see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

the hope found in a train wreck

“I have noticed a strange paradox.
While we are often quite confident about our own circumstances,
and ourselves, we are easily made fearful about what is going on in the wider world.
John seems to do the reverse – he does indeed tell us that our circumstances may be dreadful,
and that the world is in a deep mess, but he causes us to look much higher and further.
This world is not doomed. It is destined for renewal.
The whole creation groans and waits for its liberation from bondage to decay and to be
brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”
(Romans 8:21).

Pastor David Robertson


( a most colorful little beetle / Julie Cook / 2017)

I caught another sermon post by our friend the Scottish pastor David Robertson.

The sermon was based on Revelation 17…
(here is a link to the chapter as a means of saving the word count today…
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2017 )

The chapter has a rather matter of fact, mince no words sort of title…
The Great Whore and the Beast.

And if we know anything about the book of Revelations and John…
symbolism while mincing no words runs hand in hand as the title may be considered a bit
of a double entendre.

For the whore is not merely a local prostitute just as the beast is no wild animal
of the forest.

Here is the link if you would like to read the sermon.
( https://theweeflea.com/2017/06/10/revelation-17-the-prostitute-on-the-beast/ )

Have you ever been a bystander who witnesses something bad?

There you are…just standing there, minding your own business, when suddenly
you are aware of something massive which is just about to take place.
You’re actually able to survey the full landscape, the whole picture as it were…
You see these two forces and all that is around them
as they are on a one way course with destruction…..
and yet…..

You know in your head that what you are about to witness is not going to be good and
will not end well for either party.
That this cataclysmic event is actually going to be really really bad…
and yet you are totally helpless to intervene..unable to do your best to stop it.
It is going to happen whether you jump in or not.
It’s as if everything is now in slow motion.
It’s a surreal moment that seems almost out of body.

And that is exactly how I’m feeling about our current day and time.

I feel almost like a spectator on certain days who is watching a train wreck that is just
about to occur.
I’m standing there watching two opposing trains barreling directly at one another
and there isn’t a darn thing I can do to stop it because the trains are bigger,
faster and more powerful than my mere human frame.
I can’t even scream because the trains won’t hear me and there are no people who
will hear me who can stop the trains before it’s too late.
As in no one….

And yet at the same time there is an almost odd release of anxiety,
as there is an unexplainable peace, or perhaps better yet, a clam….
for I am resigned to the knowledge that there is indeed nothing I can do…
the inevitable is going to happen with or without me.

As a Christian, I feel obligated to be a defender of the faith as it were.
That it is my solemn duty to not only proclaim the Gospel to a darkened
world but it is my duty to defend the collective Christian Church..
a Church who the world yearns to destroy.

And there is frustration found in the inaction of simple standing by and watching…
watching the masses of those who profess to be Christians..
those who are either blinded or lost to the fact that the inevitable train wreck has
been set in motion…
and yet the majority remain silent to what is Truth.

And yes, I admit that we don’t know when or where the wreck will be…
but we know the wreck is coming…yet why in the heck won’t anyone step up and
speak out…alerting, reminding, sharing with the world???
Why the silence?

And then it dawns on me that maybe, just maybe the problem is that there are
just a handful of folks who really actually acknowledge that the inevitable collision
is going to happen.. one way or another, it’s going to happen…
and there’s nothing any of us can do to stop it….

So best we just be prepared ourselves for when that collision comes…
because no one else seems to want to listen….
For in the end, we who remain faithful are not to be doomed to the wreck…
because after the collision, Love has already won.

“Sometimes as Christians we need to lift our eyes from our own personal
circumstances, and from what is going on in our countries and indeed the whole world,
and get a grander vision.
We look up, as Stephen did as he was about to be stoned to death:
‘But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit,
looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand
of God.
“Look,” he said,
“I see heaven upon and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”
(Acts 7: 55-56).
This is the vision we need, individually and collectively –
the vision of Christ and his glory”
Then, and only then, will be able to rejoice in the midst of trouble.
Even though ‘the great prostitute is drunk with the blood of God’s holy people’,
they shall rise and she shall fall.
Once we grasp this, then, and only then,
will we be able to live lives that are full of faith not fear,
love not hate,
forgiveness not revenge.

