It only takes a sign

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14


(James / Julie Cook / 2019)

So the past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy as well as exhausting.

We had another bit of a scare yesterday morning with our little fellow concerning a
potential liver disorder…and so another trip to the pediatrician has us
thankfully monitoring for the time being rather than doing something much more serious.

This little brother is proving to be a far cry from his big sister…
as he is just more fragile and not as seemingly tenacious…

And speaking of The Mayor, she is none too keen having this new usurper in
her midsts.


(first outing for the Mayor and new sheriff—pizza for the family / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks in Atlanta with a drive or two home
for a day of rest and regathering.
Nerves, for all of us, have been both frayed and raw…
Fatigue, exhaustion, and worry have dominated our days and nights.

So since I have been driving back and forth over these past many weeks,
two small rural church signs have caught my eye…

The first sign:
God is speaking.
Are you listening?

The second one:
I Am is coming

Both signs piqued my tired soul’s interest.

The first sign offered a good wake up call.

For despite my willy nilly running around all frantic, coupled by a self-absorbed burden of worry…
I fear I’ve not been listening…I’ve not been listening to anything around me let alone
listening to the Great I AM.

Secondly, when I initially saw this second sign, I had to do a quick double take…
because grammatically I was a bit perplexed…

I.
am.
is.
coming.

I am is…??

Huh??

And then it dawned on me….ahhhhh….

The great I AM is coming…

And it was in those two statements that I found a sudden rush of calm along with a sense of
great humility.
Because it was twice the Great I AM spoke to my weary soul.

The One who is greater and bigger than any burden or worry I may have on this earth.
He sees.
He knows.
He hears.
He is listening.
And He is present.

Sometimes it only takes a sign…or two.

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

prayers for dear Percy


(my little boy / Julie Cook / 2019)

We’ve come a very long way.
A very very long way….in 8 short years


(the dying kitten that found us in 2011 / Julie Cook)


(a cleaned up and slowly healing baby / 2011/ Julie Cook)

If you’re not familiar with how this dear member of our family came to be a part of our family,
here is a link from 2013—two years after he had become ours:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/my-best-friend/

In a nutshell, Percy, short for Perseverance, was thrown from a car,
smacking either a sign or the pavement.

He was a kitten that would fit in the palm of one’s hand.

He had a broken nose.
A broken eye socket.
A smashed mouth full of broken teeth
All of the skin was gone from the left side of his face…
he was covered in maggots and with what I call death flies… all by the time
we had found one another…
or actually by the time he had found us.

Long story short—
he lived!

Despite there being no guarantee he’d live,
he survived and he thankfully thrived.

Hence his name—Perseverance—Percy for short.

It’s amazing what love can do.

It was not easy in the beginning as he had to have rounds and rounds of strong antibiotics
and multiple surgeries while only being a few weeks old.

Over the years, we’ve had to have a tooth pulled here and there…teeth that were still
broken and would eventually become infected.

There have been some urinary issues so there is a special diet.

And due to a lack of teeth, he is more or less an indoor cat…
with the back deck being his backyard.

Plus, after all we’d been through, keeping him inside was a better option for my nerves…
just as I suspect it has been best for all our birds.

A few months back, one morning I noticed Percy walking with a very pronounced limp.
I took him to the Vet and an x-ray later revealed a torn Achilles tendon in his back left leg.

It would be about a $4000 surgery and we’d have to go to either
Auburn’s or Georgia’s Vet Schools for such a specialized surgery.

I went to Georgia and our Vet went to Auburn…sigh.

Neither the money nor time was not on our side due to my having to help on and off over
in Atlanta with our granddaughter Autumn (aka The Mayor)— so I thought we should
keep him as immobile as possible for as long as possible allowing for rest and healing.
Praying for the best.

Low and behold, the leg did heal…well, at least for the most part.

