten and bruised man, bleeding profusely is nailed to a tree and left to suffer unto death. After a certain length of time, and by all intent purposes, he is clearly dead. No pulse, no breath, no movement, no warmth—now cold, stiff and certainly lifeless. The body taken from the tree, prepared for burial, anointed with oil and wrapped in a shroud.
Quite dead.
Very dead.
Only emptiness and nothingness remains.
He is buried and left to decay.

And yet. . .

The new creation, the new Adam, the new life is raised from the depths of hell and death to step forth in radiant light to a newness of Life. What was full of loss is suddenly found full of life.
Tiny miracles in Nature.
A tremendous miracle for man.

Where there was loss and death, now gives way to hope and life
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

(***may it be noted that during the season of Lent, which is a time of deep reflection, penitence and fasting, the Church is striped of the seasonal colors and non essential materials. It is as if the Church herself is spending the 40 days of Lent in deep mourning, veiled as a widow in mourning and loss. Words such as “alleluia” or “Hallelujah” are not spoken in service as Lent is not a time of joy—it is not until the triumph of Easter that she, the Church, is again clothed in Light and Triumphant Joy)

Resiliency

“The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed.
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged — though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

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(tiny little blooms emerging from beneath the leaves and debris of a forest floor / Julie Cook / 2014)

I think that I too know how the flowers felt—or better yet, how the flowers feel.
Who doesn’t seem to know that feeling after this never ending winter?
The winter of our true discontent?!
As I enjoy a sudden greening of the yard and trees, Spring’s warmth however is proving to be deceptively coy.

Today we received flooding rains, again, with temperatures in the mid 50’s. More indicative of a typical February day, not April 7th. The sweaters and coats have not gone very far.

The brave early blooms which were thwarted by our devastating snow and ice storms were the first casualties. Things have been brown, sickly brown, ever since. Fear and sorrow both griped my heart as I surveyed what remained of the yard. What would and would not show forth, once the weather finally cooperated, hung heavy in the back of my mind. We Southerners love our Spring. But then again, who doesn’t love Spring. . .besides those, such as my son, who suffer grievously from allergies, but I digress.

Thankfully the plants and shrubs, which I feared had given up the ghost, are now showing tiny glimpses of life. Ahh, hope does spring eternal—such a nice correlation.

Amazing.

The brown sticks, with dead crunchy blooms, which just a few short weeks ago were giving every indication of being dead and gone, are now showing signs of tiny hopeful little green shoots.

Resiliency.

Despite deep freezes, late ice, never-ending cold winds, life is, joyously, once again emerging from a frozen tomb.

I can remember, several years ago, being deeply distraught over the raging fires that decimated parts of Yellowstone National Park. Lightening being the devastating culprit. We had just visited the park weeks prior to the fires. I watched the news reports with tears in my eyes. The glorious forests and plains, which make Yellowstone the very special place that it is, were being consumed by an unquenchable fire and no man nor all of his technology and power could do anything to stop it . Even the wildlife, which calls the Park home, were often caught with no where to run. Fire’s devastating selfishness, proving so terribly unfair, once again.

And yet, almost miraculously, shortly after the fires were finally quenched, tiny green sprouts could be seen rising up from the burnt forest floor like a thousand tiny Phoenixes rising from the ashes. There is actually a certain tree, which needs the heat of a fire, to jump start its seedlings to the growing process. Nature making certain that she can rebound what had appeared to be total devastation—making certain of the continuation of life.

Again, amazing.

Nature has her healing ways. . .as does the human spirit.

We, as a people, also have a tenacity buried deep within our core which always seems to rise to the occasion. History teaches us this.
A quick lesson regarding the history of Poland, and that of her people, is a wonderful micro lesson to understanding the human spirit’s ability to rebound, reclaim and regrow—and in the case of Poland, a country that has been wiped off the map time and time again, that would be a lesson learned over and over and over again.

When we find ourselves, as we all will at some point during the course of our lives, in the places of loss. . .those places of the loss of hope, loss of life, loss of love, loss of possessions, loss of faith. . .may we be mindful of the lessons on resiliency found in Nature’s ability to rebound and regrow from what appears to be a nothingness—

Yet more importantly may we be mindful that it is from our own devastation that hope is born.
May we be mindful of the sheer determination and tenacity which is buried deep within each one of us.

As we prepare to enter the solemnity of the dark week of the Passion of Jesus, a man who carried all of our losses in his heart, may we deeply contemplate His example of loss and death both of which gave way to hope, resurrection and Life.

“Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon