ruffled feathers

It is the character of a brave and resolute man not to be ruffled by adversity
and not to desert his post.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

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(time for molting / a cardinal looking worse for the wear /Julie Cook / 2016)

Now is the time for the Faithful to be both brave and resolute…
for doubt and complacency have blanketed reality.

No longer do we know what is truth or fallacy…
As loud voices are vying for supremacy.

But we have been warned, long before now, that false prophets will abound.
There will be those who come and go offering promises that can’t be kept.
As we’ve been lulled into ignoring honesty

We’ve readily traded Truth for the satisfaction of self…
while the masses have not a clue.

There is neither time nor season to waste…
The stage is set, the events have begun,
yet everyone is too busy posing for the selfies of the egocentric.

Speak up you who hold the Faith.
Stand firm and hold your ground….
Because if you don’t, no one else will…
as all will have been for naught…

You don’t think so?
You don’t agree?
You don’t wish to be an alarmist?
You don’t want to appear intolerant, ignorant or uninformed…

Trouble is…
you don’t have the time to wait and wonder if…

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How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?

Proverbs 6:9

circling the wagons

“Yup.
The end of a way of life.
Too bad.
It’s a good way.
Wagons forward!
Yo!”

John Wayne

A faithful friend is a strong defense;
And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

Louisa May Alcott

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I’ve spent the better part of the past two years circling my wagons…
As I’ve been riding on a merry-go-round of all things focused on caring for a dad…
one who has been more child than father…
as it should be noted that that has been pretty much him for the majority of my adult life.

As a life long high school teacher, I can multitask with the best of them…
except when it comes to a crisis…
then my mind and actions narrow.

I become steely eyed…
as I grow laser focused,
blocking out most everything that sits on the periphery of life,
as I turn every available resource to the problem.

Trouble is, there have been a myriad of troubles during the course of
the last couple of years…
all of which have kept me and my sights narrowed and hyper-focused
for much longer than is most likely healthy….
hence my back, or whatever it is back there that has me unknowingly holding my hand
to my lower back as I go about my day in a gingerly fashion….
So unlike my ADDness of darting here and there all before blinking…

As an only child caring for two elderly individuals who have varying degrees of dementia,
as well as a wealth of physical ailments…
and who live miles away in a different city from my own…
it has all left me more and more isolated and emotionally spent

It seems my closest friend these days is the main caregiver who spends her days
making certain no one falls or forgets their medications…
let alone forgetting to eat…
which for one of them is a constant battle.

I live on the road, traversing back and forth.
The days I spend not traversing,
are spent on the phone with various doctors and healthcare facilities,
or paying a sea of endless bills,
or simply organizing a home and household other than my own…
A house that is nearly 65 years old and needs much in the way of care….

My phone rings constantly with the calls from an ever growing confused 88 year old man
who has decided he will die in the hospital come Friday during his surgery…
as his wife, my stepmother,
just can’t understand and is irritated as to why he keeps having to run to the loo.

The concept of a large tumor and bladder cancer has simply flown totally
over her head as she has decided she hates the new dishwasher.
I had to buy it,
have it installed
and now she hates it
for the one single reason…
that I bought it…
Go figure…

She now demands that the caregivers hand wash every dish and glass.
Just as she refuses to eat the groceries brought into the house
because she is convinced they have all gone bad and are rotten upon
arriving fresh from the store.

And if it’s not dad calling, it’s the caregivers calling with the latest craziness
as I work my magic to put out the fires of bodies and minds fighting themselves….

