the simple difference

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Winston Churchill

“Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”
― A.W. Tozer

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( a leaf dances along the wind, Cades Cove, TN /The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Today was busy…
It was a day of cooking, preparing and sharing.
It was a day for an early Thanksgiving celebration… for one part of my husband’s family.
It was a day of reconciliations of sorts.
A day for some healing…between an elderly in-firmed father and two of his three grown children…of whom he had estranged himself from years ago.

Lives have been lived…as grandchildren have grown, as now great-grandchildren have grown as well…as time has, all too casually, been allowed to pass…
when it never should have been allowed pass,
for such a very long time in the first place…

The two now grown children had suffered grievously as children under the destructive blanket of abusive alcoholism–only to have suffered again years later as adults..
Odd how that cycle of hurt and pain seems to simply ebb and flow over the odd passage of time…

A small bridge was crossed today…and that was good.
One can never give back nor take back the words, the abuse, the pain, the embarrassment, the resentment and the grievous loss of place, time and years…and yet one can’t help but see the positive effort now taken in the writing of one small wrong in a sea of many wrongs—as it is the uplifting conscious admission of this one said wrong which is what now really seems to matter most.

And as I feel that a small bridge was indeed crossed today, it obviously will never erase or take away that which was…yet it does however bring a bit of peace to two sorrowfully long grieved hearts…

And as I silently stood back watching these tiny hopeful events unfolding during the course of this very cold yet sunny Sunday, resting gratefully in the idea and concept of thankfulness…my mind has not been far removed from the heavy thoughts of Paris and now of the black cloud which hangs heavy and low over Belgium…

I found myself pondering over the “us verses them” divide…that great crevasse which separates the sane and insane within the whole craziness of ISIS Islamic extremism and that of the rest of us…

…As I have labored racking my brain as to what it is that makes a person, or in this case an army of people, to be filled with such seething disregard for the gift of life and living…I have merely been left mystified and stymied–scratching my head in a totally overwhelming disbelief.

The recent pictures of that young woman flashing a familiar hiphop / rap hand sign, garbed in the hijab, who would later don a suicide vest, detonating herself in hopes of taking out as many law enforcement and civilians as possible, goes beyond the average human being’s comprehension.

What sets us apart from these mostly youthful members of an army of hate and destruction…?

Oh we hear the familiar bleeding excuses of disenfranchisement, of socioeconomic disadvantagement, the lack of schooling, the barriers of culture, language, religion, the inability to assimilate to a new country….etc, etc, etc…
…none of that holds water nor is a true paving stone filling the gulf between right and wrong, hate and love, murder and life….

And then it dawned on me—
As simple and perhaps even childlike that it may sound, the divide rests not in the amble abundance of vehement hate, as there is certainly plenty of that found in both words and deed, but rather the difference, the separation, is found in the lack of the simple ability to find and produce a true sense of heartfelt thankfulness.

It all boils down to the simple matter of hating verses gratitude and thankfulness.
–or rather the ability to offer genuine gratitude and thankfulness.

True genuine thankfulness…not the insane thankfulness to Allah that they all died, or all were blown up…but rather the genuine ability to feel real thankfulness which is found in the simplest of places and gestures.

Thankfulness and gratitude not for the materialism of life…not for the gathering of things, the loftiness of status of position, the greedy accumulation of wealth and prestige…but rather thankfulness for the simple and genuine gratitude of the heart…for the most simplest of pleasures—the pleasure of a smile, the thankfulness found in reunions, the gratitude for the bridging of gaps, the thankfulness for waking each day, the marveling in watching a leaf dance across the wind, the delight felt in a single touch, the joy felt in being alive on a cold but sunny November day…

And whereas all of the experts and the powers that be who continue sifting through and within the dust of the whys and hows…it really comes down to something as small and as tiny and as simple and seemingly insignificant as thankfulness and the ability to offer a true heartfelt “thank you” — which is the actual barrier, the true great divide between the us and the them…

Gratitude and thankfulness to, for and in something greater than ourselves…
to Something that revels in life not death, love not hate, freedom not imprisonment…
The gratitude in knowing that there is indeed a Creator who gives and a Savior who waits for us all in the midst of this ever growing turmoil…..

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
Psalm 28:7

lowly

“Only in God is found safety
When my enemy pursues me
Only in God is found glory
When I am found meek and found lowly. . .”

