fretful, wearisome, fearful…and the challenge to love and believe

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity
but a spirit of power and love.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

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(the cliffs of Moher / County Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is much around us that is awesome and awful.
We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world.
We have seen that the authorities today use tactics similar to those employed 2,000
years ago, and many people scheme to play to our fear,
destroy our hope, and seal off our joy.

But we have the confidence of our faith.
We have seen the risen Lord!

Joyce Hollyday

Growing up in the United States I have always felt safe and protected.
I have always felt safely blanketed under our laws and judicial process.
The founding fathers, those paternal creators and now guardians of all that
I had known growing up and held dear, had painstakingly paved the way for
future generations of Americans, of which I was one,
to live and to prosper in a harmonious cohesive nation embarked now on her steady course…

Yet unbeknownst to me or to those men who gave birth to this Nation,
that steady course of which was set in 1779 with the swearing in of our first president,
would begin to unravel…with the unraveling beginning around 1970 or so….
(yet I am certain that there are those who, no doubt, would say the unraveling
had actually started much earlier than the 20th century….

What with Roe v Wade, the Woman’s right movement, the demand for birth control, and the seemingly
never ending war in Vietnam….
according to Bod Dylan’s singing proclamation of 1964,
“the times, they are a-changing”…
for they were indeed changing…
just as they were to be changing even more…

According to Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen in their newly
released book, You Will Be Made To Care
a book based on “the war of faith, family and your freedom to believe”…
a wildfire is raging out of control…
with the faithful being caught smack dab in the middle.

Every once in a while, a society succumbs to a cultural wildfire—
and loses its mind.
It does things that future generations look back on and wonder,
‘How could they have possibly throught that was a good idea?’

To most Christians and conservatives, it seems that society has lost its mind,
attempting to play God by redefining gender and abolishing marriage…

Many people of faith have been trying to ignore the signs of smoke from this wildfire
in the hopes that it will just go away.
Others have been trying to avoid the heat by being nice,
hoping that a little compromise would keep the flames at bay.
Still others have thought all that would be required to extinguish the flames
was a kinder, gentler, more winsome voice.
But the accommodation of evil never achieves the desired end;
it only increases the inevitable cost of victory

(page 28)

Reading the latest never ending stories of modern day Christian persecution,
and I am not referring to those ever increasing attacks at the hands of Islamic extremists,
but rather attacks by our own courts, legal system and journalists who now claim
that Christianity and Christians in the United States equate to being enemies to the human race,
I am left both saddened and dazed.

It is more than hard to wrap my head around such language and thoughts
as I never thought I would live to hear fellow Americans espouse that
Christianity and Christians are now the enemy of the state.

It is both wearisome and worrisome to hear such,
as it leaves me terribly fretful and even fearful as to what may yet to be…
For that once protective blanket has now been sufficiently ripped away.

If I did not know the stories behind such language were coming from today’s
news, headlines and court cases involving Christian business and individuals
who are being forced to either pay exorbitant court fees and settlements,
close their businesses or acquiesce and succumb to business practices that run counter
to their religious morals and beliefs,
I would simply think I was hearing and reading tales out of Nazi Germany…

To say that professing to be a Christian in the 21st century of the United States
is now not only looked upon as a negative but in many instances is actually
considered to be downright counter to American values…
that is something my grandparents would never have believed.

Yet in the course of 50 years since my grandfather’s death when he was but 70 years old,
that is exactly what has happened.
And I am left like a deer in headlight, stunned.

And yet we are reminded that for all the angst, the worry, the fretting and even the fear,
we, the faithful are reminded…
to be strong and to let our hearts take courage…for our courage is in the Lord
(Psalm 31:24)

As we join the psalmist’s plea…
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever
(Psalm 12:7)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3

Urgency

“How much does one imagine, how much observe?
One can no more separate those functions than divide light from air,
or wetness from water.”

Elspeth Huxley

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

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(Remnants of stain glass, Bunratty Castle / County Clare / Julie Cook / 2015)

At some point or another, we will all find ourselves at a crossroads.
We will be confronted by a choice.
Left?
Right?
Perhaps even, back….

It will be at such times that the Spirit of God will be resting His hand upon our shoulder.
He will be nudging, or perhaps pulling, or more urgently yanking us…
For the path we are to choose is crucial…dare one might even say, dire.

We certainly may not discern the current quandary of choice in direction as spiritual…
especially if we do not consider ourselves to be such…
In fact, as we stand before this choice of left, right or back,
the last thing we are considering is our belief in a god…
or whether God would be, could be, the source of our quandary.

Beginning this blog 3 or 4 years ago (I’ve lost track) my initial desire was to sprinkle out a few little cookie crumbs here and there….a little bit of this and that…always with a spiritual sense about it all, but still more hodge podge than not.

Then a trip to Ireland and an encounter with someone I’d never known prior, and all of what I thought or imagined changed.

My original intent for dabbling in writing, sharing and creativity were keyed more into my life’s experiences—that of retired high school teacher, artist, Christian, wife, mother, daughter of a man living with Alzheimers, a lover of cooking, an adopted child, etc….