The tendon would never be the same, but blessedly, he was walking without a limp…
however he was now “flat-footed”—cats jump from the ends of their feet…
think off their tiptoes.
Percy was coming up off what I call his back knee, what the Vet calls ‘the hock.’

He had long worn all the fur off of both his back “knees” to this long-standing issue
with both tendons that we were unaware of…
his left leg is the worst of the two “knees” and it recently began to bleed.
The calloused skin was wearing thin.
It could no longer absorb the shock of jumping and landing.

Add in his fastidious licking to the point of being OCD and
he was licking the wound raw.

Another trip to the Vet.

This time she kept him and proceeded with a mini surgery…
cleaning out the wound while attempting to sew the existing skin together.


(Percy with his origianl wrapping following surgery / Julie Cook / 2019)

He kept the bandage on for a few days before jerking it off.

We went back for it to be re-wrapped.

This has now been an on-going, week after week, ordeal…
all over the course of a month.

I’m now changing out the bandages as he’s pulling and biting them off as
fast as we get them back on.

However last night I noticed something troubling.

We were back at the Vets bright and early.

The skin on “the knee” is gone and the tendon is now exposed.

Ideally, the Vet told me that Percy would need to go to Auburn for a skin graft but
with our waiting on a baby to arrive any minute now, that is not an option.
She knows this and told me she would do another surgery.

She’d pull the skin as tight as she could over “the knee”
while stitching it together with stronger sutures.
She would even put him in a cast if she thought it would help.

She then told me she would need to keep him for about a week if not longer…
keeping him in a cage and as still as possible, allowing the surgery to do its job
without him jumping up and down off that knee.

He hates the Vets.
He shakes, is scared and a nervous wreck.
He usually won’t eat if he’s there.

He loves his mommy as he sits in my lap at every opportunity and
snuggles against my back at night.

I left the office and cried the entire drive home.

Percy is more or less my life here at home.

He has decided that whatever is Autumn’s is in turn naturally his.

I think that any time we “rescue” an animal, an animal that happens into our lives on
a wing and a prayer, they become innately intertwined in our beings.

We care for them as babies and we nurse them back to life…practically willing them to live.
And more often than not they, in turn, thrive, making them some of the best pets
we could ever ask for.

I think they truly know the toll their nurturing back to health takes on our own lives,
psyches and hearts, in turn, they are genuinely grateful.

It may be silly for me to ask, but I am asking anyway…I’m asking for prayers for Percy.

Prayers for Percy’s healing of his knee/hock and also for a sense of peace in his spirit this
week while he’s kept away from home, stuck in a cage in a strange place…way out of his
comfort zone.

I’m also asking for prayers for our latest family’s addition to be, baby James.
I pray that he will arrive readily, happy and healthy..and if his mother might add, soon.
Prayers for our daughter-n-law as she prepares to go through this delivery business one more time…

Prayers also for a 14-month old little girl whose neat and tidy little world of
being the single shining light, is about to be turned upside down.

Prayers for mom and dad…and prayers for a worn out grandmother and grandfather!

Thank you!!!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

The Spirit and the Soul

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart.
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.”

St. Augustine


(the light coming in to a room at the old Cable home place at Cades Cove complete with rat hole/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires,
all of which are governed by the will.
Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God,
and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God,
and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

— St. John of the Cross, p. 259
An Excerpt From
Ascent of Mt. Carmel

early and above average

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower


(the forsythia is blooming / Julie Cook / 2018)

“No one denies what everyone knows, for nature herself teaches it:
that God is the Creator of the universe, and that it is good,
and that it belongs to humanity by the free gift of its Creator.
But there is a vast difference between the corrupted state and the state of primal purity,
just as there is a vast difference between Creator and the corruptor. …
We ourselves, though we’re guilty of every sin, are not just a work of God: we’re image.
Yet we have cut ourselves off from our Creator in both soul and body.
Did we get eyes to serve lust, the tongue to speak evil, ears to hear evil,
a throat for gluttony, a stomach to be gluttony’s ally, hands to do violence,
genitals for unchaste excesses, feet for an erring life?
Was the soul put in the body to think up traps, fraud, and injustice?
I don’t think so.”

