What do you see?

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

C. S. Lewis

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(a camouflaged praying mantis on the rubber plant / Julie Cook / 2015)

Marginalized,
lambasted,
ridiculed,
disrespected,
and ignored.

Considered. . .
foolish,
out of touch,
ignorant,
and old fashioned.

Silenced and hushed.
Mocked and scorned.
Altered and changed.
Disproven. . .or so they say. . .

I am supposedly alone in my thinking,
cast aside as one who is mad for believing.
I am told that I cannot believe nor proclaim.
There is no room for such nonsense in our culture.
It has now been cut from every corner of what ever was.
Never mind that our laws and our very government is rooted in Its Word.
The spoken Word of Law and Order
Of right and wrong. . .
Of consequence and cost. . .

It has been stricken from walls and books,
from playing fields, events and meetings.
It has been ripped from ceremonies and pledges.
Mere mention brings an assault of legalism, reprimand and anger. . .

You are correct, I have never seen nor heard nor touched. . .

And yet I continue to believe. . .

Despite your objections to the contrary,
or your attempts to call my hand. . .
or your incessant pursuits to silence my thoughts.

I believe because I have seen It all too clearly. . .

In the stars and in the moon. . .

I have heard it in the coyote’s cry and in the whippoorwill’s sad song.

I have found It in the sun that has warmed my face–
As I have found It in the mighty winds and tumultuous seas of any given storm. . .

And I have found It in the silence of loneliness and despair. . .

It is found in the face of every new born child
And It is in the bird which takes flight on the winds.
It rests in the gentle touch of the elderly.
And it sits upon the shoulders of the innocent. . .

So despite your objections and your vehement desire to erase It from my life,
as well as every other’s life. . .
I will continue to believe,
to proclaim,
to worship,
to pray,
to observe,
and to witness

You may think you can make It all go away by simply taking it all away and
pretending It just isn’t there. . .

yet His Wonders never cease. . .

May your wonders never cease
may your spirit never leave
may we ever long to see your face
and when we turn from you again
oh how quickly we forget
may we be reminded of your grace
May Your Wonders Never Cease

Lyrics by Third Day
May Your Wonders Never Cease

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Show me your Glory

“I caught a glimpse of Your splendor
In the corner of my eye
The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen
And it was like a flash of lightning
Reflected off the sky
And I know I’ll never be the same”

Lyrics by Third Day
Show Me Your Glory

“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word “love”, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest “well pleased”.”
― C.S. Lewis

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(rain droplets dangle from a blue spruce / Julie Cook / 2015)

Isn’t that what we all want. . .
We want to see and then we want to see more.
We want God to show Himself, to prove Himself, to, in turn, prove ourselves—
our existence. . .
To prove that’s it’s all been worth it—that we were right to believe all along.
We want Him to make things right, stop the badness, set the world right. . .
We want to see.
We want to know.

One day, we catch a glimpse, a momentary shining light.
We feel something.
We hear something.
We actually see something as if a dream had come to life.
A wave washes over us.
We are filled with something we can’t explain.
A peace, such as we’ve never known, engulfs us.
Time stands still.
Certainly, everything, no matter what is within this single moment of time, okay.
Instantly we suddenly know, we are certain, it is all real.
He is real.

And just as suddenly, with the mere blink of the eye, the moment passes.
We desperately try to conjure back the moment, holding on to the rapidly fading wonderment.
However our senses are back.
Sound has returned.
The noises are blaring.
The lighting is now back to normal.
Movement, all around us, is passing rapidly by.
There are people.
There is pain.
We feel reality again.

And then we wonder.
Was it really real?
Did what just happen really happen?
We doubt ourselves.
We doubt Him.
We want it back.
We long to have the moment back.

And just like that, it is gone.
We are left wondering what to do.

Mother Teresa had such a moment.
It was the time she experienced what she later referred to as the “call within a call” experience.
It was when she was still a young nun and teacher, it was 1946. . .

In 1928, 18 year old Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu had left her native Albania for Ireland, to join the order of the Sisters of Loreto.
It was there that she would eventually make her solemn vows, taking the name of Teresa after the gentle saint known as the Little Flower, Thérèse of Lisieux.
Eventually her journey would take her to India, where she worked as a teacher and later principal at the order’s Calcutta run school for the local children.

One bright morning, 20 years into her life in India, while sitting on a train as she was embarking on a brief annual retreat, she had a profound encounter with Jesus. Time stood still and she was aware of only one being, that of Jesus himself.
He called out to her to help feed His poor. He revealed the pain of His heart over those who were hungry and dying. “Feed my lambs” He implored —yet He also implored the little nun to satiate His thirst. His thirst for the world filled with the hungry and hurting souls so in need of the literal and spiritual feeding of which He yearned for her to take upon herself.

It wasn’t until several years following her death, that through her letters and conversations with her confessor, when the world actually learned of this tiny obedient nun having never experienced that vision and feeling of nearness again. Despite her longing to hear and to see Jesus again, she was filled with only silence and emptiness.
There was nothing.
The only thing that remained was the daily task, each and every day, of doing what she was told to do that fateful day in 1946. . . “Satiate my thirst”. . .
Alone within herself, Mother Teresa felt empty, frustrated, and sad.
Yet no one was the wiser. No one knew of her pain, her emptiness, her “dark night”. . .she spent the next 51 years doing as He had instructed—working to satiate His thirst and to feed and care for “His lambs.”

Some may say that it must be a sadistic God who would play hide and seek, as it were, with someone as good and as holy as a Mother Teresa. Yet we must understand that it goes well beyond such simplistic observations. To us God may seem vexing and fickled, yet that is the human mind attempting to explain the behavior of the Divine and the Omnipotent—it simply cannot be done.

