Travesties

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience.
It supercedes all other courts.

Mahatma Gandhi

In war, truth is the first casualty.
Aeschylus

RSCN3146
(a bumblebee busily enjoys the sunny day / Julie Cook / 2016)

Truth and justice…
Two of the massive building blocks to man’s existence.

If this was a perfect world, a pre-fallen world, or rather a never fallen world, then truth and justice would be as commonplace as breathing. They would be woven into the everyday living of man and most likely never really contemplated or fretted over…

They would be nothing out of the ordinary.
As nothing could challenge such as each would simply just be part and parcel of man’s existence.

For if there were no fall of man, there would be no lies, no falsehoods, no injustices, no deceptions,
no fabrications, no misdeeds hidden under the pretense of false or half truths and no repercussions of such…

There would be no harm nor fouls.
No need for others to impose justice in defense of the truth…
no casualties of war as there would be no wars….

Yet sadly, for better or worse, we do live in a fallen, as well as broken, world.

We, both you and I, are victims of our own duality—the inner struggle between right and wrong…
With that duality being rooted in the very fall of man…
and in turn…a direct result of man’s sinfulness…

The duality of Good and Evil…
with “truth” being the first victim of that sinful nature.

There is the metaphysical and philosophical concept of dualism, or binary opposition, which addresses the concept of man being both good and bad.
There is also the Christian concept of dualism, or the inherent condition of man’s sinful nature, and the earthly battle of Good and Evil.

C. S. Lewis, the noted British academic, theologian and writer observed that “good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

Lewis goes on at length about the concept of dualism and its relationship to Christianity…
“But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.”

We fight a constant battle—within ourselves as well as without.

We are often victimized doubly—first by our own sinful nature, then as the direct result of the sinful nature of our fellow man.
Victims of crime, of war, of lies, of deciet…all attacks outside of ourselves, attacks that we are often helpless to defend.

6 million innocent lives taken in the death camps of World War II—-
…victims of the evil duality of man.
First that of Hitler, then of his commanders, then of his soldiers who carried out the arrests, the tortues and the deaths and finally to the culpability of their fellow countrymen who placed all blame for all things wrong with Germany upon their Jewish neighbor’s shoulders.

We face a constant barrage of attacks from outside of ourselves.

You can call it what you will, but Evil has claimed Earth as his own.
It happened that fateful day in the Garden…
And it has raged against us ever since.

Pope Emeritus Benedict continues this idea of duality and Good and Evil in his 2008 Advent catechesis on original sin
“And finally, the last point, man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam, opposed the filthy river of evil with a river of light. And this river is present in history: We see the saints, the great saints but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present, is strong.

The dark night of evil is still strong. And that is why we pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: “Rorate caeli desuper.” And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”

So yes, come Lord Jesus….
Even in the duality of this Good and Evil and in our constant battle… we can rejoice…
As Pope Benedict reminds us, we have already been cured and healed…the hope is regenerated with each Advent, the healing began on Good Friday and the cure came Easter morning…
Hallelujah!!!

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Pope John Paul II

Holy discontent

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
― Ray Bradbury

DSCN2616 (1)

DSCN2618

Spring has sprung a bit early…so it seems
Temperatures are running 15 to 20 degrees above the average for this time of year…
Early March is feeling a lot like late May…
It is an unexpected delight…yet troubling just the same.

DSCN2620

DSCN2625

DSCN2616
(shots of the blooming cherry trees complete with bees and ladybugs / Julie Cook / 2016)

We aren’t much for being the creatures of the unexpected…we humans…
we grow alarmed and anxious when things, especially in nature, step out of sync.
We prefer the expected…
The tried and true…
that of the habitual habit…
We know our times, our seasons, our rhythms of life,
and we like for them to be, well, predictable.

The same holds true for our spiritual nature…
Our need to have a relationship with that which is Greater than ourselves.
As created beings we long, most often subconsciously, for our Creator…
For it seems that the need to have a relationship with that God of all Creation is truly hardwired within.

