Captain’s log—has it been almost a week????

“The Divine Heart is an ocean full of all good things,
wherein poor souls can cast all their needs;
it is an ocean full of joy to drown all our sadness,
an ocean of humility to drown our folly,
an ocean of mercy to those in distress,
an ocean of love in which to submerge our poverty.”

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

I went back to the grocery store yesterday…
The sign reads, ‘meat custom cut the way you like”
I ask, what meat???

We’re all hunkered in and down in the house…all together.

And right now, we’re all having to make sacrifices…

Consider changing the Sheriff’s big messy diapers…
they have now become a massive joint effort…

I actually took my chances today and in a moment of desperation, I went to Target.
I walked in carrying my own Lysol wipes.
I bought the Mayor a dart shark board.

Plus some sidewalk chalk…but it’s now supposed to rain for the next three days…
of course it is…

Luckily we can play darts sharks and fish
in the house.
Or fill an empty water bottle full of dried rice, screw the cap on tight and shake it
till our heart’s content, or I’m crazy.

And in the middle of all of this new craziness that we’re each finding ourselves
living in, I really don’t know what should be considered new, normal or merely insane.

I have a dear friend in Florence, Italy…I’ve tried getting in touch with her now
for over a week…not a word.

Each day there is a new tally of loss.
Italy has not experienced losses like this since WWII

And what about Spain?
Iran?
France?
The US?
My state of Georgia.
My county?
My city?

I walked outside this afternoon and I heard the birds.
This is such a wonderful time of year to hear the melodic symphony of singing.

I can actually see Spring rounding the corner and I think life is oh so normal.
Oh so rhythmic.

But yet I know it is anything but normal and our ‘oh so taken for granted’
rhythm has been broken.

We only think that we are living with inconveniences.

We grumble.
We grouse.

But what we are seeing, experiencing goes far beyond inconvenience.
This goes beyond our grumbling and complaining.

And I think it is slowly dawning of those who had thrown caution to the wind and went on
living life as if nothing was different…I think maybe, just maybe, they might finally
be getting the memo…life is now very different.

I had read a friend’s post today and she said in all of this craziness she had actually forgotten
it was Lent—and it dawned on me that I too had forgotten Lent as well.

But then I considered the thought that I hadn’t actually forgotten Lent…but rather
I am living Lent.
We are all living Lent.

In this desert wasteland that we now find ourselves wandering,
I am assured that both good news and Hope remain.

Victory is waiting for us on the other side of this desert.
We just need to keep making our way through the barren wasteland because when we do,
we will find Christ waiting with open arms…in part because he walked this desert long
before we ever took the first step.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Captain’s log: Day 5—color and pollen

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”
John Ruskin


(Julie Cook / 2020)

This is really something like day 6 but at this point, who’s counting?!

We need some color and we need hope.
However, we don’t need the pollen…
But it is what it is….

The photos are of the new blooms and color now blanketing the yard…what you don’t see is
the nice layer of yellow dust covering our world…but I admit, the yellow dust
is such a nice foray into the normalcy of Spring…a diversion from life lived under
a modern-day plague.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

Captain’s log: Do more!

“There is no indication that God explained to Joseph what He was doing
through those many years of heartache or how the pieces would
eventually fit together.
He had no ways of knowing that he would eventually enjoy a
triumphal reunion with his family.
He was expected, as you and I are, to live out his life one day at a time
in something less than complete understanding.
What pleased God was Joseph’s faithfulness when nothing made sense.”

James C. Dobson


(1942 patriotic poster from WWII)

Captian’s Log, Day 3 of the mandated social distancing…aka stay at home!

There once was a time when each member of this country was asked to do their part.

The world was at war and we had joined in.

Many had enlisted in the various branches of service in order to go fight.

There were those who stayed home to tend to the importance of running a nation.

We had women, wives, mothers, young and old, all working in factories since
most of the men had left to fight.

We had ration books to use when going to the store.

We had to limit what we could buy and when we could buy it…
most fresh foods were going overseas to support the hungry troops.

