high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
President.
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your
address.

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

the exchange for the lie….

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—
who is forever praised.
Amen.

Romans 1:25

When the truth of God is turned to a lie,
his glory is obliterated.

John Calvin


(a purple passion flower found blooming deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

When I frist read today’s quote by John Calvin regarding turing God’s truth to a lie…
which therefore obliterated His glory…
I thought “YES, that’s it!”
“That’s what’s going on here”…
“That’s exactly what they’re doing…”
“They’re taking God’s word and altering it to fit the skewed and warped desires of
these current times of ours.”

“Twisting and turning everything God has uttered into some sort of carnal, wanton
and depraved acknowledgement which in turn makes these current times of wants
and desires all really ok.”

It’s been done ever so slyly with a deletion of a word here, a new interpretation or
altered context or sentence there…
and magically it’s now POOF….!!!!!
What once was a “no, not a good idea,” is now a defiant and triumphant “Yes” equating
to everything and anything now being perfectly fine and acceptable…

And in so doing… the Truth has been turned into a lie, thus obliterating and smashing
the glory of God into smithereens….

And just so we’re clear, the said “they” in all of this is pretty much our current
culture and society…
So the “they” is really pretty much us….

Yet…after reading the sentence several times over and over, I sat for a bit pondering
the statement further.

Whereas man has taken God’s words and altered, rearranged and reworded them to fit
neatly into man’s desired wants….
nothing about God has been obliterated….
Because no matter what man does or says, he cannot, will not “obliterate” God.

Nietzsche’s famous proclamation of God being dead did not render God dead…
for man cannot “kill” the Omnipotent Creator…
despite his attempt to rid God from man’s own mind, heart and life….
man does not have that power.

It’s like the angry child who stomps a foot and proclaims to be now ignoring
whomever it is who has incurred his or her wrath….
in essence attempting to render said individual, null and void, dead and gone…
the epitome out of sight and out of mind.

Yet God being outside of both space and time does not conform nor fit into man’s limited
restraints of such.
He is greater than as well as beyond limitations.
And because of that, He is incapable of being obliterated or “killed”
or even contained for that matter.

It is the clarity of observation made by Lauren Green in her newly published book
Lighthouse Faith that sums this all up in once simple sentence…
“that we live in the reality of God’s world,
not He in ours.”

So whereas man may think that he’s being overtly cleaver in his smug superiority–
creating verse and word according to himself…
the Truth which is both inside and outside of both space and time, cannot
be rendered anything other than what it is…
that simply being the Truth….

Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.
Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate said to him,
“What is truth?”

John 18:37-38

disrespect found in a den of iniquity

Discourtesy does not spring merely from one bad quality,
but from several–from foolish vanity, from ignorance of what is due to others,
from indolence, from stupidity, from distraction of thought,
from contempt of others, from jealousy.

Jean De La Bruyere

jeopcollege2017group_990x557
(the 2017 Jeopardy college championship, with our little friend from Stanford on the far right)

Disrespect….

I’m pretty certain that I’ve rambled on about this little topic before…
and here I am finding myself, once again, addressing the whole
notion of respect vs disrespect, morality vs immorality…
as I caught a little story in the news this morning that has left me troubled…

And it seems as if the story centers on, of all things, the college
championship competition on Jeopardy…
as if sadly, nothing is currently off limits…
particularly when it comes to this notion of respect…
even the benign bastion of all things related to trivia being apparently fair game…

Disrespect, which actually walks hand in hand with it’s first cousin immorality,
as in each are the mirror effect of respect and morality,
are two negative human traits that if left unchecked, unaddressed….
two actions that left either ignored or simply tolerated,
are two of the key undoings of any society.

For disrespect, and its cousin immorality, lead directly to the erosion of civility.
The erosion of civility, in turn, is the undermining of any civilization…
all of which leads directly to anarchy.

Throughout much of the history of humankind, it has been the youthful ones
who have had the most trouble with these two notions…
that of both respect and morality.

