Going home…as it should be

Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation-coming home again.
Madeleine L’Engle


(mom’s roses / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well…
for both happy and sad, today (yesterday in case you’re reading this today) has finally come.

The day for packing up and having to move from a temporary home back
to a real home has arrived…

This is the part of life’s story when being the adult, the grown-up, the parent,
the grandparent is one of the more difficult roles to play.
Life dictates that I’m supposed to be the one who knows what is best and
simply keep that stiff upper lip.

And so, reluctantly, I do.

We packed up and journeyed homeward.

A wreck, coupled by construction, on 285 had us sitting in traffic for over an hour.

Do you know what a screaming baby sounds like in a car stuck in the middle of
an interstate impasse?
A baby who is happy only as long as the car is moving??

I wanted to roll down the windows for all the truckers and cars alike—telling them this
is what I’m currently listening to so could everyone just please drive
like they’re supposed to!!!

Yet when we finally reached “home”, what a splendid greeting…
Mom’s little lone tea rose bush was in full bloom.

Blooms of anticipation for a great-granddaughter mom never meet here on earth but
who I know she has met long before I had even met my little one.

This wee one has finally come home…a home that was once mom’s home…
a home that was also once my own home.

What a most fitting welcome…

And so whereas I will miss these day to day moments of growth and change…

I know there’s just nothing like one’s own bed and one’s own space…
each providing a welcomed sense of peace

Sweet dreams my precious little wee one…

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Proverbs 3:24

alligators and the capitulation of the church

“We need more public Christians, even though being a Christian in public is
getting tougher, says David Robertson, a Presbyterian pastor from Scotland –
a nation that has “secularised quicker than any other nation in history”

Excerpt from an interview with Eternity Magazine in Sydney, Australia


(Gulf coast alligator courtesy the Gaurdian)

The last time I visited the state of Louisiana was in 1982 for the Sugar Bowl.
My Dawgs were playing Pitt…we won’t talk about the outcome…it was such a long
time ago, I think I’ve forgotten.

However, Sugar Bowls or not, for some reason or another,
I’ve always been partial to Louisiana.
At one point I thought I wanted to attend for LSU for college…but then I wouldn’t have
been at the 1982 Sugar Bowl watching my Bulldogs play those Pitt Panthers.

But we’re still not ready to talk about that game so let’s just move on.

I’ve got cousins who call Monroe as well as Lake Charles home.
My dad took us on a visit when I was in the 7th grade.

Maybe it’s her history.
Maybe it’s her food.
Maybe it’s her beauty…
but I’ve just always been partial to Louisiana.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been known to tune into the History Channel’s Swamp People
show from time to time.
That quasi-reality show about those who make their living hunting alligators.

I mean who sits around at a boardroom table in either New York or LA and ruminate over
creating a show around the livelihood of folks whose families have hunted,
for generations mind you, alligators???

But there is just something about these people that I like.

They are real.

Well— relatively real.

If they were really real, I doubt they’d be doing television…but then you’ve
got to consider that a TV supplement is a nice added bonus to a diminishing payout for
alligator hides and meat.
I’m just saying.

These folks are not what most other folks would call refined, well to do, polished,
overly educated or even poised.

Some would call them backward, backwoods or dare we say, white trash.

And that’s why I like them.

They are what they are… a what you see is what you get sort of individual.
Some have had run-ins with the Law, the IRS, the History Channel…
even run-ins with one another…but in the end, they are what they are…
nothing more and nothing less.

Many of them are of Cajun descent.
There is a heavy French Louisiana accent that often prompts the television folks
to provide subtitles.
Really History Channel???
Maybe because I’m from the South, but I don’t need subtitles…

And so it was on a recent episode that one particular fellow was out hunting for wild hogs
(barefoot of course) when he came upon a couple of lost puppies out in the middle of the
nowhere woods.
Lost in the woods in Louisiana is not for the faint of heart.
There are poisonous snakes, wild hogs, coyotes, and yes alligators…
a place I would not be keen to get lost.

The short of this long tale boiled down to this fellow telling the cameraman that
“that’s why God made puppies, they’re just so cute you’ve got to want to take care of them.”

A gem of wisdom found in the backwoods of Louisiana.

A simple faith from a rather rough-hewn individual.

And so his words made me think.

I thought how great that our God was so loving and so thoughtful that He saw fit
to prewire in us an inward drive to take care of those who are smaller,
younger and more vulnerable.

A role I often think of when I think of the Chruch.
For the Chruch, the collective body of Fatih is there to take care of the fold—
which is us. The Believing faithful.
And as we are akin to sheep in many respects, we tend to be sheep-like,
so we certainly need an earthly shepherd.