Tertullian, p. 11

Since, then, you have been raised with ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears,
then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

choosing the the gift wisely…..

“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover
as the love of the giver.”

Thomas à Kempis


(the tiniest treasure found amongst the debris / Julie Cook / 2017)

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King.
Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree.
Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness
to God didn’t have a price.
He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the
greatness of God’s kingdom.
They come in any form of fame, fortune,
or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag.
His services weren’t for sale.
No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission.
He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage;
the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon.
David and Jason Benham

I really do have a great deal of disdain for this time of year.
I’ve written about it before.
Not because it is Christmas mind you, but rather because it is Christmas.

Huh??

Yes, I know, you probably don’t understand that last bit of redundancy.
Yet I would lay money that many of you actually do.

Yesterday a title to a post from a wonderful blog I follow,
jumped out at me from within a computer screen

“Keep your gifts”

Keep Your Gifts

There was a sense of defiance in the title that I found to be almost
exhilarating….
“Exactly!!” I practically shouted as I recalled just how much
I’ve been fretting the ticking of the impending season’s gift giving time clock.

I’m having a really hard time getting “into the spirit of the season….”

Be it this balmy weather, the heaviness of loss, the overwhelming worrisomeness
over this world of ours or the madness that is currently besetting our nation…

Ho hum is apparently beating out Ho, Ho, Ho….

Our family has drastically declined this past year,
leaving more names than I care to actually acknowledge as MIA from our
Christmas list.
Yet there are those who remain who do deserve a little something
under the tree…this as we look forward to a family addition come February.

But within all of that…those who are missing, the list of names, the cards,
the baking, the cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the working, the tree….
which by the way I have no idea when it’ll go up as it seems like it was just
June when my husband and son finally manhandled the thing
down to the basement.
And whereas it takes two to haul the blasted heavy thing
anywhere it must go, I in turn must wait upon strong abled bodies to
happen by my door in order to assist….yet I digress….

So in a nutshell this is a season of tremendous expectation.

And not in the notion of expectant as in the anticipation of waiting but rather
in a societal demand of what is expected.

There are those who fret how they will afford a gift for those they love.
There are those unable to physically seek out a gift for those they love.
There are those who will be away from those they love.
There are those who are simply alone with no one to love,
as they find this time of year so very difficult.
And there are those who go overboard while there are those who take
the path of Scrooge.

It’s just really gotten to be so much more than it was ever meant to be.
And I wonder when it will all finally explode, taking most of society with it.

So it is good, perhaps even life saving, to be reminded that Christmas
is not what the world keeps telling us it is…

As this world and her culture gods and the gods of commercialism and materialism
call out to us like a haunting and enticing siren…
singing a luring and hypnotic call coming from within a television,
or from the myriad of computer popups, from the endless shiny billboards
bedecking the roadways, to the festive sounds from the radio or the
the endless sea of periodicals and catalogs…
all singing the song of falsehood, greed and emptiness.

The quote from the book Living Among Lions, which I must confess I did just order,
sums all of this up so wonderfully—-Daniel offered us the best example—
“keep your gifts or give them to someone else….”
because Daniel neither needed nor wanted these earthly gifts offered by man.

Simply put, Daniel’s gift was God and God alone.

So as you peruse those catalogs and fight the endless throngs at the mall,
or sit glassy eyed and glazed over while staring at the computer as you endlessly
surf and search for that which is to be deemed special and perfect….
all the while as those credit card totals rise and those debit card totals shrink….
be mindful that nothing bought will ever fill the need of both the heart and soul.

For all things bought will eventually break, be outgrown, fade, get lost, or become
quickly outdated.

