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.)

I need a hero

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens,
or half their greatness goes unnoticed.
It is all part of the fairy tale.”

Peter S. Beagle

“Even death is going to die!”
― Sally Lloyd-Jones

animalsweaters18_3
(a sweater wearing little goat jumps from a hay bale as seen on the Weather Channel from Farm Sanctuary image 2014)

Look up, in the sky…
It’s a bird…
It’s a plane…
No….
it’s Super…. goat??!!

Well… maybe that’s not exactly the hero you were hoping for….
albeit…it’s a pretty darn cute one…

For who among us hasn’t, at some time or other, longed for a cape crusader who would
come flying into our lives… ready to save the day…
Or perhaps even more aptly…
save us from ourselves…

“I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”

Song lyrics by Bonnie Tyler most recently heard and seen used in the KIA car commercial
showcasing Melissa McCarthy being called in to come save the whales, then the rhinos, etc
…with all calls being met with dire consequences for the heroine McCarthy…

Yet who among us hasn’t at some point in life looked up hoping to see someone, anyone,
swooping in who would have all the answers…
all the solutions…
the one person who possessed that magic bullet…that remedy, that saving hope…

Someone who would come to the rescue and who could stop all the craziness…
stopping all the bad guys,
stopping all the hurting,
stopping all the madness….

And it just so happens that we may have to look no further than to a small mountain bald
outside of the gates of old Jerusalem…

looking no further to….
Gagultâ… in Aramaic
Golgotha… in Greek Γολγοθᾶς
Calvariæ Locus… in Latin
Calvary… in English…

Otherwise known as simply ‘the place of the skull’…

For it was here on this bare outcropping of desolate land,
known to locals as the cap of the skull,
that just a little over 2000 years ago, a real hero,
nay the only true hero who has ever lived,
was put to death.

But, as most would imagine,
our hero’s story was not merely finished with his being put to death.
Absolutely far from the end….
Because the story was truly only beginning…

For it was in the death of this hero that our own endings, our own loss of life,
our own deaths….
were defeated…

Meaning, death would be no more….

No longer would death be a forever closed ending…
of which we have all so imagined things to be…
A permanent ending of a black hole sucking in all life…into the aphotic void of total
impenetrable light or hope…

But rather…in this death of our hero…
was to be found…
a beginning….
our beginning…
and a beginning not just for our hero, but for all who so choose….

And so it is to the cross where we are look in order to find our hero…

crusifixion-669x470

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict.
In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands;
not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness;
not by force but by sacrifice.
Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win;
He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by
allowing death to conquer Him.”

― A.W. Tozer

limp or love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

DSCN3431
(placard that hangs by my backdoor / Julie Cook / 2016)

Anyone old enough to remember the 1960’s knows that that decade was known as the decade of peace and love…
It was also the decade of war and unrest.
With much of that unrest running rampant on American streets.

The decade began with a dashing new young President who was tragically cut down prematurely in the prime of his life.
Death loomed heavily over the United States as the war in Vietnam continued on and on….
Tensions grew exponentially on our college campuses.
Draft cards were defiantly burned, young men ran away to Canada as wooden coffins continued flying home.

The war was murky and deadly…
As a new type of warfare had been unleashed.
Guerrilla fighters lurked in the jungle and rice patties as Napalm was unleashed on entire villages.
The end goal had gotten lost in Washington and no one really understood why we lingered…
If we couldn’t finish successfully what had been started, then why remain buried in all the carnage.
The country definitely exclaimed that enough was enough.

As the decade wore on, other hopeful voices were silenced…
Bobby Kennedy then Martin Luther King were each snatched away just before the turning point.

Even the Catholic Church was not exempt from the decade of turmoil as the groundwork for the first Vatican Council held in over 100 years, better known as Vatican II, saw sweeping doctrinal change–some welcomed the change, some continue to curse the change to this day.

As the bras burned and the peace signs were hoisted high, as the hair grew longer and the season of love saw a brand new dawn…some wondered if life had simply spun out of control…

In 1966 a parish priest at an inner city church, on Chicago’s south side, needed a song for his youth choir to perform.
However nothing seemed fitting for the kids nor for the times in which they were barley holding on…
Peter Scholtes penned a quick tune he felt appropriate…
It was based on verse 35 of John 13…

Almost two thousand years prior, on a warm Jerusalem evening, the night of the Passover, what we now refer to as the Last Supper, was being observed by a rag tag group of friends.
Jesus had just admonished Judas that if he was to go, to do what he had destined himself to do, he must go quickly in order to get on with it…
The air was heavy as an odd tremendous sense of sorrow hung over those gathered.
This was no ordinary Passover and the disciples all sensed it.

Jesus tells those gathered that in just a short while, he will no longer be with them.
This sends a frantic pulse racing through the group.
A heightened sense of panic now replaces the somber melancholy.

Jesus quickly tamps down the nervous chatter…his words send a powerful calm throughout the room.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus knew what was soon to take place, the disciples had not a clue.
Yet He wanted to leave them with a powerful and clear path once he was gone.

The lasting legacy that Jesus offered that solitary night so long ago for not only those remaining 11 friends gathered around that table is also a continuum offered to us to this day…a continuum of love

That Love, which was culminated on a lone wooden cross, is more than an offering or gift, it is a charge.
A charge that came at a tremendous cost.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us of what that cost actually means…“It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”

Many believe, and wrongly so, that the love Christians were charged with so long ago is a passively weak sort of oozing emotional goo. A surface sort of feeling that cannot weather the impending storms of life.
And for those who do not truly grasp the depth, the demands and the drive of this said Love…
they are left lost in its wake…for they underestimated its cost and expectation…

Yet in actuality this Love is a hard love and a tough love.

It is a love that demands not a piece or part, but rather the whole…the entirety of self

It is a love that casts out both doubt and fear.

It stands in the wake of pain and suffering as it is the only thing remaining once the dust of the
battlefield of this life has settled.

The love offered by Jesus that night to his disciples, which is the same love offered to both you and me on Calvary, cost not only Jesus his life but it cost God the life of his only son….it was a life sold for 30 pieces of silver… for both you and I…
And it was paid for, for our salvation, which in turn means that we were bought and paid with Love…

So will you be recognized for the Love of Christ which radiates as your guiding force through the minefield of this most turbulent early portion of the 21st millennium or will you be recognized by your limp…

For they will know us by our Love for we are One in the Spirit….

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 14:16-18