lessons from a difficult sister

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
for myself, I have chosen your altars,
my King and my God.

Psalm 84:3


(Léonie Martin, known as Sister Françoise-Thérèse)

Since I was adopted as a baby I’ve never known whether I had a sister or not.
I did not have a sister in my adoptive family.
However, I do know what it means to have been a bit of a difficult child.

I was rather headstrong growing up.

I wouldn’t say I was difficult, but that label might need to be addressed by my mom and dad,
and since neither of them is here to add to or refute such a claim, we’ll just keep it as headstrong.

I was often willful, somewhat defiant and had a mind of my own.

I knew what I liked and what I wanted despite those wants and ideas not always being the
wisest of thoughts.

After reading the following story about a rather obscure woman and nun,
I found that I could actually relate to her story.

She is what I call a shadow dweller—a person who lives in the shadows of a more prominent sibling.
A girl who wrestled with her own standing in life and what hand she had been dealt.

That’s the thing…isn’t life just merely a matter of what we make of it…
or on the other hand, it’s what Life makes of us?

Either of which makes us, in turn, who we will become

Will we choose to rise above or will we simply succumb?

Will we allow all of the negative to swallow us whole or will we learn to stand up and out
of the negative, rising up to our true potential?

We can either give in and up or we can purposely and willfully fight our demons in order
to be who we are truly called to be.

And who we are called to be might just be a person who is content living in the shadow
of a more famous sibling…

“Léonie Martin is arguably the least known and admired member of her entire family,
but I doubt she minds.
She’s used to being in that position.”

I’ve written often about one of her sisters.
A now well know sister, who despite having lived a very short life, dying from TB at the age of 24,
made a tremendous impact on the world.

Her parents were just recently recognized by the Pope as exceptional.

All of her sisters sought the vocation of serving Christ.

One sister, however, had a more difficult path to walk than that of her siblings.

And the thing is that once she found her way…Grace prevailed over a lifetime of trial,
willfulness, and difficulty.

Here is the link to Léonie Martin’s story…the sister of The Little Flower.

What We Can Learn From the Forgotten Sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

root of the matter

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand. We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand. We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.
C.H. Spurgeon


(root vegetables / beets/ courtesy HGTV )

“I believe that we begin by learning literally to repent and to obey.
The English word “repent” in Scripture translates the Greek word metanoia,
or “change one’s mind (or heart).”
According to our faith, to grow into the fullness of being means an eternity
of such change and growth from the fallen human nature we inherit into
participation in the fullness of God’s own nature.
This was the first call of Christ when He began to preach:
“Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand.
We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.

(excerpt from an essay Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery)

Down through the ages a great deal has been written about the will of man—-
along with the concept of obedience and it’s evil twin, disobedience…

It is the age old tug of war…with obedience tugging while disobedience is pulling.

If you have ever dealt with or have lived through a child navigating the waters of the
“terrible twos” then you have a small snapshot into what the will of man is all
about.

There is a constant state of flux between the act of defiance as well as the exertion
of authority— as said little one attempts to chart his or her’s own path.

The problem lies in the lack of acquired experience and hindsight…
both of which the wee one has none of.
Add to that a developing sense of the greater world at large and the
the parent must therefore act as guide helping the small one along the fine line of balancing the tight rope of safety, wisdom and proper choice.

It is not an easy task.

Patience is often exasperated as the wee one hears none of rational thought or
common sense. With experience often stepping in as the better, yet,
harrowing teacher.

And even though we all eventually outgrow this trying and most difficult time of
defiance and growth…we never ever really lose that assertion of the will.

And then slides in the notion of obedience…or it that disobedience.

Obedience and disobedience are each a willed act of choice.

We either choose to obey or we choose to disobey….

And despite the popular thought, there is no in between.

The other day I was in the bank.
I was seated at the desk talking with a banker about a safety deposit box when all
of a sudden a young man bounds into the chair right next to me,
across from the now surprised banker, and loudly proclaims for all to hear–
“you don’t remember me do you?”

When you live in a town the size of mine that has two very large high schools within
a mile radius of one another, with one being a county school while the other being
a city school and you are a retired teacher, the odds are that you, at some point or another, taught half the town….are very good odds.
And I did just so happen to have taught this precocious young man.

Never mind that I was obviously in the midst of a conversation
with a banker, this young man saw me and proceeded to remind me as to why I’m so
happy to be a retired educator….

With the poor banker woman now exasperatingly staring in bewilderment, this young man proceeds to tell me that he is now “living the dream.”

“So you graduated college?” I ask.
He never answered that but said that he now had two kids and a house with some land out
in the country. “The bucolic dream” he continues…

“Oh you got married, who did you marry” I ask.
“Oh we’re not married—but we’ve been together a couple of years….we’re planning
on getting married however…..

