always optimistic

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank


(my new tomatoes in my “containers” / Julie Cook / 2017)

All my life, I’ve tried to be optimistic.
Yet at the same time….
I am fully aware that there is a difference between being optimistic
verses being a perpetual optimist.

I am optimistic but I also know, as I expect, that the positive will be met by the negative—
as in…for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction…
kind of like a tug of war…..

I have always been fully aware of the notion that if it can go wrong, it most likely will…
It’s like Newton’s Law but more like Murphy’s…

Yet at the same time, I honestly believe that the final outcome can and will be good.
It’s just that it most likely won’t be a bed of roses getting there.

I call that being a realist.

For I can see the trials and tribulations,
the “what if” scenarios,
the “if it can go wrong, it will” sort of life’s moments….
Because I firmly believe in a great battle that is constantly raging all around us…
as in a deeply troubling spiritual battle….

Yet in the end I believe, as I know, that “all things work together for good to
them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)…
As in the Good guy not only doesn’t finish last but in reality He wins,
And not only does He win, He actually triumphs…
In turn, making those of us who have believed,
the real winners…

So on the one hand, I try very hard to be optimistic and always ever hopeful….
yet as a realist, I know that the end result will not come readily nor easily…
but I know, without a doubt, it will come….

I think we call that perseverance…

So therefore during these day’s of doubt and despair,
in this uncertain time of anger and hate,
in these days of trepidation, mistrust and missteps…
may we each remain ever hopeful…for in the end…
there will always be the winning Love and Grace of God…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Passages

“But misfortunes do not last forever (this they have in common with joys) but pass away or are at least diminished and become lost in oblivion. Life on the kapia always renews itself despite everything and the bridge does not change with the years or with the centuries or with the most painful turns in human affairs. All these pass over it, even as the unquiet waters pass beneath its smooth and perfect arches.”
Ivo Andrić

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(bridge over Western dune Lake / Watercolor Resort / Julie Cook / 2016)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

No getting around it

“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

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the
intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up, totally worn out,
and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson

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(image of Christ crucified, Rapperswill Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

Death…
There is no getting around it.
No bailing out.
No avoidance.
No free pass.

It is the proverbial truism…
Death…
and of course those blasted taxes.

It comes to all of us, at some point in our lives…
Be it tragically, prematurely or thankfully…
One thing is certain, it will come.

Driving home from the store this afternoon I drove past a cemetery with a freshly dug grave
close to my line of sight.
Having recently buried my father-n-law, then having rushed a feeble dad this week in for IVs as he’s gotten himself in a dangerous predicament, death has been a frequent thought.

Death is certainly disrupting.
It disrupts obviously the one who it just whisked away…
and it disrupts those who are now without the one Death so rudely, or thankfully, took away.

Picking up the pieces is, more times than not, an emotional nightmare.
I’ve done my share of picking up and I’ve not much cared for it.
But haven’t we all….

There is such a finality to it all.
No reruns, no redos, no getting back.
It’s a done and done sort of deal.

It’s the ultimate in being robbed or stolen from…
And I don’t like that.

Yet if given the option of living forever, I would politely decline.

For life is hard.

Oh don’t get me wrong, Life is grand as well,
but overall, it can be hard.

Yet I feel an odd sense when pondering death…
something I really don’t like pondering…
as in, I’d rather not think about it.

I don’t like thinking about being separated from those I love…
Me from them and them from me.
Of things moving merrily along without me.
I would be so sad.
Yet is that not our ego…thinking we just need to be here, in the thick of it all…
Or fretting over what we might just miss…

And then there is the wondering of exactly where might I be headed.
Up, down, all around….

