understanding

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury


(Galileo surveys the night sky of Florence / Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“So when we pray, we must stand in His presence, on His level.
We must see His suffering in the same way that we see His greatness,
and as we picture His compassion.
But we must also remember that that suffering,
that greatness and that compassion will one day judge us.
We shall be weighed in the balance by them; and if we are found wanting in any way,
we shall hear the words:
‘Depart from me…’
‘Go elsewhere; go to those who refused to be my friends.'”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 53
An Excerpt From
The Prayer of the Presence of God

There is never coincidence, not even in the dark of night

“And I saw that truly nothing happens by accident or luck,
but everything by God’s wise providence …
for matters that have been in God’s foreseeing wisdom,
since before time began, befall us suddenly,
all unawares; and so in our blindness and ignorance we say that this is accident or luck,
but to our Lord God it is not so.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(Pieta in The Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France /Julie Cook / 20118)

“Many of the saints tell us that these times of God-ordained ‘desolation’ or dryness
are very important times of growth if we persevere through them by exercising a deeper
faith, hope, and love.
It is particularly important, they tell us,
not to give up our spiritual practices but to remain faithful.
God in His wisdom knows how long and how deeply we must be tried in order to come closer to Him,
and we should patiently trust Him during the trial while persevering in our practices.”

Ralph Martin, p.174
An Except From
Fulfillment of all Desire

With God, there are no accidents.
Never.

Even when, in our thinking, a near-irreparable tragedy, of which is a true accident and is
nonetheless horrific and simply unbearable…leaves both our lives and bodies shattered…

We are reminded that God is still very much present.

Yet such a reminder, to those who are living in and with the aftermath,
rings often empty and even bitterly insulting.

Our pain and our anger are both agonizingly palpable.

Yet such moments, more often than not, send even the most staunch religious
and spiritual among us into the depths of deep darkness.
A wasteland of sorrow, loneliness, bitterness and yes, a gnawing and seething anger…

The wasteland can last, for what can seem, an eternity.

Or…on the other hand…perhaps there was no accident…no tragedy…

There was no particular impetus for a sudden wandering into the wasteland of an empty soul…

We simply find ourselves, our souls, suddenly and oddly empty and cold.

At best, our faith remains shallow…
At worst, our faith seems lost forever…

However, we are reminded to hold fast.

To hold on.

Words, which to the hurting, the lost, the lonely, more often than not,
echo of emptiness and even the trite.

It will take a conscious act of totally emptying oneself to all that is.
It will take a complete letting go of all that we know and hold dear.
It will take a blind leap of faith.
It will take a willingness to trust in that which we cannot see while we cling to
a promise given to each of us long ago.

We have a choice…
we can choose to remain lost, bitter or angry.
Or we can cling to the one promise we have…

Be not afraid…

The tragedy, the accident, the sorrow which could not, cannot be prevented…
nor that of the painful results, while one seems to remain caught in the vicious cycle
of pain both physical and spiritual, that results from such situations…
is ours to either keep and hold on to or to let go of while we figure out how to find our way back…home

That is our choice, our conscious decision.

There are no accidents with God, no coincidence.
And when in the desert, He remains steadfast despite a perceived silence.

I say all of this as I am in the midst of reading a book that is a tale
of the horrific, the unthinkable, the unimaginable and yet a tale
of the hope, the healing, and the Saving Grace…
of which far outweighs that of the Evil.

More on this story as time allows.

It does indeed seem empty to say to those who suffer the unimaginable that they must simply
hold on and hold tight…
but that is exactly what we all must be willing to do…
and to “will” ourselves takes a conscious act…

Something Beautiful Happened
A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil
by Yvette Manessis Corporon

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.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:10-13

Does God know…

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys,
foreseeing the coming sorrows,
Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows,
tasting the coming joy.”