People planted victory gardens–growing their own produce.

We were asked to donate metals, silver, gold, brass…
metal that could be melted into ammunition or the making of necessary equipment.

We were asked to buy war bonds.

People were encouraged to be supportive.

People had to use blackout curtains at night lest the enemy should see
their way to bomb us at home.

People were asked to monitor shortwave radios.

Gasoline was in short supply so travel was limited.

Sacrifice was a given.

We were each asked to help in our own small or big way.
It was a nation of folks ready to roll up their sleeves to lend a hand and do their part.
The goal was the same.

Victory in unity.

It was not easy.
It was lonely.
It was scary.
It was sad.
It was hard.
It was difficult.

But everyone knew it had to be done…the alternative of not doing would be disastrous.

And so as my family now does what it has been asked to do…
of staying at home as much as we can.
Working from home if at all possible.
Limiting our exposure to those outside of our home.
Washing our hands.
And not hoarding grocery items…

I am disheartened when I see, read and hear of those who throw caution to the wind.
I am troubled by the stories of those who say that they will keep doing as they wish.
My own community remains very much busy and on the go.

People such as the American ex-pat cookbook author who calls Paris home, David Lebovitz to
Megan McCain, to my own family and friends…there has been a great deal of concern that
the mandates of limiting our social contacts are simply falling on deaf ears…
as it is all going largely unheeded.

David Lebovitz, in his food blog, has offered some great “stuck in the house” recipes
we might like to try.
David lives in Paris and is the author of several cookbooks, French travel books as well as
a great food blog.

In David’s blog post yesterday he shared his frustration, given the French government’s
mandate, much like Itlay’s, to stay indoors and to limit all social gatherings—
his frustration came from seeing so many of the younger French congregating in the streets,

We are on day #1 of a fifteen-day confinement.
Bars, cafés and restaurants were closed Saturday at midnight
(which were packed in my neighborhood, as usual, with twenty- and thirty-somethings),
and people were told to keep a distance between them and avoid public places.
But the revelry continued on the streets around here through the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Later in the morning, people waited in line, shoulder-to-shoulder, shopping at the Bastille market,
and Sunday afternoon, people filled parks in Paris, or sat by the canal to have a beer with friends.
To be honest, it was disheartening, and a little frightening,
to watch the news and hear people being interviewed, talking about how they didn’t care,
that they were going to do whatever they wanted.
So here we are, with talk of the military coming in to make sure people stay indoors.

https://www.davidlebovitz.com/stay-at-home-recipes-confined-confinement/

And so now the French government now considers marshal law…hmmm

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/macron-invokes-war-europe-goes-213419878.html

Even Megan McCain, daughter of the late Senator Joh McCain and conservative commentator, has
joined the bandwagon by echoing a similar concern…

https://www.foxnews.com/media/mccain-de-blasio-millennials-coronavirus

And then there is the following link of a story about a message gone viral from an Italian
who utters a dire warning to the US. A message that we must heed the warnings given to us
before things spiral into the disastrous mess Itlay has found herself in as the virus
cases multiple faster than one’s head can spin and the death rate becomes staggering.

https://currently.att.yahoo.com/lifestyle/creators-behind-viral-video-of-quarantined-italians-share-coronavirus-warning-161158583.html

So, while I’m beginning to feel as if we are the only Americans hunkering down…
I pray that my fellow Americans will take heed, doing their part by joining the fight…
the fight against an unseen but very real enemy.

Yes, I think more people have died from the typical flu but this sinister bug is effecting
us on a multitude of levels that I have never seen in my lifetime.
Why that is, I am not certain…but the effect is real and it alone is proving
just as deadly and catastrophic..

Our shops and stores are closing.
All of our sporting events are being canceled.
Graduations are being canceled.
Weddings are being canceled.
Our travel industry is a ghost industry.
Churches and Synagogues are closing their doors.
People are losing jobs.
The stock market is falling.
And people only thought Russia would be our undoing.

