passage of Providence

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(the quince are about a month early / Julie Cook / 2017)

“In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel,
because they are dependent upon one other.
So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus,
how do you know how many things depend upon this thing?
God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence
that falls out this day or this week.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

fertile ground

“A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul towards heaven
as upon the wings of eagles.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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(a lone viola emerges out of nowhere, nestled between the rocks/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Spring is wanting to come early this year…
But Winter refuses to relinquish his time…
It’s an age old battle for the right to reign.

The surrounding landscape is still bathed in shades of grey, brown and
all things bare…
While the deer have nipped and eaten any and all remaining winterized vegetation…
As the armadillos have rooted out any hiding grub or tender waiting bulbs.

This is the time for transition.
It is a time waited upon anxiously…
As it is a time that has been manically hoped for and painfully longed for.

A time of turning the page from nothingness into a hint of newness.

All the while a cold wind blows and
Freeze warnings remain.
And pale white dry skin yearns for the flush of warm and radiant supple pink…

Yet hidden amongst the nooks of crags…
found in the hollowed-out crannies, wedged between the cold barren rocks..
a small and easily missed prophesy of growth takes a stand…

As we are left asking—
is fertile ground to be found anywhere within our hearts…

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‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it;
I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and
lofty mountain.
On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it;
it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar.
Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.
All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree
and make the low tree grow tall.
I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.

Ezekiel 17:22-24

a time of signs

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him
to show them a sign from heaven.

Matthew 16:1

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death,
and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations,
and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:9-14

signposts

Today I found myself once again on the interstate, a place that I am more times then not…
As the sun was headed toward the west, I was finally heading home form Dad’s…
who by the way is hanging on and still in the game….but just barely….
Merging onto the interstate, it suddenly dawns on me that the ratio of big rigs to cars
was not in the favor of the cars.

Some days are like that as I suppose as there are certain days that are considered
more or less “travel days” for those transporters of all things commerce.

Those “travel days” tend to make me a bit more nervous as I don’t especially enjoy
barreling down the interstate sandwiched in-between 5 lanes of tractor trailer
trucks and little ol me….

Focusing on keeping up with the flow while my mind drifts back and forth over to Dad
and to the things I need to be taking care of for them, my eyes and mind begin to focus
on the truck in front of me…
“The World’s most award winning Tequila”

Hummmm…I think I’ve had it in a margarita once….

Changing lanes, as I was working my way over to merge onto the next interstate, I
found myself behind another truck boasting the “2013 Award Winning Whiskey Bourbon, Roses”

Hummmm…I’d never heard of it before…yet found myself wondering if it hails
from Kentucky or Tennessee as only Kentucky whiskeys may be labeled bourbon…

As I exit onto the entrance ramp to the next interstate, I’m precariously passed by
a massive Little Debbie’s truck….

Hummmmm…Now I begin wondering if someone isn’t trying to tell me something…
as in…am I suppose to be heading to the nearest bar or to grab some
not so healthy snack cakes….???

Signs were all over the place it seems…
vying for me to remember, to consider, to seek, to find…????

So as I was finally on the home stretch of highway, eventually taking me home,
the whole notion of signs and their meaning flooded my mind,
shadowed by the significant and current visit taking place in Washington of Israel’s
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu….

I ruminated over the importance of the renewed support offered by our
new administration to Israel…
and to what that now may means for a nation who returns her support to the chosen
of God….

As some would flippantly quip that it means nothing,
while others would bemoan it just means more trouble,
while still others see great significance being found in this renewed support.

I have always believed in the importance of the United State and her relationship with
the Jewish state…

Yesterday we heard in his greeting to President Trump,
along with those gathered in the East Room,
Prime Minister Netanyahu offering an explanation as to why Jews are called Jews.

“Well, the Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China.
The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan.
Well, Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea.
This is our ancestral homeland.
Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.”

The age long quest for the acknowledgement of existence.

Yet that acknowledgement continues being met with resistance…

The Middle East is a vast and formidable land..
It has always been shrouded in mystery, hostility, and suspicion.
With the seeming epicenter to be found in the obscure city of Jerusalem…

A city that is the knot in the bow tying and binding the three
greatest monotheistic religions together…
whether they like it or not…bound they are.
Yet it is a city that has been fractured and divided since its very formation…

The hostilities between Jews and Muslims is age old, dating back most notably to
the time of Abraham.
The Christians are really the upstarts in the mix, having entered the fray 2000
years ago.

