abnormal


(Mary Magdalene on The Chosen played by Elizabeth Tabish)

In yesterday’s post, I mused and rambled on about the meaning and notion
of the word “normal”
and that’s because I was playing catch up from having been away from blogland for
nearly a week and I kept reading post after post that each were each exploring
the idea of what is meant by normal.

So after a little investigating, I surmised that normal is a base, a root, a footing
a grounding.
It offers stability as an anchor.
It is a starting point.

It had been my intention to elaborate and to write about the opposite
of normal…that being abnormal.

I intended to relay all of this around the craziness that is currently
taking place across this Nation of ours within our schools.
What with the push, or in some cases the quiet and sinister implementation
of Critical Race Theory into the curriculum of our schools—
along with the push for the teaching of and embracing of transgenderism—
all within our schools and all without the input of our parents.

A dictated sort of agenda, implemented with no regard to parental feelings
or thoughts about what their children should or should not be a part of.

I had intended to address the opposite of normal education with that of abnormal
education…
but then something interceded…something jumped in the way of that train of
thought and is now taking me onto a different and more important thread of thinking.

I watched episode 6 of Season 2 of The Chosen.

These backstories…oh my goodness—

Growing up, reading the Bible—the various individuals that we’ve always
read about, learned about—well, they are people from long ago…
their names are familiar….but are “they” familiar?

Their stories are shared and well known… but them, as actual people, well…
they have always been a bit sterile, obscure…even distant.
As in… they were way back then and we are now—how do we relate?
It seems we can relate on some levels but not so much on other levels.

That’s what I like about The Chosen—granted there is certainly
some artistic interpretations taking place but in the end, it brings
life to these past trailblazers.
They become real life—not bigger than life.
They become like you and me.

Take Mary Magdalene for example.

We know that Mary had lived a hard and tormented life…
that is… until she encountered Jesus.

He healed Mary.

Allowing her to became a new creation in Christ.

End of story right?

Well, most likely not exactly.

This particular episode of The Chosen offers us an example of backsliding.

If you have become a Christian, encountering Jesus on your own personal road
to Damascus, then you must also know backsliding.

It happens to all of us at some point or another.
It can happen on a catastrophic level or it can happen in a small
almost inconspicuous way—but it happens none the less.

We let ourselves down and in turn we feel as if we’ve let the Christ
of our Salvation down.

In the beginning before there was sin—Adam and Eve were “normal”
They were the foundation and starting point in God’s creation.
From them was to grow a people of God.

However, God had afforded them, and in turn us, freewill…and with that freewill,
sin was allowed to enter into that which was normal.
Sin took normal and created the abnormal within creation.

But note the importance here—freewill was freely given.
God knew what He was doing and yes, it would break His heart,
but he did not want to make mindless puppets but rather true children
who had choice.
Real, true, unconditional love allows room for heartache.
Plain and simple.

So no glitch on God’s part, no mistake.
God does not make mistakes.
And in turn there was a freely given choice for man.
Not an easy gift to give…but one freely given and one readily taken.

So back to Mary.

Mary, like all of us, had a past.
Her’s was a dark hard past.
And sometimes we discover that our pasts are hard to walk away from.

Think addiction.
How often has someone gotten clean from alcohol, drugs gambling
or even pornography only to fall back into old hurtful patterns?

For reasons we may never understand…some folks get clean,
and or get saved and can walk a pretty straight path afterwards
for the majority of their lives.

For others the walk is not so easy as they fall backwards, time
and time again.

It is hard and it is frustrating and it is painful.

The Chosen explored the idea of Mary falling back into her
old ways–only to feel that now, she was even more than unworthy of Jesus.
He’d healed her once—how could she go back to him knowing she
had thrown away his gift while she reclaimed her tragic past?

It’s like being in a lake, unable to swim any longer, someone
throws you a lifebuoy—and yet you push it back seemingly to prefer
to try saving yourself.
Finally the person who hopes to help has to jump in the get you.
Suddenly you feel an overwhelming sense of shame in having refused the
lifebuoy as you’ve allowed this individual to put him or herself in
jeopardy at your selfish expense.
Yet they save you none the less.

Jesus knew of Mary’s dilemma and in turn sent Simon Peter and Matthew to fetch her–
bringing her back to the fold.

She came back—ashamed.

But Jesus saw no shame in Mary.

He forgave her backsliding.
He embraced her and her brokenness.

Just as he does the same for each of us.

We were normal.
We sinned and became abnormal.
Jesus heals us, mending us to normal…
but everlasting normal comes only when we are truly reunited to and with Him
in Heaven

He takes our abnormal while offering us back normal

adjective
adjective: abnormal
deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way
that is undesirable or worrying.

