Song for the innocents

A clear and innocent conscience fears nothing.
Elizabeth I

The Righteous person must suffer many things; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34

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(field sparrow / Julie Cook / 2015)

Broken hearted,
like a bird’s broken wing,
a soul far too weary, before its time,
longs to lift its voice. . .

Tears freely flow for the innocents,
those who are not so free,
savagely taken in a dark world
now grown callous and cold. . .

Who are these people who gleefully seek
the spilt blood of the Lamb?
Who relish in death and scorn life,
Who long to take rather than give. . .

What is the point in this latest battle?
Consuming each and every life until
there are no more lives to give?
This, as the parents weep
and the Nations grieve. . .

You and You alone hear our anguish,
and You see the captive’s pain.
You stand beside the brokenhearted mothers and fathers,
as the news is delivered. . .
Where does the savagery stop?

Our hope, Oh Lord, is in You and You alone,
as we dwell within a dark and fallen world. . .
Battered minds seek nothing more than to be numb,
burying themselves in things other than the actual,
Thinking that what is not seen or acknowledged,
will all simply disappear. . .

Those with purpose are quickly called. . .
The innocent and clear of conscious,
who ready themselves to do battle. . .
to offer compassion where there is none
To offer hope to the hopeless. . .

When will the just say no to injustice?
When will the children be saved?
When will the captives be set free?
When will the darkness scatter?
When will this madness end?

Our trust is found in Christ, Jesus
The One who overcame death.
The body may perish,
Yet the soul will not be silenced.
As the battles wage on
and evil rejoices,
while the faithful exclaim. . .
“O death where is thy sting”

Repay not evil with evil or railing with railing, but rather bless, and know that you are called to do this, so that you should inherit the blessing.
1 Peter 3:9

****Here is a link to the BBC story featuring the single letter Kayla Mueller, the young kidnapped American, wrote her parents regarding her time in captivity as a prisoner of IS (ISIS). She sent the letter out with fellow prisoners who were released as she was the lone female prisoner kept behind. Kayla turned 26 while in captivity. Kayla had gone to Syria, working with the humanitarian organization Hayata Destek, Support To Life, in order to help the refugee orphaned children in Syria whose lives had been displaced and shattered by the ongoing fighting. Kayla conducted art therapy projects with the kids, as children can often express themselves in drawings when words cannot be found. She noted that when the children asked her” where was her world” –then telling them, they asked why had her people not come to help them. . .her response was simply to cry along with and for the children. . .Prayers for the Mueller family and all the families globally who have been affected by IS —her family noted that Kayla “lived life with purpose”—may we all live with such purpose. . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31376933

focus

“Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins. ”
― Francis of Assisi

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(statue in a yard in San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

We threw caution to the wind
Living for the moment

Self centered, selfish, self
Focusing inward, never outward

As the hammer hit the nail

They did it
That was our familiar cry
It was all them, certainly not me
We claimed none of that

Again a hammer hits another nail

Blood poured out upon our hands
yet there was no acknowledgement
How could that be
Self becoming blood

Another nail is struck

Blood mixes with sin
Flowing down a tree
Spreading out over the dirt
I pick up the linen

Blood covers my hands
It doesn’t wipe off

Lightning streaks across the blackened sky
Was it the thunder which shook the ground
The bitter taste of bile swirls through a dry mouth
I didn’t do this, I swear

The women cry as the people turn away
Three times a rooster crows
There’s another one dead
As the body twists on the noose

The demons in hell are dancing
For once, this was not their doing

Hands still stained
Metal striking metal
There’s money on the ground
Was it just a dream?

Needing to hide,
We run to the shadows
Still claiming none of it
It’s all too much to ignore

Voices cry out
I hear my name
Clean hands reach for the blood soaked hands I hide

Eyes meet mine
Guilt is freely taken
Brokeness made straight
The demons dance no more

Shadows never lie
As Light now breaks the darkness
Battles rage no more
with Victory now at hand

We step out from the grave
The Price is paid in full
Death has lost again
Triumphantly Hope remains alive

what’s your mountain?

