You will save a lowly people

“Father Brown got to his feet, putting his hands behind him.
‘Odd, isn’t it,’ he said, ‘that a thief and a vagabond should repent,
when so many who are rich and secure remain hard and frivolous,
and without fruit for God or man?”

G.K. Chesterton, The Innocence of Father Brown


(a cold crab washed up on the beach / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

The Daily Office for the Thursday closet to March 3—
Words most applicable to the burdens of this week.

The call to prayer:

Come now let us reason together
Isaiah 1:18

The Request for Presence:

Awake, O my God, decree justice, let the assembly of peoples gather around you.
Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous, for
you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

The Greeting:

Deliver me, O Lord, by your hand, and peace shall be a pathway from his feet.
Psalm 85:13

A Reading:

Seek out YAHWEH while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked abandon his way and the evil one his thoughts,
Let him turn back to YAHWEH who will take pity on him, to our God, for he is rich in
forgiveness, for my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways,
declares YAHWEH.
For the heavens are as high above the earth as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6-9

The Refrain:

Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Midday Psalm:

‘You Will Save a Lowly People’
With the faithful you show yourself faithful, O God, with the forthright you
show yourself forthright.
With the pure you show yourself pure, but with the crooked you are wily.
You will save a lowly people, but you will humble the haughty eyes,
You, O Lord, are my lamp; my God, you make my darkness bright.
With you I will break down an enclosure; with the help of my God I will scale any wall.
As for God, his ways are perfect; the words of the Lord are tried in the fire,
he is a shield to all who trust in him.
For who is God, but the Lord? who is the Rock, except our God?

Psalm 18:26-32

The Refrain:

Righteousness shall go before him, and peach shall be a pathway for his feet.

The Cry of the Chruch:

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

The Lords Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be your Name.
May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil;
for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week:

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory
upon the holy mountain:
Grant that I, beholding by faith the light of his countenance,
may be strengthened to bear my cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

The Concluding Prayer of the Chruch:

Renew in my heart, O God, the gift of your Holy Spirit,
that I may love you fully in all that
I do and love all others as Christ loves me.
May all that I do proclaim the good news that you are God with us.
Amen

person, place or thing

“It ain’t what they call you,
it’s what you answer to.”

W.C. Fields

“Names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things,
and not the essence to the names,
since things come first and names afterwards.”

Galileo Galilei


(the honeysuckle in bloom / Julie Cook / 2017)

One thing for certain, I am not an expert.
Meaning…
I am not the go to guru on any one thing.

Oh I may know a good bit about this or that,
but I can’t say definitively that I am an expert.

Let’s take the subject of Language Arts for instance…
I know just enough to get by.

If we look back to the basics…
All the way back to the basic first steps in the study of the Language Arts…
We know that there is a process to learning the building blocks…
those building blocks which guide us to being able to understand writing,
reading and basic conversation….
That whole noun, verb, pronoun, adverb, adjective melange to our communicating.

We first learn that a noun is defined as a person, place or thing.

A bit broad, but it’s a start.

Verbs, they are action packed.

Adverbs help in all things action
while adjectives like to be on the dramatic side…they, for good and bad, describe.

But back to nouns.

We learn that in addition to nouns, there are things known as proper nouns.
As in they refer to one of a kinds, important sorts of things that always have capital letters.
For example, people’s names.
Properly put, I am Julie.
But I am also a woman, a girl or more simply, a female…
as in nouns but just not propers.

So the other day when I was reading a review on a book written by Alec Motyer
the book entitled
Isaiah By the Day
A new Devotional Translation

I was dumbstruck, or perhaps awed is a better assessment,
by a simple observation by Mr Motyer’s….

Which just goes to show us that when we thought we had God all figured out and
fit into our own little various boxes of understanding…
He goes and proclaims to us that there is always another facet to who He is—
far beyond the perimeters of our own limited understanding….

“If we were to ask him [God] ‘What are you?’
he would reply with the noun: I am ‘God’.

If we were to ask him ‘Who are you?’
he would reply with his name ‘Yahweh’.

There are two main nouns meaning God.
The most common is elohim, a plural of ‘amplitude’
indicating that this God possesses all and every divine attribute;
he is totally and completely God.

The other noun is el.
God in his transcendent majesty, glory and strength.
In order to keep you on the ball elohim is always translated ‘God’,
and el is ‘God’ “

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me,
‘What is his name?’
Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:13-14

Resurrections

“God is what he is;
Yahweh is who he is.”

