a continuation of beginnings and comings

See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.

Thomas More

dscn4719
(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.
*(parentheses mine)

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!'”
Matthew 3:3

Do you prefer taking the easy way or the hard way…

DSCN0320
(An iron cross sits in the cemetery of Saint Cóemgen’s better known as St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Given the current mess throughout this world of ours…
the fighting, the dying, the martyrdom,
the lack of choice, the excess of choice, the lack of tolerance the overt tolerance,
the whole “she said, he said” tit for tat bickering and feuding over beliefs…who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s in, who’s out, who’s with, who’s against, is it a yes or is it a no…or is it or else…

Is it then any wonder that so many folks around this globe claim to be either atheist or agnostic or something else entirely… sans any sort of deity or set belief system…?! As if believing in nothing or, say a tree, would be easier than believing in a deity that requires a great deal of follower…or seems to be the very reason for all the current ruckus in the world…?!

Anyone looking closely enough would be hard pressed not to understand why, given the sad plight of so very many people globally who are displaced, living under cruel regimes, suffering from disease, hunger, homelessness, isolation, torture, loss, fear… with nary a ray of hope in sight….that there is such a deep mistrust and skepticism when none of those folks who profess to be followers of the All knowing and All caring come to offer aid, succor, comfort, help, assistance, support or relief yet rather choose to squabble, bicker, fuss, cuss, fight, kill and destroy one another….

Is it any wonder that folks find it difficult believing in as well as following Something or Someone they’ve never seen, spoken to face to face, touched, hugged, shaken hands with, shared a meal with or simply hung out with…

Yet that’s exactly what those who believe in a monotheistic “god” do…they believe in the unbelievable while they, those very believers, are to be the living embodiment of that monotheistic Deity by giving others a glimpse as to whom and what that monotheistic “God” is all about….compassion, caring, trust, integrity, honesty…

We, the body of believers, must ask ourselves…are we doing a good job at such?
And if we answer no… then we must ask ourselves—why not?

Yet those of us who do believe, who have chosen to follow the Son of that very Deity… the One True God, have chosen what seems to be the most difficult task in a world of ever growing disbelief, mistrust, skepticism, resentment and down rate hatred… to believe and follow when a world turns in the opposite direction.

Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun or on your knees with hands tied behind your back as a sword is raised at your head or as you’re being hoisted up a tree with a rope around your neck or as you lay on the ground with a cold knife pressing into your neck as you’re asked one simple question—a question between life and death…”are you a Christian??”
with the easy answer being “NO!”

Yet those who have chosen the harder path, the path less traveled by the world resoundingly respond…
“YES!”

Do you prefer easy or hard?

Two paths, two choices

DSCN1403
(Photograph: Callaway Gardens Chapel/ Pine Mt., Ga/ Julie Cook/2013)

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

(RSV)

The above photo is of an altar located in the beautifuly quaint and very tiny chapel located within the botanical enclave known as Callaway Gardens. The chapel is located in the middle of a beautiful nature park situated in middle west Georgia, surounded by endless virgin woods, rhododenrens, a gently cascading waterfall, and a lovely small lake—representing the epitome of solitude.

DSCN1405

The bible that was resting on the rock slab altar was open to the book of Psalms—one of my most favorite books of the Bible–as I so often relate to the angusih, the lamentations, the cries, the shouts, the triumphs, the joys—the wealth of emotions that make up these poetic songs. So naturally I thought I should mirror what was in the picture—Psalm number 1

And perhaps the whole two path thing was most appropriate for the location—I had come upon this tiny chapel, tucked away in the middle of a forest, by way of a wooded path. There was another path that lead away from the chapel, out around the tranquil lake whose still waters beautifuly refelcted this delightful respite from the world.

This was the kind of place that I could live—isolated, quiet, peaceful, tranquil…nothing but the sounds of the gentle waterfall, the croaking of the bullfrogs, the buz of the cicadias…..the gentle breeze brushing against my skin. But alas, it is not where I live—it’s not where many of us live. When I often find such a spot and wistfully mention that I could live in such a spot, my husband always quips “you’d get tired of it and bored”……would I? Hummmmm…maybe I’d like to give it a test try to see if that would be the case….

I had brought friends here who were visiting from England–she from Germany, he from Finland. I hope they too found the setting and the moment most rewarding and tranquil. Somehow I doubted it compared with anything in Finland, or any place in Barvaria…but to me, this little Georgia girl, this was beauty par excellence—-

Today’s Psalm reminds us that life is all about choices—in this case the choice being the walking on one path or that of another path. One path is about following the Law, which in this case is the Law of God. The other path remains to those who chose not to follow God’s Law. The idea of dried up chaff, just blowing away in the wind, only to become dried up dust is not very appealing. I like the idea of being planted by lovely streams of water—something like where this chapel sits.

God is gracious and a gentleman—always yeilding to our whims and desires. He’s not pushy, never wishing to force anything on anyone–it’s all a matter of choice—a simple choice. It does all seem so simple doesn’t it?—path A or path B—and yet this world is in such a terrible mess—which leads me to think the latter path is quite full—I want to follow on the former path—the first path, the one where I’m not walking in the counsel of the sinnful and wicked.

In order to do so, once again, I’ve got some choices—God’s choices for me and my life, or the world’s choices. When put this way, it all seems so simple—then why in the heck do we, do I, make it so hard and difficult?! It shall be my goal to focus on my choice of the right path—it’s a life long work but I tend to believe, most worth it………..

Will you dare to be the inspiration, the leader?

CIMG0427

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams

Are you willing to lead others to inspiration, to fulfilling dreams, into the unknown, uncharted waters? Will you lead others to greatness regardless of yourself? Will you lead others to joy, to learning, to living, to laughing, to loving?

Are you willing to follow those who have a clear path or a jumbled way, those who make promises or those who offer falsehoods? Are you willing to take the responsibility or hand it off to another?

Dare to inspire, to offer hope, to encourage, to shape, to help, to mould, to assist, to love, to laugh –dare to be to others what you wish others would be to you and do for you………….
What new paths will you be taking this weekend………….