altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

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(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

Graciousness appears to have died

“Win without boasting.
Lose without excuse.”

Albert Payson Terhune

“A man who called everyone a damn fool is like a man who damns the weather.
He only shows that he is not adapted to his environment,
not that the environment is wrong.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

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(ghost crab who’s given up the ghost / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

We’re not a people accustomed to losing.
We don’t like to lose…
Who does?!
Nobody, that’s who!

We’re a people of winners.
We like winners.
Who doesn’t like a winner…
Nobody, that’s who!

Maybe we’re a little too accustomed to winning.
Maybe we’ve grown to expect it.
Maybe…just maybe…we’ve forgotten how to lose.
We’ve forgotten that in losing there must be graciousness…

Let’s look at a few things…

We love our sports teams.
We want them to win.
Some of us bet on them to win…
as in… betting money…
as in… betting big money.

Losers don’t make us money.
Some of us have been known to do bad things to make our teams win.
We have cheated, lied, twisted reality, conspired with others to do bad things.
We’ve been known to “fix” a game in order to win
We like to win at all costs…

Others of us get into fights when our teams lose.
We decide to fight those whose team beats our team.
We decide to beat the crap out of the opposing winning team’s fans.
We don’t lose well….

Look at our elections…

We like our candidates of choice to win.
We work for our candidates.
We campaign for our candidates.
We yell at other people who don’t support our candidate.
We call those who don’t support our candidates ugly names.
We get into fights with people who don’t support our candidate.
We vote for our candidates.
We get mad when they lose.
We decide not to accept the winner because our candidate should have won.
We contest the voting count.
We demand a re-count.
We demand a re-vote
We make up stories about the winning candidate to make him / her look bad.
We paint a really ugly picture to sway the results.
We lie, pay bad people money…
We want to win at all costs

Look at our primary elections…
There are a lot of people who don’t like a man like Donald Trump
He’s loud, obnoxious, brash, arrogant and troubling to most…
Maybe he’s not “president” material…
Yet he’s been voted into the top position.
He’s the presumptive nominee.
He earned the spot.
But those who don’t want him are mad.
As those who didn’t vote for him are doing and saying all sorts of things to stop him.
They want to ignore the majority of the other people who voted for him.
They want to say that everyone who voted for him is ignorant and racist and just wrong.
When did voting for a person of one’s choice become ignorant, racist and wrong?
We don’t like the voting to not go our way…

Look at the recent vote in Great Britain.
People voted.
The vote was to exit.
But those who lost the vote are mad.
They’ve decided that those who voted to exit are racist, ignorant, wrong.
It was put to a vote…
stay or go…
Go was chosen…
but now…
All those people who voted their choice to go, are now labeled as ignorant, racist and wrong.
We want a re-count.
We want to block the decision.
We don’t want to concede to the majority’s vote.
We want to do everything possible in order to turn the vote around to our vote, our choice.
We no longer believe in choice, or two sides
We will fight and call those who voted against our wishes ugly names.
We won’t accept anyone else’s opinion or right of choice because it is different from our own.

We forget that there are always two sides—
Winning and losing.
And sometimes we just have to live with losing….

Graciousness appears to have died….

But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness,
and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

2 Corinthians 8:7

Win, Place, Show

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(bottle stopper / Julie Cook / 2015)

Are you a betting man or woman?
Have you studied the odds?
What are the bookies and odd makers saying?
Who’s the trainer?
Who’s the owner?
Have there been other races, any wins?
What’s the story?

50 / 50 chance really.
Be there two in the field or 100
Either it does or it doesn’t.
Either it is or it isn’t.
On any given day, it’s anyones game
It’s a. . .
Yes
or
No

Take the chance?
Or
Play it safe?
Go with the favorite, the sure thing
Or
Take your chances on the long-shot?

Risk taker?
Gambler?
Safe?
or
Risky?

Does it ever really matter who comes in 2nd or 3rd?
Any one other than the winner might as well have been last.
As the only one anyone ever remembers is the winner. . .
And once another race rolls around, most often than not,
All previous winners go out the window as the new winner is crowned.

We all like a winner, that’s for certain.
We cheer for winners.
We pay money for winners.
We follow winners.
We celebrate winners.
We want to surround ourselves by winners
We even seem to buy into the notion that winning should come at any and all costs. . .
And we are devastated when a winner loses. . .

That is until we find a new winner to cheer. . .

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8