John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“I am a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
(Jonathan Roumie and David Amito (back to camera) as Jesus and John the Baptist in Episode 5 of season two. Image: “The Chosen”/Instagram)
Have you watched it yet?
Episode 5, Season 2 of The Chosen…?
In this latest episode we meet the cousin of Jesus, John the Baptizer.
Plus our beloved Mary the Magdalene is seen to suffer a bit of
a set back when she encounters a demonic possessed man.
Now you know I’m loving the Chosen.
It’s like Dawn Marie noted in a comment the other day regarding my most recent
post about this wonderful crowd funded series—-each character we meet during
each episode offers a glimpse into each of us…
The quirks, the negatives, the setbacks, the brokenness speaks to each of us.
That’s in part why I enjoy the series so much…the back stories…
And yes, the creative license into the back stories of each of our favorite
Biblical characters is perhaps a bit far reaching,
however it allows us to feel a deep sense of connectivity.
They become real…real like you and me…and who’s to say that that real
is not really real??
Plausible, fictitious, real or false….we simply don’t know.
They had lives..they had personalities…the had faults…that had
something that drew Jesus to each one of them…
We have each suffered, we are all broken…
and yet He can and will still call on us.
But…in this particular episode, we meet the cousin of Jesus…
John the Baptist.
That seemingly wild man who lived in the desert, eating locust and honey while
wearing a camel hair and a leather belt.
He preached to the animals as well as to all who had ears to hear.
He spoke of One who was to come after him…
Yet the Chosen offered us a bit of a different take on John.
And to be honest, I don’t know if I liked this particular depiction.
As wild as John is depicted in the Bible, I always thought him to be
focused…focused on a higher spiritual plane…
not necessarily political, despite his focus on Herod Antipas.
The Chosen, however, seemed to portray him as more zealot…
and whereas a zealot is one who is fanatical…which John was…
I felt that this portrayal of John was more of an egoistical political
rabble rouser…and not one who was immersed in the Spiritual.
That of one on a different plane than the average human.
He joked a bit more than I felt the true John would have with his
cousin, the Son of God. He pushed his cousin…he pushed him to
get on with his “mission”, all of which I don’t see the real
John having done.
An impatient John?
No…I have always seen John as a polestar.
Not impatient but rather one who was content with pointing the way.
Meanwhile, we are now worried…. we are worried about what Mary is
What did meeting another demon possessed soul do to her healing…
As Believers, we all know that backsliding is real.
It can be a constant battle.
Satan knows our weakness.
He knows our achilles heel..and he plays on it masterfully…
yet in the end Jesus and our healing will prevail
So…what say you??
What do you think?
I baptize you with water for repentance,
but after me will come One more powerful than I,
whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you
with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
(The Scene of Christ in the Temple by Fra Bartolommeo / 1516 / Kunsthistorisches Museum
/ Vienna, Austria)
“My eyes have seen Your salvation…”
your revelation, your glory, your grace, you name it, the eyes have now beheld it…”
So says Simeon in the Temple on the day Mary and Joseph have taken their young son,
as all good Jewish couples do at the time, for his presentation,
for the ceremony of Purification.
The honoring of the Law and of God’s Word.
I would suspect most Christians are rather unfamiliar with what this day of Presentation
was/is actually all about—
We just know it is known as the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord
at the Temple, or more commonly known as Candlemas.
According to an old Jewish custom, a woman who gives birth to a child will be
unclean and homebound for a certain number of days after the birth.
The days for this custom differ for the birth of a boy and a birth of a girl.
If a boy child is born, the woman is unclean for seven days and then she remains
at home for an additional thirty-three days for a total of 40 days.
If a girl child is born, the woman is unclean for 14 days and then she remains
at home for an additional sixty-six days for a total of 80 days.
During these time periods, the woman touches nothing holy.
February 2nd is exactly 40 days after the birth of Jesus Christ and it is on
this day that Mother Mary along with Joseph brought forth their newborn son,
Jesus, to the Temple. Mother Mary was cleansed on this day.
Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple on this day.
Imagine a woman today having given birth and remaining at home, being considered
“unclean” despite having bathed or showered and being cleaned up first at the Hospital
then later at home…
Only to then be isolated for upwards of 80 days…
That would be almost 12 weeks.
Most maternity leave here in the US is between 6 to 8 weeks, then it’s back to work.
During maternity leave, the majority of women certainly don’t remain isolated—
as getting up, moving and going seems foremost and paramount to both
healing and simply living life in these modern days.
There’s a home to manage, a child, perhaps even more than one, that all need tending to…
there are groceries to buy, doctors to visit, workouts to attend, meals and bottles
to prepare and strollers to push…
who has time for “isolation” let alone “The Law”… and what in the world is this
about not touching things “holy”??
So as we see, there was a great deal more to this notion of Presentation than meets
the eye. And in Simeon’s words, we hear not only proclamation but we hear of a peace—
a blessed peace full of both joy and contentment.
During this particular visit to the Temple for this observed requirement of both Jewish
custom and law, Joseph and Mary encounter two individuals who, to the average observer,
would be nondescript–meaning they’d really not have been noticed nor
considered of much consequence.
They were more or less, figures in the shadows.
Both Simeon and Anna were old.
They ‘hung out’ at the Temple spending their time in constant prayer.
By society’s standards, they served no real practical purpose.
Their usefulness having long come and gone…and yet here they are at the Temple
giving themselves over to constant prayer and communion with God–
I wonder who has the better notion of service, practicalness, and usefulness…
Society or Simeon and Anna?
Today we hear, Bishop Ashenden pointing out in his homily regarding the
Feast Day of the Presentation, that The Law of the day was being upheld in
Mary and Joseph’s bringing Jesus to the Temple for The Presentation—
just as we see the Holy Spirit at work in and through both Simeon and Anna.
We also see, in the then infant Jesus…that He was then, just as he always is
now, the one who is expressing and exposing what is in the heart of the human spirit.
Bishop Ashenden reminds us of the words of the Russian saint and mystic St Seraphim…
“The most important thing is to acquire the Holy Spirit”
Acquiring the Spirit of God is the true aim of our Christian life, while prayer,
fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ’s sake are merely means
for acquiring the Spirit of God.”
“What do you mean by acquiring?” I asked St. Seraphim. “Somehow I don’t understand that.”
“Acquiring is the same as obtaining,” he replied.
“Do you understand, what acquiring money means?
Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same.
You know very well enough what it means to acquire in a worldly sense, your Godliness.
The aim of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money;
and for the nobility, it is in addition to receive honors,
distinctions and other rewards for their services to the government.
The acquisition of God’s Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal,
and it is obtained in very similar ways,
almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital.
“God the Word, the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ,
compares our life with the market, and the work of our life on earth He calls trading.
He says to us all:
“Trade till I come” (Lk. 19:13),
“buying up every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
In other words, make the most of your time getting heavenly blessings through earthly goods.
Earthly goods are good works done for Christ’s sake that confer the grace of the All-Holy Spirit,
“At last the Holy Spirit foretold to St. Simeon, who was then in his 65th year,
the mystery of the virginal conception and birth of Christ from the most pure
Afterwards, having lived by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God for three
hundred years, in the 365th year of his life, he said openly in the
temple of the Lord that he knew for certain
through the gift of the Holy Spirit that this was that very Christ,
the Savior of the world, Whose supernatural conception, and birth from
the Holy Spirit had been foretold to him by an Angel three hundred years previously.
And there was also St. Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel,
who from her widowhood had served the Lord God in the temple of God for eighty years,
and who was known to be a righteous widow, a chaste servant of God,
from the special gifts of grace which she had received.
She too announced that He was actually the Messiah Who had been promised to the world,
the true Christ, God and Man, the King of Israel,
Who had come to save Adam and mankind.