For the only true “gift” that really matters to any of us is the priceless
gift of Salvation…
Found in a lonely little corner of the world in a forgotten time and place…

In all of my years of service to my Lord,
I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised.
That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability
to out give God.
Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him,
He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles H. Spurgeon

an earthly perception of hell

“The Christian is not just to rage against the darkness…
we are to proclaim the light”.

David Robertson


(a lone sanderling at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2017)

In the course of the past two days I have read, in two vastly different places, the
notion of what hell actually is as it is perceived by those still earthly
bound mortals…

And as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence…but rather in the intervention
of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the two views has come from a member of the clergy, one being a former Church of England prelate who now hails as a Reformed Anglican Bishop and the other–
an Eastern Orthodox monk who passed away 24 years ago.

Each man relates a similar thought concerning hell…
that being an absence.
As in a permanent and perpetual void.

I can only think, for us humans, to be able to understand this concept of absence
and void is if, and only if, we have experienced the death of a loved one.
For in death there is a separation…an earthly permanent seperation.
As in a state of no more…as in no more—ever….
at least not on this earth.

If we are Believers, then we know that death is not a permanent situation…
perhaps on this earth yes, but in Heaven no.
And if we are not Believers of the Christian faith…
then there is perhaps even a keener awareness of this state of ‘no more.’

And in that state of emptiness, for both the Believing and unbelieving,
there is an almost unconsolable sorrow of loss.
And this utter cutting off and separation, for some, is often more
than can be borne by both soul and flesh.

Both of these clerics express this notion in very different ways.

Bishop Ashenden recently had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina.
He explained that the healing process is most arduous—
He had to lie very still on his right side, at a 45 degree angle for 10 days—
24 hours a day of laying very still in a particular position
with only a 10 minute break here and there to use the bathroom.

The pain, when using the drops which aggravated his wound, was as if someone was
taking a screwdriver and was constantly digging and twisting it in his eye with no
easing off or letting up.

This reminds me of cancer patients and those with severe nerve damage where the
pain is a constant state of the unbearable.

I saw this with my mother when the cancer had spread to her bones and later with my
dad who had developed a severe Kennedy ulcer the last two weeks of his life.
The wound developed a horrible infection and opened all the way to his bone…
The slightest movement for both my parents was excruciating and yes, unbearable.

Bishop Ashenden said that in his pain he got to the point that the pain was such a
constant persistency, that it was to the point that he could not even pray—
his prayer being simply “help me Lord”—the prayer of suffering and agony.

And in that pain there was a consuming sense of isolation—
For that’s how pain is—it is totally consuming to such an extent that there is
no sense of communion with God—rather there is no sense of God…only agony.

Be that a physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain….

And it is often in such moments that many a Believer and even non-believerer
will actually be to the point where they say “to hell with God”
“If He cannot help me, relieve me, then let Him just be damned.”

That is to the lowest we go as humans.
And it is a tragic state.

Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993) offers us a bit different vision
of a mortal’s interpretation of hell.
He shares what he has learned from those monks who have gone before him…
in the way of what is known as a “custom house”

The customs houses about which the Fathers write are symbols of a reality.
The Fathers understand them as follows: after the fall of man,
the soul is nourished by the body, in other words,
it finds refreshment in material pleasures.
After death, however, these bodily passions that used to divert the soul
no longer exist, because the soul has left the body,
and they choke and stifle the soul.
These are the customs houses and eternal torment.
Abba Dorotheos says that eternal torment is for someone to be shut up
for three days in a room without food, sleep or prayer.
Then he can understand what hell is.

Elder Sophrony of Essex. I Know a Man in Christ

Bishop Ashenden admonishes us all that it would behoove us to be of a constant
state of prayer—during those times in life when we are free to offer up our prayers…
be they of worship and praise, adulation and jubilation, thanksgiving and awe,
or simply intercession—
For we must do so with a fervency…because none of us are exempt from pain.

