all roads…do not lead to Heaven

I want to be a more serious-minded Christian, more detached from this world,
more ready for heaven than I have ever been in my whole life.
I want an ear that is sharp to know the voice of the enemy,
whether it comes from religion, politics, or philosophy…
I would rather stand and have everybody my enemy than to go along with the
crowd to destruction.
Do you feel that way?

Aiden Wilson Tozer


(massive trees fall across a dirt road / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2017)

About a month back, following Hurricane Irma, this is what my husband and I found
on a piece of property located in the western Georgia area.

It’s a piece of property he’s enjoyed and maintained for the past 30 years for hunting, fishing, hiking, etc.

Nearly 400 acres of woods and former pasture land with a criss crossing maze of
trails and dirt roads…
Irma saw to it that one of the main roads to the backside of the property should be
blocked by downed trees.

The trees fell across the road from the adjoining neighbor’s land.

Removing the massive oaks would require some major equipment of which we didn’t have,
so the only option was to cut a new road.

Where I saw an impossible passage, my husband saw a brand new opening…
but one that was not readily available.

A new passage that would require some time and hard work on our parts….
Not to mention destroying a large yellow jacket’s nest underneath a massive rock
as well as battling ticks, mosquitoes and watching carefully for snakes.

Yet it was all part and parcel of a massive undertaking if we wanted to
reach the other side.

It took the two of us the better part of the day to first clear a path using
clopping shears, and a chainsaw…
eventually allowing for the tractor and bush hog to make a clear path.

I was reminded of this recent road cutting adventure yesterday after reading
the words offered by a dear friend from Ireland…

A wise friend who admonished me…warning me to be wary of words now being offered
in the name of God…
As in not all words that are currently being claimed by some seemingly knowledgeable individuals are words, as given in scripture, being that of God’s…
Words that are not God’s word to man….but are rather words man is taking as God’s
and twisting them to his own.

He reminded me that the world has a new gospel…
and with its new gospel the world has decreed that any and all roads will lead
to Heaven..it matters not.

My friend noted that it would behoove me, as it would behoove all the faithful,
to see and to understand that the world is now claiming its gospel path as
the road of inclusion…which is a very dangerous gospel at that…”

He encouraged me to trust no one with God’s word.
For the amount of false teachers is growing at such a fast and alarming rate with
this current new notion of the gospel of inclusion…
such that scripture and prayer are to be our only true guide…

Because these false teachers are each readily claiming that any and all roads lead to God..which is a very dangerous gospel thought.

As I am reminded that Jesus, not man, clearly taught us to…
“Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads
to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:13-22

decisions of life and death, as witnessed by the squirrel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

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(gray squirrel / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

If you’ve ever driven down a road, suddenly spotting a grey mass sitting in the middle of the road…
as you approach said mass, at a nice clip of speed…you quickly, and a bit sickeningly,
realize that the gray mass quickly coming into focus…is a frantic squirrel…
who now sits directly in your immediate field of vision and in the direct path
of your 50 mph plus some odd ton vehicle…
closing in for an immediate and deadly impact.

The squirrel seems stuck in time, shifting left then shifting right…
with this surreal dance of death going on a million times,
within what seems to be an eternity but in actuality is…
a mere few seconds…

If life is good–the squirrel makes the right 11th hour decision by darting
miraculously out of your path by the very hair of his tail.

If life is not good–it is a bad day for the squirrel as you feel badly for that slight bump you feel under your wheels….

I am that squirrel.

The car barreling down on me is dad with cancer…
add to that my on-going searing back and hip pain coupled by the myriad of tests
I’m squeezing in in-between trips to Dads.

The Radiologist oncologist told us today that radiation would be every day for 7 consecutive weeks—everyday I’d commute to and from Atlanta as dad would be zapped.

Not to cure him mind you…just to hopefully keep the tumor at bay….
but for how long, no one can say.

His primary care doctor says he is simply too weak and frail to endure such.
The side effects of radiation in the elderly is weakness, diarrhea and burning…
that is in the best of cases…

He’s already weak, already battles colitis and is not very well overall mentally or physically…
yet that did not seem to deter the doctor today who seemed
more concerned with his ever ringing phone…
as he would step out of the room for 20 minutes here and 10 more minutes there…

He told Dad that if he did nothing it wouldn’t be pretty with pain and misery…
which scared dad into wanting to begin zapping right then and there.
I explained to the doctor that we, as a family, would need to talk about all of this
and discuss this with Dad’s primary care doctor—
at which he seemed a bit incensed that I too didn’t agree to begin immediately.

To be honest, I felt overtly pressured.
He didn’t seem to consider that dad is weak and frail or that he is struggling with his cognizant abilities…
It was more like checking off a list…then wham bam you’re good to go, lets sign you up now…

I called a dear friend who had been one of dad’s nurses over the past year for her input.
I called back to dad’s primary care doctor for his opinion.
I called my husband
I called my cousin.
I called my aunt…
and I cried the entire rush hour traffic ride home…

Everyone who knows dad knows treatment is not the correct route.
But dad is scared.
And dad is very much like a little child.
And the cancer doctors are chomping at the bit…

So this squirrel is at a loss.

