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

coincidence or Spirit…

“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self.
It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome,
we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit,
that it is God, the indivisible.
And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world,
yet undisturbed by its multiplicity,
for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”

Hermann Hesse

One year ago yesterday on March 19th, my dad lost his battle with cancer.
At the time, the last thing I was thinking about was what all was going on around me
let alone the significance of dates on a calendar.
I was just doing good by planning a funeral and dealing with the remnants of a lost life…

I was simply oblivious to everything else.

Moments of such loss tend to do that to us…

We freeze as if caught in a glitch of both space and time…
we’re standing still but the world, and everything else around us is still
spinning and moving.

This year as March 19th arrived on the calendar, with me marking both it’s coming and going
with a bit of inward melancholy, I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the entire day
I had been subtly reminded that March 19th was not just a day marking a sad milestone in my
small corner of the world, it also just so happened to be the day that the Church remembers
St Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.
As in the feast day of St. Joseph

As in a ‘dad’ sort of day.

And like I’ve said before, I’m not one for the notion of coincidence as I am more about the moving
of the Spirit. Because with God, there is no such thing as coincidence…
just the guidance offered by the third member of the Trinity.

And so as I found myself fondly remembering my own dad, the man who adopted me when I was but
a few months old, for both good and bad, who stood watch over me most of my life while that role
was reversed during the last 5 years of his life…
I now recall the one who stood watch over a growing God made man-child …
a boy who needed the perfect earthly father to guide him as He prepared to lead us all
to our own Salvation…

So whereas I was feeling glum as I moved throughout my day, I found my thoughts being gently
teased outward as I have been reminded that God is always greater, ever mindful and deeply full
of thought for each and every one of us in our ups as well as downs…
no detail is too small, no event too insignificant that He is not everpresent.

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

the mystery of Spirit

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

“The indwelling Spirit shall teach him what is of God and what is not.
This is why sometimes we can conjure up no logical reason for opposing
a certain teaching, yet in the very depth of our being arises a resistance.”

Watchman Nee


(the “beaver” moon in the wee hours of a foggy dawn sky / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.”

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

prophetic spirit….

“I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me”
Jeremiah 33:8

09_1pr6a
(image of the prophet Jeremiah by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel)

Despite the distress of our time, we have lost touch with this prophetic spirit.
In fact, the inmost nature of prophecy has become an enigma to us.
We no longer grasp its primary source anymore.

Eberhard Arnold

Where are the voices…
those strong, confident and defiant voices that portend the fate of man?
Those ancient distant voices which proclaimed, declared, lamented, warned and foretold…
Those quixotic ones, from the days of old, whose words spoke of both power and truth …

In this oh so modernly smug time of man, believers are left to silently wonder,
as the non believer ridicules and scoffs.
Taunting the faithful while arrogantly puffing their chests.
For modern man has declared himself his own deity and god.

As Eberhard Arnold pragamatically observes, we have lost touch with that part
within ourselves which allowed us to hear those prophetic voices.
We have grown cold to our spiritual nature…
As we have distanced ourselves to the point of total disregard,
For that innate piece of the Divine that was once very attuned…
Allowing rather the void to be filled by our haughty sense of self.

Those voices however have never been silenced…
Never stopped or cut short over the windswept history of time…
they have not grown cold as the hard stones of earth…
but rather it is man who has grown cold, having lost his ability to hear them.
For man has turned a deaf ear to the apocalyptical.

Yet it is in that same breath of disheartened resignation that
Arnold offers us a bit of hope…

“The attitude is [still] possible only when a different heart beats within us,
different from that which has been in us so far, and when God’s spirit dwells in us,
as Ezekiel promises for these last days (Ezek.11:19).

If the earth is to be filled with the glory of God,
then the triune Spirit must fill and pervade the people who dwell on it.
Only when the Spirit gains influence over us, a sovereignty thus
far completely unknown,
can we expect the social and moral transformation that Mary sings about…”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55

“Maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always”
Hosea 12:6

friends and mates

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”

―Jane Austen

DSCN4298
(the latest friend in the dammit family / Julie Cook / 2016)

Over the course of the past weekend, my son and his wife moved into their new apartment.
They did so with the help of group of friends.
Going from a house in the suburbs to a smaller apartment in the city will naturally take some adjusting,
however I think their level of excitement is far exceeding any need for adjustment.

I mention that they had a group of friends helping because that got me thinking.
Whereas my dear friends, or better yet mates, in the UK would naturally say
that it was my son’s mates who helped him out…
with mates referring to his friends,
I simply use the word friends…

All variances of semantics I suppose.

Yet when hearing the word friends referred to as mates,
I find that I actually prefer using the word mates as opposed to friends.

