take it on the road

“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are
the critics, blaming or praising him.
What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage;
he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings,
reminding them of their lost lines.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(ready for the first road trip to visit Moppie and Poppie / 2018)

Often times, we are required to leave the shelter of our wombs…
the warmth and protectiveness of a familiarity we have grown accustomed to cherish.

Because we have been called…to go.


(Uncle Percy is a bit perplexed by this new visiting neice/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners.
It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating.
A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching,
so we accepted their [the communists’ ] terms.
It was a deal; we preached and they beat us.
We were happy preaching.
They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ

Sometimes we are called to go to places we’d rather not go.
In order to share with those who have not heard or do not know
that which we do know…

And we must speak to them about that which we know and they do not know
because it is what we are called to do…

I learned about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand when I was early on in high school.
I ordered the book, Tortured for Christ.

I’ve written about Wurmbrand before…

“Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909—2001) was an evangelical minister who endured 14 years
of Communist imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania.
He is widely recognized there as one of the country’s greatest Christian leaders,
authors and educators.”

The knowledge of the scourge of Communism, along with its anti-Christian hatred,
during the midst of the Cold War, only heightened my interest behind the story
of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand—-
his preaching, eventual arrest, tortures, rearrests, more tortures, solitary confinement…
all of which left a deep impression upon me.

I don’t know if I could go, live, share and do as those who have each suffered so grievously
at the hands of their tormentors—only to continue on, day after day..offering hope and love
to those very ones who tormented and tortured…all because of the calling and the love…

I think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who also knew to go and to share…
sharing all the way to Auschwitz…and who would continue sharing even unto his own death…

How many have gone and shared long before all of us, only to offer the ultimate offering?

Our prayer is that we might all have the courage to go, to do, to share and to say
when we are called to do so…
no matter how great the cost…

https://www.persecution.com/founders/

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

how does anyone know?

“What is happening to me happens to all fruits that grow ripe.
It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


(ripening persimons on the tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Ripe: fully grown and developed: mature ripe fruit
:having mature knowledge, understanding, or judgment

Unripe: not fully matured
2. not fully prepared or developed; not ready

How do we know when something is ripe?
Color?
Touch?
Taste?
All of the above?

Ripe equates with that which is good.
That which is pleasing.
That which is inviting.

Ripe is as good as it gets….

Unripe is bitter, hard, immature, not ready…
unripe is unproductive.

If you profess to being a Christian,
how does the anyone know whether or not you are ripe and ready?

One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered.
“The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah,
whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.
My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.
I will build them up and not tear them down;
I will plant them and not uproot them.
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 24:2-7

unseasonable

“Preserve me from unseasonable and immoderate sleep”
Samuel Johnson

img_0878
(Helleborus / Lenten Rose / Julie Cook / 2017)

Unseasonable warmth gives way to
an unrelenting chain of events…

There is…

emerging,
birth,
growth…

A fullness of life…

there is preparing,
and a signaling of readiness,
and the ushering in of the new…

there is hopefulness…

Yet it is all so dangerously premature.
It is ill prepared,
unsuspecting,
and unsustainable…

It is out of step with time…

It is not strong enough to ward off that which will certainly be coming…

It is the living of a falsehood.

Living without regard for the Word,
while there is disregard for the Sovereign…
with contempt for the Promise…
Ignoring or discrediting all that has been proclaimed and foretold.

It is like the premature bloom…

Blooming,
growing,
living…
out of step and out of time…

Ignoring the rhythmic nature of what is to be,
only ushers in an inevitable destruction…
brought about by the reality of rebellion and ignorance.

What makes you think you are any different from the premature
blooms lulled into the pretense of Spring by an unrealistic and untimely change?
You who simply ignore the Truth because you find yourself basking in a
a false and unseasonable warmth…

All the while as you know, in the back of that mind of yours…
you who are fully aware that none of this of the superficial and self indulgent will last…

As you find yourself now unprepared to ward off that which is surely coming…

You will be defenseless and ill prepared.
You who have been basking and relishing in the allure of something other than the Truth.