I may dip in and out of blogland here and there.
The first time in 3 years.
But I’m feeling my energy, creativity, my very life, ebbing away….
Depression is closing in fast…
it’s wicked hot breath has been on the back of my neck now for months.

Decisions have to be made…
and sickeningly, like the squashed squirrel, the buck stops here.
For I am now the parent of the parent who can no longer make those calls himself.
What is the right decision???
What is the right call???
Quality of life…
length of life…
yet at what state??
How much longer either way?
Aggressive cancer…
Fast growing…

I danced this dance with Mother 30 years ago…
I never would have envisioned walking down this road again…

I pray for a revelation or a Divine intervention—
One that directs our path without regrets, without second guessing…
That the road we go, is to be the right road…the only road…

I’ll be in and out as my strength and mindset allows…

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

wisdom from the road

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Will Rogers

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”
Lewis Carroll

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(somewhere along the road in County Kerry near Dingle, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Anyone who has ever spent any time on the road driving here, there and yon knows all too well that there is a real love–hate relationship between driving and journeying from the proverbial point A to point B.

Whether you spend time commuting each day to and from work or school, or you make your living driving, or you drive the roadways and the byways for recreation…or you simply have to get from one place to another…
I think most all of us would agree that there are many life lessons, as well as much wisdom, to be gleaned from the simple act of driving down any one of life’s many roads…

One of the most important lessons we can either learn the easy way or discover the hard way is to make certain that we know which direction we are to be headed because one thing is always certain…
Life is full of obstacles.

As there will always be those situations, issues and looming crises that will get in our way no matter how hard we try to avoid them…that’s just the way life is…

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(cows crossing somewhere on a road in County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Which in turn will give way to the fact that there will always be a need for patience…
For good or bad, patience will be necessary and it will be sorely tested along Life’s many traversed roads.
Blood pressures will rise and frustration will shoot through the roof…
And no matter how hard one tries, often times there will simply be no other way of getting around or avoiding certain troublesome moments in this thing called life, other than to resolutely meet it all head on…

Also we must be mindful that there will be those dark and lonely stretches of road when we will find ourselves unfortunately isolated and very much alone.

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(somewhere along the road near Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe we’ll have hit a rough patch in the road… a bit of bad luck or have found that life does not discriminate when it want’s to be cruel and difficult. By keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the task at hand… will not only be required but most necessary as we labor to keep things steady and safely in the middle of the road as we avoid the ruts, soft shoulders and unavoidable potholes during those lonely and dark days.
During such times, our resolve will be greatly tried…keeping steady and focused on our journey, knowing that we indeed have an ultimate destination will help to keep us going forward.

Additionally we must be mindful that there be those times when we will find ourselves face to face with oncoming trouble.
As in it simply can’t be helped.

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(heading up the road somewhere in County Kerry near Dingle, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

Sometimes we are blindsided, not knowing what’s hit us…
Other times, we will see it coming, knowing that the inevitable is headed right for us… and that there’s no avoidance, no running, no hiding…for the colliding of two separate forces cannot always be helped.
Our only recourse is to simply square our shoulders, set our jaw, point the wheel straight ahead, put the pedal to the metal and face it all bravely head on…for the character of any man or woman is forged in the fiery trials of Life.

And just when we think we’re back to our mindless cruising, merrily scooting back down the road, there comes along the strange and unusual diversion…something most often out of the blue, which averts our attention…perhaps something very much unwelcomed…some sort of siren’s song luring us to an unnecessary demise…or perhaps it is something welcomed yet untimely in its arrival, only working to delay our progress….focus, we must remain focused!

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(a wandering sheep along the road somewhere in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As once again, the important key is knowing how to handle any and all distractions…knowing how we will handle ourselves in all situations is best as it provides consistency even in the face of the unknown…
We mustn’t allow any of it to steal our focus, our determination, our resolve…
Rather, we must simply shift gears, turn our attention back to the task at hand and get back up to speed…

Yet no matter how harrowing a drive and or journey may be, we can never know with certainty, what waits around each bend or turn or curve…so preparation will be constantly tested…

So may we all remember that when it comes to heading out on one of Life’s many roads, even for just a quick sort of errand, being focused and prepared will make any sort of drive more bearable as well as enjoyable…
Happy travels one and all….

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(somewhere along the road in County Kerry near Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

Taking the hidden path

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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(Photograph: Padova, Italy/ Julie Cook / June 2007)

On this new morning of this new week, may you be ready and willing to travel down or up the new road(s) you find placed before you. May you be ready for any and all new adventures. Is there an unfamiliar closed door in front of you? Do not be afraid to open it…for behind that door, ’round that corner is a new journey, a new adventure, a new experience(s) waiting on you. I pray you have the courage to go forward. My principal use to always tell us, his teachers, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re only moving backwards. Plan on going forward–today!