The gift Giver who allows you to set the world on fire

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
St. Catherine of Siena


(plover along the surf /Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cool / 2019)

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way;
it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet. …
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful,
nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth;
for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things, from Whom all other good flows and proceeds.
They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 108
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

being defined by the writing on the wall

“It is also a warning. It is a warning that, if nobody reads the writing on the wall,
man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming by his manners.”

Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments With Truth


(as seen on the blog Writing’s From The Raven’s Desk)

Yesterday I offered a post more or less from an observational standpoint.

I had read an email post by the Presbyterian Free Chruch Scottish Pastor David Robertson
on his take on the Episcopal Chruch of Australia versus the Scottish Episcopal Chruch.
An email posting that oddly was MIA from his blog.

Obviously, it’s an odd Juxtaposition but he’s on sabbatical in Australia and has spoken to
and with a good many Episcopal groups while traveling about.
He’s learning a thing or two about a splintering church.
It is becoming apparent that the writing is clearly on the wall.

Other’s have seen it.
Bishop Gavin Ashenden for one.
David has also seen the writing on the wall for the SEC back home in Dundee.

I saw the writing on the wall years ago here in the US.

Yet it was two comments I received yesterday from two different friends and sisters in
Christ that really brought all of this into focus.

It can be a most dismal story when one is sounding the clarion call…
That whole ‘woe to you’ clanging coming from the mouths of the likes of the Jeremiahs and Johns
amongst us…

The world is not receptive.

Nobody seems to like hearing, nor being reminded of, the seemingly negative and killjoy
mantra to “repent, the end is near” nonsense.

And yet is that not what we are actually seeing and hearing from those lone
voices out there?
Voices that the majority shun but voices we so desperately need to hear?

Voices like David’s and Gavin’s…
Men who are now being threatened, set apart and scorned…?

Both Kathy and Shara brought this point home with steely percision.

Firstly Kathy (atimetoshare.me) said:

Homosexuality, same-sex marriage, gender alteration,
believing only certain parts of the Bible are true,
looking at the ten commandments as the ten suggestions, chastity,
waiting until marriage to have sex, sex outside of marriage,
the sanctity of life on both ends of the spectrum, altering the Bible to fit the times,
not looking at sin as a problem – all parts of what’s going on in the church today.
We have taken tolerance to a whole new level and it has infiltrated our churches as
well as our lives.
The devil must be jumping for joy.
His insidious nature has weaseled its way into every aspect of society,
gnawing away at it bit by bit until it becomes unrecognizable.
I pray that the end is coming soon.

Then Shara (https://scasefamily.com/) polished it off with exquisite clarity:

Fascinating and sad…was reading yesterday that people say
Christianity is shrinking, but it’s actually being more clearly defined.
Interesting post friend!

And it has been that very fact that…the fact that we aren’t necessarily seeing
some sort of death knell for Christianity…
though denominations are beginning to morph into the unrecognizable as they depart
and fall from God’s word…
but rather we are seeing Christianity being polished and honed
a Christianity that is simply being refined and more sharply keenly defined…

The furnace is heating up as God works on the faithful, refining and preparing us for what
is to come…

“The glory of a good person is the evidence of a good conscience.
Have a good conscience and you will always be happy.
A good conscience can bear a great deal and still remain serene in the midst of adversity,
while a bad conscience is fearful and easily ruffled.
Only be glad when you have done well.
Evil persons are never really happy, nor do they feel peace within them;
for ‘there is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord’ (Isa. 48:22).
Even though the wicked may protest that peace is theirs and that no evil shall harm them,
do not believe them. For God’s wrath will suddenly overtake them,
and all they have done will be brought to nothing and their plans destroyed.”

Thomas á Kempis,
The Imitation of Christ p.76

peace stands firm

” While the world changes,
the cross stands firm.”

