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

Operation

“To convert somebody,
go and take them by the hand and guide them.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(one of my favorite games as a kid in the early 1960’s was Operation by Milton Bradely)

Yesterday my post centered on ailing…
ailing as in being sick and in turn needing a doctor…
I found today’s quote, offered below by Fr Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure,
most timely.

The ailment I was speaking of is actually the condition afflicting most of us as spiritual beings.
And as I noted, we are in desperate need of a doctor…with that doctor
being the Great Physician.

And we must know that this Great Physician has offered each of us the cure…

A cure found in the form of Salvation through the blood of His son Jesus Christ.
And yet oddly, or sadly depending on who you ask, many who are sick care not nor want or
even understand that they are in need of the Physician let alone a cure…

And even if we were aware, many have simply chosen to rewrite the prescription in order for
it to be more applicable to the desires of living life our own kind of way.

When a person who is sick is offered a prescription of medicine, and if taken correctly,
the medicine will offer a cure…why then would that sick person play fast and loose
with the dosage or even opt not to take the medicine at all…???
as it appears that they are assuming that they know more than the doctor knows.

When I was a kid, I loved the game Operation.

I loved it because I could play it with a friend or even better, I could play it alone…
while practicing my “skills”—that way I could mess up as much as it took to finally
get good enough to remove the parts without any repercussion.

I could play it for hours as I’d work on removing those things
the patient would need removing…
The winning of the game went to the person who could remove all the necessary parts, using the
special tweezers, without touching the metal sides of the opening, causing a buzzing sound.

I’d hear that buzz and think “uh oh, I’ve just let my patient perish on my operating table.”

After all my practicing, I imagined my skills to be so good that when I grew up,
I could indeed be a surgeon.

Little did my young mind comprehend that being a doctor and a surgeon would require
a great deal more than using a pair of electrified tweezers to remove a tiny plastic
piece of bread or the equally tiny little-broken heart…
the one piece that really would test my skills.

And so when I read the quote offered today by the good father, I found it rather timely
with my thoughts from yesterday.

The good father reminds us that when we are diagnosed with something rather serious
and are offered a procedure that promises to make us better… or say that it’s not even a promise
but a hope that it might make us better…we put life and limb
on the line by trusting the doctor and allowing him or her to cut us open.

And yet we are not willing to allow the Great Physician to bring us healing.

And the thing is… His healing is a guarantee.

We trust ourselves to a doctor because we suppose he knows his business.
He orders an operation which involves cutting away part of our body and we accept it.
We are grateful to him and pay him a large fee because we judge he would not act as he
does unless the remedy were necessary, and we must rely on his skill.
Yet we are unwilling to treat God in the same way!
It looks as if we do not trust His wisdom and are afraid He cannot do His job properly.
We allow ourselves to be operated on by a man who may easily make a mistake—-
a mistake which may cost us our life—-
and protest when God sets to work on us.
If we could see all He sees we would unhesitatingly wish all He wishes.”

Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure,
An Excerpt From
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence
p. 90

gee, haw…

“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.
And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your
heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away
every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales


(a pair of Belgium working horses on Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

My husband and I hopped in the car the other evening, as we were getting ready to
head over to Atlanta to see our son and daughter-n-law…
and I don’t know what brought it up, but we got off on a small technology tangent.

Most likely what got us started was my wanting to turn on the seat warmers.
Temps had not reached above the freezing point all day, and now the sun was quickly
setting sending temperatures plummeting.
Needless to say, I’ve been mostly cold for the last two months.

My husband said, for no one in particular, “technology left me years ago…
it left me back with gee and haw…”

“GEE, HAW???!!!!” I practically shout before bursting out into full laughter.

For those of you unfamiliar with such words, Gee and Haw are the two words used with
working animals such as mules, draft horses, and even sled dogs.
Gee means for the mule, horse or dog to turn right
Shout ‘Haw,’ and the animal turns left.

My husband can remember as a little boy visiting his grandparents up in north
Georgia with his grandfather using mules to plow the fields.
He’d shout “Gee” then “Haw,” and those mules knew exactly which way to turn.
That was probably in the early 1950’s as rural Georgia was just that, still very rural.

We had actually heard the same terms used recently, this past summer when visiting
Mackinac Island as there are no vehicles on the island—only draft horses doing
everything from acting as the taxis to delivering UPS.
Gee.
Haw

Low tech.
And I must say, I for one, found it somewhat comforting.
It was actually really refreshing.

