What is a saint?

A saint is somebody who has learned to love God.
Learned to love. It’s nothing extremely mystical.
It’s that a person really tries to be united to God, to love our Lord with all his heart.
To escape from that prison that we find ourselves in sometimes of our personal
selfishness and self-centeredness, which we carry with us.
In spite of the fact that we have all sorts of shortcomings and sins and so forth,
if we are striving to love our Lord with our whole strength,
that is a growing in the sanctity of life.

Fr. Jerry Gehringer
from Being a Saint in the World


(mother’s tea rose bush is blooming again / Julie Cook / 2018)

“God creates out of nothing.
Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren Kierkegaard,

Christendom

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.
We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand,
we are obliged to act accordingly.

Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard


(a hornets nest on the side of a house Blue Ridge, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church.
I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom.
It is the end of Christendom, but not the end of Christianity.

What is Christendom?

Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as
inspired by the gospel ethic. That is finished.

Abortion, the breakdown of family life, dishonesty,
even the natural virtues upon which the supernatural virtues were based,
are being discredited.

Christianity is not at the end.
But we are at the end of Christendom.

And I believe that the sooner we wake up to this fact,
the sooner we will be able to solve many of our problems.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

life’s separation

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends,
but let us not despair.
God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other.
The more we are united to Him by love,
the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

strictly for the birds…as in, literally

“It takes a purely human courage to renounce the whole temporal realm in order to gain eternity,
but this I do gain and in all eternity can never renounce—it is a self-contradiction.
But it takes a paradoxical and humble courage to grasp the whole temporal realm now by
virtue of the absurd, and this is the courage of faith.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(the spent berries shriveling on the vine / Julie Cook / 2018)

Strictly for the birds…an American idiom coined just following WWII meaning worthless or something not really worth bothering with…

As in the blueberries…
they need to be literally left to the birds!

Both life and time have gotten the better of me so when I walked out this morning in
an attempt to unburden the blueberry bushes I was met with what Bourbon Street smells
like the morning following a Sugar Bowl game for the National title.

There’s that cloyingly and sickly sweet, very overpowering scent of fermentation…
as in the berries are simply overripened and now fermenting…
fermenting on the ground, on the bush…you name it, they’re fermenting…


(fermenting berries rotting on the ground / Julie Cook / 2018)

Those that are overly ripe have simply fallen to the ground which is now covered with
all manner of crawling, biting, stinging things searching for their share of a sweet
rotting juicy treat.

The birds are actually landing in the bushes, with me right there in plain sight, as they
are now so drunk from having gorged on fermented berries that they give me a no never mind.
I merely duck.

Me who is just trying to find the remaining salvageable berries.

Those berries that are not bursting at my mere touch due to being so swollen from the
copious amount of rain as of late have left me smelling like I’ve been on a three day
drunk.

The other berries are simply so small and hard that they are not worth the trouble since
they will never truly ripen.

The mercury was sitting right at 90 with the humidity being nearly the same…
And it was still well before the noonday hour.

I got what I could, overwhelmed by the rest so I simply threw my hands in the air and said
out loud for no one in particular…let them just go to the birds!!!

Much in the same way that I want to say to all those working ever so fast and furious at
creating our current state of hysteria…hysteria that is coming out of our oh so
post-Christian, uber progressive, rabid dog culture.

A couple of troubling things…

The first is obviously the recent fact that a person went into a restaurant to eat…
and because of who her boss just so happened to be, was asked to leave.

She didn’t go to push an agenda, she wasn’t on the clock, she wasn’t “representing” as so
many these days like to say…
She was just trying to enjoy a meal at a place I’m sure she has either visited before
and liked or was with someone who had previously eaten there and recommended it.

And so she left…along with those in her group.

They offered to pay for what they had ordered but were told that would not be necessary.

The owner claims that several on her staff are gay and that was why they wanted her to leave
because her boss made them feel uncomfortable and, I’m assuming, they, in turn, felt hostile
toward her simply for simply being associated with him.

Not that any of them actually even knew her or him…they’ve just assumed the worst.

And let’s remember, this gal’s boss wasn’t even there…
it was just a gal with a group of family and friends who wanted to eat
and enjoy, what I’m thinking, would have been a good meal.

That’s a troubling storm cloud upon our horizon.

As is the one big argument as to why it was ok to boot this lady out…

Many folks are comparing this incident to the bakery who, due to religious convictions,
declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Of which blew up into a nasty lawsuit which became the shot heard around the nation…
It was a lawsuit that, in the end, graciously went in the favor of the bakers.
Yay for being able to still have religious conviction in the good old US of A.

The gay couple had actually gone way out of their way to use this particular baker.
They knew upfront how things would most likely turn out when they actually could have
used many other nearby bakeries they would most likely have been more than willing
to accommodate their wishes.

The owner of the bakery is a Christian who views same-sex marriages as an affront to
a sacred God-ordained union.
I happen to agree, but I am digressing.

That incident was based on a religious conviction.

Getting booted from a restaurant because of one’s boss, well that is troubling in
a completely different direction which has nothing to do with one’s
religious convictions.

Next, there was a troubling mention made in yesterday’s post with the link to one of
David Robertson’s, aka The Wee Flea’s, post.

David was writing a post refuting a recently published book and now book tour, by a gay
Christian artist, Vicky Breeching.