St. Bruno


(peony / Julie Cook / 2018)

“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make peace between other people.
Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.
Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and readily believe the worst.
But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good and are suspicious of no one…
It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people,
for they are always well liked.
And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those who agree with us.
But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live at peace with the perverse,
or the aggressive and those who contradict us, for this needs a great grace…
in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing of suffering and contradictions,
not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace,
for such persons are masters of themselves, lords of the world,
with Christ for their friend, and heaven as their reward.

Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73
An Except From
Imitation of Christ

we’ve got our work cut out for us…

“In the name of God, stop a moment,
cease your work, look around you.”

Leo Tolstoy


(this little pile of “work” has only multiplied since two weeks ago with a new highend
formula due to the reflux and more meds / Julie Cook / 2018)

When we think of work, we think of, well…work.
That whole 9 to 5, 8 to 4, 7 to 11, 11 to 7 or the on 12 off 12 gig…
As in work.
The daily grind…
A profession…
A career…
A calling…
The thing we do to pay the bills, afford some stuff, have a life…
The proverbial climbing of the ladder…
The thing we do until we either retire or die…or whichever comes first…

The end to our end really…

However, according to Thomas á Kempis,
from his best selling 1418 book The Imitation of Christ
a book that according to Christian History, Sir Thomas More,
England’s famous lord chancellor under Henry VIII
(and subject of the film A Man for All Seasons)
said it was one of the three books everybody ought to own.
Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits,
read a chapter a day from it and regularly gave away copies as gifts.
Methodist founder John Wesley said it was the best summary of the Christian life
he had ever read…

Thomas á Kempis tells us that:
“No one who follows Me will ever walk in darkness (Jn 8:12).
These words of our Lord counsel all to walk in His footsteps.
If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart,
it is His virtues you must imitate. Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpasses that of all the Saints.
But to find this spiritual nourishment you must seek to have the Spirit of Christ.
It is because we lack this Spirit that so often we listen to the Gospel without really hearing it.
Those who fully understand Christ’s words must labor to make their lives conform to His.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.15
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

And so we are reminded, schooled, scolded, informed…
that in order to have the Spirit of Christ within us, there is much work on our parts to be done.
A sort of work that should be our primary life’s focus rather than that of time clocks,
paychecks, ladders, and promotions…

And whereas that’s all great and grand… as it does help pay the bills…
in the end, when it is all said and done, “those who fully understand Christ’s words
labor to make their lives conform to his…”

“We must imitate Christ’s life and his ways if we are to be truly enlightened
and set free from the darkness of our own hearts.
Let it be the most important thing we do, then, to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.”

Thomas á Kempis

Above all else, there will always be God

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Psalm 8:4

“Therefore, my brother, scorned as you are by men,
lashed as it were by God, do not despair.
Do not be depressed.
Do not let your weakness make you impatient.
Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face.
Let the joy of your mind burst forth.
Let words of thanks break from your lips.”

St. Peter Damian


(grapefruit tree, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal man?
Today he is, and tomorrow he appears no more.
Fear God, and thou shalt have no need of being afraid of man.
What can anyone do against thee by his words or injuries?
He rather hurts himself than thee, nor can he escape the judgment of God whoever he be.
See thou have God before thine eyes and do not contend with complaining words.
And if at present thou seem to be overcome, and to suffer a confusion which thou has not deserved,
do not repine at this and do not lessen thy crown by impatience.”

Thomas á Kempis
Imitation of Christ p 148

Getting ready for being actively receptive..

“Nothing, how little so ever it be,
if it is suffered for God’s sake,
can pass without merit in the sight of God.”

Thomas a Kempis


(Arizona)

There are resolutions made fresh and anew at the beginning of each new year…
those things we decide to give up or take on in hope of becoming better at simply being us.

Some are kept, most are not.

Then comes Lent…a time when there are also things to be given up and or taken on
all in order to recall one man’s journey in a desert for a period of 40 days, in hopes
of bettering our souls.

