won by One who makes imperfection perfect

Satan has a kingdom here on earth.
It’s called the culture of death, but his kingdom has an expiration date.
That’s good news.
Jesus has a kingdom as well.
There is no expiration date.
It will last forever.
Remember, Church, we have been won by One.
The next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

Jesse Romero
from The Devil in the City of Angels


(deer moss / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Do they desire to join me in thanksgiving when they hear how, by your gift,
I have come close to you, and do they pray for me when they hear
how I am held back by my own weight?

A brotherly mind will love in me what you teach to be lovable,
and will regret in me what you teach to be regrettable.

This is a mark of a Christian brother’s mind, not an outsider’s—
not that of ‘the sons of aliens whose mouth speaks vanity,
and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity’ (Ps. 143:7 f.).

A brotherly person rejoices on my account when he approves me,
but when he disapproves, he is loving me.

To such people I will reveal myself.
They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones.
My good points are instilled by you and are your gifts.
My bad points are my faults and your judgments on them.
Let them take heart from the one and regret the other.
Let both praise and tears ascend in your sight from brotherly hearts,
your censers. …
But you Lord…Make perfect my imperfections”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Might a new day be dawning????

“When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance,
it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus;
the church no longer remains distinctly Christian;
it is no longer salt and light in the world,”

(excerpt from the Southwark Declaration nailed to a Cathedral door)


(recent Southwark Declaration grievances nailed to the doors of Rochester Cathedral)

And so it has begun…

And I for one rejoice!!!

Almost 500 years to the day, over the course of the past 48 hours,
a band of “back to the Bible” disgruntled, dare we say it, Orthodox Anglicans
have followed in the footsteps of Luther and set about nailing,
or in most cases tacking or taping, a two page document of grievances
to the doors of Anglican Cathedrals across the UK.

The document is known as the Southwark Declaration named for the
Diocese of Southwark in which the original letter was composed.

According to an article in PJ Media written by Tyler O’Neil…
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted
a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals.
The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting
of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany,
and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to follow the Bible on LGBT issues.

“500 years ago Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany,”
one document reads.
“He did it because the church had become corrupt.
Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”

“The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice
on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not
biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God,”
the document explained.
“This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across
the whole of the Church of England.”

You can read the full article here:
https://pjmedia.com/faith/anglicans-pin-95-theses-style-complaint-on-lgbt-issues-to-doors-of-5-uk-cathedrals/

The Vicar of St. James’ Church of Westgate-On-Sea, The Reverend Stephen Rae, has
opted not to remain anonymous but rather has publicly admitted to nailing the
document to the doors of Canterbury Cathedral….the Cathedral at the very heart of Anglicanism and the Church of England.

“It is with great sadness that I posted the Southwark Declaration in Canterbury
Cathedral,”
Reverend Stephen Rae, vicar of St. James’ Church, Westgate-On-Sea,
told PJ Media in a statement.
“This building that stands sentinel over the Church of England has been a symbol of Anglican leadership with, perhaps, the greatest global reach for centuries.”

“Now it has become synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty;
it stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned
its children,”
Rae added.
He quoted Ephesians, noting that the apostle Paul called “the faithful
under-shepherd” to “guard the flock against the wolves that would seek to
enter the fold.”

Citing the ordination oath the Church of England, Rae added,
“We are not merely to assert biblical truth.
We who have been entrusted with the precious gospel that speaks life into the
hearts of wretched sinners are also called to drive away anything that would lead the flock away and into judgment.”

“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance,”
the vicar concluded.
“If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling.
We are to hold out the radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith. Playing fast and loose with what God really meant when he said what he said never
turns out well.”

The Southwark Declaration

As clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Southwark:

We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority
in all matters of faith and conduct.

We affirm with Canon A5 that ‘the doctrine of the Church of England
is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers
and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.’’

We affirm, with Article XX, that ‘it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any
thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.’

We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10. 7, Matthew 19.5),
the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 (‘Of Holy Matrimony’)
that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse.

We affirm resolution 1.10 on human sexuality of the Lambeth Conference (1998).

We call upon all the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese,
alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths,
live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.

We call upon the Bishops to appoint to positions of teaching authority
only those who hold to these truths in good conscience.

“Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.”
(closing excerpt from the “nailed up” Anglican Southwark Declaration)

More on all of this tomorrow but for now, let us allow all of this to sink in…
slowly…
as we pray for the brave vicar and others who are speaking up,
stepping up and letting it be known that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
and the Word of God will stand…despite man’s attempt to alter it or change it
to suit his or her desires….

fragility

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it,
that we discover the possibility of true joy.”

