there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..

speaking wisdom

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart,
and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal
the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas


(late afternoon in Northwest Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.

For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.

They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.

Psalm 49:1-14

time to get busy

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,
at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Mother Teresa


(the ‘I couldn’t wait’ poundcake / Julie Cook / 2017)

I suppose I could be living in Alaska and I would still feel this
impending sense of dread.

For you see, this is just how deeply I care and feel for this land I call home…
Whenever there is some sort of calamity approaching this great country, I fret.
Much like a mother hen over her chicks.

It doesn’t matter if its raging fires in the west, drought in the southwest,
blizzards in the north and northeast, earthquakes in the heartland, or floods,
tornadoes and hurricanes in the South…
I feel an almost overwhelming sense of foreboding that is hard to shake.

I think it has a lot to do with me being a doer and or a fixer…
as in I need to be in action doing and fixing.
For it is in such cases, cases where I am relegated to simply sitting, watching
and waiting, that I feel most helpless.
How can I help, fix or alleviate that which I can only watch?
I can’t.

And such is the nature of natural disasters and disease…
we most often have to sit, watch and wait.

So with today, as I write, being Saturday,
the sun is brightly shining in a near cloudless blue sky,
as the wind gusts pick up in both frequency and gusto….
I know Irma is drawing ever closer.

I sit and watch the reports of a massive storm inching its way closer and closer
to my sister southern state.
And I know there will be catastrophic damage.
Storms are just that way.

So as I feel a wealth of nervous energy, I’ve done what I always do when there’s
nothing to do but wait and watch.
I cook.

Today it’s what I’m calling a hurricane pound cake.
As we are being told that we will most likely have flooding, high winds and will
lose power along with the millions to our south….
there’s nothing like a fresh pound cake to munch on in the stormy dark.

So as I try to busy my hands, my thoughts and my body…I also must busy my soul.
For all we truly have in such precarious times is prayer.
To have conversation with God.
And in that conversation, we must be prepared to wait as we listen.
Much like we do in a storm…as in we wait and listen…
Yet the difference with God is that we know there is
no one greater in which to turn.

We can certainly prepare for life’s storms all we want as we tick off those items
on a checklist of what to buy, what to have ready, what to do…all just in case.
Knowing that once the dust settles, the time to really get busy will truly be underway.
Such as helping and cleaning and comforting.

Yet with all this talk of waiting and watching and praying,
I was poignantly reminded today of the very notion of depending on prayer.

This afternoon I watched the most recent postings of one of my favorite
Christian apologists.

Nabeel Qureshi.

I’ve mentioned Nabeel here before.

Nabeel is a young roaring Christian lion.
He is an ardent and outspoken Christian convert from Islam who minces no words.
He is a lecturer and author who is rooted deeply in the Word of the One True God
as He has been washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Nabeel is also a husband and a father who is in the latter stages of aggressive
stomach cancer.

I have watched periodically Nabeel’s youtube videos chronicling his journey
with cancer.
His fight, his treatments, his testimony…
Inspirational is putting it mildly as I have marveled over his unyielding faith
in the face of so much physical suffering and emotional uncertainty.

Somehow seeing Nabeel and hearing the frustration and depression fighting their way
into his being, I continue being blessed by his ardent faith in God’s will.
And as a dear friend noted as we both lamented together over this most recent
turn of events in Nabeel’s battle…
Nabeel WILL be healed, no matter what!!

So as we gather our thoughts and prayers, readying for yet another storm to take a
swipe at this country, it’s time to get busy…
Busy in prayer…
that we may remember not only those standing in the crosshairs of a hurricane,
but that we recall those who are in the midsts of their own personal storms..
such as Nabeel and his battle with cancer.

Remembering that in the end, God’s will wins,
and in turn, guarantees that we win as well.

https://christcenteredteaching.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/let-nabeel-know-on-facebook-and-twitter-that-you-love-him-and-you-are-praying-for-himvlog-42-palliative-care-on-youtube/

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18

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

ok

Everything’s gonna be alright
Nothing left, but love’s in sight
Everything’s gonna be alright now
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright

Lyrics by England Dan and John Ford Coley


(sign at Spruill art gallery / Dunwoody, Ga / courtesy the web)

We drove over to the northern Atlanta suburb city of Dunwoody yesterday afternoon.
My cousin’s wife, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching—high school math of all things,
was the focus of a little retirement shindig.

