What is Grace—I just keep having to ask

I have had to experience so much stupidity,
so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow,
just in order to become a child again and begin anew.
I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths,
to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”

Hermann Hesse

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of
extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”

Matthew Henry


(a tiny bloom of a strawberry to be / Julie Cook /2015)

****Even though this is actually a post that I wrote 6 years ago,
the notion of Grace has never been far from my thoughts.
For you see, I am very much a product of Grace.

Over and over, or so it seems.

Merriam Webster defines grace as:
a:unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

And so here’s the thing about this “unmerited Divine assistance”-
it is a gift that is freely given.

It is neither earned nor bought.
And it pricks the most tender part of one’s soul.

It pricks the hard steely, yet false, façade and bravado we call self.

It breaks down the walls and the hardened heart while it fills
a sea of endless wounds.

A flood washes over us and we find ourselves terrified of letting
go and letting Grace transform us.

So why is it so hard to receive something so welcoming and healing?
The answer is beyond my soul—it is not something I can logically comprehend…
and maybe that’s the thing.

Grace is not logical.

Grace brings us to our knees…because we know we have not earned this
gift called Grace.
Quite the contrary.
We have done everything in our power to shun it and even repel it.
We bristle at such tender warmth while being too cold,
too hard, too lost to see the simple Truth.

For me it’s seems to have come in phases–
throughout this thing I call life.

Maybe it’s just a matter of me needing to be reminded…
reminded that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as accepting
of the initial gift as I needed to be….
For I still have kept a deep part of my wounds hidden.

Too ashamed, too hardened, too wounded to think
Grace would or could ever make me truly whole.

I’ve recently been reminded of this most tenderest of gifts.
It’s broken my heart…broken my façade..
and that’s just what Grace does…
it breaks us and then it heals us and then it makes us whole.

And thus we are each the better for Grace…

And so I want to thank my dearest of friends who recently offered me Grace…
Grace coupled by her own graciousness.
A gracious heart…reaching to a wounded heart.
It is a gift she has freely given me—
a freely given gift that was not nor ever has been deserved nor earned,
yet one that was freely and lovingly given…no strings, no penalties.
And it is within this most generous gift that I have been poignantly reminded me
that God is not yet finished with me and that He continues to want
me make me whole.
Love can and does heal a multiple of sin…

and now the post from 2015–

Do you know Grace?
Have you seen it out and about?
During your comings and your goings?
Have you ever been properly or formerly introduced?

I truly much doubt so…
As Grace is often quiet and demure.
It prefers to go rather unnoticed until it is called upon…
More shy than bold.
It is neither garish or loud.
Nor is it boisterous or showy.

What exactly is Grace you ask…

Grace is the second chance when all other chances have been used up.
Grace is the peace in the midst of the fierce raging storm.
Grace is acceptance when the world screams rejection.
Grace is forgiveness when the act has been intolerable.
Grace is hope when none had been previously offered.
Grace is mercy when judgement should be called for…
Grace is life when one actually deserves death…

It should be noted that Grace is not cheap.
For it cannot be bought nor sold.
It can not be bartered over or traded.
It cannot be taken or stolen…
For it is actually free—free to both you and me.

Yet this free Grace was once actually rather costly.
For that which is free today to both you and me, once cost God a great deal.

Think of this question…
Would you ever hand over your child…
Your only child, to be brutally tortured and murdered before your very eyes…
Just to be able to offer someone else their freedom?
I would think not.
Yet that is exactly what happened.

A price paid for the healing power of Grace.
A tremendous price that cost God so very much–
Yet it was a price He willingly paid out of a tremendous love for both you and me. . .
and it is because of that very Grace that I am here, writing you today…

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.
The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin,
and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.
Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury,
from which she showers blessings with generous hands,
without asking questions or fixing limits.
Grace without price; grace without cost!
The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid
in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.
Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending
it are infinite.
What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,
baptism without church discipline,
Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship,
grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ,
living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field;
for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has.
It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.
It is the kingly rule of Christ,
for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble;
it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves
his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again,
the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear
a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Light, truth, humility

Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature,
do not return to your former base condition by sinning.
Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member.
Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of
darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.

