alligators and the capitulation of the church

“We need more public Christians, even though being a Christian in public is
getting tougher, says David Robertson, a Presbyterian pastor from Scotland –
a nation that has “secularised quicker than any other nation in history”

Excerpt from an interview with Eternity Magazine in Sydney, Australia


(Gulf coast alligator courtesy the Gaurdian)

The last time I visited the state of Louisiana was in 1982 for the Sugar Bowl.
My Dawgs were playing Pitt…we won’t talk about the outcome…it was such a long
time ago, I think I’ve forgotten.

However, Sugar Bowls or not, for some reason or another,
I’ve always been partial to Louisiana.
At one point I thought I wanted to attend for LSU for college…but then I wouldn’t have
been at the 1982 Sugar Bowl watching my Bulldogs play those Pitt Panthers.

But we’re still not ready to talk about that game so let’s just move on.

I’ve got cousins who call Monroe as well as Lake Charles home.
My dad took us on a visit when I was in the 7th grade.

Maybe it’s her history.
Maybe it’s her food.
Maybe it’s her beauty…
but I’ve just always been partial to Louisiana.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been known to tune into the History Channel’s Swamp People
show from time to time.
That quasi-reality show about those who make their living hunting alligators.

I mean who sits around at a boardroom table in either New York or LA and ruminate over
creating a show around the livelihood of folks whose families have hunted,
for generations mind you, alligators???

But there is just something about these people that I like.

They are real.

Well— relatively real.

If they were really real, I doubt they’d be doing television…but then you’ve
got to consider that a TV supplement is a nice added bonus to a diminishing payout for
alligator hides and meat.
I’m just saying.

These folks are not what most other folks would call refined, well to do, polished,
overly educated or even poised.

Some would call them backward, backwoods or dare we say, white trash.

And that’s why I like them.

They are what they are… a what you see is what you get sort of individual.
Some have had run-ins with the Law, the IRS, the History Channel…
even run-ins with one another…but in the end, they are what they are…
nothing more and nothing less.

Many of them are of Cajun descent.
There is a heavy French Louisiana accent that often prompts the television folks
to provide subtitles.
Really History Channel???
Maybe because I’m from the South, but I don’t need subtitles…

And so it was on a recent episode that one particular fellow was out hunting for wild hogs
(barefoot of course) when he came upon a couple of lost puppies out in the middle of the
nowhere woods.
Lost in the woods in Louisiana is not for the faint of heart.
There are poisonous snakes, wild hogs, coyotes, and yes alligators…
a place I would not be keen to get lost.

The short of this long tale boiled down to this fellow telling the cameraman that
“that’s why God made puppies, they’re just so cute you’ve got to want to take care of them.”

A gem of wisdom found in the backwoods of Louisiana.

A simple faith from a rather rough-hewn individual.

And so his words made me think.

I thought how great that our God was so loving and so thoughtful that He saw fit
to prewire in us an inward drive to take care of those who are smaller,
younger and more vulnerable.

A role I often think of when I think of the Chruch.
For the Chruch, the collective body of Fatih is there to take care of the fold—
which is us. The Believing faithful.
And as we are akin to sheep in many respects, we tend to be sheep-like,
so we certainly need an earthly shepherd.

Enter the Chruch…our ministers, our pastors, our deacons, our priests…
our Spiritual guiding servants of Christ

They are to lead and guide the fold.
They are to offer God’s word to the lost, the wandering and to the hard of hearing.
They are to teach us, inform us and instruct us in the ways of the Master.

They are to set the standard, the bar, the benchmarks for living a “Godly” life.

And yet it is that very body, The Chruch, which is actually letting us down.

The Church is not standing up for God’s word but rather she is capitulating to the
strong-arm tactics of an ever-changing culture…
a culture who is holding her arm behind her back,
having her to bend down before the gods of all things of culture.
Acceptance of one and all regardless of God’s admonition.