Some are kept, others are not.

Yet it is during Lent that the keeping and or the letting go seems to be more important,
sharper and keener…
The burden is better understood, the giving in and letting go pricks more sharply.

It matters not whether your church, your avenue of faith, carries you along the road
of participating in Lent or not.
It matters little whether or not you “practice” Lent.
All Christians can, however, come together in the reflection of this time of Jesus’
earthly journey while on His spiritual path.

The entire idea is simply to be present with Christ on this journey.

How you decide to do that, is well, how you decide to do that.
Simply being present to Him…as in just you and Him…on a journey, together,
in a barren wasteland with everything and anything that is a distraction
being stripped away…while there is one who does his darndest to thwart your efforts
of being focused and present with and for your companion.

If it’s giving up chocolate because you always give up chocolate,
and later finding yourself fudging here and there, then that’s not
really taking a part of the journey now, is it…
Thinking that chocolate or the lack thereof helps you to focus
more keenly on the journey and on your companion…well, I don’t know.

This journey is bigger than chocolate…just saying.

For this journey is not a surface sort of trek…
but rather it is a time of real darkness and trial.
It is an arduous journey taken not by the faint of heart.
For it is a journey to the recesses of your being.

And it is a journey we are afforded, or better yet offered, to take yearly…
As each year we are reminded and allowed to recall that first foray of determined boldness
into the desert so long ago.

Deserts are formidable places.
Desolate, dry, lonely, empty, hot places.
Places we don’t much wish to find ourselves.
As our shadowed nemesis delights in tempting us out and away from this
place of deep introspection.
And yet Jesus goes…willingly.

It is here where we first see the earthly glimpse of His willingness to go…
just as we will shortly see, His willingness to descend into hell
for three days in order to do battle for our souls.

Yet each year, we make the conscious decision to choose to go along.
We decide to accompany Jesus into this desert…both His and our own.

Some of us will try to muster on while others of us turn relatively quickly for a fast
retreat.

And yet year after year, we make a choice as to whether or not we want to take this
journey alongside Jesus, knowing we may or may not make it…
But the real fact of the matter is that Jesus always makes the same choice…
the choice to always go…

As Jesus becomes our lynchpin.
He is our support in and out of the desert.

Our friend over on the blog Thoughts from the Side of the House
reminds us of this notion…he explains that our choice boils down alone to the single
matter of desire…as well as our being open to that desire…receptive to that choice.

Receptive to the choice of wanting to actually go hand in hand with Jesus on his arduous
journey into the desert.

As his friend Monsignor Heintz reminds us that whatever we attach our attention to,
becomes us.
If our desires are worldly, then the desert is not to be our foray.

Therefore as we now stand in the shadow of Lent, standing before the Desert…
we each much ask, are we will willing to travel with Jesus with the focus and intent
such a journey requires.

It is not for the faint of heart.

When I was in grad school a couple of my professors introduced me to the concept
of “active receptivity,” an influential concept in the thought of a
Polish philosopher named Karol Wojtyla.
Roughly, it means willingly desiring to receive certain gifts and,
if necessary, actively doing things to make such reception possible.
For instance, when I was a student, if I truly wanted to learn, I had to desire to
learn, to actively listen, engage and study concepts to truly understand them.
This idea is key for me in my spiritual life.

“In the early Christian tradition of mystical theology,
there was an aphorism of anonymous origin and goes like this:
“you become the object of your contemplation.”
That is, whatever we fix our attention upon,
whatever becomes the focus of our energies and our imagination,
whatever it is that consumes our thoughts and desires,
has an imperceptible but genuine impact upon us, shaping our sensibilities,
molding our personality, and making us – far more than we often realize – who we are.
The standard objects of fallen human desire: power, pleasure, wealth, can subtly take
hold of us, and our desire for them changes who we are;
we stray farther and farther from God and find ourselves in a land of unlikeness.

