What he knew and others chose to ignore. Déjà vu or simply a continuum? (let’s revisit this shall we?)

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,
an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

Winston Churchill


(Winston Churchil /Casablanca, 1943)

Following the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia–
the world was basking in the afterglow of global peace and harmony.
This collective sense of worldly kumbaya was found in the simple idea of
the competition of winter athletics.
Yet that sense of good cheer was quickly crushed when that year’s
Olympic hosts, that being Russia, boldly decided to invade neighboring
Ukraine. A sovereign nation.
And now once again, the world sits waiting and watching as a hungry ravenous bear
raises a massive deadly paw, poised to strike.
So given our times…be it 2014 or 2021, I offer this previous
post—not much seems to have changed in 7 years…

On March 21, 2014, with the sweeping act of a single pen, Valdimir Putin signed away Crimea, transforming a portion of Ukraine back to what was Soviet Russia. Changing the world map.

In 1938 Adolph Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia, with a similar sweeping act of a pen, known as the Munich Pact.
Changing the face of Europe forever.

This week, Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite, who is attending a European Council meeting of the heads of state discussing the EU’s response to the situation in Ukraine, told a BBC reporter that we, the world, are sitting on the edge of a new Cold War.

In 1946, Winston Churchill, addressing Westminster College in Missouri, introduced the world to the phrase “iron curtain” just as the Cold War was rearing its ugly head.


(Churchill surveys the ruins of chamber of The House of Commons after
a German assault of the Blitzkrieg.)


(The smiles of Uncle Joe deceive, while a wise Winston is all too keen to true motives.)


(1943 Churchill addresses a joint session of Congress urging the American allies to remain steadfast, staying the course, in their “duty to mankind”)

Within the blink of an eye and the sweeping act of a pen,
the world changed this week.
The world map shifted as a piece of the free world was unimaginably
sucked back in time.
If we, the world, choose to simply remain as mere spectators,
change will continue–history teaches us such.

Winston Churchill was the lone voice of foreboding warning alerting
the World to the true motives of first, Adolph Hitler,
then those of Joseph Stalin.
Each time, the free world chose to ignore his words.
Words which were alarming, scary, troubling.
Who wanted to think of such?
Why should anyone worry,
it’s not like this was happening in the backyard of the US or
that the island nation of Great Britain would be affected.
That was all over there, not here—
these being our thoughts as we lulled ourselves into looking the other way.
Maybe it’s all just bravado and bluff.
We just want to live our lives.
We don’t want to dwell on bad things. . .

But then the bad things happened. . .

Each time, Churchill was correct.
And each time, the world was too slow to react.

I wonder what Churchill would say after this week’s blatant act of
“what’s yours is now mine” by Valdimir Putin?
I somehow think there’s an “I told you so” out there somewhere.

May we be mindful of our continuing duty.

(and on we go…once again…over and over and over…)

the last of the lions

“What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar

(Senator Bob (Doyle, 95, salutes the casket of his friend, colleague, opponent and
fellow WWII vertern, George, H.W. Bush)

(this is a portion of a post I offered back in 2018 with the passing of
President George Herbert Walker Bush— Bush 41…
Bush was the dear friend, colleague and fellow veteran of Senator Bod Dole
—one of the last of the greatest generation who pledged their life
and service to our great nation—Senator Robert Dole passed away
yesterday…)

If there is one image that has touched my heart the most, over the past couple of days
other than the image of former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully resting
at the foot of his casket, it is this image…
this one picture…

The poignant and heart touching image of Senator and fellow WWII Vet
Bob Dole of Kansas being helped to his feet, in order to salute his longtime friend.

Senator Dole, of Kansas, is 95 years young yet is frail and is in failing health
but he was determined to be brought to the US Capitol building in order to pay his
respects to his fellow veteran and friend.

To most men of ‘that generation’ respect has always meant standing, and in this
case saluting, as both men fought, and were each wounded,
during what they simply referred to as “The War.”

Bob Dole was in the infantry fighting in Italy when he was hit by German
machine gun fire in the back and arm.

According to Wikipedia:
Dole was badly wounded by German machine gun fire,
being hit in his upper back and right arm.
As Lee Sandlin describes, when fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries,
all they thought they could do was to “give him the largest dose of morphine they dared
and write an ‘M’ for ‘morphine’ on his forehead in his own blood,
so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose.”