(excerpt from Saint Seraphim of Sarov /On Acquisition of the Holy Spirit)
And so here in the Temple, we don’t have to wait until Pentecost to see the presence and
work of the Holy Spirit as we hear His words through the words, just as we see
His work through the actions, of both Simeon and Anna—
two individuals who had acquired the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
Just as we later see that John the Baptist knew, by the discernment of the Spirit,
that Jesus was God’s own son.
And as we see, the Spirit has always been, despite not having been officially introduced…
not as He was at Pentecost…He has dwealt among us…the Holy Signpost pointing
always back to God the Father and Christ the Son…
Bishop Ashenden poignantly explains that “God slips into the skin of humanity as through
Jesus and He comes to us just as He comes to us by way of the Holy Spirit as He continues
guiding us through our days…”
And in this age of power struggles, gender identification and the rise of all
things feminist, it is revealed to the faithful that the real power comes
from our having the Holy Spirit.
And thus that is to be our quest, our life’s goal—to seek out the Holy Spirit.
Because when we possess the Spirit within—
it is the Spirit who will lead and guide us through this journey of life.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Democracy requires common ground on which all can stand,
but that ground is sinking beneath our feet, and democracy may be going
down the sinkhole with it.
I grew up in a very large church in a rather large denomination in an
increasingly large city.
The Cathedral of St Philip.
A beautifully large Episcopal, southern Gothic, church reminiscent of something that
should have been found somewhere in the UK rather than Atlanta, Georgia.
The Cathedral is the diocesan seat of the North Georgia chapter
of the Episcopal Church in Georgia.
The Episcopal Church of America, in a nutshell, is a part of the World Wide Anglican Communion and is basically a sibling to the The Church of England.
Many consider the Episcopal and Anglican Churches kissing cousins to the Catholic
Church. And perhaps there is a good bit of truth to that as we are each liturgical
churches that follow a similar service format with very similar
creeds and doctrine.
Yet whereas the cousins are related, they are also different.
The cousins have a pope and we have the Presiding Bishop in American and the
Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK.
It is not my intention to give a history lesson here as I’ve done that in the past.
I don’t want to have a theological discussion as I’ve done that in the past as well.
But what I do want to do is share a bit of sad frustration that just might have
finally found a slight ray of hope.
Have you ever found yourself on a sinking ship?
Probably not, but stay with me for a minute…
It is a ship that is actually on fire.
In the middle of a moonless night out upon a vast body of water.
You know the ship is burning as well as sinking…
plus you know you need to get off ASAP!
Problem is there are no lifeboats, no fire extinguishers…
the water is dark and cold as well as shark infested.
Your options are limited.
Things just aren’t looking too good.
I have felt this way for a good many years now.
Both The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have become that sinking
It’s a long story which I suppose got really going in the late 60’s
and early 70’s.
We may remember that we were coming off a very difficult time in the country.
Vietnam had been a mess, women were burning bras,
demanding equal rights, demanding the right to abortions,
while the youth had enjoyed a “season” of open and free love as we had witnessed
the demand for birth control and open sex.
That was also about the time women were wanting into the priesthood.
Then came the openly gay and practicing clergy.
Then came the approval of same sex marriages within the church.
Ad nauseum it goes.
I’ve spent my life as an ardent Christian and ardent church member who has always
clung to God’s word…as in His word is actually the final word…
As His word has been and will continue to always be that final word….
Yet that Word is basically being chopped to bits by the church…..
while the sinking has been hard.
That is part and parcel as to why I quit attending long ago as
I found it increasingly hard to reconcile myself with leadership of a church body
that made decisions that I believe run counter to the Word of God.
Yet my heart remained with the liturgical church.
I am a person who has always liked, as well as admired, those lone voices among
Being a person who actually yearns for such voices.
Because I believe those voices speak of our hope.
The voices of those who stand alone in the desert while shouting to the moon
and back as to what is Truth.
Those who speak Truth while the entire world is losing its mind and running
like freaking lemmings to the cliff.
Think John the Baptist.
Think the early Christians persecuted by Rome.
Think even Winston Churchill in our more modern times.
Think anyone who has seen the reality of the times and dares to speak up
by saying so.