But then all of that shifted after Ireland.

It’s not so much that one must take some grand adventure or trip in order to feel something seismic…
not in the least.
Seismic can take place sitting in ones car while stuck in rush hour traffic.
It matters not the place nor time for seismic.
When the Spirit touches our shoulder,
and the original intentions lift, revealing our truer purpose,
that is when we can begin to finally see with the utmost clarity.

And it just so happened that I felt that seismic shift while sitting at a dinner table in a country not my own.

No longer did I feel compelled to rattle on about the random, but I felt a sense of urgency in speaking the Truth.
The Truth as in the Word of God.

Not like some itinerate tent evangelist.
It’s not like I’d been down some crazy bad path in life, had some catastrophic mishap, then bam,
it was a religious conversion of the utmost that needed sharing.

No, it wasn’t any of that…
actually quite the contrary.

I am not a fundamentalist.
I am not a Pentecostalist.
I am not gregarious in my faith.
I am not a theologian who is versed in every verse of scripture or translation of the bible.
Nor am I a mystic who has visions.
No, I’ve never had a vision…migraines yes, visions no.

Yet I knew last fall that my sharing, my words, my offerings were no longer to be my own.
There was a sense of urgency placed in my being—
time was / is of the essence.

God, His Truth and His Word…have never been readily accepted by man.
For we are a fickled lot.
Our internal struggle for independence often precludes our understanding of need.

The filters of the world have always lowered over our eyes, changing our view of the Truth…
Altering our perception of what is real and what is false
We have been told lies and we have allowed those lies to become our truth….

The lies are slick, told by a master in telling tales.
They come guised in forms which speak to our brokeness…
To those areas where we are least secure.
They speak to our ego and bravado and to our desire to having it all.

They are thinly veiled in soothing comfort…
as they tell us that we truly are ok and that our desires are, in turn, also ok.

We are told that we can have our cake and eat it too.
We are told that everything goes as long as we are happy..
because isn’t that all that matters…our happiness?

We are fed a bunch of garbage about fairy tales and fables..
That the stars point more to Life’s truth than the supposed Word of an unseen made up god.
Yet within those stars is found His very hand…

His word is mocked and scorned as are those who claim it as their own.
Misguided, ignorant, weak, clueless lemmings chasing after that which is
neither seen, felt nor heard…

That is until we stand at the crossroads,
a place we will each find at ourselves at one point or another…
We will have to decide…
Left?
Right?
or back

That internal struggle will rage…
and you will either try and ignore it or you will know it for what it is…
and at that point, everything will become clear and you will never be the same…

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

The watchman has sounded the alarm

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
GK Chesterton

“Lord, I am willing to break MY heart that I might satisfy THY heart.”
Watchman Nee

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
Habakkuk 1:5

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(a single spiraling stair leads downward at Bunratty Castle / County Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

We are surrounded by an advancing diminishing light as shadows lengthen, growing heavy this very late hour.
The watchman perched high in his tower-stand has seen the ominous signs as the impending maelstrom now fast approaches…
Sounding his alarm, the warning falls flat on deaf ears.

The anxious watchman abandons his tower watch, racing downward from his helpless position. He races to alert the slumbering forces and bar the massive castle gate. Time is of the essence.
Slipping, almost falling down the damp cold worn steps, the watchman descends into the
encroaching vastitude of eternity.
Time no longer is gracious or kind.

Confusion reigns down havoc and chaos on the unsuspecting who now hurry about searching for protection.
“We thought it was all ok…
Everyone was happy…
Wasn’t that the point?”
Tolerance of everything, right?
No wrongs…everything being right…everyone was happy, there were no distinctions.
Everyone had things the way they wanted, what was so wrong with that?

The masses agonizingly lament as the sickening reality of appeasement and indifference comes painfully into focus.

Wailing and anguish join as one.
Yet the watchman alone knows the truth.
Hard choices of both right and wrong have crossed the invisible lines of distinction,
melding as one.
Just as young babies are first taught right from wrong…as the meaning of no, don’t and danger are drilled into their tiny heads, their adult defenders find themselves having forgotten those very meanings…

Somewhere along the way, wrong became ok.
The word sin was wiped from the books.
There was no longer regret as there was no longer a need of a conscious.

The ancient manuscripts, now dusty with disuse, were plain in their position and mandates.
The Word was spoken and the Law of the Creator stood firm.
Yet man became his own god and now the hour is late and shadows have fallen…

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
1 John 18-27

Rest for the weary

The scorched land will become a pool
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

Isaiah 35:7

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(Dried thistle along the banks of the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I was weary…
dry and brittle of body, heart and soul…
Yet you Oh Lord have heard me in my distress.
You have seen to my weariness…
to the dryness and brittle spirit which as clung to me like an ashen paste.
You have refreshed and soothed a parched and thirsty heart

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(the wild Atlantic somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

You have attended to a wounded soul…
My offering to you is a simple thankfulness that reaches to the depths of the sea
And the width of an endless sky…

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

Isaiah 58:11