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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A storm is gathering…

You start out giving your hat, then you give your coat,
then your shirt,
then your skin and finally…
your soul.

Charles de Gaulle

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(the gathering storm on a southern summer’s night / Julie Cook / 2015)

Our prayers, once again, are offered up to our ally and friend…to the nation of France.
To the French people, especially the citizens of Nice, we offer our hearts in solidarity.

It is apparent that there is a war raging.
A war that is being waged and carried out by a hostile and ever morphing Islamic state.
A war that is apparently one-sided.

For you see, the Western World has yet to acknowledge it is being attacked, relentlessly.

Once upon a time…

In a different time and place…
there was a lone voice…
A lone voice that was relentless in sounding an alarm to the gathering storm clouds.

Yet no one wanted to listen.
No one wanted to hear the hard truth being offered by this lone voice…
And so the voice was ignored.

By the time the storm had come, raged and then passed…
Well over 60 million people had lost their lives.

It appears that today, we continue not to listen.

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

After the storm

“He in his madness prays for storms,
and dreams that storms will bring him peace”

― Mikhail Lermontov

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(images of spider webs that survived the tumultuous flooding rains / Carrollton, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

A deluge…
A torrent…
Wind, hail, lightening, thunder, flooding…
We shudder and we worry,
The waters rise
As the sirens wail…

Tornados
Floods
Downpours…
Pummeled and beaten
On and on it lasts for hours,
Days pass as the assault remains relentless
Washing everything away….

What of the tiny and the minuscule
The delicate and thin
The exposed
The vulnerable
All of which is seemingly fragile…?
Is it possible to hold on, bear up,
remain and survive?

Our life is but a wisp, a flicker of light
Delicate and fragile…
We worry and we fret
Battered and assailed
We can barely hang on…
Yet did we not once think of ourselves as invisible?

Eventually when the storms pass,
the clouds part and the winds are finally still…
When it all is beautifully quiet and calm
We wonder what, if anything,
remains in the wake of the fury…

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you
Isaiah 43:1-28

Somewhere between the death sentence and death

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(discarded broken pieces of a deer antler / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You can’t go in yet, they’re changing the linens” the head floor nurse’s words halting the day’s visit before it had a chance to begin.
The door remianed slightly ajar, just open wide enough to see the shadows of two figures working with lightening speed to change and replace soiled linens with fresh, as the helpless patient still remained attached to the bed— wired in with all sorts of IVs, oxygen tubes and monitors.

The cries of agony and pain could not be ignored as they wafted up and down the corridor.
The mere touch sent excruciating pain through the frail shell of what was once a 53 year old vibrant “mom”
Turning to face the wall, as if that would make it all stop, seemed the only recourse for the one waiting outside.

“Enough” could be heard screaming in the recesses of a young mind which wrestled with the hows and the whys of suddenly standing alone pushing against a generic wall hoping to blend in and disappear.

Six weeks was all it was.
From start to finish, six weeks.
Just barely over a month.

It could have been six weeks, six months, six hours, or six years.
Time is really an irrelevant thing until a sentence is read or a tragedy occurs.
It’s not until the grand stopwatch of life is quickly clicked, when the hands immediately stop turning, that the shouts of
“no fair”
“that’s not enough time”
“you cheated”
are heard echoing across the ages.

Mortality met immortality that early September day. . .when time oddly stood still yet raced at breakneck speed toward a different dimension.
The mere brushing of the now thin and fine patchy hair sent shrieks of pain out the door.
“STOP” was ricocheting throughout the young brain and began spilling unknowingly out of a twenty five year old mouth.
“Just stop, it hurts too much, just let her be” falling out and quietly trailing away as a whisper from now trembling lips.

And then just as quickly as the agony had made itself known, there was now nothing but silence.
A haunting stillness as time stood still.
“You can go in now” came the voice of a nurse looking back over her shoulder at the frozen specter against the wall.
“Going in to what?” wondered the young aching soul.
Going in to the near lifeless shell that only comes back to life when touched or moved, while letting all know that pain was still very real and very constant? Going into a drawn-out ending which now seemed to mock the very spirit of Life which was all but willing and pushing hopefulness forward?
What really was the point anymore?
What really was the point to anything anymore?
How cruel this sick dance with death had seemed to become.
A wave a nausea washed over limp legs that were now being willed, from some other place, forward through the open door.

