the other story…

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
for each to see the other whole against the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke


(historic marker for the Duelist’s Grave / The Colonial Cemetary,
Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s a street I’ll usually cut through when I’m driving home from town.
It’s a street that my husband isn’t always keen that I take.
Not that he worries about my safety in doing so…it’s just that he thinks it
a bit seedy.
And lord knows should my car suddenly quit working…then where would I be?!

I suppose in seedyville.

And this is when my eyes roll at such a thought as I remind him I’d simply be in the same
town I’ve now called home for nearly 40 years…no worries.

It’s not necessarily a bad street in a bad part of town, but it does have its share of
what some might call a few folks who are ‘rough around the collar.’
A mixed sort of neighborhood to be sure.

But having taught school in our community for over 30 years,
I figure I know or have known all the kids from every side of town…
the upside, downside and in between side…so it really doesn’t bother me.
Many are now very much grown and I no longer recognize their faces but they know me…
so if I’m ever stranded in or around town, someone I once knew will most likely
know me now.

When I first started teaching, it was the “westside” of our town that was more or less
the more infamous part of town.
My kids (aka students) who lived in that part of town would ask if I’d ever been there…
and of course, I’d tell them yes as I had actually given ‘so and so’ a ride home.
They would in turn quickly chastize me, telling me not to go after dark.

It’s a shame that we have such sections of our towns and communities…
but the fact of the matter is that we do–as every city and town seems to have its fair
share of places one should be cautious about traveling through.

So on this particular cut through street of mine, sits an old house that looks a bit
piecemealed together…
as in it started out as a single story wooden framed home when at some point or other,
an upper story was oddly added with an open deck that makes me think “old Florida”…
as in the older type of houses built near the ocean back in the day, long before there were
multimillion dollar McMansions and highrise condos.
More bungalow than house.

The yard around the house is pretty rough looking, cluttered and littered with both weeds
and junk.
The upstairs deck is covered with what must be 50 birdhouses of various sizes, shapes
and descriptions.
Plus in bold black letters, on the front of this mishmashed house, are the words
“The other story”
Which is another throwback to those old beach bungalows when folks would name their cottages…

The other side of the story…
As in this fellow who lives here, and I say fellow because this place screams of a
curmudgeonie sort of person that calls this place “home”…maybe its the broken down lawnmower
and all it’s scattered parts…but no matter, it seems that this fellow has his own side to
some sort of story.

All of which has reminded me of something I recently read…
It reminded me of a different sort of ‘the other story’…or maybe it reminded
me of what is actually the real story…

I read that there are actually two Christmases…
Two different Christmases both rolled one into the other.

There is, of course, the Christmas of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, giving Tuesdays,
Santa at the mall, presents, mistletoe and all that speaks of secularism and consumerism.

And then on the flip side, there is the ‘other’ Christmas.

The Christmas of Christ’s Mass…the birth of the savior.

The latter, however, is deeply overshadowed by the former…and it seems that it is
overshadowed more and more each year with what seems to be a concerted effort to actually
drown it out forever.

But it is that other story, that other Christmas story that is actually the real
and only story.

Because it is the original story
The original Christmas.

The story being that of salvation.
The story of, a once long-ago time, when Hope was returned to earth…
in the form of a baby.

An amazing story really.

Not so much a story about mistletoe, or shopping til you drop, or of presents or
of cyber this or that but rather a story of unconditional love made manifest.

There’s always another side to every story…and I for one certainly prefer this other Christmas
story to that more modern version of this sacred story…

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas
and so few stop to inquire into its meaning,
but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human
habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

A.W.Tozer

Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate his coming by making peace impossible
for six weeks of each year…
He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them.

A.W. Tozer

lost in translation

“The word ‘translation’ comes, etymologically, from the Latin for ‘bearing across’.
Having been borne across the world, we are translated men.
It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation;
I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.”

Salman Rushdie

“Live the questions now. Perhaps then,
someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

DSCN0647
(detail of an Irish manuscript and cover of Timothy O’Neills book The Irish Hand, Scribes And Their Manuscripts From The Earliest Times–as seen in a Kinsale Bookshop, Kinsale, County Cork Ireland)

Ce que tu ne comprends pas?
Lo que no entiendes?
Was Sie nicht verstehen?
あなたは何を理解していません ?
ما لا تفهم ?
Wat begrijp je niet ?
מה אתה לא מבין ?
что вы не понимаете ?
Quello che non capisci?
Nach bhfuil cad a thuigeann tú ?

No matter the language, the question remains the same…
“what don’t you understand?”

It is a question asked of the confused, the lost,
the ignorant, the arrogant as well as the simple.

