Seeking shelter

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter
of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal
likewise with their fellow men.

Francis of Assisi


(spicebrush butterfly seeking a safe perch / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was leaning over, pulling up a few weeds out of the freshly strewn pine straw bed,
when I caught a bit of movement on a freshly trimmed bush.

A butterfly sat with fluttering wings wide open…not in the sun, but rather in the shadows.
It’s still a bit chilly in the mornings and early evenings here…however those first
hardy souls of the butterfly world are beginning to make their seasonal appearance.

I know that butterflies must sun themselves, warming up their muscles.
If the temps dip into the 40’s, butterflies can’t even move let alone fly.

I watched this wee one flitter from the shelter and shade of the shrubbery,
heading happily outward into the sun, only to lite upon the bay laurel tree.

The butterfly struggled on the slick laurel leaves to get traction.
Vainly attempting to climb up the leaves, in order to reach a sunnier spot in which to bask
in the beauty of the day, the butterfly kept slipping back down to the underside of the leaf,
while all the little fragile black legs worked furiously…
as my little friend scrambled to gain a foothold upward.

Yesterday we had tornados.
20 touched down throughout the state with one of those touchdowns being in my county.
It was nothing like our neighbors to the west in Louisiana,
but destructive none the less.

Property was damaged, cars crushed, college housing lost windows,
and even one of the local fire stations had it’s roof lifted of and taken away…
while a side wall then gave way….

Thankfully no one was hurt and no lives lost.

Today is a far cry from yesterday…
Today is one of those Chamber of Commerce type of days.
Warm, brilliant blue sky, white puffy clouds—
a true welcome mat coaxing one and all to venture out of doors.
Tomorrow however is to be like yesterday…
storm ridden and supposedly worse then we saw Monday.

Such is life in the Spring in the South…
beautifully inviting one minute, then hell on earth the next…
Sending both man and beast seeking shelter….

So for today as the butterfly and I currently enjoy wandering about a bit outside,
free from the confines of indoors or shelter…
I do so with knowledge that we both will most likely be seeking a safe haven
at some point tomorrow…

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

Unraveling? Hold on!

Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
George S. Patton

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Our God, Our Help In Ages Past
Isaac Watts

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(spicetail swallowtail butterfly hanging on in a rain shower / Julie Cook / 2016)

We’re all just holding on aren’t we…
seemingly by that proverbial thread.

We look all around us at the escalating global madness…
and we are mystified, even stupefied…
and growing more and more terrified by the day.

We find ourselves hunkering down, covering our heads, expecting the worst…
Or maybe we simply jam our fingers in our ears, dashing about chattering so loudly hoping
to drown out this frightening reality.

“We are living in a stressful age that New York Times columnist
Roger Cohen calls a “time of unraveling…Cohen imagines a future conversation
about the grim situations of the present and writes…
“It was a time of unraveling…a time of beheadings…a time of aggression…a time of breakup…
a time of weakness…a time of hatred…a time of fever…a time of disorientation” in which the “fabric of society frayed.”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Our political conventions are bordering on the edge of the surreal..
mirroring that of a traveling side show or a two bit circus.

The candidates vie for our votes…
Yet they prefer busing themselves by trading the ugly tit for tat verbiage of hate,
lies and insults.
As the average citizen is left wondering…where have real leaders gone….

Our world is ailing with unrest….and withers under evil’s oppression.

Today, in a quiet suburb of the French city of Rouen, an 85 year old priest, Father Jaques Hamel, was viciously and savagely murdered during the midst of morning Mass.
He was attacked by two young masked men.

The young assailants took four nuns and parishioners hostage using them as human shields.
These attackers forced Fr Hamel to kneel before the altar as they shouted a tirade in Arabic followed with Allahu Akbar, all before slitting Fr Hamel’s throat in front of terrified parishioners…
all the while filming the entire apalling spectacle.

They were later killed by police.

ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Germans continues reeling while trying to make sense out of the latest terror attacks that have rocked their nation. The stories continue making back to back to back headlines.

