redeemed from paradox

“Without the Way, there is no going,
Without the Truth, there is no knowing,
Without the Life, there is no living.

Thomas à Kempis


(a persistent strangler of fall hangs on / Julie Cook / 2017)

“But he never said to people, ‘Come as you are and stay as you are.’
His promise was always that all were welcome –
but that they would be radically changed.
All need to be reborn.
Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles.
He redeems us from them.”

David Robertson

There is really so much to say.

Too much really…about so very much.

About all of this really.

As in…there is so very much that needs sorting, weeding out and pruning…

Such as those overt ‘he said, she said’ issues taking place daily….

The egregious name calling of those we do not see eye to eye with….
nor actually even see…yet everyone feels free and safe to use all manner
of vile ugliness, rather gleefully and clandestinely, behind these screens of ours
as we joyously lash out…..

There is tolerance of the intolerant and intolerance of the tolerant.

One no longer knows which one is best to be…tolerant or intolerant…
perhaps just both.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear about a spike in crime…
often violent crime.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear of what seems to be an escalation
in the sorrowful and tragic…that of accidents, death, fights, wrecks,
abuse, overdoses, fires…etc

Yet why is it that “at this time of year” we actually can witness a softer,
kinder, more generous and giving world….

A paradox found in the juxtaposition of man.

All the while there is some sort of misnomer running around out there that if
you don’t open your arms to embrace everyone and everything….
then there is something terribly wrong with you and you are made
to wear the Scarlet letter P….

P because you are phobic… homophobic…or maybe transphobic.

P because you’re just paranoid…you think that the Right and Left are
collectively out to get you…and maybe they are….

P because you’re just proud…a little too proud…as a good many of the
proud and arrogant have suddenly tumbled from their thrones.

P because you’re just pissed off,
mad as hell at all the fake news, lies, angry rhetoric, news outlets turned
tabloid junkies, anarchists burning down the towns…
mad at the progressive left who want nothing more than to destroy you and
your little corner of the world….
so no, you’re not going to take it any longer…

And right when someone hears or reads that you’ve just said as much,
you are now brandished as an extremist who should be locked up…

Maybe you should be locked up because you cracked and own a gun…
never mind all the uncracked folks out there who own guns….

Maybe you want to celebrate Christmas but since it is Christmas, you can’t call it
Christmas….
Yet you are repeatedly told to buy, buy, buy….for Christmas.
The same Christmas you’re not allowed to call Christmas.

Maybe you want to celebrate Hanukah because you’re Jewish…but a lot of folks
out there blame Jews for everything so maybe it’s best not to light the candles.

So now it is P because it is all so precarious…
especially since our vision is no longer clear.

It’s difficult crossing the narrow log spanning the deep chasm when
one’s vision is clouded…clouded by the upside down lies being offered
as what is true.

Yet how is one to know truth verse lie…
Or do we simply believe the loudest voice?

Across the chasm on the far side, across the narrow log, a tiny lone light
is lit…
And you know deep down that it is a light offering clarity to the obscured….

For from out of all of our darkness, a great Light has shone…

All that was, all that you have known, will be no more…
You cannot exist in the paradox and juxtaposition…
caught in the cycle of in and out, yes and no, left and right, up and down…
nor can you abide in the acceptance of what you know to be false yet
are constantly told that this false is absolutley true.

As all the little truths are merely by-products of the fickleness of the times…

Yet the question is asked of you….
Will you be able to ford the chasm on the narrow log, pressing ahead
toward the lone light offering clear vision or do you prefer to remain where
you are in a world turned upside down and mad upon itself?

Are you happy with what you are hearing and seeing day in and day out
as everything you once knew and thought is now turned inside out?

We are living a paradox and conundrum yet yearn for the clarity and light…

And I don’t see why the choice needs to be so difficult.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 9:14)

failures in exaggeration

“It is always the novice who exaggerates.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

snow

I saw this chart on another blog the other day and thought it absolutely hilarious…
because as a Southerner,
there’s really not much to exaggerate over where snow and ice are concerned…
Pandemonium does indeed ensue.

Just as we witnessed over the past week leading up to last night’s spitting of ice.

I actually laughed out loud when reading this chart…

I can laugh like that…at us here in the South,
because it is true,
we do get all worked up and in a dither when the “S” word is mentioned.
As our meteorologists fan the flames of sheer panic, destruction and doom.

Yet I’ve noticed that we, as a society,
have gotten quite comfortable with the whole notion of exaggeration.
I think some call that hyperbole…
while other’s simply call it lying.

Yet no matter what we call it, we’ve gotten good at it…
Stretching the truth here and there.
Tweaking reality just a smidge.
And flat out altering the facts…

I think we are currently calling such “fake news”

Others call that padding, inflating and misrepresentation…
as in “oh, you misunderstood, I didn’t really mean that….”