So say what you will…
be it coincidence, myth, lore, legend, history, the Divine…or a combination of
each component…
The land of Judea is for the chosen of God…and peace will come…but…..

The prophet Zechariah reminds us with his words:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples,
when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all
peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces,
though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:2-3)

It seems that conflict will always be found in this epicenter…
only until such time comes that there is a final
collision between both Light and Darkness….

In Psalm 37 we hear David proclaiming that “the meek shall inherit the earth,
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace”
(Psalm 37:11).
And in Leviticus we are told, “I will give peace in the land, and you shall
lie down, and none will make you afraid”
(Leviticus 26:6)

We are reminded, told, and shown that there will indeed be a day of peace in
this land that has only known dispute, war, hatred and suspicion.

So until that day of peace and reconciliation is upon us…
It may behoove each of us to consider the signs we are offered as we
look, wonder and wait…..

With Christ—“the Prince of Peace”—ruling the earth,
“there will be no end” to the peace that will envelop our planet (Isaiah 9:6-7).
As Isaiah hopefully noted,
“LORD, You will establish peace for us” (Isaiah 26:12).
And as each individual obeys God, he or she will enjoy peace.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You” (verse 3).

(Life Hope & Truth)

“you may be an undigested bit of beef…..”

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese,
a fragment of underdone potato.
There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,
whatever you are!”

Charles Dickens / Scrooge in a Christmas Carol

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(Alastair Sim as Scrooge in a 1951 adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol)

An undigested bit of beef, a piece of moldy cheese…
a sour stomach due to indigestion…

Indigestion, that’s it!!

Or maybe a migraine…
or a change in weather…
or the dropping barometric pressure…
perhaps a change in season…

Any explanation other than the truth…

The truth of the nagging encounter.

The encounter that is meant to turn you around.
Bringing you to your knees,
opening your eyes,
but more importantly, turning your heart.

Oh say what we will about the character of the man Dickens…
One thing is certain, his stories spoke deeply of the condition of the heart of man.

How long will we try to rationalize our encounters, our moments,
when the Spirit meets us in mid journey, as something other than indigestion
or a coincidence, or something other than…
the Divine…

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 26:36

I marvel

“When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

John Muir

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(medical chart of the human nervous system)

Sitting in the Orthopedic’s examining room, my eyes immediately gravitated to
one of those medical illustrations charts of the spine hanging a bit skewed on the
wall opposite of my gaze.

As a former art teacher, I always take notice of those medical charts in whatever
doctor’s office I may find myself.
I had several students who ventured into the field of medical illustration.
A fascinating field for those who are gifted artistically and love attention
to detail.

We had our own life-size skeletal model in the classroom, along with a vast array of animal skulls and bones…all of which were featured in many a student’s masterpiece.

So with this time I found on my hands as I sat in that little room with its skewed spinal illustration,
as I waited between x-rays and exam, my mind naturally went to wandering….

Perhaps we should be reminded that all living beings are made up of systems…

With there being 11 recognized systems within the human body:

The skeletal system
The nervous system
The circulatory system
The respiratory system
The digestive system
The excretory system
The endocrine system
The immune system
The muscular system
The reproductive system
The integumentary system

The intricacies within these systems…of how they work in tandem and
make a living being just that, living…
is nothing short of miraculous.

Detail and the mastery of placement, per each function,
is beyond comprehension.

As the pain in my hip and leg continued vying for my weary attention,
my thoughts marveled at the way the full nervous systems,
which is currently giving me fits, operates.

With the very image, such as the picture above,
being nothing less than a roadmap of life,
such is the visual imagery of the very act of living,
along with all of its intertwined responses…is simply amazing

Most of these systems go unnoticed and greatly under appreciated…
that is until there’s a problem

Ask any couple desperately trying to conceive a child and they can
most likely tell you first hand, in minute detail,
how the reproductive system can have a malfunction for either sex.

These mostly forgotten systems become front and center when there is a glitch
or something goes haywire or some outside force causes havoc…

Ask anyone who has been in an accident, fallen, or played a sport.
A system one day forgotten and taken for granted is suddenly forced
in full sight when there’s something gone awry.

So as I sat, waiting for someone to come into the exam room
in order to dig a little deeper into two systems whose warning lights are flashing,
I couldn’t help but ponder over all that goes into making us, us…

It escapes me as to how anyone can look at these interwoven systems and networks,
coursing in, out and around our bodies, and not see the hand of God…

You just can’t tell me all of these systems, with their interworking and interplays…
just happened to evolve into non duplicable entities…..

