It’s simple really…

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one.
Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”

— St. Ignatius of Antioch


(painting attributed to Cesare Fracanzano (1605-1651) Galleria Borghese, Rome)

This morning when I read today’s quote by St Ignatius of Antioch,
it was as if I had been hit upside the head.
How simple yet so profound—

It begs the question…
does being dubbed, labelled, branded a Christian…
or…
claiming, professing, proclaiming to be a Chrisitan necessarily make one…a Christian??

The answer, in a nutshell, is a resounding no!!!…it most certainly does not!

Ignatius follows up this thought with the novel idea of then having to prove oneself as a Christian.
Meaning that if one can live it, share it, show it, prove it…
then one may lay claim to the name!

This is not to be an in-name-only sort of affair…

The back story of our friend…

Born in Syria in the year 50AD, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became
bishop of Antioch.

It is believed that it was actually St Peter who appointed Ignatius as bishop of Antioch and
the surrounding region.

“The saint was called “God-Bearer” (Theophoros),
because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him.
He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.”

And as the outspoken Chrisitan, he was, Ignatius was eventually arrested by the local Roman
authorities on grounds of “atheism” against the Roman gods.

In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to
choose between death and apostasy.
Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.

“In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians,
ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods,
and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols.
In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch.
Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ,
and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity.
Saint Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor,
so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch.
Saint Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols.
The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts.
Saint Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him.
His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses,
who accompanied Saint Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led Saint Ignatius into the arena,
and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome,
you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime,
but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced.
I long to be with Him,
and offer myself to him as a pure loaf,
made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces,
leaving only his heart and a few bones.
Tradition says that on his way to execution,
Saint Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ.
When they asked him why he was doing this,
Saint Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart,
and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within.
When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched.
When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters:
“Jesus Christ.” After his execution, Saint Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful
in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint’s great courage,
Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians.
The relics of Saint Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29),
and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from
Antioch to Rome.
Five of these letters are to churches in Asia Minor;
they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors.
He warns them against heretical doctrines,
providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith.

The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith.
The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom.
“The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God.
I am the wheat of the Lord;
may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”

Despite the story about Ignatius’ life being considered ancient history,
it would be wise for those of us who claim the name of ‘Christian’ to actually follow
the example of Ignatius.
…that we could / would not only claim to be a Christian… but that we could / would actually
live out being a Chrisitan.
Not just the worldly notion of Chrisitan but actually that of Christ’s true intention.

Imagine the change in this world if we each claimed the act behind the label of faith.
It now seems so simple really…

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Isaiah 41:10

Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:11 NIV

emotional reactions and directions

“This is no surprise to me at all.
Something has happened in the last 30 years or so that makes it increasingly difficult
to separate emotional reactions from ideas,
and emotional reactions from our assessment of other peoples’ humanity or lack of it.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(it sure looks as if this winter worn shrub is more of a hand pointing toward something /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Earlier this week I wrote a post in which I stated that there would inevitably be
“someone to jump on a soapbox scolding me”…reprimanding me regarding my post
that particular day…
And low and behold there was….but, as I quickly discovered,
it really wasn’t about my post.

The scolding quickly dissolved into a diatribe of what all is wrong with and about
Christians…in particular American Christians.
As even gun control and the President was thrown in my face…
not because either one was a part of my post but rather because I paused Thursday morning
asking that we remember the families of and the individuals who had lost their lives in the
shooting Wednesday afternoon in Florida.

The comments became rapid fire and somewhat more and more bizarre.
It went on for two days.
A few others joined in the fracas and were indeed most welcomed to come on over
and sit a spell.

I saw the questioning and demands for answers, answers to open-ended questions
that really have no answers…
As this was more diversion than substantial thought and idea.
More attack then substance.

It was with all of this monkey business, of which I am calling ‘Christian mongering’,
along with several thoughtful comments offered during my foray into the world of
Christian trolling, that I found something of keen interest in the recent posting
by our dear friend the good Bishop Gavin Ashenden…
Who by the way is prayerfully recovering from another detached retina surgery.