Tim Keller


(deep in the woods, a single leaf falls / Julie Cook / 2018)

Does God know anything about pain?
Does God know what I suffer?
Did God ever have a migraine headache, as if his head was crowned with thorns?
Does God know anything about the wounded hands and feet that are brought into the
accident wards of hospitals?
Does God know anything about the starvation in India and Africa?
Did he ever go without food for two days?
Or three? Or five?
Does God know anything about homelessness?
Was he ever without a home? Does he know what it is to be a refugee?
To flee from one country to another?
Does he know what it is to be in jail?
To be the victim of scourging? Does God know any of these things? Yes.
God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

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

ailing?

“Sin separates us from the presence of God”
David Fiorazo, The Cost of Our Silence


(image of a WWII medic’s bag found on pintrest)

Slowly picking my way through David Fiorazo’s book The Cost of Our Silence,
picking as if I was walking ever so slowly and ever so carefully through a thicket of
freshly ripening blackberries…
eyeing the bushes just so as I closely look for the riper and juiciest berries…
so goes my reading.

And whereas time is also a contributing factor to my lack of speed, I seem able only to
take in a page here and a page there…

I’m jumping around a bit as yesterday I offered a look back to our nation’s backstory
as we took a peek back in time to examine the ideals that the pilgrims had brought with them
as they left family, friends, and home an entire ocean behind…
risking everything, including their lives, in search of a place where free worship of
the Creator would be paramount.

Today I’m going to skip ahead in our story, just a tad before I backup again another day
as there is still much that needs to be shared historically as to why we are the nation we are…
or perhaps that is,,, the nation we were…

However, today, as I was taking in a page here and there…
the following quote really jumped out at me…

“We can (and should) talk much about the love of God,
but we are doing the gospel and those who hear us a disservice if we do not also talk
about sin and the wrath of God.”

For you see this is a bit of a recurring theme of mine…
the theme that there is both sin and wrath…
God’s wrath to be precise.

But no one wants to hear about sin, sinful nature, repercussions, a wrathful God, consequences,
etc…
Because instead, we’ve turned all of that into political correctness and tolerance.

David goes on…
“There are many symptoms of the disease (sin), but God has provided a cure (Jesus Christ)
for the cause and has given us a written prescription (the Bible) to follow.
The Great Physician is always on call, so let us speak about the only remedy and
keep referring people to Him!”

Our culture has no idea that it is ailing…no idea that it is truly sick.
It ignores the symptoms, denies the disease, and discredits the Physician
more and more each day.

Any psychologist will tell you that it is human nature to run through some very basic
emotions when confronted with something really bad and or tragic…
with denial being right up there in the earliest stages.

Churchs today are so desperately wanting to cling to dwindling congregations or to a
youthful generation that is heeding the call of the world, so much so that the Churchs are
compromising the entire concept of sin and God’s wrath. Going so far as to offering a
desperately needy and thirsty people a watered down Gospel narrative…having turned it
into a feel good placebo.

No one ever really wants to hear that they are living wrong, immoral, sinful lives…
they’d rather be patted on the head, handed a sucker and told to go scoot off
and keep playing.

But that is not the reality of our world.
It is not the reality of the Chrisitan faith.

If we do not accept sin for what it is…
If we do not admit that we are in need of healing and saving…
then we will incur wrath…

So rather than deal with such, myriads of folks have opted to simply deny any such thing.
No God equals no sin, equals no illness, equals no need, equals blisful ignorance.

And so we, those remnants of the faithful, who understand that sin is sin, death is death,
Satan is real and that healing and saving are paramount… must speak.

We must speak up, out and loud.

David reminds us that opposition to such talk will be a given.
There will be pushback.
There will be ridicule.

But we must remember from whence comes that pushback and ridicule and to where it is actually
directed.

“Most of us understand in today’s culture that living our faith in public will attract
resistance, ridicule, and even hatred.
If we remember our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12),
we will not take it personally when people come against us.
Their problem is with Jesus Christ, not us.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces
of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12)

the bitter

“I came to the conclusion that I had to love her enough to let her hate me.”
Carol Burnett’s reflection over having to put her daughter in rehab
for a third time)


(blooming spring /Julie Cook / 2018)

I recently caught a snippet of a transcript based on an interview with Carol Burnett—
an interview she had given regarding her life and relationship with her late daughter.