Monsignor Mike Heintz

You Become What You Think About

redeemed from paradox

“Without the Way, there is no going,
Without the Truth, there is no knowing,
Without the Life, there is no living.

Thomas à Kempis


(a persistent strangler of fall hangs on / Julie Cook / 2017)

“But he never said to people, ‘Come as you are and stay as you are.’
His promise was always that all were welcome –
but that they would be radically changed.
All need to be reborn.
Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles.
He redeems us from them.”

David Robertson

There is really so much to say.

Too much really…about so very much.

About all of this really.

As in…there is so very much that needs sorting, weeding out and pruning…

Such as those overt ‘he said, she said’ issues taking place daily….

The egregious name calling of those we do not see eye to eye with….
nor actually even see…yet everyone feels free and safe to use all manner
of vile ugliness, rather gleefully and clandestinely, behind these screens of ours
as we joyously lash out…..

There is tolerance of the intolerant and intolerance of the tolerant.

One no longer knows which one is best to be…tolerant or intolerant…
perhaps just both.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear about a spike in crime…
often violent crime.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear of what seems to be an escalation
in the sorrowful and tragic…that of accidents, death, fights, wrecks,
abuse, overdoses, fires…etc

Yet why is it that “at this time of year” we actually can witness a softer,
kinder, more generous and giving world….

A paradox found in the juxtaposition of man.

All the while there is some sort of misnomer running around out there that if
you don’t open your arms to embrace everyone and everything….
then there is something terribly wrong with you and you are made
to wear the Scarlet letter P….

P because you are phobic… homophobic…or maybe transphobic.

P because you’re just paranoid…you think that the Right and Left are
collectively out to get you…and maybe they are….

P because you’re just proud…a little too proud…as a good many of the
proud and arrogant have suddenly tumbled from their thrones.

P because you’re just pissed off,
mad as hell at all the fake news, lies, angry rhetoric, news outlets turned
tabloid junkies, anarchists burning down the towns…
mad at the progressive left who want nothing more than to destroy you and
your little corner of the world….
so no, you’re not going to take it any longer…

And right when someone hears or reads that you’ve just said as much,
you are now brandished as an extremist who should be locked up…

Maybe you should be locked up because you cracked and own a gun…
never mind all the uncracked folks out there who own guns….

Maybe you want to celebrate Christmas but since it is Christmas, you can’t call it
Christmas….
Yet you are repeatedly told to buy, buy, buy….for Christmas.
The same Christmas you’re not allowed to call Christmas.

Maybe you want to celebrate Hanukah because you’re Jewish…but a lot of folks
out there blame Jews for everything so maybe it’s best not to light the candles.

So now it is P because it is all so precarious…
especially since our vision is no longer clear.

It’s difficult crossing the narrow log spanning the deep chasm when
one’s vision is clouded…clouded by the upside down lies being offered
as what is true.

Yet how is one to know truth verse lie…
Or do we simply believe the loudest voice?

Across the chasm on the far side, across the narrow log, a tiny lone light
is lit…
And you know deep down that it is a light offering clarity to the obscured….

For from out of all of our darkness, a great Light has shone…

All that was, all that you have known, will be no more…
You cannot exist in the paradox and juxtaposition…
caught in the cycle of in and out, yes and no, left and right, up and down…
nor can you abide in the acceptance of what you know to be false yet
are constantly told that this false is absolutley true.

As all the little truths are merely by-products of the fickleness of the times…

Yet the question is asked of you….
Will you be able to ford the chasm on the narrow log, pressing ahead
toward the lone light offering clear vision or do you prefer to remain where
you are in a world turned upside down and mad upon itself?

Are you happy with what you are hearing and seeing day in and day out
as everything you once knew and thought is now turned inside out?

We are living a paradox and conundrum yet yearn for the clarity and light…

And I don’t see why the choice needs to be so difficult.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 9:14)