what is the seed you sow?

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but
by the seeds that you plant.”

― Robert Louis Stevenson


(the tender cap of an emerging toadstool / Julie Cook / 2017)

If you have sown the seeds of discord…
If you have sown the seeds of hate…
If you have sown the seeds of the raging inferno…
If you have sown the seeds of vile speech…
If you have sown the seeds of dissent…
If you have sown the seeds of an ungracious spirit…
If you have sown the seeds of intolerance…
If you have sown the seeds of protest…
If you have sown the seeds of opposition…
If you have sown the seeds of pushing back…
if you have sown the seeds of violence…
If you have sown the seeds of resistance
If you have sown the seeds of revolution
If you have sown the seeds of civil unrest
If you have sown the seeds of contention
If you have sown the seeds of conflict
If you have sown the seeds of hostility
If you have sown the seeds of anarchy
If you have sown the seeds of mistrust
If you have sown the seeds of lawlessness
If you have sown the seeds of collusion
If you have sown the seeds of deceit….

spilt blood is on your hands….

Do not be deceived;
God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption;
but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap,
if we do not lose heart.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:7-9

fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

No ifs

“Everything in this life passes away–
only God remains, only He is worth struggling towards.
We have a choice:
to follow the way of this world, of the society that surrounds us,
and thereby find ourselves outside of God;
or…
to choose the way of life,
to choose God Who calls us and for Whom our heart is searching.”

Seraphim Rose

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(remembering blooms / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Don’t say it Corrie!
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—-
Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!”

(Betsie ten Boom to her sister Corrie during the German occupation in Holland)

Laying awake each night now at 3AM, my mind shifts back and forth between Dad
and to the current unrest sweeping this Nation of ours.

I lay there wondering if this will be the night that the phone will ring commanding me
to hurry to Atlanta.

Trying not to think about that,
trying to settle the rising nervousness,
I shift my thoughts to
what is currently taking place in and around the country…
as I have a growing sense of real concern.

I had grown up during the Vietnam War…during the Civil Rights movements,
all the while, having grown up in the South for heaven’s sake…
I know all about news and trauma…
bad news, troubling news…
complete with its pictures and individual stories…

But this is now all different…
this is not a war weary Nation,
this is not a Nation learning how to be both black and white…

No, this is not ‘that’ Nation…

Rather this is an angry Nation….
angry for all the wrong reasons….

So I found myself now turning to read a story that I had known about for most of my life
as the book was first published in 1971. I should have read this in high school or
even college but for some reason, I never did…

It is Corrie Ten Boom’s book ‘The Hiding Place’
The story about an unassuming 50 some odd year old Dutch Reformist spinster’s
work with the Dutch underground’s resistance against the Nazi juggernaut…

A story I knew but for whatever reason had yet to read.

I began the book about a month ago.
Reading a page or two each evening…as much as I could muster after spending
each day with Dad.
I now find myself immersed in the story written by a woman who could have
been my friend.
Her writing is such that one feels as if an old friend is merely reliving
a tragic episode of life.

While I currently hear and see angry people, mostly women, screaming like
crazed individuals at television cameras about Nazis now taking over this country
all due to the election of a new president…
And after reading Miss Ten Boom’s story,
I am again keenly reminded as to who the actual Nazis really were and that they,
along with their leader Adolf Hitler, have nothing in common with our country’s current
new presidential administration.

But more importantly I am profoundly reminded about what it means to choose a life as a
true follower of Christ.

Corrie and her entire family had been arrested by the Nazis when it was discovered
that they were working as part of the Dutch Resistance.
Corrie and her Sister were subsequently beaten and imprisoned,
eventually being sent to the Death Camp Ravensbruck.

At one point after enduring severe brutality, hardships and heartbreaking loss,
such that my mere words fail to recount, Corrie is struck by her sister’s Christian focus.
Despite deprivations, ill and failing health as well as being treated no better than
herded cattle, Betsie sees God’s hand….
Where Corrie only had seen evil and hate,
here was her sister Betsie, who had endured so very much seeing not so much hate and evil
but rather humans, much like herself,
who were also victims…
victims of the same evil…just like them…

“This was evil’s hour: we could not run away from it.
Perhaps only when human effort has done its best and failed,
would God’s power alone be free to work”

And there in the dark and frustrating silence of those wee morning hours…it struck me
Are any of us truly living the life of what it means to follow Christ…
to honestly follow Christ…not the Christ we imagine or model in our own image…
not a Christ who places limits or demands…
Not a Christ who has all of life’s endings working happily to
our own personal fairytale closure…
but rather the real Christ, the God made man whose words were pointedly specific and seemingly,
as assumed by much of mankind, as harsh and almost impossible to carry out…

Or are we simply following our own focus…deferring to our twisted idea of how
a world should run according to the Gospel of self…..