Carol Burnett, now age 85, was always known for her hilarious comedic performances and
her signature pulling of her ear at the end of each performance.
She lived, however, away from the laughter and the hijinks, a tenuous and even painful life
as a mother.

Her daughter Carrie died from cancer in 2002.
She was only 38 years old.

But before the cancer, before there was a reconciliation between mother and daughter,
as a teen, Carrie suffered from a variety of addictions.

Carol paid for rehab after rehab yet it was the third time Carrie was sent to rehab that
Carol came to the hardest realization for any parent…
“I put her in a third rehab place, and oh my God, she hated me.
I came to the conclusion that I had to love her enough to let her hate me.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a20135840/carol-burnett-daughter-death/

That one sentence speaks volumes.

To love enough, to be hated.

Loving someone enough only to realize that that love will not be met immediately in like kind—
but rather offering an open and abiding love which is to be met with vehemence,
resentment and even hate…
a love that is the epitome of the bitter reality of unconditional love…
is the most wrenching pain, for any parent, grandparent or guardian imaginable.

Painful and heartbreaking love offered freely, yet scornfully rejected.

We, as parents and grandparents, and even guardians, learn early on that we often have to love
our children and our grandchildren enough to watch them leave us for whatever reason…
be it simply due to moving away, growing up and away, illness or to the tough love as
they must be sent away to seek healing and help…

Watching them go, for whatever reason, knowing the pain and sorrow it wrecks upon our
own hearts, yet knowing that the going is the best solution or need for them is one of
the hardest acts a parent/grandparent must ever experience.

Imagine…a loving Father surrendering His only son to a known negative fate.

If you knew the outcome would be horrific, could you do it?

If you knew he would be hated, hounded, rejected, tortured and eventually murdered—
all for the sake of “other children” who had long severed all ties with
this loving Father….could you do it?

A consciously painful action that is truly quite unimaginable to grasp…

I know that my own heart has hurt.
Deeply and devastatingly so.
And so if my heart has nearly been broken, what of God’s…
What of God’s breaking heart?

What of Mary who knew that same pain of loving yet having to let go unto a fate
much greater than most could ever imagine or conceive?

And yet we will always choose love…
Love that is not met in like kind.

Because it is what love does.

Love, as the bitter taste of saline silently rolls down
our cheeks.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that
is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

what matters most…

“In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal,
hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.”

St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

“Listen with the ear of your heart.”
– St. Benedict of Nursia


(the Gulf of Mexico as seen from Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s so much we could be chatting about.
So much to be talking about…
So much I’ve been thinking about.
Because if we just check in on the world, just the mere checking in swings wide the doors
of conversation both vast and far…

Yet today that all seems to be of little consequence.

However we do continue to get caught up in all of that, don’t we?

The ‘he said, she said’ of all things political, entertainment or merely worldly.
As we allow it to fuel our wrath, our angst, our sick perversions as we jump
on the neighboring soap boxes of others, prepared to pick up a sword and duel it out.

Such duels are done publically each and every day on the news just as duels are
done here in the blogosphere.
We trade jabs back and forth, parlaying a thrust here and an attack there to those we perceive
to be our enemies…

I’ve not watched much news this week–it’s been kind of nice missing out…
Yet I did catch a snippet of the breaking news out of Kentucky and of the high school shooting
which took place this past week—
a shooting that took the lives of two teenagers—while 12 others, I think, are now
suffering from their wounds…
All the while, a teenage gunman has been taken into custody—
As no motive has yet been shared.

I taught high school for over half my adult life…
After Columbine, I knew what it was like to always hold in the back of my mind the notion
that one day ‘one of ours’ could go off the deep end, or worse, someone from outside could go off
the deep end, coming inside to our world with that empty lostness,
that personification of evil, bringing that unseemingly senseless havoc into our world.

There is an utter helplessness when such happens.
Life stands still for the never-ending seconds while lives change forever.

And now that those seconds of change have passed, as lives are once again lost and changed,
the rest of us prepare to jump up on those boxes of ours with swords held high,
as we once again prepare to go to battle over mental health, gun control, safety,
security… on and on goes the list of ills…

But the bottom line is that lives are gone and lives are changed and people are hurting.