I’ve just recently happened upon the blog of an Anglican priest who just so
happens to be one of those lone voices.
A single thread of sanity found in the middle of the madness.
His name is Gavin Ashenden and he is the former chaplain to the Queen…
a position he held until he could no longer support the direction in which the
Anglican Church was going…
that being to the cliff with the other lemmings.
Yesterday Father Ashenden posted a column by the a catholic priest, Fr Ed Tomlinson,
which has hit the nail squarely on the head for both these kindred siblings and cousins.
For you see what is happening in the Episcopal and Anglican Churches is just
a reflection of what is actually taking place on a larger stage.
It is a reflection which mirrors what is actually happening in both the
United States and Great Britain as a whole…
as we are currently watching both our Governments capitulate to all things
Politically Correct, those things deemed holy only by man and a blatant
refusal to acknowledge the Christian foundations of Western Civilization.
The ship is on fire, it is sinking fast and those of us who know better,
have got to get off ASAP but there are no lifeboats….
Below are a few key points from Fr. Tomlinson’s column along with a link to the
“Highly political synods shattered Anglicanism’s fragile unity.
Catholics should take note”
“A former Anglican Chaplain to the Queen, the Revd Gavin Ashenden,
is spearheading a revolt in the Church of England Synod over the thorny issue
Anglicans are talking openly about schism.
Catholics the world over should be watching very carefully.”
Anglicanism’s real problem has always been a theological schizophrenia –
the result, perhaps, of it having formed to appease a lusty monarch rather
than to preach a creed with clarity. Ask a hundred Anglicans what
Anglicanism actually is and expect a hundred answers.
The Church of England isn’t, really, one Church at all.
It’s an Erastian umbrella organisation holding together,
by virtue of the Crown, a huge range of competing theologies.
“And it didn’t take long for the liberal lobby, strengthened by trends
in society and over-represented on the bench of bishops,
to realise synod worked in their favour.
Did the Holy Spirit say no to women priests in July’s Synod?
Fret not: table the motion again in February, then repeat ad nauseum,
until the Holy Spirit finally gets the message!”
The second development which disrupted Anglican unity occurred when the
Book of Common Prayer became optional not mandatory.
You are what you pray: lex orandi, lex credendi.
With the shackles removed, parishes started to go their own way.
Today, there is almost no common ground between an evangelical parish
on one side of town and its liberal counterpart on the other.
This represents a massive problem for the Church of England:
how can you bring people together in love when there is zero shared praxis
The situation has become so grave that the Lambeth Conference can no longer be held,
due to deep divisions even at the level of the episcopacy.
So it is that the Revd Gavin Ashenden finds himself embroiled in this final
battle for the soul of modern Anglicanism. He and a few others are making
their last stand against the powerful modernist liberal consensus
that dominated the most recent Synod.
So I am somewhat hopeful when I read the tales that there are a few lone
voices still out there that have yet to be silenced by the masses…voices who
know the truth for what it is….
Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;
and He will reign forever and ever.”
“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability
to see your worth.”
(a broken stem of blooming rhododendron floats across the lake / Julie Cook / 2017)
Over the course of the past couple of weeks following Dad’s death,
I am finding my world shifting.
There is so much to do, but it is vastly different from what I had been doing.
From the endless driving to the running of errands, the picking up of meds,
to the seeing of doctors, nurses, hospitals…
to buying groceries, paying bills and lastly, to sitting a sad and difficult vigil.
Now all of that is different.
There is change.
There are messes that now need sorting.
There are still many bills…as bills don’t die when we die.
This part of the process is hard, laborious and full of uncertainties.
Much like before, there are open ended questions and
just like in that time of before where there was transition,
so too a shift of all that is has become most apparent.
For now it is a matter of picking up the pieces…
the pieces that fell when Dad took his last breath…
And now a good many of those pieces simply leave me less then thrilled
that I must even tend to them.
There will be more on all of this once the dust settles..
and that might be in several months…
But the change has made me think.
