impossible seperation

“Wherever an altar is found,
there civilization exists.”

Joseph de Maistre


( guillotine located in the Museum of the Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

There is nothing like a good ol revolution followed by the feeding frenzy of the lopping off
of heads to turn one’s thoughts to say, a more conventional path to life….
Or so it seems to have been so for the author of today’s quote.

A life, shall we say, consisting of the anchors of morality sprinkled with a steady dose of
conservatism….particularly if one was previously giddy over a life of anarchy and wanton
enlightened liberalism.

Yet it seems that time and time again…
man precariously rides the ever swinging pendulum of time,
swinging both left and right….
as he works to swing himself ever closer to living life simply fast and furious
while claiming to be both footloose and fancy free…

However the pendulum will always come back to the elephant in the room…
that being…. man verses a Divine Creator…

Deny and decry as oft man does….
As ego and pride take center stage as the masters of all that is,
societies will continue going to hell in a hand basket.

All the while as everyone is busying themselves… trying to separate the notion of morality
from Western Civilization’s Christian / Judaeo lynchpin….
which is like trying to separate the moon from the night sky….

It has always seemed to me completely inconsistent that existentialism should deny the
existence of God and then proceed to use the language of theism to persuade men to live right.
The French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance,
states frankly that he represents atheistic existentialism.
“If God does not exist,” he says, “we find no values or commands to turn to which
legitimize our conduct.
So in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us.
We are all alone, with no excuses.”
Yet in the next paragraph he states bluntly,
“Man is responsible for his passion,” and further on,
“A coward is responsible for his cowardice.”
And such considerations as these, he says, fill the existentialist with “anguish,
forlornness and despair.”
It seems to me that such reasoning must assume the truth of everything it seeks to deny.
If there were no God there would be no such words as “responsible.”
No criminal need fear a judge who does not exist;
nor would he need to worry about breaking a law that had not been passed.
It is the knowledge that the law and the judge do in fact exist that strikes fear
to the lawbreaker’s heart.
There is someone to whom he is accountable;
otherwise the concept of responsibility could have no meaning.

A.W. Tozer

somewhere restoration

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.

(Lyrics Somewhere over the Rainbow / The Wizard of Oz)


(the garden shops are getting ready…Julie Cook / 2017)

Somewhere out there the snows and ice are melting…
Somewhere out there the sun warms the face of children
Somewhere out there, there are smiles and laughter
Somewhere out there flowers are blooming, again…

I know this to be true.

It may not be here
and it may not be now
Not here in my world…
But I know it to be true.

I spend my day’s looking at the chest of a frail body…
a body with halting breath,
watching to see if the chest still rises and falls.

I see a body wasted.

I watch a face grimace and hear the cries of pain when that
frail body is moved or manipulated.
I see the wretched ulcer…the added insult to misery.

I am sad and sorrowful.

But I am not angry nor am I bitter.

I am however aggravated.

I am aggravated when reading the often taunting and hateful rhetoric
written by non believers about Believers.

The atheistic touts that there is no God.
Claiming that no loving God would allow the pain I am currently witnessing.

The pain is real.
The suffering is grievous.
But it is not caused by God.

There was a time when there was no pain, no suffering.
There was a time when there was no worry.
There was a time when bad things did not happen…
and good people did not suffer.
There was no violence.
There was no sickness
There was no evil….

Yet what I know, despite the suffering I am witnessing,
despite the frustration,
despite the seemingly unfairness of it all….

Those of us who are members of the family of Believers knows that there will be
a time again…
where good dreams really will come true…
as a restoration of Life will finally triumph over Death…

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city;
also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit,
yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it,
and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face,
and his name shall be on their foreheads.
And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5

into the valley of death

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4


(Lady Butler, 1881)

The other evening, as I once again attempted to fall asleep…
sleep which is maddeningly elusive…

…For my mind wanders all around….

“was that my phone ringing?’
“how much more can his body take?”
“will tonight be the night?”
“what was that the nurse said…”
“should I just stay up there?”

As now there is the talk of moving Gloria…
as her own dysfunctional family wrestles on that…
attempting to pull us into the web….

On and on it plays throughout the night,
all the while I yearn for sleep…

The thought of an old black book with brittled yellow pages
surfaced to the forefront of my consciousness…as words from a different time
began to recite themselves in my head…
I was perplexed…
How in the world, why in the world, did this image from the past come to mind
in the midsts of all that is happening currently now in this most sorrowful present….

