high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
President.
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your
address.

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

I marvel

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

John Muir

nervous-system-diseases
(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

The process

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion-
it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.

Billy Graham

And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren’t any other people living in the world.
Anne Frank

“The Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self changed into a Christ self, and that this process goes on very far inside. One’s most private wishes, one’s point of view, are the things that have to be changed.”

C.S. Lewis

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(The Middle Prong of the Little River near Tremont, Tennessee, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Let’s turn things around a bit this morning shall we?
Let’s take a “backwards by design” sort of approach to today’s thoughtful post.
Instead of us looking at a final or finished product, as in the final ta dah sort of moment, let’s look back, way back, to the actual beginning, or starting point…
So much so that if we do actually back up, starting at the beginning rather than at the end, we might just find it more helpful and more meaningful to our understanding of today’s posed thought.

I think we’d all agree that we are a consumer driven society–meaning that it is the end, the final result, which is really what any of us is truly interested in. We don’t much care how it (whatever it may be for you) got here, we just want to know it’s here. We don’t much care what went into producing or making it, we just care that we have “it”…

I think we’d also agree that all great ideas / products have a beginning…someplace where these ideas, products, concepts have been hatched, birthed, thought out, ruminated over…yet each process having the end result or product as the impetus of focus…whereas the end is always the justification, the means to an end, the end result.
Yet might we not all agree that this desired end of ours has to have had a starting point…as in it just can’t poof itself into existence.

Take something simple that most of us take for granted…a plain sack or bag of flour.
What with all the gluten vs gluten free talk these days, I think most of us are pretty keen to the whole flour or not to flour concept. Or if you prefer something gluten free and “wheatless” this morning, we can use a sack of meal as our example…as in corn meal or grits (that ubiquitous southern staple that our Northern brethren don’t always understand) or as our Italian kin prefer, polenta…

These sacks of ground wheat or corn, certainly upon first glance, appear pretty benign. A standard simple kitchen staple most of us take for granted with the cost being pretty much pennies on the dollar…

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(ground meal from the Mill within Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

However this innocent little sack of meal didn’t just show up all nicely ground and packaged…it actually starts out as an ear of corn–actually many ears of corn of which undergo a rather complicated process of transformation.

The process of grinding wheat into flour or corn into meal is a centuries old process with a humble hands-on beginning. A process that was as simple as a person pounding a rock on top of some dried corn or wheat berries piled high on another rock. Yet over time this process grew and was stream-lined, producing a more efficient means of grinding while also being able to grind at a higher rate resulting in larger quantities.

It all starts with a source of power or energy…
Our little meal starts with a mountain stream whose flowing rushing waters are channeled or funneled from the stream into a trough, flume or shoot…

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(part of the flume that channels water to the mill wheel / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(part of the flume that channels water to the mill wheel / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN2089
(part of the flume that channels water to the mill wheel / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Of which helps to turn a giant wooden wheel…
DSCN2065
(water wheel at the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN2066
(Water wheel at the Cades Cove Mill / Cades cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Which in turn turns a few more wheels, or in our case, stone wheels or millstones for grinding the corn which is sifted down to flow between the grinding wheels…

DSCN2085
(the millstones / the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN2087
(the millstones / the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Of which crush the dried corn kernels…
DSCN2069
(the mill works to the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the mill works to the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

With the end result being the finely ground corn being turned into warm powdery meal

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(the freshly ground meal / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

A beautiful step by step process whose end result is a simple and humble sack of meal or flour.

Now let us consider another end product along with its process, albeit a bit more complicated than a sack of meal—-
Let’s consider the Christian…or better yet, the process of becoming a Christian.

I think all would agree that we each start out in this life as a mere clean slated person–be it male or female.
A simple human being.
Complicated things such as ideals and self identifiers show up quite a bit later in the growing process.

Now granted our parents will say that since we were born into a particular house, family, tradition…we are therefore by birthright a certain nationality, ethnicity, cultural or religious state of being. Yet it is usually, once we grow and develop intellectually, that we begin to truly identify ourselves as a particular this, that or the other.

Some of us who are born into “Christian” homes merely assume the moniker and in turn will label ourselves as just that…a Christian–
Yet the end product, the act of being Christian, is anything but a mere label.

It is a process of becoming.

The misconception is that choosing or taking on the name of Christian in turn gives one the final product–that of being a Christian.
But the reality is that just like the corn and wheat,
there is first a raw product—a human being… who in turn undergoes, if only so choosing, a thoughtful, sometimes painful, yet truly beautiful process of “becoming.”

It is a lifelong process, one that is never truly complete in one’s lifetime as it is a process of striving, never a completion…
That is—not until one finally rests in the hand of the Creator.
So this process of becoming a Christian never has that final single end product because, simply, the process is constantly in an on-going state of being.

So where we in the world are concerned with the end or final product of our things and goods, there is One who is more concerned with the total process…the process of starting from the beginning, working all the way to the final end…One who oversees this process of “becoming” personally Himself, each and every step of the long and arduous way…

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Unique

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
Viktor E. Frankl

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(spotted at the grocery store this morning / Julie Cook / 2015)

Growing up in Atlanta in the early 1960’s, the most exotic and unique fruit I can recall is maybe the occasional container of raspberries. And of course purple grapes may just have pushed the envelope as we were more accustomed to the green variety. Purple grapes had seeds and mother knew better than to buy grapes with seeds.

