high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
President.
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your
address.

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

the hows and the whys…

Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding,
disbelief or ignorance.

W. Clement Stone

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(wildflower / Julie Cook / 2016)

Look at this amazing tiny wildflower…
it grows wild along the edge of the woods.

Looking at it closely, it really is amazing isn’t it?

The coloring…
those tiny magenta like spots demurely dotting a milky center…
along with those soft yellow streaks…
offered by what seems to be the errant brush stroke of an artist’s paint.

Those fine tiny little fuzzy hairs,
surrounding each gentle and tender petal…
ready and waiting to tickle the foot of any visiting bee….

Absolutely amazing…

Such attention to detail…

A microcosm of beauty that sits for no one in particular,
randomly along the edge of the woods….
Except say for the birds, the deer, the coyotes, the armadillos…
and chances are, it is only the bees that pay it any heed…

A delightful detail to be marveled over.
A sheer tiny portent of beauty….
offered freely to any passerby to gleefully behold…

Yet I do not see such a tiny marvel as mere happenstance.
I do not find it to be some random mix of atoms that swirled together
over the eons, then popped out as this flower…

I do not look upon anything on this earth as mere happenstance…
the oceans and all that they harbor and hold…
the sky with it’s endless cosmic delights…
the earth be it verdant growth or sandy dunes…
Nothing has happened without the knowledge of the Creator…

But…
there are many who would beg to differ.
There are those who will cry foul over such thoughts…
Those who will fight ardently, tooth and nail, to wipe away any such notion…
because for them, that’s all that such is…
mere notions of the uneducated, the simple, the naive and the misinformed…

So when I hear all of this up and arms wailing and gnashing of teeth over all
of this impending election mess of ours….
as in an exclamation point and question mark screaming after the statement…

THE CHOICE IS JUST THESE TWO CANDIDATES?????!!!!!!!

As in…
That’s it??????
That’s all we’ve got??

The anguished lamenting that is currently taking place over the fact that
out of the hundreds of millions of legal Americans,
not counting our illegal population,
we are left wondering how it came down…
to these particular two????!!!!

Down to a woman who has quite the checkered past…
Do you remember White Water???

A woman who was in charge of the this nation’s top security yet continues
to claim “no recollection” as to how that e-mail businesses got so messed up…
A woman who’s job it was to defend and protect our National security interests
around this globe yet chose to willfully ignore the continued pleas for help
by a United States ambassador…

A woman who now has blood on her hands…

Never mind she is married to the man who helped to usher in this ‘no holds bar’
lack of decorum, dare we say morality, in our press…
let alone in our highest ranking office in this nation…
as we disgustingly recall that infamous little red dress…

And there was that famous presidential address to the Nation…
you remember the one…the one in which that famously ridiculous lie was uttered
to both you and I…
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”
Only to come to find out that, well whoops, he did…

And then there’s the other of the two…
the fellow with the equally checkered past…
Lest we remember each and every wife, gaffe, boast, profane and vile remark…
A man who has made millions by always putting himself and his interests first…
Remember “it’s not personal, it’s just business”
cold, callous and calculating…

A man who has treated his fellow man and woman as less than and as mere objects…
A man who’s line, “you’re fired” has became a common household phrase…
as he can cut ties faster than we can bat any eye….

So yes, it is sadly, oddly, bizarrely down to these two,
out of all of the millions who could have been…
we’re stuck with these two….

So I’m of the thought that this is what happens when the Divine is removed from life.
When the Miraculous is coldly cast aside…
When He who is Greater than is cheaply rendered less than by the mere created?
When the Word of God is rewritten, ignored and replaced…
When we have decided that we are more important than everything and anyone else…
and that we obviously don’t need nor want God in our lives….

So should we really wonder how or why we’ve gotten into this mess…?

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” …
Hebrews10:26-31

The depravity of craziness

I don’t think that you can let the storms of life overwhelm you.
When you do that,
you are no better than the craziness that caused you to be under attack.

T. D. Jakes

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(blooming Japanese maple / Julie Cook / 2016)

Who among us, who is alive, breathing and kicking…
Isn’t scratching their heads in pure wonderment over
this growing maelstrom,
otherwise known to the world as…
the US Presidential Race…???