Dole was transported to the United States, where his recovery was slow,
interrupted by blood clots and a life-threatening infection.
After large doses of penicillin had not succeeded,
he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin,
which at the time was still an experimental drug.
He remained despondent,
“not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever.”
He was encouraged to see Hampar Kelikian, an orthopedist in Chicago who
had been working with veterans returning from war.
Although during their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would
never be able to recover fully, the encounter changed Dole’s outlook on life,
who years later wrote of Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide,
“Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it,
rather than complaining what had been lost.”

Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times,
free of charge, and had, in Dole’s words,
“an impact on my life second only to my family.”

I am always gratified when I read of or hear of the stories about the impacts
that one human being can have upon another…
impacts, that more often than not, are unbeknownst to the one who is doing the impacting.

I call it the gift of the unknowing.

These unknown gifts actually consist of simple things such as time,
assistance or a listening ear or even what might be perceived as an
insignificant opportunity…
These gifts, which more often than not are unbeknownst to the giver…
become paramount and even life-changing to the recipient.

Bob Dole had his gift giver.
And we Americans are better for it.

And if the truth was told, I think most all of us have had a gift giver, if not several,
during the course of our lives.

Senator Robert J. Dole (1923-2021)
Mr. Dole, a son of the Kansas prairie who was left for
dead on a World War II battlefield,
became one of the longest-serving Republican leaders.

(NYT)

Homesick

“I felt a pang — a strange and inexplicable pang that
I had never felt before.
It was homesickness.
Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it,
I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape,
to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.”

Alan Bradley

“Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart,
if they exist,
I will still not have the power to forget you.”

Ovid

God is at home,
it’s we who have gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart


(sheep on a teaching farm / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

(given my lack of sleep as of late, I found this previous post from 2016 worth repeating)

A fitful night…
dreams seemingly more real than not…
To wake…
On and off, over and over…
as the dream simply picks up where it left off.
A continuous movie playing out inside my head, all night long…

Trying desperately hard to find you, to call you…
Yet I can’t reach you.
I am there, not here…
but I am lost…
I need for you to come find me…
for it is only you who can help me….

Yet why is that?
Why do I seek you and your help?
Are there not others…?
Others even more capable…
Those who are more near and not so far away…?

Waking….
Perplexed, exhausted, wondering…
What ever does it mean…
or not mean…?
As the thought,
the memory,
the utter physical uneasiness…
hangs heavy over the day.

Homesick, yet here at home.
Missing and longing…
Aching for something else…
someplace else…
something more…
Yet what could it be…and why…?

You are there and I am here.
A melancholy heaviness clouds my thoughts.
It was all but a mere brief crossing of paths.
Yet with a lasting effect.
There was a change.
Deep and profound…
And I am the better for it…
Yet there remains a yearning, a hunger, an aching…
for more…

So very much more.
For hearing,
for seeing,
for feeling,
for learning.

Yet frustration is found in the simple being…
of being so very far away…

My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.

Isaiah 26:9

God Comes, again

“Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.”

Thomas Merton


(Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence / 1609 / Palermo, Italy)

(I found this little advent post from 2016 and found it still quite fitting for today)

“God Comes”

Pope Benedict XVI in his homily celebration of First Vespers
of the First Sunday of Advent
(Saturday, 2 December 2006)

“At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her
proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words
‘God comes.’
These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.

Let us pause a moment to reflect:
it is not used in the past tense—God has come,
nor in the future—God will come,
but in the present—‘God comes.’

At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action:
it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again.
In whichever moment, ‘God comes.’

The verb ‘to come’ appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological,
since it says something about God’s very nature.
Proclaiming that ‘God comes’ is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself,
through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.

Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly.
It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat:
Awaken!
Remember that God comes!
Not yesterday,
not tomorrow,
but today,
now!

The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’
is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history,
but he is the-God-who-comes.
He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom,
desires to meet us and visit us;
he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us.
His ‘coming’ is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death,
from all that prevents our true happiness.
God comes to save us.

The Fathers of the Church observe that the ‘coming’ of God—continuous and, as it were,
co-natural with his very being—is centered in the two principal comings of Christ:
his Incarnation
and
his glorious return at the end of time…
(cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870).

The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.

In the first days, the accent falls on the expectation of the Lord’s Final Coming,
as the texts of this evening’s celebration demonstrate.
With Christmas approaching, the dominant note instead is on
the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem,
so that we may recognize it as the ‘fullness of time.’