First an ax wielding young man attacks passengers on a train in Wuerzburg, Germany…

Next a gunman kills 9 at a shopping mall in Munich.

Thirdly, another young man, yesterday, injures 15 outside of a bar, as he proceeds to blow himself up…

The leading newspaper in Turkey ran a front page story yesterday claiming that President Erdogan is now blaming the United States for last week’s failed coup as word circulates that he was actually to blame for orchestrating the whole debacle…which has now given way for his sweeping crackdowns within a country balancing between a tenuous democracy and a Muslim dictatorship.

All of this world drama, as the UK continues to figure out what their voting to leave the EU will actually mean…

Our world has been turned upside down…with Truth, Morality, and The Sacred each becoming a resulting victim.

Indeed the world is unraveling at an alarming rate…
So many of these headlines are simply overwhelming, leaving us all with a sense of loss,
worry and dread…

Fear gleefully now marches far and wide around our globe…as we look to placate our troubles…

However…

We mustn’t lose our hope…
No matter how daunting such the task.

For we may just actually find our comfort and our peace
hidden in the smallest of beings…

Imagine the humble butterfly…

A delicate creature if ever there was one.
Its wings thiner then tissue paper, covered in a dazzling array of fine and colorful powder.
No match for rain nor tempest storm….
And yet they somehow manage to survive.

At the first sign of a change in the weather…
As clouds thicken and skies darken as the winds begin to shift…
the butterfly knows to seek shelter…

For even a single raindrop can kill a butterfly.

Even the resulting dip in temperatures, following in the the storm’s aftermath,
is life threatening because butterflies need the heat of the sun in order to feed, mate and thrive.

Butterflies instinctively know the importance of seeking shelter and holding on during a storm.
It’s a matter of living and dying.

Perhaps…
just maybe…
Its time we each look to the One who offers us our shelter from the storm…
To the One who offers us life in the face of all that is dying….
For He is indeed our shelter from the storm….

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging

Psalm 46:1-3

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The humble crabapple

“What plant we in this apple tree? Sweets for a hundred flowery springs To load the May-wind’s restless wings, When, from the orchard-row, he pours Its fragrance through our open doors; A world of blossoms for the bee, Flowers for the sick girl’s silent room, For the glad infant sprigs of bloom, We plant with the apple tree.”
– William Cullen Bryant

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(Images of the massive crabapple in the back pasture / Julie Cook / 2014)

This year is no exception.
We smelled the heavenly scent long before we noticed that the tree’s buds had actually opened.
As we busied ourselves in the yard Sunday afternoon, we all turned to one another at the same time stating the same marked observation “something sure does smell good”. . .

Immediately we realized that the massive overgrown crabapple had begun to bloom.
This massive tree sits just over the fence which divides our property from our neighbors.
This section of fenced off land had actually served, many moons ago, as a small pasture for a mere grouping of 8 black Angus cows. Deciding that her investment was not as profitable as first imagined, our neighbor sold the cows, allowing this small section of land to be reclaimed by Mother Nature herself as it is now an overgrown jungle of brambles, small pines, weeds and grasses.

This jumble of land is also home to several lovely trees. Dogwoods, Sweetgums, as well as several massive crabapples which at first glance resemble massive bushes rather than stately trees—with the one pictured today, growing well over the barbed wire fence, flowing and pouring itself onto our side of the fence.

This tree is home to the small family of deer which call our area home. The tree provides wonderful protective cover for mothers and fawns, as well as shelter from the heat of the oppressive Georgia summers. For us, the tree is a powerful reminder for all who are fortunate enough to first smell, then view, it’s heavenly presence, that the cycle of life is once again beginning. Always as if right on cue, happily again we are all reminded that Spring is indeed a time of renewed hope and joy. The comfort of the expected routine of life, which is happily observed from the cycle of the humble crabapple tree, reassures any observer that despite the woeful headlines which greet us each morning on the news, life is still happily hard at work.


He has made everything beautiful in its time

Ecclesiastes 3:11