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 ESV

Death means not ruin but restoration—undertake that which is for God’s glory

“So, if God has not resolved to cast His work back into nothingness forever,
if this earth, sanctified by the footsteps of Christ, is destined,
once radiant and renewed, to remain forever,
then man must rise again in a future life to reconquer its scepter and kingship.
Hence, once more, it follows that death means not ruin but restoration.
If God has decreed that our earthly abode shall one day be dissolved,
it is not for the purpose of despoiling us of it, but to render it subtle, immortal, serene.
His aim may be compared to that of an architect, says St. John Chrysostom,
who has the inhabitants leave his house for a short period,
in order to have him return with greater glory to that same house,
now rebuilt in greater splendor.”

Fr. Charles Arminjon, p. 84
An Excerpt From
The End of the Present World


(Cable’s Mill / Cades Cove, The Great Smokey Mt. Nat. Park / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Undertake courageously great tasks for God’s glory,
to the extent that he’ll give you power and grace for this purpose.
Even though you can do nothing on your own, you can do all things in him.
His help will never fail you if you have confidence in his goodness.
Place your entire physical and spiritual welfare in his hands.
Abandon to the fatherly concern of his divine providence every care for your health,
reputation, property, and business; for those near to you;
for your past sins; for your soul’s progress in virtue and love of him;
for your life, death, and especially your salvation and eternity—in a word,
all your cares. Rest in the assurance that in his pure goodness,
he’ll watch with particular tenderness over all your responsibilities and cares,
arranging all things for the greatest good.”

St. John Eudes, p. 363
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Saints

police state

The treatment of churches during the Covid 19 scare has ranged from the
unreasonable and illogical to the illegal.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden


(A book store in Padua, Itlay (Padova) / Julie Cook / 2014)

When I was in high school enduring my tenure during those required lit classes,
be it American lit or British Lit, we had to read such books as 1984, A Brave New World,
Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter… ad infinitum.

And I made no bones about it, I hated each and every one of those books.
I was known for being a vocal student so I’m sure my teachers just loved hearing me
complain.

Dark, ominous, surreal…stories that showcased the devolvement of humankind…
that of the more sinister, twisted, demented, malevolent, cruel, sadistic…
tales that spoke of hopelessness…worlds without the Hope of Salvation.

During my teens, during those heady days of the mid-’70s, tales of the surreal
left me uncomfortable if not frustrated.

During those days, I was actively involved in my local EYC, my Episcopal youth group,
as well as the non-denominational Young Life Christian organization.
My lens was that of the Born Again, Charismatic, Jesus Freak movements.
I was focused on Hope springing from despair…not despair spawning deeper despair.

And yet oddly I preferred books such as The Catcher the Rye, The Old Man and the Sea,
A Farewell to Arms, The Red Badge of Courage…
but if the truth be told–
I actually loved what we had to read in my Sociology and Russian History classes—
classes where I read the likes of Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky.
Truthful books that examined humankind by authors who held to the knowledge of a
God greater than man.

So if I had discontent with my Lit. classes from way back in the day,
just imagine my discontent with our current world.
A world that is more like the sad world portrayed in those books we read in lit class.

A world that is fulfilling a prohpesy of the twisted, sinister, demented, malevolent,
cruel, sadistic and hopeless that men from a different time period foretold
in what was thought to be a far and distant future.

This little trip down memory lane came racing to my conciousness yesterday
after reading Dr. Ashenden’s lastest post.
His was a tale about a surreal police state and today’s Chruch…
both of which are caught up in life during a pandemic.

Life precariously and frigtheningly imitiating fiction…

Christians are being harassed in churches by police who did not know the law.

it’s never too late, but it might be getting close….

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life, or how bad you’ve sinned.
I rejected God, but he still knew that I was redeemable.
I was worth saving.
There is no soul anywhere on this earth that is beyond the reach of God.
It’s never too late.

Deborah Lipsky
from Confessions of an Ex-Satanist: A Message of Hope


(mushroom in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The story of Christ’s life and ministry cannot be told without giving due space to Satan’s activity.
The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between cases of mere physical ailments and cases
of a demonic character (both of which Jesus cures).
Jesus frequently refers to the devil in his parables and other teachings,
and the devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert and returns again later to engineer Judas’ betrayal
(cf. Jn 13:2).
This Gospel motif teaches us an undeniable, if uncomfortable lesson: the devil is real,
and he is interested in counteracting the work of grace.
In one sense, accepting this fundamental truth, and keeping it always in the back of our minds,
can comfort us tremendously:
it helps us make sense of all the unpleasant influences at work in and around us.
We are not crazy; we are not failures; we are simply engaged in a spiritual battle.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also believe in the devil—-doomed as he is,
he would love to take as many souls as he can along with him.”

