the power to give…or not

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.
If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without
waiting for them to ask you.”

St. Thomas of Villanova


(an olive dries on the tree outside of St Peters, Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“It is undoubtedly true that each of us, men and women, irresponsible and thoughtless as we often are,
hold within our hands the happiness and sorrows of others.
We cannot help it or escape from it.
The power is in us inalienably almost from birth to death—in us,
because we are persons—and we are responsible for the use we make of it.
Indeed, so mysterious is this power that the very presence of a person who does not realize his
responsibility is often the source of the keenest pain of all…
The failure to exercise the power to give happiness to others is not merely negative in its results;
it is the source of the most positive suffering of all.
Thus there is no escape from the responsibility involved in the possession of this power.
Not to use it where it is due is to destroy all happiness. Strange power,
indeed, to be committed to such weak and unworthy hands;
yet there could be but one thing worse: that none could interfere with the joys and sorrows of others.
We might envy their happiness and pity their sorrows, but we could not help them.
It would be a world of isolated individuals wrapped in inviolable selfishness;
each must take care of himself and the world must go its way.”

Fr. Basil W. Maturin, p. 149
An Excerpt from
Christian Self-Mastery

take it on the road

“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are
the critics, blaming or praising him.
What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage;
he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings,
reminding them of their lost lines.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(ready for the first road trip to visit Moppie and Poppie / 2018)

Often times, we are required to leave the shelter of our wombs…
the warmth and protectiveness of a familiarity we have grown accustomed to cherish.

Because we have been called…to go.


(Uncle Percy is a bit perplexed by this new visiting neice/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners.
It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating.
A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching,
so we accepted their [the communists’ ] terms.
It was a deal; we preached and they beat us.
We were happy preaching.
They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ

Sometimes we are called to go to places we’d rather not go.
In order to share with those who have not heard or do not know
that which we do know…

And we must speak to them about that which we know and they do not know
because it is what we are called to do…

I learned about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand when I was early on in high school.
I ordered the book, Tortured for Christ.

I’ve written about Wurmbrand before…

“Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909—2001) was an evangelical minister who endured 14 years
of Communist imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania.
He is widely recognized there as one of the country’s greatest Christian leaders,
authors and educators.”

The knowledge of the scourge of Communism, along with its anti-Christian hatred,
during the midst of the Cold War, only heightened my interest behind the story
of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand—-
his preaching, eventual arrest, tortures, rearrests, more tortures, solitary confinement…
all of which left a deep impression upon me.

I don’t know if I could go, live, share and do as those who have each suffered so grievously
at the hands of their tormentors—only to continue on, day after day..offering hope and love
to those very ones who tormented and tortured…all because of the calling and the love…

I think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who also knew to go and to share…
sharing all the way to Auschwitz…and who would continue sharing even unto his own death…

How many have gone and shared long before all of us, only to offer the ultimate offering?

Our prayer is that we might all have the courage to go, to do, to share and to say
when we are called to do so…
no matter how great the cost…

https://www.persecution.com/founders/

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

safety

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.
Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates.

Alexander Hamilton


(a squadron of brown pelicans skirt the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

As the birds of similar feathers tend to flock together…
dare we assume that the perception of safety is therefore found in numbers?

Venturing even a bit further…
it appears we often equate this said numerical safety with a perceived
sense of security.

As we gather likeminded, following blindly,
snuggled warm within the bosom of both kith and kin…
we surge en masse, with a liberating notion of freedom,
found only in the security of our assumptions.

While we see those wrapped within their holy writ…
brandishing a label oft worn so comfortably and smugly…
with that label acting as a false badge of complacency.

Remember ye oh so comfortable ones,
you who move to the sounds of contrived safety…
The command was to go…
Venturing forth boldly in the freedom found only in the one pure Truth…

To offer….
To speak
To share
To spread
To rejoice
To revel
To embrace
To Love

When and where there is no guarantee of welcome…
nor of acceptance
or of security
or of safety
or of success

Not going to the confines of the people and places where that which is safe and secure..
Not to where open arms are found holding tightly to the covey of likeminded numbers…
Not to the places that are necessarily across treacherous seas nor over impassable mountains…
but rather going to those places merely across the street or even across the room.

Go, and go most oft alone,
where there is neither promise of complacent security nor safety…
Go where there may not be found a warm embrace or a welcomed chair…
But rather go to Him and Him alone….

For it is only in Him that your true rest will be finally found…
Only in Him will there be eternal safety and security…
No falsehoods,
no breeches in the walls,
no holes in the nets….

For in Him, and Him alone, is your portion and your all.
Found only in the number of One…

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Mark 16:15-16

A first…or will it be the last?