Desmond Tutu


(a spent monarch butterfly lifeless in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

You may remember that I once wrote a post about the life expectancy of butterflies…
and surprisingly, it is very brief.
Often times just a matter of a few short weeks.

Which is a bit hard to wrap one’s thoughts around when this yard of mine
is awash with the comings and goings of what seems to be hundreds of
butterflies in every size, shape and description.

I also know that some butterflies even migrate from life here in the south down
even further south to Mexico and as far as even South America.
I don’t know much about the life expectancies of those particular travelers
but for such a southerly jaunt, I’d imagine stamina is key.

Yet despite their brief lives, it is always sad finding one having given up
the ghost…

I don’t think I really need any more reminding on the fragility of
life…
however, having spotted this dead Monarch in the grass,
that’s exactly what I got when I was out watering the plants…

It is amazing to me how I can look at a dead butterfly and feel such a sharp pang
of sadness.

For despite my own spate of life’s current sadness, which is currently running
amuck in this little world of mine,
seeing a butterfly lifeless, in a fading clump on the ground, sends a rush of
melancholy washing over my heart.

Life, be it a butterfly’s or our own, is oh so fragile…
And yet we rarely think of it as such.

Our own ego and bravado coupled by the current run of angst and anger…
all run counter to any notion of life being fragile…

Life which is actually something to be savored caressed and
counted as a joyous gift not merely taken for granted or even worse,
purposely attacked.

I wonder what it might take for the majority of this angry Nation of ours,
what could move the hearts and minds of those filled with such hate
and intolerance…
what could possibly stir in the hearts of the gang members, those who
choose to relish in causing pain and suffering …
what could open the eyes of man to his fleeing fragile nature as he races
forward toward his own death and demise….


(a daredevil Tiger Swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 39:4

the other side

“Nothing which implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.”
Thomas Aquinas,
Summa Theologica,
5 Vols

O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:14


(a lone lily finds its way though to the “other side” of a worn fence /
Mackinac Island, MI / Julie Cook / 2017)

Turn to me and have pity on me, for I am left alone and in misery.
The sorrows of my heart have increased; bring me out of my troubles.
Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin.

Psalm 25:88:1416-17

Anyone ever having had some sort of procedure or surgery has undoubtedly
heard that old wives tale, based either on conjecture or fact,
that the third day is always the hardest, the worst
or the day that frustratingly sees one falling backwards in the process
mending and healing….

This as we yearn to simply get to the other side—

To the other side of feeling better…
to the other side of upward
to the other side of recovered energy…
to that other side of both a positive sense and assured knowledge
that it’s all going to be okay.

I feel the same holds true for the healing of the heart.

Those sweeping emotions resulting from traumatic loss, which wash over
our best efforts of moving forward, which always seem harder and worse
on the third day.

The brave busy front begins to crack as the dam to the heart
no longer is able to hold back the deluge of sorrow.

All usually at about day 3

It is this cycle of our lives that is sometimes joyous
and sometimes sorrowful…
It is merely a byproduct to this thing we call life.

Yet no matter the cycle…God knows…
He knows the joy and the sorrow.
The pain and the suffering.
The triumph and the frustration.

Ever present,
ever near…
Be it in our joy of gladness or most
especially in our loneliness of sorrow…
He is near.

For it is in the darkness of our heaviness that
He draws even ever closer…
offering the single thread of hope…

For despite our feelings or those doubtful voices which scream to us
of the ‘otherwise’…
voices telling us that He is actually the furtherest away while we are
reeling in misery.

Or even worse…

that He is simply non-existent…

We know to the contrary…
that He is not only near—
He is actually exceedingly close…

His breath becoming our own.

A palpable sense of so much more and of that which is so much greater…

Coming from Himself to be by our side…
…as one

In that moment with each of us, carrying us from
sorrow and pain, to the other side of Healing and Grace…

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The tale, part II

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

― Emily Dickinson


(view from our room overlooking the busy horse carts on Mackinac Island /
Julie Cook/ 2017)

I wrote this part II post Tuesday, a day before my aunt lost her battle with
the reoccurring cancer.
I know she would insist that I run the post because the ending is so much better than
any of our losses….
and so it is…..

Picking up from where we left off yesterday….