Politicians and pundits do it…think exit polls
Corporations do it…think quarterly numbers.
School Systems do it…think standardized test scores.

Books are cooked,
Records are falsified
And lying has been elevated to a fine art of finesse.

As we’ve all now learned that if you don’t like the truth…
that you can simply…
alter it,
change it,
or merely rewrite it…

And yet in situations that really really matter, such as things like National Security,
we’ve run in the opposite direction.

Take the young man in Anchorage Alaska who was recently discharged from his
service as a military reservist.
He walks into his local FBI office telling them that ISIS is forcing him to
watch propaganda videos as he mumbles on crazily about such.

My first red flag, if I was one of those agents,
would have been that his service record showed that he’d seen
service time in Iraq.
I would have then dug deeper into his service record.
I would have contacted his former commanding officer.
I would have wondered about PTSD.
I would have wondered about radicalization
after hearing him use the key acronym “ISIS”…

He was supposedly in some sort of therapy.
Perhaps I would have contacted his therapist.

Yet, he manages to buy a plane ticket to Florida.
Check his firearm and ammo as baggage.
Makes his way through security without any sort of question
as he’s obviously not on any sort of watch list,
despite rambling to the local FBI about ISIS,
all in order to board a flight south.

But I suppose its never odd for someone form Anchorage, in the dead of winter,
to want to fly to Florida.

Once his plane lands, he disembarks the plane, heads to baggage, grabs his bags,
heads to the men’s room in order to unpack his firearm and ammo, loads the gun
then proceeds to walk back out to the baggage-claim carrousels while he
randomly starts shooting.

Once he empties his clip,
he tosses his gun down and drops face down to the ground, spread eagle
as 5 folks are now dead and countless others are bleeding and wounded.

Yet we don’t want to target anyone,
profile anyone,
watch anyone,
or raise concern over anyone as not to
offend,
insult
or overreact…
lest we be sued or deemed insensitive.

As the ACLU,
the Southern Poverty Law Center,
liberal Washington, etc
would begin chanting racism, xenophobia, ignorance, rednecks….
you name it.

So now let’s try telling any of this to the victims and their family’s…
once again.

Rather now, everyone, the President included, will begin the same mantra that
we have heard over and over and over….
that this is just another incident where the gun is at fault.

This is the fault of having guns available….

Yet should it comes as any surprise that this young former serviceman had a gun, legally?

Maybe the FBI in Anchorage should have maybe considered a former service member,
despite no longer having a service weapon,
most likely owned a personal firearm as most current, as well as former, service members do.
As service members with a firearm is merely synonymous.

Nor should it be a surprise that anyone living in Alaska has a firearm…
most Alaskans do.
So maybe, just maybe the FBI should have wondered about all of this
when this young man showed up at their office babbling nonsense….

But then that would make too much sense.

And once again we’d appear to be profiling
or targeting
or assuming
or dare we say,
being cautious and sensible…

Keep falsehood and lies far from me
Proverbs 30:8

bats in the belfry

“The devil gets up to the belfry by the vicar’s skirts”
Thomas Fuller

“If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek diversion from it
in order to make ourselves happy”

Blaise Pascal

8065436450_80c05623a1
(a surreal image borrowed from the web)

Let’s deviate today to a little humor shall we…
obviously from this tale, it has been needed…

Growing up I attended the Cathedral of St Philip…
the Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta.
“St Phil on the hill,” as it has always been lovingly called by both member and local Atlantan alike,
has sat perched atop this particualr hill in Atlanta, acting as a sentinel and beckoning lighthouse looking out majestically over Peachtree road toward downtown Atlanta, since 1960…
The current very English, very Anglican gothic church replaced a small gray stone church that had moved to the present location in 1933 with the original St Philip having been erected in downtown Atlanta in 1848.

At the time, to my youthful mind, this church of mine, with that towering bell tower,
sans any bells, had to be full of bats, right?

When I was in high school and active in the youth group there at the Cathedral, a group of us decided to dub ourselves The Bats in the Belfry, or BITB for short.
Our hijinks and innocent shenanigans were well known to the reigning clergy at the time as we would often decorate the parking lot and various rooms, offices and the parsonage late at night..
or we’d leave little notes, balloons, confetti in and around the church grounds proclaiming our nighttime presence at church.
Given what we could have been doing during those disco psychedelic days of the early 70’s, I think the clergy was more than grateful that we wanted to “hang out” on church property….

ls
(The Cathedral of St Philip / Atlanta, Georgia)

It became a personal quest of ours to figure out how to climb up to the bell tower,
up to the very tip top…as bats always needed their bell towers…

To finally put to rest our / my persistent clambering about the bellower, bats and why were there no bells in a church bell tower, one of the priests, with permission of his superior, my godfather the then acting dean of the Cathedral, took us on a late afternoon climb. A feat most likely impossible today given insurance regulations and safety codes…
but this was in the good ol days of ignorance….

