heed thy words

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(the front window pane smashed)

The majority of the posts I write are written the day before they are posted.
Yesterday and the day before that were no exception.

Witnessing the surreal angst raging across this nation, Saint Velimirovich’s quote
seemed to best capture the correct Christian response…

“the world is a sick man whom sin has made sick…

as this pious cleric reminds us that…

“sin is the sickness and to scorn sinners is to scorn the sick.”

And therefore a healer is needed and we are to pray for the sinner…

Little did I realize how much those words were to resonate in
my own heart on a very personal level….

Saturday night we had been out to eat with friends…
It was just before midnight when we finally climbed into bed, ready to call it a day…
that the phone rang.

Calls in the night are never good.

It was the security monitoring system alerting us that the alarm at my husband’s store was going off.
Quickly dressing we raced to town hoping this was just some sort of false alarm.
Pulling into the shopping center we were met by the Georgia State Patrol and 4 Carrollton Police vehicles…it was no false alarm.

Glass littered the sidewalk like a million sparkling diamonds, scattering out into the parking lot…
this was the ominous welcome mat for what we would find inside.

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(the front corner that was smashed and the Pandora case…I am not showing the rest of
the damage in the store…that of the the broken cases as the investigation is on going)

I can’t describe the sicking feeling that grips one’s gut when walking upon
and seeing an extended part of yourself shattered and violated…
A flock of shadows eerily wandered in the fractured light with flashlights in hand,
searching for any information as a carpet of broken glass crunched underfoot.
The police surmised it all took place within 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds and thousands of dollars later…..

My husband’s father had returned home after spending fours years in Europe fighting
in a world war.
With no training or connections and little money in hand,
he opened a small town jewelry store with a legacy now 70 years old.

My husband took up the torch 40 years ago.
His store, his business, is all he has ever known.
He’s poured his entire existence into this small-town business with a
sense of selflessness rarely seen in today’s business market.
His integrity, diligence and sheer honesty has been the greatest example of
living and working that he could ever offer to our son.

Seeing a portion of this self-effacing work ethic of the man I’ve been fortunate to
share the last 34 years with…
broken and scattered along the sidewalk and parking lot late on a stormy Saturday night,
left a part of my own heart shattered and mixed within the glass.

Over the past several weeks,
I’ve sat perplexed as I’ve watched a swarth of this country act disgracefully and unbecomingly.
I’ve seen protesters marching, burning, and smashing store fronts.
Women enjoying profane laced rants.
Young people with masked faces torching that which is not theirs.
Vandalism for the sake of vandalism.
while hate percolates up to the surface…
As a percentage of this country decides every time we have transition and change,
it is a rallying cry for destruction.

There has been a call to destroy.
To destroy that which belongs to someone else…
that which was sweated over to create,
that which was labored over to build
of that which has witnessed the loss of sleep and great sacrifice…
coupled with the tender nurturing while praying as it all ebbed, flowed and growed…
pouring out a life to and for…
While others now selfishly and hatefully decide,
in the blink of an eye,
that none of that matters.

I cannot abide by those who steal or blatantly vandalize.
I do not make excuses that such individuals are disenfranchised, impoverished,
or uneducated…
that such individual’s behavior is due to the fact that they have not
benefited as others have…
so therefore such behavior is not to be seen as wrong…
just merely misunderstood.

Such is the liberal mantra echoed by those who make excuses for those who knowingly
choose to do wrong.

There are no excuses for choosing to do wrong.

Rich or poor
Educated or illiterate
have or have not
black or white
brown or yellow
Believer or not…

Wrong is wrong…
and it matters not your position in life nor
of your opportunities or lack there of…

So now I am finding myself hearing the same words of St Velimirovich that I typed
and shared yesterday…
“Make your heart prayerful, together with your soul and your mind,…
feel pity and compassion for every creature…
Do not scorn sinners, but pray for them…”

And so now…
I pray…
I pray for sinners as I pray for myself…
Sinners who have decided to turn their sins of selfish choices which
have been pointed in my direction…
I am called to pray for sinners to turn their hearts and their ways just
as I am to pray for my own ability to be able to forgive…

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47

consequences of our choices

The Wrong we have Done, Thought, or Intended, will wreak its Vengeance on
Our SOULS.”

― C.G. Jung

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”
― C.S. Lewis,

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
― Nelson Mandela

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(a Georgia peach / Julie Cook / 2014)

The third law of physics, as stated by Sir Isaac Newton, proclaims that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I would say that this “law” is not only true for the physical actions in our lives, but is equally true when it comes to our “mental actions” better known as the choices we make in our lives—
For every choice made, there is a resulting consequence–be it good or bad.

