God’s love

“I have been all things unholy;
if God can work through me, He can work through anyone.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Mother’s roses are blooming / Julie Cook / 2019)

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.
Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could,
feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.
If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment,
‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases.
We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right.
But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go,
His love for us does not.
It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference;
and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins,
at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 132
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

ripening in order to bear fruit

“The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of one poor little person
to save a multitude of others,
redeemed like her at the price of His Blood.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a slight blush begins on the persimmions / Troup, Co Georgia / Julie Cook / 2108)

Therese of Lisieux, known as ‘the Little Flower’, was only 24 years old when she died
from tuberculosis.
Despite her sweet and tender disposition, her Chrisitan spiritual impact was to be
tremendous as she today is known far and wide both inside and out of Catholic circles.
Next to Saint Francis of Assisi, Therese is the second most popular Catholic saint.

Therese lost her mother to what is thought to have been breast cancer when Therese was
only 4 and a half years old.
An older sister stepped into the role of surrogate mother to the young Theresa.

It wasn’t long after that time that Theresa’s two older sisters each left home as they
sought to join the cloistered community of the Carmelite order.

Carmelites are a religious order founded in the 12th century near Mt Carmel,
hence the name.
It is a religious cloistered order known for a contemplative lifestyle—
that being a life of prayer.
Community, service, and prayer are their central focus.

At first, Theresa was devastated as she had first lost her mother and now was
losing her two sisters who had taken her mother’s place in her life and heart.
Theresa was known for being a bright child who excelled in school yet was very
sensitive and was often the victim of vicious bullying.

Soon she developed what doctors labeled as “neurotic attacks”—
uncontrollable tremors, a result
as her body’s way of dealing with frustration.

Her oldest sister would then write letters of encouragement to Theresa speaking to her
of faith, Jesus, and mother Mary.

“Christmas Eve of 1886 was a turning point in the life of Thérèse; she called it
her “complete conversion.”
Years later she stated that on that night she overcame the pressures she had faced since
the death of her mother and said that “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up
in an instant…
On that blessed night … Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me,
saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood”.

(Wikipedia)

And so at the age of 15, Theresa left home to also join the Carmelite order.

She leaned heavily on the writings of two Spanish Carmelite mystics,
St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.

Theresa was fervent in her desire to draw ever closer to God.
“In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish
heroic acts, or great deeds, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God.
She wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love?
Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers
and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the
least actions for love.”

Wikipedia

And so Theresa had learned one of life’s most difficult yet important lessons…
that in order to accomplish big and great things,
these things must be accomplished in small and almost insignificant ways in order to have
the most lasting and powerful effects.

It was this humble yet steadfast approach of hers in developing a deeply intimate
relationship with God, Jesus and even Mary and in turn offering that intimate relationship
to others, that seems to have drawn so many admirers, both Catholic and not,
to this simple young nun.

In her short 24 years, she made such a tremendous impact on those who had known her…
so much so that it was just 28 years following her death that she was declared a Saint
as well as Doctor of the Chruch.

Another small yet giant of a woman, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, would eventually borrow
the name of Theresa, taking it as her own when she professed her own vows as a nun…
that woman was Mother Teresa.

And so it is with our ripening little persimmon which helps to remind us of the wisdom
of the little flower, St. Theresa.
We are all waiting, in some fashion or other, during our own individual time of ripening and
growth—waiting for the right time when we can finally bear the strong and powerful fruits of
a heart rooted in the belief and wisdom of Jesus Christ—

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing
in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:10

the wisdom of Francesco

“Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it
under foot and deny it.
Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it,
for in those days JESUS CHRIST WILL SEND THEM NOT A TRUE PASTOR,
BUT A DESTROYER.”

Saint Francis to his followers upon his deathbed


(art work by Julie Cook / 2011)

I was offered a link yesterday to a rather obscure little book…
Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi
which was published in London in 1882 by R. Washbourne

Long out of print, digital copies are the best way if one actually wants
to read the book.

The book is basically a collection of the writings and words offered by
Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
It is a collection of wisdom that was more or less written and spoken to those of
Francis’ order, the Franciscans, as well as to the sisters of The Poor Clares–
an order of likeminded women founded by Francis’ longtime friend Clare of Assisi.
They were more or less the female version of the Franciscans.

Toward the end of the book, there is a recounting of when Francis was on his deathbed.
Francis had called the Brother Minors
(those men who followed Francis and the Franciscan Order) to his side.

Francis had lived long enough to actually witness the splintering of his
own order as it spiraled out and away from the original intent of which Francis
had envisioned when he founded the order…

And so he spoke to his brothers with a Divine sense of what we today would call
speaking with a spirit of prophecy…
he was foretelling a time of great crisis in the Chruch.