The caregivers who had seen me every single day for the past several months see me now
about 2 to 3 times a week if that…as there is a shift in family dynamics…
So there is mourning and frustration in the change…
They continue to look to me to direct the course of the ship…
Despite my now being sole overseer of all that was and all that remains…
I have stepped back with a controlled intent.
There are lessons here…and some are hard…for all involved.
There has been frustration and even resentment…
but I know God’s hand is the actual hand which still guides this ship.
I am learning to be still, silent and serving as I wait.
I don’t understand it all.
Yet I wrestle with sorrow and absence mixed with a dose of bitter anger
all directed toward the man who I just lost…
He’s gotten us in a bit of a pickle with poor and selfish choices..
as I’m seeing just how much he didn’t consider the after effects….
This as I have to put his discarded pieces back together again…
because as I said…in death we, nor any of our messes, readily disappear.
However, this morning as I sat in another day’s nightmare now known
as Atlanta’s traffic disaster, the words echoed by the Baptist flooded my head… “He must increase as I must decrease….”
As I ponder my role in regards to the caregivers and my stepmother…
all which is decreasing…
Much to the chagrin of those caregivers.
However their roles in our lives will end when April ends.
They will then move on elsewhere to new assignments.
For good or bad there is change.
And there is decrease…
while others and other things must increase….
But as for me, when all is said and done, to remain faithful…
To feel God’s hand steadying my shoulder lest I step out or speak out of turn
in unbridled harsh emotion as…
continued lessons during this holiest of weeks come readily into focus…..
The one who comes from above is above all;
the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.
The one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.
For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God,
for God gives the Spirit without limit.
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
(a small framed image of Jesus that my dad has had his entire life sitting on his
dresser from the time he was a young boy until now)
Sitting with my dad who is just shy of 89 and is indeed dying…
who despite my small attempts of diversion when he hangs his head low in despair
and utters a forlorn… “I’m on my death bed…with this terminal cancer.
I just don’t have much longer….”
As I find myself countering with a rather matter of fact “well Dad,
I suppose we could say that all of us are terminal to some degree or another…”
And it is not my intent to be callous or flippant in my reply but rather to stave off
the black places Dad has always gravitated to.
For you see that not only has Dad been a glass is half empty kind of guy…
his glass has always been nonexistent…
He is A.A. Milne’s character Eeyore come to life
He continues… “Reckon man just made all this business up about heaven?
How do we really know we go to be with God?
How do we know there really is a God…”
as his warbly voice trails off as his heavy lids flutter over the now glassy tired eyes…
Despite being raised a Southern Baptist, who years ago jumped ship for the
Episcopal Church, and despite serving on the vestry and serving for years as
an usher at church…
Dad has always played the role of doubter…often bordering on the ludicrous.
And always oddly seeming to enjoy drawing my ire when, after watching countless
shows about extra terrestrial life and sweeping galactic space shows,
muses about aliens coming and going verses the foundations of our faith….
He even got caught up in more lunacy after watching a show about the missing
years of Jesus’ growing up…
the what ifs of what happened in those years following a youthful Jesus of 12 being lost
from the family during the pilgrimage for the Passover,
while finally being found in the Temple,
to the next part of the story, years later, as he meets John at the River Jordan….
Dad’s mind wandering to what Jesus did in those 21 yeas in between.
He watched a show that claimed the young boy Jesus took it upon himself to travel to
India to be enlightened during those missing 21 years…
Dad buying hook, line and sinker into the nonsense….
I would get so frustrated wanting to know why in the world he would watch such crazy
and for heaven’s sakes…
why on earth would he buy into the foolishness…
And just as easily as I share my disgruntlement over Dad’s willingness to dip deep
into the well of snake oil and falasies,
there are those who are currently reading this post, who in turn are thinking…
“Julie’s dad has a point.”
How do we know?
How does anyone know?
And that’s when I looked at Dad, who is now swiveled and shrinking and racked with pain
in his little hospital bed which has long replaced his regular bed,
as I tell him, “we simply call it faith Dad…” “Yeah, that’s what John Bruster use to tell me”
John Bruster being Dad’s former parish priest.