Enter the Chruch…our ministers, our pastors, our deacons, our priests…
our Spiritual guiding servants of Christ

They are to lead and guide the fold.
They are to offer God’s word to the lost, the wandering and to the hard of hearing.
They are to teach us, inform us and instruct us in the ways of the Master.

They are to set the standard, the bar, the benchmarks for living a “Godly” life.

And yet it is that very body, The Chruch, which is actually letting us down.

The Church is not standing up for God’s word but rather she is capitulating to the
strong-arm tactics of an ever-changing culture…
a culture who is holding her arm behind her back,
having her to bend down before the gods of all things of culture.
Acceptance of one and all regardless of God’s admonition.

“We were known as ‘the land of the people of the book’, the book being the Bible,”
he says about Scotland. “Even as late as the 1950s, you’d have 1.4 million out of
4.5 million people being members of the Church of Scotland,
as well as Catholics and other groups.”

Today the Church of Scotland’s membership is below 300,000.
Scotland is on a rapid slide downhill, both in church attendance numbers and in
“the quality of churches and the impact on society.
We are throwing overboard our Christian heritage right,
left and center and that will come back to bite us.”

Robertson does not blame secularists as the main cause for the decline in
Christianity in Scotland.
The church itself is “the primary reason” for the decline –
and he’s not just talking about liberal Christians, which, as a conservative,
he might have been expected to target.

He says denominations (church groups) such as his own Free Church of Scotland,
a small Presbyterian denomination, became afraid and inward looking with
a tendency towards legalism.
The Church of Scotland, a liberal denomination is also in freefall,
with fewer than 100,000 worshippers out of a population of 5.5 million.

Click the link to continue reading David’s interview…and then pray for our guiding force,
the bride of Christ, the Chruch…

“Don’t be like us” says a true Scotsman – Interview with Eternity magazine

take it on the road

“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are
the critics, blaming or praising him.
What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage;
he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings,
reminding them of their lost lines.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(ready for the first road trip to visit Moppie and Poppie / 2018)

Often times, we are required to leave the shelter of our wombs…
the warmth and protectiveness of a familiarity we have grown accustomed to cherish.

Because we have been called…to go.


(Uncle Percy is a bit perplexed by this new visiting neice/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners.
It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating.
A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching,
so we accepted their [the communists’ ] terms.
It was a deal; we preached and they beat us.
We were happy preaching.
They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ

Sometimes we are called to go to places we’d rather not go.
In order to share with those who have not heard or do not know
that which we do know…

And we must speak to them about that which we know and they do not know
because it is what we are called to do…

I learned about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand when I was early on in high school.
I ordered the book, Tortured for Christ.

I’ve written about Wurmbrand before…

“Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909—2001) was an evangelical minister who endured 14 years
of Communist imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania.
He is widely recognized there as one of the country’s greatest Christian leaders,
authors and educators.”

The knowledge of the scourge of Communism, along with its anti-Christian hatred,
during the midst of the Cold War, only heightened my interest behind the story
of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand—-
his preaching, eventual arrest, tortures, rearrests, more tortures, solitary confinement…
all of which left a deep impression upon me.

I don’t know if I could go, live, share and do as those who have each suffered so grievously
at the hands of their tormentors—only to continue on, day after day..offering hope and love
to those very ones who tormented and tortured…all because of the calling and the love…

I think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who also knew to go and to share…
sharing all the way to Auschwitz…and who would continue sharing even unto his own death…

How many have gone and shared long before all of us, only to offer the ultimate offering?

Our prayer is that we might all have the courage to go, to do, to share and to say
when we are called to do so…
no matter how great the cost…

https://www.persecution.com/founders/

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

A stranger in a strange land

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth.
Let none of us be frightened;
our native land is not in this world.”

St. Augustine


(a surprise flock of deer in the middle of surburn Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2018
talk about strangers in a strange place)

Many years ago my aunt and I were taking an overnight flight from Atlanta to Milan.
This was not our first trip to Italy and I proudly figured that I knew just enough
conversational Italian to get us through any real language barrier.
All would be well I confidently told myself.

Yet in the back of my mind, I knew my aunt.
A panicker if ever there was one.

She knew the word equivalents to hello, yes, no, good-bye and stop.
She depended on me just as a blind person would depend upon a service animal.
I was to be her eyes and ears and mouth while navigating all over Itlay for the
next 3 weeks.
She was simply happy and content being along for the ride.
No thinking, no working, no figuring…just eating, drinking, shopping and seeing.
That was the extent of her comfort level when travelling.
No real thinking—just enjoying…while leaving the details to one more savvy
and experienced.
And in this case, that simply left me…

So what could possibly go wrong?