St. Leo the Great


(Black eyed Susans / Highland, NC / Julie Cook / 2021

“Once, while I was wondering why Our Lord so dearly loves the virtue
of humility, the thought suddenly struck me, without previous reflection,
that it is because God is the supreme Truth and humility is the truth,
for it is the most true that we have nothing good of ourselves but
only misery and nothingness: whoever ignores this,
lives a life of falsehood. they that realize this fact
most deeply are the most pleasing to God, the supreme Truth,
for they walk in the truth.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p. 175-6
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

***(the Sheriff’s daycare room is quarantined so the Sheriff will be coming
for a visit during the next couple of days… so I will get back to cookieland
as fast as I can)

the true test–examine

“Always be impartial and just in your deeds.
Put yourself into your neighbor’s place, and him in yours,
and then you will judge fairly..
Frequently, therefore, examine your heart,
whether it is so disposed towards your neighbor,
as you would have his disposed towards you, were you to change places;
for this is the true test.”

St. Francis de Sales, p. 226
An Excerpt From
Introduction to the Devout Life


(a wee hidden fungi in the woods / Julie Cook / 2021)

Ok, I think we can all admit we don’t like tests.
Be it the studying.
The nerves.
The wondering.
The sweating.
The fear of not measuring up…

The list is pretty endless.

And I suppose there is probably a slight percentage of folks out
there who don’t bat an eye at a test.
More power to you…all two of you! HA!

I was never a good test taker.
I never felt that the typical classroom test captured if I really knew
my material or not.
Math, well, that’s a whole different ball of wax…you either know it or you
don’t and I never did…

But we digress…

Today’s post was actually going to focus in on our disenfranchised police
departments and the woeful and shameful way in which they are being treated…
be it our Border Patrol, various State Patrol, city police or rural sheriffs…
their situations are all abysmal and we should be ashamed.

But I’m going to have to hold off on that thought today as several different
things came racing at me that I felt might need attention.
and if I think about it, it will also tie into how we are
treating our law enforcement as they are just another branch of the tree
of the trouble.

Today, especially today, I have kept reading, seeing and watching
something very troubling taking place between Americans…
and I bet we can all guess as to what that thing might just because
I know you’ve seen it too.

There is a growing and gapping hole in our hearts.

It is a widening gap in our lack of and ability to offer empathy.

Empathy, the dictionary tells us is:
‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.’

And what we are witnessing play out in real time right here and now
is how very little in the way of empathy we have—
especially in the way of offering any of it to our fellow human beings-

In particular to those who we do not see eye to eye.

Loathing enters in.
Despise and resentment each set a hard rock in the midst of the heart.

We no longer want to hear the side, thoughts or feelings of those
who we disagree with because we have already rendered them null and void.
They might as well just disappear into thin smoke,
banished away from our presence, our lives, our world…
all because we don’t like their color,
their politics,
their religion or lack thereof…
their views…
or their lack of vaccinations…

So instead we look at them sideways and glare…
we find ourselves wishing them ill or harm.
Some of us have even verbalized such to their faces.

“you need to die”
“you need to rot in hell”
“I hope you are raped”

It’s all actually quite anti-human, de-humanizing.

I see, with my own eyes, that there is a tremendous lack of care, patience
and or regard for our fellow man.

Be it the nurse or doctor who curses the patient who is deathly sick with
Covid, or something else, when they reveal that they had not been vaccinated.
Suddenly contempt and resentment quickly flows freely toward that sick,
and in many cases, dying individual.
Or that contempt is simply heaped upon the grieving surviving family.
Or upon anyone who has opted not to get vaccinated.
It is indeed the clean and unclean..
We are told to trust and follow the science but that science just
happens to be fluid because we are learning on the fly.

“they were foolish”
“they were selfish”
“they got what they deserved”
“they have caused great harm and wasted precious time and money”
“had they not been overweight, smoked, drank or…”
fill in the blank with any other poor habit that might have
contributed to them being sick and dying.

Then there are those who have lost loved ones and now publicly denounce all others
who are unvaccinated for, in their minds, they are the ones who caused
the death of this said loved one.

And maybe all that is true.

Maybe that pro-life person out there should be raped so they can
see first hand how decisions now must be made.

Maybe that person who choses not to be vaccinated should simply
get sick and die.