Over our subdued lunch shadowed by my angst,
I called another very nice, but much smaller historic, hotel
located in town… and to our amazement, they had a room!
And if the truth be told…in the end we preferred this
second hotel much more than our stay at the more uppity larger hotel.

Thankfully our final two days of this trip were relatively incident free…
as finally, perhaps even thankfully, the time came for our return home…

What with the many
planes
cars
trains
boats
horses
and bikes…
we made our way back to the tiny little airport…
the one we had been so intimately acquainted with just
days prior.

The nice TSA lady told everyone gathered to make certain to take all food items,
especially Mackinac’s famous fudge, out of their carry-on luggage.
She instructed everyone to put all said fudge into separate bins
allowing it to pass through the screening machine
by itself.

Hummmmmm.

I scrambled pulling out sack after sack of fudge from my backpack.
Everyone back home had asked me to bring back some of this most well known
and most delectable treat.

Finally unburdened from all packed fudge poundage,
my husband and I proceeded to pass through the detectors.

The TSA man stops my husband, who can’t hear because he’d taken out his hearing aids,
and proceeds to tell my clueless husband that he is going to patted down…
my husband looks at me to interrupt.

TSA agents don’t like for you to work as a team…

I tried explaining to the TSA fellow that my husband wouldn’t be able to hear him…
this while another TSA agent grabs my backpack,
the one that had just exited the X-ray scanner,
and asks me to step over to a counter.

All the while my husband is being frisked.
This latest TSA agent places my bag on a counter behind a screen and
proceeds asking me, in a very serious sounding tone,
if there is anything sharp or dangerous in my bag.

“No.”

“I am going to empty the contents of your bag and I want you to keep your hands
where they are and do not reach over here for anything I pull out.”

“Ok.”

She proceeds to pull out my fig newtons, a few of the knick knack gifts
I’d picked up for my son and daughter-n-law,
my windbreaker, my book, my little bag of goldfish crackers,
my camera….
finally she pulls out a sack that had been buried on the very bottom of the pack.
One last box of fudge I had missed in my rush to empty out everything else.

The agent informs me that fudge takes on the properties of an explosive.

“Huh?”

She takes her little magic explosive wand, wiping down my fudge box as well as the
entire insides of my backpack….checking for explosive residue.

I’m sorry but I’m standing in the middle of a teeny tiny little midwestern
regional airport waiting to board a tiny connecting flight—
I look as American as Charlie Brown—a far cry from an evil radical terrorist…
and I have a ton of fudge—does that seem terroristic to you?

She proceeds to berate me for not paying attention,
for not listening to the prior screening request to empty out bags of
all candy.

“HELLOOOOOO, do you not see the sacks of fudge and taffy sitting in this bin that I obviously did empty…???!!!”

I proceeded to tell this agent, which perhaps I shouldn’t have,
that I was a teacher, and if anyone knows how to follow instructions
it was me…

Did she not pick up on that little fact by the ton of candy I had already
removed that was sitting outside of the bag..???!!!
Plus did it not occur to her that ‘I simply missed one last sack????

“Oh, and by the way, I don’t even like fudge!!!!!!”

Once on the plane and settled into our tiny little seats,
my husband exhales loudly. The restrained composure he bravely maintained
all week was now fading rapidly away….
He matter of factly states in a rather loud voice for all to hear,
that from now on…we will not be flying anywhere, ever again–
-we will be driving….

Fast forward to Monday as life resumed its monotony of routine.

I met my son at their home here in town in order to finish moving boxes and
begin the scrubbing process.
I asked why his wife hadn’t come down…again.
“She’s still sick” he replies.
“Still? What in the heck is wrong…I’ve told y’all to
hurry up and find a doctor and quit waiting till you’re near death…”
On and on I fuss, just like a fussy mother hen, I chide and ramble.

Suddenly I stop my fussing.

“Brenton,”
I slowly ask….
“is Abby pregnant?”

“Yes…..”

One word…

“yes”

and suddenly our little world is transformed into
something so much bigger, so much greater,
so much more than where we were right before
he said the single simple word
“yes.”

“We’ve been afraid to tell y’all what with everything that’s been happening.”
Almost apologetically he tells me they had not planned it to be this way.
We know the timing is poor…but…

and so now yes,
and now but…
and now life,
and now thankfully,
and now joyfully…
it happens…

everything that was,
everything that seemed so insurmountable,
everything that was such a big deal
so annoying
so troublesome
so stupid
so difficult….

as Dad’s former caregiver told me when I shared the news with her…
“in the black community we have a saying,
when one leaves the world,
another one enters”

and so it is…
and so it does….

