what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

acknowledgement

“When twilight drops her curtain down
And pins it with a star
Remember that you have a friend
Though she may wander far.”

L.M. Montgomery


(my mom’s camp autograph book from the summer of 1947)

“Society is neither my master nor my servant,
neither my father nor my sister;
and so long as she does not bar my way to the kingdom of heaven,
which is the only society worth getting into,
I feel no right to complain of how she treats me.
I have no claim on her; I do not acknowledge her laws–hardly her existence,
and she has no authority over me. Why should she, how could she,
constituted as she is, receive such as me? The moment she did so,
she would cease to be what she is; and, if all be true that one hears of her,
she does me a kindness in excluding me. What can it matter to me, Letty,
whether they call me a lady or not, so long as Jesus says “Daughter” to me?”

― George MacDonald

The importance of acknowledgement.
To be thought of, recognized, considered, remembered….
it’s all any of us want.

It seems as if we are wired to vie for attention, affection, place, prestige, recognition…
For who among us doesn’t remember the grade school moment of being passed over
when teams or sides were chosen.
That demoralizing trauma of childhood of being ignored or considered less than
and unworthy…

As children we wanted to be able to count our friends as we would marbles…
creating our own special royal court…
or…
we wanted to be a part of a special court…
a part of a group of cohorts, the proverbial band of brothers..or sisters….
We yearned to be acknowledge just as much we desired offering acknowledgment.
Even the quietest and most shy among us secretly desired to be acknowledged,
albeit in more simple and subtle ways.

So why should we assume that the God of all Creation, He who calls us His own,
would be impervious to also wanting to be acknowledged by those He deeply loves
and adores…

For I am His and He is mine…

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:6

ignorance is bliss…

“Whatever the cost of our liberties, the price is cheap
compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

Walter Cronkite

dscn4418
(a sandpiper busy looking for breakfast / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

There’s something afoot…
I can feel it…

Something perhaps in the air…

And no,
it’s not a change in season…
It’s not an approaching weather front…

It’s simply more of a feeling…
An odd unsettling feeling…

You know…
it’s like that feeling or sense that animals seem to get just before some
impending natural disaster…such as an earthquake or some other epic trauma.

An out of sorts sort of uncomfortable feeling…

It’s like taking your hand and running it along the grain of a plank of raw wood.
Although the wood is not sanded nor smoothed, along the grain one’s hand
may run the course of the plank without fear of cuts or splinters.
But the minute you decide to run your hand back in the opposite direction,
you are stopped immediately with the bristling of the wood repelling your touch.

That’s how things feel…
as if I’m running my hand against the grain..
there is oddly no smoothness to the flow…
rather a herky jerky uncomfortableness.

Of course you will tell me that life has been doling out its fair share
of uncomfortableness in my little corner of the world…
between dad, changes, legal matters, deaths, moves, discs and nerves…
that’s got to be it… right?

To which I say no to all of that…

I will confess that I’ve stopped watching any national news….
with local news now on a very limited basis…

Sick of it all quite frankly.

Pretty much sick of watching anything about us as a nation these days…
For a weary pall has been cast.

It’s now hard to even watch any sporting events
as they too have taken to marching in the latest political fracas…

We’ve made it hard, you and I and this nation of ours…

Not just because of anthems,
or debates,
or the raging news,
or the media firestorms,
or the never ending three ring circuses,
nor even an impending election…

and I’m thinking that I won’t even bother to vote..
the first time I’ve ever considered such…
but there’s not much point now is there?

But the signs…
they’ve been all about us.
They’ve been there for quite some time…
Yet we’ve refused to pay them any mind.

We’ve all heard and seen the warnings…
but yet we’ve refused to acknowledge any of it…
any of it for what it is…
Because to acknowledge is to admit that we’ve been wrong…
and we don’t like to do that…
we don’t like being wrong.

We are a cake and eat it too type of nation.
Land of opportunity…
because doesn’t opportunity mean having cake and getting to eat it?

We accept every and any sort of choice and lifestyle and decision
because that’s what we’re all about…freedom
for the land of opportunity and freedom means it’s all good because we’re all free…
free to choose and free to decide….

Forget that there are grave responsibilities that come with freedom,
as well as with…
choice,
and opportunity,
and cake,
and even eating…

We’ve even made it pretty darn clear that we don’t like having a God who is just that,
God.
We’ve decided we want our God to be a feel good god…
one who is all accepting, all tolerable and certainly for all choices…
and don’t forget about loving,
because of course he, she or even it must be loving…

Because we’ve decided that that’s what a God should be,
someone who is all about loving and acceptance and only good things…
Because we like good things…always happy, always bliss…

We want nothing to do with the business of
warnings,
harbingers,
rules (aka commandments)
covenants,
death,
dying,
pain,
suffering,
responsibility,
obedience…

So yes…
I keep sensing something unsettling,
something uncomfortable,
maybe even something foreboding…

“Ignore it” you say …
because remember,
ignorance is indeed bliss…
and we all want bliss….

