the freedom to enjoy the simpler things…

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
George Washington

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast,
And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(buckeye butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today while we enjoy the marking of a season’s change,
May we remain ever mindful of the many lives that offered the ultimate sacrifice
in order that the rest of us have the freedom to enjoy the simpler things in life…

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

The devil’s trick….

“La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas.”
(“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”)”

Charles Baudelaire


(a silkmoth Ceratomia hagoni / Julie Cook / 2017)

Perhaps the author of today’s quote knows a thing or two about the devil as his life
was speckled with troubles…
as those who were familiar with Monsieur Baudelaire associated him with darkness and depravity…
so perhaps it is true what they say about the devil knowing his own…

But I must say that I totally agree with Monsieur Baudelaire’s observation that it is indeed
one of Satan’s main ploys…
that being to lull us into the notion of his nonexistence.

Last night I was watching a newsy talk show.
I have to be really picky and choosey over the “news” I watch as most outlets that claim
to be News oriented, are simply not….
maybe they were when I was 5, say back in 1964, but no longer is that the case.

So this particular news host was running a story about the Freedom From Religion
Foundation, an aggressive special interest group, that had forced, bullied, threatened,
you choose the word, an elementary school in Tennessee to stop allowing a before school
Bible study offered to its first and second grade students.

Last I checked anything offered before or after school is considered voluntary,
NOT a curriculum or school mandated event.
The FFRF group co-founder, Dan Barker, had sent a letter to the school warning against
having any school personnel volunteering for such an activity as they would be in direct
violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.

Read between the lines—“if we discover that your faculty is having anything to do
with this, we will take you to court….
and you will be sorry and made to pay in more ways than one…”

Having been a long time educator I’ll be one of the first to tell you that if the word
lawsuit is even whispered near a school, sheer panic ensues…
so needless to say, the school shut down this before school voluntary study group—
which in turn infuriated the parents.

As the host and guest argued back and forth, the guest offered this defense…
“There are families who wish to protect their children from the depravity and
the violence that’s in the Bible,”

At which point I almost fell off the couch…
Depraved??
Really??
Ok.

They went further…
Host: You don’t forfeit your First Amendment rights, or any of your Constitutional rights,
just because you work for the government.
You know that.”

Guest: “Yes, you do.”

I think as an educator that was the single greatest thing that troubled me—
the feeling that rights afforded to all US citizens under the Constitution of the
United States somehow bypasses teachers…
as in we aren’t allowed the same rights, apparently, as our students,
or parents, or at times, even our administrators…

The other troubling notion was that these oh so important “rights” are more or less
relevant depending on your personal beliefs—

Christian teachers around this great country of ours are being told that they may not
have a bible on their desk.
Some districts are even telling their teachers that they may not wear a cross or that
Jewish teachers may not wear a star of David but a Muslim teacher may wear a headscarf,
may have a prayer rug and may teach the Quran….

So yes, Monsieur Baudelaire seems rather correct in his observation that the devil’s best
trick is to make us think that he not real as we have fallen hook, line and sinker
for every lie he’s been throwing our way…
all the while we’re holding onto these lies like a dog with a bone…

Living life in the world of lies…and the bad thing is that we’re simply sitting back
and letting it all happen without nary a word of protest from us, the Faithful…

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth,
because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature,
for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44

aunt maaathaaa

“The way you help heal the world is you
start with your own family.”

Mother Teresa


(look at that young Atlanta girl)

Spelled M – a – r – t – h – a
but it’s pronounced Maaaathaaa..
And yes, it’s a southern thing.

So I don’t think she’d mind my mentioning this….
but I think we might need to ramp up the prayers….again
As in calling on all you prayer warriors out there….

You may remember, my aunt.
My mother’s only, younger, sister and my only remaining link on that side of my family.
We have been family, partners in crime and grand adventurers since I could walk.
You may also remember that three years ago, out of the blue, Martha was diagnosed
with kidney cancer.

No problem said the doctors…just pop out that kidney and you’ll be good to go.

And so it was…the one kidney remaining was to step up to the plate,
becoming super kidney.
She barely missed a beat as major kidney surgery is now about as quick and easy
as a tooth extraction.
We were off to Ireland in less than a year.
Life was good.