As C.S. Lewis so eloquently reminds us, “God does not exist for man’s sake.” Nor do we exist for our own sake.
God does not “need” us– it is us who needs God.
The crux of the matter is simply that God wants us.
Made, created, out of Love.

The difference between our need and His want.

Oh I suppose there are those who proudly exclaim that they do not need some invisible God, some deity to serve and to worship.
Self puffs up as we become our own deity—full of failures, let downs, pride, selfishness, vain glory. . .One would think time would be our teacher, yet we continue ignoring the past as we march forward, waving our own flag and thumping our own puffed up chest. . .

It is to these few and far between glimpses, of those miraculous moments, the overwhelming senses, and unexplained experiences, time and time again, that push us forward. . .still looking, wondering, hoping. . .forward to an encounter with the Divine—yet we simply cannot “will” it to happen. It is for God, and for God alone, to reveal Himself in such intimate ways—we cannot force His hand. We cannot trick Him or persuade Him. He is the Creator and we are but the created.
Yet we were created in and for Love. . .

We know that from such moments and chance experiences that we are forever changed and forever different, no matter if we never experience such a moment ever again in our lifetime. . .just knowing it happened, we know it can happen again and we know we won’t rest until we see Him again. . .

“When I climb down the mountain
And get back to my life
I won’t settle for ordinary things
I’m gonna follow You forever
And for all of my days
I won’t rest ’til I see You again
Show me Your glory
Show me Your glory
I can’t live without You”

lyrics by Third Day

Offerings

“Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest we wait in silence for God’s voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over us and around us; we lean back in His everlasting arms and feel the serenity of perfect security in Him.”
William Barclay

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(the remnants of the winter storm, or some of Nature’s “stained glass” / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Offering”

Magnificent Holy Father
I stand in awe of all I see
Of all the things You have created
But still You choose to think of me
Who am I that You should suffer
Your very life to set me free
The only thing that I can give You
Is the life You gave to me

This is my offering, dear Lord
This is my offering to You, God
And I will give You my life
For it’s all I have to give
Because You gave Your life for me
I stand before You at this alter
So many have given You more
I may not have much I can offer
Yet what I have is truly Yours

Third Day

taking flight

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

“We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise.”
Plato

As summer is now upon us, my thoughts most always turn to travel—regardless of whether or not I’m set for an adventure or not. Have I ever told you that I am afraid of flying? Afraid of heights? Afraid of driving over tall bridges spanning large bodies of water….? And then there’s that whole flying over water thing…….but travel, yes, I love to…..

As a former art teacher with a penchant for medieval art, illuminated manuscripts and that whole Renaissance cultural movement…Europe was and is always whispering my name…so yes, I have had to fly across the ol’ pond on several occasions.

I tend to be a bit of a fatalist—my plane will be the one with the bomb, the technical troubles, the drunken pilot, the high-jackers sitting next to me, the blown engine…the list of gloom and doom goes on and on. I’ve been known to hold on to my rosary so tight that the beads almost pop off. I recite the Jesus prayer over and over, hoping it will help regulate my breathing, calm my nerves and hopefully get God’s attention that He needs to send all wayward angels over to the plane in the sky making the loudest prayer noise.

Be it flying across the country or across an ocean…it makes for a long journey sitting in a can with wings that, in my opinion, defies the laws the nature. But, and it’s a big but, the results, the arrival at the point of destination is and has always been worth my tremendous anxiety. I decided a long time ago that life was too short to sit by frozen with fear. My dad is that way—frozen with fear. He doesn’t even like for me to make the hour journey to visit him because he’s convinced I’m the next disaster waiting to happen on Atlanta’s 285—which, by the way, I must admit is truly taking one’s life in one’s own hands, but there I go digressing.

So it was a couple of years back—-a trip to Italy. I’d not flown that distance in many years, so my anxiety level was pretty high. My teenage son was traveling with me, but we’d left my husband, his dad, behind. There went the fatalist thoughts…”we’ll never see him again…” I silently suffered as we boarded. “A window seat, I have to have a window seat— I’ll get car sick…wait, car sick on a plane?? Hummm”…taking my seat, I proceed to stare out the window for the next 8.5 hours.

I plugged in my earphones into my little I-Pod and proceeded listening to Third Day’s Offerings II, All I Have to Give—playing it over and over and over….their music does speak to my soul as it were….their songs, like sung prayers, bring comfort to my heart, humility to my heart and tears to my eyes. So there I sat, listening to prayer in song, watching the sun set and eventually rising again over the horizon.

Time is an most interesting entity when traveling…all those time zones, time changes, crossing datelines…quite mind boggling and body draining. But yet being able to watch the sun set from a vantage point that allows it to drop below one’s eyes—not like watching it set when sitting on the beach—this is different–you’re actually above it watching it drop. The sky is black accented with sparkling stars as the occasional passing plane interrupts this solitude. A few hours pass and suddenly the sun begins it’s accent up ward again. Night and day become a bit relative when flying form one country to another…time jumbles up a bit.

I developed a great peace throughout this process. I suddenly felt as if I was hovering between the earth, my world, and the infinite sky, Heaven, God’s world. Sandwiched between His hands—and there was tremendous peace. I was afforded an opportunity that not everyone is fortunate to enjoy. Granted lots of people fly, every day, all over the world. I fly, on average, maybe once a year, possibly twice. Sometimes far, sometimes not so far but it is always exhilarating and always frightening and always adventuresome.

And there’s always that sense that I’m just a little closer to God, which I find wonderfully peaceful.
Here’s to reaching towards Heaven…be it on the ground or in the sky, it is my sincere desire to always reach a little higher, get a little closer, reaching my arms to His glorious embrace….
Happy to take flight…………..

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

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(photograph: decent to Atlanta 6/2012)