the collision of patriotism and xenophobia

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith
becomes an American and assimilates himself to us,
he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else,
for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed,
or birthplace, or origin.
But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American,
and nothing but an American…
There can be no divided allegiance here.
Any man who says he is an American, but something else also,
isn’t an American at all.
We have room for but one flag, the American flag…
We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…
and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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( part of the health screening for those passing through Ellis Island)

Immigration, the coming and going of peoples from one country to another…
freely…
as in, it’s ok because there is a working process of passage in place…

It is a process for those possessing the desire of becoming something other…
hopefully better, thankfully freer, happier, safer, more prosperous…
and in the end,
American.

It worked in ages past when it was done openly and legally,
as in going through the proper steps and stages.
Remember Ellis Island–

However today, that is no longer the case–as in it is now a harry carry mess…
often a covert process at best…
clandestine, and even sinister, at worst…

A process that has existed unchecked and unabashedly out of control for decades…
And maybe that’s because none of that had really mattered during those previous decades.
Maybe it was believed that the Nation could keep up and absorb the flow.
Provide for, house, educate, keep healthy and well, defend and protect and afford…
the flow….

Yet, in time, as the world shifted,
we began to not only witness, but rather experience that very shift.
No longer could the flow be absorbed…
Financial affordability and responsibility was maxed…
The original intent was no longer the same…
English was not wanting to be learned.
Assimilation became a bad word.
It was a flow wanting perks without dues…

New words crept into our vocabulary….
Undocumented
Alien
Drug lords
Border control
Terrorism
Islamic extremists
Al Qaeda,
Taliban
ISIS

Tunnels were dug…
As planes flew into buildings…
all with a grave purpose….
And we were learning that things had to change…
there had to be new safety steps put in place….

Yet no one cared to recognize the folly or the negligence in allowing things to continue…
They preferred to rally….
vehemently angry while trying to counter any means possible to corral
and bring some semblance of order to a broken process.

They march while holding signs.
They quit work to protest.
Yet they refuse to do those necessary things that should be done, must be done…
properly…
legally…
correct….
inorder to make it all work…

And so those who say such words as…
proper
broken
assimilate
learn
legal…

are taunted, jeered, cursed and ignored…

Time and resources are passing away…
making it all too late to make things right….

confusion
apathy
ignorance
greed
loss
now replace what once was…
loyalty,
patriotism,
and National honor…
rendering a once strong nation….neutered.

“A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.”
Ronald Reagan

The work in becoming

I have but shadowed forth my intense longing to lose myself in the Eternal and become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God
meant you to be when He thought of you first.”

― George MacDonald

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8

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(an area of bog being dug…peat bogs, the spongy base which makes up so much of Ireland is dug up, cut or formed into bricks, dried and used for fuel, it is also becoming a medium for artists who sculpt and carve beautiful images from the intense black bog / somewhere along Gleann Cholm Cille / County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Any potter, ceramist, or sculptor will tell you that before there is a mug, a plate, a bowl, a vase, a statue, a figurine, a sculpture…
there is a lot of digging, mixing, processing, rolling, watering, wedging, pushing, shoving, beating, slapping, pinching, moulding, slamming, overlapping, smashing, smushing, forming, pulling, prying, poking, smoothing, burning, cooking, heating, coloring, glazing….

Clay…before it becomes something of beauty or of purpose, or even both, must first go through a complete overhaul–both physically as well as molecularly. It is considered to be a perfect medium in the minds of many an artist as it is forgiving, up to a point, and can be transformed into almost anything…

A naturally occurring raw product taken directly from the earth, add in a little refinement, then placed in just the right hands, a seemingly magical if not mystical transformation from mere dirt and a little water, emerges into something of both practical use and amazing beauty. A new creation emerging from something initially so simple, mostly overlooked and certainly taken for granted… with just the needed and necessary work, results in an amazing metamorphosis.

Is it then any wonder that man is so often compared to clay which has been given over the hands of the master Creator?
That which was formed from dust and ash…
In the heavenly eyes of the One True Creator, a raw natural product, incomplete and in great need of forming, shaping, prodding, moulding, firing and finishing…

That when eventually transformed, becomes a thing of beauty that is both strong and fragile all rolled into one.

We live our entire lives in the hands of the One who works tirelessly and lovingly forming, shaping, reshaping, heating and coaxing out that which is within.
Forever patient, as is any potter, He tenderly yet persistently works and reworks His clay into a thing of wonder.

It is however a life long process, one not always realized—this forming, moulding, making and becoming….
At times it is most painful and difficult, trying and even excruciating… yet when all is said and done, the final result is indeed a treasure to behold…

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 139:15-16

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands;
so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me.
He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Jeremiah 8:2-6

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)

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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)

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

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(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…

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

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(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…
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(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

Ripening

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
Epictetus

With the ripening of the fruits in Autumn the leaves begin to wither and the trees, taking up their sap from the earth through the roots, recover themselves and are restored to their former solid texture. But the strong air of winter compresses and solidifies them.
Vitruvius

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(the ripening fruit of a calamondin tree, wintering in the basement / Julie Cook ? 2014)

Is it ripe yet?
The coloring is not exactly consistent.
It’s neither green nor orange.
Somewhere in between.
Time ran out.
Gone are the days of bright sun, balmy breezes and star filled nights. . .blessed with the perfect amount of humidity.
Winter’s wrath quickly descended, waving its cold barren hand, dismissing all living things.
Life is now banished from the landscape.
However this particular journey of life, that of progression and ripening, is hell bent to continue.
It is a process that cannot be stopped, only unless Death is allowed to take part.
Out of desperation this ripening, this season of growth, is now relegated to a place less than ideal, albeit safe and protected.
A process which began nine months ago on a warm May day.
A day of flowering and bees, a day of the appearance of tiny green orbs.
The day of completion is finally coming to fruition during the empty chill of December–hidden in the depths of an isolated basement.
Drying, light deprived, with the gradual dropping of leaves, this process of life must see itself through.
As some invisible force, unbeknownst to watchful eyes, continues to will the completion of life despite the now forced hardships.

Parallels exist.
Cycles of life, with the beginning, the ripening and eventual decay, each follow along the same paths taken since the beginning of time.

Many years ago a young couple once found themselves forced to take a journey at a time that was less than ideal.
A cycle of life, which had started nine months prior, was quickly coming to fruition, despite the less than desired conditions.
Traveling alone day and night, exposed to both heat and cold, wind and rain, this young couple is compelled by an invisible force to continue moving forward as their own cycle of life is now racing against time.
Sleep deprived with barley any food or water available, anxiety and worry heap insult upon misery. Weary, with the time of delivery at hand, a safe harbor cannot be found.
Desperate and burdened under a heightened sense of urgency, a dark dung pungent stall is hesitantly offered and thankfully received.

No longer does choice fit into the equation.
The ripening of a couple’s young lives had long been set in motion and they were helpless to stop it.
Process
Cycles
Maturation
Destiny
The circuition of life must see itself to completion.
There will always be a beginning, a middle and an end.
The only way in which the process may be broken is if Death intervenes before expected.

Ripening is not easy nor particularly ideal. It is a time consuming act which is most often agonizingly slow. It is a process that sets its own time and parameters. There is no rushing or speeding up the unfolding of events.
Yet it should be noted that the process is only a smaller component to a much larger cycle, a cycle which must see itself through despite any and all surrounding circumstances or events.
The setting is not always ideal.
The circumstances are not always easy.
Yet an unseen force wills each time of ripening to continue to fruition.

May your own time of ripening bear much appreciated and welcomed fruit. . .