see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

Seek Him

Christmas tells a different story.
It tells us that a deeper moral change comes from encountering the
Presence who loves us, instead of threatening us;
Who comes to find us instead of shaming us;
who comes to change the human heart by offering it compassion and forgiveness
instead of forcing and humiliating us.
Christmas is ‘God with us’ rather than the ‘state over us.’

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(image courtesy the web)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”
Luke 2:14

“God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh.
His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human
understanding:
the Infinite has become a child,
has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI

A very Merry Christmas to all of my family, friends and dear blogging family,
each and everyone…be they near or far…

Pax

fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

Faith without content

“Don’t ask why, ask what—
What am I suppose to do?”

St Padre Pio


(a killdeer hunkers down on Mackinac Island, MI /Julie Cook / 2017)

In reading through the the tiny book that literally fell off the shelf
the other day, landing squarely at my feet,
There Are No Accidents / In All Things Trust God
by the late Fr. Benedict J Groeschel
with John Bishop

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/there-are-no-accidents/)

I have naturally circled and highlighted things that happen
to “speak” to me as I go.

The first half of the book is a running dialog between and interviewer
(John Bishop) and interviewee (Fr Benedict)

The book was published in 2004 but as I’m reading through
all comments, questions and responses,
I’m finding them to be ever most timely.
As in not much seems to have changed in 13 years time…
but perhaps only grown wider in both depth and scope.

Fr Benedict notes that “there is a decline in society in the western world.
Because, after all, sexual morality, among its many purposes,
is the protection of family life.
That is a very high, primary responsibility.
Family life is decaying everywhere.
The cause is a naïveté of the pro-abortion group,
and particularly Planned Parenthood.
They not only have done everything possible to undermine the sacredness of life,
but have done everything to undermine sexual morality.”

He goes on to explain how “the media” follows along these same lines of thought.
Fr. Benedict points to a study /survey that was conducted in California,
around the same time of the interview, of approx. 200,000 media folks.
The results showed that 92% of them favored abortion on demand…
and that 94% favored public acceptance of homosexual relationships.

Opinions that obviously ran/ run very counter to the teachings of the Church
(and I mean the universal Christian Church not only the Catholic Church).

Next Fr Benedict points out that there were also numbers showing,
once again numbers true to the time of the interview,
that 94% of folks in the US believed in a personal God.
92% believed in meeting God upon departing Earth and 86% believed that Jesus Christ
was the Son of God.

Yet Fr Benedict also points out that despite the high percentage numbers,
in actuality, he notes that most of those folks have no idea of what all any of
that really means—of which basically boils down to “faith without content.”

Which obviously made me think.

Faith is indeed a noun but I believe it also a verb…
as in Faith, our Christian Faith, is not merely something passive,
but rather active…as in it seeks, searches, serves…

Christianity is not a passive religion.
God is not a passive God.
He expects more from us than a lukewarm, quasi connected relationship.
He expects that we follow and live out His commands, His words.
There is no picking or choosing,
no this but none of that…
It is not easy and most everything He tells us runs counter to what
the world would have us say, think and do….
It’s all or nothing.

And it appears that more and more of those who profess to have faith,
are currently opting for nothing….

“Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways,
to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies,
according to what is written in the Law of Moses,
that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,
so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying,
‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in
truth with all their heart and with all their soul,
you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

1 Kings 2:3-4

seeking and hiding

“In moments of exaltation one expressed sentiments that outstripped
one’s spiritual capabilities by a vast span; and she knew well that
unless God is sought for Himself alone, with a selflessness
of which she was at present incapable,
He is not to be found.”

― Elizabeth Goudge


(wild blackberries are ripening deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)


(the ripening blueberries bushes out back in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

I go to great lengths when it comes to seeking out, and subsequently picking,
those glistening seasonal black and blue ripening gems…
those succulent orbs and globes of juicy blueberries and now
the incoming crop of wild blackberries.

I have been known to go to near daredevil feats in order to fill a basket, bowl or bag
with these precious little beauties.
I have braved chiggers, ticks, snakes…as well as bleeding to death due to digging deep
into the proverbial briar patch.

This obsessiveness over berry picking worries my husband.

He seems to believe that I do not possess the gift of lithe or grace when it comes to say,
walking…let alone standing on my head while reaching deep into a thicket of the unknown
in search of the elusive black or blue jewel.

I think it comes down to the fact that he’s going to hold that broken ankle business
against me for the rest of my non broken life.
It wasn’t my fault I fell in a drain hole while putting out the pine straw that spring…
a hole he’d dug out just days prior and failed to fill back in before I stepped in it.

So when I must balance on a narrow brick wall,
while leaning over as far as I can with one foot planted on the ledge while
the other leg is sticking straight out behind me in some sort of yoga like pose…
all the while as I’m reaching as far as I can
without face planting into a mass jumble of branches,
fruit and leaves…
well, I don’t know what the fuss and worry is all about.

I mean, I watch for the snakes, bees and ants.
I try my best not to fall, really I do.
I can’t help that I’ll be covered with red whelps the following day that will itch like
nobody’s business…
I can’t help that I scream the word “STOP!!” when we’re happily and quietly driving down
a road in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly spot a lovely ripening bramble bush
along the side of said deserted road… beckoning to be picked.
He likes the pies and cobblers…so what’s all the the big worry???

So naturally while I was reaching and digging deep buried up to my elbows in stickers,
all during the throws of my berry seeking session yesterday,
oh so busy about the task of finding and picking…
I was stuck by a startlingly similarity between my hyper focused quest in seeking
the elusive hiding fruits—the object of an almost obsessive determination, and
the lengths to which I know God goes when He wants, nay yearns, to seek out and
eventually find….us….

As we have the tendency to hide, always painstakingly out of arms reach…and
yet a loving God painstakingly seeks his own…
for He will go to even much greater and even more daring lengths in His quest for us
than dare say I do over a mere berry….

And boy how grateful I am that He does!

I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:16

Prophet of old

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

dscn1626
(cross on the grounds of Drumcliff Church / Co Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used.
If the church in the second half of the twentieth century (an may we now add 21st) is to recover from the injuries
she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher.
The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do.
Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties,
takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to
make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of religious leader must arise among us.

He must be of the old prophet type,
a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne.
When he comes (and I pray God there will not be one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction
to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear.
He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and
opposition of a large segment of Christendom.”

A.W.Tozer

Are you happy with what you seek

“There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy.”
Blaise Pascal

DSCN0425
(St Kevin’s Monastery, Gleandalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is it that you go always looking to and fro?
Is your life filled with too much noise and a quest for grander toys?
Is it all simply too distracting, time consuming and soul extracting?
Are your days spent wasted while your heart lays empty,
As you whittle away your life with that which is small and petty?

Listen now my friends to the wisdom offered long ago….

Up now, slight man! Flee for a little while, thy occupations; hide thyself, for a time from thy disturbing thoughts. Cast aside now thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of thy mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God, and such as can aid thee in seeking him; close thy door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! speak now to God, saying, I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, will I seek (Psalms 27:8). And come thou now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek thee, where and how it may find thee.
St Anslem

May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.”
Irish Blessings