the hope found in a train wreck

“I have noticed a strange paradox.
While we are often quite confident about our own circumstances,
and ourselves, we are easily made fearful about what is going on in the wider world.
John seems to do the reverse – he does indeed tell us that our circumstances may be dreadful,
and that the world is in a deep mess, but he causes us to look much higher and further.
This world is not doomed. It is destined for renewal.
The whole creation groans and waits for its liberation from bondage to decay and to be
brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”
(Romans 8:21).

Pastor David Robertson


( a most colorful little beetle / Julie Cook / 2017)

I caught another sermon post by our friend the Scottish pastor David Robertson.

The sermon was based on Revelation 17…
(here is a link to the chapter as a means of saving the word count today…
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2017 )

The chapter has a rather matter of fact, mince no words sort of title…
The Great Whore and the Beast.

And if we know anything about the book of Revelations and John…
symbolism while mincing no words runs hand in hand as the title may be considered a bit
of a double entendre.

For the whore is not merely a local prostitute just as the beast is no wild animal
of the forest.

Here is the link if you would like to read the sermon.
( https://theweeflea.com/2017/06/10/revelation-17-the-prostitute-on-the-beast/ )

Have you ever been a bystander who witnesses something bad?

There you are…just standing there, minding your own business, when suddenly
you are aware of something massive which is just about to take place.
You’re actually able to survey the full landscape, the whole picture as it were…
You see these two forces and all that is around them
as they are on a one way course with destruction…..
and yet…..

You know in your head that what you are about to witness is not going to be good and
will not end well for either party.
That this cataclysmic event is actually going to be really really bad…
and yet you are totally helpless to intervene..unable to do your best to stop it.
It is going to happen whether you jump in or not.
It’s as if everything is now in slow motion.
It’s a surreal moment that seems almost out of body.

And that is exactly how I’m feeling about our current day and time.

I feel almost like a spectator on certain days who is watching a train wreck that is just
about to occur.
I’m standing there watching two opposing trains barreling directly at one another
and there isn’t a darn thing I can do to stop it because the trains are bigger,
faster and more powerful than my mere human frame.
I can’t even scream because the trains won’t hear me and there are no people who
will hear me who can stop the trains before it’s too late.
As in no one….

And yet at the same time there is an almost odd release of anxiety,
as there is an unexplainable peace, or perhaps better yet, a clam….
for I am resigned to the knowledge that there is indeed nothing I can do…
the inevitable is going to happen with or without me.

As a Christian, I feel obligated to be a defender of the faith as it were.
That it is my solemn duty to not only proclaim the Gospel to a darkened
world but it is my duty to defend the collective Christian Church..
a Church who the world yearns to destroy.

And there is frustration found in the inaction of simple standing by and watching…
watching the masses of those who profess to be Christians..
those who are either blinded or lost to the fact that the inevitable train wreck has
been set in motion…
and yet the majority remain silent to what is Truth.

And yes, I admit that we don’t know when or where the wreck will be…
but we know the wreck is coming…yet why in the heck won’t anyone step up and
speak out…alerting, reminding, sharing with the world???
Why the silence?

And then it dawns on me that maybe, just maybe the problem is that there are
just a handful of folks who really actually acknowledge that the inevitable collision
is going to happen.. one way or another, it’s going to happen…
and there’s nothing any of us can do to stop it….

So best we just be prepared ourselves for when that collision comes…
because no one else seems to want to listen….
For in the end, we who remain faithful are not to be doomed to the wreck…
because after the collision, Love has already won.

“Sometimes as Christians we need to lift our eyes from our own personal
circumstances, and from what is going on in our countries and indeed the whole world,
and get a grander vision.
We look up, as Stephen did as he was about to be stoned to death:
‘But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit,
looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand
of God.
“Look,” he said,
“I see heaven upon and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”
(Acts 7: 55-56).
This is the vision we need, individually and collectively –
the vision of Christ and his glory”
Then, and only then, will be able to rejoice in the midst of trouble.
Even though ‘the great prostitute is drunk with the blood of God’s holy people’,
they shall rise and she shall fall.
Once we grasp this, then, and only then,
will we be able to live lives that are full of faith not fear,
love not hate,
forgiveness not revenge.