When the Lord God decides to do something,
he will first tell his servants, the prophets.
When a lion roars, people are frightened.
When the Lord God speaks, a prophet must prophesy.

Go to the high towers in Ashdod and in Egypt and announce this message from the Lord:
“Come together on the mountains of Samaria.
See the great confusion there because the people don’t know how to live right.
See how cruel they are to others. They take things from people to hide
in their high towers.
Their treasuries are filled with the things they have taken in war.”

So the Lord God says, “An enemy will surround your land.
They will break down your strong walls and take the things
you have hidden in your high towers.”

The Lord says,
“A lion might attack a lamb,
and a shepherd might try to save the lamb.
But the shepherd will save
only a part of that lamb.
He might pull two legs
or a part of an ear from the lion’s mouth.
In the same way, most of the people of Israel will not be saved.
Those who live in Samaria will save only a corner from a bed,
or a piece of cloth from a couch.”

This is what the Lord God All-Powerful says:
“Warn the family of Jacob about these things.
Israel sinned, and I will punish them for their sins.
And when I do, I will also destroy the altars at Bethel.
The horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.
I will destroy the winter house with the summer house.
The houses of ivory will be destroyed.
Many houses will be destroyed.”
This is what the Lord said.

Amos 3: 7-15

writing on the wall

“It is also a warning. It is a warning that, if nobody reads the writing on the wall, man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming by his manners.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“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

DSCN1593
(remnants of what once adorned a wall of Cong Abbey, County Mayo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What’s it going to take…
What sort of revelation do you need?
What type of sign?
What is it that you need in order to understand, to see, to realize, to acknowledge…
…that which speaks of truth, reality and actuality…?

How many more will perish?
How long will you remain silent?
How often will you deny that which is obvious?

Pretend,
Ignore,
Deny…
They each dance lightly along the wind

We sift, sort and pull out the lies, the half truths and the diversions.
All the while as those in authority continue shifting, twisting and tweaking our reality.
We are considered to be either mindless, clueless or too preoccupied,
as we roll in the muck and mire of our own divisiveness…

While Darkness bides his time

Meanwhile there are those who prowl, troll and seek… vowing harm, mayhem and delightfully even death.
They lurk about in the shadows smiling through the night.
Hearts are broken and lives are disrupted while we look the other way.
We wring our hands in our sorrow… never realizing our need for direction.
While the demonic and sinister contently wait focused and determined.

Amazingly no one seems to take notice that the time draws ever near… when life and death will catastrophically collide leaving mankind stuck helplessly in the middle…
Yet the masses continue wearing their rose colored glasses… blinded by the lies of want and greed.
The seriousness that waits to be addressed is overshadowed by desire, hip and chic.
The worlds we’ve spent a lifetime perfecting are now rapidly passing away
while the writing, which yearns for our reading is plainly etched upon the wall…

May your soul bloom

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

DSCN4406
(blooms in Julie’s yard / Julie Cook / 2014)

To be grateful, this beautiful springtime Saturday in April, for the ones I hold dear.
To be grateful for those who care enough about me to shower my small family with love.
To be grateful that I am blessed with health and my five senses which enable me to drink in the headiness a day such as today.
To be grateful for a father who has been gracious and generous to my small family.
To be grateful for a son who has found a special girl to call his own—forever.
To be grateful for a husband who is a most kindhearted man.
To be grateful for friends who have chosen to honor both my son and his fiancé today with their hearts which are full of kindness, generosity, and love.

These are the moments of life that could easily be taken for granted, or even overlooked in the fray of the craziness of this thing I call my life—but I have been made consciously and palpably aware of the blessings before me.
I am the type of person who is usually hesitant and leery of being overtly grateful as I’m usually the one waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop”. . .don’t be too happy because if you don’t watch out, tragedy is just waiting around the corner to descend and cause pain and sorrow.

Yet this overwhelming sense of wonder, the realization that I am blessed in this life of mine more than I take time to recognize, must be acknowledged and not shunned due to some paranoid sense of fear.

So it is with a grateful heart that I offer my thanks and praise to a God who is my God–
A God who is there through not only the good of my life but through the bad that besets itself upon my world as well. To a God who has been and who will always remain a constant in my life despite my not always acknowledging that He is indeed a constant in my world.

Tomorrow all hell may break loose but for today, I will rejoice and be glad. . .

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 3:16