living in the shadows

“Gregory of Nyssa points out that Moses’s vision of God began with the light, with the visible burning bush, the bush which was bright with fire and was not consumed; but afterwards, God spoke to him in a cloud. After the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light. The shadows are deepening all around us.”
Madeleine L’Engle

DSCN1189
(shadows cast on the grounds of Adare Manor / Adare, Co Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

While no one seems to take notice,
Distortions and false precepts gather around the faithful…
like opportunistic buzzards circling overhead …

All the while a noose tightens…

The hard truths have been concealed by the naive,
who with their blankets of all things happy,
dole out feel good prosaics offering only false hope…
numbing the reality of all those who prescribe.

Like a spider’s sticky web, the lies have been beautifully spun…

Reality was decided long ago yet it appears to be more than most care to bare…
So a heavy dish of falsehoods and half-truths have been offered up with limitless appeal

And now discernment must play a pivotal role.

Not all who follow claim the one and only Truth…
they’ve been chasing after the elusive shadows…
which disappear with the fading light

Judgement now dances a strange dance with confusion.

Time has arrived with its decisive ultimatum…
Choose Light
Choose the Life
or…
remain hidden within the shape shifting shadows of your own distorted illusion…

These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:17

in the shadows

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

To think of shadows is a serious thing.
Victor Hugo

DSCN0515
(a jackdaw at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As the winter wanes and spring advances, the evening shadows slowly retreat from whence they came.
Or so it seems to the causal observer…
those innocents who observe the rhythm of the seasons.

Yet the shadows that secretly veil this earth…
grow ever far reaching …
while hidden from plain site…they slink around undetected

There are those who know the dangers because they can actually see..
the shape shifting shadows that dart in and out…
hidden far from reality’s plain sight
Chasing and dogging those who seek the One True Light….

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendour through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his for ever and ever, amen!
1Peter 5:8 (Phillips)

The watchman has sounded the alarm

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
GK Chesterton

“Lord, I am willing to break MY heart that I might satisfy THY heart.”
Watchman Nee

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
Habakkuk 1:5

DSCN1287
(a single spiraling stair leads downward at Bunratty Castle / County Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

We are surrounded by an advancing diminishing light as shadows lengthen, growing heavy this very late hour.
The watchman perched high in his tower-stand has seen the ominous signs as the impending maelstrom now fast approaches…
Sounding his alarm, the warning falls flat on deaf ears.

The anxious watchman abandons his tower watch, racing downward from his helpless position. He races to alert the slumbering forces and bar the massive castle gate. Time is of the essence.
Slipping, almost falling down the damp cold worn steps, the watchman descends into the
encroaching vastitude of eternity.
Time no longer is gracious or kind.

Confusion reigns down havoc and chaos on the unsuspecting who now hurry about searching for protection.
“We thought it was all ok…
Everyone was happy…
Wasn’t that the point?”
Tolerance of everything, right?
No wrongs…everything being right…everyone was happy, there were no distinctions.
Everyone had things the way they wanted, what was so wrong with that?

The masses agonizingly lament as the sickening reality of appeasement and indifference comes painfully into focus.

Wailing and anguish join as one.
Yet the watchman alone knows the truth.
Hard choices of both right and wrong have crossed the invisible lines of distinction,
melding as one.
Just as young babies are first taught right from wrong…as the meaning of no, don’t and danger are drilled into their tiny heads, their adult defenders find themselves having forgotten those very meanings…

Somewhere along the way, wrong became ok.
The word sin was wiped from the books.
There was no longer regret as there was no longer a need of a conscious.

The ancient manuscripts, now dusty with disuse, were plain in their position and mandates.
The Word was spoken and the Law of the Creator stood firm.
Yet man became his own god and now the hour is late and shadows have fallen…

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
1 John 18-27

Rejoice even in the shadows

“It is supposed by some that religion makes people solemn, takes the sunshine out of their life, the joy out of their heart, the song out of their mouth. But the reverse of this is the truth. No other one in the world has such secrets of joy as has the Christian. Christ teaches his followers to rejoice. He bids them rejoice even in sorrow and trial.”
James Russell Miller

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

DSC02665
(Spicebrush swallowtail on the meyer lemons tree / Julie Cook / 2015)