“We’ll Dad, it is the foundation of Christianity…
the underpinning as it were…
Which brings us all back around full circle to the quote by Father Teilhard de Chardin…
that man is indeed a spiritual being.
And he, man, yearns, nay aches, to be connected to that which he seeks.
Many people spend a lifetime seeking to quell the ache.
It is sought so falsely…in so many dark corners of our lives.
Empty and fleeting.
Always grasping for the tangible proof, we run a lifetime into the empty ground of
conjecture while being placated by magic…
wanting, seeking…yet always coming up empty.
It is found in the faith of the God who offered a piece of Himself to be born
into our misery,
Who chose to bear our burdens,
the darkest and most foul reassess of our diseased and blackened minds…
who took upon himself the sickness and brokeness and shortcomings of our bodies…
who faced depravity, deception and falsehoods…
who died and was buried…
Who vanquished hell…
And who rose again…
and is now seated at the right hand of His Father
And who will indeed truly come again…
Who will judge both the living and the dead
And who will welcome us home…
It is that which we claim although our eyes do not see…
For it is in that which we rest our hope in…
say the prayer;
stop idle talk;
close your mouths to criticism;
place doors and locks against unnecessary words.
Time passes and does not come back,
and woe to us if time goes by without spiritual profit.”
Elder Ephraim of Arizona
See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.
(the frozen demise of the mint / Julie Cook / 2017)
Despite our having just journeyed through the season known for all things of anticipation…
that sacred time of observing Advent, which then culminates with the wondrous arrival
of the illuminating Nativity…
we actually, in this silent and slumberous time of deep winter,
continue finding ourselves waiting and watching.
Found in the Latin word adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia,
we find a word and meaning that has traditionally been used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.
Not so much denoting a single and initial birth, but rather embracing the anticipation of
a second birth…a sort of re-coming…
Yet, as William Stringfellow observes,
“we live now, in the Untied States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent (or any other Christian “season”)*
is no longer really noticed, much less observed.
The commercial acceleration of seasons,
whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy
Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.
But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized
that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.
And so it seems that our secular and worldly selves have given way from our
continuation of waiting and watching to rather the glossing over of a key
observational time within our faith.
We have allowed, as it appears we have preferred, to move away from that which should
still be our focus, yielding rather, to the superficial luster of the fleeting.
For it seems that the notion of Advent, or any other of the “seasons” of the church,
has fallen way to the more glamorous secular association of what should actually be the truly
innate spiritual rhythms of our beings.
Yet as unrelenting and ever-faithful,
we now find ourselves transitioning from the anticipation found in Advent and the Nativity
to Epiphany, leading way to Ash Wednesday and the heaviness of the somber Lenten season…
as it too shall give way to the unending promise of Hope…
We enter, once again into a time of waiting and watching…
waiting not so much for the first birth with its earth shattering life that was cut
tragically short by a brutal yet necessary death…
but rather we, the dwindling yet tenacious faithful, both wait and watch
not for an ending associated with death but rather for the continuation of what is to come…
Life anew and everlasting…
As we find ourselves listening to once again, as well as claiming, those prophetic words of that
lone figure who cried out to the masses so long ago…
as his words continue to resonate in our hearts…
MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,”
says the Lord Almighty.
(Dutch Book of Hours / mid 15th century/ The Masters of the Delft Grisailles/ John the Baptist / Walters Art Museum)
Woe to an age when the voices of those who cry in the wilderness have fallen silent, out-shouted by the noise of the day or outlawed or swallowed up in the intoxication of progress, or smothered and growing fainter for fear and cowardice. The devastation of our time will soon be so terrifying and universal that the word “wilderness” will readily slip off our tongues.
This is already happening.
For how shall we hear unless someone cries out above the tumult, the destruction, and delusion?
(the evening beach walkers / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / 2016)
I don’t think that there is man nor beast amongst us who wouldn’t agree that we are living in a time of utter craziness.
And that’s crazy in not a good kind of crazy way.
