and the winner is…

“Sometimes I go to God and say, “God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth,
I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what
Thou hast done already.
God’s already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums
I couldn’t pay Him for what He’s done for me.”

A.W. Tozer

Ok, so maybe we don’t exactly have an exact “winner”—not just yet…
maybe it’s more like a photo finish…

As a teacher, a facilitator, who encourages open classroom discussion and dialogue,
I asked a question in yesterday’s post.
A question, or perhaps a challenge, posed to those who often gather here to come up with
a focused prayer…a focused prayer prayed by those of us who wish to join together
in order to implore our God…
imploring for grace, mercy, forgiveness, and help.

Unified voices lifted upward in unison for an exact detailed request.

Given our dire straits in this world of ours…prayer is needed more than ever.

And yet the responses have been slow to trickle in…

And as the consummate educator, that I once worked hard to be, I take responsibility for this.

So now we need to pare down and whittle away the broadness of all of the thoughts and ponderings
that came in today, working out the verbiage until we have a laser-focused and precise
offering to God the Omnipotent.

But with all of that being said, I will say that Wally gets a smiley face participation sticker
for his quick and enthusiastic response this morning!

And we must always give Vincent a good citizenship sticker for his generosity and desire to
always share.

Plus Citizen Tom will receive the communication sticker for his shared call to prayer.

And to Jeff, Kathy, and Fran…well each of them shall receive a gold star
for their excellent suggestions…

And Jim, well, Jim will get a lightning bolt sticker for his high achieving energy!

You know us teachers…we love our stickers! 🙂

So with all kidding and fun aside, I will now share what I think we’ve come up with
in regards to a specific prayer…

However I will say that when I first mentioned praying for our Nation,
I was actually being too limited with that notion…

It’s not quite fair to be praying for just our Nation and our Nation alone…
as we have a lot of members to this little blog family of ours who are not
from this Nation…
And so, therefore, it is not right to say that we must pray solely for the US…

Of course, it’s not!

What of England, France, Germany, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada
Egypt, Israel, India, Ukraine etc…those who also gather here..?

So no, we won’t be praying solely for the US.

A process of elimination…now we have a start.

Remember we want to be precise and specific…nothing overtly broad and sweeping
but rather focused and specific.

So here is Kathy’s initial comment:

There are so many topics, but if we pray for a return to God and place our trust in Him alone,
I believe the door will be opened for all the other prayers to be answered.
The only way our land will be healed is if we do so.
Part of the problem is that the nation doesn’t want to acknowledge sin and because of that,
it has created a selfish, spoiled, entitled population that has little or no care for others.
Prayer will link us as Christians as well.
When we all pray to the same God – the Only God –
we become more and more united and great things will come from it.

And now Fran’s initial comment…

Julie, I agree with Kathy.
“Let’s start at home.” ~ meaning our own hearts and households? It must begin here.
We all have beams in our own eyes. We, as His people, are the light in the darkness,
but as Jesus noted in the Sermon on the Mount, our eye must be single,
returning our focus upon Him for anything lacking in our own lives and the life of His Church.
I pray for the Lord to turn HIs people in repentance first for our own sins,
and guidance for the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. When the world sees a difference in us,
they might be inclined to listen to God’s direction. All is according to the power of His Holy will.
He must show His presence among us to lead. We need a revival among HIs people.
(Sorry to take so much space. You opened a flood-gate.)
Blessings. 🙂

me:
no, Fran—a flood gate is great!
but tell me…
what is the specific prayer—–for our own eyes and hearts to be opened–-
or for our nation’s return to God??
It’s the teacher in me to ask the specifics 😉

Fran:
Julie, you quote 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people humble themselves.” Then, “if two agree.” What should be our prayer?
Should it not be that we humble ourselves with all God’s people,
seek HIs face and “turn from our wicked ways.”
The prayer was for God’s people, not for other nations.
The church as God’s people must return in obedience to Him.
We are the only light, the only nation that belongs to Him.
America is not a nation that will return to God.
It is alien to God.
Even Isaiah asked how long things would be under God’s judgment upon Israel..
God answered him in Isaiah 6. We do well to read and heed God’s working in the past,
so as to know what to pray.

me:
then shall it be for a unity of God’s people?