“It’s not about you, you know” came the words of a stronger wisdom.
“There’s something else going on here”
“This is not all about you or your loss”
“It’s not all about her pain”
“It’s not all about her suffering”
“There is more, more going on that none of us can see”
“There is business, yet finished”
“Two are now meeting. . . where, we know not, but the meeting is crucial”
“You’ve got to see, you’ve got to understand this is so much bigger than you or her”
“It’s so much bigger than any of us can ever imagine. . .”

A lifeless body hung battered and torn, dangling like a limp doll in the wind.
The once living blood now stopped flowing. The driving rain made it appear as if it was still trailing down the contours of the flesh.
Flesh that was torn away in gaping chunks.
Bruised and shredded, what remained had taken on a dull blue pallor.
The wet red trails, flowing down the wooden support, pooled in the mud, as now rivers of blood and mud cascaded down the hill.

The wickedly dark clouds overhead hung as a heavy curtain stretching outward in every direction.
Cracks of electricity streaked dangerously to the ground, sending onlookers scurrying for shelter.
The earth began to give way under foot. Several fell down the hill, sliding in the blood saturated mud.
Everyone now seemed covered in the blood of Innocence.
The peals of thunder echoed as the sounds of a death march, now deafening, caused many to cover their ears.

Chaos had taken hold in the city, skipping merrily along its sinister path.
Demons could be seen darting between the shadows.
What was now happening with this single death as to cause such pandemonium? The lone thought hung heavily in the air, which was now filled with a rotting stench and the acrid odor of sulfur.
Panic was racing through hapless minds, as the words of the prophets echoed off the stone walls.
The great divide, the massive division slicing as a knife through all of time, was about to be bridged.

The separation was to finally be made whole as the universe momentarily stood still.
Time stopped,reversed and frantically raced forward simultaneously. Daylight was covered by darkness, as mystery was hidden from all eyes.
Even the Father turned His gaze.
For that which is without sin cannot gaze upon sin as He who was sinless, became all sin.
Both angels and demons trembled with fear.

What was the price?
The cost?
The expense?
One life for all?
Really?
And yet what of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, the misery, the lies, the ugliness and the sin?
What of the agony still felt, still experienced?
What of the broken hearts and the unfair losses?
What of the tragedies?
What of the premature deaths?
What of all violence?
What of the wars?
What of the sickness?
What of the cancer?

“It’s not so much about this life you know”
“It’s about that which we cannot see or may not yet know”
“It’s not about your pain right now”
“It’s hard”
“It’s difficult”
“It hurts”
“It is terribly unfair, unfair to our human sense of such. . .”
“Yet you’ve got to know, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hold on to the one fact that all of this, all this misery, all this hurt goes beyond us, well beyond us. . .it goes beyond the here and now”
“You can’t see, not yet any way”
“You’re simply not able to see yet”
“. . .but you will”
“You’ve got to know that this, all of this, all of this hurt, this pain, is but a mere breath to a dimension that we can’t yet phantom”
“Hold on, just hold on. . . and now. . .you’ve got to do one last thing. . .you’ve got to let go, you’ve got to let her go, let her go to do what she needs to do. . .with Him. . .”

“but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10

after the storm

“But, my dear, if you should be caught out in the storm!”
“Why, I don’t know but I should like it! What harm could it do? I’m not soluble in water – rain won’t melt me away! I think upon the whole I rather prefer being caught in the storm. . .”

― E.D.E.N. Southworth, Capitola’s Peril

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(evening sky images / Carroll Co , Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Driving home Sunday evening, after a torrential rain storm had wreaked havoc for almost two solid hours, there descended on the sodden and wind shattered earth the most delightful sense of serenity and calm. All was now contently wrapped in the quiet cozy hushed whispers which seem to follow such temper tantrums of angry storm systems.

The rays of a setting sun, doing their best to penetrate the parting clouds, were diffused by a myriad of water droplets acting like a million tiny prisms bending and refracting the sun’s light into a vivid display of spectacular color.

Grainy images sadly cannot capture the vast beauty of an evening sky that seems to stretch out as far and as endless as the heavens allow, yet it is all I have to offer—this small token of the world seemingly at peace. . .

Storm clouds gather on the horizon

“In each age men of genius undertake the ascent. From below, the world follows them with their eyes. These men go up the mountain, enter the clouds, disappear, reappear, People watch them, mark them. They walk by the side of precipices. They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it., hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breath. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere.”
Victor Hugo

“The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(clouds and sun vie for dominance over the skies of Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is a lovely little blog I follow and I do believe I’ve made mention of it before. . .
Dominus mini adjuror (The Lord is my help)
by Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman
http://hughosb.wordpress.com

Father Hugh is an Australian Benedictine monk living at Douai Abbey in Woolhampton Berkshire England.
http://www.douaiabbey.org.uk/index.html

I happened upon Father Hugh’s blog quite sometime ago and despite my not being Catholic, I greatly enjoy reading his posts, as he speaks to not merely the Catholic faithful, but to all of the faithful Christian flock. The only caveat is that Father Hugh is quite a busy monk and can only post as his time and schedule permit.

