sandcastles

“Without the hope of posterity, for our race if not for ourselves,
without the assurance that we being dead yet live, all pleasures of the mind
and senses sometimes seem to me no more than pathetic and crumbling defences
shored up against our ruin.”

P.D. James


(the remains of a day’s sandcastle /Julie Cook / 2017)

This nation of ours has ignorantly busied itself building sandcastles in the path
of a rising and raging tide.
Oh so certain that the ramparts will hold and the walls will never be breeched…
holding strong while staving off the ill perceived intrusion of lies.

Statues are removed, protests are mounted, while the glamorous raise their glasses in
triumph…
all the while ignorance is breeding contempt while violence is begetting violence…

Yet in the morning the castles will all be gone.
The tide of Truth will have leveled the pretense of man’s folly.

So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are
unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

comfort

“For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more–
remembering my own sins and follies;
and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts,
and very seldom as bad as their words.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(the beach is calling at The Pearl Hotel / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Anyone who has ever been to the beach and mixed…
wet bathing suits + sticky salty ocean water + greasy lotions + red burning skin +
lots and lots of sand…
all know first hand that the idea of comfort is a relative concept.

Add into the mix sitting in a wet sagging canvas “lounge” chair and the thought
of running naked through the surf becomes somewhat appealing….

Now don’t get me wrong—I love the whole notion of all of the above, as it is
part and parcel of a true “beach” experience…
as we throw in the sound of shrieking children bouncing in the surf,
alcohol induced howling conversations,
beach volleyball, football, bocce ball aficionados showing off the not so sculpted bodies,
music that is not a part of your personal iTunes…
and the whole concept of peaceful and soothing also becomes relative.

And yet there is comfort in the moment.

Comfort found in being elsewhere and other than.

As we are all creatures who truly love their comfort…
Both physical comfort as well as emotional…
We don’t much care for the idea of being deprived of anything in our neat little
comfortable worlds.

I suppose it would be well observed and easily noted that we humans may be known as
creatures who live for our comfort…
as well as for those things which make us such….

But the thing is….we were never promised comfort…
God made no promises in the area of all things comfortable.
And if truth be told, He had actually provided for such in the very beginning,
but there was that little issue over that apple and just as quickly,
any continuing promise of comfort vanished….

So it seems as if we, as in we human beings, have been in pursuit of all things
of comfort ever since that fateful day.

But now we see a little rub within said pursuit…

Enter one named Yeshua…

I prefer using the Aramaic translation of the latin name, Jesus,
as in it is more inline with what Jesus himself was familiar in hearing—
as in his name is what it is…and that is Yeshua ben Yosef…but I digress….

So Yeshua was asked where it was he stayed,
as those asking wanted to follow him.

But his response was not one of comfort.

For there was not a warm welcoming abode in which he resided.
There was no rest for the weary where He was concerned.
No creature comforts were to be offered, waiting nor ever to be found…
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

And again He offers anything but comfort in His admonition to his followers…

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels,
and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before
they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

And even later it was Paul who reminded those wishing to follow that
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”

So as Christians, a word which actually means little Christ…
the notion of comfort and a life that is comfortable,
is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Maybe it’s high time we venture from the safety of our comfort zones…

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

At peace

“There is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset.”
― G.K. Chesterton

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(the sun slips to the horizon / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

We deserve not, nor have we earned the gift of
the glorious,
the beautiful,
the majestic
the splendid
or
even the sublime. . .
Yet we are privy each dawn and dusk to utter wonderment.

A weary sun sinks low, resting heavy on the melting horizon. . .
As a calming hush is pulled gently across the shoulders of the sleepy landscape. . .

Do you have any regrets?

Are you sorry, feeling poorly or badly for how events may have unfolded throughout your day?

Do you stare forlornly out toward the darkening curtain that is slowly
being drawn across the closing day’s stage?

Could things have been better, different, more hopeful, more positive?

Are you now feeling burdened, defeated, regretful, resentful. . .?

Or. . .

Are you at peace. . .
resolved,
resolute
and calmly determined. . .
Finding yourself in a place of no regrets, no remorse, nor restless spirit. . .
Exhaling a blissful release of self as you feel your body giving way to the beautiful display that is offered to you in the evening’s gracious sky by the only One who is truly in control and has offered you a piece of Himself. . .

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
Psalm 65:8

Sure foundation or shifting sands

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.

Psalm 104:4

“God laid the foundations of the earth with perfect thoroughness (104, 5). He has made everything firm and permanent and imposed boundaries which limit each things operation.”
― C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

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(the lovely legs of a great blue heron / Perdido Key / Julie Cook / 2015

What is the base of your foundation, your strength, your bedrock of existence?

Firm and steady. . .
or
loose and shifting?

To what are you bound, fettered, tethered?
What is it that keeps you grounded, secure, rooted?

Is it something solid and strong
or
Is it something soft and unreliable?