(the oldest surviving Icon or image of Christ, the Pantocrator / St Catherine’s Monastery, The Sinai Peninsula)

For the first time in 2000 years a Holy Mass for Easter will not have been held in Mosul.

“So what” you shrug…
“Who cares about Mosul?” you ask…
“Isn’t that in Iraq?” you quip…
“Isn’t Iraq Muslim?” you assume…
“Why would there be Easter in a Muslim land?” you espouse…

Well…yes, because for 2000 years there has been a celebration mass for Easter,
as well as Christmas and every other time a mass is to be said,
in what is now considered a Muslim land.

For Christianity has been practiced, as an organized religion, just following the
Resurrection of Christ, in this region of the world for the past 2000 years.

Christianity has been a long protected religious minority under the rulings and regimes
of various sultans, and in more recent times, dictators such as
the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

But how can that ever be…as we are left alarmed asking ourselves.

Because various Muslim leaders throughout the ages have in fact protected the
Christian Church within this Muslim land.

Not all of them mind you, but many have….as they have been tolerant.

In 1219, during the 5th Crusade, St Francis traveled from Italy to Egypt
as a Christian ambassador of sorts.
This was a time in which the Holy Roman Empire was fighting Muslims, Jews and heretics
in order to keep Jerusalem free and open to traveling pilgrims wishing
to visit the Holy Land.

But control of the region became a long, deadly and bloody conflict.

There was much stubbornness on both sides as each faction refused to budge in their
dominance of the region.
Countless lives were being lost and this grieved the heart of Francis.

Francis wished to share his faith with these unbelievers and if need be, he was willing
to die a martyr while proclaiming the Gospel to the unsaved.

Francis was opposed to the killings and bloodshed on both sides and had sought the
current pope, Pope Innocent III’s permission to travel to Egypt to meet with then Sultan,
Malik-al-Kamil,
nephew to the Great Kurd leader, Saladin.

Unarmed, history tell us that, Francis was arrested and beaten by the Sultan’s army.
He was eventually taken to the Sultan,
who was intrigued by this man who came wearing a tattered tunic
while carrying no weapons nor a quest for battle, but rather a love and desire
to share the word of God….
that being that Christ died to save sinners and his teaching was that the first shall be last,
the last shall be first and we are to love our enemies.

Francis won over the Sultan’s respect and favor….
And eventually following Francis’s safe return to Italy,
a peace was brokered between the Sultan’s armies and the European forces.
With Jerusalem once again being open to Christian pilgrims with a promise of
safe passage by the Sultan.

Sadly however…history reminds us that peace is a tenuous affair
wherever man is involved…

We know that there were a total of 9 crusades with the final fall of the final Christian
stronghold in Syria in 1291.
The land has been in Muslim control ever since.
And throughout the centuries that control has been both with and without toleration
for the minority people and faiths of Christianity, Judaism
and other minority sects..

But with the recent toppling of dictators such as Hussein and Gaddafi,
the vaccum which was created with their oustings has been filled by something
much more sinister and vile.

ISIS
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS is not tolerant.
Not tolerant of even varying sects of Muslims who do not adhere to the Sunni ISIS strict
following of Shia laws.

ISIS is not a single man who one may perhaps find reason with or
in turn topple and remove.
Rather ISIS is a fanatical organization which will not rest until “the infidel” is vanquished.
And they do not care who or what stands in their way…nor how their ends are met.
No one is exempt from their terror..not children, women, the old or in firmed.
They give new meaning to the words barbarism and sadism.

Eliza Griswold, a journalist who recently returned from an extensive study of the region
and of this anomaly of the systematic eradication of Christians and others sects in places
such as Iraq and Syria, was interviewed by FOX News.

Mrs Griswold offers a very sobering account of what she sees as the death throws of the
Christian faith in a part of the world in which Christianity has
existed since its very inception.

She lays out the argument for the need to eliminate ISIS and its spawned fanatical groups
or either humankind will have to live with the stalk reality that entire ethnic groups,
such as the Yazidis, and certain religious peoples and their existence will be gone forever
from a land which is as old as time itself. And not only gone from a region of this planet,
but gone from earthly existence.

And so my question to all of us…
will the knowledge of this eradication be something we can live with…
down in the depths of our human knowledge and understanding…
and within the soul of our consciousness.
Or…
will we allow ISIS and all of its tentacles to spread as far as they wish,
eliminating huge swarths of humankind…
that is until we see them on our very doorsteps?

Please read the article, but more importantly watch the 5 minute video clip of the
Griswold interview.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

When God speaks

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa


(a bluebird laying claim to the birdhouse / Julie Cook / 2017)

χάρισμα—xárisma–chrisma
a gift of great Spiritual proportion…
a favor Divinely given despite the lack of deserving merit…

During the course of one’s life, knowing one soul who seems to speak words that come
from a place that is beyond the confines of this world…words of Divine origin…
it is a gracious gift most precious and rare.