Maybe the young mother to 6 kids, all with different fathers
should be forced to live on the streets.

Maybe all white people want blacks to be slaves again–
so says Maxine Waters.

The list lengthens daily.

And so our society wrestles with its response.
We wrestle as individuals.

Overlook everything or we simply cherry pick the issues we find most egregious.

I know that I don’t agree with a lot of folks out there right now
about very much.

I can find many ills and reasons as to why I disagree or even get angry with
others and or their views.
Just as others do with me and my way of thinking or seeing.

Yet I still know that all of this is really all wrong, it’s flat out bad.

Maybe I can’t change your views or feelings and maybe you can’t change mine…
but I would not wish ill upon you or those you love.
I wasn’t wired that way and I don’t think you were either.

So that’s why I felt St. Francis de Sales quote, the one I offered at the
start of this post, was so moving and so on point.

We are to have empathy by walking in another’s shoes.
Yet, sadly, our culture is long past that notion.

I won’t walk in your shoes, let alone walk with you period…
that is our society’s current mindset.

Yet I know that empathy does not equate to buying in or giving into the sinful
or the evil—we are not to give such a free pass.
Accountability for our actions remains paramount.

Yet self examination must remain ever present.
Self examination…not hubris and pride, but real deep introspection…
It is most difficult to do because it begins to expose the cracks
in our own facade.
Yet it is what God requires of all men…
The being….to see, to look, to feel, to offer grace, to hold accountable…
but to do so by His rule of play and not our own.
He calls that Grace and He has given it freely…
I think we are to do so as well…

Would you pass the test?

I need to go study…

“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that
I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man:
or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner….
I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction:
how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man?
But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom
I had been doing this all my life — namely myself.
However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed,
I went on loving myself.
There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.
In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.
Just because I loved myself,
I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

a magnitude of grace

“To use this life well is the pathway through death to everlasting life.”
St. John Almond


(Methodist Chruch, Cades Cove /The Great Smokey Mt.s National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Even if you do not confess, God is not ignorant of the deed,
since he knew it before it was committed.
Why then do you not speak of it?
Does the transgression become heavier by the confession?
No, it becomes lighter and less troublesome.
And this is why he wants you to confess:
not that you should be punished, but that you should be forgiven;
not that he may learn your sin—how could that be, since he has seen it?—
but that you may learn what favor he bestows.
He wishes you to learn the greatness of his grace,
so that you may praise him perfectly, that you may be slower to sin,
that you may be quicker to virtue.
And if you do not confess the greatness of the need,
you will not understand the enormous magnitude of his grace.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 255
An Excerpt From
A Year with Church Fathers

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

I am Peter…

Then Jesus said to Simon,
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for men.”

Jesus speaking to Simon Peter
Luke 5:10


(the actor Shahar Issac who plays Simon Peter in the series The Chosen)

I could be Legion—a devil hoard
I could be the Magdalene—an abused self loather
I could be Judas—a misguided traitor
I could be Matthew—selfish and financially driven
I could be Peter—willful, defiant, sarcastic, and hopelessly lost…

I could be, or better yet… I am each and every one of these.
We all are, are we not?

These thoughts came to me this afternoon as I propped my phone on the kitchen counter
to watch Episode 4 of The Chosen while I was readying supper and waiting on
the arrival of some friends.

The app has been sitting on the screen of my phone now for months–
ever since I first saw the story about this unusual movie series and actually
shared its story here, with you.

And yet it’s simply sat, untouched.

Time you know.

Carving out roughly an uninterrupted 40 minute moment has not, up until most recently,
been possible.
And it is for me to remember that it is indeed sitting there on my phone.

To remember that all I must do is to look down and see the tiny face of Nicodemas
staring at me each time I look at my phone, swiping through the various screens.
He stares up at me, with a sideways yet knowing look as if to say, Julie,
click and watch another episode won’t you?

And then my attention finds its original quest, or a new chore calls even louder.

These past months, now weeks which are turning into endless days, have been
more than overwhelming for all of us.

A virus, death, pandemonium, lockdowns, the shuttering of life…
and now the madness of a devolving civilization is heaped on top
of an already surreal moment in time.
Embers piled upon older embers.
Reigniting the flames.