Earthly kingdoms rise and fall.
Man soars then quickly descends.
Bigger, better, faster, farther in the constant continuum.
Until there is no more. . .

Where will you put your trust?
Where will you look for permanence and continuity?
What shall be your everlasting?

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand

The Solid Rock
Avalon

Signs of the times through the eyes of a piper

Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Teddy Roosevelt

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(a lone little sandpiper wadding through the sand Watercolor Beach, Santa Rosa, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

A rather hopeless image is it not?
A lone little sandpiper, supported by tiny little nimble legs barely wider than a toothpick, dutifully trudges its way through an endless sea of sand.
Up and down the dips and hills.
No matter that the air temperature is 97 degrees and the sand barely tolerable to bare feet.
All day, every day, from sun up to sun down, the sandpiper marches on, on his life’s quest of foraging for food and of finding a mate.

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Yet if we zoom in, focusing more on the actual bird itself, blocking out the endless ocean of surrounding sand, the journey, the chore doesn’t appear to be as daunting or overwhelming. Rather we see a cute small bird dutiful to his task, nonplused by the uneven barren terrain.
Merely going about the task of daily life.

Two images of the same little bird which helps to bring us today to our quote by President Theodore Roosevelt.
President Roosevelt, quite the maverick and trailblazer of his day, reminds us that a life lived with numerous attempts and failed attempts is much better than the life lived by those who either, out of fear, ignorance or both, choose inactivity and complacency.

Those who attempt a venture, a quest, a goal will most likely eventually see some sort of progress, triumph or victory. Yet those who remain still, immobile, or sedentary will see simply the same ol thing day in and day out—a rather grayness of nothingness.

My poor Dad, he prefers a life lived in the grayness.
He has never understood my love of traveling nor of my desire for adventure.
I mentioned recently that’d I’d like to one day travel to Ireland.
His response was “just stay home, you can watch it on television”
“Watch it on television?!
DAD, I don’t want to watch Ireland on television!!!”
This as I had called to tell him we were driving down to Florida, to the beach, for the weekend.
“Why do you want to do something like that?”
“We’re celebrating our belated anniversary”
“Why can’t you celebrate at home?”
“Dad” (there is a tone there)
“Dad, there are no terrorists on the roads to Florida” (or so I hope)
“There is always danger; there’s danger driving up to Sandy Springs” (the city just above his home)
“Dad” (note the tone again)
“I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to come up until next week”
“Oh you don’t need to come up. There’s danger on the roads. Just stay where you are”
“Dad, how in the world am I going to see you if I don’t come up?”
“Oh there is just too much danger on those roads. . .”

My mom never got to go anywhere or do anything the least bit adventurous during her life.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, she died from a brief bout with lung cancer at the age of 53.
After her death I wanted to make darn certain of two things. . .
A. that I would beat my mom, living past her short span of 53 years.
and
B. that I would make her a promise– that I would go and do, as best I could, taking with me always her spirit as I knew my mom would have enjoyed and liked to have seen and done more in this world.

Sadly however, I’m afraid Dad may have a point as I think the times in which we find ourselves living are most precarious and frankly quite dangerous.
Dad is right in that regard.
The world has certainly grown dark as the shadow of Death and Fear work in tandem to engulf the lives of a world community.
Suspicion, doubt, apprehension have come to rule our daily comings and goings.

As we read our papers and watch the news, as each is laced with the dire warnings, statistics and predictions of these dark days of which we live, may we be mindful that if we succumb to the fear, to the threats issued by Madness itself, we are the losers who therefore allow Fear, Death and Madness their win.

May we never settle for less in life merely out of stagnation and fear.
Life and living are always going to be accompanied by risk.
That’s simply the nature of the game.
Even the old adage reminds us that “nothing ventured is nothing gained”

I certainly do not advocate throwing caution to the wind, that we should dash off half cocked into the abyss of Madness ill prepared or ill informed, but I do believe in moving forward by being watchful, mindful as well as vigilant, willing to see and do within the confines of good sense and good reason. . .but always moving forward.

May we not allow the times of which we find ourselves living hold us back as we dare to dream the dreams of hope and dare to live the adventure of going to those places and of meeting those people our hearts and minds have always imagined and longed for. . .

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole
creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve
those who travel
surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey’s end;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

“Amoretti”– a poem, obviously, by a love struck sandpiper

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(sandpiper, Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Coo / 2014)

Amoretti
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
but came the waves and washèd it away:
agayne I wrote it with a second hand,
but came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray.
Vayne man, sayd she, that doest in vaine assay,
a mortall thing so to immortalize,
for I my selve shall lyke to this decay,
and eek my name bee wypèd out lykewize.
Not so, (quod I) let baser things devize
to dy in dust, but you shall live by fame:
my verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
and in the hevens wryte your glorious name.
Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
our love shall live, and later life renew.

Edmund Spenser’s Amoretti (1595)