Yet the good Bishop did manage to offer his readers an article that had appeared recently
in one of his local papers.

The article was based on the observed change that has been taking place in “our”
collective social conversation.
Of which is not a pretty picture.

The article focuses on the obsession our society has with sex…a slippery slope topic
which dissolves into the emotionalism of same-sex marriages, spiraling into
transgenderism as it swirls down even further to the growing notion of things beyond.
We are reminded how emotionalism, connected to such an emotional
topic, creates its own barrier as the voices of support work to silence the
voices of opposition–
As freedom of speech becomes the first casualty and victim of the war.

And so I was reminded of the tit for tat diatribe which had been taking place
in the comment section of my previous post the past couple of days—
Freedoms, thoughts, beliefs being questioned.

All of which will soon be spilling out into the outlets of all things news as
Wednesday’s horror consumes us while we desperately try to find answers…

The greater community and our legal eagles will not be willing to truly explore the
obvious as it is of a Spiritual base…as they will simply not go there…
for in their minds that has nothing to do with any of this…
But the nagging question remains…Does it not?
Does it not have everything to do with the Spiritual and that which is lost?

You may find the Bishops full article here:
‘Sex’ is no consolation for the loss of free speech, and the capacity to test & discover the Truth with each other.

And whereas I agree wholeheartedly with everything the Bishop says…
it is to the more nuanced observations that actually caught my eye…
that being the notion of emotional reactions.

We all have them…emotions and emotional reactions…
and they are both good and bad, happy and sad.

Striking a healthy balance is key.

When we see, read and or witness such events as what unfolded at
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl on Wednesday—
our emotions are consumed–as well they should be.
For if we didn’t feel pain, sorrow, suffering, and empathy…
then that’s the time to worry.

We cry as we see the faces of those who were killed.
We ache reading their individual stories.
We yearn to embrace their surviving loved ones and friends who are experiencing
inconsolable anguish.

That is our nature as humans.

That is…for most humans.

That was not the nature of the young gunman in Florida.

And yet we must allow our emotions time to do what it is they do…
which is often taking us on the roller coaster of drastic highs and
sinking lows during these sorts of tragedies.
We will be angry and we will be sad.

Decisions that are often made at the height or low of an emotional roller coaster
ride are not always the wisest decisions made.
And that is because we are leading with more of a feeling of heart and even guilt
versus that of a more rational thinking brain…
History tells us that is best to use both.

Yet not all of us, as we witnessed again Wednesday, have the correct heart response
or logical brain response.

And now we owe it to our children to do something to change this ongoing madness…
A change that uses both heart and brain.

And it was in the midst of the arguing going on in the comment section over on cookieland, as
well as the raw emotions we Americans were feeling Thursday morning, that a wee small voice
managed to find it’s way to the surface…and this voice had nothing to do with the
latest breaking news or the rabid dog chatter happening in my small corner of blogland.

Out of the blue, a small voice had risen to the top of the clanging gongs…
a missionary working with orphans, widows and the poor in India.
They asked for prayers and offered me their own…
and I was deeply moved.

It was the humblest of the voices that I had heard the loudest.

It was as if God was gently yet strongly redirecting my focus.
“Get off the cerebral world’s merry-go-round for just a minute Julie and see…
See and hear…
Hear the reality of others around this world.
Those who are doing My work for and among those in desperate need…
Hear the need of prayer…know the power found in that prayer…
Yet be mindful… there must be more willing to pray and work…
and pray without ceasing”

Here is a snippet of what this gentle voice said…

I, bound by the spirit and preaching the Good news among idols and gentiles and
poor and for orphanages.
I know afflictions wait for me– but all afflictions allocate as joy for
the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is my aid and weapon?
And all secret is known to God– that is without ceasing prayers day and night and fasting,
with tears of prayers.
Hallelujah and praise his holy name.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.
In whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation my strength and stronghold.

Oh, my Dear Heavenly Father,
I know that you open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing in the world.
Please open doors of mind through your righteousness of right hand for my ministry
desires and vision.