And yet this afternoon, in my kitchen, chopping squash, I am reminded…
I am Peter.
Or was that Matthew?
What of Mary…
or worse, might I be Judas?

But thankfully, I have not yet traded my soul for gain.
Or have I done so inadvertently?

And thus I am reminded…
He calls…

He calls not simply Simon bar Jonah the poor fisherman, or Matthew the
greedy taxman or Mary the broken and abused or even Judas the traitor…
He’s calling me.
He’s calling us all.
Now.
Today.

Will I listen to Him or will I allow the misery of our times to consume me?

My angry, depressed, and most bewildered heart…?

Pierce my heart for your sake oh Lord…

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

Ode to our nefarious founding….

Nowhere in the Constitution are we asked to let everyone in
world enter this country.
“The United States, allegedly steeped in the white supremacist ideology of the nefarious founding,
has been more welcoming to strangers than any nation in the world, and it’s not even close.”

David Harsanyi
Former Senior Editor at The Federalist.


(Snidely Whiplash from Dudley Do-Right and Rocky and Bullwinkle)

This morning, I took my husband for another epidural for his back.
The last one worked pretty well for a couple of months so we’re hoping for a longer
period of pain-free walking and movement….

Ode to the years of having spent playing football.

And speaking of ode…

As I sat waiting, I opted to use my time reading the day’s news feed from the Federalist.
The Federalist is an on-line news site whose tag line is
“Be lovers of freedom and anxious for the fray.”

I love freedom and I’m up for any sort of good old fashioned fray…

I scrolled through the stories clicking to read an article about the growing
new left in Ireland’s political world…
that being the rising of an old, somewhat dubious IRA related ‘party,’
with a new trendy feel, Sinn Fein.

Ireland and her “troubles” have always troubled my soul.
I was in college when either Newsweek or Time Magazine did a story about the children
caught in the crosshairs of waring countries.
Countries such as Ireland who seemed to be living out an everlasting ‘civil’ war.

Civil wars trouble me.

There is noting civil about a nation ripped asunder.

Think of the surrealist artist Salvador Dali’s 1936 painting depicting Spain’s civil war…
a nation devouring herself.
Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)


(Philadelphia’s Museum of Art)

Scrolling through the stories which followed, there was one in particular that caught my eye.
In part because I often watch the Tucker Carlson Show.

The story was titled:
‘Tucker Carlson Is Absolutely Right About Ilhan Omar / Even if he’s wrong about immigration’

The story is by David Harsanyi who happens to be the son of 1st generation immigrant parents.

And since I am not a fan of a certain dismissive immigrant congresswoman who sneers at the
roots and foundation of the very nation she now serves, I continued reading…

Here is a snippet from the article:

When my parents came to the United States as refugees in 1968, for instance,
they were asked to renounce communism—because collectivism, like Islamism or fascism
or any authoritarianism, is antithetical to American principles.
Any newcomers in 1968 who believed the United States was guilty of crimes against
the proletariat, and praised Pol Pot or Castro, would not have been a quality immigrant.

This is one reason we still give newcomers citizenship tests.
We want them not only to comprehend our foundational ideas, but to adopt them.
Whether or not this nation consistently lives up to those values (far from it) is irrelevant.
There’s no country in human history born without sin.
Yet only Americans are asked to engage in daily acts of contrition for their past.

Some people might have you believe their partisan hobbyhorses—like “economic patriotism,”
for example—are American ideals. They aren’t. Having the right to protect yourself,
your family, and your property without asking permission from the state is an American ideal.
Religious freedom is an America ideal. Being able to live life without being coerced to
participate in groupthink is an American ideal. Uninhibited free expression
is an American ideal.
The right of communities to live without being impelled by a majoritarian democracy
to adopt centralized policies is central tenet of American governance.

Social mores change. Not our core governing principles.
Now, you may find all this eye-rolling earnestness both antiquated and puerile,
which seems to be the case with Omar and most of her progressive allies.
But then you have a new set of principles you want to enact,
not the traditional ones some of us want to preserve.

When Carlson argues that the very fact Omar —
a refugee from one of the most violent places on Earth, Somalia —
can rise to become, at only 36,
one of the most famous members of Congress is the best argument against her critique of America,
he has good point. Omar has more influence than 99 percent of her co-citizens.
She is a testament to an open and free society.
Her words are not.

