Just around the bend

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)… Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”
C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
― Vincent van Gogh

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(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives, there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are no particular clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers, no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain being…there is a path with the choice of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around, heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward, feeling as if he or she is blinded by the loss of direction, merely feeling one’s way along in the dark as it were, thinking that after every curve, after every bend along the path, surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be something familiar or something offered as some sort of informational directional compass… that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed both physically, mentally and emotionally.
It is as if we are wandering lost within the massive forest, with no end in sight or welcoming safe haven as there are those who are not seen… those who wait hidden in the shadows who wish us harm as we journey onward.

As all who journey must realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey ever taken…as every journey and every path is left to chance and the whims of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey when even the very path, the journey, the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked, definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice to the one setting out on the trek? What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies in wait with its unseen snares and traps, hoping to catch the innocent trekker ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah…there is but One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort, direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

River dancers

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“The sacred sense of beyond, of timelessness, of a world which had an eternal value and the substance of which was divine had been given back to me today by this friend of mine who taught me dancing.”
― Hermann Hesse

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(section of the Middle Prong, Tremont, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

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A collection of water striders are found gliding effortlessly upon the surface of a mountain stream which has quickly lost its summer warmth during the waning light of a random Autumn afternoon…

They mesmerize, even entertain, anyone fortunate enough to find themselves perched on one of the numerous rocks or boulders littering many an Appalachian stream…
those who have come to these mountains for healing, rejuvenation or simply to marvel in the hand of the One True Creator…

This particular group of aquatic bugs makes their home on the Middle Prong stream…a branch of the Little River stream flowing through Tremont, Tennessee.

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On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

Psalm 145:5

The process

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion-
it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.

Billy Graham

And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren’t any other people living in the world.
Anne Frank

“The Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self changed into a Christ self, and that this process goes on very far inside. One’s most private wishes, one’s point of view, are the things that have to be changed.”

C.S. Lewis

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(The Middle Prong of the Little River near Tremont, Tennessee, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Let’s turn things around a bit this morning shall we?
Let’s take a “backwards by design” sort of approach to today’s thoughtful post.
Instead of us looking at a final or finished product, as in the final ta dah sort of moment, let’s look back, way back, to the actual beginning, or starting point…
So much so that if we do actually back up, starting at the beginning rather than at the end, we might just find it more helpful and more meaningful to our understanding of today’s posed thought.

I think we’d all agree that we are a consumer driven society–meaning that it is the end, the final result, which is really what any of us is truly interested in. We don’t much care how it (whatever it may be for you) got here, we just want to know it’s here. We don’t much care what went into producing or making it, we just care that we have “it”…

I think we’d also agree that all great ideas / products have a beginning…someplace where these ideas, products, concepts have been hatched, birthed, thought out, ruminated over…yet each process having the end result or product as the impetus of focus…whereas the end is always the justification, the means to an end, the end result.
Yet might we not all agree that this desired end of ours has to have had a starting point…as in it just can’t poof itself into existence.

Take something simple that most of us take for granted…a plain sack or bag of flour.
What with all the gluten vs gluten free talk these days, I think most of us are pretty keen to the whole flour or not to flour concept. Or if you prefer something gluten free and “wheatless” this morning, we can use a sack of meal as our example…as in corn meal or grits (that ubiquitous southern staple that our Northern brethren don’t always understand) or as our Italian kin prefer, polenta…

These sacks of ground wheat or corn, certainly upon first glance, appear pretty benign. A standard simple kitchen staple most of us take for granted with the cost being pretty much pennies on the dollar…

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(ground meal from the Mill within Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

However this innocent little sack of meal didn’t just show up all nicely ground and packaged…it actually starts out as an ear of corn–actually many ears of corn of which undergo a rather complicated process of transformation.

The process of grinding wheat into flour or corn into meal is a centuries old process with a humble hands-on beginning. A process that was as simple as a person pounding a rock on top of some dried corn or wheat berries piled high on another rock. Yet over time this process grew and was stream-lined, producing a more efficient means of grinding while also being able to grind at a higher rate resulting in larger quantities.

It all starts with a source of power or energy…
Our little meal starts with a mountain stream whose flowing rushing waters are channeled or funneled from the stream into a trough, flume or shoot…

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(part of the flume that channels water to the mill wheel / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(part of the flume that channels water to the mill wheel / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(part of the flume that channels water to the mill wheel / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Of which helps to turn a giant wooden wheel…
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(water wheel at the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Water wheel at the Cades Cove Mill / Cades cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Which in turn turns a few more wheels, or in our case, stone wheels or millstones for grinding the corn which is sifted down to flow between the grinding wheels…

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(the millstones / the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the millstones / the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Of which crush the dried corn kernels…
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(the mill works to the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the mill works to the Cades Cove Mill / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

With the end result being the finely ground corn being turned into warm powdery meal

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(the freshly ground meal / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

A beautiful step by step process whose end result is a simple and humble sack of meal or flour.

Now let us consider another end product along with its process, albeit a bit more complicated than a sack of meal—-
Let’s consider the Christian…or better yet, the process of becoming a Christian.

I think all would agree that we each start out in this life as a mere clean slated person–be it male or female.
A simple human being.
Complicated things such as ideals and self identifiers show up quite a bit later in the growing process.

Now granted our parents will say that since we were born into a particular house, family, tradition…we are therefore by birthright a certain nationality, ethnicity, cultural or religious state of being. Yet it is usually, once we grow and develop intellectually, that we begin to truly identify ourselves as a particular this, that or the other.

Some of us who are born into “Christian” homes merely assume the moniker and in turn will label ourselves as just that…a Christian–
Yet the end product, the act of being Christian, is anything but a mere label.

It is a process of becoming.

The misconception is that choosing or taking on the name of Christian in turn gives one the final product–that of being a Christian.
But the reality is that just like the corn and wheat,
there is first a raw product—a human being… who in turn undergoes, if only so choosing, a thoughtful, sometimes painful, yet truly beautiful process of “becoming.”

It is a lifelong process, one that is never truly complete in one’s lifetime as it is a process of striving, never a completion…
That is—not until one finally rests in the hand of the Creator.
So this process of becoming a Christian never has that final single end product because, simply, the process is constantly in an on-going state of being.

So where we in the world are concerned with the end or final product of our things and goods, there is One who is more concerned with the total process…the process of starting from the beginning, working all the way to the final end…One who oversees this process of “becoming” personally Himself, each and every step of the long and arduous way…

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10