David Robertson

vigil

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

1st verse to an ancient Welsh folksong

“And, in the end
The love you take
is equal to the love you make.”

Paul McCartney

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(the little Ga Tech bear that sits vigil at the foot of Dad’s bed)

There’s a lady in our town who makes teddy bears.
The premise is that you can bring her an old blanket, shirt or some other piece
of clothing, from either a growing child or even a departed loved one,
and she will make a bear using the blanket or fabric of said loved one…
she calls them “remembrance bears”…

Just before Christmas, when I was picking up a prescription at my pharmacy,
I saw this Ga Tech bear sitting on a small stool at the end of an aisle.
I asked the pharmacist if this particular bear was for sale or merely a display.
She informed that it was indeed for sale as her mom was now making collegiate bears.

“Well”, I excalimed,
“I know just the perfect person for this particular bear”…

And ever since this little black and gold bear has been sitting at the foot of dad’s bed,
or in the nearby chair…
keeping a steadfast silent vigil throughout these days and nights
of both waxing and waning….

and right now the days and nights are waning.

I was meet this morning by both nurses…hospice and the care service.
Dad had had a bad night, throwing up repeatedly, resulting in them having to administer
an anti nausea drug from the “emergency” hospice kit.

This emergency kit was provided when Dad was first placed on hospice care.
It’s a little brown box that was to stay in the refrigerator
as it had the emergency morphine for when pain got really bad…
as there may not be time to quickly order new meds.

It’s a little brown box I pushed way in the back of the fridge…
hiding it behind the eggs and milk…
as I didn’t want my stepmother to mistakenly throw it out,
and I didn’t want to see it,
I didn’t want to be reminded of it,
and I prayed we wouldn’t have to use it.

They started using it about three weeks ago.

The hospice nurse was also giving him a good going over….
from head to toe…checking the catheter, his vitals, etc…
When one is terminally ill, dignity is the first casualty.

Later my nurse friend came into the kitchen where I was waiting
and told me that she really didn’t think it would be much longer…
Maybe a week at best.

I reminded her that we said that two weeks ago…
yet I was very aware that we both knew the deal…
that no one can ever predict time in these sorts of matters…
however I also knew that she’s ridden in this little rodeo before…
her knowledge and intuitive skills certainly surpass mine in these sorts of situations…

And so after running to the grocery store and doing some errands for the
maintaining of their household…
I went back to sit with dad.

His speech was slurred, his eyes fluttered open and shut…
but he did have his cable news turned on and was attempting to go through
the motions of reading over the newspaper.
It is from Dad that I get my keen interest in all things news, political, football and history.

His legs were twitching back and forth,
As he told me that a former caregiver had died.

She had not died and is actually alive and quite well.
His mind is working hard to sort reality from that of dreams.

And as I sat with dad, watching news story after news story concerning the complete
idiocy of this nation of ours, I was suddenly and tragically aware that there were countless
other families doing exactly what I was doing…
and that is keeping vigil over a loved one.

The furtherest thing of importance that should be on our radars are these
ridiculous demonstrations, protests and marches.

When you cut away all the minutia of life…
all of the pettiness,
the bitterness,
the anger,
the tantrums,
the selfishness,
the lies,
the hate,
the lunacy…
you will see what is truly important…

And that is simply living,
as well as dying,
and most importantly the love that it to be found in each of those human functions.

Damn to pink hats, to rock stars, to actresses all performing for the mania…
those who now only live for the “will he or won’t he” that is gripping the minds of the hysterical,
It all matters not one iota when you find yourself slowly losing either your own life
or slowly losing the life of one you love…

It is the love found in that life that really only matters.
The love given, the love demonstrated, the love received…

May you open your heart not to the maelstrom of the mania that is currently
roaring past you…
but rather may you seek and find the love in life…
that one lasting piece of each of us that really truly only matters…

because in the end…it is only the love that will remain…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height
nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-38

Opportunistic

“He had learned the rare secret that you must
take happiness when you find it–
that there is no use in marking the place and coming back to it
at a more convenient season,
because it will not be there then.”

