Rest

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Augustine of Hippo

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(phlox / Julie Cook / 2016)

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8

Today is big

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
C.S. Lewis
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(Fireworks in the night sky / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today is big…really big…
But there’s no time to chat…
Much preparations, cooking, cleaning, anticipating….
Just know that today is joyous, spectacular and a hugely big kind of day!!!
and I’ll be filling you in soon…..

They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7

Love and Truth

The truth is incontrovertible.
Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it,
but in the end,
there it is.

Winston Churchill

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end,
they always fall.
Think of it–always.

― Mahatma Gandhi

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(toad frog / Julie Cook / 2016)

Just remember….
They might not always be considered pretty, worldly or even popular…
but Love and Truth will always triumph…

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

life has turned

“What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.”

― A.W. Tozer

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(a camouflaged baby lizard lounges on the lemon tree / Julie Cook / 2015)

The funny thing about life is that God always has a way of whittling away the superfluous until He exposes the bare bones of the necessary.

And that necessary is here and now.

Because you see, life has taken a turn.

Not just my life but all our lives.

When an 85 year old priest, in a small town church has his throat slit while saying mass
as our media outlets offer but a mere passing mention because
they are too busy covering the
feeding frenzy of a political convention,
life has turned.

Oh we can all look the other way because that is there and we are here….
We can pretend that the reality isn’t really happening.
We can ignore the obvious growing importance of events in our world..
We can use the same smoke and mirrors our leaders and politicians prefer…
in order to alter the stinging truth…

but you see, there is no hiding the truth.

Because the truth cannot be hidden by the darkness for long.
All that is… will eventually come to light.

We are living in the midst of a war.
And there is an urgency growing by the day…

Yet very few wish to acknowledge the importance, the urgency, the raging battles.
Better to ignore the chaos, in hopes it goes away.
Better to decry the reasoning in hopes it isn’t real.

The lines have been drawn…long ago.
With each of us having our own personal battles…while the bigger war rages on…
As each individual battle links to the greater fight.

Yet sadly the majority still wants to ignore the reality of the truth.
They want to proclaim the obvious isn’t real.
They want to go about life as though everything is perfectly normal and fine…
Tiptoeing through the broken glass…

They want to desensitize themselves while gorging their insatiable appetites…
Growing fat and lazy so that when the time comes, they won’t be able to
heed the call….

Yet the call has been sounded.

The troops are amassing…
The smoke is rising on the horizon
and the sound of footsteps can be heard along the winds.

With life’s turn now taken,
there is no more time for looking back.

There are no longer those hidden places to hide.

The darkness will not be permitted to remain…
as all that has remained hidden is soon to be exposed…

The time to choose your position is now…
You have been called to ready the fortress, we all have been called…
Yet only a handful will answer….

What more will it take for you to understand…

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
Second Timothy 3:1-5

Unraveling? Hold on!

Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
George S. Patton

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Our God, Our Help In Ages Past
Isaac Watts

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(spicetail swallowtail butterfly hanging on in a rain shower / Julie Cook / 2016)

We’re all just holding on aren’t we…
seemingly by that proverbial thread.

We look all around us at the escalating global madness…
and we are mystified, even stupefied…
and growing more and more terrified by the day.

We find ourselves hunkering down, covering our heads, expecting the worst…
Or maybe we simply jam our fingers in our ears, dashing about chattering so loudly hoping
to drown out this frightening reality.

“We are living in a stressful age that New York Times columnist
Roger Cohen calls a “time of unraveling…Cohen imagines a future conversation
about the grim situations of the present and writes…
“It was a time of unraveling…a time of beheadings…a time of aggression…a time of breakup…
a time of weakness…a time of hatred…a time of fever…a time of disorientation” in which the “fabric of society frayed.”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Our political conventions are bordering on the edge of the surreal..
mirroring that of a traveling side show or a two bit circus.

The candidates vie for our votes…
Yet they prefer busing themselves by trading the ugly tit for tat verbiage of hate,
lies and insults.
As the average citizen is left wondering…where have real leaders gone….

Our world is ailing with unrest….and withers under evil’s oppression.