Believing that the United States is defined by racism and economic injustice
doesn’t make Omar a bad immigrant, only a silly human being.
Importing anti-Semitic beliefs from the broader Islamic world,
on the other hand, makes her an unassimilated American.

Being critical of foreign intervention doesn’t make Omar un-American,
but talking about servicemen who sacrificed their lives fighting Somalian warlords
at Battle of Mogadishu as if they were terrorists does.
In the same way, dismissing the Islamic extremists who murdered 3,000 Americans on 9/11 as
“some people who did something”—because it’s “Islamophobic”
to point out facts—makes her ungrateful.

With so many people coming here, it is within the purview of the citizenry
to make decisions about who enters and who doesn’t.
And it is perfectly legitimate—although probably not very practical—for us to
try and discern what ideological baggage is brought with them.

Certainly there is nothing “nauseatingly racist” about bring critical of Omar,
or pondering the potential downsides of mass immigration.
This lazy smear so overused it’s become virtually meaningless.
(Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez recently insinuated that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
was a racist for criticizing her.)
And not just by politicians, but pundits, as well.

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf claims that Carlson suggested
“that because Omar came here as a child, she doesn’t have the right to voice critical
opinions about America.”
You can read the Fox News host’s comments yourself,
but nowhere does he propose anything of the sort.
What does seem to be happening, though, is that some people are given special dispensation
from criticism and debate. And that is a genuinely un-American idea.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/07/11/tucker-carlson-absolutely-right-rep-ilhan-omar/

While reading the opening of the article about 1968 era immigrants being asked to denounce various
ideologies such as Communism and as to why we continue to give newcomers a citizenship test
before “making” them new citizens, I was struck by the similarities between those who opt
to choose Christianity, being asked to renounce a sinful self before taking on the
new birth through Christ.

We are told that we cannot serve two masters.

It’s an either or sort of situation.

We have many up and coming politicians who think they can serve opposing ideologies while
claiming to be for all things democratic—an ideology that does not, cannot, co-exist
with opposing thinking.

It won’t work.

Abortions will not work.
More government will not work.
Socialism will not work.
Militant feminism will not work.
Progressive liberalism will not work.
Anarchy will not work.

Come November, Americans will choose either or…
but for those of us of Fatih…the ‘either or’ is more lasting than simply another four more years.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in
your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 ESV

If you don’t like it, simply ignore it… or better yet, deny it…

Men of ill judgment ignore the good that lies within their hands,
till they have lost it.

Sophocles

If you haven’t noticed, this week’s national current events have been interesting.

Troubling, yet most interesting.

There’s been a great deal in the way of political current events…
all with an odd underlying theme…
a theme of anger with a heavy dose of ignoring the facts…
or perhaps it’s more of a matter of anger with strong denial…

As in… if I deny it, it isn’t real.

1) According to an article in the New York Post,
“Hillary Clinton has now twice snubbed a process server
attempting to deliver the defamation lawsuit filed against her by Democratic presidential
candidate Tulsi Gabbard
, according to Gabbard’s attorney.
Gabbard sued the former secretary of state for $50 million last week for calling
her a “Russian asset.” Clinton has refused to retract the statement.

Ergo…if Hillary refuses to accept a court order, it doesn’t exist.

2) According to an article that appeared on Fox News regarding Stacey Abrams, the
one time Georgia Gubernatorial candidate who lost her bid as Governor to Brian Kemp and who,
after a year later, continues to refuse to acknowledge defeat…
The former lawmaker has still not conceded the election and has indicated that she
does not plan to.
“We don’t have to concede elections anymore, because when we concede,
we are condoning systems that are used to oppress us,”

she said last May according to the Texas Tribune.

Ergo…if Stacey doesn’t concede defeat, she never lost.

3) In an article from Fox News…
In scathing comments Thursday as her party appeared on the verge of defeat
in the Senate impeachment trial, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that President Trump
“cannot be acquitted” if the trial lacks the witness testimony and documentation
that Democrats have been seeking.