Between these two ‘manifested’ comings…
it is possible to identify a third,
which St. Bernard calls ‘intermediate’ and ‘hidden,’
and which occurs in the souls of believers and,
as it were,
builds a ‘bridge’ between the first and the last coming.”

The advent of Advent

The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle,
the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time,
what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature,
descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him.
It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there
is nothing specifically Christian left.

C.S. Lewis


(a golden red carpet / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park /
Julie Cook / 2015)

(an advent post from 2015)

Advent—the season of waiting, watching and expectancy…

As in waiting and watching with expectant anticipation.

With the anticipation being so wonderful, so indescribable,
so over the top…you can barely contain yourself.

This is not the worrisome dreading sort of waiting.
Not the “oh no we’ll never make it” gloom and doom of the negative waiting.
Not the looking constantly over your shoulder with fear rising up from the pit
of your stomach while you fret waiting for the other shoe to drop sort
of the anxious dreading type of waiting, watching, looking,
fretting and worrying…

This is rather the oh so great and oh so grand magnificent, I can’t wait,
I’m so excited, as this is going to be really really good and really really big…
full of sheer giddiness that I’m about to explode sort of joyful
waiting and watching…

As in I can’t wait because there is going to be such wonder,
relief and good things that all thoughts of bad, negative,
dread and woe are simply nonexistent…

Yet is this the season that you’re all excited and giddy over because of the
getting and receiving of more stuff?
The I can’t wait to go to the mall and bask in the holiday specialness
and magic of mega retail savviness sort of excited…??
Is it because this is the season you’ve long awaited because of the gathering
and the getting of those gifts and presents and all manner of things
that you’ve decided you just can’t live without sort of season…??

Is it the season that you’ve been long waiting and watching for as
your calendar will now be filling up with all manner of parties,
gatherings, galas and events…each offering the excuse of buying shiny and
sparkly outfits with the expectancy of seeing and being seen while
you imagine all the goodies to be sampled and savored…??

Is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over those things of this planet,
this world, this generation’s idea of a good time?

Or is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over something else?
Something that is much bigger, more awesome, more unimaginable and more over the top
than any of things of this life…
those things and events which pale in comparison as they are simply fleeting
and merely passing by…

For there is something really big and really monumental that is soon
to be taking place and for those of us who wait, who watch, who look,
who anticipate, who are full of expectancy, wonder and awe….
well, we are not to be disappointed…

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away:
that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where
one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost,
the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

fear vs awe

“We are a generation that has been stripped of our awe”.
Lisa Bevere

“The fullness of wisdom is fear of the Lord,
she is present with the faithful in the womb (Sirach 1:14).
Fear of the Lord does not mean to be afraid of God.
It means to stand in awe and wonder before the greatness of the Lord.
When we recognize that God is God and we are creatures,
we develop a healthy sense of humility.
We acknowledge our need for wisdom and grace, which are both
gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, p. 9


(Dingle Peninsula / Co Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Fear, the dictionary tells us, is defined as:
an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something
is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The dictionary also tells us that the definition of Awe is:
an emotion variously combining dread, veneration,
and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime

And so for those who have read both the Old and or New Testaments,
the word fear is often found throughout the various texts within both
halves that make up the Christian Bible as well in the Jewish Torah.
Even the Quran instructs those of the Muslim faith to fear Allah.

So we believers of the one Omnipotent God,
those of us who make up the three pillars of this monotheist faith of ours,
are often told, or so it seems, that we are to fear the Lord our God.

And yet within that same command, we are also told that we are not to be afraid–
that we are not to be fearful…
Rather we are told to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul.

For our’s is a great and powerful God…Master Creator.
He breathed life into our nostrils as he formed us in secret within the womb.
He has known us before we were even formed.
And he has loved us before time.

But we also know that He is a God of judgement.
A God who has cast out evil and will continue doing so until His
time has come.

A God who has instructed us how to live…and within those instructions
if they are not followed, there are indeed repercussions for not doing so.
But there is also great compassion and great forgiveness.

So it seems, that as the created, we have a fine line, once again in our lives.
It is a line that consists of both love and fear.

Yet fear is not exactly the right word to use when we speak of our God
and of the love He holds for us, His created.

The translations, over time have taken what was to be one and turning it into
another word completely.
And with the transitions has come a wealth of human emotion both
good and bad.

