a whole mess of weeds

I always think of my sins when I weed.
They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of.

Helena Rutherfurd Ely, A Woman’s Hardy Garden, 1903


(one of many bucket loads of weeds / Julie Cook / 2020)

You should probably know that the state of Georgia can actually experience all
four seasons within a week’s time.
Sometimes that might simply be during the course of a weekend.

Our winters have become a cycle of one day of dreary wet, grey cold followed by
a day of bright warming sun…
this pattern persists for much of December, January, and February…
with a possible blizzard come March.

With that being said, peering out the window on those dreary wet chilly days,
I’ve sorely noticed how the wild onions have been taking over my flower beds.
Mild temperate wet is a perfectly fertile condition for weeds like wild onions.
One of the many banes of my existence.

Yesterday was dreary chilly grey.
Today was temperate sun.
Tomorrow is to be wet chilly grey.

Sooooo, I thought I’d take advantage of today’s temperate sunshine, while I had a
few glorious hours without any clamoring demands…all but for those demanding weeds.

I grabbed a pail and trowel while donning my gloves as I set out about digging up those
annoying wild onions along with any other emerging pest.

As my back began to ache, forcing me to wobble through the flower beds “walking”
on my knees, that is until I hit a rock, I mused whether or not I should simply learn
to accept and maybe even relish the weeds.

Should I forego the flowers, the plants, the bushes and let the weeds simply run amuck?

Suddenly the thought of God allowing weeds, aka sins, to run amuck hit me like
a ton of bricks.

Plucking, digging and pulling is arduous…it is painstaking…especially the older I get.
But I do it because I know just how great the flower beds can look in their full
glory come Spring.

Yet does not God do that very same thing?
Plucking, pulling, digging, deadheading…
And why does He do it?
Because He knows how beautiful we will be in our sin-free reborn selves…

And so I continue in my pursuit…
because continues in His pursuit of me…

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,
and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 5:12

the year of Mercy…

“Deserves it! I daresay he does.
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.
Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


(Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934)

It’s the end of another year as well as the end of another decade…
A time when we grow full of reflection and even introspection.

And if we don’t, well, I think it would behoove us to do so…
it’s good for the soul.

And by the way, I can say that because I’m now on the downhill slope of what is
considered to be US life expectancy, and thus—
older people are supposed to have gleaned from hindsight…
so my hindsight is saying that you need to reflect.

The other day I had offered my hope that the coming year could be a year
for moms and motherhood along with their children and husbands…
as in the fathers of their children…as in families…traditional families
as in those families found within the covenant of God the Father.

And no, this post is not about a debate regarding what constitutes a “family”–
that’s a discussion for another day.

But for now, let’s hear it for moms.
Be they working or stay at home….
because at the end of the day…
the bottom line is that a mom is still a mom…
and that is the single most important job.

And so this notion has gotten me thinking.
Thinking and pondering.

I’ve started a new book…in part because I saw that Bishop Gavin Ashenden had
written the forward to the book.

Oh and just in case you missed it, our favorite across the pond Anglican cleric
is now a new Catholic convert.

The book is The Warning by Christine Watkins

“Authentic accounts of saints and mystics of the Church who have spoken of a day when
we will all see our souls in the light of truth,
and fascinating stories of those who have already experienced it for themselves.”

As I was reading my few pages last night, as that is about all the reading I’m afforded
these days–a page here or there at night, Ms. Watkins mused about death—
something that we will all eventually face.
Whether we are a believer or not, death does not discriminate.

So she posed a question about what happens upon death—our death.
It’s the age-old mystery…death and what happens to us at that defining moment.

For Believers, this is a time of accountability.

As in all sins, all those things done and not done will be set before us.
Even those sins we have confessed and asked forgiveness over will
still, be displayed.

That notion made me swallow hard.

Even though there is and has been forgiveness, our sins will still be on display.
Both known and unknown.
Displayed before us and our Savior, Father and Holy Spirit.

How do you defend such?
How do you explain such?
How do you play off such?

Because isn’t that what we currently do in life? We make excuses.
So why not in death?

But here’s the thing, we won’t be able to nor can we.
The moment will be beyond earthly comprehension
and somehow I think to stand before God, will leave us without defense.

We will be totally exposed, opened like a splayed chicken and utterly vulnerable.

And on that thought, I closed the book, turned off the light and laid there thinking…
and praying.

A key word came to mind…

Mercy.

According to Merriam Webster ‘mercy’ is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown
toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

God has shown His mercy to man—both you and me, by sending His only son…
offering mercy to a corrupt and sinful humankind.
Grace has been given to those who do not deserve Grace but who have been offered it freely
and without attached strings.

And so I would like to see this to be a year for all of us to put mercy atop our list.
To show and to offer mercy to our fellow human beings, despite whether they deserve it or not
because deserving is not the issue.