MY Vision: (Romans 5:8) The God Jesus Christ is love to all in the world and I want to
share his great love to all creatures and in way of Salvation.

(cleaned up grammatically just a tad)

And throughout the afternoon, these small voices continued percolating to the top
over the din of maddening chatter…

More signposts pointing to God and God alone…

The idea of water pouring and flowing outward…literally manifest itself.
As well as an all-consuming cleansing of water…
Holy.
Flowing.
Living Waters…

And finally much later in the day, gratefully, I read these words on a fellow bloggers post…

“Richard Alleine expresses that feeling in this way,
“He who knows what it is to enjoy God will dread His loss;
he who has seen His face will fear to see His back.”

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

I can’t see St Franics!!!

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
― Francis of Assisi


(the unruly bushes covering poor St Francis / Julie Cook / 2017)

I am the keeper of the shrubbery.

Add to that, I’m really too old for shrubbery.

Meaning I plant it…I prune it, I sheer it, I chop it…
and somedays, I’d just like to burn it to the ground.
Think 5 acres that need tending to….as I’m knocking on the door of 60.

Usually I do a complete maintenance overhaul of the yard each spring…
But this past spring saw me serving vigil with Dad…
Then following his death it was a matter of sorrow and picking up the pieces.
There wasn’t much energy for bushes.

I’m still picking up the pieces, still dealing with his dealings…and some days,
I just can’t do much but still just be sad…
Throw in losing Aunt Maaaathaa in July and well…the yard…
well it went to the wayside….to the way way way side….
kind of like my get up and go.

Too much sadness has a way of stealing that get up and go.

I usually trim the shrubbery twice a year…first in the spring—
then I like to tidy up things come fall, readying everything for the winter.
Think Martha Stewart sans all the helpers….

In order to put out some fresh pinestraw, the bushes need to be trimmed.
Did I mention those two pesky blown out discs from last year…
well, they’re still blown and they make getting up and going none too easy.

And oh, and did I mention another hurricane is coming?

The fresh pinestraw is to be delivered mid week, the hurricane is coming Sunday and Monday… a two day event of winds and rain, rain and rain…of which the rain
is most needed this time of year.

All of which meant today was the day in which the trimming and cutting
had to get done…
otherwise the bushes would take over the house and no amount of fresh pinestraw
could hide that little fact.

You know it’s bad when St Francis has been consumed by the bushes.

Throw in one electric hedger….

and St Francis is now free…..

Which reminds me, the feast day of St Francis was Wednesday, Oct 4th.

Most folks, those of the faith as well as those not, think kindly of Francis.
He loved the animals don’t you know.
And who doesn’t like someone who loves the animals?

Yet there was much more to Francis than a love of animals.

I’ve written about Francis before.

And since I’m now past exhausted and very sore from my pruning and freeing Francis
from the bushes, I’ll keep this short and sweet….

Francis wasn’t always about loving animals.

No, Francis wasn’t always the peaceful loving monk with the funky haircut
(tonsure) that we know and love today…

Rather Francis was all about loving the world.

He was a spoiled rich kid who loved to party.
He was what we might call a bit of a ’rounder’…
meaning a wild young man given to a wanton life of drinking too much,
chasing women too much and working way too little.

Sounds very familiar…much like a modern day millennial….

Yet Francis found this sort of life of his…lacking.
As in empty.

Despite being very popular, a hearty partier and a well dressed dandy,
Francis felt less than.

There was a heaviness to his being…one he just couldn’t understand.
An emptiness that no amount of parties, or money or friends could fill.

And then God literally called his name….

Isn’t that great…???!!!

That God can see into the wantoness of the worldly something actually redeeming…???!!
Something more than and something He wants!!!

Meaning…there is truly hope for us all!!!

“I have been all things unholy.
If God can work through me,
He can work through anyone.”

Francis of Assisi

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

Isaiah 44:22

lambs to rams

“There’s nothing so fearsome as the revolt of a sheep,”
said de Marsay.”

Honoré de Balzac


(Sheep along the cliffs of Slieve League, Co. Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have a very wise blogging friend.