The journey getting here was slow and almost unnoticeable at first.
There were, however, signs and warnings…

Signs and warnings, that perhaps in my naiveté,
I thought would all turn out differently
or never materialize in the first place…

Just like the pictures I had in my mind of my future with my mother…

That when she would one day grow old and grey…as dad is now,
I warmly entertained the thoughts of how we’d have fun together…
We’d go to lunch and to the antique shops we each enjoyed when she and I were younger..
Just as we would then travel and see the world…together…

But those thoughts were smashed 30 years ago when she suddenly died from cancer….
So I don’t know why I try to imagine things as a certain way,
as that is not how they will be…

For the snowball has picked up momentum and is barreling at breakneck speed toward me…

And so, yes, I have circled my wagons…
drawing my camp ever near.
As my circle in life has tightened..
excluding many from what once was…

My eyes have narrowed
As I hold my cards tight to my chest,
lest they reveal too much…hopefulness…

Yet this story of woe is not as tragic as it might seem…
Nor is this heart bitter as it might sound…

For despite the fact that my world has shrunk from what it was…
from my friends
from my freedom
from my choices
from my comings and goings…

there has been much…
inward growing
inward learning
inward bending
inward moulding
inward shaping

For the winds of this life are shifting…
And attentions must be turning…

So I ready myself and my camp
for that which comes our way…

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’
declares the LORD,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope.’

Jeremiah 29:11

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.
A prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)

Something better than before…

“Empires not based on peace are not blessed by God.
Politics divorced from justice betrays those who wish this to be so”

Pope Pius XII

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

Psalm 33:12

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(Rock of Cashel/ Rock of the Kings / Co Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2016)

Empires have risen and Empires have fallen…
Nations that once prospered have perished and disappeared.

Time has not been kind to the once great Civilizations and Empires that were…

Phoenicians
Egyptians
Monguls
Huns
Romans
Greeks
Persians
Ottomans
Mayans
Angles
Picts
Goths
Saxons
Celts
Normans
Vikings

The list is lengthy as the questions remain…

Where did they go?
What really happened?

Some evolved into others as some devolved into a lesser form.

Great, rich, powerful, intimidating, influential..
Each simply ceased and are now oddly no more.
Lost somewhere along the winds of Time.
Yet their descendants quietly now roam the earth.

Was it…
Catastrophe?
Plague?
Self destruction?
Natural disasters?
Wars?
Revolutions?

Or was it merely fate?

They were once resolute.
They were once certain.
They once believed in their place in the annuals of Time…

As in…
Persevering
Maintaining
Growing
Surviving

As in forever….

What were…
Their goals
Their desires
Their mission
Their purpose

Were their pursuits pure…
Their desires true?

Were lessons learned…
Or will mistakes be repeated?

Are we today, better, because of them?
Learning from what went before…

Are we…
wiser
kinder
more practical
less self absorbed
more peaceful
altruistic
benevolent
nurturing
happier….

Are we… better…?

Are we blessed?

Or….

Are we doomed?

Destined, perhaps even cursed, to the same demise of those who have gone before…
Simply disappearing into the memory of Time…
…along with all those who once were powerful, mighty and great…?

Or have we chosen a different path, a different fate…
choosing a different destiny altogether…?

Maybe something better than before…?

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Heady times

“God is over all things,
under all things; outside all;
within but not enclosed; without but not exclude;
above but not raised up; below but not depressed;
wholly above, presiding;
wholly beneath, sustaining;
wholly within, filling”

Hildebert of Lavardin

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(Timoleague Friary, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There had been a whirlwind of emotion
Exuberance road wildly as if on the back of a bronking bull…
Holding on for dear life…
Yet madly giddy within the rush and exhilaration of the ride.
Major changes raced across the winds…

Soaring endlessly upward, words and feelings rapidly flowed downward…
as if caught in a raging torrent…
There was so much that needed to be shared, expressed, re-lived.
Time was the enemy, this much we knew…
If put on hold or held back, it might all be too late…
or so we reasoned…

The depth of feeling was so raw yet so very real.
Clarity had been granted, but for how long was anyone’s guess.
There was a sense of power beyond self…
As if one was being guided and willed onward from some other different place and time.
This was bigger than all of us combined and it had to be shared…
It was truly a race between life and death…

All consuming is the best way to describe it.
Mad we were labeled…the activity deemed by the State…nefarious.
Hope and death mingled dangerously together…yet at the same time there existed a calm which surpassed understanding.
We had seen the results of being caught, accused, condemned….
Yet a resolute feeling of determination prevailed…we knew that all would be well…
With this feeling of hopefulness spurring on the momentum…
It was a heady time…

It was a time of grave danger with imminent death if discovered.
Yet there was no turning back…the die had been cast
Three years had laid the foundation, three days cemented our fate
A lifetime would be our legacy as thousands more would follow suit.

