Need a change in direction?

“Fortunately Jesus didn’t leave [the disciples]-or any of us-without hope or direction. Where we fail, Jesus succeeded. The only One who as able to recognize and follow His purpose from the beginning was Jesus. He alone was able to obey consistently and please God completely. And His divine mission was to make a way for each of us to do the same.”
Charles R. Swindoll

DSCN0450
( a female mallard slides across the mirror-like pond / Adare Manor, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Feeling out of sorts, irritable, unsatisfied and unfulfilled, we wander about, head down, hands shoved deep into the murky abyss of pockets, as the permanent scowl begins to feel more like a widow’s netting hanging down over our once bright eyes.

Musing and muttering, self within self, we shrug as if to a companion…yet the only companion is an unhappy self.

We don’t much care for the big picture…
All that worldly mess…the global mess that seems so out of control and so beyond our grasp…it has left us drained, depleted and depressed.
We don’t really care for much of anything we see…that of the world, our country, our city, our town, or dare we voice it?.. even our own home and family…

Ours is but a single small voice…no change there coming from the insignificant…this as we grouse, once again, as if to a companion.
What’s so bad about a life lived by the status quo, no boat rocking that’s for sure
thoughts trailing off as eyes begin to burn from invisible mounting tears.

This solitary conversation of self with self has taken on the volley of table tennis–back and forth with the whys and the why nots…the hows and the how comes…the whens and the not whens…

Feeling crushed under the ever growing blackening clouds of despair and empty acceptance
a few ducks, gliding effortlessly across the pond, draw our attention…creating a thankful diversion, just enough to pull us away from the woeful self within self discourse.

The small flock of ducks are all drifting peacefully along in the same direction, across the mirror-like water, except for one lone duck. This single mallard duck has taken his course in the opposite direction.

Humm, what does this duck know that the others don’t…?…you muse silently to yourself.

And that’s when it hits you…

It’s about time you changed directions….

DSCN0449
(a mallard serenely swims by / Adare Manor, Adare, County Limerick, Irleand / Julie Cook / 2015)

“We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigor of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways. It is no use. We can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is…

…The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all we step out of the world’s parade.”

(excerpt by A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God)

(***and speaking of directional change…I’m on to a slight diversion—I’ll be back here hopefully Tuesday—until then…God’s grace to you…)

Just looking pretty or is there more to it?

A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”

Isaiah 30:17

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Luke10:18

Principle-particularly moral principle-can never be a weathervane, spinning around this way and that with the shifting winds of expediency. Moral principle is a compass forever fixed and forever true-and that is as important in business as it is in the classroom.
Richard R. Lyman

DSCN0156
(a weathervane atop Christ’s Church Cathedral/ Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2105)

Perched high atop many a historical, religious and or official sort of building one can usually catch a glimpse of some sort of decorative adornment, standard or symbol.

DSCN1176
(topping at Adare Manor complete with lightning rod /County Limerick, Adare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It may be a flag, a statue, a cross, a weathervane, or mere spire.
Yet usually most buildings deemed of significance are most often capped off with a bit of a whimsical architectural finishing touch–the exclamation after the sentence, the topping to the cake…

DSCN1022
(St Mary’s Catholic Church / Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0038
(Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0144
(Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

DSCN1541
(Ashford Castle, Cong, County Galway / Mayo border / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0159
(St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0702
( St Coleman’s Cathedral, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

DSCN0730
( St Coleman’s Cathedral, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

DSCN0163
(Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

These architectural adornments, which are mainly decorative, might be used as some sort of message bearer, as in a desire to draw the attention of the masses below upward, or on the other hand they may be used to send a somewhat cheeky ominous warning to the underlings below.

Yet some are theses engineered toppers serve a dual purpose–having a more practical service and need…as in the case of redirecting lightening…

Lightning_striking_the_Eiffel_Tower_-_NOAA_edit
(1906 image of lightning striking the Eiffel Tower, courtesy the web)

Throughout the history of architecture, these often ornate ornamental pinnacles of man’s devising are used as either beacons with which to proclaim, sentinels to warn or welcome…devices to denote direction or a means to redirect and defend.