Lyrics Only in God by John Michael Talbot
based on Psalm 62

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(tiny toadstools / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2015 )

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(tiny toadstools / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2015 )

How often do we as Christians, who are in this world yet not of the world, find ourselves in need of a source of strength, of a place of refuge or even a sanctuary of solace?
Most likely we have a church body, or a bible study, or a group of committed friends who are often our spiritual mainstay—the meat and potatoes of one’s faith.
Yet, for some of us, that is not the case and we may find that we are more alone than not, cast adrift as it were, floundering on the seas of the tempest of temptation and struggle.

No matter where we may find ourselves along our Christian journey, chances are we will find that there are those moments and times when we need, when we desperately long, to retreat inwards.
We yearn and need to seek a time of quiet—-a time for reflection, a time of prayer and a time of meditation.

For me it has been those stolen interludes, here and there over the years, of solitude when I could lose myself within the music of John Michael Talbot. Ever since I was a senior in high school, I have been drawn to the songs–to the lyrics of this rather unassuming musician.
A man whose soothing voice, as he is accompanied usually by only his guitar, would / could worshipfully sing the psalms.

There has always been a pinpoint accuracy to his simple songs of worship, adoration, imploring and lamentation. . .
Reverence, honor, genuineness and honesty.
Singing the psalms, as I imagine them to have been sung by a lone cloistered monk or nun in his or her cell, alone, lost in deep thought before both Savior and God.

I have written a previous post about John Michael Talbot and his music, as well as the impact it has had on my own spiritual journey.
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/o-divine-master/

John Michael Talbot, who is more monk than anything else, is a Third Order Franciscan who lives, along with his wife, in a Catholic Community– The Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, Arkansas.

http://littleportion.org

An odd place to find a cloistered community of both lay and religious folk alike who live in a place named for St Francis’s original cloistered community in Assisi, Italy—yet it is a comfort knowing that there are such places that exist in this ever maddening world of ours.

Psalm 62 has always been one of my favorite psalms as it speaks so rawly to my own inner struggles with the unseen God of my Salvation.
It is truly in Him where I find my rest.
It is to Him I run when the world has had its way with me–leaving me battered and bruised.
A stronghold and anchor in which I may tether myself as I wait out the storms of life.
He is always greater, while I am reminded that I am indeed, forever smaller.

Yet even in all of His greatness, He not only sees and notices, but He actually knows. . .me.
And it is during such times that I am often reminded, rightfully so, that I am indeed less than.
That I can separate myself from the world—a world that so often puffs up its inhabitants steeping them in arrogance and self-centeredness.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for those who feel their worldly importance to ever humble
themselves to the Creator of all of Creation.

John Michael Talbot’s simple yet powerful rendition of Psalm 62 has always helped to recenter me—as it has always had a way of bringing me back to the beautifully complicated relationship I have with the Creator of all of Creation. . .

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 62

Tiny treasures

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.
Golda Meir

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.
Leo Tolstoy

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(a tiny Gray Hairstreak tiptoes on the sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

In all truth, it is in the tiny, the small and the demure where we are to find real strength and value.
It is not to be found in the grand, the exquisite, the large or the garish for that is too easily recognized and assumed.

Contrary to popular thought, the tiny and small will never be lacking–for within those often hidden tiny treasures is a wealth of wonder and joy. . .

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(a tiny Gray Hairstreak tiptoes on the sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(fiery skipper amongst the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a thread-waisted wasp visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(fiery skipper amongst the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a most welcomed visitor to the heather, a honey bee / Julie Cook / 2015)

“But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? “Man does not know its value, Nor is it found in the land of the living. “The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.”Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, Nor can silver be weighed as its price. “It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, In precious onyx, or sapphire. “Gold or glass cannot equal it, Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold. “Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls. “The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
Job 28:12-19

Small blessings

“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” C.S. Lewis

“Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather.”
Alexandre Dumas

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(the tiniest of bees, with swollen pollen pouches on each leg, graces a coneflower / Julie Cook / 2015)

Should any received blessing be perceived as being “less than” based upon its size or stature?

In order to qualify as a blessing,
must something be so large, so grand, so luxurious. . .
that we fall into it as if we were falling onto the softest,
most plush, most decant goose down bedding?

Or

Can something so tiny, so small, so demure,
such that it can be missed by the single blink of an eye,
be considered any less bountiful a blessing because it is just that. . .
small, tiny and perhaps considered minuscule?

Are we conditioned for the great and grand?
Are we perhaps too expectant that our expectations should soar upward to lofty heights,
so much so that we are prone to brush off the small as meaningless and insignificant?
Missing what may be the greatest moment of our day. . .