Today, in a quiet suburb of the French city of Rouen, an 85 year old priest, Father Jaques Hamel, was viciously and savagely murdered during the midst of morning Mass.
He was attacked by two young masked men.

The young assailants took four nuns and parishioners hostage using them as human shields.
These attackers forced Fr Hamel to kneel before the altar as they shouted a tirade in Arabic followed with Allahu Akbar, all before slitting Fr Hamel’s throat in front of terrified parishioners…
all the while filming the entire apalling spectacle.

They were later killed by police.

ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Germans continues reeling while trying to make sense out of the latest terror attacks that have rocked their nation. The stories continue making back to back to back headlines.

First an ax wielding young man attacks passengers on a train in Wuerzburg, Germany…

Next a gunman kills 9 at a shopping mall in Munich.

Thirdly, another young man, yesterday, injures 15 outside of a bar, as he proceeds to blow himself up…

The leading newspaper in Turkey ran a front page story yesterday claiming that President Erdogan is now blaming the United States for last week’s failed coup as word circulates that he was actually to blame for orchestrating the whole debacle…which has now given way for his sweeping crackdowns within a country balancing between a tenuous democracy and a Muslim dictatorship.

All of this world drama, as the UK continues to figure out what their voting to leave the EU will actually mean…

Our world has been turned upside down…with Truth, Morality, and The Sacred each becoming a resulting victim.

Indeed the world is unraveling at an alarming rate…
So many of these headlines are simply overwhelming, leaving us all with a sense of loss,
worry and dread…

Fear gleefully now marches far and wide around our globe…as we look to placate our troubles…

However…

We mustn’t lose our hope…
No matter how daunting such the task.

For we may just actually find our comfort and our peace
hidden in the smallest of beings…

Imagine the humble butterfly…

A delicate creature if ever there was one.
Its wings thiner then tissue paper, covered in a dazzling array of fine and colorful powder.
No match for rain nor tempest storm….
And yet they somehow manage to survive.

At the first sign of a change in the weather…
As clouds thicken and skies darken as the winds begin to shift…
the butterfly knows to seek shelter…

For even a single raindrop can kill a butterfly.

Even the resulting dip in temperatures, following in the the storm’s aftermath,
is life threatening because butterflies need the heat of the sun in order to feed, mate and thrive.

Butterflies instinctively know the importance of seeking shelter and holding on during a storm.
It’s a matter of living and dying.

Perhaps…
just maybe…
Its time we each look to the One who offers us our shelter from the storm…
To the One who offers us life in the face of all that is dying….
For He is indeed our shelter from the storm….

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging

Psalm 46:1-3

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in or out… or both

“There are three kinds of men.
The one that learns by reading.
The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Will Rogers

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(my cat Percy who wants the best of both worlds / Julie Cook / 2016)

You and I want it both ways.
The best of both worlds.
You know, the whole having our cake and eating it too scenario.

Sadly, I just think it’s in our nature.

Take my cat for example.

Percy is a rescue.
Percy, short for Perseverance.
Long story…
I’ve written about him and his story on a previous post entitled “my best friend”…

Percy has no bottom teeth…due to a horrific injury he endured at the hands of some bad humans…
Bad humans who had an encounter with him when he was just a few weeks old.

As a tiny kitten he came to us in a near death condition…
And because he has had to have several repairs (aka surgeries to deal with smashed teeth)
he is strictly an indoor cat.
Sometimes much to his chagrin.

We live in a rural part of our county where more things than bad humans prowl about.
Coyotes and fox are keen to set their sights on family pets.
Having no teeth for defense can be problematic—so indoor he is.

Percy has access to our back deck.
A deck that is basically two stories off the ground and would spell the breaking of limbs
should anyone, cat or human, decide to jump.
So everyone seems content just to sit and relax.

The deck is covered and protected from the elements…with the exception being the heat.
The black awning seems to only intensify the summer sun’s heat.
It is therefore for that very dangerous hot reason that I keep Percy inside during the heat of the day.