It seems as if it’s more than a matter of simply looking pretty as there is purpose hidden in the beauty…

Beacon
Proclaim
Guiding force
Warning
Directional
Defender

What of you….
Are you one who points the way?
Are you one who defends and protects?
Are you one who offers warning?
Are you one who offers directions?
Are you one who declares and proclaims?

DSCN1160
(Holy Trinity Abbey, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth
Romans 1:16

A small observation for pondering…

“It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial.”
Agatha Christie

DSCN0993
(Rose hips in full regalia, somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

During a recent conversation a friend made the following observation that gave me much pause as I slowly digested the thought…

“There is a Judas everywhere there are those doing the work of Jesus”

Don’t know as if that is meant to be some sort of warning or word to the wise, or just a sort of “know what you’re dealing with” sort of thought…but it was an interesting thought none the less…

DSCN0999(Rose hips in full regalia, somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Luke 17:20-21

If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.

Psalm 55:12-14

Have a good life

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

DSCN0524
(cross found in the Rock of Cashel cemetery, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just when you thought you had things situated, straightened out, figured out
and felt you were rolling merrily along feeling in charge, doing a good job of keeping your world in the middle of the road… Life’s little wicked twists and turns come calling, sending you careening out of control.

And so it was when the phone rang late this evening.
It was my godmother calling.
I’ve written about both my “godparents” before.
He is a life long Episcopal priest, Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral in Atlanta where I had grown up.
She, his wife, for the past near 70 years.
He’s soon to turn 93 and she 90.
Their bodies and minds failing in tandem.

I first wrote about my godfather shortly after I started this little blog of mine
as he was the one person in my life who had made the greatest impact–
as he basically saved me from myself when he came into my life…
when I was all of 15 years old.
I won’t retell that long convoluted tale as you can read it elsewhere if you so desire,
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/ ) but suffice it to say, he’s meant the world to me.

Whereas he and I have shared the common thread of each being adopted, as I was a teen when we first found one another, we each had, throughout the years, a sea of ups and downs with our perspective internal baggage. We had our hard fraught moments as much healing took place over the years within both of our hearts as we walked the journey together. He taught me about unconditional love and what it truly meant–as I continued testing the depths of that love.

She was often in the shadows.
As the wife of a very busy and well known national cleric, picking up pieces, tending to children, as well as the home front, would have been the assumed standard lot for such a spouse.
Yet she was never one to shrink or hide.
This was a woman who had had a career on Broadway in the 40’s staring in Carousel along with other well known musicals.
She was outspoken and very very sound in her faith, never mincing her words.

She had more than her fair share of input into the shaping of my life.
So much so that my own mother was often intimidated.
She was the type of woman who saw what needed to be done and simply went about doing it, no matter who or what would or could be in the way or problematic.
“No” was not a word that was within her thought process.

So today when the phone rang, I figured it was a call of checking in and touching base.
Perhaps a thank you for the latest goodies I’d sent through the mail…
But no, this was not that type of conversation.

Before we even finished with the opening pleasantries of the “hey, how are yous”– she begins with “the Lord told me that He wants me to call and tell the people in my life what they have meant to me…so…I want you to know how grateful I am for…how precious you are to me…how much I thank you…how I want you to know…”

“WHOA—what are you saying???!!!” I fumble over the words.
“Well, I’ll be 90 soon, I don’t have much time left….
“WHOA—let’s not rush things shall we….” I hear myself stammering.
“Now let’s not put the cart before the horse shall we…” I continue trying to stop where this conversation is going…for all sorts of reasons–

She continues on with her “speech” when suddenly her mind takes the conversation elsewhere, in a totally different direction and tone… which is what’s more telling to me than her kind and endearing words–
Time is truly of the essence is it not…in this world that is…

Whereas my Godmother is sound in her faith and has no doubts, no regrets, as she continues pushing forward despite failing body and mind, living to hear His word and obeying those words to the very end—I fear there are not many of us who are as determined to do His very bidding up to that last breath we each have on this earth—or perhaps it’s more about having the courage to do so.

And maybe that’s it–
Courage, freedom, determination…

What is it that gives us, offers us, the courage to do and say the words God urges us to speak…. as well as giving us the “why”… as to why we are to speak certain words in the first place… and then there is the “when”… when are we to speak them and to whom.