There is a time in all growing up when these two choices, or perhaps more aptly put,
decisions in behavior, come powerfully and dangerously into, well, jeopardy.
Be it testing the waters with a devil may care lifestyle,
the growing pains found in a struggle for independence or simply part and parcel
of growing up… that time period between late adolescence and early adulthood
is a murky pool swarming with defiance, emotional roller coasters and lots of
poor choices…

In times past, society had done well to nurture its angst filled youth through these
troubling waters…
today however, we are witnessing a dangerous anomaly taking place on
college campuses all across the country….
An enabling of the molly coddling coupled by a dangerous ideology of a liberal manifesto
found not in what was once considered to be the bulwarks of higher education but rather
now found in places that are considered nothing more then dens of iniquity.

Society now not only tolerates the anger filled intolerance of the self-centered youth,
it is embracing it and them with a heinous zeal while affording these young people the
luxury of living a Peter Pan type of lifestyle…as in never having to grow up and
accepting responsibility for the poor choices of their negative actions.

On this particular Jeopardy episode, three kids from various colleges were competing
for the college championship.
During the brief meet and greet portion of the show, Alex asked each student
a question allowing them a brief time of explanation.

One nice looking young man from Stanford was asked a question about his major.
While answering Alex’s question, this young man was, it appeared, to be not only
talking with his hands as he responded to the question,
but one hand was actually raised while he was coyly shooting a bird for the cameras.
For roughly 10 seconds, this kid talked while shooting a bird on national television.

I actually saw this particular episode and never noticed.
But why would I….
why would I think a competitor would want to act like a fool on a national platform?
Alex apparently didn’t notice either.
But Twitter noticed.

Someone tweeted out about the incident with the student quickly responding,
“damn right I did”

Really??

Now why pray tell would some kid, who is sporting the sweatshirt of his college,
proud to be representing his college in a national televised competition want to
show his butt by shooting a bird while casually explaining his college major
to the host of the show?

Rude comes to mind.
As well as selfish.
Selfcentered.
Arrogant…
Disrespectful…

I was angry.
Mad at this blatant act of total disrespect to not only Alex the host, but to
the crew, this student’s fellow competitors, his parents, the audience..
both in the studio and those of us at home.

So now, as a society, do we decide to tolerate this cheeky kid’s behavior?
Do we choose to ignore his disrespectful behavior?
Do we opt to laugh it off as merely brash?
Do we simply chalk it up to youthful ignorance?
Do we shrug it off as just a kid being kid…?

Or do we say enough.

Do we say grow up kid.
Man up, as it were.
Step up to the what it means to be and act like an adult.
Do we respond with a “you think you’re so smart, then act it?”

Maybe his winnings should be forfeited for his disrespectful behavior…
Maybe Stanford should be reminded about the type of “ambassadors”
they’re sending out as representatives of their fine institution of all
things educational.
Maybe it would behoove all of us to recall that actions, all actions,
have consequences…
instead we’ve chosen to turn a collective blind eye to
poor behavior….

Having a lack of respect leads not merely to the obvious opposite of disrespect…
but rather it leads to contempt…
contempt of both one’s self as well as others…
eventually leading us all down the chaotic path to the loss of soul
found only in anarchy.

http://nypost.com/2017/02/24/jeopardy-contestant-gives-trebek-the-finger/

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’
You blind fools!

You snakes!
You brood of vipers!
How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 23:13-17,33)

moral control

“The recovery of moral control and the return of spiritual order have
now become the indispensable conditions of human survival.
Christianity is the soul of Western civilization…
When the soul is gone, the body putrefies”

Christopher Dawson
1947 Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh University

IMG_2220
(coneflowers / Julie Cook / 2016)

Moral
and
control
two words that appear to send shivers up and down the spines of most 21st century individuals.