Rejoice, Rejoice. . .and again I say Rejoice. . .
Rejoice in finding the happiness and joy that is promised to you this day,
just as it is promised each and every day . . .
Despite the growing and lengthening shadows that threaten the very gift of radiant light. . .
Those shadows which grow ever more ominous and heavy,
Remember that you are a child of holy Light. . .that there is nothing which remains hidden from the knowledge of the Most High. . .not even in the darkest shadow. . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Philippians 4:4

The pleasure of your company is requested

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”
― Baltasar Gracián

article-2042666-022C93A80000044D-566_634x444
(Compliments of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the UK Dailymail / Windsor Castle State dinner preparation)

The table has been lovingly set
The finest linen and china are on hand.
Your invitation was printed eons ago.
It’s an open invitation of sorts.
There’s no RSVP so no worries as to your response.
Nor is there any particular dress code, no black tie or formal wear required.
Come as you are. . .
It’s one of those sorts of events that will go on with or without you,
Yet the hope is that you will indeed attend.

It isn’t a fancy sort of fete.
Not a jovial or raucous party, but rather a somber sort of affair.
It’s a yearly gathering, a remembrance, of a time long ago.
The yearly marking of hardships and struggles of a different era.
A special dinner to recall what was with a slight nod to what may be. . .

Yet on one such annual occasion,
One of the yearly gatherings, something was unnervingly different.
There was a deeper heaviness than usual.
There was a sense that things would never really be the same.
Year in and year out the words, the ceremony, the food, had always been the same. . .
But not so on this one particular evening.

Everyone had gathered as requested.
All were present and accounted for.
The food and beverages were to be the same,
The ceremony the same,
The words, the prayers all the same. . .and yet, this time, it was different,
It was all very different.

Sorrow had already taken his seat at the table,
along with Betrayal who was dressed to the nines.
Whereas Sorrow was often mentioned as a past participant, this year,
he had actually arrived earlier than expected.
Betrayal seemed almost excited to be included this year.
Sitting off to the side, Denial and Questioning were in deep conversation.
Thankfulness took his rightful seat.

Humility arrived fashionably late, as he had been detained washing up.
Kindness, Graciousness and Empathy sat together, offering a gentle smile to all who entered.
Anxiousness paced around the table, as Doubt visited with each guest.
Greed rubbed his hands while Treachery made excuses for an early departure.
Love’s warmth filled the room
Sadness began to sing.

Each guest was offered new bread and wine,
as a parting gift before departing—
It was a taste of the labors and fruits that had been gathered by both Glory and Hope. . .

Only the Wise,
The Needy,
The Poor,
The Castaway,
The Forgotten,
The Humble,
The Mournful,
The Peacemakers,
The Hungry,
The Meek,
The Penitent,
The Sinful,
The Lonely,
The Obedient,
The Hopeful,
reached in to take the Gift. . .
as the others hurriedly raced off to the shadows. . .

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:17-30

shadowlands

“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

DSC00463
(carolina chickadee / Julie Cook / 2015)

In a maddening life and even more maddening world,
the monochromatic greys and browns have cast a sickly pall and a deepening shadow upon the soul.

Racing five steps forward, while falling 8 steps back, a heavy laden spirit
sinks further into despair.

What of. . .
kindness
thoughtfulness
cooperation
genuineness?

Where is your humanness?
That which marks you as
compassionate
emphatic
concerned
selfless

A worn specter is seen dragging itself through the shadowlands, alone and stooped.
As the world remains in darkness and full of gloom, the figure casts no shadow of its own.
Tears begin falling like overly ripened fruit from a tree, thick and heavy, each landing with a sickening thud.
While weighted feet drag slowly through the muck, one behind the next.

Heavy
Weighted
Slumped
Dragging
Beaten
Dirty
Lonely
Isolated
Dark

In a life and world stripped of any and all light
Greys collide, melding with black and white.
Tonal nothingness wraps itself like a dirty wet heavy towel across the shadowlands.
The ground trembles.

A random clap of thunder suddenly lifts sunken eyes skyward
Three limp figures, atop the hill, reflect the single flash of light.
Within the static electricity, a host of figures emerge.
It is as if a million tiny stars now flicker and dance across the darkened sky.

Light begins reflecting light, as if the sky itself is now on fire.
A thousand crystals shatter into ten thousand shards of perfect light.
Colors crash madly into one another, cascading from the Heavens.
A chromatic sea washes across the dry grey land, monotones scatter.
A spectrum of energy consumes the lifeless.