David Robertson

ok

Everything’s gonna be alright
Nothing left, but love’s in sight
Everything’s gonna be alright now
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright

Lyrics by England Dan and John Ford Coley


(sign at Spruill art gallery / Dunwoody, Ga / courtesy the web)

We drove over to the northern Atlanta suburb city of Dunwoody yesterday afternoon.
My cousin’s wife, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching—high school math of all things,
was the focus of a little retirement shindig.

It had been years since I’d been to that area north of Atlanta.
So much growth and so much congestion…
I can remember when the area was nothing more than a sleepy little northern hamlet…
an area more accustomed to farms and cows than to high-end restaurants and shopping malls.

Change is inevitable I suppose…
progress so they say….

If you’re anything like me, these past several months have left you feeling….
well anxious…
and if the truth be told, you’re anxious without even realizing how truly anxious you really are.
It seems as if there’s just been an unsettling that has completely settled over our lives.

Unless you are an Orthodox monk living on Mt Athos or a Buddhist monk living in some
lost to time nook in Tibet, you have been overloaded with the caustic vehemence that
most of the world is currently hurling back and forth on itself…
so much so without even realizing just how overloaded by it all you’ve become….

It’s troubling for even the most grounded among us.

It’s been sad, depressing, agitating, frightening and even alarming.

And even if you’ve sworn off watching the news….
the heaviness is so pervasive that it has permeated deeply into not only our nation,
but it has saturated most of the greater free world.

Priorities are so screwed up that it leaves the more concerned among us wondering what
it is we can do in our own little corners of the world to makes things better, brighter,
softer, kinder and simply more sane…

So there I was driving home, following the afternoon’s celebration,
making our way back to the interstate when I spotted, with my periphery vision, the sign…

A large plain black and white painted sign on the side of an old barn….
a quaint old barn that is obviously a preserved and last standing vestige to the original
structures that once called this now uber urban city a rural country home.

“Everything will be ok”

I had to do a quick double take back to my left while focusing on getting through the
congested intersection just to make certain I had read correctly.

It was as if some wonderful paternal unseen force…
a force that was greater than anything in the world at just that very moment
had gently, soothingly and yet very matter of factly stated for all the world….
Everything is going to ok…

And so it shall be….

In you, Father all-mighty,
we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
Amen

St Julian of Norwich

(A link to a nice little article about the barn and the inception of the sign
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/05/26/everything-going-ok-dunwoodys-spruill-gallery/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=b542a61cbf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_DUN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-b542a61cbf-407315065)

Wise words

“God will not look you over for medals,
degrees or diplomas
but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard


(robin redbreast /Julie Cook / 2017)

A dear friend recently shared this bit of wisdom with me…
and what is wisdom if it is not in turn shared once again….

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head,
this you cannot change,
but that they build nests in your hair,
this you can prevent.”

Thank you Paul…..

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

what do you think about all day….

“What do you think about all day?”
Worldly things?
There is your heart.
Are you concerned about health, bodily goods?
There your heart is.
If one falls in love, all the habits of life are ruled
by that love—letters, telephone calls, whatever we do.

Dorothy Day


(flowering maple shrub / Julie Cook / 2017)

As is the case with the loss of any loved one…
life as we know it, turns upside down.
Not only is there the emotional aspect of loss, there is the
stark reality that even in death, there are responsibilities which remain.
The complications of living simply do not cease upon death.

I have been met head on with the reality of what it will now entail to
tend to dad’s worldly life, finishing up where he left off.

Lawyers, banks, accountants, the house, the car, paying for and eventually closing
accounts, the utilities, Social Security, insurance, a pension, taxes….
the list goes on and on…and it will for quite sometime.
Add in a step-mother…..

