fine lines

When were the saints at the height of their joy,
but when they were suffering for their God and Saviour?

St. Teresa of Avila,
In a letter to the Reverend Father Hohn de Jesu Roca,
Carmelite, at Pastrana


(Palmer Chapel Methodist Church / Cataloochee National / Cataloochee Valley in the
Smokey Mountains)

Something that I’ve long observed as a Christian is that we members
of the faithful flock often walk a fine line with our faith and following.

We do so because we have been programed by words like sin, guilt, suffering,
penance, punishment—words that have throughout time
become sentiments hammered into our heads—worn around our necks like a
an every growing weighted chain.
Sentiments that we must experience if we are to be true to our faith.
Simply put, the burden is part and parcel of life as a Christian.

Such teachings have been allowed to morph while getting tangled
and entwined in our mindset.
They become like a choking vine wrapped around a tender young sapling.
Eventually that choking vine outpaces and engulfs the poor sapling.

We are very much like that tender sapling…
striving to grow ever upward, seeking our place in the sun—or in our case
that is more like in and with the Son…but…sadly…
many of our Christian denominations have instilled in us a need to carry a
deep suffocating burden if we expect to be true followers of Christ…

And yes, we should note that that burden is in essence
our sinful nature and that of our sins…
of which I dare not wish to dismiss, diminish or make light of…
for as a sinner, I know all too well the deep and lasting effects sin
can have on our spiritual well being–especially
sin that is neither repented nor confessed let alone curtailed.

The fine line is found somewhere between redemption and that of the sin itself.

We should also note that not only do we bear the weight of our sins,
it’s as if we are expected to continue carrying the associated guilt and heaviness
of those sins and wrong doings despite our having confessed and having handed
them over to our Redeemer.
We are not allowed, nor do we allow ourselves, to truly feel the release,
the joy and the freedom that comes with redemption.

We are washed clean yet many of our denominations and religious teachings
have lead us to think, or better yet believe,
that we must constantly wear our hair shirts as a reminder
that we are never truly free.

And perhaps in many ways, we are not free.

We are tethered to this world and that of our own sinful nature.
Yet I honestly believe that Jesus wants to lighten our burdens
when we confess to him, yet in doing so, many of us, me included,
just can’t seem to shake the heaviness or associated guilt…guilt
the world and our ancient enemy would have us bear and claim despite
Jesus having claimed them for us in his death and resurrection.

It seems that I also have observed that we have been taught, again over time,
that we are to actually suffer for our faith.
And the question of this world then nags… if we are not heavy ladened and or suffering,
are we truly following as we should??

There are those who would say no.

And so we wrestle on…wrestling with our various doctrines as well as
ourselves.

Personally, I think Jesus has the better solution.
A solution I must embrace…I must listen for his call…
or perhaps that is more like I am yearning for his call…

Come unto me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28)

But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Matthew 9:13

hanging on by a thread

Oh, I am not redeemed by corruptible things
Not by silver, not by gold and not by aimless tradition
But by the blood of Gods sacred son Jesus
Oh, You alone are my living hope and my inheritance is incorruptible

Watermark, Incorruptible lyrics

God has ordained that Satan have a long leash with God holding on to the leash
because he knows that when we walk in and out of those temptations,
struggling with both the physical effects that they bring and the moral effects that they bring,
more of God’s glory will shine.

John Piper

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(Georgia box turtle ambling across the driveway that has nothing to do with today’s post, I just like him / Julie Cook / 2016)

I am tired.
spent,
worn out,
frazzled
and frayed.

I don’t think I’ve even realized how stressed I’ve been until just recently.

It really started to ramp up with Dad and my stepmother over a year ago…
Their failing bodies, minds and health…
Caregivers coming and going, nurses leaving,
frantic calls, frantic racing to the rescue….

We added my father-n-law to the mix..
Then came his sudden death.
And now a wealth of woe comes with attempting to settle his affairs…
A legal nightmare really.

There’s been the worries parents still have over their grown children…

There’s the business and the agony of retail…

There’s all of that and even so much more….

It’s as if an all out assault has been coming in on all sides…
a blitzkrieg of attacks.