I like to think I’m headed in the right direction…
Being a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
Having confessed, and confessed some more, those egregious actions and sins of mine…
and then trusting in God’s promise and Holy word…

Yet what human, no matter how much they profess, claim, proclaim and believe…
isn’t plagued by questions?
If you’re not, nor haven’t been, your’e a far better person than I…

Yet I do know that the Prince of Darkness loves to whisper in the ear of the faithful
all sorts of gobbledygook, lies, half truths and falsehoods…
Inserting and sowing doubts, worry and fretting wherever the ground seems fertile.

Then I worry about being alone…
as in left alone
Not in the book series but rather here by myself all alone…
I don’t like that.

Yes there is indeed lots to ponder when Death happens upon our door…

Do you remember when you first learned to swim?
I almost drowned at the age of 5 during that process
but that is not my point here….the point is remembering the process.

Chances are you stood on the edge of the pool or on the boat dock
or at the edge of the lake or up on the sand at the beach…
A parent, or older trusted individual, was below (or standing in the surf)
treading almost effortlessly in the water, arms out stretched, waiting for you
while they coaxed, encouraged, implored or even pleaded with you to jump…
waiting patiently for you to come to them….to their strong open arms…

It was an overwhelming feeling.

Big and deep, murky or clear, cold or warm, the vast body of water waited along with a loved one.
There was a bit of excitement, of wonderment, a sense of mounting adventure.
Yet there were also the nerves, the worry, the anxiety, the predisposed need for survival percolating upward from some deep recess of your hypothalamus (that part of the brain responsible for fight or flight).
The internal struggle of should I or shouldn’t I was raging in the span of just a few minutes.

Some of us may have needed to run through this routine a couple of times before working up our nerve or building our trust.
We may have had to run to mom, or someone perched on dry land who could reassure us that it was going to be ok.
We’d work that nerve up again, and again…facing that great challenge,
all the while knowing that we weren’t really going this alone because there was that person who wanted to love us and protect us, who was waiting for us in that water…

Learning to swim is not just something done for fun…
it is a true life survival skill.
A skill our parents and loved ones want to instill in us.
There is the benefit of swimming for fun and pleasure, but don’t let that fool you, it is a survival skill plain and simple.

I kind of like to think Death will be a lot like learning to swim.
There are the nerves and the trepidation.
The fear of the unknown.
But then we see Jesus, with His arms outstretched.
I see the wounds in His hands as He stretches out His arms towards me…
There is peace in His eyes…
He voice is calm as He beckons…

It’s going to be ok,” he reassures…
I’ve already done this, so don’t you worry…..”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

Dependance

God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not by helping him to do anything, but by removing him from the scene of action.
Wathcman Nee

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(tiny baby wrens / Julie Cook / 2016)

The age old conflict…
The internal struggle which has dogged man, constantly nipping at his heels,
is found in his angst filled struggle with dependence.

On the one hand, God, the Creator of all that ever was or will be,
asks of man but one thing…
Trust

Enter the conundrum.

Ever since that forever altering moment in the garden,
when man and woman decided they knew more,
knew better than of their Omnipotent Creator,
the battle between independence and dependence ensued.

Now man is caught in a never ending cycle…
Striving for his independence and his freedom,
proudly asserting his authority…
while boastfully, and even arrogantly, leaving his mark…

That is until his fragile world falls apart…
then he returns to that place where he was first asked to trust….

As the vicious cycle between dependence and independence continues….

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26

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The two hardest words…

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
― Corrie ten Boom

“Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted—i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone.You are in the right way. Walk—don’t keep on looking at it.”
― C.S. Lewis

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(evening light casts a calm over the blooms / Julie Cook / 2016)

A hand extends…
“take it”
The voices implore.

Hesitation shadows the moment…
Assurances ring through the trepidation…

An internal battle ensues…
Yes or no
stay or go
Trust or not

Slowly or quickly, it matters not
you chose to extend your hand…

The two hardest words known to man, no matter the language…

Trust me…

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

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

Waiting

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
― Elisabeth Elliot

Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”
― J.I. Packer

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(a few rain kissed quince buds waiting to bloom / Julie Cook / 2015

We are a waiting people are we not?
It seems, since the beginning of time,
We, humankind, have waited.