Just as it would behoove us to understand that hell is very real, very lasting
and it is not the sort of place we should want to or settle on going—
For if we find the early glimpse unbearable, what would eternity be….

For during each our lifetimes we will inevitably be faced with this glimpse of hell,
and when we are, we must know that we are ‘shored up’…
that during those times when all we can do is cry out “help, please” that we may rest
in knowing that He has heard us and we are not as we feel, alone and tormented…
For He has already walked our journey long before we were even conceived.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

Nefarious and sinister

“No sign, so far, of anything sinister—but I live in hope.”
Agatha Christie

Firstly, you must remember that I am from the generation that was before this
over-zealous addiction with technology was a thing…
From a time before cell phones, before DVD’s, before standard air conditioning,
before videos before virtual reality….

Television, with only the standard 3 major networks, broadcast in black and white,
was not a 24/7 happening thing.
Who doesn’t remember the good ol buzzing of the test pattern waiting for the time
in which the day was to crank back up?

I was well into my teaching career when schools began introducing computers
to their teachers.
A hulking behemoth of a thing that had no such thing as a connection to a
world wide web or wifi capability…but rather ran a single electronic grade book system….of which was only as good as the teachers trying input the
averages and grades…

So when it came time for our son to actually need his first computer,
in say maybe his 9th or 10th grade year in high school,
he was sold on needing an Apple.

My dad was always the techie guru of the family…
of which probably had something to do with Dad having been an engineer all his life.
For he was always cutting edge with technology.

When I was young we were the first on our street to get a color television,
the first to move from HiFi to stereo and the first to get a cell phone.
Granted it was basically a plug-in phone in a bag that looked more like a
traditional phone stuck in a black pocketbook…
but it was cutting edge none the less.

When he bought mother her first microwave, a giant monstrosity that took up an
entire kitchen counter, he made us all leave the room when it was on lest we be
radiated…yet it was ok to eat the radiated food…hummm.

So when it came time for folks to get home computers, dad was right there
in the mix…and this must have been where our son got his proclivity for
technology.

Of course it was now the 21st century…
Apple had come a long way from the early
days of the Macintosh…
Apple now presented a clean futuristic take on technology.
They were slick and if you were slick, Apple was what the slick were craving.

So naturally our son eventually sold me on needing an Apple as well…
despite my school still using traditional PCs in the classroom.
“Apples are easier to use and they don’t get viruses mother” he would
frustratingly remind me whenever something went awry at school…
“Plus they’re for the more creative” this being a push to his
art teacher mother.

And so it is…
I’ve been through one large Apple desktop and two iMac lap tops…not to mention
and array of iPhones and one iPad…

And then it happened.

There I was last night having to update my adobe acrobat.
My phone happened to be ringing at the same time.

Answering the phone while trying to update…
as in multitasking has always been an area in which I have always excelled…
Yet suddenly something crazy and terribly wrong had come up on my screen as there
was now a voice coming from my computer with some dude talking to me about virus
detection while my computer had downloaded not adobe acrobat but something else
entirely, something called Safe Finder—
with this actually becoming my new home page.
Safe it was not….

WHAT????? I hear a panicked voice wailing,
realizing the voice was mine.

So I quickly hung up the phone and tried doing everything a limited minded
57 year old knows to do.
I cut my computer off and on.

When some semblance of clarity finally returned to my distraught brain,
I tried uninstalling the blasted thing but it wouldn’t uninstall.

Shades of Equifax now ran through my brain as I heard the Discover Card commercial
Russian sales associate “Peggy” mocking me from somewhere deep in Siberia…
I now believed everything I held dear or what was of importance to my existence as
a humanbeing had just been dumped on that nefarious Dark Web.

I actually looked up “what is the dark web”
And just when you thought the internet was not dark enough,
it gets even darker.