Some of our choices not only bring ill effects to ourselves but may have sweeping negative ramifications for others. Therefore one may, in turn, conclude that our choices are accompanied by grave responsibility. Yet who really ponders the decision to change a lane while driving as having potential grave consequence? Who really ponders the decision of taking a flight for a business trip as having possible lasting effects for our loved ones. . .as our plane is blown from the sky?

I would imagine President Harry Truman understood the concept of choices and consequences as he kept a small plaque on his desk “The Buck Stops Here.” Meaning the ultimate end of all decisions and choices regarding the best interest of all the American people and that of those in the free world, rested with him. It was ultimately President Truman’s decision to go with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A choice to bomb or not to bomb—either way would have had consequences—consequences effecting millions which would (and still) continue reverberating far into our future.

Let’s look at this concept of choices and consequences within the frame of a little scenario—

A man walks into a convenient store with a loaded gun pointed at the head of the cashier, demanding all the money in the register. Suddenly, for whatever reason, the robber choses to pull the trigger.
Lives are immediately changed forever.
For the sake of our little story let’s say the cashier is killed.
The robber, now turned murderous gunman, runs.
In that single selfish instant, the cashier’s family is changed forever .
The gunman, let’s say, is eventually apprehended.
His family is forever changed.
There is lengthy legal haggling.
In and out before a judge and the Courts.
Suddenly a bunch of other people are now consumed with the gunman’s selfish choice.
Years pass before there is a trial.
Now all of us as taxpayers are responsible for the gunman’s’ upkeep.
More lives are effected.
Eventually the gunman is found guilty and is sentenced to death.
There are appeals.
Years continue to pass as he lives in prison on Death Row, paid by taxpayers.
As other lives continue to be consumed with his own.
At some point, he turns to God.
He asks for forgiveness.
He is indeed forgiven.

God says to our gunman, “I forgive you and I love you, but your actions have consequence in the life of your world as well as in My World. As I have forgiven you, you will now be welcomed Home, but you must answer for your poor choices there in your world and undergo the punishment given. You must know that you will be with Me in and for Eternity but you will have to first undergo the consequences of your actions.”

Depending on the courts, the state of the crime, and the lengthy appeals, there will either be a sentence of death or life in prison. Either way, the gunman clings to God’s Grace—he accepts his earthly fate as a result of his initial choice of walking in the convenient store, all those many years prior with a gun in his hand, yet now instead of hate, greed, malice, there is a Peace in his being as He knows he is now forever God’s child come home. And there is a resolved acceptance to the punishment of his crime as our gunman now knows that his punishment will not be a permanent ending.

Let’s say for the sake of our little scenario that our gunman does not find God and does not seek forgiveness. He chooses to live bitterly stewing over the one hiccup in his plan, that he was caught.
If he had to do it over again, he’d make certain he was never caught.
There is no remorse—just a seething internal hate and disdain for all creation.

Depending on your belief system, be that in a Heaven or Hell, in a God of Grace and Justice or if you prefer to believe in nothing at all–either way, our gunman’s lack of remorse and choice of a selfish act now sends him either to eternal damnation or into oblivion.
End of story.
And isn’t that all quite empty and sad?

It is obviously not always for us to see justice.
Which can be terribly frustrating as well as painfully maddening. Imagine the hearts of the parents of children who’s young lives have been savagely taken from their parents arms by malice or illness. . . which must lead us all eventually to the Cross for some semblance of direction—but that is for another post.
However, the one thing we must take from this little story of ours is that we are to be mindful of our own choices.

For the one thing we can and do have some manner of control over is indeed our choices.

And granted not all of our choices are going to be as drastic or extreme as an armed gunman’s. . . as that is but a mere example. But it is an example which sums up the ripple effect of poor and selfish choices. The tentacles stretch outward casting a wide net that often stretches out through the ages. One’s negative choices can effect children, grandchildren–oftentimes altering the entire dynamics of a family for generations.

Many of us today continue to pick up the pieces of our parent’s or grandparent’s poor choices which have impacted our own lives in ways that leave us bitter and resentful.

May we then be the cycle breakers. May we be blessed with the vision to see the unhealthy and negative web which may be consuming our lives. May we rest in the knowledge that the cycle can be broken, which is after all, a mere matter of a choice.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.
Isaiah 41:9

A life is suddenly taken– will there be redemption?