Firstly the word embarrassment comes to mind…

From the hateful exchanges between candidates…
(the he said, she said, you said, they said…no they didn’ts)

From the loss of civility among educated adults…
(who actually says this kind of stuff…in private let alone in public…
and is actually proud of it??)

From the loss of civility among adults…
(just look at any campaign rally to see grownups, and not so grownups, behaving badly…
very, very badly)

From the hateful remarks by the candidates about the voters…
(last I checked people were voting and voting in a big way for these people so that alone should stand by
itself as some sort of testament to the condition, perceived or real, by the voters of this country—or have we and the candidates forgotten that the voters do matter and should not be perceived as idiots…
as the candidates and the news media assume us all to be…)

From the ridiculous questions asked by the news media of the candidates…
(“did you have an affair…” Not rather the more pressing or pertinent or real questions
such as “what will you do for the economy, what will you do about ISIS, how will you help heal this hurting Nation…
Sadly it is rather the gossipy and salacious…
that scintillating dribble of questions worthy only of tabloid fodder)

From the globally wide laughing joke we’ve become…
(the world now sits dumbfounded, as do I, watching this mockery of our nation’s highest office…)

From the endless sea of mindless freak show spectacles debates…
(how many times and or ways can a person say the same thing??
Or perhaps it’s really just a way to watch them all slowly continuing putting their shoes
and high heels into their mouthes….)

To the frightening reality that one of these 4 individuals (the 5th is just hanging around,
or so we are told) will be the next President of the United States of America—
(As we may note that the word “united” is becoming a bit iffy)

Becoming the President of the United States is a big deal.
It is a VERY big deal.
Yet I fear these 4 (or 5 if you’re still counting) get it.
I don’t think the news media gets it.
I don’t think this country gets it…

Or maybe that’s it…
Maybe the Country no longer cares…
As in it has all merely swirled into a giant mess of pure political anarchy—
as if politics hadn’t been bad enough,
it’s now turned sadly into more of a circus then an organized process.

A free for all…
An all out, knock down, drag out…
fists flying…
name calling…
every dirty trick in the book…
MESS…

All the while as our media, our entertainment industry and our economic machines wrangle with every sneaky hook and crook maneuver to steer the election into their own personal favored corner…
forget the vote of the democratic little person that makes this country what it is…

I realize that politics and voting and governments have never been as they should be–
On the up and up,
models of decorum
the pinnacle of civility
a seamless process
a one size fits all sort of business…

People are people…sadly
And they have been known to beg, borrow and steal…
Plus throw in a little bit of lying, demoralizing, swindling and scandalizing of one another…

But this year, I think most of us would sadly agree, it has fallen to an all time low—on all sides of the spectrum….

Such that I have very real and very grave concerns for this Nation as a whole…
Most folks my age and older do as well…
I think we call that hindsight.

Yet a fellow blogger and brother in Christ, Wally over on Truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com posted a wonderful little placard yesterday that stated:
No matter who is president, Jesus is King…

I find great comfort in knowing that as the world around me oozes away, lost unto itself and to its own depraved craziness…
Jesus Christ remains the Resurrected Lord of All….

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget
the wormwood and the gall,
go spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all.
To him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all.

Crown him, ye martyrs of your God,
who from his altar call;
extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown him Lord of all.

O that with yonder sacred throng
we at his feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.

All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name
words by Edward Perronet (1780)
Tune Coronation by Oliver Holden

what might a modern day plague look like?

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

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(a ravenous locust passes through the yard / Julie Cook / 2015)

I really don’t know where to begin. . .
I suppose I’ll start with the latter of the two trains of thought, work my way backwards (a little educational approach. . .backwards design) and hope the two will merge into one nice thought. . .

My son was showing me a video clip yesterday by some quasi news/ entertainment group that seems to take current event images out to the average joe on the street in search of reactions. They show random folks some random recent “viralesque” image, ask a question about the image and then record the responses and reactions. My son is 26 and he starts this little show and tell moment with “so this is how dumb folks are these days. . .” and he proceeds to show me a clip. . .the clip is filled with folks his age and a tad younger. . .hummmmm

It seems that with the new Jurassic Park movie having been recently released, Steven Spielberg, feeling a bit nostalgic, posed in front of a triceratops that was used in one of the movies in the series. The automaton dino was apparently dead and laying on its side with a smiling Spielberg sitting down in front of the creature. . .the not REAL creature.
A harmless enough image of some Spielberg nostalgia. . .

