Who is the Watchman

“For he hears the lambs innocent call.
And he hears the ewes tender reply.
He is watchful while they are in peace.
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.”

William Blake

We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.
Thomas Merton

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( a threesome of crows / Julie Cook / 2015)

Chasing dreams or chasing demons
In the darkened night of silence we slumber

Are we cautious sleeping with one eye open
Or do we rest free of worry and dread

Who is charged with the midnight watch
Who stands ready to sound the warning

Danger bays at the gate
While Trouble lurks in the shadows

Wickedness waits ready to strike
Will the Watchman see the signs

When fatigue deadens the senses
Precarious security wraps up the weary

As the winds rustle through the tress
The enemy circles the camp

Remember the Master stands ready to return
Will the enemy route his arrival

Be mindful you who slumber
Be cautious of demons masquerading as dreams

Where is thy peace
How may we rest

Listen all you who have ears to hear. . .
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
Ezekiel 33:7

Somewhere between the death sentence and death

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(discarded broken pieces of a deer antler / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You can’t go in yet, they’re changing the linens” the head floor nurse’s words halting the day’s visit before it had a chance to begin.
The door remianed slightly ajar, just open wide enough to see the shadows of two figures working with lightening speed to change and replace soiled linens with fresh, as the helpless patient still remained attached to the bed— wired in with all sorts of IVs, oxygen tubes and monitors.

The cries of agony and pain could not be ignored as they wafted up and down the corridor.
The mere touch sent excruciating pain through the frail shell of what was once a 53 year old vibrant “mom”
Turning to face the wall, as if that would make it all stop, seemed the only recourse for the one waiting outside.

“Enough” could be heard screaming in the recesses of a young mind which wrestled with the hows and the whys of suddenly standing alone pushing against a generic wall hoping to blend in and disappear.

Six weeks was all it was.
From start to finish, six weeks.
Just barely over a month.

It could have been six weeks, six months, six hours, or six years.
Time is really an irrelevant thing until a sentence is read or a tragedy occurs.
It’s not until the grand stopwatch of life is quickly clicked, when the hands immediately stop turning, that the shouts of
“no fair”
“that’s not enough time”
“you cheated”
are heard echoing across the ages.

Mortality met immortality that early September day. . .when time oddly stood still yet raced at breakneck speed toward a different dimension.
The mere brushing of the now thin and fine patchy hair sent shrieks of pain out the door.
“STOP” was ricocheting throughout the young brain and began spilling unknowingly out of a twenty five year old mouth.
“Just stop, it hurts too much, just let her be” falling out and quietly trailing away as a whisper from now trembling lips.

And then just as quickly as the agony had made itself known, there was now nothing but silence.
A haunting stillness as time stood still.
“You can go in now” came the voice of a nurse looking back over her shoulder at the frozen specter against the wall.
“Going in to what?” wondered the young aching soul.
Going in to the near lifeless shell that only comes back to life when touched or moved, while letting all know that pain was still very real and very constant? Going into a drawn-out ending which now seemed to mock the very spirit of Life which was all but willing and pushing hopefulness forward?
What really was the point anymore?
What really was the point to anything anymore?
How cruel this sick dance with death had seemed to become.
A wave a nausea washed over limp legs that were now being willed, from some other place, forward through the open door.

“It’s not about you, you know” came the words of a stronger wisdom.
“There’s something else going on here”
“This is not all about you or your loss”
“It’s not all about her pain”
“It’s not all about her suffering”
“There is more, more going on that none of us can see”
“There is business, yet finished”
“Two are now meeting. . . where, we know not, but the meeting is crucial”
“You’ve got to see, you’ve got to understand this is so much bigger than you or her”
“It’s so much bigger than any of us can ever imagine. . .”

A lifeless body hung battered and torn, dangling like a limp doll in the wind.
The once living blood now stopped flowing. The driving rain made it appear as if it was still trailing down the contours of the flesh.
Flesh that was torn away in gaping chunks.
Bruised and shredded, what remained had taken on a dull blue pallor.
The wet red trails, flowing down the wooden support, pooled in the mud, as now rivers of blood and mud cascaded down the hill.