Percy enjoys his early mornings and late afternoons lounging on “his” deck.
He watches the hummingbirds and will occasionally “hunt” a wandering wasp…
which results in a usually painful hunting experience…

I leave the kitchen door to the deck slightly ajar when he’s out on the deck.
Loud noises, from both passing trucks and motorcycles, terrify him.
Upon hearing any loud vehicle noise, Percy will frantically push the door open, flying into the house.
I think it goes back to his traumatic childhood experience with the cruel humans.

As the morning wears on and the heat sets in, Percy likes to push open the door and lazily lumber into the kitchen where he will immediately plop down on the cool wood floor enjoying cool while keeping “his” door to his kingdom open for easy viewing and easy access.

This is problematic.

It is neither wise nor cost effective in the South, in the dead heat of summer, to leave a door open allowing for the hot heat from the outside to enter into the comfortable AC cooled inside..nor is it wise having the cool AC from the inside…escaping to the hot heat outside…
either way, you get the point.

This is a real sticking point with my husband.
He tends to get very angry whenever he spies the door just sitting wide open while no one is near…
as he sees money exiting the door.
He has that gift…
The gift of seeing invisible money flying out both doors and windows when no one is looking.

So I have two choices…
Stop leaving the door ajar, therefore causing Percy to have apoplexy while being stuck outside near loud noises…
Or,
I don’t let him out, period.

Or…there is a third choice…I could teach Percy to close the door.
Which would be perfect…
yet sadly I don’t think I would live long enough for him to master such a feat.
He’s a slow learner.

So a conundrum has arisen.

Percy wants the best of both worlds.
He wants in and out…both at the same time.
He doesn’t understand why that is not a good idea.

I think we are a lot like Percy…
We, as in me and you, want the best of all our worlds.

We want to have our cake and eat it too.
We don’t want to be told what we can and cannot do.
We don’t want God, the Church, or anyone for that matter, telling us what we can and cannot do.
We like our world, our things, our gizmos and our gadgets…
We like our vices, our often poor choices and the things that we know are actually bad for us.
We like our possessions, our shiny baubles, our stuff…
We don’t want to “sacrifice” or give up our wants…
We have mastered the fine art of convincing and justifying every aspect of our lives.

If we must give up “this,” then we’ll make do with “that.”
We’re ok with trading, just not sacrificing.

We prefer sitting on the fence with the world on one side and God on the other.
Sitting in the middle makes perfect sense….
We think if we can keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, it’s all good.
We think that’s all zen-like as we have the perfect harmony of balance…
hence, the best of both worlds….

But what we don’t get, what we fail to understand and comprehend,
is that we’re balancing between Heaven and Hell…

and that is problematic.

God is not an either or sort of Creator.
He’s never been big on us having our cake and eating it too…as that just doesn’t work.
He never said that we could keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven.
He’s always been an all our nothing sort of Creator…

He did not say that He would share us with Satan.
He said we are His and His alone…

Yet…
and here’s the rub…
He then turned around and gave us the final choice to decide.

We can either be His and His alone….
or…
not…
Our choice.

The only thing is, we can’t be both…
end of sentence…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go close a door…

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

erosion

Today’s average American is more apt to rebel against a tennis shoe
not coming in the right color than against the slow erosion
of our democratic freedom.

Marianne Williamson

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(a major project at home/ red Georgia clay / Julie Cook / 2016)

It’s not the moon.
It’s not some foreign land
It’s not a desert….

Yet it feels very much like a desert.
Dry
Rocky
Dusty
With deadly heat radiating up and off.

This forbidding alien landscape, however, is merely an excavated and grated bank in our yard.
Remember our yard is a former pasture.
This is a large, long, dry, hot, rocky bank.
A daunting side project…a resulting spill off project, stemming from a larger project.
A side project, now a major project, demanding immediate attention.

There has been no rain…
Zero…
Nothing of consequence in over a month.
The word drought comes to mind….
And with a large mountain and wall of dirt needing covering….
I am concerned…

If it’s not planted or covered soon, any thunderstorm could spell disaster.

High winds could wickedly whip up the dirt with destructive results.
A downpour would turn a dirt bank into a raging red river of mud.