It might just be that we will be our own undoing if we don’t join together to put an end
to the madness.
And the faster we work together, the faster this all can be put behind us!

So please, do your part!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when
he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together,
they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone,
two will withstand him—-a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Shadow of the Almighty rather than the shadow of death”

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
Psalm 91:1


(image courtesy decidingvoteblog)

As the fluid situation of all of our lives continues to swirl, the post I had hoped to
write today…a post about looking back at how we Americans have overcome past crises
is now on hold.

We’ve been called into a bit of action—for we are off to fetch the Mayor today
with the Sherrif following in a few more days.

With the schools now shuttering in Georgia, our daughter-in-law the teacher
will find herself at home. She will be home with two little ones, along with
a husband (our son) who is already working from home.
And as a teacher, she will be responsible for conducting virtual learning classes
so in turn, they will need help with the kids….so…
the kids will be coming to us.

For how long is yet to be determined.
Therefore, any blogging will be sporadic.

The Mayor tends to demand a great deal of her staff’s time and energies.
And as a governing official, she has her hands full…as we all do.

But before I leave you, I wanted to offer you some lovely words of hope.

The following message…a message of hope in the face of global adversity,
is from our dear friend The Wee Flea, David Robertson.

Living now in Australia but with family still in Scotland as well as England,
David understands first hand the fretfulness we are all feeling during these
times of uncertainty as well as times of fear…

How do we as Christians respond?

My wish is that you will find comfort in the following words…
the link to the full post is found at the end…

Be blessed, stay well and be safe…

One of my greatest concerns is that the Church far more often reflects the society
than it does lead or love it.
This pandemic is a real test for the reality of our faith and the relevance of our doctrines.
And there is no doubt that our world is being taught some real lessons –
lessons the Christian should, if we believe the Bible, already know.

Humility

We are being taught humility.
Fintan O ‘Toole had a marvelous article in The Irish Times pointing out that we are not
kings of the world and we are not masters of our own fate.
It’s a hard lesson to learn. And one that humanity, in our hubris,
has to keep being taught.

History

We have a lot to learn from history –
not least because we keep forgetting it.
Plague and disease are not new to humanity.
When we look at how the Church in the past has dealt with plague –
whether in ancient Rome, medieval Europe, 19th century London or numerous other examples
we can get a better perspective.
My predecessor in St Peter’s Dundee, Robert Murray McCheyne died aged 29 after he visited
the sick and dying in an epidemic among the poor in the city.
The Church today seems to be more concerned about not getting sick, rather than visiting the sick.

Hebel

I love this Hebrew word.
I don’t really know an exact English equivalent.
It’s what Solomon uses in Ecclesiastes when he describes everything as ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’.
It carries the idea of trivial froth.
The coronavirus is exposing our societies’ Hebel.
Sport, wealth, leisure, entertainment –
how light and frothy they appear to be in the light of such a foe!

I was in a barber’s in Sydney yesterday where my fellow clientele would normally have been
outraged at the cancelling of the major sporting events which play such
a large part in our lives, but there was general agreement that it didn’t really matter.
(I loved the sign above the door – “if you’re sick you need a doctor, not a barber!”).

Hope

That is the great missing thing.
Real hope has to be more than the wish that this would soon be over and that we could carry on
with life as normal. This virus has exposed the shallowness of that approach to life.
Where do we find hope?
As always I find it in the word of God.
Let me share with you three readings from this morning.

Proverbs 1:20-33 warns us of what happens when we neglect the wisdom that is calling aloud
“in the public square”.
There will be calamity and “disaster that sweeps over you like a whirlwind”.
The waywardness of the simple and the complacency of fools destroys them but
“whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”.

Then there are the great words of Psalm 91 –
a Psalm that sustained me when I lay on my bed in the ICU unit in Ninewells hospital,
helpless and fearful.
We can rest in the ‘Shadow of the Almighty’ (rather than the shadow of death).
We are covered by his feathers, and his faithfulness is our shield and rampart.
“You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday” (v.5-6).

