plucking time

“Today one may pluck out one’s very heart and not find it.”
― Franz Kafka


(the first of the season / Julie Cook / 2017)

Simplistic seasonal changes give way to the reaping of small harvests…
As the western world reels from another chaotic and senseless attack.

Caustic comedians are wallowing in sanctimonious apologies
while casting wide nets of blame blanketing the very ones they mock.
As a fallen candidate joins the fray with the same empty mantra…
“Not my fault….”

Madness and hatred are the offerings on tap
while unsuspecting berries ripen on the bush

There’s an old nemesis who seems to be enjoying renewed friction
while the media and press proclaim the sky is falling.
As the dividing line between right and left becomes impossible to bridge.

There’s something comforting in the mindless gathering of ripening fruit
Something seemingly mundane yet blessedly sane…
as the world spins wildly out of control….

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
“Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.
For it is better, if it is God’s will,
to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3:13-17

measuring

The measure of a life,
after all,
is not its duration,
but its donation.

Corrie Ten Boom

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(everything is so early this year—blooming cherry trees and the visiting honey bees/
Julie Cook / 2017)

We are a measuring people…
we just seem to love to measure…
It’s as if we’ve been measuring ever since the dawn of Creation.

We measure everything….
space,
time,
distance,
amounts,
gains,
averages,
percentages,
odds,
growth…

Just as we measure…
decline,
decrease,
failure,
depletion,
shrinkage,
loss,
and demise…

We measure both life and death…as well as the distance separating the two.

This whole concept of numbers, benchmarks, averages and time seems to be of the
utmost importance to us.
Measuring allows us the satisfaction of knowing if we’ve actually been successful,
having accomplished a certain task, goal or desire.
It also gives us some sense, some idea, as to how far we still need to go in order to
reach a set goal, desire or postion.

Measuring and its results makes us feel in control.

And it is certainly paramount when considering such endeavors such as construction,
tailoring, manufacturing, producing, building, mending…
It is in such that both precision and measurement walk hand in hand.
Meaning… we can’t have one without the other.
Anything other then precise leads to skewed, crooked, awkward, flawed
as well as imperfection…
as we’ve learned to equate measurement with both precision and perfection…
as well as with safety.

Yet no matter how precise we try to be, no matter how perfect, how accurate…
we continue making mistakes.
And our mistakes can have catastrophic results…
leaving us not in the place we prefer…
that of being knowledgable and in control…
but rather…
we find ourselves as helpless victims of our own failures and errors.
Wishing to hide, lest anyone know it was upon our mistake of flawed measuring
which resulted in disaster….

Yet we simply, and often flippantly, chalk that up to human nature…
for we are indeed an imperfect lot…
despite our best attempts to measure…along with precision, perfection,
accuracy and control…
we misread, mismeasure and miscalculate…

Yet in our busyness of measuring, we have become accustomed to measuring
not only the abstract…
but we are very comfortable measuring ourselves…
We measure our self worth and our sense of well being…
With our benchmark being anything and everyone other than ourselves…

We constantly gauge our level of satisfaction by how others measure up to us and
how we measure up to others…

Are we happier than…
Are we more successful than…
Are we better off than…
Are we more financially secure than…
Are we healthier than…
Are we prettier than…
Are we thinner than…
Are we younger looking than…
Are we more comfortable than…
Are we further along than…
Are we more popular than…

Our question must therefore remain…what is it that we measure?
And what shall we be measured by…

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:3

‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.
‘You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin;
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:35-36
(ephah: a Hebrew dry measurement / hin: a Hebrew liquid measurement)

God does not change

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards
the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained.”

President George Washington
April 30, 1789
First Inaugural Address

When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

george-on-horseback-web
(painting by Rembrandt Peale 1830)

As human beings,
we are conditioned to understand that…
to live is to change.

We have discovered most often through the angst of struggle,
that if change is inevitable,
then may we be the masters of such change…

May we control it,
issue it,
and stop it…
as only we see fit…

For we have both resisted as well as orchestrated change.

Yet in the arrogance of control,
we have seen, time and time again,
that the stonewall to change,
the one thing America cannot, nor can ever force change upon,
is the Creator of all that is.

So in her growing egotistical frustration, this nation
has chosen to forgo the need for a Creator…
vying, rather, to be her own creator…

And the actions of her folly will be her undoing….