It had been years since I’d been to that area north of Atlanta.
So much growth and so much congestion…
I can remember when the area was nothing more than a sleepy little northern hamlet…
an area more accustomed to farms and cows than to high-end restaurants and shopping malls.

Change is inevitable I suppose…
progress so they say….

If you’re anything like me, these past several months have left you feeling….
well anxious…
and if the truth be told, you’re anxious without even realizing how truly anxious you really are.
It seems as if there’s just been an unsettling that has completely settled over our lives.

Unless you are an Orthodox monk living on Mt Athos or a Buddhist monk living in some
lost to time nook in Tibet, you have been overloaded with the caustic vehemence that
most of the world is currently hurling back and forth on itself…
so much so without even realizing just how overloaded by it all you’ve become….

It’s troubling for even the most grounded among us.

It’s been sad, depressing, agitating, frightening and even alarming.

And even if you’ve sworn off watching the news….
the heaviness is so pervasive that it has permeated deeply into not only our nation,
but it has saturated most of the greater free world.

Priorities are so screwed up that it leaves the more concerned among us wondering what
it is we can do in our own little corners of the world to makes things better, brighter,
softer, kinder and simply more sane…

So there I was driving home, following the afternoon’s celebration,
making our way back to the interstate when I spotted, with my periphery vision, the sign…

A large plain black and white painted sign on the side of an old barn….
a quaint old barn that is obviously a preserved and last standing vestige to the original
structures that once called this now uber urban city a rural country home.

“Everything will be ok”

I had to do a quick double take back to my left while focusing on getting through the
congested intersection just to make certain I had read correctly.

It was as if some wonderful paternal unseen force…
a force that was greater than anything in the world at just that very moment
had gently, soothingly and yet very matter of factly stated for all the world….
Everything is going to ok…

And so it shall be….

In you, Father all-mighty,
we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
Amen

St Julian of Norwich

(A link to a nice little article about the barn and the inception of the sign
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/05/26/everything-going-ok-dunwoodys-spruill-gallery/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=b542a61cbf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_DUN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-b542a61cbf-407315065)

Wise words

“God will not look you over for medals,
degrees or diplomas
but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard


(robin redbreast /Julie Cook / 2017)

A dear friend recently shared this bit of wisdom with me…
and what is wisdom if it is not in turn shared once again….

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head,
this you cannot change,
but that they build nests in your hair,
this you can prevent.”

Thank you Paul…..

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

what do you think about all day….

“What do you think about all day?”
Worldly things?
There is your heart.
Are you concerned about health, bodily goods?
There your heart is.
If one falls in love, all the habits of life are ruled
by that love—letters, telephone calls, whatever we do.

Dorothy Day


(flowering maple shrub / Julie Cook / 2017)

As is the case with the loss of any loved one…
life as we know it, turns upside down.
Not only is there the emotional aspect of loss, there is the
stark reality that even in death, there are responsibilities which remain.
The complications of living simply do not cease upon death.

I have been met head on with the reality of what it will now entail to
tend to dad’s worldly life, finishing up where he left off.

Lawyers, banks, accountants, the house, the car, paying for and eventually closing
accounts, the utilities, Social Security, insurance, a pension, taxes….
the list goes on and on…and it will for quite sometime.
Add in a step-mother…..

It will take weeks for the primary significant paperwork to arrive,
then there’s a visit to the court house in downtown Atlanta.
There will be new bank accounts as old accounts are closed.
And a new role as I begin the arduous and laborious process of closing one’s
existence out of our society.

I told someone today that it’s easier to be born than it is to die…
I suppose we think everything just stops when we die…but it doesn’t.

I can remember when both of my grandmothers and mother died and how Dad worked to
settle their estates…
It took years to finally put an end to things.

Needless to say…overwhelmed is now my mantra.

So when I read the sentence by Dorothy Day asking what it is that I think about all day…
and as to her follow-up remark to whatever the filling in of that blank would be…
“there is your heart”
I felt a real conviction of spirit.

Convicted because my thoughts are currently of worry.

And so there is my heart…steeped in worry.

And whereas I would suppose most anyone in my current pair of shoes would
be feeling much the same sense of overwhelming worry…
I have been thankfully jolted to refocus my sights…

“We must remember…
God is a sensitive lover.
God will not force you to choose him.
It is an insult to God to worry so about things of the world.”

Dorothy Day

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in Love in a quite absolute,
final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)