Finally, my song for this morning was Psalm 139 where,
amongst other things, we are assured that all the days ordained for us were written in the
Lord’s book before they came to be. These verses surely speak to our situation.
Are we listening?
Or are we listening to the voices of doom both within our fearful selves
and our frightened society?

Listening to what God says is not burying our head in the sand;
it is allowing the light to expose our darkness and to point us to a greater and better truth –
to The Rock that is higher than us.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
my anxious thoughts survey.
Show me what gives offence to you,
And lead me in your way”

(Psalm 139:23-24 – Sing Psalms – The Free Church of Scotland)

Three Bible passages to Replace Fear of Coronavirus with Hope in God

What does the face of panic look like? It isn’t pretty…but…

“[Pope] Clement waved his hands in irritation as if to dismiss the very idea.
“The world is crumbling into ruin. Armies are marching.
Men and women are dying everywhere, in huge numbers.
Fields are abandoned and towns deserted.
The wrath of the Lord is upon us and He may be intending to destroy the whole of creation.
People are without leaders and direction.
They want to be given a reason for this, so they can be reassured,
so they will return to their prayers and their obediences.
All this is going on, and you are concerned about the safety of two Jews?”

Iain Pears, The Dream of Scipio


(a photo of empty shelves at a Publix in Fla. courtesy Twitter)

The photo up above is not my own, but it very much could have been because the same image greeted
me at my own Publix this morning—barren emptiness.

I had gone to the grocery store on Monday…I had even posted a little tongue in cheek post
regarding the extent of my “survival” supplies consisting of Oreo cookies and a bottle of Clorox.

My grocery store’s shelves were fully stocked and there was the average number of folks
milling about doing their regular Monday morning grocery shopping.
No big deal.

That all changed over the course of three days.

Thursday night, my daughter-in-law called in a bit of a panic.

They live in Atlanta and their store’s shelves were now all barren.
She wanted to know if I could find any disinfectant wipes, some Lysol spray and some of the
Halo/ cuties for the Mayor as their stores had none.

No problem I proclaimed.
I was on it.
I’d head out in the morning.

“Oh and by the way”, she said, “I looked on Amazon for some Lysol spray…
one can was going for $114 but was currently out of stock.”

Hummmm, I inwardly mused as I felt my brow furrow just a bit.

I flipped on the 10 o’clock news.
On and on went the stories about viruses, pandemics, events being canceled…
all the while my phone kept beeping with the latest alerts and breaking news warnings,
I felt my nerves increasing with each word and alert.

Later, as I readied for bed, I considered actually going on the grocery store
but it was past closing time at my regular store and I really didn’t see any need to
head out to 24-hour stores such as Kroger or Walmart.
I’d just wait until morning before making my run…

Yet I still felt an odd sense of unease.
I knew the schools were going to closed and that meant more
folks heading to the stores.

I spent a fitful night of waking and dreaming.
Restless while dreaming crazy dreams.

By morning, I blamed it all on an underlying sense of heaviness.
Heaviness in part due to the new’s Henny penny nature along
with the real truths playing out before us.

When I got up, I grabbed my phone.
I had to reach over in the night, putting it on silence
when the alerts kept coming in practically non-stop.
I dressed and headed out the door.

When I finally made my way to the major intersection leading into the shopping center, I could already see
that the parking lot was reminiscent of something like an impending storm or
perhaps Christmas.
Cars were everywhere.

I grabbed a cart left out near where I parked–I actually had some sanitizer wipes
in my purse so I wiped that puppy down as there were no carts in the store.
Plus they were smack dab out of their wipes for the carts.

The store was bustling with folks dashing around as if they were on some
grocery dash game show.
A few folks, mostly the men shoppers, looked like deer in headlights.
Some shoppers scoured over lists, others simply grabbed.

Gone were those idyllic days of studying which was the freshest piece of fruit
or vegetable. It was now a matter of grabbing before there was nothing left to grab.