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Beyond

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.
Voltaire

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(the changing glimpse of beyond before the storm / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s all beyond us really. . .
As in elsewhere
As in bigger, greater, grander
As in far away and much more than ourselves.

What of this place, Beyond?
That which is beyond the trees,
The clouds,
The sky. . .

What is this that is Beyond?

Is it what is there and simply not here?
That which is further rather than closer
That which is big not small?

Those whose sights remain small and inward
may never know the vast richness of Beyond.
Those whose heads are fixed ever downward,
Whose worlds are stationary and static,
Will not know Beyond

Beyond is more. . .
There is endlessness in Beyond

Humankind is not endless, we rather, are finite
As in consisting of a beginning and an ending
As in small and limited
For even our time is limited, as well as unknown

What of this Beyond?
Where does it start?
Where does it end?

One must look upward,
Outward,
Forward. . .

For Beyond is certainly in front, not behind
Beyond is not beneath nor under

Beyond is beyond touch,
Reach
Comprehension

Beyond is not of this time,
Your time or mine.
It goes much further than time
Much further than past or present
It is actually closer to future.

Beyond is beyond what is known
Beyond is beyond this place,
this space,
this dimension

Beyond is. . .simply. . .

Beyond

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Just beneath the surface

“Look beneath the surface;
let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee.”

― Marcus Aurelius

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(new growth hiding beneath the brush / Troup Co, Georgia /Julie Cook / 2015)

Frozen
Wet
Lifeless
Barren

Muddling through colorless days
Bundled up, wrapped tight, hunkered down. . .
Sinking within self
Eyes fixed on nothing, as feet shuffle forward
Fighting wind, snow, rain. . .
Ode to Winter at its dulling best

Suddenly something tiny,
something small,
something possessing. . .
What?
What is this, dry forlorn minds query.

Shiny
Red
Tender
Green
Color
Life
Hope

Be ready
Be waiting
Be expectant
Be hopeful
Be watchful
Be willing

Because big new things lie just beneath the surface. . .

In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary – we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Romans 5:5
The Message

Smallest of the small

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
C. S. Lewis

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(a tiny shriveled seckel pear / Julie Cook / 2014)

Christmas.
Is that Christmas with a big C or a little c?
Depends on who’s asking and who’s telling.

If it happens to be those special interest groups wishing to do away with any and all Christian religious attachment to the word, then if so, it’s merely just a time of year we offer a “winter break” which happens to have a huge helping of buying, spending and giving thrown in just for good measure.
It’s a time of “winning one for the economy” you know.
So therefore it must be the commercial Christmas of the consumer driven economy, right?
What with all that Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and SALE, SALE, SALES. . .
As economists, financial folks and marketing giants are either ho ho hoing or bah bah humbugging all the way to Wall Street.

Is that Christmas with all the trimmings?
The Christmas of the glitz and the glamor and the Hollywoodesque productions?
The thousands of trees–real and fake, the miles and miles of lights all woven, strung and assembled in Communist China. . .you know the place, the country where there is no religion but the leader. . . The stockings hung waiting for baubles and cash as the boughs are all decked by folks who began this show known as Christmas as early as October, bypassing tricks and treats plus the joining of a Thankful Nation all in order to be the biggest and the brightest because that’s what we’re all about in this country, bigger and brighter.

Or is it the Christmas of the tiny and the small?
The less and not the more.
The forgotten and the overlooked.
The soft and not the garish.
The time of quiet reflection.
The time of recalling, recollecting and remembering.
The time of arrivals and not for massive departures.
The time for a wee tiny babe to be born in a dung filled, hay scattered stall in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere Judea–not to a rich and famous, big named, trendsetting mover and shaker couple, but rather to a poor, overlooked, hungry Jewish couple just trying to do the best they can by their soon to be born child?

A Christmas when it is a mere baby who brings hope and salvation as opposed to the more obvious big, loud, showy and ultra powerful.
A Christmas when we witness the God of the Universe, the Creator of all that was, that is and that which will be, descend upon a withering, riling and agonizing planet–coming in the form of pure innocence and vulnerability—-reminding us all that indeed there are great and powerful things found in the smallest of the small.

There is strength even in being small, be not afraid.

If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength being small;
If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death,
those who go staggering to the slaughter;
If you say, “Look, we did not know this”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it?
And will he not repay all according to their deeds?

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(male ruby throated hummingbird / Julie Cook / 2014)

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This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis. ”
― Pope John Paul II