Try as hard as man does to indeed duplicate it all—he will always fall short.

Because buried deep in the center of all these systems resides a very piece of the Divine, Himself…

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139: 13-16

Resilience

“‎Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.
Never excuse yourself.
Never pity yourself.
Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”

― Henry Ward Beecher

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(a cut sunflower / Julie Cook / 2016)

Some of us are…

And some of us are not…

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What is it that makes us resilient to this thing we call life?
That uncanny ability to hold up and even withstand the often excessive plummeting experienced throughout this journey of living?

For some of us it seems to be a hidden innate, hardwired mechanism comprised of moxie, hutzpah, determination and an odd aligning of the universe producing pure stupid luck.

It is the ability to go on and on despite the assault of physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual forces.

For so many of us, it is life’s cruel and unkind events that render us senseless, dropping us to our knees…

Yet for a few seemingly invincible souls, it matters not the hardship, the heartache, the exhaustion of mind, body and soul—these are the able bodied souls who can take a licking of insurmountable proportion and keep on ticking….

Those who have survived kidnappings, beatings, rapes, tortures, years in death camps, the loss of limbs, excruciating illness and even the tragic separation from loved ones…
those who have witnessed atrocities unbearable to most human beings…
And yet these hardy souls, for good or bad, muster on…
often time not merely surviving, but actually thriving…

Have they been gifted…
or perhaps even cursed?
Are they stronger than the average person?
Are they immune from resulting miseries?

Or is there a subconscious awareness…
a drawing down into a place a great depth that reaches farther and wider….
touching upon that deeply buried remnant piece of the Divine…

The righteous keep moving forward,
and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.

Job 17:9

Flown the coop

“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery”
Anne Frank

Amazement awaits us at every corner.
James Broughton

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(the house wren’s empty nest on the tractor, under the tarp / Julie Cook / 2016)

Amazing…
on so many different levels…
simply amazing…

Let’s take a small diversion from the current reign of havoc, or is that rain of havoc, or merely both….anywhooo….

Away from the havoc which has been beset upon us in these most recent of days..diverting ourselves away in which to wander…

Wandering away ever so slightly from that which is directly in front of our eyes…to that which is somewhat removed…
Blessedly and amazingly removed.

Yet, we must take note, it is to be no less, simply amazing.

And maybe since it is somewhat removed, tucked away and elusive in nature…
it is all of that, and so much more, which adds to the sheer amazingness of it all…

Let us now wander away to the world of the amazing…

On Sunday, 3 days ago, this empty jumble of leaves, with the giant hollowed out hole in the middle, was a dizzying beehive of activity.

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The stakes were high.
For there were five hungry mouthes which had to be fed.
We were all made keenly aware of this one important fact.
Life was suddenly all a flutter, literally.

Squawking and screeching two very busy parents hunted, pecked, chirped, sung, guarded, protected and fiercely chased away any friend or foe from the home of their 5 tiny offspring.

Not only had they labored to construct, dare we say craft, this amazing conglomeration of sticks,
leaves, feathers and fuzz…
they had selected a most safe, protected and hidden site in which to set up house.

Birds are amazing that way.

They worked tirelessly almost undetected…all but for the presence of a busy bee bird who could be seen darting, scurrying ad flitting here and there.
Eggs were silently laid and kept warm…unbeknownst to the unsuspecting nearby humans.

Yet all of that changed at hatching time.

Nonstop, two parents labored in order to gather enough food to raise up their alienesque brood.
Five oversized beaks flapped open, as 10 bulbous closed orbs protruding from wobbly heads,
continued to develop.

There would be silence…then as soon as a parent neared,
the inharmonic din of chatter began.
It was as if the sound translated into a clamoring repetitiveness of
“feed me, feed me, feed me…feed us… NOW”)

Then this past Sunday the nervous frenzy reached a crescendo.
As the tiny aliens mysteriously sprouted feathers as heads began to match bodies as wings took shape.
The parents were now worked into a fevered pitch as babies, turned fledglings, were soon to spread their wings. Mom and Dad were keen to create a safe zone, free of humans, cats and others
as their children would need some room to roam…safe yet free.

And just like that, it is…..now over.

“Did they fly away??” you pensively ask.

Well… I truthfully can’t say.

It’s as if one day they were there and the next day they just weren’t…

We’re they ready?

I’d like to think so.

As birds and their Divine Creator are each amazing that way….

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3:17