As light returns, bodies straighten, faces lift.
Light rays playfully now join with shadows, creating an unknown depth and richness
No longer present are the three limp figures atop the single lone hill
Darkness, Death and Despair have been replaced with a dazzling Light. . .
As the single brilliant Light gives way to an endless new Life. . .

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2

Shadows, Groundhogs, badgers, Candlemas and a birthday

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Old English song

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.

Old Scottish song

Groundhog%20Munchies
(image taken from the web)

February 2nd marks, for Christians, the holy day of Candlemas, otherwise known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Jesus Presented in the Temple
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2:22-40

In both the US and Canada February 2nd is also known as Groundhog Day.
A hopeful day designated for anticipation and decision making. . .the pivotal marking of whether or not Winter is to linger for 6 more weeks or if Spring is to make a long awaited early arrival.
Either the groundhog sees his shadow or not—-The importance of shadows and clouds suddenly fills the air with expectancy. The signposts of legend and lore pointing either toward or away from Spring.
In Germany it was first a hedgehog–later in England it was a badger–and now, in North America, it’s a groundhog which is to take top honors bearing the responsibility of forecasting.

February 2nd is also Aunt Martha’s birthday and we certainly can’t let that monumental event be overshadowed by a groundhog, a hedgehog or a badger now can we. . .

So on this new day to this new month, early on in this new year, may we actually hope for clouds, shadows and Spring. . .may we be mindful of the significance of a wee child being presented in a Temple so very long ago and may we, much like Mary, ponder in our hearts as to how that single event has changed our lives as we are to never be the same. . .Also. . .may we think of wishing those we know and love, like Aunt Martha, a very happy birthday. . .
now. . .where are those clouds and did anyone think to bring the cake???

Shadows to Light

There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.
Joseph Barber Lightfoot

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4

DSCN7928
(sunlight dapples throughout the leaves on a warm Fall morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

Hiding in the shadows, obscured by darkness
your Secrets and lies fester,
growing ever bolder and more dangerous.

Trolling the recesses of open thoughts and minds,
whispering falsehoods as truth.
Your questioning becomes my confirmation.

Seeking the prideful and arrogant,
the egotistical and the conceited.
Your bravado is my open door.

Flourishing in the opaque.
No light passes toward my presence,
yet my name was once Bearer of Light.

However, a battle ensued, when all darkness was finally cast aside,
there appeared a single star in an Eastern sky
Larger and brighter than any star ever seen by man.

It was then that the true Light engulfed the birth of Salvation
For now all those things hidden in the darkness
have been brought forth in Truth and Glory

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

Fading light

All that’s bright must fade, The brightest still the fleetest; All that’s sweet was made But to be lost when sweetest.
Thomas Moore

DSCN7559
(a piper in the shadowed light

Shadows grow long as days grow short.
A gentle hush settles in over the horizon.

Savory, heady scents and tastes fill our senses,
While we wrap ourselves in blankets filled with rich warm hues.

Yellow flickering lights fill the magical darkness,
As crunching crackling sounds serenade nighttime wanderers.

Time gently slows as clocks turn back,
While older hearts bask in youthful wonder.

Baking relentless Heat, now mercifully blown elsewhere,
Ushers in gently refreshing rains to a thirsty weary land.

A page turns as days now change.
Seasons shift as bright mellows to soft.
Fresh replaces heavy, as what once was now gently fades
Into the pale shimmering light.

The diligence of time

“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”
― Seneca

DSCN7312
(portion of a massive spider’s web / Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Woven and spun in the season of lengthening shadows.
Strength in the most delicate of thread.
Steadfast, determined, ever diligent to the task.
Over and under, in and out, loop and hook.

Easily broken, laboriously repaired
Each day passing as the day before
Stretching, giving, taking, bending
Up and down, side by side, criss then cross

Luminescent, translucent, barely seen yet keenly felt
Holding fast and tightly firm
Beauty in the tiniest detail
Master weaver ever toiling without complaint

Assailed and assaulted come tempest wind or driving rain
Victim of ravenous foe who vie for hungriest claim
Never deterred, never wavering, constantly steady
Spinning and weaving without delay

Intuitive skill or mindless action
Eons of time have witnessed no change
Beauty found in necessity of action
Survival in the most delicate thread