During Francis’ lifetime, the Chruch was the Catholic Chruch,
but today, when I hear the word Chruch, I actually consider that to be the entire
the Chruch of the collective Christian community, the bride of Christ, the universal Chruch.

I also believe Francis’ words transcend that of both space and time as they
speak deeply to us today…

Those who preserve in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth,
will suffer injuries and, persecutions as rebels and schismatics;
for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits,
will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men
from the face of the earth.

But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted,
and will save all who trust in Him.

And in order to be like their Head,[Christ] these, the elect,
will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life;
choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing,
and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.

I’m not looking for trouble, honest…

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world,
the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s
different stresses.
Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.”

St. Boniface


(I wonder if any of these birds know anything about the missing owl decoy’s head? / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve gotten to the age where I really don’t go looking for trouble…rather,
trouble merely seems to come looking for me.

Now that’s not to say that I’d back down or run from trouble…
I’ve learned that it’s often best to simply brace oneself while stepping into the wind…
the wind of trouble that is.
Marching forward and dealing with it head on…that is, when it comes marching my way.

I say all this because I had four things yesterday that I found troubling all within about
the span of a blink of the eye—
I didn’t find them, they found me.

Like I say, I don’t go perusing for these sorts of things and I do my darndest to keep such
off my radar…but…

Usually, every time when I go in to fetch my email, a “news” feed page comes up first…
AT&T’s home page.
It runs a scrolling snippet of the day’s headlines…

Now the idea of what I’ve always thought of as a headline versus what our “society”
now considers a headline, separated and parted ways eons ago.

So before I could even click the ‘take me to my mail page’ icon,
I saw that John Kerry was making fun of President Trump’s girth,
Tom Brady stopped an interview over a reporter’s snide remark regarding his daughter,
that the Grammy’s were a huge “I am woman hear me roar” moment and that—
with that last one actually being a twofer—
it was a night of who’s who in Grammyville loving one another while hating the rest of
everyone else…as the women untied and wanted to bash the heads of those who
countered their endearing and de-masculating moment of unification…

Then in my email, I read that our friend the Wee Flea reviewed a movie that will probably be up
for best picture–a typical movie plot over racism in small town USA, a movie that he actually
hated—and left him sad and hopeless that we as a society have sunk to calling such a film
“entertainment” and actually a bravo moment…

Then before I could run and hide, a movie ad pops up for a totally different movie that I
actually looked into regarding the plot line as it too was claiming to be a best picture.
It’s that movie about the Shape of Water business and having read the storyline–
about a mute woman falling in love and actually having sex on screen with a mutant sea creature,
while they then swim off happily together into the sunset, left me shaking my head…

As in shaking to see if something was lose inside my brain cause I just don’t get any of this.

A, I’ve never heard of either movie until first, I saw the Wee Flea’s post and then secondly
when the pop-up ad for the other movie actually popped up…and I confess,
I fell for its ad and looked further. So they accomplished their desire of fishing for curiosity.
But that was enough because I was resolutely reminded once again as to why I really don’t
ever go to see a movie.

They are either ridiculous, full of hidden agendas, laced with unnecessary awful violence and sex
or just flat out stupid.

Then we have the notion of news…that which makes news news…
and whatever that actually is—and that I don’t care for any of it.

I miss Huntly and Brinkley…I’ve written about them before…and I’m still missing them.

I could care less about award shows such as the Grammy’s, the Oscars, the Tony’s,
the you name its.
Why do I want to see an elitist crowd who is so far out of touch with reality, patting one another
on the back, while they use their public platform to tell the little people why it
is they are so little and why they the elitists, are so indeed so elite…

Sigh…

Today’s quote is by St Boniface—an English Benedictine monk (675-754 AD) who was tasked with
spreading the Gospel into the pagan Germanic tribes while also working to bring reform
to what Christian Churches had previously been established in the land of the barbarian Franks.

Neither task was easy and keeping one’s life was not a guarantee.
As Boniface was eventually massacred as he was preparing to baptize a group of converts.

He was committed to his faith in Jesus Christ.
He knew the significance of leading others to Christ and to sharing the Gospel with those
who had not yet heard or seen or whose hearts had once known but were now hardened.

Boniface bore out the Christian rule: To follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross.
For Boniface, it was not only physical suffering or death, but the painful,
thankless, bewildering task of Church reform.
Missionary glory is often thought of in terms of bringing new persons to Christ.
It seems—but is not—less glorious to heal the household of the faith.