Granted previous generations have had their fair share of crazy…
However back then, back in the day,
one could pretty much discern who and what was crazy and who and what was not.
Everyone knew who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.
Life was black and white.
Everyone knew right from wrong and wrong from right and they could all unite on common ground to fight the common fight against the common enemy.
Folks could and would rally around a cause,
actually rolling up their sleeves to fight for that cause.
Today we live in a hazy time…a crazy time.
A time of heavy smoke and fog…
A time that sees the sands on which we stand, sifting…
As all the colors have swirled together… creating a tertiary bland sea of nothingness…
with no discernible good / bad …right / wrong.
No one knows which side of the fence to get on anymore.
That’s what happens when we decide everything and anything is simply all good because we don’t like anything to be bad. We’ve actually muddied the waters with our overt good intentions.
I’ve always been pretty even keeled and level headed…or at least that is now the case in these latter years of mine as hindsight is something I have finally, thankfully, acquired…with such being a by-product of the aging process.
I’m not one to go off half cocked and jump on the elusive bandwagons of those wearing the rose colored glasses.
I like things to be black and white.
Yes or no
Good or bad…
I like being able to readily discern what is what.
A gray, blended hodge podge of gobbledegook is not my cup of tea.
I admire the John the Baptists and Winston Churchills among us.
Those who could and can see, as well as know, what is what…
No excuses, no delusions, no appeasement and sticking heads in sand.
More of stating the facts then squaring the shoulders in order to deal with the forthcoming onslaught.
They didn’t nor currently do not mince words and they called and continue calling a spade a spade….
meaning…they don’t and won’t sugar coat the truth, no matter how hard and tough it may be.
I like to see what I’m dealing with…straight away and head on…
It’s like seeing that ominous twister in the distance.
It’s fearsome, destructive and heading your way…but at least you know what you’re dealing with.
You know your options…albeit dire and possibly deadly, but at least you know what your fighting for and against.
It’s the twister coming in the night, hidden in the darkness, that hidden monster heading your way, which is most frightening. You catch a glimpse of it in the flash of lightening… only to meekly jump into bed while pulling the covers over your head as you simply hope for the best.
Not a good plan…
Nope, not at all…
I prefer knowing what it is I’m dealing with and in turn, flatly deal with it.
And I don’t like pretending that the bad is hiding in the sheep’s clothing of good.
Now I’ve never been one to jump on Ralph Nader’s bandwagon.
You know, that forever and ever Greenpeace presidential candidate…
That fellow who has been raising his battle standard since I was young!
As Nader was always the voice in the back of the room who was reminding everyone of issues no one either cared to hear about or simply tried to ignore.
He made most folks a tad uncomfortable with his rabble rousing.
He was always a bit out there for me, a bit over the top.
Not that he hasn’t had good ideas…
He has sounded the often necessary bells of alarm over the environment and all things humanitarian.
He was the consumer’s advocate before there was the magazine.
But as a more rock solid kind of soul, I wasn’t all peace, love and rock and roll.
So imagine my small bemusement recently when reading a recent interview with Mr Nadar that actually had me more in agreement than disagreement.
Never one to shy away from what he thinks is the real reason behind big government, big business, big shenanigans, Mr Nader reflects on some of the reasons for today’s craziness of the shifting sands we precariously now find ourselves slowly sinking on….
Everything from the defunct Occupy Wall Street movement, to the overtly sensitive Black Lives Matters, to our darkening college culture of self absorption, to the crisis in middle America and the rise of Donald Trump…
Mr Nader offers a good bit to chew on in his latest bells of alarm….bells I tend to agree need to be rung….
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Hymn “my Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
lyrics by Edward Mote (1797-1874)
Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.
— (De Carne Christi V, 4)
“The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”
Based on the writing of Tetullian
“I believe that Christ died for me because it is incredible; I believe that He rose from the dead because it is impossible”
“Let me seek Thee in longing…let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding”
It is indeed incredibly impossible, absurd and even implausible that we Christians believe what we believe—certainly in the eyes of the non believer but actually…even to ourselves.