I know it, being technology, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but instead will only be advancing…
And sadly so…
for technology has, if it hasn’t already, gotten entirely out of hand as well as a disaster
just waiting to happen…

This insatiable need of ours to see, to know, to hear, to tell everything instantaneously is a very dangerous false need.

It has created a very dangerous sense of profound falsehoods that most of us don’t even
realize.
For we are a people who are greatly dependent upon our technology—for even life
and death issues…

But let’s look at a couple non-life-threatening examples of when technology goes
awry…or perhaps just more of an irksome trouble.

During the busy Christmas shopping mayhem season, my husband’s internet randomly went out at his store. His is a busy retail
business, so when there’s a technology issue and his register goes out, or his credit card machine goes out, he loses money as people will walk out the door.

We spent hours on the phone with AT&T trying to find a person who was actually
“stateside” as we continued narrowing help down to Georgia, then down to our individual town.
That took hours of waiting and frustration. All the while the store is full of people
who want to be waited on and checked out.
We were told it would be days before they could get someone out to check out our problem.
Days was not an option.

In the meantime, we had to pull out the old-timey credit card swiper….remember
those low tech little machines?

A customer would lay their card down on top of a triple carbon copy slip
while the clerk swiped the little lever over the card and carbon paper. The
customer’s card info would be swiped and imprinted onto the carbon ticket.
The customer would then sign the swiped carbon slip as the clerk would then pull off
the customer copy while keeping the store copy…
then off went the happy customer with their purchase.

The old-timey swiping machine worked perfectly fine as we waited for the AT&T technician
to eventually make the trip to the store.
Turns out the internet was out for unknown reasons randomly in the shopping center…
the next time it went out, a week later, the technician sent us out get a new cable…

sigh…

Last evening we went to neighboring town for supper at a Craker Barrel.
I often crave Cracker Barrel’s simple homey fare offering of
good ol’ southern prepared food.
Chicken and dumplings, fried okra, spicy collard greens, southern style green beans…
or even their offering of breakfast for supper.
Plus they had a roaring fire going and we were fortunate to snag
a table by the fire.

When we’d finished our meal we took the bill out to the register to pay.
The line snaked all the way back into the dining area.
We figured they were low of help at the registers…
but that was not the issue.
Their card machines weren’t working probably and weren’t reading folks
debit or credit cards correctly.

Finally, as we made our way to a cashier, we told the manager we were going
to pay with something very novel…real money.

The manager was grateful and said he wished he had one of the old-timey
credit card swiper machines but since he was the oldest one on staff, he was the only
one who even knew what such a machine was…

Low tech.

Those are just a couple examples of small technological issues
of when things don’t work or go wrong.

Now let’s consider a bit larger trouble.

Saturday, a statewide alert went out in Hawaii, alerting the public that a ballistic missile was on its way to the Islands.
It was one of those Amber style alerts that went out on everyone’s phones.
It was not a drill and everyone needed to seek immediate shelter.
For those in Hawaii, it was the end of life as they had known it.

With North Korea’s 24/7 threats, threatening to send a nuclear warhead
in the direction of Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, or Alaska…well its all had everyone
a tad bit nervous…so Saturday, it seemed that the unthinkable was actually happening.

However…

The issued warning alert was in actuality incorrect.
It had been issued by mistake.
There was no missile, no need to duck and cover.
No need for immediate Last Rites.

I wonder how busy the ER’s were following the correction with those feigning a
possible heart attack?

So it should come as no surprise that we’ve gotten really good these days at lamenting,
“technology, it’s great when it works…not so much when it doesn’t…”

And yet I rather miss our low tech dealings during these waning days of ours…

Gee
Haw

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psalm 146:3

speaking wisdom

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart,
and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal
the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas


(late afternoon in Northwest Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.

For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.

They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.

Psalm 49:1-14

Reasoning of the what ifs

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human
history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—
the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis


(a lone pigeon surveys the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

‎”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind.
In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking.
It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen,
for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way,
this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.
But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true?
It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself
will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking,
of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism,
and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else.
Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought:
so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

C.S. Lewis

In determining relationships we must begin somewhere.
There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured,
where the law of relativity does not enter and we can say “IS” and make no allowances.
Such a center is God. When God would make His Name known to mankind He could find
no better word than “I AM.”
When He speaks in the first person He says,
“I AM”; when we speak of Him we say, “He is”;
when we speak to Him we say, “Thou art.”
Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point.
“I am that I am,” says God,
“I change not.”