Be not fooled by your own folly of bliss over the distortion of reality.
The Lion roars as winter is coming…
The premature thaw and warming winds will not last…
Take heed,
for you have been warned and now told…

Only those hearts humbled and now knowledgable will be ready…
for they have not given way to these foolish and heady times…

For out of the North,
and then the West,
while up from the South,
and finally the East…
the premature blooms will be trampled under the hooves
of the stampede…
those who run seeking a safe haven…
who will find none.

Yet the faithful will not dismayed…
you who have been prepared and ready…
Your time draws near…

As Hope is ushered in on the returning winds of change…
As His way has been prepared and now made ready,
as you who have been waiting,
now find yourself more than ready to pay homage to
the returning of the King.

Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of
the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

Matthew 24:20-21

waves and ripples

“A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.”
Stephen Crane

DSCN3339
(Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

In the blink of an eye, a seemingly glasslike sea,
rippling and lapping gently against one’s boat,
can turn angry, vicious and deadly.

The calm and peace…
the solitude and the seamlessness of being one with the sea…
will change…
is changing…

Will you be ready?
Are you ready?
The winds have shifted…
The current has quickened..
And the storm is nigh…

This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Look! Disaster is spreading
from nation to nation;
a mighty storm is rising
from the ends of the earth.”

Jeremiah 25:32

He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 107:29

Rejoice

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

(words taken from Mary’ prayer
Luke 1:46-56)

We wait, we wait….
Destiny waits in the hand of God, shaping the still unshapen.
Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.
Come, happy December, who shall observe you, who shall preserve you?
Shall the Son of Man be born again in the litter of scorn?
For us, the poor, there is no action,
But only to wait and to witness.

T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

DSCN0416
(a stand of ash trees / Gleandlough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

What better visual expression and example could exist in which the earth proclaims the majesty of the Creator, as they, the trees, teach us all what it means to rejoice, to delight, to be jubilant and exuberant…

The trees lift our eyes and hearts upward, as we also yearn to reach ever heavenward…drawing our sights, our minds, our senses upward while raising our spirits as we lift our voices in unison singing HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…as we wait expectantly for the birth of the Savior of all mankind….

The 3rd week of Advent is known as Gaudete –latin for the word Rejoice
Hear the words of the ancient hymn:

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Rejoice, Rejoice O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

As this 3rd Adventen week begins, which will actually begin on Thursday December 17th, with the admonition by Paul– “The Lord is near”

Did you hear that?
The Lord is near…..whoa…
As in His presence is in close proximity to our own, your own..
He is close and getting closer by the day, by the hour, by the minute…
Not a mere fable or sweet little story of something that happened long ago..
but rather the approaching of someone real who is soon to be in your presence just as you will be in His…

Does that not make you want to turn around…
to look both left and right as the presence of the Almighty is near and drawing ever closer than you could ever imagine?

Your heart quickens as you feel the reverberations of something monumental.
Your palms are wet, your knees are weak and your mouth is dry.
Something bigger, greater and more grand than you have ever known is soon to take place…. as you my friend can barely wait…

Get ready…
Be ready…
Be watching…
The time draws nigh…
He’s almost here…
are you ready?

Prepare our hearts
and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and hope
which his presence
will bestow.

(taken from the Catholic prayers for Advent)

the journeyman

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
Rabindranath Tagore

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
John Steinbeck

DSC01989
(looking out at a stormy day / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

No journey is completely joy filled
No trip is 100% carefree
No life lived fully is exempt from sorrow, alienation, frustration, tears, or storms

To stand alone, staring out across a swelling sea and ever darkening sky is not
for the faint of heart, let alone a comfort to the one who is prepared to journey forth into the very storm.

DSC01991
(lighting over the ocean / Henderson St Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Knowing that one must set sail, despite an awaiting perilous maelstrom,
takes perseverance and courage but above all, conviction.
It must be taken without question or trepidation. . .
Because for the journeyman the choice is clear.

Choices of Truth, those which act as the pole star to one’s internal journey, in turn become the navigational sextant for the outward journey.