The San Francisco Democrat also fired on Trump’s impeachment defense team,
saying they’ve “disgraced themselves” during this week’s trial and suggesting
they deserve disbarment over their trial remarks.

But Pelosi challenged whether that acquittal would be valid,
in remarks that seemed a bid to undermine any Trump claim of victory.

“He will not be acquitted,” Pelosi insisted during her
weekly news conference, according to Politico.
“You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial.
You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation and all of that.
Does the president know right from wrong? I don’t think so.”

Ergo…if Nancy doesn’t agree with an impeachment result, then it never happened.

And so just when we thought we’d heard it all, there was a recent article found in
Christianity Today by our dear friend Pastor David Roberston.

The good pastor offered his observation regarding a recent story concerning
Franklin Graham being banned from speaking in various UK churches.
Unlike his father, Billy Graham, Franklin is not welcome in churches throughout the UK.
In large part because of Graham’s views that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sinful.

Ergo, if we don’t like what Graham or others share about the Bible and what is
considered sinful, then we simply turn our back and shove our fingers in our ears…
and therefore sin is simply no longer sin…

In other words, you can’t own what you refuse to claim…right??

Pastor Robertson notes…
“That is why all of this is so important.
Many of our civic institutions have been taken over by an ideology which is fundamentally
anti-democratic, anti-factual and intolerant – in the name of tolerance.
The State, having replaced God, has become the source of all morality and values.
If you don’t agree with those values you are not one of ‘the people’.
You are untermenschen.
You are out.

He adds an important observation by A.W. Tozer…

“The church goes along with everything and stands against nothing –
until she is convinced that it is the safe and popular thing to do;
then she passes her courageous resolutions and issues her world-shaking manifestos –
all in accord with the world’s newest venture – whatever it may be.”

In all of this, there seems to be the running connective thread of
anger and denial…a connective thread found in both our political and religious circles.
And now we can add the thread of division.

Democrat vs Republican.
Conservative vs Liberal
Believer vs Non-believer
Sin vs Repentance
Pride vs Humility
Death vs Life

We can pretend there is no division, no either-or, no growing divide,
no wrong, no right, no sin, no death…

We can see it for what it is or opt for what it isn’t…because ignoring it
seems to make it all just go away…

We see no evil.
We hear no evil
We speak…

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the
ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Ephesians 4:18

piggy backing on grace

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because
it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price
to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


(image courtesy Spanish Bowl)

Why things like this are newsworthy I’m not certain, but did you catch the story yesterday about
Aaron Rodgers and his recent public comments on religion of which have left his family “dismayed”?

I admit I have been a Packers fan for much of my adult life,
but not so much a fan of their current QB.
Not that I have anything against Aaron Rodgers, I just find him to be a bit of a primadonna,
but such is the case with many a quarterback.

I saw the Rodges’ storyline yesterday and decided to read what he was having to say
regarding religion…and not just any religion mind you but rather the
religion of his youth, Christianity.

It seems that Rodgers was a recent guest on a podcast that just so happened to be hosted by
his current girlfriend, former racecar driver Danica Patrick.
The podcast is titled “Pretty Intense” and no, I’ve never listened in.

However, at some point during the interview, Danica asked Rodgers about his view on religion.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

The Green Bay Packers quarterback admitted he has struggled to believe in a higher power
on Patrick’s “Pretty Intense” podcast last month. Now, a source told People Rodgers’
family is offended by his religious comments.

“During the Pretty Intense podcast, Rodgers told Patrick that he has gone down a path
to a “different type of spirituality” that is more meaningful to him than
what he experienced as a child.

“I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the
planet to a fiery hell,” he said.
“What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn his
beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?”

Rodgers did not specifically refer to himself as an atheist,
but he said that religion can divide people.

“Religion can be a crutch, it can be something that people have to have to make
themselves feel better,” Rodgers continued.
“Because it’s set up binary, it’s us and them, saved and unsaved, heaven and hell,
it’s enlightened and heathen, it’s holy and righteous …
that makes a lot of people feel better about themselves.”

It is said that Rodgers’ comments have deeply hurt his family who
consider themselves to be a deeply devout Christian family.
They say that their faith was always important throughout Rodgers growing up but if you
read anything about Rodgers, you most likely know that he and his family have been estranged
for several years.