As it turned out, time would not be the deterrent…
We would weather the centuries of both denial and persecution…
We would work together across the oceans of the world, hand in hand…
allowing our words, our deeds, our actions to tell the story…
There were times when voices were silenced and many lives were lost…
But transformation had been found
Renewal had become a reality
Power was indeed found in the weak
The blind had seen and the lame had walked
As Salvation blanketed the land…

Yet now we wonder…
Where has the urgency gone?
Where has the importance of this story gone?
Has the truth been lost in complacency?
Where is the momentum…?
Do lives still not hang in the balance?
Is Hope not still viable…?

Miracles have not ceased…
Hearts are still turned…
Life has indeed conquered Death
Yet the headiness,
the acuteness,
the gravity…
seem all but lackluster…

The importance
The need
The urgency
are still very much necessary…
Yet those of us who have been left to further the cause, spread the word,
live the story…
have fallen into lethargy, compliance with the world and sadly indifference…

May we once again find the strength, the need, the urgency to continue to fight the good fight…
For it is Time who is no longer on our side….or so we have been warned.
The winds have shifted, the signs are real and the headiness of exuberance, need and necessity is all but waiting…for our time has come….
are we still willing to be the voice behind the story….
If not us, then who….


Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-9

I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:14-17

Which obstacle to tackle first?

“For our path in life…is stony and rugged now, and it rests with us to smooth it. We must fight our way onward. We must be brave. There are obstacles to be met, and we must meet, and crush them!”
― Charles Dickens

“For the person who has learned to let go and let be, nothing can ever get in the way again.”
― Meister Eckhart

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(sticker bushes, barbed wire and a bull / Julie Cook / 2015)

The brambles
The barbed wire fence
The bull. . .

Three daunting obstacles. . .
One more focused than the other
Each one more formidable than the one before it.
Yet. . .I suppose it really doesn’t matter does it. . .
You’ve simply got to push through it all—regardless.
One
Two
Fifty. . .
An obstacle is an obstacle. . .it matters not the number.
The only question remaining, do you tackle all three at once or one at a time?

Do you race through the first foe, then immediately on to the second, all willy nilly as you continue racing onward to the final hurdle, practically falling on your face in order to get there?
And by the time you do reach that final obstacle, you’re all busied and bloody. . .wounded and winded, you’re really no match for that final foe now are you?

Slowly
Deliberately
Thoughtfully

First and foremost you must exercise a little restraint and caution as you make your way ever so carefully and delicately, picking your way through the lethal stickers.
Gingerly step up, over, around, gently pulling and pushing. . .slowly as not to become entangled.. you must call upon finesse.

Once past the stickers. . .
You must climb.
Lifting one leg up, being careful where and what you grab hold of. . .being very thoughtful where you place your other foot.
Balancing oh so carefully, as you push and pull yourself up and over making certain you clear the barbs. . . applying both skill and great concentration as you traverse this unsteady hurdle.

Eventually, in one piece, you feel somewhat triumphant as you now stand on solid ground on the opposite side, past the first set of troubling obstacles.
Yet
here
You finally come face to face with your greatest obstacle of them all.

A herculean giant to battle
A massive stone wall to scale
A seething ocean to cross
A terrible foe to defeat

The odds seem stacked against you.
You are tired and frustrated, battered and bruised,
as you’ve already journeyed so far and through so much just to reach this point. . .
this single point of now or never.

Exhausted and fearing defeat. . .
Part of you screams “give up!!
Yet the other half screams fight on!!!

You stare your enemy in the eye
Resolute
Determined
Relentless

As it all now seems to come slowly into focus
And that’s when you hear, from some cavernous place within your head, a tiny voice that grows stronger with each beat of your heart. . .
“Beloved, be not afraid”

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When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Deuteronomy 20:1-4