This little quasi news group was on the streets of London with microphone and camera in hand showing the picture of Spielberg and his dino and asked random folks, all of which who were young—late teens through mid 20’s, what they thought of the picture. . .

First of all may I just say that I was appalled by the blatant cursing–if someone with a camera and microphone asks me to answer a question for them while they are filming, I don’t think I’m going to pop out with the “F”word or the other lovely litany of expletives these kids spouted. . .

The other troubling thing was, and this was the point of the posting of the video, that none of those kids asked seemed to know A. that that person in the picture was Steven Spielberg and B. that that was a dinosaur, not to mention a nonexistent dinosaur.

It seems they thought how terrible it was that “this man” was posing in front of “his kill” with a sleazy smile. They were all appalled and thought how awful it was that he had shot and killed a rhino or hippo, as was the common assumption, and that he actually seemed happy about it.
Please note that my eyes are rolling around my head. . .

So now I am not only greatly troubled by the lack of decorum, manners and respect demonstrated by young folks on the street, but I am equally troubled that our young folks don’t seem to know the difference between a dead, non existent, triceratops and a rhinoceros or hippopotamus. . .

The other train of thought is even more troubling and has to do with a recent real life news story.

It seems we had a political debate in this country over this past weekend that seems to be all the rage in the world of news and politics.
Now I am not a fan of either politics or politicians—I don’t watch these so called rating topping debates as I could frankly care less. Comments, questions and responses boil down to the adult version of the he said, she said fussing of children.
Petty, bickering, hateful, assumptive. . .
These “professional” adults begin to sound like the teacher on the old Charlie Brown cartoon’s. . .
“waah waah, waah. . .”

This world of ours has some very real problems and some very real troubles yet we’ve got our potential top leader wannabes and our major news agencies babbling on and on about the idiotic comments offered by a bombastic business mogul / reality show personality and that of his loud-mouthed flippant comments during one of these dog and pony shows debates.

Frankly I want to know who really cares??!!

Who cares what a man dubbed “the Donald,” as if he were some sort of ancient royal, has to say about TV personalities or news commentators when we have the sort of troubles raging, in not only our country, but around our fragile world. . .What does this say about our priorities. . . or perhaps more correctly, what does this all say about how out of touch our major news agencies and entertainment shows seem to really be. . .or how really stupid they think the average American must be. . .
My observation. . .no one is on the same page!

The real issues and worries, such as our country’s latest implosion over race, the overt and rampant escalation of violence when people simply feel wronged, the continued killing, kidnapping, raping, torturing of individuals across this globe by militant Muslim extremists. . .all of which seem to me to be taking a backseat to the latest media obsession of men becoming woman, presidential wannabes, debates over flags being the catalyst for hate. . .

All of this as people continue demonstrating, looting, rioting, as if that’s going to help solve the real issue at hand, that people seem to think that it’s okay to kill for a killing’s sake . . . that Christians in the Middle East continue being systematically eliminated one by one, African girls continue being “taken,” Greek bailouts make the global economy nervous, Turkey erupts in violence and what of Ukraine. . .

I don’t know. . .I think those types of issues might be what those presidential contenders ought to be discussing and thinking about rather than the he said, she said stuff of children. . .

I tend to feel a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to reading the News. . .I scour a variety of sites, shifting though the printed stories, hoping to sort out the real stories minus the slants.
The following story concerning the latest attack on Christians in Syria caught my eye.
I can’t help but agree with the author’s concern about what our political leaders seem to be thinking when it comes to the blind eye to the global attack on Christianity.

Is anyone who has any sort of authority ever going to look at any of these latest crises with any sort of real concern. . .cause I really don’t think God needs to send any new plagues to get our attention, I think we’re plague enough . . .but then again when our younger generations can’t tell the difference between a dinosaur and a rhino maybe none of this really matters. . .