“How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end – to know there’s no dream that mustn’t be dared. . .
Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We’re not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished. . .
Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No. . .
and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction. . .
fulfilled a destiny. . .
To struggle and to understand – never this last without the other; such is the law. . .”

George Mallory

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(Image of Mt Hood, Orgegon /Julie Cook / 2013)

The above quotation is in regard to the scaling of Mt Everest. Mallory, one of a threesome of British Mountain climbers, disappeared while en route to the summit in 1924. His body was not discovered until 1999. It is not known for certain whether he ever reached the summit before his death on Everest.

I cannot speak as a mountain climber.
Whereas I love mountains and trekking about them, I do not, however, seek to do so if I’m required to carry ice picks, crampons, oxygen tanks, snow goggles, ropes, or to have a Sherpa by my side. I will simply stick to my enjoyment of trekking verses climbing. Yet that is not to say that I do not fully comprehend nor duly appreciate both the physical as well as the psychological preparedness required for such adventure, nor is the strong alluring “call of the mountain” lost on my more timid personage.

We all have our “Mountain” or “Mountains” to climb. My mountain these days happens to be a continuous 30 minutes each morning on an elliptical machine. Complete with incline and resistance. Not that the elliptical is the “Mountain” of my life but rather, it is what I hope the elliptical will help me ascend to—that of better heart health, stamina and not to mention the added benefit of hopefully shedding of a few pounds. For a female, at 54 with a bum thyroid, not to mention that whole hormone thing, the overwhelming weight and health issue is the proverbial Pandora’s box—nothing but a big bunch of bad all mixed together.

If we breathe and live there will inevitably always be mountains in our lives requiring us to climb— as well as conquer.
For some of us it is the issue of weight and health. For others it may be the Mountain of an addiction to drugs, gambling, alcohol or sex. For others it may be the Mountain of debt, poor finances, poor health, illness, depression, illiteracy. . . as there is breath in our bodies, there will always be something that each one of us must climb and conquer during our lifetime. . .

These mountains are not easy to climb . . .
—leading many to rethink the journey.
With each arduous step upward, there is often something catastrophic sending us backwards by 5 or more steps.
We slip, we grasp, we fall. . .
Tired, weary, sore. . .
We ask to stop, just need a breath, just need to rest, just for a little while, “I’ll start again soon, I promise”— we bargain with ourselves, God and the looming Mountain.

Do we think that God is oblivious to our struggle?
Do we think that He is some sadistic malcontent who manipulates the Mountains, sickly and twistedly watching us struggling and stumbling backwards through our tears, frustration and feelings of defeat?

He is not that.
It is He who sheds the tears and feels the frustration alongside us . . .
With the one difference being, however, that He does not know the defeat.
In Him only rests an ending of Victory.
The journey and climb to that Victory, however, is always through a battle with Death.
Regardless of whatever each individual’s Mountain may be, the climb is always the same.
The Mountain will always be the Death of Self.
It is the Mountains of self which we must climb which ultimately lead to the Victory.

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Mark 11:23

Our world will always have its mountains as we sadly live in a fallen world.
There is no perfection, no Utopia.
A world simply hiding under dark wings of Death.
Dreams will come and go just as the tides ebb and flow.
Struggles will constantly dog us while endlessly nipping at our heels.
What is the option if the climb does not continue?

Yes, the journey is arduous, as the task remains daunting.
The days will often be filled with frustration, sorrow and pain.
There will be days of defeat.
Two steps upward, 6 steps back.
“I quit”
“I give up”
“I can’t”
. . .so exclaims a dejected climber. . .
yet all the while, Victory remains open armed and waiting. . .

It’s always looming you know, that Mountain.
Despite decisions to abandon the climb, the Mountain never disappears.
Anyone who attempts to walk away simply lives the remainder of life in a frustrating dark shadow.