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face,
and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin
and heal their land

2 Chronicles 7:14

moral control

“The recovery of moral control and the return of spiritual order have
now become the indispensable conditions of human survival.
Christianity is the soul of Western civilization…
When the soul is gone, the body putrefies”

Christopher Dawson
1947 Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh University

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(coneflowers / Julie Cook / 2016)

Moral
and
control
two words that appear to send shivers up and down the spines of most 21st century individuals.

Moral seems to be a word that is out of step and out of time…
It is a word most modern day individuals don’t like to talk about or be reminded of…
as our culture embraces anything and everything other than moral.

Moral is equated with old school, back in the day, a puritanical society, buzz kills,
oh so passé, so not 21st century, limiting, no longer applicable, and simply put…
absolutely no fun.

Control is also a word our society seems to have a difficult time wrapping its mind and action around.
As control is just so…well, controlling.
And who in this modern world of our wants to be controlled??
No one, that’s who…
As to be controlled has all sorts of negative connotations…
And Lord knows, every sort of special interest group out there has spent its lifetime breaking out of anything to do with control or being controlled.

In 2012, Os Guinness identified a present-day mind-set that springs from what he called “a soft though decadent nihilism that devours tradition, destroys social cohesion, cheapens cultural standards, hollows moral convictions and in the years to come will produce its own dark harvest of social consequences.”
(except from God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley /
Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide )

Turn on any television, watch any recent movie, listen to any current music, read any of the latest magazines, share in the caustic tweets of the latest rants and rages…
and it is becomes crystal clear that our society has allowed, and is currently allowing…
dare we say, encourages the decline if not the death, of any and all moral control.

For it seems as if our society is suffering from a terrible case of a strange ailment …

And it should be noted that we have actually been quite sickly with this curious malady for quite sometime…
and if the truth be truly told, this illness of ours may actually be near fatal…

Materialism,
hedonism,
absolutism,
egoism,
fatalism,
feminism,
individualism,
a cultural isolationism,
liberalism…

to name but a few of our more obvious ills of isms…

We have embraced these ism illnesses of ours with a frightening zeal,
relishing and basking in each and every last ailment…all before eagerly setting
our sights on new and more alluring decadently and oddly satiating ills…

In order to reverse this current obsession of the illnesses that plague us…
In order to reign in the current wild ride on the guaranteed collision course
with our own demise…
It would behoove all of us to reconsider two small words…

Moral…

Control…

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber,
because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness,
not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,
and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 8:11-14

At peace

“There is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset.”
― G.K. Chesterton

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(the sun slips to the horizon / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

We deserve not, nor have we earned the gift of
the glorious,
the beautiful,
the majestic
the splendid
or
even the sublime. . .
Yet we are privy each dawn and dusk to utter wonderment.

A weary sun sinks low, resting heavy on the melting horizon. . .
As a calming hush is pulled gently across the shoulders of the sleepy landscape. . .

Do you have any regrets?

Are you sorry, feeling poorly or badly for how events may have unfolded throughout your day?

Do you stare forlornly out toward the darkening curtain that is slowly
being drawn across the closing day’s stage?

Could things have been better, different, more hopeful, more positive?

Are you now feeling burdened, defeated, regretful, resentful. . .?

Or. . .

Are you at peace. . .
resolved,
resolute
and calmly determined. . .
Finding yourself in a place of no regrets, no remorse, nor restless spirit. . .
Exhaling a blissful release of self as you feel your body giving way to the beautiful display that is offered to you in the evening’s gracious sky by the only One who is truly in control and has offered you a piece of Himself. . .

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
Psalm 65:8

The only thing that matters

And somehow all that matters now is You are holy, holy
Lyrics from Holy sung by Nichole Nordeman

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(a tiger swallowtail amongst the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)

Five weeks ago a phone call changed everything.
Just like that, life is different.
That’s usually how it all works. . .
A call,
a visit,
a move,
an accident,
an illness,
a beginning,
an ending. . .
then poof, everything that was, is now no more. . .

Today’s morning is the first morning that an opportunity presented itself for a small “work out.” Thoughts are lost in the music of prayer, as sweat and tears mingle down as one.
There is no longer an order or routine.
No evening out, no smooth path, no clear direction.

Tired muscles and lungs ache as a burdened heart slowly breaks.
The frustrations of a body’s betrayal, when time does not exist for such,
compound both day and night.
Calls, emails and texts dart in and out over the course of a day, a week, a month.
Each barrage enters with its own set of requests, demands or alerts.
Dread now slips in at the sound of a simple call.