“Is there some confusion?”

“Do you need for me to re-explain something?”

“I’m sorry, did I not make myself clear?”

“You’re not from around here are you?”

“Are you a moron?”

The way in which the question is asked pretty much explains to the one asking the question whether or not their query is worthy of further explanation or has simply exasperated the one being questioned.

It can even be issued as a defiant statement rather than a question.

As in…

“yeah, you see it, it is what it is…what don’t you understand?!”

Sometimes I feel that way…
as in the frustrated way of things….

As in…
“Yes.
God did say not to do that.
Or
“Yes.
God did say that was okay.”

It’s all pretty simple.
Pretty much cut and dry.

Have you ever had to sign a contract or a legal document?
Have you ever taken the time need to fully read…
or the legal ability in order to comprehend all the fine print?
Has a salesperson or legal type person ever asked, “what don’t you understand?”
With you pretty much resigned to the answer being simply “everything?!”…

God gave a list of some pretty simple commands…
or rather rules for living if you will.

A concise list of don’ts.

Pretty simple.
Pretty direct.
A relatively short list.
With no hidden fees.
No hidden clauses.
All in simple language.
No legalese.
No gobbledygook.

Just very straightforward…

Oh, and by the way, where there were no fees involved,
there were / are penalties with each broken “law”

But they were set to make life easy.
Follow the rules, the laws, and life was to be pretty much… golden….

Later, His Son came along and offered a few more to the list…
This time there were actually a few additions in the affirmative…as in “do this”

Things like…
Loving your God with all your heart, mind, body, and being…
Secondly… love your neighbor as yourself.
Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you.

Again straightforward with a direct approach.
Nothing buried in the fine print.

There were also a few more don’ts and do’s added to the list.
Don’t have sexual intercourse or anything close with those of your same sex.
Don’t do things in excess…like drink or eat, or…you name it.
Don’t neglect those less fortunate
Do take care of widows and orphans
Do remember those in prison.
Do show mercy.
Do show kindness.
Do show compassion.

All simple.
All direct.
Rules for living—in order to make the living…golden.

Yet over time, everyone has wanted to complicate the simple.
Muddy the waters.
Argue the point.
Defy the point.
Create fine print.
Throw in some hidden agendas and clauses.

And I just want to look at everyone with that exasperated look saying….
“What don’t you understand??????”

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 18:2

Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:2-5

Cast forth a great light

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Psalm 112:4 NIV

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

DSCN4194
(door of the granary of the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I spend my life swirling in and out of the shadows of Death.
A precarious dance with darkness.
As the cold languid hand offers itself to entice me, to lure me, to lull me.

A spell is cast and the die is tossed.

A gossamer veil of deceit falls across the window.
No one can see, no one need know, I may do as I please.
The choices all mine as the caliginous night covers the secrets of sin.
A sinister glee echoes off the walls.

Truth is known, yet purposely ignored.

He twists his lies into the false truths I call my own.
The lies swirl around my feet as I sashay around the floor.
The lights are dimmed, blurring truth into the sweat which mingle and fall away.

Suddenly a door is thrust open
A blinding light floods the murky pitch,
quickly diffusing the darkness.
The shadows, which clung to the night,
drip eerily down the walls.

Standing for the first time, awkwardly alone, vulnerable and striped bare of the vibrant scarves of falsehood,
knees now buckle.
The sordid images of my deeds, flash against the brilliant sky.
The burden of guilt hangs heavily around my neck.
No longer are there shadows to hide within,
as the toxic dance concludes.
Hope has overtaken the darkness.

The radiant Light burns away the layers of filth which were once worn with pride.
The lies, the falsehoods, the deceit. . . drifting forever away–diffused in the rays of the powerful brilliance which now claims the room.
The mantle of guilt is gently taken from my weak frame.
The heaviness and fatigue giving way to grateful relief.

Light engulfs my nakedness, clothing me in an all encompassing and warming radiance.
There is a necessary healing in the Light.
Shame is expunged
Guilt is vanquished
Freedom now offered
Love now the Victor

Gone forever is the long night.
Death, now bound in chains, is quickly forgotten.
The shadows all dispersed, the murky fog lifted.
The sins all finally exposed.
Truth now sweetly claims my hand.

Because of my foolishness, the lamb’s blood had to be shed
My selfish follies rendered a price.
Love beaten, nearly broken, was laid bare
Keeping me from the shadows of Death, the sacrifice was freely made.

Assurances fill my being, flowing inward with the cascading knowledge that He’d do it all again–
— simply to have this last dance.
All of this as He lovingly reaches to raise my chin, lifting my face to His–
With a single glance, what was broken is now made whole.