Yet the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries explains
The Hebrew word translated into ‘awe’ in the Bible is yirah
(יראה, pronounced yir-ah).
It often directly translates into fear, but it can also mean respect,
reverence, and worship.
But, make no mistake about it, yirah is strongly connected to ‘trembling’.
firmsrael,org

And so I think that as we enter this season of expectation…
this season of Advent…we must remember that whereas we
are indeed watching and waiting with great expectation,
we should also find ourselves in pure wonderment as to what is
to come upon us.
Not so much fearful but rather one of amazement.

We are to be in awe—not so much fear as we know word,
but rather that of trembling both outwardly physically as well as internally.

For in that awe, that which we cannot readily comprehend, as we find ourselves
standing before a crib holding a small newborn child,
we must remember that this newborn child holds in His heart
the future of our own hearts.

And in that thought lies our amazement, wonder and awe.
Because it is there, in that newborn, where the epitome love resides.

There is much around us that is awesome and awful.
We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world.
We have seen that the authorities today use tactics similar to those employed 2,000
years ago, and many people scheme to play to our fear,
destroy our hope, and seal off our joy.

But we have the confidence of our faith.
We have seen the risen Lord!

Joyce Hollyday

fleeting

It’s a moment that I’m after, a fleeting moment,
but not a frozen moment.

Andrew Wyeth


(a store window seen in Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2021)

Fleeting– the opposite of lasting or enduring.

That which is brief, momentary or transient.

Much like the still images taken from a strip of film.

Frame per frame-
Sequence by sequence-
Moment by moment-
As black and white images blend to a tonal pallet of grey…
each frame is its own static story of something or someone
that has preceded the current moment of time, thus becoming
nothing more than the past…a past that becomes now motionless.

These junctures in time, these single breaths of life, may each be
caught and thus captured… and in turn,
become a single entity of both space of time
as they are now ‘saved’ for a time to be.

They simply become moments frozen in an everlasting vacuum of
continuance…allowing that which was to become
a part of that which is as well as that which will be.

Thus these physical and tangible moments, which
each come and are quickly gone, now only add to our own
individual continuum of time.

And so we ponder…

Are not these someones or somethings…
these moments and persons which are each captured in
writings, recordings or even videos and photographs…
are they not more or less paralyzed…as in immobilized…
void of all movement and action… rendered lifeless
and thus resulting in the transcending of time…because time
has indeed thus stopped.

Or has it merely been paused…resulting in the ability to resume the
moment?

Oh how we yearn to resume such moments and individuals.

Images each recorded and saved…poignantly yet painfully reminding
us of that which was is now simply no more…
and is rather just traded to that of a memory.

And so we continue to wonder…
do these captured moments of both places and persons–
places and persons who may or may not be known to those who are
now viewing or reading or hearing them,
do they not give way to segments of a larger juncture or turning point?
All of which now afford anyone and everyone to read, hear,
see and even share in what was?

As in…do not these captured moments simply allow anyone and everyone
who comes across such, to be able to partake in each individual or thing…
while interpreting them uniquely from each individual’s vantage point?
Invoking shared emotions despite the images not necessarily being our own?

A single active event or person…all of that which once was…
now gives way to the actions of anyone’s and everyone’s life as the
past becomes the present and, if we are so fortunate, the future.

It is a collective sharing of both space and time of that which once was
for some, being that of memory, now becoming the active imagination of another.
and thus fleeting no more…

“Your poor heart, in which God put appreciation for everlastingness,
will not take electronic gadgets in lieu of eternal life.
Something inside of you is too big for that, too terrible, too wonderful.
God has set everlastingness in your heart.
All the things of this world are here for but a moment and then are gone.
None can satisfy the longing for that eternal ragging in the soul of every man.”

A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John

Veni, Veni Emanuel–mourning mixed with hope

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel


(a woman worships in silence alone, in a small Florentine chapel in Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2007)

(since this past Sunday marked the first Sunday in Advent,
and since we all know that time has not been on my side as of late…
I wanted to share a post regarding my most favorite of hymns—a hymn
that happens to be only sung during the season of Advent…)

Growing up in an Anglican, or more specifically an American Episcopal Church–
with my growing up happening to be taking place within a large
Gothic Cathedral to be more exact,
I was immersed at an early age with beautiful choral music and hymns.