Well actually, I have many wise blogging friends….
all of whom I have been fortunate enough to sit at their knees while learning
a thing or two.
For you see, I don’t think we’re ever too old or too knowledgable to learn.

One friend in particular is what I like to call a ‘kindly sort of warrior.’

Not warrior like some sort of Viking princess or radical progressive feminist—
quite the contrary.

She is older than I am, so she’s been around the block a couple of more times
than I have.
She also knows her stuff when it comes to both life and faith.

When you look at her, you get that sweet dear old aunt or grandmother vibe….
the one who always has the plate of fresh cookies waiting on you when you come visit.

Her point of origin however denotes a southern mid-west no nonsense sort of lens.
She therefore shoots straight from the hip and makes no apologies….

The other day after one of the most recent current event brouhahas, which was running
amuck across the nation, blew up in the media…this kindly wise soul actually bristled some feathers.
And naturally…. I liked it…. and told her as much.

Her response—“lamb to ram.”

Meaning that sometimes the sweet little lambs of the fold have been known to step up,
speak up, speak out—all the while they let it be known that whereas the lambs may
be known for their peaceful love…they are certainly no pushovers.
They will defend and even fight for what is right when it is necessary….
as in a Godly sort of righteousness.

Think Joan of Arc—as in a holy warrior.

And that’s the thing.

I often think those of the world view much of fold of Christianity as being pushovers, mambie pambie do gooders who are naive and often times ignorant souls who, bless their hearts, believe in make-believe and fairy tales.

As in who can or would take them seriously…??!!

They are to be the doormats of progressive liberals, the media, atheists and yes,
even radical Muslims…
As in annihilate the Christians because they are the annoying little flies in the room,
the troublemakers caught in a tragic time warp whose past is all but checkered.

But in actuality what I see is that Christianity represents the conscience
of man.
For Christians know all about sin, its destructiveness, its lies,
its corruption, its snare and its trap.

Christians are those who can actually see and know Truth, while living all around them
is a raging lie.
And no one likes being told their living or lives boil down to that of a lie…
hence part and parcel for all that animosity.

Yet Christians are no more exempt from sin, temptation, egregious acts than the next
person…it’s just that Christians recognize the source of the misery… they call it
by name, admit the errors… be they small or egregiously grand, seek the forgiveness
and the righteous salvation freely offered by the Resurrected Son and then in turn
share that blessed knowledge.

It’s that whole go and sin no more notion.

And yet, often times, they, we, do sin again.

And that’s when the naysayers jump.

But here’s another thing.

Christians continually seek the saving Grace of Jesus Christ…
as they are the penultimate sacrificial lambs to the ultimate Lamb…
that having been Jesus Christ.

We seek Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness…and the rub…?
The fold is then instructed to go out and do the same to and for those still
caught in the lies of the cultural wars.

Yet the culture war gods would prefer the Christians keep silent or better yet,
be silenced.

Because the collective fold consciously reminds these culture gods as to why
their push for the latest and greatest dehumanizing choices are wrong.

Why homosexuality is wrong.
Why gay marriage is wrong.
Why radical feminism is wrong.
Why abortion is wrong.
Why addiction is wrong.
Why sin is wrong.
Why secularism is wrong.
Why humanism is wrong.

They speak to what is dangerous and to why that is so.

Progressivism, liberalism, communism, secularism, totalitarianism, hedonism, socialism
materialism, idolatry, sorcery….as each one falls under the rule of the Law…..
as the lambs of the fold remind the nations as to why there are the laws of Commandments and to the consequence of not following God’s word…

So yeah, sometimes the lamb has to be a ram…


(a sheep somewhere along the road in Co Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise
its authority for forty-two months.
It opened its mouth to blaspheme God,
and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.
And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—-
all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life,
the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

Revelation 13:5-8

the old shell of self

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.