We had to climb up a back set of stairs leading to the back upper choir loft…next through a hidden door in the paneled wall leading to the organ pipes for the small adjacent chapel.
Then it was through another hidden door in the rich wooden panelling into a tall narrow opening complete with metal ladder welded to the long shaft.
Upon climbing the ladder we reached another metal door attached to the stone wall that our priest and guide had to unlock with a key

Finally clamoring out of the shaft we found ourselves standing in the vastly
expansive and very empty bell tower itself.
But our journey was not yet over.
Along one wall of the bell tower was another long ascending metal ladder.
Briefly forgetting my fear of heights, one by one, we began climbing upward.
At the top of the ladder, high above the floor of the empty bell tower,
we reached once again another metal door.
As our priest and guide unlocked this final door,
our motley crew emerged out into the balmy Atlanta night sky.

We had finally reached our destination.
The very tip top of the Cathedral’s towering bell tower—
as we were rewarded with a beautiful vista of a 1970’s something glistening skyline of Atlanta…

Now let us fast forward 40 years or so to last night in my den.

You remember that story from a week or so ago about the bat right?

The bat that decided to make my back deck his daytime bedroom?
The post retelling how I had to wait for the bat fly out in search of a nighttime meal..
all the while as I sprayed said bedroom with hornet spray…
just so he’d decide not to come back….

Well it worked.
He didn’t come back.

So back to last night…
Here it was, about 10:30 PM last night…
My husband was dozing sweetly in his recliner,
as I was perched on the couch watching football…
One cat nestled placidly on my lap as the other lounged on the back of the couch.

I was in mid debate as to whether or not I should head to the shower and then off to bed…
as it had been a very long day with Dad and the CT scans and our son’s apartment….
when suddenly Percy,
my oh so faithful watch cat,
swivels around in my lap, cocking his head upward at a 90 degree angle.

Thinking he’s spotted an errant wasp that often escapes from the fireplace having come down the chimney,
I cast my gaze upward.

Our’s is a den with a cathedral ceiling…with a brick fireplace and chimney that reaches the
full height of the room.
Way up on the top where brick meets moulding sat a brown object…
hunkered up tightly between brick and moulding

Immediately I hear a familiar voice screaming
“GREGORY THERE IS A BAT!!!!!!!!!!!”
as in it was my voice…

My husband who has now been jolted from his peaceful snore-laddened slumber,
thinks there’s been a home invasion or the start of WWIII…
He jumps up looking for intruder or war…

“IT’S A BAT!!!!!!”

What???

Are you sure???

“HELL YES I”M SURE!!!!!!”

This as I’m scooping up two wide eyed cats and throwing them in the bedroom slaming shut the door,
keeping them locked away from what I’m assuming is rabies with wings gracing my den….

DO SOMETHING!!!!!!

I hear myself scream as my husband just stands there mumbling something about
“how in the world did that get in here?”

Whereas I am not concerned with the hows of the moment,
I am however more concerned with rabies and parasites and bacteria, and poop,
and sharp little teeth flying down on my head.

I flip on every light in the house—they hate light right?

I’M GETTING THE HORNET SPRAY”
I hear myself shout.

No you’re not!
You’re not spraying a can of poison all in the house.

“BUT IT SHOOTS 20ft”
I again hear myself scream.

GUN!!!! GET A GUN!!!!!!
again with the out of body screaming.

“Gun?”

“Shoot it in the house?”
I hear my incredulous husband ask.

“HELL YES”
I continue hearing panic controlling the situation as I think we are all
about to have to endure $50,000 rounds of rabies shots that insurance will not cover.

My husband goes to the basement to find my grandfather’s century old 22 rifle
while I grab two crab nets…
You know the nets used to grab crabs…

DSCN5889
(yours truly a couple of summers ago at the beach examining my crab net)

I also grab the BB gun…just incase.
I did teach riflery at a girl’s summer camp 100 years ago….

My husband climbs the stairs to our second floor where he positions himself,
with trusty century old gun, up against the opening to the den below
in order to steady his shot.
He is now just slightly below said bat…yet at a slight distance.

This is were the PETA folks must turn away—
if there had been any other alternative,
I would have sought it as I don’t like hurting any living creature—
but the thought of bats and rabies in my house with both my husband, me and our cats…
left no other recourse….

BAM

mortar shards shoot outward as a brown lump drops like a brick to the floor below.

THUD

AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
I hear coming from somewhere out of my mouth….

My husband yells for me to throw the net over it.

I survey the victim and it appears to be sufficiently deceased.

My husband scoops it up using my two nets asking where I want it.

Are you freaking kidding me????

OUTSIDE!!!!!