Fran:
Yes, plus an awakening to the truths of His Word that makes us light in this darkness and
an example of true Christianity.
Thank you for opening your post to comments.
Blessings.

me:
and thank you, Fran, for your Spirit-filled insight.
I’m throwing this all out there tomorrow…
bringing it all together in a concise thought—
now we just need to settle on a time

and fianlly here is Marie’s well-grounded comment:
I have read all of the comments so far.
What puzzles me is that she asked two questions…
what do we pray for and how.
I feel that we are to select a time when as believers we pray for unity and peace and
Our Lord’s blessings on our country.
No one has said when or how so this is my thought…
choose a time..say 6pm daily to come before the Grace of God asking Him to intervene
in the lives of our people and those in authority over our beloved country.
He does answer prayer. It does not take the prayers from all of us for Him to answer
but it is a way that we, as His people can draw together to ask His blessings.
Thank you Julie for your daily blog.
It has meant a lot to me personally.

Isaiah’s Commission
6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne;
and the train of his robe filled the temple.
2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet,
and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and
the temple was filled with smoke.

5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand,
which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 With it he touched my mouth and said,
“See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

9 He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.[a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”

And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

And so we are commissioned.

We shall pray for the unity of the Faithful first…that being us and our own hearts.
A prayer for the unity of the believers of the blessed Trinity
Then we shall pray that our hearts may be humbled…
and then we will pray that we will become the reflection of God’s light…
a light that will shine into a darkened world.

Add your thoughts or adjustments…and now…tell
me what is to be our specific prayer time…6PM as Marie suggests…or another time??

Keep it coming my brothers and sisters …

To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

shame healing

“I cry, I cry and I cry again…the religion of Christ, the true faith,
has fallen so low that it is an object of scorn not only to the devil
but to the Jews and Saracens and pagans…
these keep their law, as they believe it;
but we, intoxicated with the world, have deserted our law.”

Pope Gregory VII

Healing and miracles have been a mystery to men of all times.
To some, the phenomenon is frightening, while others find it exhilarating.

Mother Angelica

christ_pantocrator_mosaic_from_hagia_sophia_2240_x_3109_pixels_2-5_mb
Christ Pantocrator / Hagia Sophia / Istanbul,Turkey)

“Our nation will not know healing in any measure through the work of mutual shaming.
There is no life to be found in it, only anger, depression
and the continued darkening of our culture.
Only light gives life.
Creating is difficult, careful work.
Destruction is easy – child’s play.
Forgive those who do not deserve it.
Forgive before they ask.
Forgive as though it is Judgment Day and your own soul will be held to the scrutiny
you extend to others.
It’s ok.
You won’t lose anything through forgiveness.
In holding onto the shame of others you will only increase your own.
Speak kindness.
Be generous.
Set your prisoners free.
No more shame slaves.”

Fr.Stephen Freeman

Nous pleurons avec vous France

All for one and one for all,
united we stand divided we fall.”

― Alexandre Dumas

DSC00729
(Winged Victory, The Louvre / Julie Cook / 2011)

Dear France:
We weep freely for, as well as with, you–our dear friends
Our hearts are breaking
Our minds are reeling
Yet we stand together with you in our determination to live united in Liberté

God bless France
Vive la France

An unlikely tale of unity

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

― Gwendolyn Brooks

DSC02690
(American Beautyberry bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Crown Him with many crowns. . .a much beloved and joyful hymn sung in any number of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. How many of us, who have sung this hymn during any given Sunday service, have known that this hymn is as much about Biblical scripture as it is about Christian unity?

Catholics and Protestants have long suffered through a strained relationship of both love and hate–a tenuous relationship that has existed ever since Martin Luther set loose a reformation with all that nailing to a door business.
It’s been a tug of war between acceptance and rejection ever since 1517.