Watchman Nee

We must die if we are to live.
There is no spiritual life for you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it.
Have you a fine-spun righteousness of your own?
It must die.
Have you any faith in yourself?
It must die.
The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you shall enter into life.
The withering power of the Spirit of God must be experienced before his
quickening influence can be known:
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.”
You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be made
alive by the breath of the Spirit.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(the shells of cicadas discarded on a pine tree / Julie Cook /2017)

Summer, to a young child growing up in the South, meant evenings spent
catching lighting bugs in an old mayonnaise jar or scouring the sides of pine trees
for the crunchy fragile brown leftover shells of cicadas.

These leftover exoskeletons often found on the sides of pine trees or fence posts
are simply the shedding of the old skin of an ever growing and ever changing cicada.
Cicadas being the creatures responsible for the loud raucous screeching heard
throughout the landscape of the waning days of a southern summer.

Finding a shell was akin to finding a small treasure…
of which was then joyfully and ceremoniously carried to the start of school,
nestled safely in a small cotton ball lined box,
all for the start of the new school year’s show and tell.

But the shell was always quickly beaten out for the coveted oohs and ahhs
when the shark tooth, that someone else brought in from their summer trip
to the beach,was triumphantly presented…

Science teaches us that there is a wealth of amazing creatures scattered
across this globe…all of which constantly shed their old shells or skins only to
emerge as something new, clean and fresh…

And the fact is… that we, that being you and I, are really no different.

Whereas we may not break out of our skin, leaving the old sloughed off
empty layer littered along the floor, we do however…and we must…
do away with our old selves.

For if we insist on keeping that which is old and bound to this world, refusing to
relinquish worldly flesh, then we are bound to death….
for all that is of the world’s will perish.
There will be no new birth, nothing fresh, nothing clean.

Yet if we are willing to die unto self, surrendering that which is earth bound,
yielding to the desire of the spirit to be reunited from whence it came,
then we will have life eternal…which is the treasure indeed.

So then…
Two choices…
life or death….
that should be an easy choice….
and yet oddly, it is not.

“Many, indeed, cry “Lord, Lord,” and make mention of him,
but honour him not at all.
How so?
They take his work out of his hands,
and ascribe it unto other things;
their repentance, their duties,
shall bear their iniquities.
They do not say so; but they do so.

The computation they make, if they make any, it is with themselves.
All their bartering about sin is in and with their own souls.
The work that Christ came to do in the world, was to “bear our iniquities,”
and lay down his life a ransom for our sins.

The cup he had to drink of was filled with our sins,
as to the punishment due to them.
What greater dishonour then, can be done to the Lord Jesus,
and to ascribe this work to anything else, –
to think to get rid of our sins by any other way or means?”

John Owen

foolish wisdom

“I remind myself very often that God does His best work with those whom
the world thinks as fools…”

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

“Hell itself is but the filling of wretched creatures with the fruit
of their own devices.”

John Owen


(ripening muscadines on the vine / Julie Cook / 2017)

Let no man deceive himself.
If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world,
let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

And again,
The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

Therefore let no man glory in men.
For all things are your’s;

1 Corinthians 3:18-21

a continuation of beginnings and comings

See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.

Thomas More

dscn4719
(the frozen demise of the mint / Julie Cook / 2017)

Despite our having just journeyed through the season known for all things of anticipation…
that sacred time of observing Advent, which then culminates with the wondrous arrival
of the illuminating Nativity…
we actually, in this silent and slumberous time of deep winter,
continue finding ourselves waiting and watching.

Found in the Latin word adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia,
we find a word and meaning that has traditionally been used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.
Not so much denoting a single and initial birth, but rather embracing the anticipation of
a second birth…a sort of re-coming…

Yet, as William Stringfellow observes,
“we live now, in the Untied States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent
(or any other Christian “season”)*
is no longer really noticed, much less observed.
The commercial acceleration of seasons,
whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy
Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.
But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized
that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.
*(parentheses mine)

And so it seems that our secular and worldly selves have given way from our
continuation of waiting and watching to rather the glossing over of a key
observational time within our faith.
We have allowed, as it appears we have preferred, to move away from that which should
still be our focus, yielding rather, to the superficial luster of the fleeting.