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant
brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with everything good for doing his will,
and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

The Resistance

“Resistance is the protest of those who hope,
and hope is the feast of the people who resist”

Jürgen Moltmann

resistenciafrancesabn2l
(archived photo of French Resistance fighters)

If you know anything of the history of World War II, you are most likely familiar with the
role ‘The Resistance’ played in helping to defeat Hitler and his raging Nazi machine.

There were many resistance groups scattered across occupied Europe during those
dark days of Hitler’s unrelenting march toward total European control…

There were those in Rome, working behind the walls of St Peter’s under the watchful eye
of Pope Pius XII…
Just as there were those deep within Germany herself working precariously
within dangerous clandestine shadows to sabotage the Nazi juggernaut…

But the most notable group of partisans were those brave men and women of the French Resistance.
Those everyday citizens who risked everything, which was most often their lives,
as well as the lives of those they loved, all in hopes of undermining Germany’s
control of France and the ever advancing deadly reach westward.

I suppose it is fitting to actually call their actions a true form of guerrilla warfare…
As countless secret codes, messages and Allied information was ferried in and out,
deep from behind and within the enemy lines of the occupied nation.
Explosives, used to blow up bridges and railways, in hopes of cutting supply lines,
were a constant worry for advancing Nazi troops as this secret army of ever hopeful citizens
was key to helping keep hope alive globally…
Hope that all was not truly lost.

Hope…
Alive…

I often feel as if I have become a fighting member of a new resistance movement…
As the growing secularization of Western Civilization marches ever wider,
tightening its grasp and choke hold on the very foundation of our Judaeo Christian faith
and of the very real concept of humanity and morality…

The powers that be, those who work to rewrite Truth, while pointing deadly accusatory
fingers at those who still cling to that Truth,
mark those who remain steadfast in the love and knowledge of the Word of God
and of the Resurrection of His son as…
intolerant, as well as lacking the intelligence to jump on the current trend for
the quickly growing progressive Esprit de Corps.

Backwards fairtalists who live in the dark of Commandments, Covenants and pure make believe
is what we are being labeled as we are met with growing ridicule and condemnation.

We are being sold out by our leaders as they quickly label us as
intolerant, bigoted, xenophobic or simply deplorable ignorant rednecks…
as they try to sell the world a hopeless bag of goods disguised as an
all inclusive pie in the sky…
for they tout that each individual is who they are and whatever that may be
is perfectly great…

Does it matter that you look in the mirror and great and happiness, and contentment
and even satisfaction is not necessarily looking back…?

Our entertainment industry spews out raunchy and lewd innuendos as artistic,
comedic, current and trendy….
while we are mocked for finding it less then humorous…

Our news media has mastered the art of spin in hopes that no one
will be able to really sort fact from fiction…
as we are scorned for attempting to point out the Truth….

Yet Hope does remain…
For the Word of God remains…

For the Word of God cannot,
will not
nor will it ever be silenced…

For in that never-ending Hope is rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ…

May we, who are called to the Resistance continue to fight the good fight
as we each become a member of God’s rebellion against this culture of Death….

The resurrection faith is not proved true by means of historical evidence,
or only in the next world.
It is proved here and now, through the courage for revolt,
the protest against deadly powers, and the self-giving of men and women for the victory of life.
It is impossible to talk convincingly about Christ’s resurrection without
participating in the movement of the Spirit “who descends on all flesh” to quicken it.
This movement of the Spirit is the driving “liberation movement,”
for it is the process whereby the world is recreated.

So resurrection means rebirth out of impotence and indolence to “the living hope.”
And today “living hope” means a passion for life, and a lived protest against death.

Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s rebellion.
That rebellion is still going on in the Spirit of hope, and will be complete when, together with death, “every rule and every authority and power” is at last abolished (I Cor. 15_24)

“I didn’t find Christ, he found me.”

Jürgen Moltmann

“Awaken in my soul a great longing for you. . .”

As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you O God
Psalm 42:1

DSC00080
(a group of deer nibbling out back / Julie Cook / 2015)

I picked up a nice little new book during the holidays, Meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer–translated by David McI. Gracie

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as we remember, was the young German Lutheran pastor who was arrested in 1943 and was subsequently sent to a Nazi death camp for his part in the resistance movement and attempted assassination of Hitler— eventually being executed by hanging on the personal order of Adolph Hitler just two weeks before Hitler’s own suicide.