Arriving early morning in Milan, which was middle of the night Atlanta time,
and having flown for nearly 9 hours in a tin can in the sky with absolutely zero sleep
and limited nutrition…
We deplaned, made our way through the terminal, found our luggage,
then when trying to figure out where the train was located that was to take us into town…
well, I might as well have been hit on the head, suffering from complete amnesia.

Exhaustion was hanging like a thickly spun cobweb in my brain.
Panic was creeping up through my now rapidly and tightly closing throat.
I stood in the middle of the terminal looking around, trying to make sense, trying to translate
signs directing us where we needed to go.
It was as if my brain had gone blank and all that practice of asking in Italian where
the train station was located…as was now gone the time spent memorizing the map of
the airport…it had all instantly, completely and totally left me.

Yet I had to get a hold of myself as I didn’t need my 70-year-old aunt turning into
a wailing Henny Penny.
“GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF” I mentally screamed at myself.

And just as quickly as that sense of panic of a blank brain had engulfed me,
I clamped down on that boiling panic and calmed down… as I casually sauntered over
to the information desk asking the nonplused airport employee if they
“parli inglese”
and DOV’È LA STAZIONE CENTRALE?

And no that was not the end of our adventures during that particular trip…
but those are stories for another day…

It does, however, remind me of today’s quote by St Augustine.

A bold reminder that we Christians are strangers on this rather strange planet.

For we are indeed a strange people in a strange land.

Just like my aunt and I when we first arrived in Milan.
Strangers, much out of place, most uncomfortable and seemingly lost in what
was a new strange land.

I am currently grossly far behind reading and listening to both my two favorite
‘across the pond’ clerics, that it isn’t even funny.

This new role of grandmother, dashing around on the fly, with little to no sleep while
being out of pocket from my usual routine and home…
has me terribly out of sync here in blogland.

Yet I did manage to look over Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s latest musings which
actually starts off with a tale about Meghan Markle of all people—
that soon to be bride of Prince Harry.

It seems that Ms Markle has “agreed” to be baptized and subsequently confirmed
into the Anglican Chruch of England…as a gesture of graciousness for her soon to be
Grandmother-n-law who, as Queen, is known as the “Defender of the Faith” and “head”
of the Chruch of England.

The good bishop smells something a bit odious.

Not so much because of Ms Markle herself, who is obviously trying her best to now “fit in” into
her fiancee’s most British world as well as into his family…
but rather odious because of the Chruch of England itself.

As a Christian, I find it a bit odd, awkward and simply wrong that one would want to be
“baptized” as a child of God and in turn confirmed into a church body simply for the sake
of “fitting in”…
Not to mention the notion of a church body that sees such a life-altering decision as a mere
technicality.

I wonder if Ms Markle actually understands the implications behind what it means to
be Baptized–or as to the requirement of what is required of one who “joins” the church?

I wonder if the Church of England actually understands the life-changing and deeply
mystical experience that resides within the act of Baptism.

When we have a church body baptizing individuals as a means of helping one to fit in
or as a technicality…then I know we as Christians are indeed treading in a strange land.

And here is the dilemma for the Church of England.
A state Church wedded to a state that hates Christian virtue and Christian ethics;
a state that has begun to criminalise Christian witness as hate speech,
where police arrest street preachers and have them thrown in prison at the push of
a SJW’s phone button;
a state that has begun preparations to remove children from their Christian homes
if social workers detect what they improperly label ‘homophobia’ in the parents;
a state where Christian teachers are expelled and sacked if they do not endorse
the secular brainwashing on the fluidity of gender.

Meghan Markle, Justin Welby & The Use And Abuse Of Baptism.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
For what can be known about God is plain to them,
because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes,
namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20

every piece of every puzzle has a place…

“Do you ever feel like life is pushing us toward something,
some greater purpose?”

Spencer Stone

Clint Eastwood said it was just a story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
And he was right.

And whereas the majority of the movie 15:17 to Paris is basically the lead-up backstory
to the real-life terror attack which unfolded that fateful August evening in 2015 aboard
a Thalys train bound for Paris…
The movie, the story, is more or less, a finished puzzle.

Rather it’s the pieces to this completed puzzle that’s really what’s important.
And these pieces are the lives of three boys who grew up to be in the right place
at the right time…not by odds but by Divine direction.