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“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”
Dante Alighieri

I think many times in life, even when it seems we have a plan, we have a direction, we have a “life”, we can still find ourselves feeling, well, a bit “lost” as it were. Spinning our wheels somewhat aimlessly, spiraling as if out of control, going nowhere and going there fast.

Oddly enough when I think of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the body of work which gives us today’s quote, I think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Two very different stories written during two very different time periods, written in two very different countries, in two very different languages and yet they are two stories intertwined, unbeknownst to each author, about the adventure of life which desperately needs a reality check—a reminder of what life has been and if things don’t change, what life could be, unless there is a drastic about face, a turing around with a change of heart.

Dickens’ focus is more on a life lived simply for self and for greed with little to no regard for those less fortunate— or in Scrooge’s case, a regard for no one, not even particularly himself, other than the dispassionate making of money at all costs.

Dante’s tale is also a story about life—or rather lives lived wantonly with little to no regard to the fate of living such morally devoid lives—complete with a vivid and sober reminder of the results of living with such “sinfulness” and of how that leads to the spiraling, and apparently hopeless, journey into the results of that “sinfulness”……..

Each story has a guide leading our characters on their journey of discovery. Each guide eventually leaves our characters on their own. The hope is that each character, having seen the ugly reality of such lost living, has time to bring about change, positive change.

In Dante’s case the change is actually left up to the viewer—live a life like these folks and you’re stuck in a ring of hell–it’s all just a matter of which ring. In Scrooge’s case it’s a matter of change so you don’t wind up like Jacob Marley with the weight of your sins hung on your neck for all of eternity.

And I suppose it helps if you believe in an afterlife– otherwise I suppose the consequences of your life’s action would be simply nil. And yet— believing in an afterlife or not, believing in a heaven or hell or not, there is always the effect your actions have with those of which you share this planet.

This past week a tragedy happened in our county. It actually took place in a neighboring city of ours.

My husband is in a business where he has several competitors in our town, as well as in the neighboring towns. These businesses, whereas they do compete against one another, there remains a mutual respect and cohesiveness amongst all the businesses. This week, on Wednesday, during the middle of the day, 4 men entered a competing business, in a neighboring community, with hammers in order to “smash and grab”—a brazen type of robbery during the midst of a busy work day.

But rather than just smashing and grabbing—stealing and leaving—something went even more terribly wrong. The store owner was shot and killed.

He leaves behind a wife and two sons. He went to work that morning and in a terrible span of 15 seconds, that’s how long these men were in his business, his life was cut short and he wasn’t going home to his family that evening.

This sort of crime, even though our county is but an hour away from a major metropolitan city, is unheard of here. Our communities are such where people grow up together, go to school together, raise families together, go to friday night high school football games together in order to compete against one another, attend church together, shop together, simply live together — but violent crimes such as this….no, certainly not here. Not when you can drive 3 minutes out of our communities and find cows grazing in their fields, children riding their bikes, fruit markets set up selling the latest harvest…………

As word spread of this heinous act Wednesday afternoon, my husband’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Customers streamed into his store wanting to just “hug his neck”—-people were suddenly and sadly struck by the fragility of life.

The police apprehend one of the “men” who was left behind by his fleeing accomplices—he was the 16 year old gunman. Yesterday another man was apprehended many many miles from our community. These men were not from here but from the major metropolitan city. Last night, on the nightly news, one of the apprehended men was being lead into a courtroom for a bond hearing where he proceeded to repeatedly shoot the news cameras “a bird”——a life is taken for nothing and he shoots a bird to the news crew……I just don’t understand.

Fear has now gripped our county, our neighbors, our business owners. I now look at my husband each morning and I wonder if he will come back home in the evening—or not.

My faith is such that I do believe in prayer, I do believe in hope and I must believe in forgiveness.

Did these men think about taking a life and of the ramifications of such? I doubt it. Do they now think of the consequences of their actions? I don’t think their thoughts are as mine would be—-I don’t even know if they care—maybe the remaining two “on the run” only care about not getting caught, maybe they all just care about being stuck in a jail–going through a trail, maybe facing the death penalty—do they think about that? Do they think about God and what may happen if there is no redemption on their part????? Do they think of this man whose life they stole?
Of his now bereft family? I doubt it.

These sorts of actions by a few make life forever different for many others.

I do believe in God and I do believe in Hope—-the flip side to not believing is pretty grim.

May we all stop and ponder the course our actions and of the effect they have on those in which we share this planet and may our thoughts now also be with one very sad family and community—as this is not an isolated event—this sort of thing is playing out all over this country of ours—violence serves no purpose, I wonder when we will ever figure that out……..will there ever be redemption in the hearts of these men???????…………