Some women pushed bulging carts as some of their things actually spilled
out over the top onto the floor.

There were no baking potatoes nor bags of red or white potatoes.

There were very few fresh bread loaves remaining.

There were several folks deep at the chicken counter while others hovered
nearby waiting to reach in and grab one of the few remaining packs.
The pork chops and cutlets were almost all gone.
Gone was the frozen cod and salmon from Alaska.
Yet no one stood waiting at the fresh seafood counter.

As I made my way further into the depths of the store, while attempting
to navigate my away around those folks who were more like salmon swimming
upstream, I was met with more and more shelves with less than rather than more.

The water aisle was cleaned out.
The eggs and milk shelves were sparse and growing more and more empty
with each passing cart.

Forget Lysol spray.
But I did find some antibacterial hand soap and canisters of Lysol wipes.

I asked one of the managers,
who was taking stock of what remained on the shelves,
about whether or not they’d be getting in any cans of Lysol spray
as I told him about the $114 can on Amazon.

He said he wasn’t certain as they were having to redistribute some
items to their larger stores in other cities around the state.

I did manage however to grab the Mayor’s clementine oranges.
I grabbed some more Oreos of course, as well as some more cans of cat food.
The cat litter shelves were oddly sparse, so I got one of the remaining boxes.

At this point, I cut down the ice cream aisle in order to reach the butter section and
it dawned on me that there was not a single person or cart on this aisle.
Plus the ice cream shelves were all stocked to the hilt.

Granted winter is not the most robust time of year for the purchase of ice cream or
frozen treats…
and in turn, it would now appear that during times of crisis…
ice cream is not high on the list of the more robust selling items…
items like potatoes and toilet paper.

So let’s think sustainability in the face of necessity vs treats and goodies.

Finally, with now a bulging cart of my own, I maneuvered over to the checkout lines…
as each lane was brimming with 6 or 7 carts deep of folks just waiting to check out.

An older lady came up behind me with only a handheld basket of a few items.
The express lanes were no longer for 10 or fewer items as they were now fully busting buggy lanes.
I told the woman to please go ahead of me.
She told me, no, but I insisted, telling her I was hunkered down for the long haul
as we both laughed.

She told me that it was just her and her husband and that they didn’t need much.
I explained that I was getting some things to carry to our son’s family in Atlanta
as their stores were practically empty.

We each marveled at the surrealness of all of this.

I’ve since seen the clips, both on-line and from the news,
of folks around the country getting into all-out, knockdown drag outs
in various stores over things such as water and toilet paper.
There are stories of one person’s cart accidentally bumping into another’s cart,
of which caused already raw nerves to spew into a full-blown fury.

So it seems that both panic, along with the unseen and unknown, each tend to bring out some
of the uglier aspects of human beings.

We hoard.
We mistrust.
We obsess.
We become selfish and self-centered.
All the while we move into survival mode.

But history teaches us that such times can also bring out our goodness.

We’ll take a look back tomorrow at one of the darkest days of our Nation…
A time when the Nation’s economy had all but collapsed.
A time when the Nation’s workforce was suddenly without work as factories closed from coast to coast
A time when the Nation’s heartland was decimated by soil erosion and a devastating Dust Bowl.

No economy, little to no fresh or readily available foods, a workforce with little to no work,
all the while, the drumbeat of war was growing closer…
and then the unthinkable…an unmitigated and unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor.

Those were frightening dark days.
There was paranoia.
There was fear.
There was hunger.
There was rationing.

And yet, there was hope, there was unity and there was neighbor helping neighbor.
And there remained a deep and abiding faith in something far greater than one’s self.

The past has a great deal to teach us about our future.
It teaches how we can best respond to a crisis…
and how we respond will be key to how we recover…or not—
and in the end, that will be our choice.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

can’t go back…lessons from the road

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slips away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had
,
Lyrics, The Isley Brothers


(the main stairwell in the Biltmore House / Ashville, NC / Julie Cook / 2020)

About a week or so ago,
I wrote a post bemoaning the fact that I had cared for sick grandkids who in turn,
unintentionally, gave me their sickness.