Fr. John Bartunek, p. 350
An Excerpt From
The Better Part

Always be busy in spiritual actions…no other action is nearly as important

“Persevere in labors that lead to salvation.
Always be busy in spiritual actions.
In this way, no matter how often the enemy of our souls approaches,
no matter how many times he may try to come near us,
he’ll find our hearts closed and armed against him.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage


(red indian pheasant / Parrot Mt. /Pigeon Forge, TN/ Julie Cook /2020)

“Christ Himself is our mouth through which we speak to the Father,
our eye through which we see the Father, our right hand through which we
offer to the Father.
Without His intercession neither we nor all the saints have anything with God.”

St. Ambrose

All sorts of things are running through our thoughts today.
Some of us are pleased yet hesitant.
Some of us are sad and resentful.

But what we need to remember is that there is One who is so much greater than
all of this mess.

If you’ve been a regular guest here,
then you already know that I am a big fan of the series The Chosen

https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen

It is solely a crowdfunded production.
Since I was afforded the opportunity to watch season 1 due to the giving of someone
who came before me…
I have opted to do the same, I have paid it forward, twice.

Here are just two of the “thank yous” I received…

So on election day…I have found that these types of words transcend the silliness of man…
words of anger, divisiveness, and bickering…all of which cast a pall over the
ways of this world.

So today, the day after, no matter how things turned out for you or me…be it good or bad …
remember, there is One who is so much greater than any of this mess…

Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

bring an empty heart

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect through trial and suffering.
Only by carrying the Cross can one reach the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(fall leaves doing what they do, fall / Julie Cook / 2020)

Reading the late great archbishop’s words…I would imagine that some readers don’t
much care for the notion of man’s enduring trials and suffering while on this earth…
that of carrying the Cross…with each as a means of reaching the final end goal—
that of our being Resurrected with Christ.

We don’t like to think that we are meant to carry a cross, that we are meant
to suffer or endure…a loving God should want us happy and content right??
A loving God shouldn’t allow those He created and supposedly loves to suffer
or to encounter pain, violence, or be handed a heavy cross to bear…

yet…

What we need to remember is that we live in a fallen world.
Sin shadows our every move.
In our lifetime we will each experience various trials.
Avoiding them as best we try, trials will still come regardless of our vain attempts
to keep them at bay.

However, our best recourse is to rid ourselves of ourselves…
To sever our ties to the trappings of this earth.
To completely empty our hearts.

For it is in that emptying, as St Liguori reminds us, that we are allowed
be open ourselves for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

We must detach ourselves from ourselves and from the world in order to save ourselves.

And it is only through following Christ, first to Golgatha then to that empty
tomb, that we will find our true peace and joy and everlasting life.

“The heart cannot exist without love; it will love either God or creatures.
If it does not love creatures, it certainly will love God.
In order to become holy, we must therefore banish from our heart all that is not for God.
When anyone came to the Fathers of the desert and desired to be received by them he was asked:
‘Do you bring an empty heart that it may be filled by the Holy Ghost?’
And they were right, for a heart that is filled with the things of earth has no room
for the love of God.
He who brings a vessel filled with earth to the spring will never be able to fill it
with water until he empties it of the earth with which it is filled.
How does it happen that so many pray and go frequently to Holy Communion and still make
no considerable progress in the love of God?
The reason is doubtless because the heart is full of self-esteem, of vanity, of self-will,
and of attachment to creatures.
He, therefore, who wishes to arrive at the perfect love of God must practice poverty in spirit.
He must be detached from worldly possessions, from temporal honors,
from his fellow creatures, and from himself.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 114-5
An Excerpt From
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation

***off for a few days in order to find a few more falling leaves with the Mayor and the Sheriff

what we need is a heavy dose of Divine humility

In order to be able to commune with divine things,
it is necessary to agree to acknowledge that one is radically unworthy of them.
Unless we enter into fear and adoration, we never arrive at love and union.

Robert Cardinal Sarah
from his book, The Day Is Now Far Spent


(the adultress scene from The Passion of the Christ)

We are all unworthy.

Each and every last one of us.

Unworthy of what you ask?

Unworthy of Divine Grace.

But you probably don’t care about Divine Grace because you either don’t
know what it is or you simply don’t believe in such.

Yet most of us feel that we are more than worthy…worthy of whatever we may want…
This is because we readily believe that we are better than the man or woman who stands next to us,
across from us, in front of or behind us…that is our smug arrogance.

A smug arrogance that only grows with each passing day.

We hear that smug arrogance.
We see that smug arrogance.
We live that smug arrogance.

The opposite of such is humility–

Humility..the freedom from pride or arrogance…

It is becoming more and more clear with each passing day…
we human beings are in desperate need of being saved from ourselves.
Saved from our seething pride and arrogance.

and in turn…simply being saved.
Yet the irony is that we are not worthy of saving or of being saved.