The links that came up were frighting at best.
With the lead link claiming to be able to step by step anyone into the dark web
within 15 minutes allowing you to remain anonymous.
I felt as if it was assuring me that it could happily step by step me
smack dab into the middle of Hell all within 15 minutes…
somehow I don’t think one remains anonymous in Hell.

Naturally I didn’t click on any links because I just wanted to see if it was
really real.
And no I do not need to see if Hell is real…
I’ve already figured that one out.

So I now had a sick feeling in my stomach…a kind of scared to death feeling of
instant doom.

I worked my way into reaching Apple in order to make an appointment at one the
Atlanta stores for the following day but discovered there were no appointments
until Saturday at 5:15.
“Are you freaking kidding me?????”
Again the panicked voice, which was mine, was heard wailing.

By now my husband was home.
I rapidly fired off the retelling of my troubles as he was wondering why
supper was only half way cooked.
“Maybe you should just go buy another one?”
“No” I practically snapped, “this one is only two years old and a new one
would cost an arm and a leg.”
All the while images of viruses being sent out to everyone I knew, or worse,
my identity was now multiplying in places like North Korea, Russia, China….
all dark shadows playing out in my now overstimulated imagination.

After supper I called Apple and left my number for a “miracle worker”
to call me back.
An almost immediately my phone rang with said Apple miracle worker.

I explained my tale of woe.
We ‘share screened’…
(which is scary in itself as we where both in my computer at the same time)
while he walked me through the malware issue.
He found the culprit embedded on my hard drive…hidden well deep within
the labyrinth of the the computer.

We got it, got rid of it and added a Malware program to my computer to
detect and deal with any further issues.

So naturally with all this virus verses no virus business…
along with the hackers, identity theft, and the sinister Dark Web plaguing
my life, I got to thinking….

We live in a world of utterly false protection.
If you think otherwise, it won’t be long until this world makes a believer out of
you as well.

We have been lulled into believing that everything from our identity,
to our credit history to our medical records, to our very safety as an American
are all perfectly safe…
Yet with the big credit companies like Equifax recently being attacked…
While millions of medical records were hacked at Anthem in 2015, with even
the Pentagon being hacked, no one should feel safe.

While credit information is easily stollen at gas stations, restaurants and
even while innocently and mindlessly shopping…
with it all being sold to the highest bidder.

Life is no longer simple nor is it safe.

So while we now work diligently to be ever vigilant protecting what is ours
while living in a world of growing cyber darkness…
we must be equally, if not more so, mindful that our very souls are
just as vulnerable as our credit or our medical records or even our identity ….
for there is indeed a darkness that longs for such…

And should you disagree—there are steps available for taking you just as dark as
you dare go…I think they call that hell…..

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent,
who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—
he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the
authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers
has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word
of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you,
O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:9-12

Mind, body and soul

“C. I. Scofield, in his reference Bible, explains that…
the spirit gives God consciousness,
the soul gives the self consciousness,
the body gives the world consciousness.”

Watchman Nee excerpt The Latent Power of the Soul


(the rocky shore of Lake Huron / Mackinac Island, MI / Julie Cook / 2017)

“In the history of man’s creation we read,
‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground’
thus was his body made–
‘and breathed into his nostrils the breath
or spirit ‘of life’:
thus his spirit came from God;
‘and man became a living soul.’

The spirit quickening the body made man a living soul,
a living person with the consciousness of himself.

The soul was the meeting-place, the point of union between body and spirit.

Through the body, man the living soul, stood related to the external world
of sense;
[he] could influence it, or be influenced by it.

Through the spirit he stood related to the spiritual world and the Spirit
of God, when he had his origin;
[therefore he] could be the recipient and the minister of its life and power.

Standing thus midway between two worlds, belonging to both,
the soul had the power of determining itself,
[therefore] choosing or refusing the objects by which it was surrounded,
and to which it stood related.”

Andrew Murray

(brackets are mine)