Rodgers is a pretty private guy and doesn’t really talk about his family but it has been said
that his celebrity status seems to have helped to separate the family—
this despite Rodgers’ younger brother who also has a bit of a celebrity status.

But it has been reported that Rodgers’ most recent comments “felt like a slap in the face”
to his family and to that of their raising of their son.

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/aaron-rodgers-family-dismayed-religious-comments-danica-patrick-podcast-report

So Rodgers’ comments regarding religion aren’t anything new.
What with that one sentiment of ‘how could a loving God be so full of condemnation’ acting
as the lynchpin for many non-believers—Rodgers is far from the first person to utter such
an observation.

So this story about Rodgers and his comments carried my thoughts back to my adventure yesterday
with radioactive eggs and the reading and subsequent sharing of a post regarding
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on cheap vs costly grace.

I had intended to elaborate on Bonhoeffer’s words as they struck a chord…a chord his words
often strike when I read them…however I think my radioactive eggs had my thinking
a tad scattered.

“As Bonhoeffer explains, Protestants have turned orthodox Christianity into Christianity
without discipleship or obedience or sacrifice. In short, this is what he calls
“cheap grace.”

“You can be forgiven by God without being transformed by God.”

Rodgers joins a host of both believers and non-believers that have long bemoaned
the same bipolar idea of a loving God versus a wrathful God of condemning judgment–

But what all these folks fail to grasp is the single notion of Grace…
be it cheap or costly.

Sadly, there is a wealth of Christians who have a difficult time wrapping their
heads around the idea of God being a loving father but also a strict disciplinarian.

Many of our culture’s current “feel good” Chrisitan believers have painstakingly
written sin, repercussions, and hell totally out of ‘their’ Christian tenants.
Wanting just the feel-good without the responsibility of what it means to live a
life of costly Grace.

Picking and choosing to believe in a little god of their making
rather than believing in the Great I AM who was, is and will always be.

A re-writing of the foundation of the Christian faith simply because it is
uncomfortable to think about the serious consequences of sin or the cost of
living under Grace.

Yet perhaps it’s simply human nature to think that a loving father would never ever actually
turn his back on his children…we want the happy ending, always.
We want our cake and we want to relish eating it.
But God has made it clear that that is not possible

But costly Grace requires choice.
The choice to keep the comfort of self or to let it all go.
There is no in-between.

“Bonhoeffer’s main point in all this is that God’s grace cost the life of God’s son.
Although God’s grace is freely given to all who are willing to receive,
it still costs something from the one who receives.
What does it cost? Simply put, it costs a man his life.”

Costly Grace is what our faith is all about.
It is not easy.
It requires the death of self.
Aaron Rodgers and many many other folks don’t like the idea of the death of self.

I would dare to imagine that God was gravely pained over the death of his son,
but He also knew the cost of Grace and was willing to extend that Grace to
a fallen world.

And yet it remains a choice… your choice, Aaron Rodgers’ choice, my choice.

Costly Grace is saving Grace.
But you can choose.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Ephesians 2:8

on board and out dated

“Recent generations seem to consider ‘old-fashioned’ thinking as out-dated
and without place in the modern world.
I beg to differ.
After all, who has greater faith?
He who looks to and learns from the past, or the man who cares
not for consequence?”

Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life – Fennel’s Journal – No. 1


(a shirveled little pear / Julie Cook / 2014)

The other day I caught a fellow blogger’s post regarding the soon to be splitting of
the United Methodist Church over the issue of recognizing gay marriage as a
sanctified union and thus conducting said weddings.

And I took issue with some of his thoughts.

I didn’t immediately respond, as I wanted to think about my words,
but I knew I disagreed with his take on things.

According to a separate article I read regarding the split, things appear amicable in
the proposed negotiating of the soon to be un-united Methodist Church–
An amicable split might just border on being an oxymoron when talking about divisions
stemming from differing views over foundational doctrine…with everyone seeming to
be all good with the parting.

“The United Methodist Church has decided to divide over the issue of same-sex marriage.
This is not surprising, given the longstanding disagreements on this matter that have
afflicted the denomination.
The UMC has arranged the separation in a remarkably civil way:
The proposed solution, formulated by a committee of members drawn from both sides of the debate,
will (hopefully) avoid the rancor and distress and disputes about properties and pensions
that have marked other such denominational splits in recent times.