The wickedly dark clouds overhead hung as a heavy curtain stretching outward in every direction.
Cracks of electricity streaked dangerously to the ground, sending onlookers scurrying for shelter.
The earth began to give way under foot. Several fell down the hill, sliding in the blood saturated mud.
Everyone now seemed covered in the blood of Innocence.
The peals of thunder echoed as the sounds of a death march, now deafening, caused many to cover their ears.

Chaos had taken hold in the city, skipping merrily along its sinister path.
Demons could be seen darting between the shadows.
What was now happening with this single death as to cause such pandemonium? The lone thought hung heavily in the air, which was now filled with a rotting stench and the acrid odor of sulfur.
Panic was racing through hapless minds, as the words of the prophets echoed off the stone walls.
The great divide, the massive division slicing as a knife through all of time, was about to be bridged.

The separation was to finally be made whole as the universe momentarily stood still.
Time stopped,reversed and frantically raced forward simultaneously. Daylight was covered by darkness, as mystery was hidden from all eyes.
Even the Father turned His gaze.
For that which is without sin cannot gaze upon sin as He who was sinless, became all sin.
Both angels and demons trembled with fear.

What was the price?
The cost?
The expense?
One life for all?
Really?
And yet what of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, the misery, the lies, the ugliness and the sin?
What of the agony still felt, still experienced?
What of the broken hearts and the unfair losses?
What of the tragedies?
What of the premature deaths?
What of all violence?
What of the wars?
What of the sickness?
What of the cancer?

“It’s not so much about this life you know”
“It’s about that which we cannot see or may not yet know”
“It’s not about your pain right now”
“It’s hard”
“It’s difficult”
“It hurts”
“It is terribly unfair, unfair to our human sense of such. . .”
“Yet you’ve got to know, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hold on to the one fact that all of this, all this misery, all this hurt goes beyond us, well beyond us. . .it goes beyond the here and now”
“You can’t see, not yet any way”
“You’re simply not able to see yet”
“. . .but you will”
“You’ve got to know that this, all of this, all of this hurt, this pain, is but a mere breath to a dimension that we can’t yet phantom”
“Hold on, just hold on. . . and now. . .you’ve got to do one last thing. . .you’ve got to let go, you’ve got to let her go, let her go to do what she needs to do. . .with Him. . .”

“but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10

Valleys

“When walking through the “valley of shadows,” remember, a shadow is cast by a Light.”
Austin O’Malley

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(a beautiful view of the Basilica Papale di San Francesco and the sweeping valley below Assisi as seen from a journey up to the summit of the hill town ,The Rocca Maggiore Castle / Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today all of mankind walks through the valley of the shadow of death,
as a veil is pulled across all clarity.
Unbeknownst to humankind, a war currently wages for its very soul.
Oblivious to the cost paid, the sacrifice made or the blood spilt,
the sons of Adam strut about in the small world they have created for themselves.

Angels and demons wrestle over the lives of clueless specters as
the former Bearer of Light holds court.
Shoulders contort as bones separate from familiar joints.
Lungs burn desperately for oxygen as stretched muscles ache pushing upward for air.

Wails and cries mix in a never-ending cacophony of agony,
as a mother’s heart breaks.
Memories of the nine months of wonder and awe suddenly give way to the Prophet’s cries.
Death’s cold hand grazes her cheek as he sweeps toward the cross.
The secrets held deep in her heart, now smashed into a thousand drops of blood,
while her tears fall to dust.

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”
The heaviness of a breathless statement is carried away on the wind,
as those who have come to gawk, cackle with glee.
“Where is you god now prophet?”
“Free yourself and us, oh you mighty king”
Scorn and ridicule horrifically collide into conviction and hope.

The hour finally draws nigh as Day gives way to Night.
Light lets go, allowing Darkness its false victory.
With the toll now paid, as the demons dance and shout, the lone Creator turns His back.
Man, still unaware of his role, sports the Innocent’s blood on his hands.