It will not be easy.
It will demand us to stop and think before quickly casting our hate-filled
angry filled resentment and judgment.

We are such a divided nation, so full of the notion of ‘I am right and you are wrong’
that we allow our national convictions to outweigh the human act of Compassion, Grace and
especially Mercy.
We have become so knee jerk in our reactions that the thought of Mercy never crosses
our minds.

In the turning of the calendar, in the moving into a new year,
may we be mindful of the gift we have each been given…
that being the gift, the ability, to offer to others our compassion, our grace,
and our mercy only because God first offered His Compassion, Grace, and Mercy to us.

In 2015 Pope Francis proclaimed that the year of the Jubilee of Mercy,
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Latin: Iubilaeum Extraordinarium Misericordiae)
was a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from 8 December 2015,
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 20 November 2016,
the Feast of Christ the King.
Like previous jubilees, it was seen by the Church as a period for remission of sins
and universal pardon focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.
It was an extraordinary Jubilee because it had not been predetermined long before;
ordinary jubilees are usually celebrated every 25 years.

I think we need to offer such jubilee one more time!

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus,
but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with,
to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think –
and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.

Pope Francis
Homily on March 17, 2013

drawn to God, He is waiting for you

“If you wish to strengthen your confidence in God still more,
often recall the loving way in which He has acted toward you,
and how mercifully He has tried to bring you out of your sinful life,
to break your attachment to the things of earth and draw you to His love.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(gull / Rosemary Beeach, FL / Julie Cook)

“God will forgive you if you ask him to.
Though your sins be numerous as the grains of sand on the shore,
God’s merciful forgiveness is far greater than your sins.
Do not be afraid. Trust in his love.
Repent of your sins without delay and return to the house of the Father.
He is waiting for you.”

Patrick Madrid, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

defeating the octopus…

“To be defeated and not submit, is victory;
to be victorious and rest on one’s laurels,
is defeat.”

Józef Piłsudski

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste,
and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

Matthew 12:25


(detail from the Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

Is it just me or is this how many of us are feeling these days?

All wrapped up by something menacing, trying its best to not only entangle us but to
consume us and suck us down to the depths of the sea?

Yet in actuality, this is a statue of Neptune trying to spear an entangling octopus.

However, it might as well be a statue of any one of us…an image of any average American
who is working frantically and desperately to fend off the current craziness consuming our Nation.


(Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

The fountain is within the enclosed piazza, or what we Americans call a plaza,
perched in the heart of Rome.
It’s the piazza where we will find the statue of the sea god Neptune perpetually at battle
with an aggravating octopus.

There is a massive fountain in the center of this piazza by the famous artist Bernini flanked
by two lesser fountains on either end of the piazza, each by different artists.

The Neptune fountain as it is known is The Fountain of Neptune
(Italian: Fontana del Nettuno) and is located at the north end of the Piazza Navona.
It was once called “Fontana dei Calderari” because it was located close to a small
alley with blacksmith’s workshops, makers of pots and pans and of other metal-based
businesses, all of them generating heat.

(Wikipedia)

I saw this statue of Neptune and immediately felt the connection.

Entangled, enraged and working fiercely to be set free.

Free from the ills of our culture.
Free from the depths of our sins.

I think of Satan being much like the octopus…he wraps his arms and
tentacles around us, squeezing us, squeezing out our very breath while attempting
to pull us down and under.

But rather than the fictitious Neptune left to fend off this ravenous enemy,
we have Jesus who, rather than a spear, used a cross to permanently defeat this
ancient nemesis.

Being eternally defeated, this ancient foe, however, continues fighting while we are left
to wander this, his realm.

He is working fast and furious, as time is not on his side, to steal as many
of us he can with his unrelenting grasp.

He is frantically pitting us all…one against another.
Driving dividing wedges deep within the heart of our nation and deep into the hearts of us,
her people.
And sadly, each night the news seems to triumphantly share how well his efforts are
actually working.

Groups like Antifa blindly follow his call.
Anarchy being a demon’s delight.

Disrespect, defiance, lawlessness, violence, disregard, anger, hate…are key actions
each taken from an ancient playbook used as a manual for humankind’s defeat.

Yet God has sounded the warning.

The war, He reminds us, is actually long won…
Yet He also reminds us that this defeated menace will not surrender while the sun still
rises and sets over his domain..not until the very end…
not until he has done his best to snare us as his prey.

To divide, to separate and to conquer, taking who and what he can.

As choices continue to remain.

For if we turn our backs on the Lord our God and on all that He has done,
as so it seems that our nation has, there will be consequences.
This much we have been told.

Just look around at this country and this world in which we live.
Is what we see right?
Is what we see just?
Is what we see as it should be?