And if you doubt that, think of each incidence during the courses of the lives of three boys–
think of their ups and downs, their directions, their troubles, and failures.
Think of their lifelong friendship, think of the coming together of each
individual puzzle piece which could only fit together one way, and one way only.

Terror events that end happily…meaning that the bad guys are apprehended,
and where there may be wounded– no one dies…The setting rather is an uncrowded train
full of individuals on holiday or simply commuters and is not a crowded concert hall,
not a crowded street, not a large office building…
these events readily fade more rapidly versus the larger and more televised terror melees
which we live with for years.

Such is a reason as to why telling this story is important.

The movie has received less than stellar reviews.

Clint Eastwood, as director, is taking a lot of heat for producing what is being
perceived as an uncharacteristically poor performing film.
His choice to use the actual boys, who are indeed the real-life heroes,
is being seen as a near catastrophic move for the making or breaking of the film…
which is being seen, more or less, as breaking.

Whereas Eastwood had cast Tom Hanks in the role of Sully Sullenberger in his movie
about the pilot who successfully ‘crash’ landed a fully loaded passenger plane
on the Hudson River, a choice which most critics saw as genius,
here he opted to use nonactors.
A less than genius move so say the critics.

Yes, the movie is a little slow.
Yes, the boys are a little stiff—but they aren’t actors…
A little fact I actually found welcoming.

The flow of the tale is a little awkward bouncing between present and past, past and present.
But you know, I didn’t want to see an actor’s portrayal of this story, I wanted the real deal.
I didn’t want Hollywood, I wanted the nitty gritty of the actual, not the glamorized fictional.

Now we all know I loved the movie the Darkest Hour—but there were many liberties taken
with the historical truth in that film.
Scenes that were totally fictional, cloyingly sentimental which played directly to
the viewer’s emotions.

15:17 to Paris was just what it was…real, raw and unpolished.

However it was what played out in each one of these boys lives,
from the first day they met in junior high, down to what lead each one of them to be on
that particular train on that particular evening of that particular year…
which was the catalyst for preventing a horrendous catastrophe.

The pieces of the puzzle were put into motion long before August 21, 2015.

It’s the details of these three boys lives, the hand of God, which rested on each of them,
the prayers and faith of parents which all catapulted them, leading them to that particular
train coming out of Amsterdam taking them to Paris,
a city they had been very reluctant to visit.

Each puzzle piece as seen by the nonbeliever, the jaded and skeptic would simply
be seen as coincidental.

Coincidence that Stone did not make his hoped-for area of focus with the Pararescue team
due to a lack of depth perception.
This leads him rather reluctantly and begrudgingly to take coursework in paramedics…
of which came into play as he held his hand deep in the neck on the bleeding carotid artery
of the shooting victim on the train, keeping this man alive versus his bleeding out.

A life of failures, slamming closed doors, knocks and hard licks all preparing each
ordinary boy, now grown man, pushing them toward the extraordinary.

Extraordinary by the ordinary, something Eastwood reminds each of us in the sharing
of this real-life story with the real-life individuals involved.
Nothing fancy, nothing glamorous, nothing high tech nor over the top.

This has been an important reminder for me which I suspect will be an important
reminder for many of us.

This is not a Hollywood type of movie.
This is not an Oscar would-be movie.
I doubt Eastwood considered such or perhaps didn’t care about such when wanting to
remind us of the whats and whys when it comes to the making of an ordinary puzzle piece.
Puzzle pieces that have each been pre-ordained to fit together.

Or at least that’s how I see it.

May each of us who are indeed ordinary step up to the extraordinary when we are so called.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

do all roads lead home


(just a little road off our walk one morning…it’s a dead end–as in it dead ends
into the ocean / Julie Cook / 2018)

It was said that at one point in the history of time that all roads lead to Rome.
More accurately that should have stated that all roads radiated out and away from Rome.
Such being that if one found themselves heading back to the city,
one could have said that any road would get them there.

Rome was the epicenter of “modern” civilization and the zenith of all that was
during the height of its day.
It only made sense that an empire as mighty as Rome would build a network of roads
leading out of the city–in turn, connecting Rome to and with other various places of
necessity and importance.

The picture I’ve thrown in today was taken during a recent morning walk while in Florida.
It’s a shot of a small side road that apparently is a dead end…
Just looking at the road one might not be able to see that the little road is indeed
a dead end but the sign on the right of the road is the first clue.

The sign indicating that there is no way for a car to circle out or around or on
to someplace else.
The road simply stops.