Carl R. Trueman

The blogger’s post, for which I took umbrage, mentioned that he had been reared in the
Methodist Church and was naturally troubled by the proposed split…

I think we’d all agree that “splits” are never the desired outcome.
We really do want to keep things united as one.
Or so it seems we once did.

Yet think of this…we began with what was known as the Latin West Church,
otherwise known as The Church of Rome.
Shortly thereafter, we had the Eastern Orthodox Church of, naturally, the East…

So splits seem to be in our nature because from those original two,
we have spiraled into countless denominations,
of which each feels as if they are the ones who’s gotten it right and all figured out…
but I digress.

This particular blogger wrote that other denominations had “come to terms” regarding
same-sex marriages and that scientific facts now showed that the Bible was outdated and
out of step with said scientific facts.
Homosexuality was prewired and not a choice and therefore the Church, big C,
needs to step up and get in step.

I read just a bit more before I had to close out the post and leave for an appointment
but I made a mental note that I wanted to go back to the post and eventually respond.

Well, a few days passed and I went back into my reader looking for the post.
It is no longer there or at least I couldn’t find it if it was.
I scrolled and scrolled but just couldn’t find it.
It was not a blog that I follow but a blog post that I had seen as a
re-post by another blogger.
Since I couldn’t remember the particular blog’s name from whence the post
in question had come from, I suppose it was not meant for me to get into a
tit for tat with another blogger…
Because that is pretty much what happens when we comment often to the contrary of
what someone else has written.

A war of words so to speak.
A small microcosm of what is ailing our entire Nation, but again, I digress.

And so I will briefly share my umbrage here…as in, you are now the lucky recipient.

Unequivocally, and to the contrary, most denominations are NOT on board with gay marriage—
hence why ‘splits’ have been taking place for nearly a decade.

My dear ol’ Episcopal Chruch comes to mind.

The thought of schisms in the Episcopal Church can be traced back to the ’70s
when the notion of allowing women into the priesthood first took flight.
There was an exodus then with communicants going to more traditional “Rite I”
sort of churches.

Next came gay clergy and gay marriages all intertwined.
We saw another exodus with the founding of Anglican Chruch in North America.
Hence the split from the more liberal Episcopal Chruch to the more conservative
Anglican body of North America.

We are also seeing a huge exodus across the pond by more traditional Anglicans from
the very liberal body of the Chruch of England who is just all over the place
with what is being called “Queer Theory” and transgenderism as the issue over gay clergy
is now simply passe.

The Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Methodists and yes even the Baptists are all wrestling
with the same divisive issue of a traditional fundamental belief in scripture verses a more
liberal interpretation and the progressive view that the Bible is outdated and simply
put, wrong.

The argument is that God is Love, Jesus is Love and the Church should, therefore, be love…
and so the thinking is that this should all be quite clear.
Clear that there is love within the LBGTQ communities.
So come one, come all because we are all about love.

And thus any church member who thinks otherwise is so last century and entirely out
of step with the new way of the world…so if you don’t like it or argue that
it is entirely against Scripture, then you, my friend, are considered hate-filled
and need to go elsewhere because the new church has no room for such thinking.

However, I find that the Bible is very specific when it comes to homosexuality,
sinfulness, sexual deviations, pansexuality, gender, etc.

It is not the Bible that needs changing but rather man’s sinfulness.

No one disputes that God is love.
He has a deep and abiding love for… the sinner….that being you and me.
Hence the birth, eventual killing, and resurrection of His Son.

So no, I don’t see that other denominations are basically “on board” with gay marriage
or all the new sprouting ‘life choices.’

To sin or not to sin is a choice is it not?

The Bible is very specific about sin and what constitutes sin.
God hasn’t changed His mind.
He has not had that “ah ha” Oprah moment of “yeah, I think they are right. I suppose
I do need to rethink my thinking on say, all those commandments…”

God is immovable.
He does not waver.
No matter how much we work to convince ourselves that our choices are ok
and therefore He’s ok with said choices.

So, in a nutshell, that’s my comment.

I the Lord do not change.
So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and
have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:6-7