Alec Motyer

The first thing the Cross does is cross out the world’s word by a Wholly-Other Word,
a Word that the world does not want to hear at any price.
For the world wants to live and rise again before it dies,
while the love of Christ wants to die in order to rise again in the form of God on the
other side of death, indeed, IN death.”

― Hans Urs von Balthasar


(a surprise resurrection blooming peony / Julie Cook /2017)

Late last Spring, early summer, I found myself wandering through the garden center of Lowes.
Whenever I’m feeling ‘less then’, blah or downright sad I often find myself wandering
the garden center.
Rows and rows of color, vibrancy and simply life…
abundant in the scents and sights of fullness, always seems to lift my spirits.

I either wander aimlessly, seeking some hidden sense of solace…
or I wander with a purpose…as in I come with the intent of purchasing something
to plant…
as in, there is a reason and a need for the wandering.

Last planting season I was seeking a few shrubs that were deer resistant but plants
that had more umph than some sort of boxwood or holly.
Something that could survive the full relentless Georgia sun.
A summer either baking and dry or sticky and humid…
Last summer it was hot and dry with a long lasting and oh so deadly drought.

I am a fan of the old fashioned sort of plants found in gardens that harken
to another time…a lovely sort of English cottage garden…
Those gardens that call to mind the thoughts and memories of those who have gone before.

So imagine my piqued interest when I spied a potted peony.
Peonies remind me of old world stateliness…soft while elegant.
Not flashy, not cutting edge, not loud nor garish.
A very southern old-time staple.

I am not a green thumb queen like our friend Natalie over on Sacred Touches
(https://sacredtouches.com)
I do however enjoy planting and working in the yard,
as it is extremely therapeutic for me…
It’s just that I don’t always have success and I don’t always know what I’m doing.

After checking out the price tag on the peony, I had a bit of sticker shock.
It was very expensive.
I asked one of the garden center folks if the peony could survive full sun.
She told me yes and that that was the last peony for the season…that she had already bought
one of the others despite it being a big splurge…she was just excited to get one.

Seeing that I was in the midst of the growing difficult life with Dad’s declining health
and the beginnings of his increasing needs as the life I had known had ceased…
I wanted, no I needed, something to bring me a bit of joy…
I figured a blooming peony could do just that.
So I too splurged and bought the potted peony.

Long story short.
I planted it.
I cared for it.
But we had a deadly drought.
Baking heat and a drought…

This is what the peony looked like come early Fall…

Dejected and sad I text Natalie the pictures.
Knowing her to be the queen of flowers, I shared my loss with her.
Natalie does indeed know a thing or two about flowers and plants
as well as a thing or two about heat and drought as she hails from Texas…
She told me not to dig up the plant…
“Just leave it, because come Spring, you might just be surprised.”
“Peonies are of a hardy stock.”
I suppose a Texas southerner knows a thing or two about hardy stock.

So as the winter came and my life grew more grey and difficult, I forgot all about the peony.

Fast forward to now…as I wander about in the wake of losing Dad,
going through the motions these last couple of weeks while trying to pick up the pieces of
what all he’s left behind,
I’ve been working slowly to bring some semblance of order back into my world.

Wandering about the yard, seeking newness and fullness, I caught my breath when I noticed
a little tuft of fresh greenery emerging from the recently replaced pine straw.
Cautiously over the past week, I’ve watched the little tuft get fuller and taller.
Then Sunday afternoon I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a bloom.

A real resurrection of sorts….

And how timely that this garden resurrection should manifest itself during this most
Holy of weeks…

The weightiness and heaviness of this world…with its pain and overwhelming sorrow…
It is both frightening while at the same time complacent as it lulls us into feeling
that it is our home, our only home.
Dirty and broken, hot and dry…it clutches us, smothering us as it holds our
face in it’s grip convincing us that this world is all we could ever want or need.

Yet in that brokeness and loneliness of our empty hearts and souls…we yearn
for more.
While we shrink in the dryness…
we are spent…

So on that hot dry day of loss…
as a head drops to the chest and the last breath is released…
while the sky darkens and all hope leaves with that drying…

A promise is not forgotten…
and soon our world will change forever…
for the better…..

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:
Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,
the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Luke 24:44

Practicing the presence of God

“I must first have the sense of God’s possession of me
before I can have the sense of His presence with me.”