When do we give ourselves the freedom to speak such words?
And what is it that sets our determination to do all of the above—
is it our health, our time, our circumstance?

As the conversation finally came to an end, with me most thankful as the difficulty and awkwardness of her words were crushing in on my heart, she put my godfather on the phone who proceeds to tell me he loves me and to “have a good life”

Oooooo, this is NOT the conversation I wanted to hear this evening.
Often within adopted folks there is a tiny voice buried deep within that likes to perpetuate a lie that “you’re not really ever wanted,” so hearing, as well as accepting, such deep and meaningful words, that you matter or are dearly loved, or are precious to someone can be very hard to digest… as you simply feel most unworthy…
Plus this whole signing off as if I’ll never see them or hear from them again is most unnerving–as it reminds me that none of us are guaranteed a thing in this world, especially not time…that precious commodity we so often take for granted…

So when this once prolific writer, speaker, preacher, religious leader who just so happens to be my “godpoppa” utters his parting words in an almost singsong sort of fashion
“Have a good life”
I’m like a deer in headlights…frozen in the moment.

Have a good life….
Who says that???!!
An almost 93 year old man who has spent the last couple of years fighting with his mind as it tries to shut down, and he’s hellbent to hold on…

This as I head to Dad’s today which is a whooooole ‘nuther ballgame–

So here’s to life…
Here’s to the end of life…
Here’s to how we choose to live that life, up to the very end…
and here’s to love….

May we all “have a great life…”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:15

conkers any one?

The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty.
Ezekiel 31:8

DSCN1124
(a horse chestnut tree with ripening “conkers” outside of Ross Castle, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’”
Exodus 14:13-14

The ancient texts of an ancient time long gone, yellowed, dusty and worn, tells its readers of the promises of a mighty God to His people.
There is an ad infinitum quality and authority to these venerable Words..
As in these Words have been and always will be offered as they are.

They are words of Promises made, never broken.
The story is the same…
Promises made, never broken, on and on…
Over and over these promises are proclaimed…
Made to a people who, time and time again, believe for a short time and just as quickly apparently “un” believe.

The inevitable question in the mind of anyone reading these words and these tales is…
Why?
Why does or would this mighty God continue promising and delivering over and over again
to a people who briefly believe and just as quickly stop believing?

This casual observer or reader must wonder about this whole sort of situation,
and at first thought it probably seems senseless, almost stupid.
Dare we say, pitiful, sad, pathetic…

Why should a Being, a deity identified as the One true God, continue over and over
offering Himself, His concern, His interaction, His interjection, His promises to a people who seem ungrateful, uncaring and often unaccepting…

When it dawns on our casual reader and peruser of this particular and peculiar tome…
The single word unconditional enters the mind…
As in no conditions…
As in an absolute…
As in spoken with authority…
As in there are no boundaries or limits….
As in it is ever reaching and ever lasting…

It is, to the observer, especially a modern day observer who is accustomed to the broken promises and empty words lavished upon the masses by governmental leaders, corporate giants, and the average individual to individual as…well in a word…unbelievable.

At first our observer scoffs at such.
Shrugging off this unending and seemingly eternal Promise business as sheer rubbish.
So difficult to wrap one’s thoughts and comprehension around…
Yet as he continues reading and seeing the same sort of pattern, throughout each component of each story, something of the realness and magnitude of truth begins to nag at his mind and his heart.

There was a bond…
then a promise
then a broken heart….
A promise
A bond
A broken heart…

and so the story goes….

The Promise continues, never stopping, never being broken.
Yet the heart continues being broken, daily

Odd that….

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:20

Signs of the times

Our heart oft times wakes when we sleep, and God can speak to that, either by words, by proverbs, by signs and similitudes, as well as if one was awake.
John Bunyan

DSCN1579
(deer crossing sign located on the road near Cong, County Gallway / Mayo Border / Julie Cook / 2015)

You’ve seen the signs, plain as day.
A visual word to the wise.
Slow down
Be careful
Be mindful
Keep a watch
Be vigilant
Caution

Yet you don’t pay much attention.
Maybe you take a quick check of your peripheral vision…
Sensing nothing out of the ordinary on either side…
All the while, you stare straight ahead with both hands fixed on the wheel–
Assuming you’re good to go…as you merrily zip down the road.