Or have we allowed the arms of hate and evil to reach too far while ignoring
the consuming strength of a beast that will not stop until he pulls us all under.

So pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath
Matthew 24:20

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom,
that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation,
concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil,
I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice,
then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.

Jeremiah 18:6-10

Once was blind….

But…and this is a vital truth of the Christian Gospel –
Jesus does not invite and accept ANY of us just as we are.
He came to save us.
He came to make us a new creation.
He came to give us new life.
It makes a mockery of Christ to regard him as some kind of affirming angel
who wants to tell us how good we really are.
Christ did not die on the cross to keep us in our sin,
he died to save us from them!

David Robertson


(blooming loropetalum / Julie Cook / 2018)

It is a hymn written in 1779 that I’d lay money that both Believer and non-beliver alike
could easily and readily recite…

“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”

I actually prefer the bagpipe rendition myself.

It’s such a familiar tune that we might just find ourselves humming it subconsciously…
unaware that we were even humming…

Yet the back story, as I have discovered with most things that seem larger than life,
is usually far more amazing than the actual “thing”—
and in this case, that thing is a beloved hymn.

Perhaps it is the story that simply adds to the majesty and beauty behind those
haunting words.

In 2006 a wonderful movie come out showcasing the tale behind the famous hymn—
And as with most movies…liberties were undoubtedly taken to “enhance” the emotional
impact upon the viewer.

But the story behind the hymn—involves a man haunted by 20,000 ghosts and another man
who makes his sole mission in life to bring everlasting freedom to countless men,
woman and children.
Colliding tales that need no outside enhancements.

The story, as most already know, focused on William Wilberforce, a young idealist member
of the British Parliment, ardently campaigning to end the British slave trade industry.

The British Empire had been involved in the abducting, buying, selling and trading of
African slaves since the mid 1500’s.
Obviously, this was long before the colonies of a new Nation followed suit.
And yes it was tragically a longstanding yet prolific form of enterprise for the
British Realm…

Slave labor was an integral component in the production of the sugar from the
sugarcane plantations scattered about on the various British owned Caribbean Islands…
Sugarcane equates to sugar which equates to the making of rum.
So the use of slave labor, which was key in the running of the sugarcane plantations,
eventually became an important asset to the early British colonies in
what became the new American settlements in their production of cotton.

And so it was a former English slave ship captain turned Anglican cleric named John Newton
who actually penned the lyrics to what would become the most beloved Christian hymn.
For it was Newton who was the haunted man of the sins of not only his past but of the
past sins of those he had known as well as his own Nation.

Newton and Wilberforce had a long lasting relationship, a relationship that acted as a
catalyst in spurring on the young idealist politician’s lifetime quest as an abolitionist…
A quest which finally in 1807 lead to the eventual end of the British Realm’s
trading in slaves.

Our friend the Wee flea, the Scottish pastor David Robertson, offers a wonderful
observation about a small essay that was written by John Newton concerning his
thoughts and lessons learned about his participation in the slave trading of human beings…
reflections that David believes are just as important for our 21st-century lives and
the current #metoo movement….just as they were almost 200 years ago as an Empire and her people
wrestled with the sins of its past.

#MeToo: 7 lessons for the movement from slave trader John Newton

David follows that post with another equally insightful post concerning the Chruch in Scotland
and it’s reaction to the growing phenomena known as self-identifying along with the transgender
movement which is now invading the lives of the UK’s grammar school children.

Two Churches Struggling with (Gender) Identity

Eve’s “No” verses Mary’s “Yes”

“i imagine that yes is the only living thing.”
E.E. Cummings


(Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden / Masaccio / 1425 / Florence )



(Bicci di Lorenzo / 1433-1434 / The Annunciation panels / private collection)

Please enjoy the Christmas Eve Homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
Bishop Ashenden raises an interesting observation…

That in Eve’s having said “no” to God—in her refusal to His obedience,
man then fell victim to the addiction to sin and disobedience.

Mary in turn counters that sinfulness no by offering her simple “yes”….

And in Mary’s yes…she brings us all to God’s saving Grace.
Of which brings to all of humankind, through the birth of her son Yeshua,
the freedom from this never-ending cycle of disobedient addiction…

New found freedom

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8:2

DSCN2636
(Tiger swallowtail butterfly visits the blueberries / Julie Cook / 2016)

Anyone who has ever felt the full weight, the abject heaviness of the shackled chains
of all that they have ever done that was…
bad,
wrong,
deceitful,
selfish,
sick,
illegal,
lewd,
hurtful,
hateful,
evil,
vile…

Sinful…

Whoever has carried, lived with, bore up under…
all that was less than…
Less than that which has ever been known to have been better not to have been…
done,
said,
acted upon,
thought,
harbored,
carried out…

An empty tomb
A new day
A new life
A promise fulfilled…

Has finally set you free…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4