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Once again…

True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance.
It is far deeper than that–
it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Charles Spurgeon

DSCN3259
(broken sand dollar in the surf / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

Once again we are called to offer our prayers, our hearts, our thoughts to God for
ambushed and murdered police officers.
Our prayers are offered upward for these officers and their families who are left wondering why.

Not that these officers were unaware or naive to the dangers of their job, their calling..
The potential that each day could be the day that they are called upon to offer their all…
Yet to be ambushed…purposefully and willfully cut down…in cold blooded murder…
is difficult to process.

We wonder, we worry, if we are now growing numb and jaded to the almost daily news of
the heinous taking of life …
Numb to the daily images of grieving families…wives now widows, children now without a parent…
As a part of our society has decided that any and all police officers are no longer worthy of living…

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8

Bear ye one another’s burdens

“It is easy to tell the toiler
How best he can carry his pack
But no one can rate a burden’s weight
Until it has been on his back”
― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

DSCN1904
(memorial of St Christopher carrying the Christ Child dedicated to Willian Connor of the 1st Dublin Company, the Boy’s Brigade , located in St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

In yesterday’s post I reflected on the abstract idea of thankfulness and gratitude—that sublime ability to feel and experience a personal and intrinsic sincere gratitude and thankfulness within ones life—Of which is just another piece of the puzzle to understanding the gaping divide between those associated with groups such as ISIS, Islamic or other militant groups set on death, mayhem and destruction.

And it should be noted that such a thought is not to be considered and taken as being overtly simple, idealistic or naive…as most would find such an observation exactly to be when comparing such violent groups quest for the general populace of whom seems to be their key target. It is but one small observation of the current state of turmoil which is circling around the world of the us and the thems…as it seems to be just one glaring missing component in one of the two divided camps—the true sense of joy, gratitude and thankfulness of simply living our lives that the majority of us feels verses the cold hearts of the thems…

And whereas it is easy to sit back with the countless numbers of officials and
powers-that-be who are currently grappling with figuring out / understanding the reasons and the whys—as in why are “they” so hell bent on causing misery, woe, mayhem, destruction and death for and to the rest of us…as in what is their angle, their desired end result…as don’t all groups who set out on some sort of quest have a desired end result…?

And as such thoughts have been coursing through our minds as of late, it is no doubt that we have all read or seen the story of the very sad and heinous tragedy that took place November 10th in Indiana—that of the young pregnant wife and mother…that the young, brightly smiling, beautiful young girl married to the young pastor who was the victim of a home invasion. She was raped then shot dead while her infant son was asleep in another room. As two others had gone to empty out the couples cash at an ATM. Not only was she victimized, brutally assaulted, raped and murdered but her unborn child was party to the brutality as well.
Two lives tragically, horribly, senselessly taken…

How are we to wrap our minds around such horrific events?

Yet we have not heard nor seen the sort of events as witnessed in other recent senseless tragedies following this such as…
National news teams have not descended upon this community.
No one has marched in protest.
No college football teams have refused to play.
No college presidents have resigned.
No police officers have been fired.
No cities looted, stormed or burned as a result.

An 18 year old boy was arrested yesterday, as two others are now being sought.

There will be those who will claim that these young men are victims as well, victims of a system that has marginalized them…
The same arguments will be raised that they are victims of race, socioeconomic positions, perhaps those from broken homes, or fatherless homes who never had the opportunities of others….
All of which–I simply refuse…I don’t buy such excuses….
For wrong is wrong and right is right and 99.9% of the time those who perpetuate such crimes are indeed aware of right and wrong—the caveat being that they simply don’t care…as their hearts are indeed cold—cold to life and cold to living, cold to justice and cold to Grace.

So rather than creating a resulting spinoff of chaos and madness as in the other recent events our country has witnessed, as if the death and loss are not chaos enough, this particular family and community are tragically left stunned and deeply hurting.

Anger is indeed the forefront resulting emotion when we face such horrors.
How could they?
How dare they?
Anger is our knee jerk reaction..

As now a young pastor and father is left to wonder, to wrestle, to question, to hurt, to ache and to grow numb…as he wrestles with his emotions…as he is left to raise his infant son alone…as he buries both his wife and unborn child.

How can a just God, a loving God, allow such…is the question we hear screaming in our heads.

And there is never a simple answer for such a question.

We live in a world of Light and Dark, Good and Bad, Holy and Evil

and we have been given a command…Bear ye one another’s burdens….

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians6:7-10