As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun,
so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God.
We are right when and only when we stand in a right position relative to God,
and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.

A. W. Towzer

it’s happened again

“Man’s extremity is God’s appointment”
Pastor Rasmussen, Danish Pentecostal pastor

“First God gives to us–
Then we give back to God–
Finally God gives back
again to us–blessed and multiplied beyond our power to imagine”

Lydia Prince regarding the story of Abraham and Isaac
from Appointment In Jerusalem

“I can only bless that which is freely yielded to me”
Lydia Prince hearing the words of God
from Appointment in Jerusalem


(Panorama of Jerusalem old city / Israel / courtesy the web)

Remember the other day when I was cleaning off the bookshelves and that little
book by that Franciscan Monk just fell out of the pile landing at my feet…
a book entitled, There Are No Accidents by
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel…

Well after I had painstakingly moved the sea of books that would not be going back
on the shelves into another room where I could spread them out, looking through
them, sorting over who would stay and who would head to the Goodwill,
I had to then move and relocate the books which would be staying down
to the basement.

Remember, like I said the other day, I was an art teacher for 31 years…
having minored in both history and art history who happens to have a keen
interest in Christian spirituality…
so there are books,
lots and lots of pretty, heavy, expensive books.
Books that I still love and want to hold onto but there is just only
so much room…

So as I was gathering up stacks to carry down the stairs,
another book literally fell out of the pile at my feet.

Appointment in Jerusalem by Derek and Lydia Prince.

I vaguely recalled buying the book while still teaching.
The copyright of this updated edition is 2005 but the original story was
actually written thirty years prior in 1975.

Why I opted to just shelve the book obviously many years ago, I don’t know,
but is seems as if Someone was wanting me to read the book, as in now.
And who am I to argue when I have most recently learned that there are
no accidents?

Curious I picked the book up off the floor and set it aside for later
so I could look over what the book was all about.

I started the book Saturday and finished the main original story Wednesday–
as I’m still picking through the added post epilogue to this newer edition.
Mind you, I’m not a fast reader but this story has been such that it has
totally captivated my thoughts and attention.

I was not familiar with either Lydia Prince, whose story the book is about,
nor her husband Derek, but I have since done a bit of research.

It seems the book has been very popular– for in 2005, over two million copies
were in print.
The Princes had a global Christian ministry that was going strong up to Lydia’s
death in 1975.

Just a quick bit of background as it is not the back story that has spoken to me
but rather the person of Lydia herself and of her voracious hunger for God.

Lydia was born in Northern Denmark in 1890, making her 6 years older than my own grandmother.
Lydia was also born into a very affluent family so she was never one to have to
fret over finances.
She was very smart and well educated.
She began a very successful teaching career in the Danish School system,
becoming a global teaching pioneer in what would be known as home economics.

Teachers were highly esteemed in Danish society and Lydia enjoyed the stability
of both career and lifestyle.
By her mid thirties, a fellow teacher had asked for her hand in marriage,
a union which most felt was a natural progression,
especially given the fact that Lydia was only getting older and needed to settle
down.

But settling down was not something she felt inclined to do.

This was during a time when Lydia had began questioning the scope and depth of
her life as a nagging feeling seemed to be engulfing her very being…
She kept feeling, thinking and finally believing that there was something missing
and something more to life..in particular…her life…
and she needed to find out what it was.

Lydia began an in-depth study of the Bible, even fervently praying as in actually
talking to God rather than simple prayer recitations.
Like most in Denmark, Lydia was Lutheran—with the Lutheran Church being the
state Church of Denmark, so to suddenly begin such a quest would be looked upon
as most odd.

Yet she had never felt particularly fulfilled with that aspect of life—
it was something that had been expected and she attended Sunday services
but as for “feeling” something…
that was all that was to it—simply attending a service, nothing more.

She began seeking out the counsel and even attending the services offered by a
local Pentecostal pastor.
The Pentecostal Church was something new and looked upon cautiously and
skeptically by the Danes.
Attending such a service was akin to totally losing one’s mind…
no decent Danish Lutheran would be caught dead attending a Pentecostal service,
let alone associating with Pentecostals.

But Lydia did just that…eventually receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In her small town and school, this new found faith of hers became nothing
less than a scandal.
She was threatened with termination.
Ostracized by her colleagues and students.
Even the Danish Government took up the case.

Her quiet simple life had blown up in her face…yet she was undeterred
and even found a peace in her continued pursuit of God.