Silence is all that remains.
The deep dark emptiness filling the void turned tomb,
as the Earth trembles and quakes.
There is no hope.
Not today.
“It is finished” is all He said.

The continuum of a pilgrimage

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel

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(Basilica di Sant’Antonio – Basilica del Santo / Padova / Padua, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(images taken from the parade route during the feast day of St. Anthony (6/13), Padua, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

The word pilgrimage is documented as having first been used in the 14th century. We know that the word denotes that of a journey. The journey is notably one most often taken to a spiritual or sacred destination. Such journeys are often made by those seeking to pay homage to someone or someplace. Often pilgrims travel with a desire to demonstrate a certain level of devotion, or journey in hopes of receiving a divine blessings and / or enlightenment. Yet others simply journey out of curiosity, with the outside hope of some sort of other-worldly discovery made along the way.

Whereas a journey to a specific place or destination can be both emotionally, as well as spiritually, rewarding it is to the pilgrimage of the heart which is, as Rabbi Herschel reminds us, the most important journey of ones life.

Our life’s journeys often take us on many diverging paths. Our work, our play, our learning all carry us on a variation of tangents. . .with each teaching us, our minds and our bodies, many new, useful and exiting things.
And yet sadly it is to these very types of journeys in which we cling, unknowingly, as if to a lifeline. . .all in order to avoid the more intrinsic journey–that internal journey or pilgrimage which is essential in the constructing of the very underpinnings of our moral well being.

Why is that?
Why are we so eager to set out on the surface journeys of body and mind, yet are unwilling to venture on the intrinsic journey of the heart and soul?
Is it because these intrinsic journeys are often more raw, more real, more painful?
Are they not the journeys of addition, or rather, are they the more ominous journeys of subtraction—the journeys taken to expose and uncover, flaying us open, vulnerable and bare for all to see?

As we age, we begin, little by little, seeing the world differently.
Slowly, as if focusing a pair of binoculars on a blurry distant vista, the vain trappings of this life become evidently more clear.
Moments that were once considered larger than life are now, gratefully insignificant and small.
The what weres and what could have beens no longer seem crucial.
We are discovering that we have grown increasingly aware of our own mortality.

Gone are the devil may care days of our youth. For better or worse the longer we live the more we see our existence growing increasingly limited. Some of us fight this ever sequential awareness tooth and nail damning any ties to aging and our mortality. Yet others of us, those wiser and more confident, muster a steely resolve of keeping calm and carrying on–what more do we really have than doing such?

Blessedly there is a grand peace which accompanies this new understanding. Gone is the whirring din of the internal war cries rousing the rebellion in the belly of youth. The losing battle against this inevitable thing we call aging and life gives way to a strangely quiet and pleasingly calm resolve.

Thus once again, it is time for me to partake on yet another journey, a pilgrimage if I may, back to the place I have called home.
Back to where the initial journey, of this which I call my life, truly began— that being the journey from an angst ridden childhood, through a mostly stormy internal mid-life, to the now quieter and calmer resolve of a thankfully older and wiser pilgrim.

I travel back now to tend to that which has remained behind.
Putting the pieces back together.
This now weekly pilgrimage is so much more than tending to the failing mind of an elderly father. There is the inevitable meeting and battling of ancient demons, all which lie sinisterly in wait hidden in closets, buried in boxes, and merely hovering in the air.
The pilgrim uncovers.

To emerge on the other side victorious for not merely self but for a vanishing father, will be critical.
There is healing to be had.
And isn’t that the impetus of a pilgrimage, that of a journey for clarity, discovery, healing?
For the pilgrim is a seeker.

So should we say that the living of our lives are but journeys going forward while our investigations of those lives lived are actually pilgrimages traveling backwards?
We are mere journeymen throughout our youth eventually growing into pilgrims possessing wizened souls as we age. The pilgrim is on a continuum.

I think I rather like where this journey, this pilgrimage, is now going. . .