The only solution is to plant some sort of erosion barrier.
Planting bushy shrubs, adding low growing spreading plants, a few small tress…
and lots and lots of pine straw.
Then the watering upon watering as no real rain is in sight…

A lot of work, but necessary to stop destructive erosion.

After having had a little chat with my fellow southern blogging buddy Wally,
over on Truth in Palmyra ( https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com ),
regarding my dilemma of having to get this bank planted,
Wally jokingly told me “whatever you do, don’t plant kudzu!”

Any true southerner knows kudzu.

That noxious weed-like vine that covers the south like….well…
journalists covering this current election business…
Fast,
zealous,
and suffocating….

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(Image courtesy of the Lexington Herald Leader)

It was just a matter of time I suppose…
Time before a Southerner, such as myself, should bring up our dirty little secret…

Kudzu.

According to Wikipedia…
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is an invasive plant in the United States. It has been spreading in the southern U.S. at the rate of 150,000 acres (610 km2) annually, “easily outpacing the use of herbicide spraying and mowing, as well increasing the costs of these controls by $6 million annually”. This claim, however, has recently been disputed, the United States Forest Service estimating an increase of only 2,500 acres per year. Its introduction has produced devastating environmental consequences. This has earned it the nickname, “The vine that ate the South”.

The kudzu plant was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Kudzu was introduced to the Southeast in 1883 at the New Orleans Exposition. The vine was widely marketed in the Southeast as an ornamental plant to be used to shade porches, and in the first half of the 20th century, kudzu was distributed as a high-protein content cattle fodder and as a cover plant to prevent soil erosion. The Soil Erosion Service recommended the use of kudzu to help control erosion of slopes which led to the government-aided distribution of 85 million seedlings and government-funded plantings of kudzu which paid $19.75 per hectare. By 1946, it was estimated that 1,200,000 hectares (3,000,000 acres) of kudzu had been planted. When boll weevil infestations and the failure of cotton crops drove farmers to move from rural to urban districts, kudzu plantings were left unattended. The climate and environment of the Southeastern United States allowed the kudzu to grow virtually unchecked. In 1953 the United States Department of Agriculture removed kudzu from a list of suggested cover plants and listed it as a weed in 1970. By 1997, the vine was placed on the “Federal Noxious Weed List”.Today, kudzu is estimated to cover 3,000,000 hectares (7,400,000 acres) of land in the southeastern United States, mostly in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Mississippi.

Back in the day, kudzu seemed like a good idea…
It was going to help,
Yet it was left unchecked,
It got out of control…
and now it’s a disaster…

Oddly, or rather with impeccable timing… the morning I was to focus on my sea of red dirt, the morning’s reading was Luke 8:4-15
the parable about the Sower…

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’

“This is the meaning of the parable:
The seed is the word of God.
Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

A morning’s parable, a Heavenly word,
coupled with a giant massive dry area of red dirt needing attention….
was not lost on my thoughts.

I wondered what it is that I was currently doing to stop any erosion of my heart, of my faith, of my spirit and soul…especially in light of the current raging tempests in this world…

The daily assault of violence and hatred…the insidious seducing of our weary psyches by our ancient adversary…the twists and turns of what seemed to be truth now offered up as the placating lies of self.

What of those painfully dry periods of life…those times of isolation, loneliness, emptiness…

Was I allowing the storms of terrorism, violence, and hatred to batter an unprotected, unprepared,
dried-up and dusty spirit?
Had I allowed God’s words to spill forth, only to fall upon a hardened dried-up heart?
Had I prepared, shoring up my faith?
Had I nurtured the faith…
protecting it,
watering it,
fertilizing it…
Had I cared for it in the quiet and calm times, readying it and myself, so that there would be a reservoir of strength and plenty in now this time of grave uncertainty?

And lastly I wondered if I had nurtured that spiritual relationship, that inextricable bond between Creator and created… had I spent, do I spend, the same sort of time and energy on that relationship, because that’s what it is—a relationship, as I was now spending and investing in and on this red bank rising before me….

So much now needing attention, as I grabbed a shovel under a relentless baking sun…

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:13