“We were known as ‘the land of the people of the book’, the book being the Bible,”
he says about Scotland. “Even as late as the 1950s, you’d have 1.4 million out of
4.5 million people being members of the Church of Scotland,
as well as Catholics and other groups.”

Today the Church of Scotland’s membership is below 300,000.
Scotland is on a rapid slide downhill, both in church attendance numbers and in
“the quality of churches and the impact on society.
We are throwing overboard our Christian heritage right,
left and center and that will come back to bite us.”

Robertson does not blame secularists as the main cause for the decline in
Christianity in Scotland.
The church itself is “the primary reason” for the decline –
and he’s not just talking about liberal Christians, which, as a conservative,
he might have been expected to target.

He says denominations (church groups) such as his own Free Church of Scotland,
a small Presbyterian denomination, became afraid and inward looking with
a tendency towards legalism.
The Church of Scotland, a liberal denomination is also in freefall,
with fewer than 100,000 worshippers out of a population of 5.5 million.

Click the link to continue reading David’s interview…and then pray for our guiding force,
the bride of Christ, the Chruch…

“Don’t be like us” says a true Scotsman – Interview with Eternity magazine

Nefarious and sinister

“No sign, so far, of anything sinister—but I live in hope.”
Agatha Christie

Firstly, you must remember that I am from the generation that was before this
over-zealous addiction with technology was a thing…
From a time before cell phones, before DVD’s, before standard air conditioning,
before videos before virtual reality….

Television, with only the standard 3 major networks, broadcast in black and white,
was not a 24/7 happening thing.
Who doesn’t remember the good ol buzzing of the test pattern waiting for the time
in which the day was to crank back up?

I was well into my teaching career when schools began introducing computers
to their teachers.
A hulking behemoth of a thing that had no such thing as a connection to a
world wide web or wifi capability…but rather ran a single electronic grade book system….of which was only as good as the teachers trying input the
averages and grades…

So when it came time for our son to actually need his first computer,
in say maybe his 9th or 10th grade year in high school,
he was sold on needing an Apple.

My dad was always the techie guru of the family…
of which probably had something to do with Dad having been an engineer all his life.
For he was always cutting edge with technology.

When I was young we were the first on our street to get a color television,
the first to move from HiFi to stereo and the first to get a cell phone.
Granted it was basically a plug-in phone in a bag that looked more like a
traditional phone stuck in a black pocketbook…
but it was cutting edge none the less.

When he bought mother her first microwave, a giant monstrosity that took up an
entire kitchen counter, he made us all leave the room when it was on lest we be
radiated…yet it was ok to eat the radiated food…hummm.

So when it came time for folks to get home computers, dad was right there
in the mix…and this must have been where our son got his proclivity for
technology.

Of course it was now the 21st century…
Apple had come a long way from the early
days of the Macintosh…
Apple now presented a clean futuristic take on technology.
They were slick and if you were slick, Apple was what the slick were craving.

So naturally our son eventually sold me on needing an Apple as well…
despite my school still using traditional PCs in the classroom.
“Apples are easier to use and they don’t get viruses mother” he would
frustratingly remind me whenever something went awry at school…
“Plus they’re for the more creative” this being a push to his
art teacher mother.

And so it is…
I’ve been through one large Apple desktop and two iMac lap tops…not to mention
and array of iPhones and one iPad…

And then it happened.

There I was last night having to update my adobe acrobat.
My phone happened to be ringing at the same time.

Answering the phone while trying to update…
as in multitasking has always been an area in which I have always excelled…
Yet suddenly something crazy and terribly wrong had come up on my screen as there
was now a voice coming from my computer with some dude talking to me about virus
detection while my computer had downloaded not adobe acrobat but something else
entirely, something called Safe Finder—
with this actually becoming my new home page.
Safe it was not….

WHAT????? I hear a panicked voice wailing,
realizing the voice was mine.

So I quickly hung up the phone and tried doing everything a limited minded
57 year old knows to do.
I cut my computer off and on.