David Gracie is an Episcopal priest who currently works for the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The gist of this little book is to offer instruction to the faithful on how to utilize the Psalms when practicing and honing the act and art of meditation as a prayer tool.
The book reflects on the importance Bonhoeffer placed on meditation, as he often instructed his young seminarians at Finkenwalde to make a daily habit of at least an hour’s time spent in meditation and prayer, remarking that “every day in which I do not penetrate more deeply into the knowledge of God’s Word in Holy Scripture is a lost day for me”

Last evening I was reading the chapter on Psalm 42 which begins with a sermon Bonhoeffer preached on the 6th Sunday after Easter, June 2, 1935.
It opens with the first line of the Psalm. . .“As the deer longs for the water brooks, so longs my soul for you O God. . .” The following excerpt is “translated” by Father Gracie who chose to inject the use of the feminine pronoun—which normally I would prefer the more traditional masculine but in this instance, I found it most personal and reflective as it seemed to echo my own thoughts. . .

“Have you heard the bellowing of a hart penetrating a cold autumn night in the forest? The whole forest trembles under its longing cry. Here a human soul cries out, not for some earthly good, but for God. A devout person, from whom God is far removed, longs for the God of grace and salvation. She knows the God to whom she cries. She is not the seeker after the unknown God who will never find anything. She once experienced God’s help and nearness. Therefore, she does not call into the void. She calls for her God. We can only rightly seek God when God has already revealed himself to us, when we have found him before.
Lord God, awaken in my soul a great longing for you.
You know me and I know you.
Help me to seek you and find you. Amen

I was struck by the correlation between the cries of a hart, and the cries of a human soul. The use of the word hart is a Medieval word used simply as another term for what we would refer to as a stag or deer. I can’t say that our local white tail deer “cry out” as the description notes but I do think that the bugling of an elk would be more along the lines of such a reverberating sound, such as a hart may have made, which would certainly penetrate the stillness of any autumn night.

I can only image the anguishing sound of a human soul crying out loud to an unseen God, as I have been known to offer my own fair share of crying out, or perhaps more like screaming out, into a void.
Yet the key here is that my cries did not fly out into a void, as it often seems during such a raw moment of emotion, but rather out towards an omnipotent God.

To be in anguish and / or agony and to cry out as a wounded animal is most often done out of frustration, a sense of utter loneliness or from a sheer sense of total isolation and abandonment. To cry out into the night, to the wind, to the emptiness, to the abyss, to the void, to the nothingness is the ultimate primal act of anguish—but here’s the thing or actually the pure wonder of a seemingly empty hopelessness of which Bonhoeffer points out. . .he notes that she, me, you cries out not into a void, but rather the cry being uttered is to God. “We can only rightly seek God when God has already revealed himself to us. . .when we have found him before”

Having, at some point in the time of life prior to the seemingly single moment of separation, isolation, and devastation– there was once a prior encounter between the created and the Creator. He had revealed Himself. We cry out not to the nothingness but rather we cry out to the God of all of time.
We may cry out in frustration, in sorrow or in anger, but cry we do–and it is at this single moment, this nanosecond of time, when life, our life, is never to be the same.

Awaken in my soul O Lord, the longing which leads me to seek, to seek you and you alone. . .

The Contradiction of a Conundrum

“Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(pinnacle of the Gordon memorial, Wright Square / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

None of us will leave this world unscathed or scarless.
Even the most decent among us will know the pain and heaviness of life’s burdens.
Some of us seem to have more than our fair share of woefulness–
leading us all to realize that Life is indeed unfair.

And yet we live in a world full of the contradiction of a conundrum . . .

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:m27-30)

We are told that we who are weary and worn out by the heaviness of our lives, may lay our burdens down, that we may finally find rest. . .
And yet on the flip side. . .
We are told that we must take up our cross, a heavy seemingly burdensome cross–knowing that to do so equates to death.

The conundrum.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26)

Yet as ironically and obviously straightforward as it truly is, as Pastor Bonhoeffer explains, this contradiction, this conundrum of our lives, is perhaps as simply simple as our totally yielding with effortless submission verses the hard headed stubborn resistance of self that we so tirelessly cling to.

It is as easy as exhaling. Completely letting go of our stubborn self and of all that entails.
It is in that blessed exhaling where the rest is waiting.

Once again, as with much of life, it’s merely a matter of choice. . .
But what a choice it is.