Just around the bend—a pilgrimage

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless.
If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)…
Continue seeking Him with seriousness.
Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”

C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
Vincent van Gogh


(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

(I thought this was a good post to pull out of the archives from 2015
please enjoy)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives,
there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are
no clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers,
no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain is that there is a path with the choice
of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around—
heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward?
Continuing onward yet all the while feeling as if he or she
is blinded by the loss of direction?

It is as if this journeyman, nay pilgrim, is feeling his or her way
along in the dark— thinking that after every curve,
after every bend along the path…
surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be
something familiar or something offered as some sort of
informational directional compass…
that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this
particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed physically, mentally
and emotionally.

It is as if we are wandering lost within some massive forest with no end in sight.
There is no welcoming safe haven…there is no one who is to act as guide…
only those who wait hidden in the shadows hoping to inflict some sort of harm
as we journey onward.

Yet as all who journey, those who opt to take such journeys in life,
realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey
ever taken.
Every journey and every path is left to the chance and the whims
of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey?

How does one prepare when even the very path, the journey,
the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked,
definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice
to the one setting out on the trek?

What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies-in wait..
those unseen snares and traps, each vying to catch the innocent
trekker who is perhaps ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah… but there is indeed One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort,
direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely
and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13

the tontine

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time.
And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.

Mahatma Gandhi

DSCN0529
(The Rock of Cashel cemetery, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A tontine…
A french word used during the 17th century to denote an investment created by several individuals…With the premise being that each member of the group agrees to initially pay a set sum…
The money is never touched, rather it is allowed to grow over time.
As the years pass and the members of the group eventually, one by one, die off, the remaining shares grow…with the last surviving member of the group amassing the lump of the sum plus all accrued interest.

The idea of a tontine played out on one of the episodes of the hit show M.A.S.H.

In this particular episode Colonel Potter, the patriarch of the cast, received a secretive and oddly strange package of which suddenly cast a grave pall over his entire demeanor. Naturally those closest to the beloved leader, Hawkeye, BJ, Margaret and Charles each grew terribly concerned seeing that the Colonel had grown almost inconsolably depressed after having received this most odd package.

The entire episode evolved around what was in the package, what was wrong with Colonel Potter and what could this rag tag group of friends do to help.

Finally Colonel explained…
The package was a bottle of fine French Brandy.

The story behind the bottle was that during World War I, when Colonel Potter was a young soldier, his regiment had found themselves dangerously deep behind enemy lines in German occupied France. His small group of comrades had come upon the bottle of brandy as they hunkered down in an abandoned shell of what was once an elegant home. Right then and there this little group of beleaguered soldiers made a pact, or more appropriately a tontine. Should they survive the war, they would save the bottle of brandy by placing it in a safety deposit box. The bottle would then remain under lock and key until there was but one lone survivor of the group–upon which time the bottle was to be delivered to the “last man standing” who would in turn drink a toast to what had been.

Colonel Potter, who now bitterly found himself still fighting, what seemed to be a lifetime of wars all these many years later, was the last living soul remaining from his once youthful regiment, as his own mortality now mockingly taunted him as it stared him in the face… all the while a lonely bottle of brandy begged to be consumed.

Life is indeed bittersweet.

If we are fortunate, we live a long life supported and surrounded by family and friends.
We journey together through both joy and sorrow, trepidation and gallantry.
We ride the waves of triumph both high and mighty then hold fast and tight during the calamity of storms.
We experience shared moments, good and bad, which become the mortar between the building blocks of our lives.

Then one strange day we suddenly realize, that while we weren’t paying attention or taking much notice, ever so slowly and one by one…our numbers mysteriously have decreased…

We find ourselves on the opposite side of happily ever after, looking back wondering where the time has gone. One by one we are left more and more isolated and alone, until finally we are the last man / woman standing out of a once large troupe of beloved comrades, family and life long companions.

Gone are those who were in our lives to protect, to cheer on, to share with, and to relish with….those who were the life-lines, the wise ones, the sages of our lives…
Leaving us in the unfamiliar position of now being those very things for a much younger lot than ourselves…
A lonely feeling.
A bittersweet feeling.
A very sad feeling.

And that was the very overwhelming realization for dear ol Colonel Potter…

The friends that had transitioned with him from boyhood to manhood, under cloak of war, we’re all now gone. Those who had lived through and understood a lifetime now long past had all but vanished, leaving him as the only remaining one who could recall and understand a time that was as he found himself now surrounded by a much younger group who had not been there nor done that…he was now the odd man out.

Yet through the heavy sense of loss with the weight of age suddenly bearing down and crushing his shoulders, our dear Colonel Potter understood that as he may be the last of his particular group to survive, he was still surrounded by companions, loved ones and friends… albeit of a different generation.
Life was still to be lived, relished and enjoyed.
Occasionally he could look back and recall all that was, but life was indeed for the living and it was time to say good-bye to the past while looking toward the future.

And so as he opened the bottle of bandy that had delightfully mellowed with time, offering a toast to those who once were and to a life that was well lived…he also offered a toast to those standing by his side and to the life that was yet to be…
toasting the memories of friends now gone and toasting the lives of those friends now standing by his side.

May those of us who now find ourselves standing closer to the end of our own life’s tontine remember, that as our numbers maybe decreasing, our importance in the lives of those who come behind us is greatly increasing.
Our experiences, our history, our life’s knowledge is all necessary in order to help light the path for those generations behind us as we continue moving toward an unknown future of the possibilities of what will be.
We stand as the mile markers and guideposts for future generations…may we, with God’s grace, direct them well…

And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
1John 2:17