That was until late last summer when a routine check revealed new spots on the
remaining super kidney, the pancreas and the liver.

No problem said the doctors…
you’ll take a pill everyday for the rest of your life and it’ll
keep the spots at bay.

So it was the first of January when she started the pill regime.

But the side effects seem to be more then what she was lead to understand.

Her energy level is now that of a weak newborn kitten.
Her appetite has been absolutely zero which is probably ok because her mouth
and tongue have become so utterly sensitive that she can’t tolerate anything going
in the mouth…so she’s now down 35 pounds—35 pounds she didn’t have to lose…

And now the last PET scan showed new spots—the type of spots she wasn’t suppose to get
because she’s taking the pills….

But not a problem says the doctors…
We’ll change up the pills….

But the mouth is still gravely unhappy, there is absolutely no desire to eat,
her hair is now white as snow, her energy level is non existent and
she is at a low low…

So I think its time we call on the prayer warriors…

And this is the confidence which we have in him,
that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask,
we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.

1 John 5:14-15

you just might get what you want

“The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded
and are therefore self-enslaved.”

C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain


(pretty little dahlia, not mine however—Julie Cook / 2017)

There it is again…
another quote from C.S. Lewis, each from the same book I referenced the other day—
Two random quotes that just so happened my way…???
Each from the same source???!!!…
Coincidence?????
I should think not….

So yes, I’ve ordered the book.

This morning I actually did something I would not have normally done.
I carved out time to sit and listen…
For you see I am a hit the ground running sort of individual—
a morning person who does her best work, thinking, cleaning, sorting, writing…
in the morning….
So for me to stop, sit and listen is a pretty big deal…
this as I often equate my sitting with wasting time…
as in I need to be about the task of doing whatever it is I need to be doing….

40 precious minutes afforded to listening to a sermon that was delivered Sunday at a
church in Scotland.
Now granted I would have much rather been in Scotland at the Church in person,
but an audio link in a blog post was as close as I was going to be getting any time soon.

It was a sermon delivered by Pastor David Robertson,
pastor of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland
and author of the Wee Flea Blog—a blog I’ve referenced before.

Pastor Robertson delivered a sermon on Romans 1:24-27.
A passage that just so happens to encapsulate Paul’s relaying of God’s thoughts of
human sexuality.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual
impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the
truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather
than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were
inflamed with lust for one another.
Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the
due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:24-27

Now I won’t rehash the sermon as I’ve provided a link if you’d like to either read
Pastor Robertson’s overview or actually listen to his sermon…
What the Bible Really Says About Sex and Sexuality

And it certainly was not my intent today to write a post on human sexuality but rather the
hand of God in our oh so screwed up world.
Of which I will do shortly, sexuality aside.

Yet I was struck by several quotes and remarks made by the good pastor as he actually
delivered this sermon before the world experienced Manchester’s horror.

His delivering of a sermon on such a topic was just happenstance as the passage was
just what came next in the study he had been presenting to his parish.
But it also came on the forefront of an important vote this week by the Church of
Scotland regarding its stance on same sex unions /marriages….
as in it, the Church, wishes to “keep” up with Scottish Law on the issue…
…oh if our Churches didn’t feel such a need….

(http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/archive/articles/general_assembly_allows_ministers_and_deacons_in_same-sex_marriages)

Yet I think a key statement in all of the sermon was, for me, that
“God is handing us over to what we want and what we have chosen”

Not that He is abandoning us or inflicting upon us but rather He is giving us over, freely,
to what it is we have wanted and chosen….
With that being a life of blatant disregard for His word.
For “we have exchanged God’s word for a lie.”

Yep, a lie.

As in now we’ve turned everything into something other than His word,
as is no longer His word but rather our restructuring, rewriting, redirecting.
Our word in order to make things fit all nice and neat for ourselves.
Fitting the rules for living into what we feel are these changing times…

And Heaven forbid that The Word of God should stand the test of time because obviously
anyone can see that He meant for us to switch things up as we culturally saw fit…
Meaning… as our culture changes and our desires and acceptance all change, then surely
God meant to be fluid…moving with said times.
As surely He would need to modernize that Word of His in order to accommodate our new
acceptances and beliefs in what is now right but once was oh so wrong….
so yeah, we best come up with a new translation, a refutation or a new interoperation to that
tired old Word of His.