That’s the bottom line.

I was moved reading the tale today of the dad whose son was one of the two victims who lost
their young lives in that high school in Kentucky…

That dad raced to the high school and knew that the body on the stretcher being rushed from
the building was that of his son’s because he recognized the socks on the feet of the body
on the stretcher—because they were the socks he’d laid out the night before for his son
to put on the following morning.

I always made certain my son had his clothes laid out too—all through high school,
as I’d remind him, as he’d found himself too old for me to continue laying them out for him,
all so he wouldn’t have to rush around figuring out what to wear the next morning.

I wept for this father who was miraculously given the time to tell his dying son how much
he loved him.

I wept for the first responder mom who made her way to the school only to discover that her’s
was the son who was the shooter.

I wept for the family of the young lady also killed, just as I weep for the other victims in the
various hospitals.

I weep for all those who no longer have a sense of innocence or a sense of safety
or a sense of faith–as those things become victims as well.

I weep for all of us, for humankind, as we forget and are jolted back to reality as we
grapple with the understanding that we live in a broken and fallen world.

I weep because we have become so jaded by such stories that we can no longer weep but prefer rather
to immediately jump on the soapbox of battle.

Never mind the necessary mourning.
Never mind our pain, our sorrow, our brokenness…
For we have long decided that to deal with our mourning is to ignore our pain,
to ignore the hurt…

And maybe it will just go away.

There will be those rallying cries from those soapboxes,
that is if they haven’t already started crying—
that if we could just gather up every gun, identify every person before they are pushed one
step too far, if we could just do this or just do that…

But what we fail to grasp, is that life will always remain precarious.
Trgeday and Death will never leave us alone.
And none of us are exempt from the tears of sorrow…

I can only hope that in all of the sorrow, in all of the tragedies,
in all of the loss, be it public or private, that we will remember to find our compassion
at such times and not our hate.
That we can find our prayers and not our accusations and that we can remember to be the
the tangible and physical embodiment of God’s love offered freely to those who now hurt…

Since all our love for God is ultimately a response to His love for us, we can never love Him,
in the same way, He loves us, namely, gratuitously.
Since we are fundamentally dependent on God and in His debt for our creation and redemption,
our love is always owed to Him, a duty,
a response to His love. But we can love our neighbor in the same way that He loves us,
gratuitously—not because of anything the neighbor has done for us or because of anything
that we owe him, but simply because love has been freely given to us.
We thereby greatly please the Father.
God the Father tells Catherine [of Siena]: This is why I have put you among your neighbors:
so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me—that is,
love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself.
And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.”

– Ralph Martin, p. 261
An Excerpt From
Fulfillment of all Desire

“Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God.
A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so.
As soon as it turns away, it stops praying.
The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all
that is not God.
That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement.
Prayer is essentially a ‘raising up’, an elevation.
We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise
ourselves up to the Creator.”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 91
An Excerpt From
The Prayer of the Presence of God

“We find rest in those we love,
and we provide a resting place for those who love us.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Silence, authentic and evil

“The Islamic State’s genocide of Christians in the Middle East is well
documented. Yet this modern atrocity is often judged less newsworthy than the
jihadists’ destruction of the region’s cultural heritage. What are the roots
and human realities of this unfolding tragedy in the birthplace of three
great religions?”

back cover offering of the book The Last Christians by Fr Andreas Knapp


(one of our trees in last week’s snow / Julie Cook / 2017)

Speaking of books arriving via the post….
another bookmailer showed up in my mailbox yesterday…

Dare I say that this most recent book will take us in a vastly different
direction than the children’s book seen in yesterday’s post
If My Moon Was Your Sun by Andreas Steinhofel….
Not to say that there won’t be both poignancy, sorrow and loss…
but such will be on a scale that will touch all of us rather than some of us….

This recent book does not look to be an easy read.
Not that there should be great burdensome amount of academic depth but rather simply
the hard tale of human loss and suffering on an epic and historic proportion….
and yet mostly on an overlooked and even ignored level.