(Franciscan Media)

I imagine that today’s current society is not much different than that of the time of Boniface
in that he was tasked with healing an ailing household of faith during a time of grave
personal peril. The Germanic Chruch, what there was of it, had fallen back into Paganism
along with having fallen into corruption.
Much like the day of St Francis when he was told by Christ on the Cross to “rebuild my house”
And again, not much unlike today.

Seems that not only are Believers meant to share, live and spread the Gospel,
they are also tasked with keeping house…
and when that house falls into ill repair, they are tasked with the repair and
even the rebuilding.

So I actually take heart when I read and see most vividly the wantonness of our day…
everything from the anger, the hatred, the belligerent chatter of the tit for tat and the
global persecution of the faithful…
because from all of this, be it the current “news” feeds or the latest ailments within the Chruch,
all of which is certainly enough to make me feel almost hopeless, and yet I take heart
in the words of St Boniface–
words which resonate with both my heart and soul.

We must not abandon the ship…
but rather we must work diligently to make certain
that we keep her on course…as well as make any needed repairs…

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called,
and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

I can’t see St Franics!!!

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
― Francis of Assisi


(the unruly bushes covering poor St Francis / Julie Cook / 2017)

I am the keeper of the shrubbery.

Add to that, I’m really too old for shrubbery.

Meaning I plant it…I prune it, I sheer it, I chop it…
and somedays, I’d just like to burn it to the ground.
Think 5 acres that need tending to….as I’m knocking on the door of 60.

Usually I do a complete maintenance overhaul of the yard each spring…
But this past spring saw me serving vigil with Dad…
Then following his death it was a matter of sorrow and picking up the pieces.
There wasn’t much energy for bushes.

I’m still picking up the pieces, still dealing with his dealings…and some days,
I just can’t do much but still just be sad…
Throw in losing Aunt Maaaathaa in July and well…the yard…
well it went to the wayside….to the way way way side….
kind of like my get up and go.

Too much sadness has a way of stealing that get up and go.

I usually trim the shrubbery twice a year…first in the spring—
then I like to tidy up things come fall, readying everything for the winter.
Think Martha Stewart sans all the helpers….

In order to put out some fresh pinestraw, the bushes need to be trimmed.
Did I mention those two pesky blown out discs from last year…
well, they’re still blown and they make getting up and going none too easy.

And oh, and did I mention another hurricane is coming?

The fresh pinestraw is to be delivered mid week, the hurricane is coming Sunday and Monday… a two day event of winds and rain, rain and rain…of which the rain
is most needed this time of year.

All of which meant today was the day in which the trimming and cutting
had to get done…
otherwise the bushes would take over the house and no amount of fresh pinestraw
could hide that little fact.

You know it’s bad when St Francis has been consumed by the bushes.

Throw in one electric hedger….

and St Francis is now free…..

Which reminds me, the feast day of St Francis was Wednesday, Oct 4th.

Most folks, those of the faith as well as those not, think kindly of Francis.
He loved the animals don’t you know.
And who doesn’t like someone who loves the animals?

Yet there was much more to Francis than a love of animals.

I’ve written about Francis before.

And since I’m now past exhausted and very sore from my pruning and freeing Francis
from the bushes, I’ll keep this short and sweet….

Francis wasn’t always about loving animals.

No, Francis wasn’t always the peaceful loving monk with the funky haircut
(tonsure) that we know and love today…

Rather Francis was all about loving the world.

He was a spoiled rich kid who loved to party.
He was what we might call a bit of a ’rounder’…
meaning a wild young man given to a wanton life of drinking too much,
chasing women too much and working way too little.

Sounds very familiar…much like a modern day millennial….

Yet Francis found this sort of life of his…lacking.
As in empty.

Despite being very popular, a hearty partier and a well dressed dandy,
Francis felt less than.

There was a heaviness to his being…one he just couldn’t understand.
An emptiness that no amount of parties, or money or friends could fill.

And then God literally called his name….

Isn’t that great…???!!!

That God can see into the wantoness of the worldly something actually redeeming…???!!
Something more than and something He wants!!!

Meaning…there is truly hope for us all!!!

“I have been all things unholy.
If God can work through me,
He can work through anyone.”

Francis of Assisi

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

Isaiah 44:22

A first…or will it be the last?


(the oldest surviving Icon or image of Christ, the Pantocrator / St Catherine’s Monastery, The Sinai Peninsula)

For the first time in 2000 years a Holy Mass for Easter will not have been held in Mosul.

“So what” you shrug…
“Who cares about Mosul?” you ask…
“Isn’t that in Iraq?” you quip…
“Isn’t Iraq Muslim?” you assume…
“Why would there be Easter in a Muslim land?” you espouse…

Well…yes, because for 2000 years there has been a celebration mass for Easter,
as well as Christmas and every other time a mass is to be said,
in what is now considered a Muslim land.