When some semblance of clarity finally returned to my distraught brain,
I tried uninstalling the blasted thing but it wouldn’t uninstall.

Shades of Equifax now ran through my brain as I heard the Discover Card commercial
Russian sales associate “Peggy” mocking me from somewhere deep in Siberia…
I now believed everything I held dear or what was of importance to my existence as
a humanbeing had just been dumped on that nefarious Dark Web.

I actually looked up “what is the dark web”
And just when you thought the internet was not dark enough,
it gets even darker.

The links that came up were frighting at best.
With the lead link claiming to be able to step by step anyone into the dark web
within 15 minutes allowing you to remain anonymous.
I felt as if it was assuring me that it could happily step by step me
smack dab into the middle of Hell all within 15 minutes…
somehow I don’t think one remains anonymous in Hell.

Naturally I didn’t click on any links because I just wanted to see if it was
really real.
And no I do not need to see if Hell is real…
I’ve already figured that one out.

So I now had a sick feeling in my stomach…a kind of scared to death feeling of
instant doom.

I worked my way into reaching Apple in order to make an appointment at one the
Atlanta stores for the following day but discovered there were no appointments
until Saturday at 5:15.
“Are you freaking kidding me?????”
Again the panicked voice, which was mine, was heard wailing.

By now my husband was home.
I rapidly fired off the retelling of my troubles as he was wondering why
supper was only half way cooked.
“Maybe you should just go buy another one?”
“No” I practically snapped, “this one is only two years old and a new one
would cost an arm and a leg.”
All the while images of viruses being sent out to everyone I knew, or worse,
my identity was now multiplying in places like North Korea, Russia, China….
all dark shadows playing out in my now overstimulated imagination.

After supper I called Apple and left my number for a “miracle worker”
to call me back.
An almost immediately my phone rang with said Apple miracle worker.

I explained my tale of woe.
We ‘share screened’…
(which is scary in itself as we where both in my computer at the same time)
while he walked me through the malware issue.
He found the culprit embedded on my hard drive…hidden well deep within
the labyrinth of the the computer.

We got it, got rid of it and added a Malware program to my computer to
detect and deal with any further issues.

So naturally with all this virus verses no virus business…
along with the hackers, identity theft, and the sinister Dark Web plaguing
my life, I got to thinking….

We live in a world of utterly false protection.
If you think otherwise, it won’t be long until this world makes a believer out of
you as well.

We have been lulled into believing that everything from our identity,
to our credit history to our medical records, to our very safety as an American
are all perfectly safe…
Yet with the big credit companies like Equifax recently being attacked…
While millions of medical records were hacked at Anthem in 2015, with even
the Pentagon being hacked, no one should feel safe.

While credit information is easily stollen at gas stations, restaurants and
even while innocently and mindlessly shopping…
with it all being sold to the highest bidder.

Life is no longer simple nor is it safe.

So while we now work diligently to be ever vigilant protecting what is ours
while living in a world of growing cyber darkness…
we must be equally, if not more so, mindful that our very souls are
just as vulnerable as our credit or our medical records or even our identity ….
for there is indeed a darkness that longs for such…

And should you disagree—there are steps available for taking you just as dark as
you dare go…I think they call that hell…..

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent,
who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—
he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the
authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers
has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word
of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you,
O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:9-12

who’s listening?

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis

The Son of God suffered unto the death,
not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.

George MacDonald


(Percy surveys the rain / Julie Cook / 2017)

iF God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy,
and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.
But the creatures are not happy.
Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”
this is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

C.S Lewis’ opening sentence from the book The Problem Of Pain

When I initially read the quote about God shouting to us in our pain…
The sheer notion that God is indeed shouting when we are at our lowest,
most often at our most vulnerable and even most desperate…
I found it to be, well, oddly comforting.

For Mr Lewis reminds us that while God knows we are having trouble listening…
trouble hearing Him speak to us, wooing us, comforting us….
He has no problem in shouting at us, to us, in order to get our attention.
For He is steadfast that way….