Yet this need not be a signal of a defeated end.
As there is light each new morning, as there is breathe each new day, the climb is never over.
For each new morning offers the new hope of another try.
Another chance at the Mountain before us.
Another chance to try again.
Another step upward.
Again, another opportunity to work toward the top.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Isaiah 41:13

The climb, the conquest must always begin with just one step upward.
No Victory is ever reached without first taking a single step.

The Penultimate or the Ultimate? Wisdom from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(tree in Julie’s yard that obviously is home to “someone” / 2013)

A daily excerpt taken from “I want to Live These Days With You”
A year of Daily Devotions by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
November 25
The seriousness of the world is death. Seriousness begins where the world stops, where it dies, where the world has a boundary. Seriousness also begins where our life stops, where we are no more, at the boundary of time. The frivolity of the world is in the moment, the penultimate, the desire of the world, as John says ( 1 John 2:17). Now it’s up to individual people whether they want to live seriously or frivolously in the world; whether they want to stay with the penultimate or press through to the ultimate; whether they regard the desire of the world as ultimate or transitory. With Old Testament power the word proclaims to us a memento mori: think about the fact that one day the world will come to an end, and you will have to render an account of your life. Then the moment of death will come over you with the certainty that the world is a world of death, and that nothing can stand up to the power of time—except the one thing: eternity–and that it’s all over for you and me. . . .Let us think about the boundary of the world and of time, and something wonderful will happen. Our eyes will be opened up to the fact that the boundary of the world, the end of the world, is the beginning of a new one, of eternity. Here time loses its power to eternity, and the ultimate thing in the world, death becomes the penultimate.

The highlighted bold ending is my emphasis as I find this to be our true Glory–that we may one day utter, with great joy and confidence, “death where is thy sting”
(1 Corinthians 15:55)— for death no longer has the final word. The Resurrection and the life offered in the Victory which was and is a direct result of that Resurrection, which was offered and continues being offered, for both me and for you— that is the final Victory, that is the final Word. That is the ultimate. Amen Amen

The text is taken from Bonhoeffer’s writings and papers from Barcelona, Berlin and Amerika 1928-1931

lose not thy enthusiasm

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Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is one of my all time favorite heroes—the one single voice in the wilderness, the only one who seemed to possess the clarity of reality, the discernment of reason– the single individual who publicly and loudly tried and tried to forewarn a free world of an impending and sinister descent into tyranny if all were caught napping–as it seemed was the precarious direction freedom were heading via appeasement or simple denial…all the while, little by little, European nations were devoured by madness….and yet “the powers that be” thought Winston daft.

He was an aristocrat whose life was not the type of life one might imagine for an aristocrat—a cold distant father who never expressed joy or pride in his son—an American mother who was the belle of every ball and an attraction for every man… and she knew it. His solace was his collection of toy soldiers, his “nanny” Woomie–the only adult to truly care for and show affection to a lonely little boy, as well as a life-long love of riding and of horses which eventually took him to military mastery in the Calvary, much to is father’s dismay.

He was not a good or successful student whose father had to twist arms and pad hands just to get him simply enrolled in a private school of much lesser prestige than desired. He had a pronounced speech impediment which later proved to only add intensity to his rallying cries to his nation. He was not good with money as he often teetered on financial ruin. He was ousted repeatedly from his position in Parliament, only to come back again, and again. He lost, at the time, his youngest child to a fatally brief illness, he was the ire of a rising dictator.

Yet he was never deterred. I think in some ways all the negatives and all of the seeming defeats and tragedies only feed into what became our freedom’s greatest crusader. Thankfully so….The stalwart commander who steadied a nation for 2 long lonely years of near destruction, death and constant fear. He stayed the course, never wavered even when the British people began to question the leadership as the bombs continued falling night after night, decisive battles constantly being lost, as the net grew ever tighter around the small island nation, the final bastion of freedom between the US and Hitler.

He is one of the greatest orators of modern time–despite the speech impediment. He commanded the English language like no other and has been hailed as a modern day Shakespeare. He was a profuse writer who supplemented his family’s income by writing volumes of historical tomes. He was an accomplished artist who sought much peace and solace in the hours he spent painting. He preferred to sleep only in silk, better on the skin you know. Cigars, champagne, brandy, whiskey being constant companions. He was childlike, always comfortable at play with his children yet compared constantly to a bulldog possessing great tenacity and of a lion projecting a terrible fierceness.