Watchman Nee

DSCN0335
(remains of St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A.W. Tozer tells us that to the convinced Christian, “the practice of the presence of God” consists not of projecting an imaginary object from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence; it is rather to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declare to be already there, an objective entity, existing apart from any apprehension of Him on the part of His creatures.
The resultant experience is not visionary but real.

The world would have us all believe otherwise…

It is however our faith, our belief, our experience, our relationship that teaches us, tells us, assures us that His presence is indeed real…without doubt….
yet…we are left with a nagging…
what then…?

The question begs….
What then are we do with and in this realness that is a distinct part of our God?
What of the intimacy of the relationship?
The going deeper?
The nurturing?
The growth?
The sharing?

Is merely accepting, believing and moving forward enough?
Is that all there is or all there should be…
to believe in, pray to, to worship…
the Great I AM, Elohim, YHVH, Jehovah, Yahweh..
The name that truly, we the created, are not worthy, not equal to, not “friends” with…to utter.

To approach with reverence and awe
To be silent and still
To empty ourselves of everything…
of the distractions
the preoccupations
the materialism
the worry
the fear
the fretting
the lamenting
the sorrowfulness

To become wholly empty…
making a space within a space that is open and vast
Hungry and yearning
Desiring, wanting, needing…
Needing so desperately that it hurts…
Just as a wound would cause pain…then ache…so does the empty heart…

Oh to be filled with the only thing that can soothe, refresh, renew and heal
The One who yearns to fill that space
Yet will not reveal Himself, unless we come before Him, in total submisson.
No bravado, no ego, no toughness, no holier than thou, no anger, no resentment,
no bitterness, no pride, no self….
Only humble emptiness…longing to be filled by the One who longs for communion
with the created….


And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

What’s in a commandment?

“God gave us free agency, and then gave us the commandments to keep us free.”
― Cecil B. DeMille

DSC00642
(lone sparrow / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just hearing the word “commandment” can make me feel somewhat oppressed, burdened, guilty, poorly behaved and much like a naughty little child. As in there is this heavy, as in literally heavy two tablets, full of laws hovering over my head which I’m suppose to be living my life by. Wanting but not always feeling as if I’m following them to the letter of the Law. Oh I don’t mean those biggie rules. . .the whole murder and stealing business. . .I try to stay away from those, but its to some of the lesser ones I think most of us falter over—as in who isn’t a bit envious of a neighbor’s windfalls and who among us hasn’t fallen at the foot of a golden calf such as our fixation with our gadgets, cars, clothes, food, yada, yada, yada. . .

As I continue reading Meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer with translation by David McI. Gracie, I have reached the final section of the small devotional. The book closes out with Bonhoeffer’s commentary of Psalm 119.

Psalm 119 or as it is known in Hebrew “Ashrei temimei derech” (happy are those whose way is perfect) is the longest Psalm, as well as chapter, in the Bible. The psalm is divided into 22 stanzas with each stanza containing 8 verses. Psalm 119 was supposedly Bonhoeffer’s favorite psalm and he began his reflection, intending it as a devotional for the young seminarians he was instructing, but this was all just shortly before his involvement in the German resistance and Bonhoeffer never finished his commentary. Bonhoeffer has chosen to reflect on a section at a time making this particular commentary the longest in this little devotional.

With life proving to be a great challenge this week as each daily crisis builds upon the next crisis, my own sense of well-being, nerves, fortitude, heart and spirit have come under siege.
With aching spirit, dejected soul, tear streaked face I have crawled into bed each night fretful and filled with dread, despair and grave concern.

It is indeed during such hard times of life–those times that are most painful, challenging, and traumatic. . .those times when we are filled to the top and overflowing with weariness, fatigue, sorrow and sadness, that just as a lost child may cry out to a parent, I, you, me cry out.
“Hear me Oh Lord. . .”

It is at such ebbing times that we find our thoughts, soul, mind and heart in unison crying out to the One and only One who we know and think and hope can offer us help.

The Great I AM
Jehovah
Yahweh
G-D (as those most devout of the Hebrew faith do not find it possible to even write His name as it is the most holy of names)
God Almighty
Heavenly Father
Abba
Adonai
Elohim

His presence often comes in the form of an unexplained peace, a needed inner strength, the aid of a stranger or friend who comes calling out of the blue, a profound wisdom, or the opening of a window when every door is slammed and locked shut.
His Being comes to us in song, words of wisdom, a warm embrace, a gentle breeze, or a fierce wind.
And even frustratingly, He may simply come to us as Silence. . .
But rest assured, whenever we call, come He does.