One of the first poems I ever memorized as a little girl was Tennyson’s
Charge of the Light Brigade.

When I was around 8 or so, I proudly “owned” two books which had belonged to my grandfather…
of which I suspect were his in college.
The copyright on one of the books is 1903.
It is a collection of poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson edited by Henry Van Dyke.

As a young American girl, I have no idea why someone like Tennyson and his
ballad of battle would call my name… but call both author and poem did.

While all these many years later, there in the restlessness of a long dark night,
the British forces once again came charging forward from deep within my memories.

Tennyson was the poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and Ireland during the long
reign of Queen Victoria.
He was also one of the greatest poets of Western Civilization.

It was shortly following a botched assault by Brisitsh forces in 1854, during the
Crimean War, that Tennyson penned his now famous ballad.

The poem is a heart’s response to a devastating battle and of the heavy loss of life
following the miscommunication which called the wrong division into a
now legendary near massacre.

The 4th and 13th Dragoon, the 17th Lancers and the 8th and 11th Hussars
were light calvary divisions…the Heavy Brigade consisted of the 4th Royal Irish
Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the Scots Greys…
each of whom were more equipped and who were more accustomed to seeing the fiercest of conflicts.

According to Wikipedia,
The Light Brigade, as the name suggests, were the British light cavalry force.
It mounted light, fast horses which were unarmoured.
The men were armed with lances and sabres.
Optimized for maximum mobility and speed, they were intended for reconnaissance and skirmishing.
They were also ideal for cutting down infantry and artillery units as they attempted to retreat.

Therefore the Light Brigade was not equipped nor prepared to face the onslaught of
20 opposing Russian battalions or the 50 artillery pieces ready to level them in mid attack.

It was an epic tragedy for British forces as well as British morale back home.

Leading Tennyson to pen a lasting tribute not to mere loss and misfortune but rather to gallantry…
heroic courage demonstrated in the face of insurmountable odds.

For despite the wrong orders…the Brigade followed the orders none the less…
Orders followed by men who questioned not whether there had been a mistake in calling
them to battle…but rather… that in the end, when all was said and done…they knew that
it was their’s not to question why… but rather it was theirs to do and die…

And so now as I watch my dad muster on as it were,
under the now seemingly insurmountable odds of death…
he rides on…

For my dad has not been a man known for being strong nor bold…
but rather…
he has been both deferring and lazy…

Yet more importantly however… he has always known for being overtly kind and generous…

So now…throughout this arduous and painful journey,
this devastatingly life ending ordeal…
my dad has not lamented nor complained nor even questioned why…
but rather he has seen that this battle has been his to endure as he makes his way
through this valley of death…
as I continue to marvel at the choice of charge he has now made.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Memorializing Events in the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

(Note: This poem, including punctuation, is reproduced from a scan of the poem written out by
Tennyson in his own hand later, in 1864.
The scan was made available online by the University of Virginia.)

holding on to Hope

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


(the blue birds are getting busy / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22

where the eagles will gather

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress,
and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink,
but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct,
will pursue their principles unto death.

Leonardo da Vinci


(image via the net)

Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning
of the world until now, no, and never will be.
And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved;
but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
Then if any one says to you,
‘Lo, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders,
so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Lo, I have told you beforehand.
So, if they say to you, ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out;
if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west,
so will be the coming of the Son of man.
Wherever the body is,
there the eagles will be gathered together.

Matthew 24:20-28

tired and out of time

“Photography takes an instant out of time,
altering life by holding it still.”

Dorothea Lange


(Mother’s tiny tea rose is blooming again / Julie Cook / 2017)

I want to thank all of you who have read my posts about Dad—
offering your love, support and prayers.

It was a very long day and night…
our time is running out…
there are now raging hallucinations…
the body is imploding as toxins have their way…
agitation plays havoc…

And everyone is weary…

Your prayers have meant so much as we continue to be sustained by that most Mystical connection…
As I now ask for prayers leading to that eventual peace which surpasses all understanding….