Of which is actually most perplexing given the significance of the situation.

The book is entitled The Last Christians by Andreas Knapp

“For a long time Christians in the Middle East have been condemned to silence.
For centuries they have been discriminated against by a predominantly Muslim
society and, as a minority, they have been forced to quietly accept
injustice and lead an inconspicuous life in the shadows.
Even I, a preist and theologian, was for a long time unaware of the moving story
of Christians in Syria and Iraq.

Two years ago, I met some Christians from the Middle East who now live in my
neighborhood of Grunau, in Leipzig, Germany. Having listened to their stories,
I was so moved I had to write them down.
They may not be entirely politically correct, but they are correct in
the sense that they are authentic.”

Fr Andrea Knapp

It is noted from the publisher that “remarkably, though these last Christians hold
no hope of ever returning to their homes, they also harbor no thirst for revenge.
Could it be that they–along with the Christians of the West, whose interest will
determine their fate–hold the key to breaking the cycle of violence in the region?

Their’s is a story that I have actually written about before…
around the same time Fr Knapp, the German priest,
came to see with his own eyes, then came to write down his interactions
and observations…
but yet this is a story that is still exceedingly timely and necessary to hear.

My origianal post is from March of 2015 and is more informative
than what is offered here today…as it includes a 60 Minutes segment in which
Lara Logan had also gone to visit the region in order to see and hear
first hand the plight of this particular group of ancient Christians.

The post offers images and insight into the barbarism used by ISIS to systematically annihilate this last vestige of the original Christians who have existed in this
region since both the death and resurrection of Christ.

Regarding the book…I have not yet had a chance to delve into it…
but from what I have gleaned from the tantalizing tidbits…
this will be not only a very important tale to Christians but also a hugely important
story for historians, Jews as well as Muslims…as it actually determines the course
of humanity.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And perhaps ironically today, as I was thinking about these first Christians who are
lined up to be the last of their kind, I caught a very brief, like all of 2 minute,
video clip of an interview of sorts given by the Reformed Presbyterian Minister David Robertson—
a clip where he is responding to the question of
‘How does the existence of Evil undermine the atheistic worldview?

Pastor Robertson notes that in the mind of an atheist, the existence of Evil
is a clear sign that there is no God.
As they will rationalize that if there was a God,
He would in turn be all powerful and therefore He could and would prevent all Evil….
So since there is Evil, there is obviously no God.

Yet on the flip side of all of that is how then does the atheist define Evil
with no moral absolutes?
If there are no rules, no judgements, no afterlife, no God, no way of resolving
or dealing with Evil, how does the atheist actually deal with the concept of
evil in any sort of defining way.
The answer… He cannot.

So the non believer has a conundrum…with the mindset of ‘well, since there is no
God and Evil isn’t Evil, we might as well just live it up….

This as humankind wrestles with what to do about the historic and epic genocides…atrocities which have taken place throughout all of time.

And so you are now asking as to why I would write about such during this time of
Advent—a time of all things full of Expectancy, Anticipation and Christmas…
a time that is to be of softness, love and dare we say, hope…
Why should we worry ourselves over the ugliness of reality as those are problems
not on our particular or given radar—things that are happening over there some
place and out of sight.

Why write about the annihilation of Aramaic Christians, atheists and their fight for disbelief and the very concept of Evil….

‘Please not here, not now, not at Christmas…’ we are each heard to lament.

Well it actually is because it is Advent and the Christmas season that we should be
and need to be most mindful of such….

As those of us who confess to be Believers must not find ourselves falling
into the hole of secularism and the Societal notion of Christmas…
of which we have done.

This secular celebration of all things Christmas that is currently in all
its full glory and regalia is lulling us into a time of contented ignorant bliss.

And just as I reminded us in Tuesday’s Meat and Potatoes post….
this time of year is particularly very loud and very noisy…for a reason…

Do you not think that there is one who delights in the pure distraction
from what is to be our Truth?

Advent….
yes…
be ready,
be watching,
be waiting…
for there are epic things taking place all the while as we busy ourself with
the minutia of the moment while missing the importance of the day…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15