For man, in his inestimable knowledge, has concluded that if humans are in pain,
hurting, tortured, agonizing and grossly unhappy…
man falsely concludes that any being that boasts to be an
Omnipotent God who can do all things…why would this God of supposed Love, Compassion and Grace
sadistically allow all the anguish and pain to not only continue, but
to exist in the first place?

The conclusion…there is no God…
or if there is…He is cold, calculating and menacing….

And that is very much like us is it not?

We find something to our disliking, our displeasure, and we expunge it from our world
or we label it as an enemy to our living…
For we believe we are a people of absolutes…but the truth of the matter is, we are not.
For we do not tolerate absolutes…we rebel against the notion of the definitive.

And in this world of absolute verse definitive,
we have hardened our hearts and chosen the side of the secular…
In part because we cannot tolerate the fact that we live in
a world full of pain and in that pain we actually find our need and helplessness…
And it is in that helplessness that we seem unable to allow our ego and pride to go…

For in our defiance against the Absolute Creator,
our hearts have grown cold as our eyes are now blind and our ears now deaf.
We are weak and vulnerable, yet we defiantly, as little children,
stomp our feet while displaying our anger and resentment within our proclaimed disbelief.

All the while our God shouts as we stand with our fingers jammed in our ears.

For God continues to speak louder and louder…
Patiently, steadily calling us one by one,
name by name… to His open arms, to His side…
because the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow,
no more anger, no more grief, no more pain…

And soon a senseless world begins to make sense to the believer…
Because the believer knows that he has never been a part of
this limited pain filled world….

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my folly.

Psalm 38:3-5

human

“Do you know what the definition of insane is?
Yes.
It’s the inability to relate to another human being.
It’s the inability to love.”

― Richard Yates


(Leonardo’s Vitruvian man / 1490)

So last night, as I sat flipping through a bit of television, I stopped to catch a bit
of the reality singing competition The Voice.
I don’t like watching much that is offered on television.
I find most everything to be repulsive, in poor taste, vile, overtly violent, offensively
borderline pornographic, or plain silly, dumb and insulting to one’s intellect and moral code.

So I took my chances with people singing who were wanting to win a singing competition.
Relatively benign…that is until the judges open their mouths.

One of the guy contestants chose to sing the song Human and made the comment that
he was all about love and none of the current hating mindset ravaging the country…
what with all the full blown contempt everyone seems to have for those who may differ
in opinion than, say, their fellow man….

His particular song of choice has been around a while with a myriad of remakes.

Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I’m blind
But I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put your blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me

It’s a nice enough sentiment I suppose.

As in I’m just human….
full of vulnerability, foibles and obviously error prone.
So don’t blame me…..

But herein lies the rub….or at least the problem.

It’s that whole “don’t blame me” sort of mentality that currently has us in
the worst of trouble.

It’s the passing of the blame.
It’s the “I’m right, you’re wrong” tit for tat, back and forth we go mentality.
It’s the lack of stepping up to the plate of responsibility.
The whole deferring to taking responsibility for ones actions.
Act like a bafoon one minute then maybe apologize later if you get caught.
“I didn’t mean to, I’m only human”

It’s the “uh oh—it seems that when I got mad and decided to go join the protest,
getting caught up in the excitement of the destructive moment and threw that brick through
that bank’s plate glass window then helped overturn the police car, lighting it on fire…
well, your honor, I’m only human and didn’t really mean it….

For you see, that sort of mindset does not hold water….
and yet sadly that is the mindset sweeping through our land.
I’m really not responsible for what I do because as a human, screwing up is just part and parcel…
Add all those thinking along the same lines and you get….
Irresponsible manic mania.

Is it not enough that there is a sweeping lack of moral conviction,
humankind irresponsibility or a total lack of understanding for those who
actually believe in taking the higher ground…
but now we simply blame it on our humanness.

Contrary to popular belief,
we are called to stand up and be accountable to not only ourselves but to our fellow man.
We are called to be responsible for our actions.
We are called to be respectful to ourselves as well as to others.