She had given herself totally and unequivocally over to God and His directing
and there was no looking back

And such directing it was…

In 1927 she resigned from her teaching post as she now felt called to move
to Jerusalem.
She had no job awaiting her, no mission sending her, no backing from a church
and she had previously given away most of her life’s savings.
Yet there was no mistaking God’s direction.
Jerusalem it was to be.
She believed she was not to worry with any of the details…
not even fretting over not having proper funding because God would be
providing all– Lydia’s only responsibility was but to trust.

And Lydia might as well have been going to the wild west.
Because this was Palestine pre Israel.
A sandy territory under British authority with an uptick in
sectarian violence between Jew and Arab.
Living conditions were hard as well as dangerous….
especially for a single European woman in her late 30’s who spoke neither
Yiddish or Arabic and who knew absolutely no one in her soon to be new home.

However since the end of WWI there had been a steady inflow of Jews, from all over
the globe, moving into what was then Palestine, coming home as it were—
and this was something that the local Arab population
found gravely troubling…to the point of outright bickering and fighting
eventually erupting into deadly battles.

Yet both Arabs and Jews were equally weary of Christians as both groups had
suffered at some point or another at the hands of Christians….so
whereas Jews were unwelcome, Christians were even more unwelcomed.

I will stop here with Lydia’ back story—
saving it for another day.
As there is still a great deal more…
but for now I want to concentrate briefly on Jerusalem and the notion of faith.

I’ve written about the importance of Jerusalem before, and in turn the
importance of Israel, something that God has stated over and over and something
our family of Believers have most collectively and sadly forgotten or chosen to
disregard.

I’ve also explained how dangerous it is for any nation to turn it’s back on Israel…
for such an act is to turn one’s back of God himself.

This is all but spelled out throughout the Books of the Prophets…
throughout both Old and New Testaments.

And this is a fact that Lydia discovered and kept on the forefront of
her ministry for the remainder of her life.

Reading of Lydia’s pure unabashed dependent faith is now challenging me.

Her complete dependance upon God for every single need and detail shakes my
false perception of life’s security.

Her utter surrender of everything, holding nothing back…
from those she fervently loved down to her very life as nothing
was perceived to be an impossibility for God to attend to.

As the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac to
the God of all Creation…all because God said so…and knowing that Abraham,
obviously shaken and distraught over God’s request, still obeyed…
made such an impression upon Lydia that she too believed that there should
never be a time to ever deny or hold back from God whatever He asked for…
this as He worked to temper Lydia’s fatih and life within his
purifying furnace of Love.

There are many lessons to be gleaned from Lydia’s century old story and
the subsequent story of her life’s ministry and caring for orphaned children.
And I know that I will be eventually sharing those here with you…

“And yet the truth is that God’s plan of peace and blessing for all
nations can never come to completion until both Israel and Jerusalem are restored—
and He expects us to be His coworkers in bringing this to pass.”

Lydia Prince / Appointment In Jerusalem

And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zachariah 12:9

always optimistic

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank


(my new tomatoes in my “containers” / Julie Cook / 2017)

All my life, I’ve tried to be optimistic.
Yet at the same time….
I am fully aware that there is a difference between being optimistic
verses being a perpetual optimist.

I am optimistic but I also know, as I expect, that the positive will be met by the negative—
as in…for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction…
kind of like a tug of war…..

I have always been fully aware of the notion that if it can go wrong, it most likely will…
It’s like Newton’s Law but more like Murphy’s…

Yet at the same time, I honestly believe that the final outcome can and will be good.
It’s just that it most likely won’t be a bed of roses getting there.

I call that being a realist.

For I can see the trials and tribulations,
the “what if” scenarios,
the “if it can go wrong, it will” sort of life’s moments….
Because I firmly believe in a great battle that is constantly raging all around us…
as in a deeply troubling spiritual battle….

Yet in the end I believe, as I know, that “all things work together for good to
them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)…
As in the Good guy not only doesn’t finish last but in reality He wins,
And not only does He win, He actually triumphs…
In turn, making those of us who have believed,
the real winners…

So on the one hand, I try very hard to be optimistic and always ever hopeful….
yet as a realist, I know that the end result will not come readily nor easily…
but I know, without a doubt, it will come….

I think we call that perseverance…

So therefore during these day’s of doubt and despair,
in this uncertain time of anger and hate,
in these days of trepidation, mistrust and missteps…
may we each remain ever hopeful…for in the end…
there will always be the winning Love and Grace of God…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9