It will take weeks for the primary significant paperwork to arrive,
then there’s a visit to the court house in downtown Atlanta.
There will be new bank accounts as old accounts are closed.
And a new role as I begin the arduous and laborious process of closing one’s
existence out of our society.

I told someone today that it’s easier to be born than it is to die…
I suppose we think everything just stops when we die…but it doesn’t.

I can remember when both of my grandmothers and mother died and how Dad worked to
settle their estates…
It took years to finally put an end to things.

Needless to say…overwhelmed is now my mantra.

So when I read the sentence by Dorothy Day asking what it is that I think about all day…
and as to her follow-up remark to whatever the filling in of that blank would be…
“there is your heart”
I felt a real conviction of spirit.

Convicted because my thoughts are currently of worry.

And so there is my heart…steeped in worry.

And whereas I would suppose most anyone in my current pair of shoes would
be feeling much the same sense of overwhelming worry…
I have been thankfully jolted to refocus my sights…

“We must remember…
God is a sensitive lover.
God will not force you to choose him.
It is an insult to God to worry so about things of the world.”

Dorothy Day

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in Love in a quite absolute,
final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)

worry, what me?

“The same has happened on this side of the pond when Christians
think that their views on Brexit are essential to the maintenance of the gospel.
Do we not realise how puny and pathetic it is that we play power politics with
our limited knowledge and abilities?
Does it not display a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God?
We are certainly entitled and encouraged as free citizens in a democracy
to have our own political views–
but we are not to make the Kingdom of God dependent on them.
Sometimes the Lord will use a pagan king, like Cyrus,
to fulfill his will.
Sometimes he will convert the Emperor.
But at all times those who are his people need to rely on him to open the door.”

David Robertson

d4c6ea0e2d387adadf284ac846b05090
(Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman)

For some odd reason, mainstream media, most political leaders, liberal Hollywood…
the list only grows daily,
are all feeling as if the world, as we know it,
will be coming to an end by week’s end.

And then on the other hand, we have a growing number of the faithful
who believe that the ‘end of time’, once again as we know it,
is to take place,
as well,
by week’s end…
as in Jesus will be trumping, no true pun intended, Friday’s inauguration.

And if you’re anything like me, you may actually be hoping for the latter as
I’ve had just about all of the naysaying, whining, grousing, fussing, cussing
and downright vile vitriol sputum flowing out of the mouths of most of this
angst ridden nation of ours that I can stomach.

We have governmental elected officials and leaders who are threatening to boycott
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have entertainers who are encouraging defiance and protest before and during
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have colleges, state funded mind you, providing “safe places” on their campuses
for their dismayed students to be able to cry and be comforted because
of a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have fellow Americans threatening other fellow Americans because of a presidential
inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have other country’s warning and threatening us with reprisals, retribution or retaliation
over a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have the birth of fake news taking place because of a presidential inauguration…

Shame on us all…

It beats all I have ever known in this lifetime of mine.

News flash.

I don’t think the end will be ending on Friday.
Pretty certain you can take that to the bank.

It’s all just a shame.

A shame that educated adults are behaving so badly
as we wonder why the kids are behaving so badly.

Adults setting examples of immaturity, pettiness, ugliness, hate, tit for tat,
alarmism, rudeness, disrespectfulness…
everything accusatory that was shouted at the president elect for what was claimed that he
was displaying and demonstrating
is now being demonstrated and carried out by those very accusers—

So now it appears that no one is acting any better than the other…
and there’s nary a soul in this Nation who has decided to demonstrate real character by
taking the high road…

A few weeks back I read a wonderful article by a Scottish pastor, David Roberts, reflecting on
a bit of this current obsessing over the idea of the end times…
as it seems everyone on either side of the fence, faithful and not,
are in some sort of rising state of panic….

I offer a link here for the faithful and the non faithful alike….

Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying about the End Times – (Revelation no.7)

Bad, Sad and bittersweet

DSCN0420
(Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Another long hard day.

Today promises to be much the same as there are to be more tests and scans
in the early hours of the day.

We sat side by side in an exam room at the Oncologist’s office.
The pleasantries all neatly said and done,
the facts were placed before us in not so easily digested wording.

Dad sat slummed in the wheelchair as he wrung his hands nervously round and round.
Frail and feeble I thought I was looking at my grandmother 30 years prior.
I wonder when his skin became so thin and translucent…

The doctor excuses himself to go check on the latest scan reports…
The air now thick and heavy in the exam room as we wait,
with the unspoken words of what will be…

Dad turns to me and asks…

“Reckon where we go when we die”

Sirens go off in my head as this question of skepticism is
percolating up from somewhere deep inside a Baptist turned Episcopalian…
as a lump forms heavy in my throat…

“We go to heaven Dad”

“How do you know?”

“Because He said so Dad.

“Who”

“God…Jesus…”

“Where do you think we go Dad?”

“Maybe it’s like you were never born…
you just aren’t any more…”

“No Dad, we go to Heaven,
Cause He said so”

“Well….I guess I can see Ed…”
(my brother who committed suicide almost 25 years ago…

“And I guess I can see MaryAnn
(my mom who died from cancer 30 years ago, today would have been her 83rd birthday)”

“Yes Dad, you can…
(and here’s where I know we need to lighten this train of thought)
but I think Mother may ask you what’s up with this Gloria business…”

“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done that should I?”

“No Dad, probably not but it’s a little late to think about that now…”

And so went the course of the day…
Heavy thoughts hanging over our heads…

We went from one doctor today to another…
Then I cried the whole way…
driving back home as I sat in and out of a sea of cars…

And I have to be back at 8:30 taking him for more testing.

It’s all bad and yet it’s all good.
It could be worse, yet it could certainly be better…
It’s hard and will not be easy…

Yet as hard as it is,
I know…
without a doubt
He knows
and He hears,
and He sees…
And He is in our midsts….
and that a better place and time awaits….

For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—
and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God…

Ephesians 2:8

Sailors delight eh….

“He replied,
“When evening comes, you say,
‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning,
‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:2-3

DSCN4194
(a view from the driveway on a sultry August Georgia evening / Julie Cook / 2016)

Red sky at night,
sailors delight….

Getting out of the car, at sunset, after a very, very long day
ferrying dad between this doctor and that doctor,
this lab facility and that medical center….
then spending almost 3 hours in traffic fighting to get home….
I look back, over my shoulder, toward the western sky.

The air is thick and heavy with the humidity of August.
Exactly how I’m feeling…weighted down and heavy ladened.

I sigh…

The evening is quiet.
A far cry from where I had just come.

Our son and daughter-n-law will be moving soon..
moving to the city I never seem to miss when I leave it.
But I can’t think about helping with packing and moving…
not yet…

I often think it not wise to write when life is so heavy
or…maybe that’s exactly when one should…write…
pouring out thoughts and feelings…
searching to match the right words with the right feelings…
sorting and making sense of the senseless…

A body that is tired and hurting
joining thoughts with feelings that now are swirling…
I look toward the red western sky…
as if seeking some sort of reassurance…

Surgery on Friday for dad…
the tumor too large to remove…
but trying to shore things up while buying some time…
Time…
another heavy thought…open-ended
full of uncertainty…

A red sky.

Signals a sailor’s delight…

In other words,
smooth sailing…

Hummm….

Again, a sigh…before heading inside…

Signs of the time…

As I am reminded, while looking at the sky…
in the midst of all the madness and heaviness,
That the Master of the sky…
and of the clouds,
and of the stars,
and of the land
and of the sea…
remains….

forever…

DSCN4193

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise can mean that a high pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.

(courtesy the Library of Congress, Fun Science Facts)