Moving on, to the next

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien


(the mounded rocks to help break the storm waves at The Breakers Hotel /
Palm Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

“It was too perfect to last,’
so I am tempted to say of our marriage.
But it can be meant in two ways.
It may be grimly pessimistic—
as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it
(‘None of that here!’).
As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests
the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation.

But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection.
This had become what it had in it to be.
Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.
‘As if God said,
‘Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In that place of sheer isolation and utter vulnerability,
deep within the quagmire of mourning and sorrow of which we find ourselves
sinking helplessly into the quicksand of our losses and suffering…
we humans are fast and keen to denounce the omnipotent God..
we proclaim Him to be most cruel, sadistic and menacingly cold hearted.

For we are hurting for heaven’s sake….
can He, does He, not see…
does He not know…
or worse….
does He simply not care…??

As C.S Lewis reflects on the loss of his wife—
he, in such typical Lewis fashion, expresses the thoughts and feelings that
are our own…
that of our angst and misery culminating from the overwhelming painful experience
we all eventually experience from our living, death and loss…

As he sums it up nicely in one wonderful notion…

“Good; you have mastered that exercise.
I am very pleased with it.
And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

And so we are…ready to go on
on to the next….
to the next whatever…
the next whatever God has in store…
all the while nursing our wounded hearts,
we move on, by His Grace, to that which comes next…

(for a wonderful movie about Lewis, his marriage, the death of his wife due to cancer and how Lewis wrestles with God…see the 1993 movie Shadowlands staring Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger—a marvelous and timeless movie)

“do not seek the because”

“Do not seek the because –
in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

Anaïs Nin

dscn4375
(sea oats / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

My life is no different from anyone else…
there are both highs and lows, ups and downs…

We all experience both the positive and negative moments in life…
as neither one discriminates…
Yet it seems that the negative moments will often last a life time…

Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that we are immune from getting…
sad,
depressed,
discouraged,
hurt,
angry,
sick,
or at times, even despondent…

For believers, simply put, are human just like everyone else…
Believers are humans who believe in God as father and Omnipotent Creator
and that His son overcame Death in His resurrection…

And as humans, we just do the best we can getting through the day to day living of life.

But it is because of the very fact that we are believers that the non believers,
those who are angry at God or those who are merely skeptical…
begin pointing the naysaying finger at us when our lives becomes bleak or tragic

It is the age old accusatory “where is your God now” sort of rhetoric…

And if the truth be told, there are times we wonder the same question…
because we are, remember, human…
falible
weak
foible
sinful

And as I was laying on the floor again this morning, as the pain in my back and leg were again
a bit more than I could bear…
as yes, tears, rolled down the side of my face in pain and in frustration…
as my heart was equally as heavy for what Dad and I
have been dealing with these many weeks now….

I recalled having watched a You Tube video yesterday of a young man
waiting out in Houston at MD Anderson, waiting to undergo chemotherapy.

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=j_wXcwI4IjE

I don’t know this young man—but from the video I gathered he has some sort of cancer,
he is a young husband and father,
that he’s from Atlanta,
that he’s been waiting for chemo
and that he is an ardent believer in the Risen Christ…

He shared in the brief video his spiritual journey as of late–
the prayers offered for and over him.
The words that have been shared in multiple settings, all by different individuals,
but all the same words none the less.
He mentioned a couple of Psalms that he’d been keying in on…
Psalms that I wrote down with the intention of turning to those same Psalms today….

I was encouraged by his own journey.
That he obviously wanted to be healed…prayed for such…
but that he also knew that God is a Sovereign God…
and no matter what the outcome…it is in God’s hands…

And I was stuck that he is finding gratitude in and for all sorts of things…
He is being grateful and thankful even while life is proving dire, frustrating and grim…

As we are reminded that in all things we are to rejoice, offering our praise and thanksgiving.
That in those moments of struggle, pain and suffering we are to utter the words—we may not
necessarily feel them, but we can still utter them, allowing God to do with them as He may….

I was also reminded that it is in our distress that we are drawn closer to God.
We don’t seem to “need” Him as much when life is golden…
as we tend to neglect the relationship…
It isn’t until we find ourselves in dire straights that we cry out,
like a frightened child in the night,
and always, He answers in our despair, He is there…despite our fickled ways…
He will always be there…waiting…..

And it is during those hard-to-grasp situations of life and death that
skeptics and non believers alike circle like buzzards…
as they look for a Lazarus or an empty tomb—
and when they don’t see such,
they collectively shout
“HA, we knew it…imposter, phony, sham!”

So after reading a few posts by friends this morning, after reading those Psalms that young man sited,
after reading the words of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Malcolm Muggeridge each regarding
both life, living, dying and death…
I again, felt a peace…despite laying on the floor in the midst of despair…

I may be hurting both physically and emotionally.
I may shed tears of frustration, depression and sorrow….
but I will not be broken nor deterred for I have the promise of a Sovereign God.