We wait for birth
And we wait for death
Living, falls someplace in between

The Israelites waited and wandered,
Wandered and waited for years. . .
As it seems they continue waiting. . .

We Christians wait. . .
We wait for answered prayers,
We wait for signs,
We wait for good,
We wait for justice,
We wait for peace
We wait for the final judgement

Society waits. . .
It too waits for justice
For peace,
For answers
For change,
For better, never worse
For instant
For perfect

I wait. . .
I wait for the happiness of those I love
I wait for a closer peace
I wait for answers
I wait for direction
I wait for truth
I wait for righteousness
I wait for healing

Waiting
Through the yearning
Through the tears
Through the frustrations
Through the anger
Through the impatience

Tempering the anguish
Trying not to dwell
Not to obsess
Fighting the whys
the why nots

I cry out in the silence
How much longer oh Lord?
Can’t you see?
Do you not know?
Why don’t you do something?!
NOW!
Do you not care?
How can you let him hurt?
Please
Hear me
Do you hear me?
Please

“Wait”
is the single reply. . .


Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Psalms 27:14

Clear trust

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
― Corrie ten Boom

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(a dense fog closes in on the light / Julie Cook / 2015)

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it. . .trust.
And we really don’t like trust do we?
Because we’d rather control wouldn’t we?

Because if we control, then we don’t have to trust.
And if we don’t have to trust, then we can just know (perhaps assume) that things are going to be done as we would have them done, as we don’t particularly like having to trust someone else to do what we know is going to be done right, right?

Can we make certain that things are always done right?
Yes, but only if we do them, right?
Because that’s the only way we’d do these things in the first place, as in right, right?
And of course we don’t have to trust ourselves to do things right because we know ourselves and we, only us, know how to do things right, right?
And we don’t have to trust anyone else because we can just do it all ourselves because we always do it right anyway, right?

And of course we’re going to want it to be our way, because our way is really the best way, the right way and the only way. . .right?
Because if we have to leave it to others, then we’d have to trust others to do things and. . .we just don’t “do” trust remember because we “do” control.
We make certain that we will be doing all things, only as we would do them, of which of course, is the right way and the only way. . .right?
Because we’ve always known that if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, right?

And if, say, this something which needs doing, is something that’s to be happening in advance or in the future. . .then the questions begs.. .how do we really know it’s actually going to be happening in the first place?
How do we know it’s really going to take place?
How do we know we’ll actually get to do whatever it is we’re to be doing if it’s in the future, and knowing there’s no guarantee about that whole future business, as it’s in the future, we’ve got problems, right?

And of course the answer to all of this is, we don’t know.
And as we don’t know the future, what we do know is that there are no guarantees in that whole future business. . .
We just simply trust it’s all going to take place.
We simply trust it’s all going to go on like it normally does and normally should.

Which brings us all back around to that word again, trust.

But remember, we don’t like trust, preferring control and yet. . .we have to trust because we can’t see into the future, which in turn means we simply just have to trust we have a future.
We have to trust in what we think is the unknown, because really there’s no other way, right?
So we agree, right?
There’s simply no getting around the fact that we can’t control the future, right?

Well. . .I suppose we certainly think that perhaps we can lay out the ground work to pretty much have the future as we’d like it to be, prefer it to be, hope it to be, guarantee it to be, right?

Yet that whole best laid plans deal really isn’t a guarantee is it?
As this whole life thing is pretty much open to chance right?
Of course we work really hard to lay a plan, plot a course, chart the waters, setting it all into motion. . .we do this for this, then that for that, because it’s all suppose to follow one step right after another. . .falling all into place making certain we get to where we’re going as we had planned right?

