the night before the storm

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross


(the evening sky before the arrival of a tropical storm…no sailors delight…
Julie Cook / 2019)

“Therefore, when God gives spiritual comfort, receive it with thanksgiving,
but know that it is the bounty of God, not thy merit.
Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume,
but rather be the more humble for this gift and the more cautious and fearful in all thine actions;
for this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.
When comfort shall be taken away from thee, do not presently despair;
but wait with humility and patience for the heavenly visit,
for God is able to restore thee a greater consolation.
This is no new thing, nor strange to those who have experienced the ways of God:
for the great saints and ancient prophets have often felt this kind of variety.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ


(evening sky before a tropical storm arrives / Julie Cook / 2019)

crossing the Rubicon toward the black hole of culture

“[death]…the abyss from where no traveler is permitted to return”
George Washington

Men willingly believe what they wish.
Julius Caesar


(image courtesy NASA)

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the direction our world seems to be headed.
Not a fan of the current demands made by the culture gods.

And my discontent only grows by the minute.
We are being rapidly sucked into the black hole of a culture gone mad.

Black holes are seemingly endless voids that suck in and gobble up everything and
anything that happens to wander into their paths…a merciless vacuum to nothingness…
a seemingly never-ending emptiness where there is no light, no escape, no hope.

If allowed to stay on this current path of cultural madness, we will be swallowed whole,
never to be heard from again…as in no escape, no hope.

And I’ve been reminded of this perilous race of ours toward the black hole of hopelessness
several times this past week.

I had the opportunity of sitting in on a court hearing this past week–
not as a participant mind you, but more or less as an observing supporter.

It’s a long story but we all know that in most court proceedings,
things are not always as they seem.

It’s an odd dance of the legal tit for tat for truth.

Sitting, listening and observing, I found my mouth falling open when I heard the opposing
side’s lawyer feed off of the latest #metoo movement frenzie.

He was describing to the judge the behavior of a now three and a half-year-long deceased
92-year-old man.
Deceased before we had even heard of #metoo.

And yet this latest example of cultural madness was being surreally applied
to a person who was no longer here to defend his reputation which was currently
being tried in a public forum of culture in a courtroom.

Not really sure how a 92-year-old feeble man on a walker, a man who had Parkinson’s disease
and the energy level of a newborn child could aggressively push himself on a couple
of youthful female caregivers, but this is now sadly the times in which we live.

Yet what I was watching was a gross and obvious desperation grab by a lawyer…
all because our culture has gone off the skids of sanity.
And thus a shark hungry lawyer saw an opportunity to feed off the hypersensitivity
of the times.

All because we have cast ourselves outward toward the merciless vacuum of hopelessness…
and the thing is, no one seems to “get it.”
No one seems to grasp that we are creating our own rapid demise as a civilized society.

And thus the reputation of a deceased man was just one more of the latest casualties
of victimization by the black hole created by a culture out of control.

The next incident came later in the week.
I found myself reading a story that I found being repeated on many blog posts.
They were posts referencing a particular story about a young man who had once been a rising
star and prominent Christian in the public forum of culture.

The story is that this young man, who is now a bit older but still one I consider younger,
had written a book that became very popular within the youthful
Chrisitan circuit…basically a how-to-live sort of proclamation and manual to and for
young Christians.

He later went on to become a popular minister–be that self-proclaimed or
theologically trained, I do not know.

Yet sadly this past week, this same young man announced,
in the very public forum of all things social media,
that he was recanting his faith and his Christianity.

He apologized for hurting anyone who had ever worshiped (my word), at his feet,
read his books, listened to his teachings and his preachings…as well as apologized
to those, he may have offended by his ‘narrow-minded’ faith.

And so it was now high time for him to set the record straight…
He had been wrong about everything and oh, by the way, he was also getting divorced.

He was wrong…

Wrong about Jesus.
Wrong about his faith.
Wrong about his marriage.
And thus he was wrong about the Word of God.

He was wrong about sex, marriage, and all the spin-offs found entrenched in our counter-culture’s
obsession with all things anacronyms—LBGTQ_ _ _ _
(add in all the other letters you care to add)

He was, however, lauded for his “confession.”
He was embraced for his “beautiful” apologies as he
eloquently waxed and waned about the need for a new spiritual quest.
He had crossed over the Rubicon and the culture gods were now embracing him.

My friend Shara ( https://scasefamily.com/2019/07/26/kissing-jesus-goodbye/)
responded that “There’s nothing beautiful about denouncing Christ to the world.
Ever.”

My friend IB (https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/deconstructing-josh-harris/)
wondered aloud, whether or not in the wake of his fall, how many others had fallen simply for
their blind following of a fellow Chrisitan rather than following Christ and Christ alone.

I suddenly had a vision of a sinking Peter in a stormy sea when he had diverted his eyes
from his Lord and turned his vision rather to all that was around him.

And so I noted that here was simply another victim to the black hole that our culture
is busily creating.
A black abyss sucking up all that is right and decent and Holy.

Not being familiar with this particular one-time Christian advocate now lost young man,
I thought the story to be just another sad tale of the victimization of our times.

But isn’t that what all of this current culture is all about?
Victimizing, apologizing, recanting and accusing?!

That’s what we’re supposed to do and what the culture gods command us to do, is it not?
Apologize for everything while we accuse everyone of crimes against the Culture.
For culture is no longer a little c but is now the big C of all importance.

And that my friends is the black hole of hopelessness.
Our brave new world of a politically correct society that has no tolerance
for Judaeo /Christian values, morals let alone the word of God.

And so we have a choice…we can either keep our eyes on Culture or we can keep
our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.
But the thing is, we cannot do both.

It’s all pretty simple really, but obviously not as easy as it sounds.
In part because the insidious lies of ‘the Culture’ strive to undermind
what we once thought and lived—

All the while we can find ourselves inching ever closer to the
Culture’s black hole…we just need to finish crossing the Rubicon first.

If God had merely saved us from sins, it would be enough.
In fact, it would be the greatest gift imaginable.
Instead, however, he chose to surpass the limits of our imagination when he came down
from heaven” to save us. Not only did he make himself like us — but he made us like himself.

Leila Miller
from Raising Chaste Catholic Men

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. . .