I’ll be back soon…

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
But he laid his right hand upon me, saying,
“Fear not, I am the first and the last,
and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore,
and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Revelation 1:17-18

celebrations

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state–
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


(Dad’s cake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the years, I’ve read many tales of those who suffered in the death camps
of Nazi Germany.
I also have read a great deal about those who endured exile in the Soviet gulags.
Some of the stories end with liberation while many sadly, or perhaps poetically,
end in liberating death.

One key element that I’ve noticed over and over, that is evident in almost all of the
individual stories of those who endured the horrors of either form of death camp,
is the single element of either anticipatory hope or dejected hopelessness.

Those who chose to hold onto hope, did so in seemingly small, insignificant and almost
unnoticeable measures…

They would simply keep count.

They would count hours, days, weeks, months, years…
the counting of their own particular life’s moments…
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any of their own personal life’s hurdles or goals…
anything of what life had been outside of the camps to them personally…
They would count and look forward…
forward toward what normal had been….
and holding on to that normal.

Notches were marked on walls, small prayers were silently said as hymns or songs were
privately sung…
As some semblance of recalling and holding onto the marking of these personal moments
could actually keep life sane…
It is what helped those tortured souls hold onto that which was of sanity and routine…
that of life’s normalcy….
all the while as they were being held in the depths of brutal insanity.

There is a bittersweetness found in the holding onto of normalcy during those times
in our lives that are anything but normal.

Those of us who have watched loved ones slowly ebb away due to illness, disease, war, famine,
brutality, paralysis, or any other catastrophic thief understand the importance
of continuing to count.

For if we didn’t count,
if we didn’t hold onto,
if we didn’t hope…even in the face of a seemingly earthly hopelessness…
we would simply succumb to a sorrow so deep, so black and so bitter
that we would be lost to the abyss of utter nothingness…
all of which we would know would equate to utter despair.

One of the hardest bible verses to live out in life is found in the book of James.
(1 James 2….)
We are told to consider it “pure joy” when facing trails.

A seemingly impossible task that many a non-believer throughout time has relished
in taunting the faithful with the sneering
“what kind of loving God would tell you to find joy
in your suffering…other than a maniacally sick puppet master…”

And as it is seemingly impossible to do just that when one’s heart is in the midst of
being torn out of one’s chest….

We continue doing just that….

Because in part we know that what we’ve counted and held onto here in this life,
that which we have considered so dear and so precious…
is but a glimpse of what will be even more so…
once we are liberated and home….

So be we liberated in life or in death…either way…we the faithful…
count our milestones and choose to celebrate…


(this is a really good picture of Dad right now, the other shots look wretched…but there remains
a small twinkle and sly smile in this image)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

1 James 2-6

Happy Birthday Dad….

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up,
foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust,
I forgot to ask that they be years of youth.”

Ovid


(a rather blurry picture I’ve posted before of dad when he turned 4 in 1932)

I wasn’t very sure we’d make it to today…
and not so certain we’ll finish the day…
but…
for now it will be a day of celebration
as our birthday boy turns 89…

“May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6: 24-26

never abandoned

“The very places that we presume God not to be are the very places
that are filled with His footprints and littered with His fingerprints.”

Craig D. Lounsbrough


(a small tree frog sunning / Julie Cook / 2017)

At an abandoned house, void of all things that once were…
where brittle dried leaves now line all walkways and stairs…
while broken branches litter a yard once enjoyed by some forgotten family…
Neglect and indifference meld sadly into a quickening eyesore.

Yet even in the silence of abandonment a small reminder suns himself…
As I am graciously reminded that God will always remain…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 /8

bitterness

“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable,
Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”

Euripides

“Up from behind a sand dune close beside her rose the form of her enemy Bitterness.
He did not come any nearer, having learned a little more prudence,
and was not going to make her call for the Shepherd if he could avoid it,
but simply stood and looked at her and laughed and laughed again,
the bitterest sound that Much-Afraid had heard in all her life.”

Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places


(image of wormwood)

Anyone who spends any amount of time in a car alone… commuting or traveling…
knows that such time is spent basically as a virtual prisoner of one’s car…
yet it is time spent providing one with ample time for thought and reflection.
That is if the radio isn’t blaring or you’re not jabbering on the phone.

Finding myself commuting to and from Dad’s these days….
Just one way I am alone in the car from anywhere from a little over an hour to upwards
to 4 hours and beyond given the happenstance of life on Atlanta’s interstates….
One little wreck or stall or the never ending construction projects…
and I can find myself with plenty of “alone” time in which to ponder, reflect or fret…

The other evening I found myself quickly playing catch up with some of
my favorite blogs.
One of my brother’s in Christ and his wife are currently in Israel.