It seems that germs just love to travel and share themselves.
Just like the song by the Isley Brothers, you gotta love the ones you’re with…
germs will love any and all… whoever they are with or even near.

But this is NOT another post chattering on about coronavirus or the flu or any other bug.

This post is rather about adventure…
Or better yet…this is a post about lessons.

In that previous post, I had made mention that we had had a little impromptu adventure
while trying to escape all this unrelenting rain…

About two weeks ago, we were sitting in the house… sick and tired of sitting in the house.
It had rained for almost the entire month of February.
It was our wettest February on record.

Let’s get away” I proclaimed
My husband agreed.

We threw some things in a bag and headed north.
About a 4-hour drive north.

It had been years since we’d visited the Biltmore House
and thus that would be our destination.

We opted to stay at the Inn on the property,
spending the following day visiting the house,
then we would drive around the mountains before heading home.
Short and sweet.

And most importantly, it was minus the rain.

But then there was the snow.

However, let’s back up 40 years.

Back in 1980, I was a college student who had no real feel for what I wanted to do with my life.
I thought I knew.
I thought I had known.
I wanted to work with kids.
I wanted to write.
I wanted to work in advertising.
I wanted to meet a nice boy.
I wanted to get married and I wanted to be a mom.

I bounced back and forth between each different course and college major that were
more or less, a flavor of the day regime.

I have written about this journey when I first started blogging.
It was about how I finally made my way into teaching.

It was the summer of 1980 when my angst and turmoil finally came into focus in the
middle of the mountains of North Carolina.
Specifically, Black Mt., NC.

I had taken a job at a Christian summer camp for girls as a camp counselor—
Riflery Director oddly enough.

I spent my summers working at the camp until I graduated and made my
way to my first teaching post.
It was a position that would last 31 years.

So before we set out on this little adventure,
I asked my husband if we could drive over to Black Mt,
find a little inn for a night and spend an afternoon
wandering the little town before going to see the camp.

Knowing how important this place once was to me,
he knew he was now simply along for the ride.

When we started out from home on this northward drive,
we took an off-the-beaten-path route.
Many two and four-lane roads avoiding much of the interstate.
Crossing over into NC from Georgia, just before entering the Nantahala forest,
I caught sight of a homemade sign perched along the side of the road…
sitting boldly in plain sight.

It was a conversation bubble sign.
One conversation bubble read: “God, why won’t you send us someone who will help us?
The response bubble read: “I did, but you aborted them”

A powerful thought to chew on and get lost in while driving.

Our visit to the Biltmore was brief but enjoyable.
It had been meant to be our diversion,
a brief respite from our temperate rainy winter.

But then…it snowed.

The snow was pretty as it gently covered the mountains.
It was a gift from the relentless rain we had left back home.
Soft and silent.
White and muting.
A fitting and tender offering.

The small town of Black Mt. is about a 15-minute drive east from Ashville on I-40 or about
20 minutes via Hwy 70.

It was my home for several summers…a place that had left
and indelible mark upon my heart, soul and on the person who I would grow to be.

My former boss and dear friend, the camp’s director, had passed away several years away,
leaving the camp to now be run by two of his sons.

I had been very close to the older of the two boys.

At the time, he was instrumental in the growth of my Christian faith.

He was one of those individuals who you knew had a relationship with
Christ that transcended both time and space.
There was a depth not normally seen in “normal” Christians.
There was a mysticism.
There was a sense that He was privy to something that was not experienced by many others.
It was so much greater than…

There was a diligence to his faith.
A detachment from the world, yet done so graciously and most willingly.
It was a relationship that had been tried in a furnace…
a furnace so hot that it had burned away all the dross.

It was a relationship that I marveled over from afar.
A relationship that I wanted yet always felt as if it was just beyond my reach.

During that time, I had also become close friends with another counselor.
She and I both were attending the same college,
however, we had not met until our summers working at camp.

