The wings of eagles

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(image: blade eagle soaring above the trees on the Pacific Rim trail, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2010)

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31
English Standard Version (ESV)

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(Eagles perched in a tree somewhere along the Oregon Coastal Hwy between Yachats and Cannon Beach, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

What defines you?

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e. e. cummings

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Pacific Rim Trail / Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2011

I imagine if you ask people what it is that defines who they are, most people would respond with something associated with their work or job. It is as if they are a product of the job. I had written an entire little preamble to today’s topic about work, jobs and identity..of how we tend to let work or the job suck up our identity but I really didn’t like where that seemed to be leading…feeling as if I began veering off base.

My intention and my thoughts here are to go much deeper than the mere obvious.

When asked what it is that defines me, defines who I am…my response a year ago would have been that I was a teacher–I’d follow that with my being a wife and mother. I think that’s pretty much how most of us would answer when asked. We define ourselves by telling others what it is we do for a living–our job, our work. We tell others that we are a student, a soldier, nurse, a contractor, a policeman, a doctor, a wife, a husband, a mother, a father…. But do any of us, who are Christians, respond first with “I am a Christian”…then to follow that with what it is we do?

Have you ever been at a function and met someone for the first time with the first question usually being, “so, what do you do?” They want to be able to define who we are, measure our place, figure out how we fit in…what is our production level–are we being successful, are we a contributor, are we a rising star, a game changer, will we be impressive or someone who is to be quickly dismissed.

There was a time, in the early days of our Christian faith, when it was dangerous, even life threatening, to be defined by ones belief and faith… and yet the early followers of this new religion did not skirt the issue–it was the foremost defining factor in their lives…the foremost defining factor. It was that big of a deal to them.

Somewhere, sadly, along the line of Time, the definition of being a Believer no longer seemed appropriate to throw out there when “defining” ourselves to others. Our faith no longer relevant when telling others of who we are. I’m Scotch/ Irish, I’m adopted, I’m a wife, a mother, I’m a retired educator…all of that sounding normal, typical—but if I were to met you on the street greeting you with “hi, my name is Julie. I’m a Christian” You’d probably look at me uttering something awkward like “oh, ok, uh good… uh good to know” all the while thinking you needed to move along quickly as you’d just run into some sort of fanatic.

Awkward, not relevant, not socially acceptable….

But it shouldn’t be that way–it should be standard.

If we are believers, if we are members of a Christian church, if we claim to be of a denomination, then why wouldn’t we first announce the definition of who we are by stating that we are a Christian, a follower of Christ? How many people have happily, defiantly, proudly, strongly, bravely proclaimed to be such knowing that they would face imprisonment, torture and death? How many people have sacrificed everything to be able to say that they are defined by their Christian Faith?

Sadly we consider it awkward and out of place proclaiming our faith when meeting others. Would Jesus not proclaim us to others joyously and gladly without a second thought? We will not be twisting arms or pushing others into corners with our proclamation but rather we will simply state who we are foremost, as everything else simply follows suit.

On this new day to this new week, how will you be defined?

I’m ready to go to the woods!!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau

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(Photograph: Julie on the Pacific Rim Trail / Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / 2011)

During the course of my lifetime, I have always thought that perhaps Thoreau “got it” and the rest of us didn’t. He really understood what the rest of us had/have yet to fully grasp. And that thought hits me usually during two very different types of situations.

One being when I, myself, am out on an adventure in and with nature. You’ve read my many posts regaling the wonders and joys of being in the heart of the wilds and of how that serves my soul. I’ve often perched on a mountain top or ocean shore lamenting that I eventually have to leave and go back to “my world.”

The other time is like today—when I’m trying to make sense of my dad’s world that he has managed to totally screw up in just a couple of weeks. When I see the chaos of the unpaid bills, the overdue this and thats, the figuring out if there is a water leak to explain the exorbitant jump in the bill, the phone calls to the cable company, the power company, the credit card company, the investment firm…all the while as he is fussing at me and berating me like he’s never done before, not even when I was a teenager…that I am to leave him alone, to get out of his hair, just get in my car and drive back home, to quit harassing him……

He actually yelled, if that’s what you want to call what a feeble warblely 85 year old voice does when raised. All because I matter of factly told him we needed to go back to the office (remember, my old bedroom) and get to work. Thousands of dollars later, a myriad of phone calls, my step mother threatening to just leave….an hour spent shredding, destroying old check books that I thought I’d gotten rid of once, which have oddly resurfaced only to add more confusion to his already oh so confused mind….that was the day in a nutshell.

Put him in a home you say. Move him to be with you. Get someone in there on a daily basis. Oh believe you me, I’ve played every one of those songs, over and over. He refuses to budge. And she refuses to have help come in… and yet…she is unhappy, he is unhappy. He wants to simply be a turtle who pulls his head in, shutting out the world and everything that goes with it. She wants someone to talk to and do things with on a daily basis…but she physically hurts, and he mentally hurts…..

So yes, the thought of running away to the woods after this lovely day sounds pretty darn nice. But it also means less clutter which is what our lives are so full of—I see that in the microcosm of my dad’s world. His antiquated computer that is so slow that it makes honey being poured from a nearly empty jar look lightning fast.
“Dad you need a new computer”
“NO I DON’T!!
“I KNOW HOW TO WORK THIS ONE!”
“Dad, it’s infected and oh so terribly slow, it should not take over and hour to “boot up”…
“LEAVE ME ALONE!”
“WHY DON’T YOU JUST GET IN YOUR CAR AND GO BACK TO CARROLLTON NOW!”

At that point I probably should have started crying but I was determined to get him, me, we… to “take care of business”— the business he keeps saying he’s going to take care of in the morning—and that morning just never seems to come…..the business, for whatever reason, he refuses for me to simply help with, or, as I’ve volunteered, just to take over for him—no hassles, no worries…but that is a big NO—and why that is, I have not yet understood.

The man there today was/ is not my dad, not my son’s “Pop”…and I think my step mom is discovering, not her husband. I go almost weekly. My step mom’s daughter-n-law set up some automatic payments…he’s managed to screw automated up..who does that? And yet, he is firm, he will not leave that house and does not want my help. To sit daily in a chair, looking at some old black and white movie or cartoon, a little food here and there, a few sweets and that’s all that’s needed to make his world complete.

He may not have to leave the house quite yet, but he will have my help, as he greatly needs it– even though he doesn’t “get that”….It’s hard and it’s sad….but he’s my dad…there is no choice but to roll up my sleeves even if that means I cry on the long highway ride home.

Yes it sucks as my students would have to say. And no, I don’t have any answers. Just the ugly side of living with a parent who is slowly disappearing and yet oddly or thankfully a small part refusing to follow suit…as in the insistence that it is his business and his business only, he doesn’t want or need any help. Of course you don’t dad, that’s why you slipped a check in the envelope to the cable company for $200 when the bill is only $24.17—the thought process there is “if I overpay, they’ll leave me alone, they’ll all just leave me alone…”

Yep, the woods sound pretty darn nice.

Seeking a Safe Harbor

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How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God; Whom made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever. Psalm 146:5-6
This picture was taken while visiting Ucluelet, Vancouver Island. Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbor”.
May we remember today, and everyday, that we are God’s adopted children, bound by the the blood of the Lamb, his only son, Jesus Christ– therefore we have found our safe harbor in God’s unending love, grace and mercy.
(photograph: Julie Cook — Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada 6/2011)