Hidden faith

“The cause is hidden.
The effect is visible to all.”

Ovid


(a portion of the interior of St. Kevin’s Monastary, Glendalough National Park / Co. Wicklow, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

The thrill of the dig.
Or is that the thrill of the hunt??

Either way, I think it’s how archeologists describe what it is they do.

They dig, sift, hunt and discover.

It’s that adrenaline rush when searching through endless layers of rock, dirt, and sand
knowing that ‘treasure’ is but a shovel scoop away.

When I was young, I was fascinated by digging, unearthing and discovering.
Add to that a love of history, and for me, it all made for an imagination which was running wild.
Wild with wonder and of possibilities and of the what could be’s…

Would I find a Piece of Eight while building a sandcastle at the beach or
perhaps a fossil in the soil while camping…not to mention the anticipation
of striking it rich while panning for gold in the North Georgia mountains.

Nowadays I usually relegate my digging to Antique stores…
yet the hunt is no less exciting.
And the find—well the real finds are few and far between.

So it was with a tad of bated curiosity that I clicked on the following story.
It’s an intriguing tale about the unearthing
of what is believed to be a 2nd century hidden underground Christian church;
hidden for centuries, right under the feet of occupying ISIS fighters
in the city of Manjib, Syria.

Historians and archeologists believe this underground maze of chambers, trap doors,
and tunnels to be that of a secret church dating to the time when this area of
modern-day Syria was under Roman occupation.
It dates to the time when Christians were persecuted for the practicing of their faith
and therefore met in secret as they were literally forced underground for their faith.

As I watched, read and wondered about this latest discovery of those who courageously once
worshiped during perilous times, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander to a time in our own
future and that of our own practicing Faith’s uncertainty…
I felt that I had received a more somber history lesson than I actually cared to imagine…

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/05/01/ancient-christian-ruins-discovered-under-former-isis-held-territory.html

Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.

Psalm 119:49-56

the old shell of self

God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger,
but by making us weaker and weaker.
That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say;
but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin,
not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him;
not by helping him to do anything, but by removing him from the scene of action.

Watchman Nee

We must die if we are to live.
There is no spiritual life for you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it.
Have you a fine-spun righteousness of your own?
It must die.
Have you any faith in yourself?
It must die.
The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you shall enter into life.
The withering power of the Spirit of God must be experienced before his
quickening influence can be known:
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.”
You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be made
alive by the breath of the Spirit.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(the shells of cicadas discarded on a pine tree / Julie Cook /2017)

Summer, to a young child growing up in the South, meant evenings spent
catching lighting bugs in an old mayonnaise jar or scouring the sides of pine trees
for the crunchy fragile brown leftover shells of cicadas.

These leftover exoskeletons often found on the sides of pine trees or fence posts
are simply the shedding of the old skin of an ever growing and ever changing cicada.
Cicadas being the creatures responsible for the loud raucous screeching heard
throughout the landscape of the waning days of a southern summer.

Finding a shell was akin to finding a small treasure…
of which was then joyfully and ceremoniously carried to the start of school,
nestled safely in a small cotton ball lined box,
all for the start of the new school year’s show and tell.

But the shell was always quickly beaten out for the coveted oohs and ahhs
when the shark tooth, that someone else brought in from their summer trip
to the beach,was triumphantly presented…

Science teaches us that there is a wealth of amazing creatures scattered
across this globe…all of which constantly shed their old shells or skins only to
emerge as something new, clean and fresh…

And the fact is… that we, that being you and I, are really no different.

Whereas we may not break out of our skin, leaving the old sloughed off
empty layer littered along the floor, we do however…and we must…
do away with our old selves.

For if we insist on keeping that which is old and bound to this world, refusing to
relinquish worldly flesh, then we are bound to death….
for all that is of the world’s will perish.
There will be no new birth, nothing fresh, nothing clean.

Yet if we are willing to die unto self, surrendering that which is earth bound,
yielding to the desire of the spirit to be reunited from whence it came,
then we will have life eternal…which is the treasure indeed.

So then…
Two choices…
life or death….
that should be an easy choice….
and yet oddly, it is not.

“Many, indeed, cry “Lord, Lord,” and make mention of him,
but honour him not at all.
How so?
They take his work out of his hands,
and ascribe it unto other things;
their repentance, their duties,
shall bear their iniquities.
They do not say so; but they do so.

The computation they make, if they make any, it is with themselves.
All their bartering about sin is in and with their own souls.
The work that Christ came to do in the world, was to “bear our iniquities,”
and lay down his life a ransom for our sins.

The cup he had to drink of was filled with our sins,
as to the punishment due to them.
What greater dishonour then, can be done to the Lord Jesus,
and to ascribe this work to anything else, –
to think to get rid of our sins by any other way or means?”

John Owen

what was

“I have always believed, and I still believe,
that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it
meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse


(a once prized and regal chair now sits abandoned and discarded / Julie Cook / 2017)

this is a tale of that which once was….