This blogging friend has been dutifully posting pictures of his trip along with a bit
of historical commentary as time has allowed.
I’ve enjoyed playing virtual tourist as have others who read his blog.

Yet sadly there have been a few commentators who have been very negative and even critical
of my fiend’s trip….likening such a trip to Israel, Jerusalem in particular,
as a type of Disneyland experience.

Now I understand that any sort of historic tourist draw is going to have its fair share
of those hawking to make a fast buck made on the backs of unsuspecting tourists.
Think posing with Roman clad gladiators outside of Rome’s Colosseum…paying
upwards of 20 to 40 euros for a shot and you get the idea of money being made
at historical sites.

I experienced a very similar sordid encounter at another overtly tourist site
on a trip once to Pompeii.
Pompeii being the ancient Italian city, just outside of Naples, that was destroyed in the year
79 AD by a catastrophic eruption from the volcano Mt Vesuvius.
The city is frozen in time and is a sad and eerie testament to what it means living in the
shadow of a volcano…

Pompeii is an ongoing archaeological site as well as a protected and perseved historical site.
Buildings have been identified as various homes, governmental offices, stores….
as well as the identification of even a local brothel.
Pompeii was a port town and well, one has always heard about sailors on leave…

The brothel was readily identified because of the stone carved man’s genitalia placed above
the threshold of this particular building.
It seems that the locals now capitalizing on the universal interest in sex and so
replicas of this particular “carving” are for sale all over the area outside the city gates.
Think Disney and Mickey’s ear and Pompeii has, well, male body parts for sale.

So I get the whole Disney mentality of tourism…
But there was more to this viewer’s comments than that of causal observation…
as his comments actually turned bitterly hateful.

For you see, this particular blog visitor is an avowed nonbeliever.
He is not a stranger to my friend’s blog, my blog, nor others who profess to
be believing Christians.
It would probably be more accurate to note that this fellow is a former believer now
turned ardent atheist.

I don’t know much about him but that he enjoys taunting Christians.

His taunts on my friend’s site, concerning this trip to the Holy Land, actually
began to border on almost sick…even as he alluded off color to my friend’s wife.

So naturally when I found myself in my car, alone, I began to recall those vicious words,
as well as the words of those who did not care for this
“raining on the trip parade” as it were.
The volley of insults began bouncing back and forth…

What I do know is this man lost his father several years ago—
to cancer is my understanding.
That he was a believer and also what I understand was actually a minister.

I realize that by watching those we love who suffer,
grievously suffering in anguishing pain,
can certainly test and try the faith of the most ardent among us.
And I must confess that I’ve been known to raise my fist to God during the various trails
throughout the course of my own life… so I do not begrudge anyone those emotions
of sorrow and frustration associated with heartbreak and agony.

Yet as I ruminated over those rather wicked words…reflecting even on the tone
to which they were delivered…
only one word kept coming to mind…
bitterness.

Pure unadulterated bitterness.

Bitterness, according Merriam Webster, is a deep-seated ill will caused by anger,
distress or sorrow.
Chances are we have all experienced bitterness or its fist cousin resentment, at some
point during life.

Yet bitterness which is not eventually banished, takes root within one’s being…
Allowed to fester and ferment it is easily recognized.
It is highly unattractive and the outward seeping and spewing of bitterness,
which easily bubbles up to the surface,
is readily and regrettably tasted by any observer.

Bitterness creates an isolating barrier…
Repelling anyone who dares to offer an open hand.

Bitterness is not a welcomed human trait nor is it tolerated for long by others…
It becomes a never ending cycle of brokeness….
as bitterness simply begets more bitterness…

It seems to me that more often then not, non-belivers and bitterness
often walk hand in hand…
whereas the followers of Christ are grounded in what many note as
an unexplainable settled peace…

So as I continue my journey of commuting and ruminating,
I know my friend is throughly enjoying his trip, just we are…
those of us who are enjoying reading of his travels as we
enjoy being virtual tourists…

As one thing I have gleaned…there is certainly no time for bitterness when one is selflessly
sharing with ones friends…
Happy travels Wally….

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32