She was a hungry and joyous Christian..strong and uncompromising in her faith.

The three of us became quite the trio.
I earned the name slugly…the questioning one who always seemed to be
lagging a step behind.
The one who still had the one foot in the world.

Despite my now almost manic positive spin on life,
I carried a heavy black cloud.

Most often my friend and I both felt like students sitting at
the feet of a master teacher as we learned so very much from our older and wiser friend.

His had once been a hard and rough life.
We were fortunate to have met him long after the darkness.
We were the grateful recipients of the light now shining through him.

Yet as life would have it, we remained as close as we could,
as our lives simply took us each on different journeys.
I married first, followed by our friend then finally my fellow counselor friend,
found her true love.

Three different states, jobs, children, and life, made the years race past with less and less contact.

What might I find after 40 years?

I felt a sense of heaviness and nervousness…a journey of trepidation.
The excitement of what might be was shadowed by both what was and what
had passed.

I knew that the camp had grown and even changed.
A boys camp and also a climbing adventure camp has become spin-offs of the
original girls camp. Things were much larger and not as intimate.

Billy Graham was the camp’s neighbor, living on the neighboring mountain top
and Montreat College was less than a mile up the road.

Graham was now gone but the college was still there having, like everything else,
grown and expanded.

We drove up from the what was once a sleepy mountain town that has since boomed
into a buzzing home to artists, breweries and eclectic eateries–
a top NC mountain must-see travel destination crowned by all things southern
and travel, Southern Living…crowned as one of America’s most charming small towns.

I pulled into the familiar hemlock lined gravel drive leading up to the main house…
and that’s when I stopped the car for the briefest of moments before quickly deciding to turn around…
simply driving back to town.

Just like that.

With all that growing anticipation and wonderment I felt during our drive from home…
in the end, I knew that the girl who had spent her summers in this small part of the world
had, in the end, moved on.

I decided to drive back leaving what was.. simply to be.

Later that evening, once back in town,
we started walking the couple of blocks from our Inn to the trendy new restaurant
that had been recommended to us.

While walking rather briskly, shielding ourselves against the bitter cold,
a group of college-age young folks fell in line behind us on the sidewalk.

All we could hear was ‘F’ this and ‘F’ that as they weren’t but
a few steps behind.
There were no filters, no restraints, no consideration for our obvious older ears,
that was for sure

They were loud and raucous, cursing as if uttering simple words in conversation.
I turned and smiled while giving that knowing look of
“hey, consider the other folks in your surroundings
as your language just might not be suitable let alone appreciated
by those in such close earshot.”

The loudest gal in the group just looked at me, not missing a beat
with her profanity-laced chatter.

Thankfully they veered off to head into one of the local watering holes
while we kept walking.

Aggravated by the thought that the one place I had always held somewhat sacred
and somewhat protected,
as it had been just that for me all these years ago, was now just like any other place invaded by
a youthful, progressive left-leaning, mindset as I saw many a Bernie, pro-choice, coexist, and all
things feminist stickers stuck on the cars parked along the sidewalks.

With the crisp mountain air now laced with cigarette smoke, the sweet scent of weed and stale beer,
I could feel my shoulders slump just a tad.

There was now a heavy dose of melancholy and irony found in being just the other side of
Ashville…the home to the great writer, Thomas Wolfe…

Wolfe was right you know…we can’t go home again.
Home is never the same.
The then is no longer as it is simply the now.

I was clearly reminded that our home is truly not of this earth.
Our peace will not ever be found here despite our constant searching.

For we are indeed strangers in a strange land…
We seek a home where we know our hearts will finally be at rest…
it is our life’s innate quest really.
Seeking a home that is beyond that which we have known…a home
that is eternal and somewhere just beyond those mountains I once
considered my haven of peace.

I think that’s what my friend had known all those years ago…it just took
me forty years to figure it out.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,
which wage war against your soul.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,
so that when they speak against you as evildoers,
they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

If you don’t like it, simply ignore it… or better yet, deny it…

Men of ill judgment ignore the good that lies within their hands,
till they have lost it.