There are those who would argue that point…
As they do not see the correlation between man’s constant discontent and to his quest, nay need, to be made whole…

Those who eschew God for God’s sake, those who defiantly say…
“there is no God”
or
“I have no need for a God” …
Try in vain to fill the void, the empty abyss, with any and all sorts of need filling balms and placebos…

Be it addictions…
Those maddening and seemingly uncontrollable urges which gobble up all manner of ill in a frantic, albeit vain, need to stave the endless hunger of the spiritual void…

Or it might be the endless, yet empty, quest of searching and seeking after any and all things to worship…the longing to put something, anything, at the center of validation and justification of simply… being…
From demons to fatted calves, from nature to man himself…
humankind yearns to put something at the center of its very existence…

As man seeks, yearns, needs to hold something, anything, at the heart of his existence…
his insatiable need goes back to that very moment when God first breathed life into the lungs of the dust created Adam…

And it is to this day…
That we, me, you, us, long to breathe, once again, in rhythm with our Creator…
Seeking, longing, aching to fill the discontent with the rhythmic beating as one…
Restored within the relationship to…
God the Almighty…
The Father…
And Maker of both Heaven and Earth…

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Consistencies

Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties.
Charlotte Bronte

Part of courage is simple consistency.
Peggy Noonan

“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!”
― John Wesley

DSCN1613
(worn weary cross, Sligo Abbey / County Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As much as we…
try
arrange
rearrange
plot and plan
inconsistencies will forever be a constant.
For there is nothing in our lives that will remain without glitch, hiccup, accident, or
bedevilment

Not family
Not friends
Not health
Not government
Not weather
Not land
Not sea
Not sky

The only consistent aspect of our lives is our relationship with God
Void of any and all inconsistencies…
He alone is the only one true constant any of us will ever know…
Forever was
Forever is
Forever will be…

And so He comes….

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1 Colossians 1:15-17

Therapy amongst the mint

“All of earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush aflame with God
But only those who see take off their shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
Anne Frank

DSC02644
(a clump of freshly pulled mint mixed in a pile of roots / Julie Cook / 2015)

The air was punctuated with the pungent aroma of mint and basil mingled with a heavy dose of loamy moist dirt.
I had taken pruning shears with me, but put them aside in favor of my two gloved hands.
My intent was to simply cut it all back but instead I opted to hopefully rid my yard and life of the invasive mayhem.

The growing green mass had covered the whole front corner of the bed by the garage and was set to cover up Mimi’s ancient cement bench if something wasn’t done and done soon to stop this almost giddy encroachment.

My heart has felt much the same in recent days, overrun and over burdened with and by the onslaught of the grim global headlines.

The now burgeoning sickly yellowish green patch is usually the first thing in the yard to show its tender new verdant foliage during those sleepy hopeful wee days between winter and spring. It’s what gives me hope that life, rebirth, regrowth and Spring will indeed vanquish Old Man Winter while ushering in welcoming warmer days.

As I wondered about how best to tackle the latest infestation of overgrowth in the shrub bed, my thoughts wandered a world away to what or whom would or could now vanquish the sweeping global sorrows that were entangling both my heart and soul.

Come late Summer. . .when life is dried out and burned out, just as the seasons prepare to knock on the door of Autumn, the leggy gangly masses have become a truly unsightly tangled mess of tired and spent. As in I’m just ready to cut it all away, rid my life of the jumbled mess and happily welcome in some cool crisp colorful order.

I wish I could easily do the same for our hurting planet.

I’ve always found solace in working with my hands.
The more manual the labor the more productive and alive I feel.
There is a cleansing honesty in working with one’s hands.
Never mind that my back has been giving me fits, never mind the heat index is still in the triple digits, I will gladly get down and dirty, as the sun continues to bake the world, for working hard in the yard is good for the soul, the mind and often literally the heart.

Oh that it could be so easy with this greatly burdened world of ours.

As a true Southerner I’ve grown up with mint sprouting from every yard I’ve ever called home. What better accompaniment to one’s tea or julep, depending on your preference, than a sprig of fresh mint? Anyone will tell you mint is easy, as in it grows itself. In fact it’s just a little too easy, as in too eager and way too invasive. It’s more like a weed gone wild then a treasured herb. Plus everyone who does any work in a garden will tell you, any novice can grow mint— it offers instant gratification to the more hesitant would-be gardeners among us.