Have you ever wandered through an antique store, thrift shop, rummage sale or a rarely
visited basement or attic….
finding things that harken to a different space in time?

Have you ever sought a treasure where others only saw trash?
Finding something of beauty hiding underneath the layers of grime, damage, neglect
and even abuse?

Have you ever wondered how something that was once so special and treasured
now sits shredded and torn, broken and sad, ignored and now forgotten?

I think we are very much like this chair.

Once upon a time we were energetic, full of beauty and grace…
Some of us were even stately and certainly noteworthy.
We were taken care of, kept clean, neat and ever so tidy..
Often we were paraded about by those who loved us
during those special moments of life.

We were treasured, cherished and the pride of others…

Then time and life took their toll.
And like this forgotten beauty, now broken, worn, tired and dirty…
we were passed over for things newer and shinier…
we had lost our luster and therefore were simply discarded, making way for the new…
as society deems us now less than….

But that is never how we are seen through the loving eyes of our Omnipotent Father.
Despite what the years of decay and dirt have done to us,
despite the brokenness, the raggedness, the age and wear…
He sees what was…
What was special, what was lovely and that which He had always intended…
that which was, and still is, beautiful….

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9

Sacred

Love is a sacred reserve of energy;
it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


(generations of sacred texts / Julie Cook / 2017)

What makes something sacred?

Something that is to be held in reverence,
passed from one generation to another?
What is it that makes something so dear, so esteemed, so important,
albeit within the confines of a family,
that it becomes a treasure and a life line linking one individual to another?

Deep and heavy thoughts as I slowly begin to purge, pack, relocate
sort, discard, save and add to my own niche of life those things that
were once others as I labors to merge them now as mine.

A frayed small ribbon peeks out from atop a long ago repaired cloth bound,
oh so frail, little black book.
The homemade cover tenderly stitched in order to preserve and protect someone’s
sacred treasure

A hymnal whose first page is now page 7.

As to whose hymnal, which denomination, how old…
Who knows…
But in the family, on someone’s side, it has obviously weathered.

Hymn 527 sounds very much like my beloved 345
A hymn that is as soothing as a beloved’s rhythmic cadence of breath.

“The King of Love My Shepherd Is” has been described as perhaps the most beautiful
of all the countless versions of the 23rd Psalm.

The Tune St. Columba is named for the Irish saint who
“carried the torch of Irish Christianity to Scotland”
(and who has the dubious distinction of being the first to report a sighting of
the Loch Ness monster, in 546).
The tune is one of the Irish melodies collected by George Petrie (1789-1866)
and given in Charles Villers Stanford’s
“Complete Collection of Irish Music as noted by George Petrie,” in 1902.
There it is said to have been sung at the dedication of a chapel in the county
of Londonderry.
The association of the tune with this text,
and also its harmonization, are from “The English Hymnal,” 1906.

Excerpt: “Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worhip”

In a time of grave uncertainties..
both personally and globally…
A time of unprecedented growing rage and division.
May we each rest in the knowledge that we remain bound always to the Sacred….

Please enjoy this beautiful video…

Nothing from nothing leaves. . .something

“Nothing from nothing leaves nothing,
Ya gotta have something”

Billy Preston (Nothing from Nothing song lyrics)

You have to create something from nothing.
Ralph Lauren

“We can know only that we know nothing.
And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

― Leo Tolstoy

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(a “volunteer pumpkin on the compost pile / Julie Cook / 2015)

We have a growing pile of debris that has risen and fallen over the course of our time living here at this house. It sits right on the edge of the property just at the periphery of woods which surround our property on two adjoining sides. It’s where we usually put all of our clippings from the bushes, any fallen tree limbs, discarded shrubs and spent flowers. I think of it like a rather large compost pile that ebs and flows with the passing seasons.

After this spring’s big yard re-do, the brush pile grew exponentially as the landscapers dumped stumps, stripped grass, and discarded shrubbery lost to the change.

There have been a few past Christmas trees which have found their way to the brush pile, as well as numerous pumpkins that just didn’t seem to survive the Fall, petering out before Thanksgiving.

And it is to these pumpkins that my recent attentions have now turned. . .

The other evening when I was dumping some grass clippings on the pile, I noted a squash-like vine emerging from the debris spreading out in two separate directions. I pleaded with my husband not to mow over the vine because I was exciteed to see what might happen if we left it to grow. . .
He throws in some comment about needing another plant for pollination so it won’t ever come to anything. . . but I countered with a “leave it to the bees and we’ll see. . .”

Low’n’behold, a white pumpkin is now growing from my debris pile.
I remembered back to last Fall when I had bought a multitude of heirloom pumpkins—there were indeed a few white pumpkins in the mix. . .
I am so excited!
A bonus pumpkin, given as a small gift from the compost. . .

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Which brings me around to another sort of thought. . .a real thought about debris, reclaiming, and growth.