Sophocles

If you haven’t noticed, this week’s national current events have been interesting.

Troubling, yet most interesting.

There’s been a great deal in the way of political current events…
all with an odd underlying theme…
a theme of anger with a heavy dose of ignoring the facts…
or perhaps it’s more of a matter of anger with strong denial…

As in… if I deny it, it isn’t real.

1) According to an article in the New York Post,
“Hillary Clinton has now twice snubbed a process server
attempting to deliver the defamation lawsuit filed against her by Democratic presidential
candidate Tulsi Gabbard
, according to Gabbard’s attorney.
Gabbard sued the former secretary of state for $50 million last week for calling
her a “Russian asset.” Clinton has refused to retract the statement.

Ergo…if Hillary refuses to accept a court order, it doesn’t exist.

2) According to an article that appeared on Fox News regarding Stacey Abrams, the
one time Georgia Gubernatorial candidate who lost her bid as Governor to Brian Kemp and who,
after a year later, continues to refuse to acknowledge defeat…
The former lawmaker has still not conceded the election and has indicated that she
does not plan to.
“We don’t have to concede elections anymore, because when we concede,
we are condoning systems that are used to oppress us,”

she said last May according to the Texas Tribune.

Ergo…if Stacey doesn’t concede defeat, she never lost.

3) In an article from Fox News…
In scathing comments Thursday as her party appeared on the verge of defeat
in the Senate impeachment trial, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that President Trump
“cannot be acquitted” if the trial lacks the witness testimony and documentation
that Democrats have been seeking.

The San Francisco Democrat also fired on Trump’s impeachment defense team,
saying they’ve “disgraced themselves” during this week’s trial and suggesting
they deserve disbarment over their trial remarks.

But Pelosi challenged whether that acquittal would be valid,
in remarks that seemed a bid to undermine any Trump claim of victory.

“He will not be acquitted,” Pelosi insisted during her
weekly news conference, according to Politico.
“You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial.
You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation and all of that.
Does the president know right from wrong? I don’t think so.”

Ergo…if Nancy doesn’t agree with an impeachment result, then it never happened.

And so just when we thought we’d heard it all, there was a recent article found in
Christianity Today by our dear friend Pastor David Roberston.

The good pastor offered his observation regarding a recent story concerning
Franklin Graham being banned from speaking in various UK churches.
Unlike his father, Billy Graham, Franklin is not welcome in churches throughout the UK.
In large part because of Graham’s views that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are sinful.

Ergo, if we don’t like what Graham or others share about the Bible and what is
considered sinful, then we simply turn our back and shove our fingers in our ears…
and therefore sin is simply no longer sin…

In other words, you can’t own what you refuse to claim…right??

Pastor Robertson notes…
“That is why all of this is so important.
Many of our civic institutions have been taken over by an ideology which is fundamentally
anti-democratic, anti-factual and intolerant – in the name of tolerance.
The State, having replaced God, has become the source of all morality and values.
If you don’t agree with those values you are not one of ‘the people’.
You are untermenschen.
You are out.

He adds an important observation by A.W. Tozer…

“The church goes along with everything and stands against nothing –
until she is convinced that it is the safe and popular thing to do;
then she passes her courageous resolutions and issues her world-shaking manifestos –
all in accord with the world’s newest venture – whatever it may be.”

In all of this, there seems to be the running connective thread of
anger and denial…a connective thread found in both our political and religious circles.
And now we can add the thread of division.

Democrat vs Republican.
Conservative vs Liberal
Believer vs Non-believer
Sin vs Repentance
Pride vs Humility
Death vs Life

We can pretend there is no division, no either-or, no growing divide,
no wrong, no right, no sin, no death…

We can see it for what it is or opt for what it isn’t…because ignoring it
seems to make it all just go away…

We see no evil.
We hear no evil
We speak…

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the
ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Ephesians 4:18