As far as slowing down and exercising the advised caution, well, that ain’t happening.
You’ve been down this road a million times, and you’ve got places to go…
You flippantly play the gambling odds in your head, figuring chances are on your side…
Deer?
No deer?
Hummmmm
You go with no deer…as you’ve never seen a deer on this stretch of road.
You continue scooting mindlessly down the road.

But ironically the odds are not in your favor.

That lone buck, chasing that lone doe, darts out from the woods and crosses your path.
You’re clocking 70 mph, if not more.
You see the deer running right in front of you, just out of your right eye, right before you slam on the brakes…
You and the deer meet as one…
There’s a sickening thud and a high pitched screeching that won’t stop.
It slams into the windshield, shattering the glass, sending shards everywhere…

Blood and fur now cover your vision.
Reflexes have you stomping, pushing as hard as you can, down on the brakes as the car slides to the right, spinning.
The tires hit the shoulder of the road, which is nothing but soft earth…
Your tire mares in the soft dirt sticking and flipping the car over, sending you, the deer and almost 5000 pounds of metal, glass, rubber and plastic on a merry-go-round of madness.
Will you survive?…the last thought before you black out as you head slams into the door window…as you flip and flip and flip…

You were given a sign for a reason…
Yet you chose to ignore it…
You egotistically chose to play the odds.
You were invincible, in a hurry with places to go remember…

Obviously those odds were not in your favor….

God has given us all the signs.
He continues offering…
Yet you, me, we just keep continuing playing the odds…

Maybe it’s just that we’re opting to ignore any and all signs for some stupid selfish reason, hoping the inevitable will just go away…
or better yet…
Won’t ever happen…
Cause really, we’re just all too busy zipping down Life’s myriad of roads to pay too much attention to any benign sort of sign….

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
John 4:48

collision course

Our epoch is a time of tragic collision between matter and spirit and of the downfall of the purely material world view.
Wassily Kandinsky

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
― Albert Einstein

DSCN0934
(somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Each morning that we are so fortunate to wake…
given one more day of opportunity, setting off to what we think, dare assume, is the planned, the scripted, the designated, the intentional agenda of the day…
chances are we will fail to ever grasp the utter significance of the path we choose to take for that particular day’s journey.

Each day, each journey, each encounter, be it planned or happenstance, is known but to One and to One alone.
We cannot begin to claim to know of the journey’s experience, just that of the journey itself.
We cannot imagine the outcome as we are merely left to assume it will be the typical business as usual kind of day, time, life.

DSCN0946
(somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

We depart each morning to school, to work, to the gym, to volunteer, to coffee with friends, to meetings, to appointments, to trips…
We imagine the flow will be routine.
Nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the ordinary, just the same ol same ol.

Some of us won’t come home…for there are accidents and ill fated moments.
Certain chance encounters, all equally unplanned and unimagined.
Everything oddly, sadly, cut short…or so we rationalize in our finite minds.

Those of us afforded the continuance of our day, a day which is assumed to be of “our” time and of our time alone, move simply about the routine of life—the routine of a day in and a day out existence.
Yet what we often fail to see, to realize, to comprehend is that there are moments, encounters, meetings during those daily habitual tasks which are anything but random.

For there is nothing random to the Omnipotent Creator of time and space, heaven and earth.

We meet a stranger or a friend…
We utter a word or offer a sentence…completely innocent, nonchalant, just an average thought expressed…

And yet there is nothing random, nothing innocent, nothing nonchalant–for in the very words, the sentence, the verbal thoughts offered, to whomever it is we are conversing, the words, the utterance the offering is anything but idle chatter or casual conversation.
For in that sole conversation something monumental is heard, heeded, digested…

And unbeknownst to either individual the morning that each one woke, readying for what was to be just another day of work, of school, of meetings and appointments…each was on a collision course with what was to be a tiny moment within the vast sea of The Divine…where no one is to ever be the same…

Be at peace…

DSCN1902
(stained glass window, St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.”
― C.S. Lewis