For it seems that the notion of Advent, or any other of the “seasons” of the church,
has fallen way to the more glamorous secular association of what should actually be the truly
innate spiritual rhythms of our beings.

Yet as unrelenting and ever-faithful,
we now find ourselves transitioning from the anticipation found in Advent and the Nativity
to Epiphany, leading way to Ash Wednesday and the heaviness of the somber Lenten season…
as it too shall give way to the unending promise of Hope…

We enter, once again into a time of waiting and watching…
waiting not so much for the first birth with its earth shattering life that was cut
tragically short by a brutal yet necessary death…
but rather we, the dwindling yet tenacious faithful, both wait and watch
not for an ending associated with death but rather for the continuation of what is to come…

Life anew and everlasting…

As we find ourselves listening to once again, as well as claiming, those prophetic words of that
lone figure who cried out to the masses so long ago…
as his words continue to resonate in our hearts…

MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
Matthew 3:3

“do not seek the because”

“Do not seek the because –
in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

Anaïs Nin

dscn4375
(sea oats / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

My life is no different from anyone else…
there are both highs and lows, ups and downs…

We all experience both the positive and negative moments in life…
as neither one discriminates…
Yet it seems that the negative moments will often last a life time…

Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that we are immune from getting…
sad,
depressed,
discouraged,
hurt,
angry,
sick,
or at times, even despondent…

For believers, simply put, are human just like everyone else…
Believers are humans who believe in God as father and Omnipotent Creator
and that His son overcame Death in His resurrection…

And as humans, we just do the best we can getting through the day to day living of life.

But it is because of the very fact that we are believers that the non believers,
those who are angry at God or those who are merely skeptical…
begin pointing the naysaying finger at us when our lives becomes bleak or tragic

It is the age old accusatory “where is your God now” sort of rhetoric…

And if the truth be told, there are times we wonder the same question…
because we are, remember, human…
falible
weak
foible
sinful

And as I was laying on the floor again this morning, as the pain in my back and leg were again
a bit more than I could bear…
as yes, tears, rolled down the side of my face in pain and in frustration…
as my heart was equally as heavy for what Dad and I
have been dealing with these many weeks now….

I recalled having watched a You Tube video yesterday of a young man
waiting out in Houston at MD Anderson, waiting to undergo chemotherapy.

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=j_wXcwI4IjE

I don’t know this young man—but from the video I gathered he has some sort of cancer,
he is a young husband and father,
that he’s from Atlanta,
that he’s been waiting for chemo
and that he is an ardent believer in the Risen Christ…

He shared in the brief video his spiritual journey as of late–
the prayers offered for and over him.
The words that have been shared in multiple settings, all by different individuals,
but all the same words none the less.
He mentioned a couple of Psalms that he’d been keying in on…
Psalms that I wrote down with the intention of turning to those same Psalms today….

I was encouraged by his own journey.
That he obviously wanted to be healed…prayed for such…
but that he also knew that God is a Sovereign God…
and no matter what the outcome…it is in God’s hands…

And I was stuck that he is finding gratitude in and for all sorts of things…
He is being grateful and thankful even while life is proving dire, frustrating and grim…

As we are reminded that in all things we are to rejoice, offering our praise and thanksgiving.
That in those moments of struggle, pain and suffering we are to utter the words—we may not
necessarily feel them, but we can still utter them, allowing God to do with them as He may….

I was also reminded that it is in our distress that we are drawn closer to God.
We don’t seem to “need” Him as much when life is golden…
as we tend to neglect the relationship…
It isn’t until we find ourselves in dire straights that we cry out,
like a frightened child in the night,
and always, He answers in our despair, He is there…despite our fickled ways…
He will always be there…waiting…..

And it is during those hard-to-grasp situations of life and death that
skeptics and non believers alike circle like buzzards…
as they look for a Lazarus or an empty tomb—
and when they don’t see such,
they collectively shout
“HA, we knew it…imposter, phony, sham!”