He never backed down, not even in the face of what appeared to be inevitable defeat. He knew what it was like to be taken as a prisoner of war during the Boer War and the risked all for a brazen escape. His was the battle cry …”Never, Never, Never give in/up……”

So it is to dear Winston, who I often turn to in times of “battle”—life’s battles—his rallying cries echoing in my heart. Be courageous even when things appear lost or hopeless. Never give up, keep going, continue fighting for the right thing despite the difficulties and of all those around you who would prefer taking the easy way out–press on….if you find yourself in “hell”, by all means keep going….

Humor, wit and determination were his trademarks in life—they helped him to be a most successful individual who battled, by himself for quite sometime, an evil empire. Those of us who live and enjoy free lives today owe much to this enigma of a man…who to most young Americans is now but a mere chapter in a history book. The epitome of a true scholar and a gentleman who harkened to a different time all together.

I think of Winston often being the David battling the great Goliath in many areas of his life–if it wasn’t his own government, it was other governments or governmental leaders—he simply eyed his opponent and hammered at the weak spot until victory was his—or his nation’s.

Yesterday’s visit with Dad, an ardent admirer of Churchill, as he lived as a young man during those dark days of war, death and destruction, was relatively successful—as successful as can be hoped for at this juncture. It helped that I had called in my backup troops (troop member). We had a list of “conditions” to present, that which if followed, meant all could maintain life in relative tranquility—mainly the timeliness of bill paying–the daily taking care of life’s business, the taking of one’s meds as directed, the bill accounts to be set up for automatic payments—there was the initial desire to balk, the wanting to run for the cover of passive aggressive behavior—but it was met head on with a smile and not the blinking of an eye.

There was a trip to the bank, a promised call to a lawyer, the promise of organization..it helped that good health had returned to all parties involved, minds seemed clearer, the realization that “these people mean business so I’d better straighten up” seemed to actually sink in…

The leak is dammed for now. I know what lies ahead but at least for today, the sun is shining. I feel better, he seems better. We made a small dent in cleaning out accumulated “junk” which simply made for a less daunting appearance to “the office” —

I will follow up with a call later today to see if he has made the calls he was to make—hopefully fulfilling his end of the bargain. No home health care for now, no talk of assisted living…but those options are looming—I will go back weekly or more often to help keep the ship balanced and afloat.

Thankfully for now—the seas have calmed and the enemy seems to have abated… for now. I know it, the sinister enemy of life, is still there, hiding in the shadows of a dimming mind, but for now, I can see a clearness in the eyes that I have not seen in quite sometime…….as Winston likes to remind us…
“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.”

I chose to take the journey

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And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

Today marks the beginning of the journey to the Cross. It is a journey that will take believers, the Christian, on a single lonely path as they re-live the time of a poignant last supper, a devastating betrayal, and a grievous passion. There is thankfully an ending, however, already in sight. This is as ending not of darkness, death and finality. There is Victory at the end of this path–and an offering of Light, Hope and Joy. It is a journey, however, not to be taken lightly, but rather with determined purpose. It is a bit of a solitary journey as each person who walks this path must examine, inwardly, their own life’s direction.

There is of course a choice–whether to start the journey at all and then whether to continue the journey to its end. It is a free choice. The choice is left for each of us to consider. I believe if you ask anyone who has already begun the journey, that the choice of the taking the journey, walking the path, is the only correct choice.

Here is to a the journey.

(photograph: Cortona, Italy :path to Santa Margherita and Medici Frotezza
Julie Cook 2007)

It all began with a simple greeting

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As we enter into Holy week, I think back to the very beginning of how we came to the sorrow of this week– which will, thankfully, give way to joy. In the beginning there was also joy, just as there was the foreboding of sorrow— eventually giving way to victory….”Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.”
(photograph: reproduction of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation–Florence, Italy)