He then proceeds to tell me his younger brother is now expecting his first child but
is also not married….but does hope to eventually marry…

Finally just as abruptly as he popped in, this young man pops up out of the chair
and bids me farewell as he makes for the teller since the line is now non existent, allowing me and the now aggravated banker to resume our conversation…

So the standard worldly thought would be “oh isn’t that all nice”
with the rationale being that this couple, all be they not married, they are
somewhat together, while living this “dream” out in the countryside with two kids,
and I’m even assuming a dog…which all sounds great, right?
The proverbial American dream….

Well if you’re of the world, then yeah, this all just sounds really nice…
warm and fuzzy.
Because there’s a rationalizing going on that since these two “kids” love one another
and now have two kids of their own, that all that matters…

But if you are one who lives under the conviction of man’s will while
opting to live a life under God’s will, then this “dream” is just that,
a dream, a facade.

The world would say that I am being judgmental in this assessment.
Old fashioned, right winged, and given long enough, someone would come
up with some sort of idea of racism or that I was just being a Nazi…
hence the lunacy of our times….

But what I see is a falsehood lost in an assumed obedience.
Which in actuality smacks of disobedience.

To live one’s life as one so chooses, going about it as one so chooses
is but to live with one’s own will—living in willfulness.

Many of us have learned, most often the hard way, that to live in
one’s own willfulness is simply waiting for havoc to ensue while
living with the repercussions and fallout.

Our willful choices will always effect many others than ourselves…
Yet we are too caught up in our own little worlds of willfulness to actually realize
that anyone else would or could be effected.

And so to live in obedience, there must be repentance.
For there to be repentance there must be a bending of the will.
For a bending of the will there must be a desire to obey…
and so it goes…

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions
of your former ignorance,

1 Peter 1:14

Apostasy

“There is no broader way to apostasy than to reject God’s sovereignty
in all things concerning the revelation of himself and our obedience…”

John Owen

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(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

Apostasy, from the Greek word apostasia, means “a defiance of an established system or authority; a rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith.” In the first-century world, apostasy was a technical term for political revolt or defection. And just like in the first century, apostasy threatens the Body of Christ today.

To fully identify and combat apostasy, it is important that Christians understand its various forms and the traits that characterize its doctrines and teachers. As to the forms of apostasy, there are two main types: (1) a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be “the real” Christian doctrine, and (2) a complete renunciation of the Christian faith, which results in a full abandonment of Christ.
gotquestions.org

“Woe to the obstinate children,”
declares the Lord,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
heaping sin upon sin

Isaiah 30:1

Lost to the lies

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your Cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus Toplay
Rock of Ages

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(snapdragon / Julie Cook / 2016)

“We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy
and allowing somebody else to pay for us.
The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take.
We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.”

John Stott

My dad is an exasperating man.
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while,
you already know this.
I’ve gotten where I don’t write about it or him as much as it
is mostly overwhelming.

He holds two college degrees.
He is a retired civil engineer.
He sent two kids to college.
He lives in the same house he bought in 1961.
He has been retired for nearly 30 years…
and he has lived a comfortable life.
But at 88, he is now exasperating.
Very very exasperating…

For my dad lives in a constant state of denial…

He refuses to acknowledge the truth.

A hard truth that it is, but he will deny it all day long.
He will vehemently fight it—
me, you, whomever…tooth and nail,
as if demanding the truth to be something other than what it is,
willing the facts to be false.

Yet his willfulness will not, cannot, change the facts.

I can see, hear and be very well aware of this particular truth,
with him knowing that I am only too aware, but he will argue with me,
or anyone holding to that truth,
working himself into a tizzy of epic denial.

When his colitis rears its ugly head, as it has today,
it is the signal to all of us that he does indeed know the truth…
but he is fighting deep within himself, willfully lying to even himself.
And so his body reacts.
His body negatively reacts to his hostile denial of the truth.

For my dad lives in a state of constant fear, denial and conflict.
All three going hand in hand.

It frustrates me to absolutely no end.

The constant fighting and denial is not good.
It is not healthy.
And it is a lie to not only us and the reality of it all, but it is a lie to himself.
It is utterly counter productive to the care that both he and my
stepmother are being provided…
Yet he thinks that if he can deny it long enough,
fight it long enough, he thinks he can change it.
Making it work out in his twisted childish favor.

It leaves those who are tasked with his care utterly frustrated.
And it makes me nuts.
Yet there is nothing any of us can say or do to turn him around to the truth.

For in his mind, the truth is worse than the lie…

And that, to me, is the saddest thing…

He will have temper tantrums, shouting and pouting.
He will “sull up” as a small child…
Wearing a deep frown, refusing to talk.
Any sort of possible verbal or physical demonstration,
in order to change the truth to his yearned for lie…

This is not a case of just letting him be…
living happily with his half truths and lies of his aged demented unreality.
Leaving him alone to his skewed view of reality these final years…
It’s not that easy.
It’s much more serious and much more complex than that…

It is a battle really.
With serious repercussions.

One that I must continue fighting…until, as one insightful care provider noted, something
catastrophic will have to take place in order to finally shake some light on the reality…
And unfortunately it is believed that that will happen most likely sooner than later…
as my dad has painted himself into a corner, and I’m stuck in that corner with him.