Many many years ago when I was a college sophomore, attending a very large state university, I found myself in a familiar situation that a great many young Christians find themselves in when heading off to college—that surreal state of desperately seeking that hidden balance between one’s faith and one’s life while taking in the whole college experience–
Greek life, parities, sports, dates, new friends, new thoughts, new experiences, liberal minded professors and courses, challenges, questions and hidden insidious digs executed from the dark one—all of which are attacks upon a fragile young threatened faith.

I rode the waves.
Sometimes staying on top, wildly riding the monster wave. . .other times, I was falling off the proverbial surf board of life, miserably wiping out while nearly drowning in the crashing waves.

Having come home one weekend, during an away football game no doubt, I found myself sitting in the office of one of my priests from my home church, having a bit of a late afternoon confession session.
I had failed miserably and instinctively knew I needed a good dose of wisdom, tough love, and true Christian absolution.

Patiently he listened. . .
offering a tissue,
while quickly cutting through the crap.
Saying something that has stayed with me all these many years later. . .
“it doesn’t matter what you have done–it doesn’t matter what you still may do, or how bad you may have been or how bad you may yet be—even if you’re covered from head to toe in dog crap, God still wants you, cares for you, loves you. . .nothing you have done is going to separate you from His love as long as you continue to seek His Grace. . .
We call that unconditional love. . .”

It was a never give up on yourself sort of talk.
While being countered with the need for change on my part talk. . .
the stop being a yo-yo Christian sort of talk.

I’ve used that same line of thought with lots of my kids over the years at school and I’ve had to recall it often in my own life.
I’ve fallen lots of times over the years.
I’ve screwed up.
I’ve gotten to that place when I’ve felt as if this time was it. . .as in, it’s all over.
I’ve done it for sure this time, there’s no going back. . .
I’m done, I’m toast, all chances are up, chips are cashed in, there’s no going back. . .

I think we’ve all gotten to that place in our lives when we’ve felt as if we’ve gone too far.
We’ve crossed the line and we just figure there’s no going back. God has washed His hands of us and finally walked away—or at least He should walk away.

We shrug our shoulders, as we toss our spiritual beings on the brush pile out back, believing our relationship with an unseen God is over as we’ve pushed the envelope just one time a little too far.

Yet God has never given up on the junk out back.
There’s life to be had in that compost.
It might be a volunteer pumpkin or it might be a redeemed heart and soul. . .
Either way. . .there’s always HOPE in that which was thought to be nothing. . .

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
1 Peter 1:18-19

Intricacy

Part of my journey is to say that the soul of the human being must be a massively intricate, wonderful creation that God has a respect for in ways that we do not and that leaves a huge amount of space to go explore.
William P. Young

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Psalm 139:15

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(a collection of Gulf shells / Julie Cook / 2014-15)

Consider the humble shell.
The exoskeleton of a small soft bodied sea creature consisting of 98% calcium carbonate and 2% protein.
Amazingly symmetrical in both shape and design.
A wonderful natural formation of near perfect dimension.
Intricately formed and polished to perfection by mere sand and water.
The ultimate prize of those who wander the waves.

How many times has a young child reached down, into the damp heavy sand,
digging frantically to retrieve a prized shell?
Excitedly extracting the shell, with or without inhabitant, up from the surf and gently cradling the new found treasure, they scurry triumphantly toward mom and dad proudly proclaiming the finding of the hidden treasure.

How often does an adult do the same? Ambling idly along the surf, mesmerized by the rolling waves, lost in a world of thought, when suddenly looking down, there lies a beautifully glistening shell partially buried in the sand–intact, not broken or chipped–perfect. A sense of wonderment and awe fills the would be treasure hunter as they joyfully reach downward, ready to grasp the prize.

Consider the human body
96.2 % oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen, with almost 70% of that being water.
Amazingly symmetrical in both shape and design.
The ultimate design of all living creatures.
A treasure whose inception is set mysteriously into motion, hidden in the sacred depths of an intimate holiness.

Woven intricately by the Master Creator, each individual is just that—an individual.
Each different from the next
Different from all of those who have been and of all those who are to be.
Unique
One of a kind
Special

Fluids flow
Bones grow and form
Nerves fire
Muscles twitch
Eyes see
Ears hear
Sounds are made
Thoughts are formed. . .
as life begins moving forward. . .

All as a watchful Father looks downward, mesmerized with joy, gently breathing life into the tiny form he cradles in loving hands, knowing that He has just found the prize. . .

Hidden treasure

The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.
Johannes Kepler

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(hidden little green shield bug nestled among the baby meyer lemons / Julie Cook / 2014)

Go forth with eyes wide open.
With a mind clear and wanting,
Seeking always,
Expecting nothing less than fascinating.
With a heart deep and cavernous,
Anticipate the extraordinary.
Touch gently
Feel softly
Step lightly, yet determined
Breathe in deeply
Smell joyously
Examine meticulously
hidden treasures are waiting. . .