Nerves raw, emotions reeling…as one works to hold it all together…

Take care of yourself they say—
Well, that’s all fine and good but the main person charged with all the caring can’t
just runaway…
however there are days that such a thought is more than just a little appealing…

I think I’ve lamented the fact before…
I spend more time these day’s in a five mile radius of where I grew up
than I do here at home in my own community.
I’ll also be the first person to tell you—DON’T move to Atlanta…
or any other major metropolitan city for that matter—they are just too blasted big…
chalked full of people and their cars that they cannot drive.

There was a time when I loved Atlanta.
I missed it when I was away at college.
I missed it when I was away working during the summers at camp.
I mourned it when I graduated college and moved away taking my first job.
After I married, I finally said good-bye to that hidden thought of one day returning…
to live….

Silly me.

I now neither miss it nor mourn it.
In fact, I now loath it.
As it is no longer the city I knew growing up.
Sadly I believe they call that growth and progress…
I call it a mess.

Dad still lives in the same house they bought when I was 3, way back in 1962.
The area around it however, the neighborhoods and that small community feel, is shrinking.
It’s as if the walls are closing in, but rather than walls, it is entire neighborhoods.

Entire homes are now either demolished and rebuilt into those so called “mcmansions” or they have been entirely obliterated, making room for mega office towers or shopping complexes, along with the resulting urban sprawl.

At the top of the main street, a main artery that Dad’s little street runs into, there once was a condominium complex. It had been there since I was in high school–a good 45 years ago.
Many of the unmarried teachers who worked at my high school actually called it home.
Not that the complex was pretty or particularly nice–but it was low rising, only two stories and the site was lush and wooded, offering a secluded feel in the midst of the city.

Over the years the clientele has changed, as has the whole area.
And once again progress steps in.
A couple of months back, the entire complex was totally demolished as the massive corner of rolling acres was clear cut, graded and leveled.
A new live, work, shopping community is going up.
All this about a mile up the road from Dads.

As I was heading back home this afternoon from Dads, I noted the hive of construction now taking place.
There was a gigantic crane lifting sheets of concrete high up into the air so effortlessly that the massive concrete slab being fit into the massive parking deck like a puzzle piece, appeared suspended like a mere piece of paper swaying gently in the breeze.

Here was a multi ton slab hanging in the air by a single thin cable…dangling from a huge crane.
The construction workers below, donning their hard hats, watched as the crane operator easily maneuvered both crane and slab, angling the concrete sections into place on the ever growing massive parking deck.
Piece of engineering cake.

Yet I knew that with one snap of that cable, all those men below would be crushed out of site.

“Such faith” I heard myself muttering to no one in particular.

It was amazing really.

Those men had such a trusting faith in that crane operator and more importantly in that single thin cable…

A cable of faith…

Much like the same sort of cable that holds me…
As I am suspended between this life and an omnipotent God.
A cable that links me to an unconditional Love.
A faith that holds all that I am, extended from all that He is.

It is knowing that He is holding on, not letting go and that I am tethered…
Attached to something so much bigger and so much greater…
That cable of faith, linking both created and Creator, is my unbroken connection
to the one true Hope
It is knowing that nothing on this earth escapes Him…
His knowledge, His vision, His Love..
That I am His and He is mine…

And just like the construction workers working beneath the crushing slabs of concrete, I too can go about my business with the weight of the world hanging over my head knowing that everything is going to be ok because He is totally in charge and will not allow me to be crushed….

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

Sure foundation or shifting sands

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.

Psalm 104:4

“God laid the foundations of the earth with perfect thoroughness (104, 5). He has made everything firm and permanent and imposed boundaries which limit each things operation.”
― C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

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(the lovely legs of a great blue heron / Perdido Key / Julie Cook / 2015

What is the base of your foundation, your strength, your bedrock of existence?

Firm and steady. . .
or
loose and shifting?

To what are you bound, fettered, tethered?
What is it that keeps you grounded, secure, rooted?

Is it something solid and strong
or
Is it something soft and unreliable?

Earthly kingdoms rise and fall.
Man soars then quickly descends.
Bigger, better, faster, farther in the constant continuum.
Until there is no more. . .

Where will you put your trust?
Where will you look for permanence and continuity?
What shall be your everlasting?

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand

The Solid Rock
Avalon