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

Somewhere between the death sentence and death

“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

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(discarded broken pieces of a deer antler / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You can’t go in yet, they’re changing the linens” the head floor nurse’s words halting the day’s visit before it had a chance to begin.
The door remianed slightly ajar, just open wide enough to see the shadows of two figures working with lightening speed to change and replace soiled linens with fresh, as the helpless patient still remained attached to the bed— wired in with all sorts of IVs, oxygen tubes and monitors.

The cries of agony and pain could not be ignored as they wafted up and down the corridor.
The mere touch sent excruciating pain through the frail shell of what was once a 53 year old vibrant “mom”
Turning to face the wall, as if that would make it all stop, seemed the only recourse for the one waiting outside.

“Enough” could be heard screaming in the recesses of a young mind which wrestled with the hows and the whys of suddenly standing alone pushing against a generic wall hoping to blend in and disappear.

Six weeks was all it was.
From start to finish, six weeks.
Just barely over a month.

It could have been six weeks, six months, six hours, or six years.
Time is really an irrelevant thing until a sentence is read or a tragedy occurs.
It’s not until the grand stopwatch of life is quickly clicked, when the hands immediately stop turning, that the shouts of
“no fair”
“that’s not enough time”
“you cheated”
are heard echoing across the ages.

Mortality met immortality that early September day. . .when time oddly stood still yet raced at breakneck speed toward a different dimension.
The mere brushing of the now thin and fine patchy hair sent shrieks of pain out the door.
“STOP” was ricocheting throughout the young brain and began spilling unknowingly out of a twenty five year old mouth.
“Just stop, it hurts too much, just let her be” falling out and quietly trailing away as a whisper from now trembling lips.

And then just as quickly as the agony had made itself known, there was now nothing but silence.
A haunting stillness as time stood still.
“You can go in now” came the voice of a nurse looking back over her shoulder at the frozen specter against the wall.
“Going in to what?” wondered the young aching soul.
Going in to the near lifeless shell that only comes back to life when touched or moved, while letting all know that pain was still very real and very constant? Going into a drawn-out ending which now seemed to mock the very spirit of Life which was all but willing and pushing hopefulness forward?
What really was the point anymore?
What really was the point to anything anymore?
How cruel this sick dance with death had seemed to become.
A wave a nausea washed over limp legs that were now being willed, from some other place, forward through the open door.

“It’s not about you, you know” came the words of a stronger wisdom.
“There’s something else going on here”
“This is not all about you or your loss”
“It’s not all about her pain”
“It’s not all about her suffering”
“There is more, more going on that none of us can see”
“There is business, yet finished”
“Two are now meeting. . . where, we know not, but the meeting is crucial”
“You’ve got to see, you’ve got to understand this is so much bigger than you or her”
“It’s so much bigger than any of us can ever imagine. . .”

A lifeless body hung battered and torn, dangling like a limp doll in the wind.
The once living blood now stopped flowing. The driving rain made it appear as if it was still trailing down the contours of the flesh.
Flesh that was torn away in gaping chunks.
Bruised and shredded, what remained had taken on a dull blue pallor.
The wet red trails, flowing down the wooden support, pooled in the mud, as now rivers of blood and mud cascaded down the hill.

The wickedly dark clouds overhead hung as a heavy curtain stretching outward in every direction.
Cracks of electricity streaked dangerously to the ground, sending onlookers scurrying for shelter.
The earth began to give way under foot. Several fell down the hill, sliding in the blood saturated mud.
Everyone now seemed covered in the blood of Innocence.
The peals of thunder echoed as the sounds of a death march, now deafening, caused many to cover their ears.

Chaos had taken hold in the city, skipping merrily along its sinister path.
Demons could be seen darting between the shadows.
What was now happening with this single death as to cause such pandemonium? The lone thought hung heavily in the air, which was now filled with a rotting stench and the acrid odor of sulfur.
Panic was racing through hapless minds, as the words of the prophets echoed off the stone walls.
The great divide, the massive division slicing as a knife through all of time, was about to be bridged.

The separation was to finally be made whole as the universe momentarily stood still.
Time stopped,reversed and frantically raced forward simultaneously. Daylight was covered by darkness, as mystery was hidden from all eyes.
Even the Father turned His gaze.
For that which is without sin cannot gaze upon sin as He who was sinless, became all sin.
Both angels and demons trembled with fear.

What was the price?
The cost?
The expense?
One life for all?
Really?
And yet what of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, the misery, the lies, the ugliness and the sin?
What of the agony still felt, still experienced?
What of the broken hearts and the unfair losses?
What of the tragedies?
What of the premature deaths?
What of all violence?
What of the wars?
What of the sickness?
What of the cancer?

“It’s not so much about this life you know”
“It’s about that which we cannot see or may not yet know”
“It’s not about your pain right now”
“It’s hard”
“It’s difficult”
“It hurts”
“It is terribly unfair, unfair to our human sense of such. . .”
“Yet you’ve got to know, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hold on to the one fact that all of this, all this misery, all this hurt goes beyond us, well beyond us. . .it goes beyond the here and now”
“You can’t see, not yet any way”
“You’re simply not able to see yet”
“. . .but you will”
“You’ve got to know that this, all of this, all of this hurt, this pain, is but a mere breath to a dimension that we can’t yet phantom”
“Hold on, just hold on. . . and now. . .you’ve got to do one last thing. . .you’ve got to let go, you’ve got to let her go, let her go to do what she needs to do. . .with Him. . .”

“but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10