That’s control, right?
But life, what’s that?
That is not control.
Life is life and life happens. . . and when life happens control gets jack-knifed and trust shows back up.
Because in essence we really don’t have much control in this life now do we?
Yet we do have trust.
Trust doesn’t get jack-knifed.
It’s just always steadfastly there, waiting in the wings.
Control, not so much.
And here we are, once again, reminded that we don’t really like to trust, preferring to control because we think we can control, control. . .
However we can’t really do that now can we?
So once again, here we are back to trust.

And that’s all God asks in the first place. . .that we put our trust in Him for it is the Lord your God who is in total control. . .and so. . . now we understand, right?
We understand that we need to simply trust because it is God who is in control, not us, and He has asked one simple thing of us. . . “Trust me”

“But blessed is the
one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Clear as mud

When a man speaks the truth in the spirit of truth, his eye is as clear as the heavens. When he has base ends, and speaks falsely, the eye is muddy and sometimes asquint.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(Japanese glass floats / Julie Cook / 2015)

Who to believe?
What to believe?
Pundit, cognoscente, critic. . .

Journalists have an angle
Politicians have a slant
Lawmakers have an advantage

Small truths, half truths, no truth
Cover ups, cover overs, cover it all

Integrity or corruption
Under the table or over the table

Secrets, closets, skeletons
Where is the. . .
Morality
Virtue
Honor

Is it a. . .
Mistake or pattern
Is it either. . .
Erroneous or sound

Who do you trust?
Everyone?
No one?
Do you dare go it alone?

Blind eye to that,
but hell to pay for this.

Waffling?
Balancing?
For how long?

No to having, as well as, eating cake

Either
Or

Too easy to opt out of decision making
No to choosing
No to deciding
Neither, either, or perhaps both
Sadly not a viable or lasting option

Do we no longer care?
Are we too jaded?
Have we all merely become lemmings?

Follow me?
Follow you?
Follow who?

Talking points
Turning points
Point of no return

Nothing matters but what is mine
My world
My corner
My way
or
no way

Wake up and smell the coffee
the roses
the truth

Topsy turvy
Spiraling
Spinning
Sliding

Time to get off
time to get on
Time to quit

Do not settle
You are better than this
WE are better than this
Life is better than this

Only one way
not my way
not your way
not their way
only His way. . .

Jesus answered,
“I am the way
and the truth
and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.

John 14:6

Necessity is the mother of all invention~~Plato

A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.
Victor Hugo

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(Image of abandoned bird nest in Julie’s yard / 2014)

The bird believes he can build a nest.
Building a nest, to the bird, is a necessity.
The bird believes he can find what he needs in order to build that nest—be it twigs, leaves, or in the case of this particular bird, plastic.
There is no worry nor concern as to whether the materials will be available.
The bird does not fret.
If there are not the twigs, there is the plastic.

What of you?
What is your worry, your concern?
Do you believe or do you fret?
Do you have what you need or do you complain and lament?

The bird makes do because he doesn’t know any difference. He must have a nest and therefore whatever is available must simply do.
Man on the other hand frets and worries because he does know the difference.
Man bemoans what he does not have.
It is not always easy to adjust or make do.
Man worries.

Faith equates trust.
Worry negates both.

Our faith, the faith which so many toy with, discredit, scorn, scoff. . . tells us to be not anxious about anything. We are extolled to offer everything in prayer and supplication, doing so with thanksgiving. We are to make all requests known to God. Not just some requests, but all requests, all concerns all worries, all frets. . .

We are confidently reminded that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds—all of which is to be in Christ Jesus.

Therefore as the bird, we must believe that we will have what we need, when it is needed.
We must not fret.
We must not worry.
It will all be there, whatever it is, it will be there exactly when we need it, that is, if we need it.

To have Faith.
To Believe.
To have Hope.
Trusting in what is unseen.
Needs will be filled.
The necessary will be made available.

Can you?
Should you?
Will you?

Believe.

Woe to those who do not believe.