It is obvious from the growing fury that the trip will not be easy.
At times it will be both dangerous as well as treacherous.
There will be betrayal, misjudgment and even failure.
However the course has been charted, and the dials are set, there is now, no return.

DSC01909
(waves in the surf / Henderson St Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

The journeymen must press on.
Ever forward.
The variables have been offered.
It is a yes or no decision as there is no in-between.
To go, despite what lay ahead. . .the alternative is simply to stay.
The offer has been presented, the outcome is guaranteed and yet it is the journey that remains in question

To go will not be easy. . .
There may be tragedy, possible harm or certain death
Yet to remain will offer only a slight reprieve of indecisiveness
The waffeling of a life without commitment.
There is no leveling of the playing field.
The wise know the answer before the question is even asked.

The ship is turned, the bow points toward the storm
The throttle is pushed forward as the journey now begins. . .

DSC01987
(a lone fishing boat sets out toward the coming storm / Henderson St Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.”

Jonah 2:2-9

The planting season

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

DSC00791
(a newly planted petunia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Many years ago when I was a mere wide-eyed impetuous young fire cracker,
I spent a great deal of energy wishing I was 10 years further down the road.
I believed I had much to do and I was chomping at the bit to do it.
Anxious,
Anticipatory,
Impatient.

Could God not see my energy, my enthusiasm, my willingness.
I was ready.
Why was He not?

College was frustrating me.
I didn’t know how best to direct my path.
I was more than willing to chuck it all out the window, if God would just point the way.
I knew I had much to do, it’s just that I wasn’t exactly sure that I actually knew what it was,
I was to be doing.
I was in a bit of a desert, or actually stuck on some lone island–languishing and unnoticed.

I wrote countless letters to my poor godpoppa, lamenting my seemingly unproductive position.
I was the anxious kid on the bench with hand jutting up and down,
waving wildly high, “put me in coach”
I was ready, willing and more than sick and tired of waiting.
What in the heck was the hold up??!!

As I’m sure all those letters upon letters from an angst ridden college freshman, sporting rose colored lenses, whose time truly had not yet come as the body may have been willing but, in blessed hindsight, the mind was truly not yet fully developed. . .must have driven him crazy.

He was a wise man.
He was a learned man.
He was a busy man.
He was an important man.
And yet, he would always take time from his most consuming day, stopping all his important things long enough to appease an unripe fruit whose mantra was over and over. . .
When
Where
Why. . .

Found within one of the loving letters written in return was a single key sentence. . .
“There is one thing you need to do, bloom where you are planted, do that one thing you don’t want to do—but do it for me.”

I can remember anxiously finding his letter sitting in my little mail box. I was so excited hurrying back to my dorm room clutching the most wonderfully official looking letter. I just knew within the envelope the key to my future was ready and waiting. His words were always truth personified in my book, if he said it, it was so.
Reading feverishly I came to that single sentence.
“Bloom where I was planted”. . .hummmmmm. . .
But as he added, “do this one thing you don’t much want to do, but do it for me”
I shrugged and resigned myself to holding tight.

And now all these many many years later. . .
an entire lifetime later, I still consider that simple little phrase. . .
Bloom where you are planted

God knows where we are.
He puts us where He wants us.
Often frustratingly to Him, we usually take it upon ourselves to move and relocate–most often prematurely.
However, no matter where we wend up, we must remember God originally planted the seed.
He planted the seed long before we were even born.
The seed has to be watered, fertilized, nurtured, and allowed to grow.
Sometimes the seedling is moved and transplanted. . .no matter, as He continues
Watching
Tending,
Pruning,
Warding off insects and disease.
Without warning and miraculously one magical day,
seemingly out of the blue, a bloom bursts forth.
Hopeful,
Beautiful,
Joyful,
Stately. . .
We are planted and we will in turn bloom—
It’s all just a matter of God’s good timing. . .

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.
1 Corinthians 7:17

DSC00794
(forsythia / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC00799
(tulip magnolia blooms / Julie Cook / 2015)