My dad will fight God on this one.
Refusing to let go.

Up his meds they suggest.
Maybe….

But until he can stand before God, offering this mess of his up,
up to the one true God who in turn is the only real Truth,
this mess will stay a mess, taking all of us charged with his care, with it…

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

infestation

…but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.

Hosea 7:2

“Some day the soft Ideal that we wooed confronts us fiercely, foe-beset, pursued, and cries reproachful: ‘Was it then my praise, and not myself was loved? Prove now thy truth; I claim of thee the promise of thy youth.’”
James Russell Lowell

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(chives infested with black aphids / Julie Cook / 2016)

The innocent chive is laid claim by a myriad of tiny pests,
far too many for the eye to number…
Which is all but too similar to the same dark irksomeness which befalls man’s very soul.

They cover the poor buds and blooms…
feasting on the very life juices which coarse through the plant…
All the while an insidious darkness, which vies to blanket man’s soul,
leaches forth all that is decent and good.

The ants have arrived in order to protect the mindless aphids, farming them as it were,
all for their own selfish pleasures and symbiotic delight…
Just as the master of darkness soothingly whispers that it shall all be well…
longing to hold on to one more soul in his ever collusive world…

Spray as one must, vainly attempting to rid the plant of these pests,
the seemingly endless siege momentarily abates…
only to return, growing exponentially more fierce.
As our own trials of the will dip in and out of sight.

With the chives survival ever insight…
A total ridding and annihilation of each tiny black pest is the only true solution…
While man, in turn, labors to waylay his own invasive scourge

It may seem drastic at best, if the chive is to live,
but total eradication is the only option should the plant be spared…
just as the total yielding of the will of man is the one and only hope…
for the eternal life free from sin’s deadly infestation

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;
Thereby good will come to you.
Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up;

Job 22:21-23

Dependance

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

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(tiny baby wrens / Julie Cook / 2016)

The age old conflict…
The internal struggle which has dogged man, constantly nipping at his heels,
is found in his angst filled struggle with dependence.

On the one hand, God, the Creator of all that ever was or will be,
asks of man but one thing…
Trust

Enter the conundrum.

Ever since that forever altering moment in the garden,
when man and woman decided they knew more,
knew better than of their Omnipotent Creator,
the battle between independence and dependence ensued.

Now man is caught in a never ending cycle…
Striving for his independence and his freedom,
proudly asserting his authority…
while boastfully, and even arrogantly, leaving his mark…

That is until his fragile world falls apart…
then he returns to that place where he was first asked to trust….

As the vicious cycle between dependence and independence continues….

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26

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Defining Definitions

For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.
(Deuteronomy 4:31 NIV)

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(a cold puffed up Mockingbird perched in the barberry bush / Julie Cook / 2014)

Covenant: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement

Law: a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or
formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority

Ten Commandements: A covenant document

Testament: Latin for Covenant

Oath: a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of
what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says

Rebellious: showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention.

Disobedience: refusal or failure to obey rules, laws

Willful: obstinately and often perversely self-willed, refusing to change your ideas
or opinions or to stop doing something

Obstinance: the trait of refusing to repent

Adonai / Yahweah: Lord. Used in Judaism as a spoken substitute for the ineffable
name of God.
A name of the Hebrew God, represented in Hebrew by the tetragrammaton (“four
letters”) יהוה (Yod Heh Vav Heh), transliterated into Roman script Y H W H.
Because it was considered blasphemous to utter the name of God it was only written
and never spoken. This resulted in the original pronunciation being lost. The name
may have originally been derived from the old Semitic root הוה (hawah) meaning “to
be” or “to become”.

Child: An offspring. A member of a tribe; descendant

I / Me: Metaphysics– the ego.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

Mercy: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender

Savior: one that saves from danger or destruction

Deliverance: the action of being rescued or set free.

Jesus: The name “Jesus” is an Anglicized form of the Greek name Yesous found in the
New Testament, which represented the Hebrew Bible name Yeshua (“Jeshua” in
English Bibles; Ezra 2:2; Neh 7:7). Yeshua, in turn, was a shortened form of
the name Yehoshua (“Joshua” in English Bibles).

“Yehoshua”
“Yehoshua” is a compound name consisting of two elements.

(1) The prefix “Yeho–” is an abbreviation of the Tetragrammaton, God’s Four-
Letter Name: Yod-He-Vav-He or YHVH.

In the Hebrew Bible “Yeho-” is used at the beginning of certain proper names:
Jehoshaphat, Jehoiachin, Jehonathan (the “J” was pronounced as “Y” in Medieval
English). The suffix form of the Tetragrammaton is “-yah” (“-iah” in Greek,
as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, or Halleluiah).

(2) The second element is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to
deliver, save, or rescue.

Thus, linguistically, the name Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus conveys the idea that God (YHVH) delivers (his people).

What defines you?