Yeah, right…..
as I think we call that progressivism….
and God calls that disobedience….

One thing Pastor Robertson noted was that Jesus did not come to earth in order to confuse us.
He didn’t come to rewrite scripture.. to make it more applicable to the times—
quite the contrary—He came to fulfill the scripture.

So on this little thought, I will leave us today…
Leaving us all to ponder the notion of what it is that we have wanted and
what it is we have chosen…
And just so we can be clear as to what it is we’ve been handed over to…
as somehow I think it just might be related to living a life of being
freely left to our own devices…

But they say,
“It is no use! We will follow our own plans,
and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of our evil will.”

Jeremiah 18:12

we continue beating our heads against the wall

I am hitting my head against the walls,
but the walls are giving way.

Gustav Mahler


(a little moth sits on the garage wall / Julie Cook / 2017)

Once again we are left standing before the hard blank wall of this current time of ours,
beating our heads in bewilderment, disbelief and overwhelming sorrow and grief.

Once again a radicalized young man has decided to step up to the plate of all things
evil by willingly sacrificing his life in the demented notion of all
things Allah and Islam by blowing himself up to bits in hopes of inflicting as much
mayhem, fear and death as he possibly can….
upon children.

Never mind his overt cowardice in his choice of targets.
Never mind that his priorities and choices were all screwed up.
Never mind that there won’t be any reward, let alone 70 virgins, awaiting
upon his arrival in Heaven…for Heaven is a far cry from his final destination….

A suicide bomber is the ultimate in cowardliness…
for despite the skewed thinking of ISIS, that such a murderer is really a martyr
in disguise…
a suicide bomber’s actions are so grossly screwed that they possess neither glory
nor valor but rather an altered, dare we say, demonic view of reality.
Never to be considered a true soldier of war….but rather as a poser and pretender..
a mere shadow of a fighter hiding among the woman and children.

Yet none of this talk, none of the future ensuing blame game, none of the what if’s will
be of any comfort to this new set of grieving families as they now are left to sadly join
ranks with those other families who have preceded them in the grief of what is known as
terrorist attack survivors.

This phenomenon of surviving terrorism is becoming all too common.
Such that I fear the world grows a bit hardened.
The attacks, the tragedies, the lives left shattered, the lives torn apart, the pieces of
the world forever shaken, are becoming more frequent than we can mentally process.

We of Western Civilization are left with two choices.
We can either stand beating our heads against the wall,
all the while knowing that these sorts of catastrophic events will indeed happen again
and again and again….
or we can say enough.

And if we are indeed strong enough to say “Enough!”
We will have to stand in solidarity against the politicians, the entertainers and
even our fellow citizens who insist on choosing to turn a blind eye to the root cause.

“Enough!” we say to those who want the world to continue on it this surrealistic
state of denial…
“Enough”! to those who say forget the vetting, forget the travel bans,
forget the carefree open boarders because we are a better people than that…

For it is in that naive line of thinking where our problem lies…

There was a time when we could welcome those wishing to come to the land of freedom
and democracy in search of a new life….
Opening our arms and embracing those who saw something of promise and hope
in Western Civilization.
These newcomers joyfully did what it took in order to contribute to their new home.
Seeking work, most often hard and labor intensive.
They sent their children to American schools and wanted their children
to learn to read, write and communicate in English

Yet now within the masses of those who are coming and going freely are the very ones
who say to us that we are not a kinder more open people but rather that we are a foolish
and grossly naive people…and that our demise is their only desire.

That is not alarmist thinking.
That is not xenophobic thinking.
That is just the reality of our current times.
For we are indeed naive.

The Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan is a small microcosm of perhaps our
own naiveté.
It is estimated that 45% of Dearborn’s approximate 95,000 total population are
Arab Americans with a large percentage of those devoted followers of Islam.
Sharia law is readily observed and Dearborn is considered the Arab capital of
America housing the largest Mosque in North America.

And whereas it is an example of an enclave of ethnicity and immigration where many of those who
live do so wishing to live a dual existence of being both Middle Eastern and American,
it is also an area of welcome…a haven for others whose desires are not as virtuous
as they may readily blend in unnoticed.
For it is an area that is more Middle Eastern than American.