So after reading a few posts by friends this morning, after reading those Psalms that young man sited,
after reading the words of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Malcolm Muggeridge each regarding
both life, living, dying and death…
I again, felt a peace…despite laying on the floor in the midst of despair…

I may be hurting both physically and emotionally.
I may shed tears of frustration, depression and sorrow….
but I will not be broken nor deterred for I have the promise of a Sovereign God.

I was told that I should build a post around the following comment I left this morning for a fellow blogger…my friend Wally…
Of which I suppose I already had to some degree…

Here is Wally’s morning’s post as my comment follows…

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/faith-in-action-why-be-joyful-over-trials/

“it is hard and is not easy…but we are told time and time again—
to look to God in all things—good and bad, painful and joyful–
for God is found not only in the good, the joy and the happiness but He is there,
even more so, in the hard and difficult, the misery and suffering…
and this is where those who are not believers or those who reside in the anger
and sorrow keep wanting to point the finger of “if God is a God of Love and Omnipotent…
then why the hurting, why the unfairness, why the suffering…”

and it is there Wally in your very words and the words of James, so led by the Holy Spirit, that because God IS in everything…then we may find our HOPE!!

The things of this world…those good and those bad,
are all but temporary and they all point us back to Him—in our lack of knowledge and lack of true omnipotent knowledge, we cannot know, we cannot see how all things…
That all things, work together in God’s plan and God’s time—
yes there is Evil very much busy and very much at work…
working so very hard to counter the Benevolence of a Loving Creator…
but the thing is…despite the dark one’s vain attempts to derail us,
derailing our faith, our hope—
he can’t, he never can—
for his is a losing battle…
for our’s is the Victory in Christ Jesus!”

All of this brings us back, almost full circle,
to the the beginning of this post with the quote byAnaïs Nin—
for there is no understanding, no explanation, no reasoning, no answers, no because…
to be found in the Love offered to us by our God….

exacting

We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures…
If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.

John O’Keefe

“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world.
And no places that are safer than other places.
The center of His will is our only safety –
let us pray that we may always know it!”

― Corrie ten Boom

DSCN3656 (1)
(heat lightening in a hot Georgia July night sky / Julie Cook / 2015)

For some it comes gradually…painstakingly and agonizingly slow…

For others it comes in the fury of immediate energy found in the flash of lightning…
precise…
pinpoint…
and near deadly…

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of the word Exacting is: requiring much time, attention
or effort from someone : very difficult or demanding

And it is to that exacting end, of the often difficult and demanding road,
that Christians are dutifully bound….

For ours is an exacting God and a demanding fatih.

He is a God who requires much from us, His created.

For the life of a believer is not a passive experience.

It is not a life of basking in the wonderment of being created,
the rhythmic marvel of breathing…
or the mystery found in forgiveness.

It is not a life of prestige, or comfort, or even ease.

Rather it is a life that runs against the grain.
It is rough as raw cut wood
and yet it is as smooth and as slick as polished stone.

It is faith both trying and challenging and not for the faint of heart.
For the cross we carry is not light nor ever manageable but rather cumbersome and weighty.

This faith of ours is not for those who choose to tarry, often taking their sweet time…
For it is that very thing called time that is of the true essence…

This living faith is not for those who believe in immunity, free from pain, or hurt or sorrow.
As believers, we often face the tempest storm, alone…for the world will turn its back.

We live in a time of reality’s denial.
And a time of mandatory tolerance…yet the tolerance is not ours to know.

He asks His own to stay while the world chooses to go.
He calls upon His own to go when the world decides to stay.

He asks, He commands, He requires…

For it is ultimately a choice between life and death…

And it is for that very Life that we each have so chosen to die…

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Romans 6:6

Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.
Jeremiah 7:23-24

Tarnished

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean,
who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

Raymond Chandler

DSC01135
(polishing a few silver pieces / Julie Cook / 2015)

There once was a time, several generations ago, when young brides-to-be would receive silver items as wedding gifts. Sterling silver, as well as silver-plate, trays, bowls, silverware, etc. all most often monogramed. It was all the rage. Girls would register at various stores for a particular silver pattern such as something produced by the likes of Reed and Barton, Gorham, Tiffany, Wallace to name but a few. Gifts would range from place settings, a single serving piece, picture frames, ornaments, candle sticks. . .with the list going on and on.