Moral seems to be a word that is out of step and out of time…
It is a word most modern day individuals don’t like to talk about or be reminded of…
as our culture embraces anything and everything other than moral.

Moral is equated with old school, back in the day, a puritanical society, buzz kills,
oh so passé, so not 21st century, limiting, no longer applicable, and simply put…
absolutely no fun.

Control is also a word our society seems to have a difficult time wrapping its mind and action around.
As control is just so…well, controlling.
And who in this modern world of our wants to be controlled??
No one, that’s who…
As to be controlled has all sorts of negative connotations…
And Lord knows, every sort of special interest group out there has spent its lifetime breaking out of anything to do with control or being controlled.

In 2012, Os Guinness identified a present-day mind-set that springs from what he called “a soft though decadent nihilism that devours tradition, destroys social cohesion, cheapens cultural standards, hollows moral convictions and in the years to come will produce its own dark harvest of social consequences.”
(except from God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley /
Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide )

Turn on any television, watch any recent movie, listen to any current music, read any of the latest magazines, share in the caustic tweets of the latest rants and rages…
and it is becomes crystal clear that our society has allowed, and is currently allowing…
dare we say, encourages the decline if not the death, of any and all moral control.

For it seems as if our society is suffering from a terrible case of a strange ailment …

And it should be noted that we have actually been quite sickly with this curious malady for quite sometime…
and if the truth be truly told, this illness of ours may actually be near fatal…

Materialism,
hedonism,
absolutism,
egoism,
fatalism,
feminism,
individualism,
a cultural isolationism,
liberalism…

to name but a few of our more obvious ills of isms…

We have embraced these ism illnesses of ours with a frightening zeal,
relishing and basking in each and every last ailment…all before eagerly setting
our sights on new and more alluring decadently and oddly satiating ills…

In order to reverse this current obsession of the illnesses that plague us…
In order to reign in the current wild ride on the guaranteed collision course
with our own demise…
It would behoove all of us to reconsider two small words…

Moral…

Control…

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber,
because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness,
not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,
and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 8:11-14

Authority vs Power

“Another time of testing has come.
Another day of reckoning is here.
This is a testing and a reckoning…
that could prove even more decisive than earlier trials.”

Os Guinness

CIMG0617
(statue of St Peter stands looking over St Peter’s Square, The Vatican/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

“The Kingdom of God is the realm of true authority; the kingdom of Satan is seen in the tyranny of raw power.”
(God and Churchill/ Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley

In his 1931 essay, Fifty Years Hence, written long before Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, the then former Chancellor of the Exchequer penned his bleak yet precautionary predictions for the future of not only Western Civilization, but the world at large.

Churchill’s essay was written post WWI, while the destructive images of a devastated Europe raged fresh in his mind just as the rumors of new wars festered along the horizon….

“Without an equal growth of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, Science herself may destroy all that makes human life majestic and tolerable. There never was a time when the inherent virtue of human beings required more strong and confident expression in daily life; there never was a time when the hope of immortality and the disdain of earthly power and achievement were more necessary for the safety of the children of men.”

Churchill’s opining of predictions were but a stone cast into a pond whose ripples were to reach to what he saw to be 1981…
however his words and thoughts, those ripples, continue to be relevant to our own day and time these 85 years later…well past the initial envisioned fifty years.
In fact his words ring more true today than they did in 1981.

I think we’d all agree that our times are exceedingly precarious.
Many an observer notes the almost tangible and even palpable fear that is presently running as an electric current throughout the world.
Radical Islamic Extremists,
global terrorism,
coups,
civil wars,
our own racial divide and unrest…
all of which has rocked this 21st century world.