I was told that I should build a post around the following comment I left this morning for a fellow blogger…my friend Wally…
Of which I suppose I already had to some degree…

Here is Wally’s morning’s post as my comment follows…

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/faith-in-action-why-be-joyful-over-trials/

“it is hard and is not easy…but we are told time and time again—
to look to God in all things—good and bad, painful and joyful–
for God is found not only in the good, the joy and the happiness but He is there,
even more so, in the hard and difficult, the misery and suffering…
and this is where those who are not believers or those who reside in the anger
and sorrow keep wanting to point the finger of “if God is a God of Love and Omnipotent…
then why the hurting, why the unfairness, why the suffering…”

and it is there Wally in your very words and the words of James, so led by the Holy Spirit, that because God IS in everything…then we may find our HOPE!!

The things of this world…those good and those bad,
are all but temporary and they all point us back to Him—in our lack of knowledge and lack of true omnipotent knowledge, we cannot know, we cannot see how all things…
That all things, work together in God’s plan and God’s time—
yes there is Evil very much busy and very much at work…
working so very hard to counter the Benevolence of a Loving Creator…
but the thing is…despite the dark one’s vain attempts to derail us,
derailing our faith, our hope—
he can’t, he never can—
for his is a losing battle…
for our’s is the Victory in Christ Jesus!”

All of this brings us back, almost full circle,
to the the beginning of this post with the quote byAnaïs Nin—
for there is no understanding, no explanation, no reasoning, no answers, no because…
to be found in the Love offered to us by our God….

Costly Justification

“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

RSCN2711
(flowering quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

‘It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son—“you were bought with a price”(1 Cor 6:20) and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship Vol 4 pp 45

We have honed our craft both you and I….
As we have become that which we justify…

For within each justification lies…
the crime,
the hating,
the sentence,
the lying,
the hurting,
the bombing,
the cheating,
the policy,
the stealing,
the taking,
the death,
and even the murder…

Echoed are the causal observations…
“Twas a crime of passion”
“It was a justifiable homicide”
“It was taken in order that they could eat”
“It was hidden for their own good…”
“It was stolen in order to pay…”

There are…
The interestingly tragic assisted suicides…
The abortions due to untimely pregnancies…
The surreal justifiable shootings…
The acceptable culture of death…
The wars to end all wars…
The nuclear deterrents….

Every human act can be justified into being correct…

It was…
the right decision…
a necessary evil…
the only option…

How quickly it rolls off the tongue, as it slips easily from consciousness.
There is no remorse, no guilt, no real sorrow…
because it was something that had to be…

The justification of and for every action and reaction of mankind…

And yet how does one justify the free offering of ones only child…
In order that others may live…

One word….

Grace….

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—-not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

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

Battered yet undeterred

“Out of defeat can come the best in human nature. As Christians face storms of adversity, they may rise with more beauty. They are like trees that grow on mountain ridges — battered by winds, yet trees in which we find the strongest wood.”
Billy Graham

How nice to meet someone so undeterred by things like. . .reality.
The Lorax

DSC00689
(the first post freezing quince bloom–looking worse from winter’s wear / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Psalmist cries. . .
“Hear me oh Lord. . .”

Cries of anguish, pain, sorrow, emptiness, suffering. . .

The Psalmist also speaks of joy. . .
Joy is longed for and joy is infectious. . .
Praise and alleluias are easily multiplied. . .
Everyone wants in on happy, joy, uplifting, good, glad. . .

It is, however, to the other. . .
to those deep groanings of the suffering soul and spirit. . .
the laminations, the cries, the wailing, the tears, the sorrow. . .
of which, alone we will all eventually find ourselves.

It is a dry place of solitude, oneness, singleness and loneliness
It is a place that is gritty, dirty, uncomfortable
It is the furnace ready to refine. . .

Yet this place of isolation,
this place of misery,
this deeply troubling place of peril
and of anguished sorrow. . .
is also the place in which character is forged.
It is the place where the knowledge of self is realized–
for good or for bad. . .

Crisis crashes down upon crisis
Weary roads traversed
stop and go, stop and go
wills are battered
hearts are bruised
bodies fail
sewage spills forth in a torrent of rage
as money flees through the broken glass

Personalities clash,
while the like minded work in tandem
Step by step, one foot forward
Sinister lurks in the shadow, composing its agenda
Controlling, one way, the only way
Demanding will not yield its way
Selfish will not have the last word

Having been hit broadside. . .
Blindsided by mayhem, confusion and hatefulness
Caught in a place of no control and no return
Nearly broken, battered, hurting. . .
yet decidedly undeterred. . .

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

Psalm 37:10-15

DSC00692