As I was reading over the devotional’s commentary regarding God’s commandments two nights ago, I was suddenly struck by God’s power as mirrored by Bonhoeffer’s own reflections on the subject. . .

4 You laid down your commandments, that we should fully keep them.

That in this entire psalm God is addressed, and not human beings, is shown by the “you” with which the one who is praying now turns to God. Nor do the commandments stand in the center of this psalm, it is rather the One who commands. Not an “it”, an idea, but a “you” meets us in the commandments. A further sign of this is found in the Hebrew word for “commandments” in this verse. It is a word that cannot be translated by a single word of ours. It derives from the verb for seeking, visiting, paying attention to. Hence, the commandments are what God looks at, pays attention to, and the means by which he seeks and visits the human being. The commandments then reflect God’s way toward the human being. They have a definite purpose and goal for me. They are not given for their own sake, but for our sake, that we “should fully keep them.” We ought to keep them in the sense of holding fast to them; indeed, we should do so fully, with all our might, so that we do not lose them or let them be torn away from us. God’s commandment is not only here for the moment, but for the duration. It is intended to penetrate deep within us and to be held fast in all situations of life.

Did it ever occur to any of us that God’s decreed commandments were not merely sets of laws, the proverbial dos and don’ts for human beings, but rather that these commandments were actually extensions of God’s “visiting” and “seeking us,” His actually paying attention to us??!!

That God, the most Holy and Omnipotent God would, though His words, wish to visit us, seek us, pay us attention. . .

So as I closed the book for the night, turning off the light and laying back onto my pillow while staring blankly out into the dark, contemplating my own perception of the idea of a commandment, I felt a tremendous sense of Power that was far greater than the trials of my latest tribulations. The knowledge that there is One who is greater than any suffering or pain who simply wishes to seek me out with His Laws which sweetly translates into Love, left me rather amazed. I also found a Peace along with a new and deeper appreciation for what most of my life had seemed to be a mere list of rules and heavenly dos and don’ts.

And as I closed my eyes, I whispered into the darkness. . .may Your will be my own. . . .

The hidden things you do not know

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Jeremiah 33:3

DSCN3113
(a pair of Cardinals/ Julie Cook / 2014)

The still small voice of God

Would we not assume it to be LOUD, LARGE, BIGGER THAN LIFE, ATTENTION GRABBING?
Yet experience teaches that God does not operate as we do or as we would–which is truly our blessing.

We might think a big name Ad agency should be hired. High tech, glitzy commercials, billboards, neon lights. . . run a spot during the Super Bowl—yeah that’s it, the Super Bowl. Use George Clooney or Heidi Klum as a spokesperson.
Offer some sort of give away—a new iPad, a new camera, a new car. A five nights, all expenses paid, trip to Disney–yeah that’s it, Disney.

Maybe we should Google the reviews to that Still Small Voice.
How many likes?
How many followers?
Has it been tweeted?
Can we follow it on FaceBook?
Has it opened on the NYSE?
Does it have a blog?
Can we clip a coupon, getting a discount?
Door busters, that’s it, does it offer a door buster to those who are the first to hear it?
Does its doors open extra early?
Does it offer extended hours?

Funny what we think to be attention grabbing and slick sales techniques—those things which we would employ as all important “hooks”—that which is loud, garish, flashy, tech savvy techniques, with millions spent in order to garner customers and sales. Our all engrossing sensory overload techniques. All this as we as a people are growing ever jaded with and by our savvy consumerism. It now takes something almost monumental to get our attention, our money, our business. As we continue searching and seeking something for nothing.

And yet God, the Almighty, Jehovah, Emmanuel, Yahweh, The Alpha and the Omega, the Omnipotent, the Creator, the Adonai. . . does not employ the tactics of mere mortals. He is not concerned with “out doing” the competition. He is not concerned without out selling the competitors.
The power is in the silence not in the noise.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kings 19: 11-13)

A voice.
A whisper.
A simple spoken voice.
No screaming.
No shouting.
No yelling.
A voice.

We wonder where He is?
Why doesn’t He speak?
Why is He so silent?

The real question. . .
Is He?