As each generation seems to set its own mark on the world, it appears that today’s modern day brides-to-be are a bit more practical in their choices of what sorts of gifts they’d like to receive. Coffee machines–as in cappuccino, espresso, single cup. . .towels–both kitchen and bath, sheets, glasses, plates, bar ware, cookware, outdoor serving items, candles, goodies form Crate and Barrel, William Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Macys as their lists go on and on.

By the time I got married, almost 35 years ago, silver was not as popular a wedding gift as it was in, say, my mother’s day. The cost of sterling silver had begun a slow assent upwards and the truth be told, the upkeep and usability of silver was quickly loosing its appeal and practicability. Shiny pretty silver certainly has a wow factor but keeping that brilliant mirror surface sheen is another matter entirely.

We all know from basic chemistry that certain metals, when exposed to various substances, can change. In the case of silver, especially sterling silver, a mixture of air and hydrogen sulfide turns the surface of silver items, at first a cloudy dull grey gold which will, if not wiped away, eventually turn black.

Tarnish luckily is not a permeant problem. However if salt is added to the mix, a silver piece really has problems! The salt will corrode the surface, eating into several layers of the silver, pitting the item–with the damage sadly being permanent.

Polishing silver, in order to remove the tarnish, is an arduous painstaking task. It is a labor intensive, time consuming and messy process. When the silver piece is polished, using a cream paste and soft cloth, a thin micro layer of the surface is taken away as the tarnish resides only on the top layer—the other layers remain intact. Rust on the other hand is a corrosive reaction on certain metals which eats through layer upon layer, eventually destroying the metal.

Tarnish is often what deters folks these days from wanting to buy silver items. The upkeep in today’s busy, everybody’s working world, is enough to turn anyone away from the beautiful things found in today’s antique and specialty stores.

As we all know. . .tarnish will always comes back.

I’m a lot like silver.

Being exposed to certain elements, I eventually succumb to the effects of “tarnish.” I lose my brilliant surface appearance, my beauty fades as I eventually turn a very dull lifeless black.

I allow the oxidizing agents of the world to affect my sheen and brilliance. I become sullied and dulled by the exposure to negative elements. Not merely the eating and drinking of the wrong elements for my betterment, but to the more shady and insidious elements. . .those negative things which I expose my eyes, ears, heart and mind to. . .be it certain forms of entertainment such as music, television, movies, even down to the books and magazines I choose to read. . .I allow negativity, violence, foul useless language, sexual promiscuity and selfish gratification to permeate my world. I am lured away from that which helps to keep the tarnish at bay.

God looks and sees a once brilliantly shining creation dulled and darkened by the exposure of time away from Him. . .His word, His people, His realm.
My perception dims.
I can’t distinguish that which is positive and that which is the negative.
Exposure to the world verses exposure to my Christian spirituality. . .as sadly I choose, even often unknowingly, the world.

I allow an often tired body and mind to choose the easy way. . .the path of less resistance to dominate and take over. In order for me to choose God and His desires, it calls upon certain factors such as vigilance, diligence, observance, prayer, fasting, communion, reading and digesting the Word, healing, confession, even praise—often times not easily felt or desired. Sometimes it all seems to be counter to my mood, my disposition, my feelings, my abilities, my strength. . .a conscious choice and determination must take hold. . .

Yet thankfully God does not tire of polishing or re-polishing.
He doesn’t mind the time and effort spent.
He doesn’t mind the elbow grease required to wipe away the heavy layer of darkness which encases my entire being.

Slowly but surely the black is lovingly removed as the tiny areas of brilliance begin to reemerge.
God holds me, enfolds me within His welcoming hands. He gently, yet determinedly, focuses in order to rub over and over those negative tarnished areas of my heart and soul.
Allowing the brilliance, that is His creation. . .
to shine forth, yet once again. . .

“For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.
Luke 17:24