Friends come in all sorts of varying degrees of difference.
Close friends,
dear friends,
intimate friends,
partner,
buddy,
pal,
associates,
acquaintances,
roommates,
co-workers,
colleagues…
all of which constitute falling under the one umbrella of the collective word friends.
Some close, some really close, some not so close…

In my opinion however, the word mate, or the plural form mates, seems to refer to a tighter knit connection.
A closer level of familiarity and knowledge.

And when it comes to moving house—
especially with moving from a larger house to a smaller apartment almost 70 miles away,
it takes a really tight knit group of “friends,” hence mates,
volunteering their precious weekend time to drive back and forth,
hauling, lifting, toting, dissembling, reassembling the possessions of another….

As perhaps one’s mates come with a certain level of deeper commitment,
whereas ones friends fluctuate.

And of course in this country we refer to a spouse as a mate.
As in a pair.
As in a help mate.
As in soul mate.
As in a union of two becoming one.

So once again, mate having a tighter connection than just that of friend.

And as we so often refer to our Savior as our friend…
having the relationship with Jesus, as Lord and Savior is anything but that of a friend…
Despite hymns singing to the contrary and many who reference Him as their best friend…
there is difference between friend and God….

For the Xristósis, the Christos, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ…
is far greater than that of friend.
He and His relationship with us, those who claim Him as God,
exceeds the confine of friendship..

Being both God and Spirit, as He is of the Triune Godhead,
He commands so much more than our mere friendship…

Rather He commands our awe and wonderment…
And our reverence and our homage.

For He is not a mere friend,
not even a mate…
but rather a Sovereign God…

A God who cares about both our physical and emotional wants and needs,
yet deserves our reverence, our wonderment, our praise, our worship…

It is good to have friends, even better to have great mates…
but most importantly it behooves us to have a Savior, who gave His very life
for each and every last one of us…..

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

revolving

The force that keeps the planets revolving around the sun would
be glad to handle the circumstances of your life,
if only you would ask Him to.

Marianne Williamson

Hintergr_solo_122x80
(image courtesy GU door products and technology)

As a kid I was always mesmerized, as well as terrified, of revolving doors.
Upon visiting any sort of office, hotel or building, that had a revolving door as an entrance,
I would hurry scurry to enter my own little “chamber” or section.
Never wanting to hop in with a stranger and always afraid
I’d push too fast for the others entering and exiting…
All the while I prayed I could keep up without getting my foot stuck or
simply missing the cue for exiting…
otherwise hopelessly getting caught in a quick spin cycle.

All the rather paranoid and silly thoughts of a child.

However…
I still don’t particularly care for revolving doors.

Do I hop in with my companion?
Do I wait to hop into my own little section?
Do I walk and push quickly…or leisurely taking my time, leaving the pushing to another?
Is there revolving door etiquette?
Or worse, I am left to wonder if it’s an automatic door that swings at a set speed…
will I have to quickly or slowly keep up?

What’s wrong with simply pulling or pushing on a single door in or out?

Yet it is to the revolving door that my life is now set.

Spinning round and round with the busyness of comings and goings…

It’s like riding a merry go round—spinning and spinning, round and round in circles without
really going anywhere…
yet truly not being able to get off…
Certainly not in time enough to stop this current madness…

There’s now dad and this cancer business…
As if age, dementia and frailty just wasn’t enough…

There is now the constant driving from my small town into the big city, and back again…
over and over and over….
Constantly wondering how long I’ll get stuck in traffic…
while praying I’m not flattened by some crazy tractor trailer truck.

Then there’s my son taking a job in that same big city…
(which as far as dad is concerned, is actually a hidden blessing)
Of which means a quick hurry up and move situation for him….
while his wife, who teaches here, will be in a bit of limbo
….gravitating between their house, the new apartment and time with us…
It will be a year of transition for them with my husband and I right in the thick of it…

How many times have we moved him in a 10 year span?
Add now a wife and a dog and we just keep multiplying boxes and trips….
And once again, our small family will be separated…
and I will certainly be sad…

It can all be all so very overwhelming…
It is so very overwhelming…

But…

such is life….
such is my life…

A constant revolving, devolving and evolving…
spinning out of control…

It can get to be too much
too tiring…
too demanding…
too exhausting…

Which is just about where I am right about now.
Exhausted.

That’s when I know I need to stop…
taking a very long deep breath.

Breathing out and letting go…
Breathing in a healing…
…Spirit

The rhythmic breathing of…prayer…

Breathing in the Spirit of God…
Exhaling the burdens I can no longer bare…
alone…

Because I am not alone…
I, me, you, we, us…
were all given a promise…

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

And so we, me, you, us…must claim that promise…

And I am claiming that promise just as fast as I can…

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:1-3