For Christianity has been practiced, as an organized religion, just following the
Resurrection of Christ, in this region of the world for the past 2000 years.

Christianity has been a long protected religious minority under the rulings and regimes
of various sultans, and in more recent times, dictators such as
the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

But how can that ever be…as we are left alarmed asking ourselves.

Because various Muslim leaders throughout the ages have in fact protected the
Christian Church within this Muslim land.

Not all of them mind you, but many have….as they have been tolerant.

In 1219, during the 5th Crusade, St Francis traveled from Italy to Egypt
as a Christian ambassador of sorts.
This was a time in which the Holy Roman Empire was fighting Muslims, Jews and heretics
in order to keep Jerusalem free and open to traveling pilgrims wishing
to visit the Holy Land.

But control of the region became a long, deadly and bloody conflict.

There was much stubbornness on both sides as each faction refused to budge in their
dominance of the region.
Countless lives were being lost and this grieved the heart of Francis.

Francis wished to share his faith with these unbelievers and if need be, he was willing
to die a martyr while proclaiming the Gospel to the unsaved.

Francis was opposed to the killings and bloodshed on both sides and had sought the
current pope, Pope Innocent III’s permission to travel to Egypt to meet with then Sultan,
Malik-al-Kamil,
nephew to the Great Kurd leader, Saladin.

Unarmed, history tell us that, Francis was arrested and beaten by the Sultan’s army.
He was eventually taken to the Sultan,
who was intrigued by this man who came wearing a tattered tunic
while carrying no weapons nor a quest for battle, but rather a love and desire
to share the word of God….
that being that Christ died to save sinners and his teaching was that the first shall be last,
the last shall be first and we are to love our enemies.

Francis won over the Sultan’s respect and favor….
And eventually following Francis’s safe return to Italy,
a peace was brokered between the Sultan’s armies and the European forces.
With Jerusalem once again being open to Christian pilgrims with a promise of
safe passage by the Sultan.

Sadly however…history reminds us that peace is a tenuous affair
wherever man is involved…

We know that there were a total of 9 crusades with the final fall of the final Christian
stronghold in Syria in 1291.
The land has been in Muslim control ever since.
And throughout the centuries that control has been both with and without toleration
for the minority people and faiths of Christianity, Judaism
and other minority sects..

But with the recent toppling of dictators such as Hussein and Gaddafi,
the vaccum which was created with their oustings has been filled by something
much more sinister and vile.

ISIS
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS is not tolerant.
Not tolerant of even varying sects of Muslims who do not adhere to the Sunni ISIS strict
following of Shia laws.

ISIS is not a single man who one may perhaps find reason with or
in turn topple and remove.
Rather ISIS is a fanatical organization which will not rest until “the infidel” is vanquished.
And they do not care who or what stands in their way…nor how their ends are met.
No one is exempt from their terror..not children, women, the old or in firmed.
They give new meaning to the words barbarism and sadism.

Eliza Griswold, a journalist who recently returned from an extensive study of the region
and of this anomaly of the systematic eradication of Christians and others sects in places
such as Iraq and Syria, was interviewed by FOX News.

Mrs Griswold offers a very sobering account of what she sees as the death throws of the
Christian faith in a part of the world in which Christianity has
existed since its very inception.

She lays out the argument for the need to eliminate ISIS and its spawned fanatical groups
or either humankind will have to live with the stalk reality that entire ethnic groups,
such as the Yazidis, and certain religious peoples and their existence will be gone forever
from a land which is as old as time itself. And not only gone from a region of this planet,
but gone from earthly existence.

And so my question to all of us…
will the knowledge of this eradication be something we can live with…
down in the depths of our human knowledge and understanding…
and within the soul of our consciousness.
Or…
will we allow ISIS and all of its tentacles to spread as far as they wish,
eliminating huge swarths of humankind…
that is until we see them on our very doorsteps?

Please read the article, but more importantly watch the 5 minute video clip of the
Griswold interview.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

Pax et Bonum

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end.
Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature.
What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more.
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…
but only what you have given;
a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Francis of Assisi

dscn4648
(Florentine bookmarks / Julie Cook )

Pax et Bonum

Latin for…
Peace and Good
or
Peace and Goodwill
or
Peace and Salvation

depends a bit on translation…
However it was the motto of St Francis…

And with all the vitriol rhetoric streaming constantly into our ears,
seeping deep into the psyche of our hearts…

With malcontents running rampant through the avenues of our lives,
casting the seeds of bitterness and hate…

With division drawing an ever widening perimeter,
separating those who once were oh so close…

How great would it be,
could it be,
if we all had such a motto….

Be very careful, then, how you live—
not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil

Ephesians 5:15-16