Most will pass through this world without ever hearing the words spoken by one who
has been gifted, or burdened, with listening, discerning and then sharing.
Many will claim such a knowledge…
and many will be wrong…
being caught up in the emotion of something greater than that which can be comprehended.

Divine Grace operating within a few, directed by the Holy Spirit.

I have known 3 such persons.

One of those three has spoken…
reminding me…
and I have listened…
as I am reminded that…

God has spoken…to me, again

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139

what’s in a word

“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel–it is, before all, to make you see.”
― Joseph Conrad

“A man must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions if he is not even ready to wear a wreathe around his head for them.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”
G. K. Chesterton – Where all roads lead, 1922

DSCN0346
(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Strike while the iron is hot”
or so they say…
I don’t know if the iron is truly hot but the thoughts are fresh and the spirit seems willing…

I am a far cry from being a grammarist or etymologist.
And those of you who read much of anything I write, probably painfully observe I would imagine, that often I either fall victim to my own inability of having ever mastered spelling or either I fall prey to the dreaded autocorrect monster who simply doesn’t understand me or gets where I’m coming from.

Add to that that I am a southern belle, born and bred, with my syntax and or jargon often being more times than not, based on my regional dialect and verbiage….ie my southern drawl….so anyone who stumbles this way may be hard pressed making sense of things…

Yet despite all of the aforementioned, one thing is certain, I love words.
I am most intrigued by words.
I find words fascinating.
Just as I find language fascinating…
Yet sadly my brain has failed miserably when it comes to
learning a language…other than my own southern style of english.

Yet that never stopped me from incorporating the use of words, language and even alphabets within my classroom with my kids or in my own art work.

One thing that I have found intriguing, when delving into the use of words, is that of their origins and of how the original meaning morphs over the passage of time. It is also interesting when words sound alike but are vastly different in meaning.
Those who try their hand at learning English, I am told, have quite a time as we, primary english speakers, have so many similarly pronounced words that have vastly different meanings— a quick example being there and their.

Let’s take another word—apology.

A word rooted in Greek which means to admit a wrong doing or owning up to a slight or misdeed.
Yet the word apologetic is not necessarily referring to one who is sorry for said misdeed but rather refers to one who is defending a certain belief or stance.

I can see where this can all become confusing.

I never really understood why the word apologist was used when referencing one who was defending a point of view verses one who was offering an “I’m sorry”

The Greek, ἀπολογία, translates to “speaking in defense”—or—apologetics
With the classical Greek word being apologia
Wikipedia explains it with this sort of example… “the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia.”
Meaning the defendant wasn’t apologizing but rather was arguing in defense…

Talk about confusing…

Interesting that the word used to admit a wrong sounds so much like defending a stance.

Which brings me to the meat of this wondering…

I read many Christian blogs that are written by very knowledgeable, learned individuals, who are equally passionate in what they write.
They are well versed in their knowledge and they are true defenders of the Faith.
They are apologists.
They are staunch and even zealous in and of their defense…
They are not ones to apologize….nor should they

And that’s the thing…
They are witnessing and presenting a case and / or defending a case…not apologizing for it.
There is no need for an apology…but there is need for the apologetics.

In today’s society we may or may not see any similarities to nearly 2000 years ago when the Church was but young and new. However it may certainly behoove all of us to take a closer look.

Back then the disciples and followers of the risen Christ had begun to spread far and wide in order to teach, preach and share the Gospel of both Hope and Salvation.
Some of the faithful found themselves in positions of acting defense attorneys, where the preaching had quickly turned into the defending of one’s beliefs.
There were arrests and trials.
There were deaths and persecutions.
And there were the apologetics.

Yet how familiar a position are the faithful now finding themselves today.

What had become accepted and even commonplace in the day to day life of mainstream folks, is now questioned and even actually banned out right.
The talking about one’s faith in Jesus with fellow students on college campuses is being banned.
Those who opt to join in prayer before and after sporting events are now warned against such.
The display of Christian religious symbols in public settings is now outlawed.
The use of bibles in various places of learning are now prohibited.
Those who profess to be believers of the Faith are now finding themselves as targets of violence and hate.
Those of the Faith are being pegged as scapegoats for all the is now wrong with the world.
Those who write about their beliefs and faith in magazines, papers and blogs are being called to task
to defend such beliefs as they are mocked, ridiculed and scorned.

However…. this is not the time for apologies…
But simply, rather, a time for apologists….

and rightly so it seems…

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16