In a nutshell, David tells us that Vicky’s book is about her coming out as openly gay
and how she is claiming to be actually a victim of the Christian Chruch…
so now her’s is a push for what is being dubbed as Gay Christianity.

So obviously gone now are the days of sinfulness or of upholding God’s word and tenants to man.
Because of all those sorts of things are now considered to be some sort of bullying
which produces a sense of victimization.

Yep, you read correctly…living life opposed to God’s commands is liberating because
living under those commands is to live a bullied life resulting in victimization.

Who makes this kind of thinking up???…really, I want to know….because I want
to avoid them at all costs.

A person in the UK had ticked the like button on David’s post and someway or other that simple
the action of “liking” David’s post put this person on a watchdog Governmental list…a list
of those who are being labeled as “homophobic” which, if I am not mistaken,
is now considered a hate crime in the UK.

So to disagree with homosexuality, believing that such a lifestyle runs counter to God’s word,
is to be homophobic and guilty of a hate crime.

This person wrote a comment to David explaining this sudden odd plight over merely
liking David’s post.

Let that sink in a minute.

You are a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim for that matter, who believes that because
of your religious convictions,
you believe homosexuality goes against the word of God and is perceived
as a sin…. and so now you are labeled homophobic and are guilty of a hate crime.

I would laugh but the fact of the matter is that that is pretty darn frightening.

This lunacy has got to stop!
Because it is absolutely ridiculous.
As in…. it is all strictly for the birds…

Yet the question remains….when and how…when and how will all of this madness end?

And those two questions are what should have each of us troubled…

But we know that in the end, come what may, we of Fatih know…
we know that yes these earthly battles will rage,
yet blessedly the Victory has already been secured.

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Prayers for Santa Fe, Texas

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(Julie Cook / 2018)

I was a high school art teacher for 31 years.

I loved my kids and I struggled with my kids.

The gifted,
the complicated,
the defiant,
the quiet,
the creative,
the difficult,
the angry,
the arrogant,
the athletic,
the popular,
the shy,
the academic,
the immature,
the kind,
the thoughtful,
the thoughtless,
the selfish,
the forgotten,
the struggler,
the spoiled,
the average,
the happy,
the sad,
the hard to crack…

My heart aches for Santa Fe High School and her entire community.
For those who have loved ones who will not be coming home at the end
of this school year.

Once again we are a nation wrapped in our shock, our sorrow, and our grief.

There are no clear-cut answers or explanations.
Anger, resentment, hate, indifference, intolerance, evil…
these are not simple issues.
Issues with no apparent clear-cut single solution …

Yet before we point our fingers, rile in our righteous indignation,
demand change or drown in our own emotionalism…
let us remember the families who are hurting…
families who are going through the unimaginable weight of unspeakable loss.

Let us mourn with them and for them.
As their arms ache to hold those they love just one more time.

May we ask a God, who is far greater than ourselves, to help us find our way.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.
The Book of Common Prayer
Burial of the Dead, Rite I

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

Wrestling and prayers

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(falls in the Agawa Canyon Park / Algoma District, Ontario, Canada / Julie Cook / 2017)

I mentioned the other day that I was blessed with friends who are very wise…
Well as good fortune would have it, I had another wise friend has come along,
offering her own insightful guidance…
by actually offering a bit of wisdom in sharing.

She has passed along a link to A Painted Prayerbook by Jan Richardson
with the day’s thoughts resting on “The Wrestling Is Where the Bessing Begins:
(excerpt Aug 2, 2017)

Jacob is no stranger to encountering God in a dark, betwixt place.
It has been just four chapters and a lifetime since that night when,
fleeing for his life, he was visited by an angel-drenched dream that
assured him of God’s presence on his path.
Now, in this latest nighttime meeting,
Jacob learns that sometimes when the angel meets us in the wilderness,
it makes us work for a blessing.
This seems to be one of the ways the angels choose to minister to us,
knowing there are times when a good struggle comes as one of those
strange comforts of the wilderness.
Sometimes we need not to rest but to wrestle,
to be stretched to our limits,
to reach deep into the reserves we did not know we had.

(http://paintedprayerbook.com)

And like Jacob, I wrestle.

I wrestle with this thing I claim as life.
My life.

I wrestle with my perception, my wants and my presumed,
as well as intended, outcomes…
I then wrestle with God’s intention for my life…
for you see, those two thoughts are not always the same…
His verses mine.

And now I’m finding myself prematurely and uncomfortably pushed away from
resting undisturbed somewhere, while just hoping to sit under a shade tree.
I sit trying to avoid the heat of day…the prickly weight that pushes down on my
head from not only what is mine, but what is all around me.
I long to avoid the unbearable heat generated by my own life’s struggles,
as well as the heated percolation found in the greater world at large.

And here I now realize that I must wrest the blessing which is to be found in
all of this…
Because as you see, we sometimes actually have to work for a blessing.

And yet…
in that one little fact…
that being that I will often times be uncomfortable and even struggle while
becoming exasperated to the point of near failure….
yet still….
I find that within the wrestling…resides pieces of deep spiritual comfort….

We are traveling today the 10 plus hours down to West Palm Beach, to south Florida.
Martha’s memorial service is Saturday morning, at her beloved little Episcopal
Church.

I will greatly appreciate your prayers for our travels.
It’s a long drive in uncharted waters so knowing that a Heavenly host
travels with us is indeed a comfort and a blessing…
one not wrestled over I trust….

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8