There has been blood shed, heads chopped off, houses of worship destroyed, statues crushed, books burned, the faithful tortured, confessions coerced, beliefs recanted, prayers cursed. . .
all in the name of the proper observance for the Christian faith.

During one such tumultuous time period in this long suffering relationship, a hymn was composed by two vastly different men—Matthew Bridges a Catholic convert and Godfrey Thring an Anglican clergyman. The composition however was not originally intended as a joint effort in unity but rather, in actuality, was a conglomeration of equal time for each opposing team.

In the 1800s there was great tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches. Crown Him with Many Crowns is a wonderful example of how God takes the troubles of man and turns them around for good (Romans 8:28).The song was originally penned in 1851 by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who once wrote a book condemning Roman Catholic theology, and then later converted to Catholicism. Bridges wrote six stanzas, based upon Revelations 19:12, “…and on His head were many crowns.”

Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) was a devout Anglican clergyman who was concerned that this popular hymn was allowing Catholic theology to be sung by protestant congregations. And so he wrote six new verses.

The 12 stanzas have been mixed and matched down through the years.
(excerpt taken from Sharefaith.com)

So as we stand in our collective churches this Sunday morning, lifting our voices skyward, may we all be mindful that our faith in the resurrected Son of the Most High God, is the tie that binds us as brothers and sisters–bound by the blood of Christ—one belief, one faith, one Savior, one voice lifting to Heaven. . .

Turning point

From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.
Franz Kafka

We have come to a turning point in the road. If we turn to the right mayhap our children and our children’s children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word.
Charles Spurgeon

DSCN8636
(twilight in the western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN8638
(a rising moon in an eastern Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

In the stillness of the in-between time known as twilight,
Sandwiched between sunset and moonrise. . .
Stepping briefly away from the never-ending emotional assault of manmade turmoil,
The otherworldliness found in Nature’s landscape, offers a respite to overwhelmed senses.

There is silence.

In front lay the setting of a December sun, offering a palette of warm and cool hues swiped across the western sky—the day’s final mark of the Master Artist’s dripping brushstrokes.
Behind rises a brilliant white disc shrouded in the purple gauze of a cloudy eastern sky. Each canvas offset with the royal shades of blues and purples as well as a few touches of soft pink whimsy.

Pivoting and turning both ahead and back, as each landscape’s offering is vastly different yet captivatingly mystical, a great sense of calm descends over the Earth.
Greater and more grand then anything made by man with the overstimulating offering of electronics, technology, and artificial this and that, the heavens above leave no doubt as to what is truly important.

The world stands at a crossroads.
Behind, lay the remnants of what was.
There in the shadows hides civility, morality, compassion, understanding, kindness, and the common goals of unity . . .
Ahead, the seemingly sinister rages of anger, anarchy, chaos, violence, looting, hatred, mistrust all coupled with a strong helping of individual self-centered agenda, set about ready for destruction. . .
The tragic results of falling away and turning from God’s word.
Yet many scoff at such simplistic explanations of the sad state gripping our world—
As the concept of an Omnipotent God competes with the more modern theology of Self.
Appeasement and all inclusiveness seem so much nicer than the following of certain tenants as stated in the covenants established between God and man.

. . .as that would require the belief in such a God and the yielding of self to something much greater. . .

The following words spoken by the late exiled dissident Russian author and Noble Prize Laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, given during a speech in the late 1970’s, eerily ring deeply more prophetic for us today than perhaps the writer could have ever known:
“We have become hopelessly enmeshed in our slavish worship of all that is pleasant, all that is comfortable, all that is material — we worship things, we worship products. Will we ever succeed in shaking off this burden, in giving free rein to the spirit that was breathed into us at birth, that spirit which distinguishes us from the animal world.”

Time is of the essence, yet who is listening. . .
as the sun continues to set and the moon continues to rise. . .


Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!
Amen.

2 Peter 3:17-18

DSCN8635
(sunset in a western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN8640
(soon to be full moon / Julie Cook / 2014)

RSCN8649
(a full December moon / Julie Cook / 2014)