Watching two individuals who are unhappy, confused, sad and depressed,
laboring to make sense of the day, the change, the sense of loss, is heart wrenching.
Sadness prevails in distant eyes.
Agitated, paranoid, fretful, threatening all collide into misery.
As the middle works at balancing life on two separate ends.

Racing to quench burning fires, while walking a tightrope.
You go this alone, because that’s all there is.
You miss those who are long gone.
There are no answers, no solutions, no words to make it all better.
Time becomes the enemy.

Overwhelming, exhausting, frustrating. . .
Consumed in the loneliness of one, the crushing knowledge of helplessness is suffocating.
Tears constantly perch just behind the eyes.
This was never how it was suppose to be.

But the question begs. . . when does life ever cooperate?

There is however one constant, one single factor, that does not vary or waiver.
It is the only thing which remains true.
It is what sustains the battered soul.
It is what propels the worn and tired body forward.
It is a knowledge so deep and entrenched that it is within one’s very breath.
Through all of the struggles and the heartache, it is the one remaining single truth to cling to and hold on to. . .
I am the Lord your God. . .and I am Holy

For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 57:15

Clear trust

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
― Corrie ten Boom

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(a dense fog closes in on the light / Julie Cook / 2015)

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it. . .trust.
And we really don’t like trust do we?
Because we’d rather control wouldn’t we?

Because if we control, then we don’t have to trust.
And if we don’t have to trust, then we can just know (perhaps assume) that things are going to be done as we would have them done, as we don’t particularly like having to trust someone else to do what we know is going to be done right, right?

Can we make certain that things are always done right?
Yes, but only if we do them, right?
Because that’s the only way we’d do these things in the first place, as in right, right?
And of course we don’t have to trust ourselves to do things right because we know ourselves and we, only us, know how to do things right, right?
And we don’t have to trust anyone else because we can just do it all ourselves because we always do it right anyway, right?

And of course we’re going to want it to be our way, because our way is really the best way, the right way and the only way. . .right?
Because if we have to leave it to others, then we’d have to trust others to do things and. . .we just don’t “do” trust remember because we “do” control.
We make certain that we will be doing all things, only as we would do them, of which of course, is the right way and the only way. . .right?
Because we’ve always known that if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, right?

And if, say, this something which needs doing, is something that’s to be happening in advance or in the future. . .then the questions begs.. .how do we really know it’s actually going to be happening in the first place?
How do we know it’s really going to take place?
How do we know we’ll actually get to do whatever it is we’re to be doing if it’s in the future, and knowing there’s no guarantee about that whole future business, as it’s in the future, we’ve got problems, right?

And of course the answer to all of this is, we don’t know.
And as we don’t know the future, what we do know is that there are no guarantees in that whole future business. . .
We just simply trust it’s all going to take place.
We simply trust it’s all going to go on like it normally does and normally should.

Which brings us all back around to that word again, trust.

But remember, we don’t like trust, preferring control and yet. . .we have to trust because we can’t see into the future, which in turn means we simply just have to trust we have a future.
We have to trust in what we think is the unknown, because really there’s no other way, right?
So we agree, right?
There’s simply no getting around the fact that we can’t control the future, right?

Well. . .I suppose we certainly think that perhaps we can lay out the ground work to pretty much have the future as we’d like it to be, prefer it to be, hope it to be, guarantee it to be, right?

Yet that whole best laid plans deal really isn’t a guarantee is it?
As this whole life thing is pretty much open to chance right?
Of course we work really hard to lay a plan, plot a course, chart the waters, setting it all into motion. . .we do this for this, then that for that, because it’s all suppose to follow one step right after another. . .falling all into place making certain we get to where we’re going as we had planned right?

That’s control, right?
But life, what’s that?
That is not control.
Life is life and life happens. . . and when life happens control gets jack-knifed and trust shows back up.
Because in essence we really don’t have much control in this life now do we?
Yet we do have trust.
Trust doesn’t get jack-knifed.
It’s just always steadfastly there, waiting in the wings.
Control, not so much.
And here we are, once again, reminded that we don’t really like to trust, preferring to control because we think we can control, control. . .
However we can’t really do that now can we?
So once again, here we are back to trust.

And that’s all God asks in the first place. . .that we put our trust in Him for it is the Lord your God who is in total control. . .and so. . . now we understand, right?
We understand that we need to simply trust because it is God who is in control, not us, and He has asked one simple thing of us. . . “Trust me”

“But blessed is the
one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8