Father Hugh tells it like it is and I, for one, greatly appreciate that.
In an age of overt political correctness–where we are so terribly afraid to say anything as it seems anything and everything these days causes great offense—as ours is a society constantly in mea culpa mode-it is almost refreshing that there are those who see the world, warts and all, and will offer honest and truthful observation without fear of reprisals, boycotts, assaults, condemnation, social media backlash, etc.

It is the knowledge that Father Hugh’s reflections, those based from his observations of life in this world, are rooted in the fact that his words are steeped in the Truth of the Gospel and that his words merely echo the words of Jesus Christ.

It is Father Hugh’s posting today, “Voices Speaking Silence” that has left my heart deeply troubled.

Father Hugh brings to light a need in awareness of the continued brutal persecution of Christians by the militant Muslim group known as ISIS—or now simply referred to as the Islamic State (IS). It is noted in his post that the News outlets of this world choose not to report on, or merely choose to overlook, the growing number of persecutions of Christians but rather focus their attentions on the brutality unleashed upon other ethnic groups, many varying sects of Islam, as well as the continuing assault in Gaza on the Palestinians (and my question is why have we not heard of the sufferings of the Jews?)— With World attention being brought to these other groups, Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran–as well as elsewhere in this fractured globe of ours, are being assaulted, tortured and killed in numbers that this generation has not witnessed—all going unnoticed, unreported, ignored.

Tortured, beaten, raped, kidnapped, crucified, beheaded. . .horrific atrocities that the World at large would normally rise up in arms against over such barbarism—and yet, what remains is only silence.

All of this, as the face of a young man, head shaven yet held strong and high, eyes tightly shut, mouth drawn down fighting the undeniable deafening fear that has welled up inside of him, is etched in my mind. The image of the young journalist James Foley, who in an orange prison jumpsuit, is kneeling at the hand of his executioner, who gleefully holds a knife. I have not, nor will I, view the video of his death as I am not drawn to witness the macabre—the image of him kneeling in the desert and of his resolute face, at the feet of a knife wielding man is enough to sicken me.

In this oh so modern, sleek, techno savvy and trendy 21st century of ours, that has our every need and whim complete and fulfilled at the touch of a finger, we unbelievably continue to witness the barbarism, such as beheadings and crucifixions, which belongs to the annuals of ancient history.

Not only are those of Western culture at risk for the reprisals and retributions of jihadist terrorism but it is the Global Christian Community that is at greatest risk— not for proselytizing, not for preaching, not for the distribution of clandestine Bibles, but rather simply for believing.

The broad scope and vast number of Christian deaths as a result of simply believing is at such a number that it rivals the days of the Roman Empire.
The following excerpt taken from an article in The Spectator, by John L Allen Jr. dated October 5,2013 echoes these numbers and statistics.

According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.

My question for all of us is how much longer will we pretend that all of this is happening “over there” and has no bearing on our lives here–wherever here and there may be.
How much longer will we continue to ignore the statistics?
How much longer will we allow our Politicians to overlook and our News media to ignore the persecution of Christians as a real and present danger?
How much longer will we remain silent?

May we be mindful that persecution is not always physical.
Will the stifling of the Christian voice in America and throughout Europe, due to the rise of intolerable secularism, be a final straw. . .

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11

Driving home after a summer storm

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

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Holy Life-Giver
Doctor of the desperate,
Healer of everyone broken past hope,
Medicine for all wounds,
Fire of love,
Joy of hearts,
fragrant Strength,
sparkling Fountain,
Protector,
Penetrator,
in You we contemplate
how God goes looking for those who are lost
and reconciles those who are at odds with Him.
Break our chains!

You bring people together.
You curl clouds, whirl winds,
send rain on rocks, sing in creeks,
and turn lush earth green.
You teach those who listen,
breathing joy and wisdom into them.

We praise You for these gifts,
Light-giver,
Sound of joy,
Wonder of being alive,
Hope of every person,
and our strongest Good.

St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179 German mystic Benedictine nun and Doctor of the Church)
as translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher

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(sunset after a summer storm / Julie Cook / Georgia / 2014)