There are many, myself included, who can’t help but to see the mirrored comparisons of a rising Adolph Hitler and his Nazi death machine compared to today’s current menacing death machine of Islamic fanaticism and its declared war or caliphate against the West and the Judeao / Christian foundation…of which has stood since the days of Constantine…

“We are confronted with another theme. It is not a new theme;
it leaps out upon us from the Dark Ages–
racial persecution, religious intolerance, deprivation of free speech,
the conception of the citizen as a mere soulless fraction of the State.
To this has been added the cult of war.
Children are to be taught in their earliest schooling the delights and profits of conquest
and aggression.
A whole mighty community has been drawn painfully, by severe privations,
into a warlike frame.”

(except of speech broadcast to Britain and the United States October 16, 1938)

Reading these words, not knowing they were spoken 78 years ago, in a different time and place, one would imagine them to be easily written today…
If we listen carefully we hear the ominous warnings…
warnings concerning the madrassas of today with their radical teachings to the youth of Islam…
we hear of the ongoing global teachings of intolerance for Western society…
we hear of the hate for the Christian and Jewish communities throughout the world…
warnings and reminders being echoed of the soulless citizens having lived or who are currently living under the blankets of communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships and the growing rise of socialism….
anything but democracy….

It would behoove us, as we stand on the cusp of the dire decisions and votes being cast…
with their often ominous results–
not only on a national level, but to the choices, votes and decisions being made globally,
to understand the difference between what is true authority verses what is power merely cloaked in a false authoritative shawl.

Authority shows itself in constructive power, whereas raw power is inevitably destructive, as Hitler and the Nazis amply demonstrated. Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, but power is seized.
Authority is given to the humble, those under authority; power is snatched by the proud, who acknowledge no authority over themselves. Authority is sustained through relationship, which is why Churchill devoted so much time to communicating and to being among the people. Raw power, on the other hand, is sustained through four control mechanisms: manipulation, condemnation, intimidation, and domination, skills that Hitler and the Nazis honed to a sharp point”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Again, words written regarding a past time yet even more relevant today…

May we open our ears to the past as we open our eyes to the future as we currently wrestle with seeking
new governing leadership…
May we be mindful to look to those individuals who seek not to grab power but rather to those who seek to lead under the authority that has been granted from the only One who can truly grant authority to those who seek His counsel for those who which they are charged to lead….

The whole world is upborne and sustained by God’s Love, and each person was created as an act of love. This is truly incomprehensible to us because we can’t see clearly the breath, and depth, and enormous scope of such great love. God looked at each stage of Creation and said clearly that it was good: the sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the earth, the animals, the birds, the fish, and the plants. All is good, all is blessed, and all is an outpouring of Trinitarian love. When we were created, then God said that this was more than good, but very good. Very good! When will we live up to such a great calling, to such a great love: personal, intense, and giving the power to also create around us an expression of God’s goodness and love. Help us, O Lord, to fulfill Thy precious love in us and in all we touch and see.
Amen.
(offering prayer from the monks at St Isaac’s Orthodox Skete)
(http://www.skete.com/index.cfm)

mishappen and now missing

Beware the politically obsessed.
They are often bright and interesting, but they have something missing in their natures;
there is a hole, an empty place, and they use politics to fill it up.
It leaves them somehow misshapen.

Peggy Noonan

DSCN3485
(something has been nibbling / Julie Cook / 2016)

I don’t know about you, but something seems to be not only a little misshapen, but now, totally missing….

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pretty healthy new little shrub, from the local nursery, in hopes of filling in a gap in one of the shrub beds.

I don’t know, but something doesn’t look right.
It looks shorter to me…
Less full…
lopsided…
depleted…
as in, something seems to be missing…

I had my suspicions.

Walking over the yard, to survey the crime scene, I found a couple of telling signs…
as in indicators as to perhaps the reason for the shrubs lack of vigor…

DSCN3481

DSCN3487
(the telling signs of deer in the yard / Julie Cook / 2016)

Obviously there are visitors to my little corner of the world,
late at night,
when no one is watching.

All of which now has me wondering about the other things in life where I see things misshapen and oddly missing…

I wonder what it was that went missing in our hearts and minds to have turned us so far from God’s direction for our lives.