Anyone who stops long enough to actually ponder Christianity, the faith, as well as the inception of that faith which actually began, not so much with the earthly three year ministry of Jesus, but rather on the day that his tomb was found empty.
It begins with us now, during this time of Advent.
We, the Christian faithful, now expectantly and vigilantly wait and watch….
We wait and watch along with three Wisemen, who came from all we know to be the East…
We also wait with a handful of desert shepherds…
All of whom had each seen signs and had visions of something miraculous, life changing and unbelievable that was soon to take place…
Taking place in the far flung regions of poverty on the outer reaches of the Roman Empire…in the middle of nowhere.
We anxiously wait with a simple an honest man named Joseph— the young nervous husband chosen by the Creator of the Universe to be the earthly father to a heavenly king.
We expectantly wait with a young Jewish woman who is pregnant with her first child, yet she has never had sex. Instead she was visited by an angel who told her that she had found favor in the sight of God…and now she is alone, only with her husband, as they are on the road traveling and she is ready to deliver in the middle of nowhere.
We look for the star, a sign, a seemingly tangible apparition in the heavens—a sign that something monumental is about to rock the very foundations of humankind.
Later in the story, we follow the words of a crazy zealot who lives in a desert, eating bugs and wearing next to nothing…who preaches to any and all who would give him ear. Preaching to the birds and animals when no people come to listen. He tells both man and beast that God will send a savior for all mankind. He tells those who listen that in order to be “saved” all must be baptized, first by water, than by the Spirit—being born once again.
We believe the words of a 33 year old man who preached, healed and taught to whomever would listen. We believe he walked on water, made the dead rise, made the blind see, the lame walk and the possessed free.
We choose to follow him along his journey… all the way to his death— brutal and barbaric as a death could be.
And we believe that when he says he will be back…from the gates of hell and death itself…he will indeed, be back.
And we believe when a woman finds an empty tomb…
2000 years pass and we are still believing.
Absurd, impossible, implausible, incredible…
All the better reason to believe…
I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to undertand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isa. 7:9)
St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury 1093
We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
Aiden Wilson Tozer
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1
(howling winds usher in a foreboding change / Julie Cook / 2015)
Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
Who is this strange man, dirty and crazed?
This man who calls the wilderness home?
He is nothing more than a poor homeless clout.
Perhaps a demon possessed spirit,
who has been driven mad by the winds and rain.
Was he not one of us, born here amongst us?
Was he not raised as us, nestled in our safety?
Who is he to proclaim the word of God?
Yet why do we find ourselves unable to meet his eyes, his glance.
A seer, a visionary, a prophet, a fool.
He talks to the birds, the lizards and to anyone who would give him ear.
“Repent” and “prepare” are the tools of his trade
“Yet look not to me” he proclaims, “for there is one who comes, much greater than I. . .”
“I only point the way. . .”
And the people of the land laughed.
They mocked and pointed, hiding behind bravado and ego.
Yet individually, they each wondered.
They squirmed in their shoes.
His words penetrated to a place no one felt comfortable to visit.
His stare made them feel dirty and wrong.
So they laughed harder and made merry with abandon.
Yet some were compelled to listen, even eventually choosing to follow.
His words relentless, his message never faltering.
Day and night he hammers the same message as if hammering a stake penetrating the souls of the masses.
More people turn, they listen, they follow.
However not all heed his words.
Those in authority grow wary, nervous.
They scream amongst themselves, “Silence the madman”
Plots and schemes are formulated.
An arrest is planned.
Betrayal is at hand.
Lust whispers in the darkness.
Greed reaches out its greasy hand.
Pleasure mingles with pain.
Yet his words remain the same.
“I am not the one whom you seek.
I am not the One.
I am but the messenger.
The one who was sent to prepare the way.
You will see, there will be One greater,
One who you cannot silence. . .”
All as a single head rolls, served upon a platter,
As the people resume their dancing and laughter,
Uneasiness reigns and the demons giggle with glee.
“Repent” and “prepare” swrill upon the foreboding winds. . .