But my mint patch has been on the run and I had to stop it before things got anymore out of hand. Rather than cut it back, just for it to sprout right back to this same spreading madness within a few days, I took to pulling it up, by the long lanky root full. Even poor ol St Francis had to be laid on his side just so I could get to what was running under my favorite saint’s feet. I don’t think he was much bothered by the intrusion.

As I yanked and pulled, buried just under the top layer of straw and soil, was a criss crossing network of an eerily bone white root system stretching for what seemed to be miles. With each tugged, pulled and unearthed jumble of lanky roots and dirt, earwigs and beetles alike scurried helter skelter, madly seeking a dark cloak of safety in the damp compost soil.

The more my thoughts drifted over the latest mounding national and global turmoils, I pulled harder and deeper. Sweat trickled down my face, pooling at the tip of my nose before dripping and disappearing into the blackened soil. The sweat seemed to reach across the globe mingling with the tears of those thousands of people now walking hundreds of miles in search of asylum and safety.

As the morning turned to afternoon, I had finally pulled up the last of the mint. The piles were now all raked up, the walkway swept and the pine straw smoothed as the shrub bed now had a delightfully clean and fresh look.

I still had no grand revelations as to how to help the ever growing global crises sweeping across our lives nor how to ease the lingering tensions within our own Nation. I was hot, tired and weary of body, but there was oddly a refreshing clarity of thought.
No longer did I feel totally overwhelmed or at a loss.
Still not knowing where to even begin to help, I gratefully no longer felt as defeated as I had.
There’s just something about physical labor, with it’s overwhelming beginning and productive ending, that gives hope to the overwhelming obstacles of life. . . hope that we can indeed tackle and eventually overcome the litany of misery facing our current global family.

I trust we will be able to do so. . .
for only in God, comes hope to the hopeless, and strength to the weak. . .

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:10

“Let me arise and open the gate, to breathe
the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.”

Violet Fane

What’s in a sign

So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.
Judges 6:17

“When you know that something’s going to happen, you’ll start trying to see signs of its approach in just about everything. Always try to remember that most of the things that happen in this world aren’t signs. They happen because they happen, and their only real significance lies in normal cause and effect. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you start trying to pry the meaning out of every gust of wind or rain squall. I’m not denying that there might actually be a few signs that you won’t want to miss. Knowing the difference is the tricky part.”
David Eddings

“Is not the gospel its own sign and wonder? Is not this a miracle of miracles, that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish’? Surely that precious word, ‘Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely’ and that solemn promise, ‘Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out,’ are better than signs and wonders! A truthful Saviour ought to be believed. He is truth itself. Why will you ask proof of the veracity of One who cannot lie?”
Charles H. Spurgeon

DSC01697
(the sign in the clouds of perhaps a thunder cloud brewing / Julie Cook / 2015)

We are sign people.
We always have been and will most likely always be such.
We have looked to the skies, to the heavens, to the earth, to the depths, to the seas, to the wind, to the fire, to the mountains, to life and to death. . . you name it. . .
since the beginning of time we have looked for. . .
A sign. . .
A warning,
A signal,
A clue,
An indication,

Some sort of information. . .good or bad. . .

I’ve been living my life, as of late in my car, driving the backroads, the main streets, the highways and the interstates as I’ve been making my way to Dad’s.
2, 3, 4 times or more a week.
Back and forth from here to there.

I’m pretty certain I know every billboard, advertisement, road sign, speed marker, hiding spot for every State Patrol within a 70 mile shot.
And yet today, on my way home, on a lone and isolated stretch of interstate there was a small hand painted sign tacked to a tree which sat a ways back from the busy and perilous roadway, which was new to me and my sweeping driving vigilance.

“The End is coming soon,
be sure not to miss it”

Now we’ve been seeing signs stating information such as
“The End is Near”
“The Rapture is Coming”
“Jesus is coming”
“Are you ready?”
On and on and on with such predictions, omnitions and bold assumptions being posted for decades.

Signs that are hand painted to those professionally printed. . .
Signs posted on stakes in the ground at the end of road junctions, signs hung on telephone poles, signs held by the “faithful” . . .
This as I recall the famous song of the early 70’s. . .
“Signs, Signs everywhere a sign
blocking the scenery, breaking my mind. . .”