The road stops at a small walkover bridge. Thus that being the second clue…
the pavement ends.
That’s a pretty good clue as to a dead end—no more pavement, no more road.
The pavement ran out directly at a small wooden bridge.
There was a little patch of “wetlands” and a dune that the bridge skirted over…
leading those on foot over the small pond area and the dune–out and over to the beach
and eventually to the ocean.
So, in essence, the road basically stops at the sea…or actually at the beach in front
of the ocean.

No going to Rome via this little road…and no going anywhere really but to a few houses
scattered about.

And speaking of home, I am back…at home that is.
As my aunt would often say, it was a “quick and dirty” sort of trip.

Not that I exactly ever really ‘got’ what she would mean by that little euphemism of hers
but I assume it was just her odd way saying quick and easy…, and we’ll leave it at that.

After taking a myriad of roads down and a multitude of paths back to get home.
As there is no easy direct route— instead of there is a weaving in and out from
significant to minor roads…
all in hopes of finding the quickest, easiest and least congestive route home.
A direct route is not to be had, and if it were, it would be so busy,
we’d be in search again for some other direction.
Because that’s what we do as humans—
We look for the easiest and quickest routes to our destinations.

I use to pour over maps.
You may remember those now long antiquated folding road maps you could never
fold back to their original folds…

I’d spread out a map and with a trusty highlighter in hand, highlighting the passage of
least resistance…or even a passage of the most scenery and quietude…
just all depended on the urgency of the travel.

Nowadays, I try to input a point of destination, and in turn,
I depend on the car’s GPS or that of the phone’s to weave me in and out of the
current life’s journeys.
Yet I’ve gotten where I don’t exactly trust either the car or the phone with directions
anywhere anymore as we, meaning me, my car and my phone, are not always on the same page.

Their idea, as in the car’s and the phone’s, for quick and trouble-free, is not always
or exactly a guarantee of quick and trouble-free.

So whereas maps, GPS, coordinates, addresses are all great and grand, I find that a
good dose of intuition is still a vital component when traveling.
Knowing how to use a compass and knowing the position of the sun is also still
extremely important…or so says my husband the boy scout.

So if we worry, bother and fret about getting from point A to point B in a relatively quick,
easy and safe fashion–
why don’t we put in the same amount of effort or concern when it comes to living our lives.

Are we not concerned about where this thing called life is taking us?
And as to how we will get to that final point of destination…?

If we happen to be Believers, then we pretty much keep our eyes focused on being Heaven bound.
Right?
And in turn, we pretty much know the steps to getting there.
Right?

But what of the countless others out there who don’t consider themselves Believers or believe
in Heaven…what then…what in the heck then do you think this whole life’s journey
has been all about???
All for naught??

So no, not all roads will lead you Home.
Some are simply dead ends.

First, you’ll need to figure out what exactly is Home and as to where it just might
happen to be…
Next, you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to be getting there.
Waze?
GPS?
Mapquest?

There is only one roadmap and it was written about 2000 years ago…
It’s pretty precise, specific and never needs recalculating.

It still likes to be opened, spread out on a table and highlighted…just saying

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

when the going gets cold and dreary….

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
Carl Reiner


(these birds have not flown south, I’m trying / Julie Cook / 2018)

When the going gets cold and dreary…
The Cold and Dreary get going…as in they head south…

So for the weekend, I’m heading south…as far south as I can reasonably drive for the
extent of a weekend.

And if the truth be told, the only thing I asked for for Christmas was for a weekend away.
Remember, our’s is a life of one of retail—getting away for a weekend, at some point following the
dreaded black Friday unto Christmas shopping mayhem is the hoping for a weekend of peace and sanity.
And as we have a grandbaby due in two weeks…this was the weekend…snow, ice, tornados…
you name it, come hell or high water, away it was to be…

So during my very recent traveling southward, I passed a small country church that had a wonderful
sign posted out front:

“If your job depended on your prayers, would you still be employed?

That little obscure sign, in the middle of a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the
northern panhandle of Florida, gave me a wealth of wonderment to ponder as I drove onward…

Prayer…

We think we’re doing good, our prayerful due diligence, when we squeeze in our quick little
arrow prayers, those prayers which shoot upward throughout the day, yet leave out any real focused
and purposeful time spent in the presence of the One Omnipotent Creator…

Or… we squeeze in our designated 15 minutes each morning or evening…

Is it uninterrupted?
Is it hindered by falling asleep or by a ringing phone or a dinging text?

Communion.

“An act or instance of sharing.”

Do we spend time the time of communion with our Lord as we would want Him to spend with us…

I drove onward…wondering, hoping…and determining that time must be turned around…

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:26