This desire we seem to now have to fill our cups to the brim with all things satiating as we have total disregard for Him, His word, His believers….forget God, it’s a free for all of self…

I wonder what it was that went missing from our leaders with regard to this
once great Nation Under God…
What of their charge to keep and protect that which is sacred to a Nation…
it’s nucleus, the family.

I wonder what it was that went missing when we decided it was ok for abortions to be used readily as a means of birth control…with total disregard to human life—which was once considered a miracle and a gift.
Now it’s a bother and a burden.

I wonder what went missing when we decided that the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman was equally as good to that of a man and a woman.
No longer is life clearcut, but blurred and gray…
Leaving nothing but confusion in its wake for the future…

I wonder what went missing when we decided that we could throw caution to the wind as changing ones sex has become as simple as changing shoes.
You aren’t feeling very manly today?
No problem.
Try being a woman…
as we continue to lose ourselves to the current identity crises and delusion…

I wonder what went missing, which in turn has transformed us into sponges of all things tolerant…
while we readily forget and happily rewrite the consequences of actions and proclaim total acceptance in the name of all things happy. Who needs consequences, which gives way to the notion, who needs laws…
So then everything goes..keeping everybody happy…right??

I wonder what went missing which has made us so lazy and whiny as a people…as we scour for the easy way out and the getting everything for nothing… by hook or crook…as we’ve decide that however we get “it,” whatever we want the it to be, is ok just as long as we get it…

I wonder what went missing we we decided the Judaeo / Christian foundation of this country was now passé and obsolete….banning it’s laws, The Ten Commandments, from sight—maybe it’s an out of sight out of mind kind of thing…

And whereas it’s easy to walk through the yard to figure out what’s happening to the shrubbery, it’s not so easy walking through this current world of ours, figuring out what went wrong…since most folks don’t see anything wrong with us who are now terribly misshapen and even missing….

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,
but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Middle ground

“Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner?”
Henri Nouwen excerpt From Action to Passion
Bread and Wine Readings for Lent and Easter

DSCN2955
(a visiting dragonfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

Living in a time filled with…
the chronic pursuit of a middle ground,
the incessant scrambling of meeting half way,
the constant yearning for compromise…
the mindless steamrolling to level all playing fields….

Our society anguishes to create the equilibrium of the overt…
Striking any negative or counter thought or action into a thousand pieces…

Society screams that anything and everything is perfectly okay…by gosh by golly!…

Yet that’s the thing…

It’s not ok.

No matter how much the culture police shout.
There is no waffling or fence riding, not magic middle…

Despite being the culture of infinite choices…
the “that’s okay” while “that’s ok too…”
The time in which each individual may have what they want while doing what they want…
be it legal or illegal,
sinful or saintly,
of the norm or over the top…
Is waning..

We just want it all to be…
Copacetic,
Acceptable,
Non confrontational,
Happy
And by all means…
Peaceful…

Yet the question remains…

The same question asked ages past…
Just as it is asked today…

Will you be my disciple or my executioner…?

Will you pick up your cross and follow me?
Will you follow me on this journey to hell and back?

Or

Will you say you will follow only to…
abandon me
deny me
ridicule me
forsake me
beat me
nail my hands and feet to a tree…?

Will you honor me when it means to dishonor Caesar (your government, your culture, your status quo)
Will you acknowledge me when it means to ignore your peers, your entertainers, your athletes, your politicians, your friends…

The ultimate yes or no..
No maybe,
No let me think about it,
No can we just strike a balance…
It’s either
Yes
Or it is
No

“There is no middle ground here.
Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say “Yes” or “No”
That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion”
he had to wait upon how people were going to respond.
How would they come?
To betray him or to follow him?
In a way, his agony is not simply the agony of approaching death.
It is the agony of having to wait…”

Henri Nouwen
From Action to Passion

The time for a decision is now
The time of waiting is finally over….
Will it be yes?
Or will it be no?