For whatever reason when I was little, I always enjoyed playing tag-a-long with my mom when she’d do our weekly grocery shopping. Dad kept poor ol mom on an overtly tight budget so there was never any extra money for fun, festive or exotic items. Just our regular canned tuna, chicken, hamburger meat, bananas, milk, eggs, bacon and cereal. . .Lucky Charms if I was lucky, Captain Crunch if my brother was lucky. On the rare occasion, Mother would afford for our living on the edge by allowing us to choose a box of Raisin Bran.

Those were the days before the whole current “eat bran it’s good for you” movement– Mother didn’t want us eating lots of Raisin Bran because, well you know, that whole bran thing leading to excessive trips to the bathroom—- in my mom’s mind, getting “regular” spelled trouble. Regular was all fine and good, it was the getting to regular that she didn’t enjoy.

There were apples, Tang orange drink mix, Orange juice—the kind that came frozen in a can, Coca Cola, and when the season permitted, popsicles.
Typical 1960’s Americana vittles.

It wasn’t until I was a bit older, a young teen, that I actually started paying attention to the items available to the average shopper. There was actually a world out there of things from faraway lands. Picture the aisle offering “Chinese food”. . .Chop suey in a can. . .whoa. . .

As a family we weren’t known for our travels or adventures.
The grocery store was going to have to provide all of my little adventures.
And sadly it was obvious that I was wired from the get go to be adventurous–
my parents on the other hand. . .not so much.
I blame it on being adopted and on being Sophia Loren’s love child—
Remember, that’s just between you and me. . .Ms Loren has no idea. . .

These far away places and lands called out to my young imagination through the offerings found in a grocery store.
Yet sadly the closest I had ever come to exotic lands and foods was from a roll of tropical fruit lifesavers!

I keenly remember the day Mom let me pick one of each of the most exotic fruits the grocery store had to offer—a papaya, a coconut, a whole pineapple, a kiwi and a mango.
I eagerly brought each fruit home as we, she and I, proceeded to have a true taste adventure.

I’ve never bought a whole coconut or papaya since as the coconut required a screwdriver and a hammer and I simply was not a papaya fan—not much for mangos either but I’ll eat them.

Let’s fast forward 50 years.

A grocery store today is truly a plethora of global sights, scents and tastes.

Pretty much anything you could think of is available. . .
Yucca leaves, rice noodles, Taro root, plantains, wasabi sauce, Israeli pearl couscous,
Mole sauce. . . you name it, if you want it, you can find it–
For all of us my friend, are living in the world of rapid import!

So there I was this morning ambling about the produce section, picking up a few Meyer Lemons, when I noticed a rather unusual fruit.
Now I’ve seen my share of star fruit, ugli fruit, passion fruit and even dragon fruit, but the Uniq fruit was a new one.

Looking like a cross between a giant overly ripe grapefruit and a lime, the outward appearance left a lot to be desired.
I stopped, moving in for closer inspection.
I was surprised to find it to be rather light, no heft of a juice ladened fruit–more wrinkly skin than firm fruit. It gave the impression that once peeled there may be but a thimble full of fruit hiding within the wrinkly citrusy skin.
Not feeling overtly adventurous today, I placed the Uniq back in the bin along with it’s kith n kin, and moved on to the more exotic cut up pineapples and containers of raspberries that I had actually come to purchase.

Yet my unique encounter with the Uniq fruit naturally took my mind to places besides the quest of fruit. . .

Let us consider each human.
Every human being has his or her own unique DNA, yet we are all of the people clan.
We are all pretty similar in our needs, functions, physiological makeup, physical appearance, albeit for skin coloring, hair coloring and texture as for a few subtle facial differences—but all in all, more alike than different.

And yet God, the Master Creator, knows each one of us individually.
All 7 billion and counting of us. .of you, of me. . .

7 billion plus humans and this God, this Creator knows, as in knows individually and intimately, each and every one of the 7 billion and counting folks?!”
Impossible?
Unreal?

It is unreal. . .unreal to wrap our minds around such a mind blowing concept.
That there is a God who is deep within each and every one of us.
For some of us, we already know this and cling to such a knowledge. .
For others, He is a non entity and yet. . .He remains. . .
No one is deemed unworthy, less than, too much trouble to bother with, too poor, too mean
too ugly, too hopeless, too old, too young, too smart, too ignorant,
too selfish, too self absorbed. . .

I ponder over our very being. . .
Our bodies
Our intricacies
Our ears, our eyes, our nose, our mouthes. . .
Our ability to taste, to speak, to touch,
To feel, to cry, to chew, to digest, to eliminate, to reproduce,
To feel empathy, to hate, to kill, to feel joy, to feel despair, to smile, to love. . .

The intricacies of the eye–the retina, the cornea, the rods, the cones, the ability to see color. .
The tongue, its ability to taste, to discern sweet, salty, bitter, savory
The heart which beats incessantly from womb, to birth, to death and yet it has the ability to love
powerfully as well as to break in half. . .

The finger with its own unique set of prints—no two prints are alike in all of the 7 billion plus people–and yet each finger has the ability to feel warmth, to be burned quickly, to sense that which is soft or rough, hot or cold. . .it is used to hush, to accuse, to lure, to soothe. . .

Has all of this merely evolved for survival
Or
Was it created individually, similar and yet unique. . .
Beautiful
Precious
Loved. . .

That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:21