The code for living that was delivered to Moses was pretty simple…as well as clear cut.

Recently I caught an interview over on Fox News with their chief Religion correspondent,
Lauren Green….
She has a new book out, Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog

Lauren explains the title of her book as being based on the concept of the Ten Commandments.
She notes that “here you have a seminal point found in the very first commandment…”
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Lauren goes on to explain that by breaking commandants 2-10, you will always have broken 1.
As number 1 is the pinnacle that everything else descends from.
A very academic and legal approach to looking at how we are to be living our lives…

So yes…we are only human—
perfectly formed and lovingly made—
by an awesome and Omnipotent God who knew, that in our vulnerable humanness,
we would need a set of rules to live by—simple and straightforward…
yet as only as we humans could…we messed up simple and straightforward—

And so now enters the One who takes that humanness of brokeness and error
and brings both healing and Grace…

This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10

heightened senses….

“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
William Faulkner

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(Victorian Christmas Greeting card)

Every memory seems more keen.
Every sight seems more bright.
Every tear seems more heavy.
Every scent seems more strong.
Every sound seems more bold.
Every heartache seems more piercing.
Every loss seems more painful.
Every joy seems more complete.
Every touch seems more dear…

Each year, finding ourselves standing before what makes Christmas just that,
Christmas…
Our senses,
our thoughts,
our tastes,
our recollections…
seem hopelessly more intense, more sharp, more profound…

Be that a blessing
or
be that a curse.

Pain is greater.
Suffering is more fierce.
Joy is more contagious.
While satisfaction hangs precariously in the balance.

There are those who gravitate toward this more mystical and magical time
full of giddiness and glee…
while others wish to close their eyes,
not openning them again until mid January.

The sensory overload can be overtly overwhelming or palpably underwhelming.

And yet it is in that overload, be it over or under,
that we actually become more….
raw…
more open…
and even more vulnerable.

And it is in that vulnerability that the ego slightly abates….
the guard slips ever so quietly,
While pretense evaporates as the dew in first light…
As we are splayed wide open.

And it is in that moment of pure raw vulnerability that
the heart finally realigns,
beating rhythmically for the first time since the tragic Fall,
as it is once again, albeit briefly, in sync with all of Creation…

For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37

undaunted

“God deliberately chooses imperfect vessels —
those who have been wounded, those with physical or emotional limitations.
Then he prepares them to serve and sends them out with their weakness still in evidence,
so that his strength can be made perfect in that weakness.”

Christine Caine

dscn4342
(a lone spotted sandpiper stands before the waves / Julie Cook / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

Feeling small and vulnerable
Hopeless against a menacing power of darkness
It all seems lost before we even begin

Yet we cannot be deterred.
We stand undaunted because we do not stand alone….

You will not have to fight this battle.
Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you,
Judah and Jerusalem.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.

2 Chronicles 20:17

After the storm

“He in his madness prays for storms,
and dreams that storms will bring him peace”

― Mikhail Lermontov

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DSCN2287
(images of spider webs that survived the tumultuous flooding rains / Carrollton, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

A deluge…
A torrent…
Wind, hail, lightening, thunder, flooding…
We shudder and we worry,
The waters rise
As the sirens wail…

Tornados
Floods
Downpours…
Pummeled and beaten
On and on it lasts for hours,
Days pass as the assault remains relentless
Washing everything away….

What of the tiny and the minuscule
The delicate and thin
The exposed
The vulnerable
All of which is seemingly fragile…?
Is it possible to hold on, bear up,
remain and survive?

Our life is but a wisp, a flicker of light
Delicate and fragile…
We worry and we fret
Battered and assailed
We can barely hang on…
Yet did we not once think of ourselves as invisible?

Eventually when the storms pass,
the clouds part and the winds are finally still…
When it all is beautifully quiet and calm
We wonder what, if anything,
remains in the wake of the fury…

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you
Isaiah 43:1-28