So this particular little white sign with red painted letters should have just been another blip
on the radar on my road-sign weary mind. . .
But yet it wasn’t.
There was something that made me want to do a double take, to actually stop, being able to read its red words while digesting them more slowly rather than swallowing them hard and fast within the 1/10th of a second exposure I had while racing along at my near 80 mph clip.

It wasn’t the first half of the sign that struck me, “The End is coming”, but rather it was the latter half, the “be sure not to miss it” half which made more of an impression.

“Now that’s an odd thought” I mused as I merged right toward my exit.

When THE end does come, which I’m thinking means Jesus appearing. . .
That’s to be something, I would think, which will be really, really, really BIG.
Something brilliant and spectacular. . .frightening to some, while overwhelming to others.
As in loud, triumphant, mind blowing, earth shattering, boat rocking, out of this world EPIC!
“How could anyone who has eyes and or ears miss such a display?! Miss it, really???
I practically snorted aloud with my smug and incredulous rhetorically silent questioning.

And then it hit me. . .

What if it is actually subtle, quiet, unassuming?
Wonder if one could really miss it?
The End that is. . .
Maybe, just maybe. . .instead of playing the role of the faithful who are all too assuming and therefore a bit jaded in our “waiting”. . .
maybe we should be more active, more vigilant, more attuned. . .watching, listening and waiting. . .
Not like the Henny Pennys among us who dash about frantically wailing that the sky is falling, but rather more subdued perhaps even a bit somber as we listen more closely, chatter less while putting down our clanging gongs and beating drums. . .silently,reverently. . .
stopping, pausing, waiting, watching and listening. . .

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13

Waiting in silence

The Scriptures contain many stories of people who waited years or even decades before the Lord’s promises came to pass. What modern believers can learn from the patience of biblical saints like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul is that waiting upon the Lord has eternal rewards.
Charles Stanley

“Memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand–evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes.”
H. Rider Haggard

DSC00854
(busy carpenter bee / Julie Cook / 2015)

My soul, now in silence, waits. . .
As the earth joins in with a palpable anticipation.
ALL of Creation shutters in the deafening stillness.
Man hangs in the balance between the living and the dead
As both Life and Death vie for final control of all humankind

A tug and war ensues for each and every soul
those that were, those which are and those who are yet to be.
Yet it is only the keen of heart who take notice.
The majority of mankind races off in the opposite direction, lost and unaware.

The ground groans deep within as tiny ripples race across the surface of time
A battle fiercely rages out of site from all of humanity,
as man sits on the precipice of eternity.
We wait, watching, listening, wondering
Our fate is sealed,
yet the question remains. .
what will that fate be. . .

And the trees rejoice

Let the trees of the forest sing,
let them sing for joy before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.

1 Chronicles 16:33

DSCN7308

DSCN1775

DSCN1824

IMG_0780

(all images Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Images of trees can never ever offer the viewer of such pictures the same sense of smallness when standing in the presence of trees, be it within the enveloping forest and woods or of the grandeur of a lone tree or two dominating a yard or park reaching heavenward.

Trees are such an integral component to our lives as they offer protection, defense, housing, shelter, furniture, fuel. . . Just as they, in the midst of tempest storm, can be a device of terrible harm and destruction. Yet there just isn’t another living component on this Earth of ours which seems to offer such a towering presence of majesty, dominant beauty, power of presence, or stately purpose than that of a tree.

It is during this time of year, late summer, when I begin to watch, with keen and grand anticipation, the trees for they are the first to herald in a new season of time. Soon all of the land, in the northern hemisphere, will be ablaze with the overwhelming color of a million dazzling leaves. Red, yellow, magenta, orange, flame. . .all accented by the deep wispy greens of pines.

The silent sentinels in our lives, which like so much of this natural Earth, are most often ignored, sacrificed, or taken for granted. May we stop long enough, in the pace of our busy and hectic lives, taking time for wide eyed-wonder and observation, as well as for taking the time to offer thanks for the natural wonders and beauty which are so often over looked, forgotten or ignored. The daily gifts of beauty, strength and wonder given to us by our dear planet.