L.M. Montgomery

DSCN4305
(a spider making the most of what flies to the light in the night / Julie Cook / 2016)

The spider, not caring whether the web is elaborate, elegant or showy,
chooses the path of least resistance.

Why toil elsewhere when what you want comes
easily your way with little to no exertion on your part?

How quickly we make ourselves available…
to him who is lurks in the shadows, waiting.

Waiting like the spider who sits and watches,
waiting as we begin to circle the lights.

Drawn in by the allure of all that is,
yet it is caution which must be exercised.

The mindless moth or bug is mesmerized by the light
flittering and jittering precariously near a waiting web..

A trap has been set.
Yet no one seems the wiser…

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I have come here from God.
I have not come on my own; God sent me.
Why is my language not clear to you?
Because you are unable to hear what I say.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.
When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?
If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?
Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.
The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

John 8 42-48

watch your step

There are times when fear is good.
It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.

Aeschylus

DSCN3472
(a weary cottonmouth watches as we were fortunate to spot him before it was a step too late / one of Georgia’s 6 venomous snakes / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

Our life’s journey can be misleadingly easy and smooth, dulling and lulling the senses into a state of blissful complacency…
yet waiting patiently and watching intently from the shadows…
our ancient adversary is hopeful for each and every misstep…

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1 Peter 5:8-9

the hustle and bustle of the 4th Sunday in Advent

Just a hurried line…to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly “Xmas” racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, “Oh Lor’! They bring religion into everything. Look – they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”
~ C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Dec. 29, 1958, p80

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(St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As Christmas day draws nigh…
As you busy yourself with all that must be done…
As you hurry here and there…
Checking off your list each item one by one…
As you travel… drive, fly, rail, sail and wander your way to there and yon
As you wonder what will fill your day come Friday…
Who will you see, what will you do, where will you be….
Make certain that you stop, standing very still at some point along the way…
Being ever mindful, taking hold of what is at the very heart, the epicenter of this season of merry and bright, waiting and watching…
What it is that makes this season as exciting as it is…
Not the visit from Santa
Not the gifts all wrapped up under a tree
Not the lights nor all the decorations
Not the visits from family and friends..
but rather the something, or more exactly the someone, who makes this all exactly what it is…and that being…
Yeshua ben Yosef…
The Christ…

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.

(Micha 5:2)

Rejoice

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

(words taken from Mary’ prayer
Luke 1:46-56)

We wait, we wait….
Destiny waits in the hand of God, shaping the still unshapen.
Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.
Come, happy December, who shall observe you, who shall preserve you?
Shall the Son of Man be born again in the litter of scorn?
For us, the poor, there is no action,
But only to wait and to witness.

T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

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(a stand of ash trees / Gleandlough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

What better visual expression and example could exist in which the earth proclaims the majesty of the Creator, as they, the trees, teach us all what it means to rejoice, to delight, to be jubilant and exuberant…

The trees lift our eyes and hearts upward, as we also yearn to reach ever heavenward…drawing our sights, our minds, our senses upward while raising our spirits as we lift our voices in unison singing HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…as we wait expectantly for the birth of the Savior of all mankind….

The 3rd week of Advent is known as Gaudete –latin for the word Rejoice
Hear the words of the ancient hymn:

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Rejoice, Rejoice O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

As this 3rd Adventen week begins, which will actually begin on Thursday December 17th, with the admonition by Paul– “The Lord is near”

Did you hear that?
The Lord is near…..whoa…
As in His presence is in close proximity to our own, your own..
He is close and getting closer by the day, by the hour, by the minute…
Not a mere fable or sweet little story of something that happened long ago..
but rather the approaching of someone real who is soon to be in your presence just as you will be in His…

Does that not make you want to turn around…
to look both left and right as the presence of the Almighty is near and drawing ever closer than you could ever imagine?

Your heart quickens as you feel the reverberations of something monumental.
Your palms are wet, your knees are weak and your mouth is dry.
Something bigger, greater and more grand than you have ever known is soon to take place…. as you my friend can barely wait…

Get ready…
Be ready…
Be watching…
The time draws nigh…
He’s almost here…
are you ready?

Prepare our hearts
and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and hope
which his presence
will bestow.

(taken from the Catholic prayers for Advent)