Take it outside to the other side of the driveway in the grass at the pasture.
I can carry it off to the woods tomorrow or maybe a coyote will find it tonight.

What about your nets? my husband asks.

I’ll spray them with Clorox and leave them out ’till morning.

So…..

Early this morning, as my husband was about to leave for work, we walk over to where
the body of the victim was to be found…
yet, we find nothing.

My nets were still sitting in the driveway but there was no body, there is no bat.

“I bet he flew away” I hear my husband grouse.
“No, no” I counter, that thing was dead as a hammer.

As my husband goes to get in his truck, I amble over to the side of the driveway
to take a gander over at my lone potted tomato bush when something wiggling
by the side of the house in the pine straw catches my eye.

“GREGORY ITS THE BAT!!!!!!!!”
I hear myself scream.

Bless its heart, that bat scampered 50 feet from one side of the yard all the way back to the house….
and was now baring its fangs at me.

“GET THE NETS!!!!!”

I hear myself scream.

“Knock it in the head” I hear my husband holler.

Knock it in the head????
Are you freaking kidding me?
It’s not a bug!!
I’m not about to club anything in the head.
That would be cold blooded murder….
Oh…
Wait,
I think we already tried that murder thing.

I scoop up the bat gingerly into the two nets as my husband readies a box.
My head is turned as not to see this unsightly sight.
I throw bat and both nets into the box and slam the top shut.

“What about your nets?” my husband asks.
“I don’t want them…”
“Now will you please take this box, bat and nets to the dump” I hear myself calmly demand.

This as I now wonder how I ever had such a fascination for bats….
as find myself somewhat relieved for this latest slight diversion to my otherwise crazy life….

Reverence, Revered and Respect

“Let parents then bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit of reverence.”
― Plato

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

DSC01683
(how pure is white / Julie Cook / 2015)

I was driving to town today when the cars in front of me suddenly began pulling over to the side of the road.
I wondered if an ambulance was approaching as I also began rapidly slowing down while making my way to the edge of the road.

The lead car of the approaching procession was one of the local police.
Following close behind was a solemn black hearse and behind that was a long line of cars with their hazard lights all flashing.

Those of us on the opposite side of the road, the now growing yet stopped line of on-coming traffic, waited patiently and respectfully until the funeral procession passed us by.

I am always greatly moved when I happen to find myself on the road when such a sad and somber processional of cars rambles by—well wishes and prayers are silently sent to those passerby’s on their way to a rite of passage full of difficult farewells.

Incidents like the one this morning always bring to mind a memory I hold of a similar time of respectful observance. It was several years ago when I was visiting Cortona, Italy. My aunt and I had wandered into the local Pharmacia. Italian pharmacies are truly experiences steeped in decorum and order. . .which is such a contrast in a country known for its unexplainably chaotic traffic as well as its passionate and unrestrained emotions.

As we were wandering about the store, looking at a display of the cutest sandals of all things, the lights in the store were suddenly turned off as the sales lady reverently crossed herself as she moved toward the door in order to shut it. She held her finger up to her lips, hushing the now curious patrons inside, before turning her attention back to what was soon to be passing by the store.
And that’s when we all saw it.
Along the ancient cobbled stone road a white hearse slowly made it’s way through the small medieval town followed by a long line of mourners who were marching silently behind.

As soon as the funeral caravan had passed, the door was reopened, the lights popped back on and it was business as usual.

When it comes to our dead and dearly departed, it appears that both respect and reverence are deeply rooted and widely universal.
And yet I am bewildered by the lack of such which we woefully fail to show, demonstrate or deliver to the living, our fellow human beings.

Sitting on the side of a small town’s road, as a local funeral procession snakes its way to a countryside cemetery, my thoughts turn from this current scene of respect and reverence to one of tragic disrespect. . .to the very real and raw emotions, coupled with the agonizing questions now swirling around a signal sinister act, in a sister state’s colonial coastal city. . .

A gunman walks into a church in Charleston
A gunman walks into an elementary school in Connecticut
A gunman walks into a youth camp in Norway
A gunman walks into a museum in Tunsia
A gunman walks into a classroom at Virginia Tech
A gunman walks into a publishing office in France
A gunman walks into a synagogue in Denmark
A gunman walks into a mosque in Wisconsin
A gunman walks into a hospital in Germany
A gunman walks into a school in Colorado

On and on and on it goes.
The disrespect of the lives of those who are innocent, fall away one by one.
Lives disregarded as easily as discarded trash, taken for granted and considered expendable.
Lost in the chaos of twisted, broken, evil and hate filled minds. . .

Sterile
Immune
Safe
Exempt
Sacred
Off limits
Protected

Nothing seems to remain as it appears we have lost all respect for the sacred, the holy, the young, the old. . .even losing our reverence for both life and death. . .

Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17

Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13:7