Yet those who argue when eyebrows raise,
point to places like Harlem, pockets of minority living that are
cultural places for minorities to feel comfortable living while feeling connected.

And there will be some who find highlighting such a city and its dominate population as being
bigoted, insensitive, racist or that of some nutty right wing alarmist’s observation…

That is not this post’s intent.

Yet whereas many will say that Dearborn is simply like those once predominately Irish,
Italian or German neighborhoods of the turn of the 20th century…
there is one big difference.
And that is the difference of ideology.

For there is a vast difference between the ideology of the Judaeo Christian
Western Civilization seen in the Irish, Jewish, Black, Latino neighborhoods
verses the neighborhoods of Middle Eastern Muslims.

And it is in that same ideological difference that lies the unwillingness to adopt Western
ways or to assimilate while melding into the culture.
Rather it is preferred, or more aptly expected, that the host culture melds to the ideology
of Islam…where Sharia law takes precedence to local American law.

Yet in our manic desire to appear to be all encompassing and welcoming, we bend over
backwards to accommodate and appease.
And therein lies our problem.
Yet most of us simply don’t see a problem.

And whereas we can all agree that the times in which we live are indeed frightening and
most uncertain, there are steps and measures that we can take to bring an extra level
of safe guarding to the situation,
but the problem is that our leaders and even many of our citizens are yet not willing to do such.

So we’ll just keep beating our heads, raising our terror threat levels and literally
picking up the pieces of the shattered lives because we simply refuse to see
what’s going on….

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! … The fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog. … Insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. … A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity….”

“The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property,
either as a child, a wife, or a concubine,
must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power
among men.
Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities…
but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it…”

“No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund,
Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.
It has already spread throughout Central Africa,
raising fearless warriors at every step;
and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science,
the science against which it had vainly struggled,
the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

Winston Churchill
The Nile River Walk 1899

who’s listening?

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis

The Son of God suffered unto the death,
not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.

George MacDonald


(Percy surveys the rain / Julie Cook / 2017)

iF God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy,
and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.
But the creatures are not happy.
Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”
this is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

C.S Lewis’ opening sentence from the book The Problem Of Pain

When I initially read the quote about God shouting to us in our pain…
The sheer notion that God is indeed shouting when we are at our lowest,
most often at our most vulnerable and even most desperate…
I found it to be, well, oddly comforting.

For Mr Lewis reminds us that while God knows we are having trouble listening…
trouble hearing Him speak to us, wooing us, comforting us….
He has no problem in shouting at us, to us, in order to get our attention.
For He is steadfast that way….

For man, in his inestimable knowledge, has concluded that if humans are in pain,
hurting, tortured, agonizing and grossly unhappy…
man falsely concludes that any being that boasts to be an
Omnipotent God who can do all things…why would this God of supposed Love, Compassion and Grace
sadistically allow all the anguish and pain to not only continue, but
to exist in the first place?

The conclusion…there is no God…
or if there is…He is cold, calculating and menacing….

And that is very much like us is it not?

We find something to our disliking, our displeasure, and we expunge it from our world
or we label it as an enemy to our living…
For we believe we are a people of absolutes…but the truth of the matter is, we are not.
For we do not tolerate absolutes…we rebel against the notion of the definitive.

And in this world of absolute verse definitive,
we have hardened our hearts and chosen the side of the secular…
In part because we cannot tolerate the fact that we live in
a world full of pain and in that pain we actually find our need and helplessness…
And it is in that helplessness that we seem unable to allow our ego and pride to go…

For in our defiance against the Absolute Creator,
our hearts have grown cold as our eyes are now blind and our ears now deaf.
We are weak and vulnerable, yet we defiantly, as little children,
stomp our feet while displaying our anger and resentment within our proclaimed disbelief.

All the while our God shouts as we stand with our fingers jammed in our ears.

For God continues to speak louder and louder…
Patiently, steadily calling us one by one,
name by name… to His open arms, to His side…
because the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow,
no more anger, no more grief, no more pain…

And soon a senseless world begins to make sense to the believer…
Because the believer knows that he has never been a part of
this limited pain filled world….

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my folly.

Psalm 38:3-5