We’ve seen the news,
we’ve read the articles,
we’ve seen the pictures…
We hear the anger.
We feel the rising tension, the division, the hate.

Humility.
Saving.
Grace…

He who had no sin became sin… for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our hope, our salvation.

“Although we feel the humiliation keenly when we are insulted, persecuted, or calumniated,
this does not mean that we cannot suffer such trials with sentiments of true humility,
subjecting nature to reason and faith, and sacrificing the resentment of our
self-love to the love of God.
We are not made of stone, so that we need be insensible or senseless in order to be humble.
Of some martyrs we read that they writhed under their torments;
of others, that they more or less rejoiced in them,
according to the greater or lesser degree of unction they received from the Holy Ghost;
and all were rewarded by the crown of glory, as it is not the pain or the feeling
that makes the martyr, but the supernatural motive of virtue.
In the same way some humble persons feel pleasure in being humiliated,
and some feel sadness, especially when weighted down with calumny;
and yet they all belong to the sphere of the humble,
because it is not the humiliation nor the suffering alone which makes the soul humble,
but the interior act by which this same humiliation is accepted and received through
motives of Christian humility, and especially of a desire to resemble Jesus Christ,
who though entitled to all the honors the world could offer Him,
bore humiliation and scorn for the glory of His eternal Father.”

Fr. Cajetan da Bergamo,
p. 19-20
An Excerpt Fromm
Humility Of Heart

in the company of or separate from…

“It is in the company of Jesus that you work for the glory of God.”
St. John Baptist de la Salle


(the sedum begin to get a tinge of color / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Man was created for a certain end.
This end is to praise, to reverence, and to serve the Lord his God and by this
means to arrive at eternal salvation.
All other beings and objects that surround us on the earth were created for the
benefit of man and to be useful to him, as means to his final end;
hence his obligation to use, or to abstain from the use of, these creatures,
according as they bring him nearer to that end, or tend to separate him from it.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola,
p.18
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

wants and fears

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation if you had it—
so by not getting what you’ve asked, you really are getting what you want.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(black-eyed susans / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering.
If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow.
It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly,
makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor.
Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective,
defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

pardon the small disruption in service

No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.
Elbert Hubbard (1859-1915)


( a little seaweed / Julie Cook / Rosemary Beach, FL / 2019)

Apologies abound for the slight disruption recently in blogging…
But our family packed up two cars late last week and headed southward
toward the emerald waters and those sugar-white sands of Florida’s northern Gulf coast.

But more about all of that later…

So yes, a family vacation.

And so what do we know about vacations?
What do we know vacations to be?

In part, a vacation is intended for those who opt to head off to parts known or unknown,
in order to unplug, to unwind, to relax and perhaps actually reconnect with those
closest to the heart.

Our own little personal family’s jaunt included two under two,
so there wasn’t a whole lot of relaxing…
however there was a delightful shift in focus.

We were together.

And we were isolated from the rest of the world…or so it seemed.

The television, while seldomly turned on, was never turned to the news.

Computers were not turned on, let alone even touched.

Phones were used to take pictures not to check emails or alerts.

There was a much-welcomed 5 days of sheltered isolation.
We were simply left savoring the magic that happens between children and the seashore.
Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet yesterday, as we reluctantly and sadly loaded the cars in order to head back
to our real worlds, we were reminded in very quiet, yet very powerful ways,
that news had happened in our absence.

In small out of the way towns to tiny outpost post offices, as we journeyed northward,
flags were all flying at half-mast.

A US flag at half-mast is a very visceral and sobering gut check.
It reminds us that we are indeed a united Nation…no more so than in our
collective sorrow.

The half-mast flag is a significant sign of unification for a nation that has smugly
forgotten the very fact that it is united rather than divided.

It seems that there were more mass shootings taking place almost simultaneously around
the country.

31 lives lost
while many more hang in the balance from their sustained wounds.

And once again, the people cry out to their government, “What will you now do?!”

And it is in that cry that I am once again perplexed…

The people cry out to their government, their legislators, their president…
“what will you do to stop all of this???”

This oh-so divided Nation that tends to draw within herself when her flags are lowered,
now demands its government do something to stop the madness.

The evil madness of mass murders.

The real help, however, the real answers, will not be found in the voices of our
presidential pundits or of our local or national legislators…or even
in the words of our much-maligned president…

No…the answers will not be found in what man can do for man…
simply because man is too busy killing man…

The answer is simple really and is found in the tiny fact that we are a nation
that has abandoned our God.

There will be those, many in number, who will argue that God matters not when
a madman takes a gun…

And yet the evil remains does it not?

And so, therefore, where lies our hope, our help, our solutions, our redemption,
our salvation…?

In our government?
In our leaders?
In the words of man?

I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—
a people who continually provoke me to my very face,

Isaiah 65:1-3