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/08/07/more-christians-kidnapped-in-syria.html?intcmp=hpff

Civility

“When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.”
– Samuel Johnson

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(photograph: Callaway Gardens Butterfly House/ Pine Mt., GA/ Julie Cook/ 2013)

As a teacher, as well as a parent…not to mention just being a human being, the idea of civility—that of a civil society, is something that has always been very important to me. I use to stress, to my students, the importance of rules, along with the accompanying of certain positive actions—not a laundry list mind you of endless does and don’ts, but rather a basic list—-a list of simple classroom rules along with the consequences of not following those rules, that would keep our world, in Room 202, afloat.

A list of rules that we could all live by—happily, comfortably, agreeably… with everyone’s safety in clear sight. I would tell them that some rules are most necessary for a “civil” society—otherwise we’d succumb to the pure pandemonium known as anarchy—which I know appeals to that daring sense of the teenage mind of damning the adult’s status quo, but for those of us who have hindsight, such is indeed invaluable to life.

I am becoming ever more wearisome with what I observe being the lack of civility in our modern day society–so much so that I grow gravely distressed. Oh you can call me old fashioned if you wish—at 53 I hate thinking I’m categorized into the group of having one foot in the proverbial “home” or worse, grave, but I suppose some reading this may just check me off as simply being of a different time.

Is it being from a different time that causes me to not appreciate hearing the “F word” at each and every turn when at the mall, crossing a street, in a restaurant, watching a ball game and reading a player’s or coach’s lips or walking down the hall at school…only to have the list go on and on? When did such a word, which is, in its origin, considered vulgar slang, become common place? That we now, as a society, condone vulgar slang as “ok”? That our music, movies—our overall entertainment, is saturated with such—that which was once used for “effect” has become all but common place……is that a good agreeable thing to be accepted?

That our politicians work harder at the practice of digging “dirt”, more so than the practice of governing and managing the Law –is even more than alarming. That we are more concerned with condemnation before we even consider common ground let alone reconciliation. That our news media relishes in the lashing out at any American whom they deem “on the wrong” side.

Having grown up as an American, the only wrong side I ever thought to be at issue was if one was anti-democracy! I grew up thinking it was ok to be an American who disagreed as you were still an American—now, however sadly, if the news media finds you in disagreement with their line of thinking, you are considered an enemy of the State–depending on the news station’s affiliation with two simple words–liberal or conservative….hummmmm, I don’t like where that all seems to be headed.

I liked life when we were kinder to one another, when we were considerate to one another. We held doors open for one another, we said yes mam or yes sir even if we were grown ourselves, we weren’t too busy or too self-consumed that we didn’t notice the young mother trying to get out of the busy grocery store pushing a full cart and keeping two young children from running out ahead of her into a busy parking-lot not hesitating to offer a hand. I liked it when television was not laced with profanity, when people thought about what they wore out in public and left the pajamas at home.

The Italian academic Pier Massimo Forni, a professor at John Hopkins University and the founder of the Civility Initiative has a tremendous insight when discussing the importance of a civil society….
“Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.”

This thought coming after, this past week, the world witnessed a gross lack of civility in the Italian Parliament where Italy’s first black MP took to the floor and fellow MPs greeted her by throwing bananas. It’s one thing to argue in disagreement, it’s another entirely to dehumanize a fellow human being. It is this dehumanizing our of fellow man/ woman that is now becoming the norm…spiraling out of control as the social filter of civility has gone out the window.

Decorum, civility, manners, morality…however you wish to name it, is woefully lacking in our lives—and we as a people, a “civilized” group of people, are the less for it. We become “less than” in a very negative way, we sadly value ourselves less and less. I merely hold firm to these words uttered by the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead….“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Let us hope for a thoughtful group of “citizens” who may be out there somewhere who can remind us all of the importance of our kindness, our thoughtfulness, our playing fair and playing by the rules, by knowing the difference between right and wrong, by demonstrating respect for all, reminding us that it’s ok to disagree, that it’s still important to possess respect for things and people older and wiser than ourselves, to smile more and fuss less…..that we may recall the greatest commandment….to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

Remember you are a civil individual.