Many of which boast of ancient roots and beginnings.
To hear and to feel the massive and beautiful organ deeply reverberating throughout
the massive stone cavernous church, as it engulfs one’s entire being–
accompanying the voices of the classically trained choir,
echoing and rising out from behind the chancel, was all short of magical.
It was the life and mystical wonder from a time when I was being formed as
a spiritual being.

I am very old fashioned when it comes to hymns and the music associated with
that of a Cathedral.
There is a solemnity and a reverence.
Just merely reading the lyrics of these hymns,
one is struck by the rich poetic history of the stories being told via
the use of ancient song.

There are a handful of hymns, to this day,
which tug upon my heart… bringing tears to my eyes each
opportunity I have to hear them.
Be that either as a member of a Sunday congregation or merely
gently singing to myself as I go about my day–
hymns that move my heart to a place of deep reflection–
an almost mystical reverence.

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, the Latin version of O come O come, Emmanuel,
is one such hymn.
It is a hymn for the season of Advent, as that is the only time it is sung.

It’s roots are indeed ancient as some scholars date it (the Latin version)
to that of an 8th century Gregorian Chant.
Others date it to either the 12th or 15th century France as a
processional type of hymn.
Even others date it to as late as the 18th century as an antiphon or
type of sung liturgical response.

Sadly, I must confess that I don’t know a thing about music,
as I’ve never been trained or had an opportunity of singing in a choir.
I really can’t sing, but have always wished I could.
So as I explain the power of this particular hymn,
those of you who do understand music, please forgive me for I speak
from my heart about this music and not of classical study.

O come O come Emmanuel is sung slowly…
beginning quite low, being “sung” a cappella.

It can be accompanied by an organ or other single instrument.
Mannheim Steamroller, the wonderfully synthesizing modern music group,
who has produced marvelous holiday music based from many medieval songs,
has a beautiful rendition.

It is very reminiscent of the chants heard from various early Christian monasteries–
which is why I believe it does have it’s roots seeded in that of Gregorian Chants.
The cadence is steady and specific–there is power in the simplistic rhythm
of the 7 groups of stanzas which make up the full body of the text.

I understand the whole joyful noise business,
but I am of the serious school when it comes to worship.

The ancient hymns, that are more typical of a liturgical service,
speak of solemn serious worship–meditative and reflective,
which seems to rise up from one’s very core.

There is not that over the top emotionalism so often associated with
the prayer and praise musical services of today.
In this chant, as well as other similar types of hymns,
there is rather an acute awareness.

Tears will readily cascade down my cheeks even today when
I hear this most ancient of hymns.

Much of the early Church’s music, which has it’s roots in Medieval Europe,
speaks of wondrous mysteries of the world–words which spoke to those
who were apart of those “dark ages,”–as that was indeed a mysterious
time of both space and place.

Those people who were of such a different time than ours, did actually know
the things which we don’t seem to necessarily know today–just as we know things that they did not.

Much of our scientific world has solved many of their mysteries and problems.
While their musical worship was based deeply in a belief and faith that
was undefinable, full of questions, wonderment and awe…much of what we often lack today.

God and the understanding of Him, His Son and that of the Holy Spirit
was unfathomable–
That was something not easily or readily defined or put in a nice little
box of understanding.
Nor is it to this day.

Their music reflected such.
Mystery and awe.

This particular hymn / chant is serious, steady, determined, meaningful and lasting.
It strikes at something very deep.
It doesn’t get one worked up in a sweat induced, clap your hands and shout
to the heavens sort of deal, but rather it is almost spoken—
spoken as in a statement that is meant to make those who hear it contemplate
its very importance.

It is a hymn that is actually mournful and even heavy.
In part why it is one of the first hymns of Advent–a time of great expectation.
And with expectation comes questions.
It is a time of year that we, the faithful, approach with reverence and measure.

So why mournful and heavy you may ask…why now of all times should there be such
a heaviness as we enter the season of Advent only to followed by the joy of Christmas…
both of which, for the Church, marks a time of waiting and
expectant watching…and eventual joy.

For are we not anticipating a birth?
And is not the anticipation of a birth an event of great joy?

A time of joy, yes, and yet at the same moment, with this particular birth,
comes a deep heaviness as it is a birth marked with tremendous hardship–
only to be followed by the fleeing for safety and then again, a time of more waiting.
The very conception, waiting and birth stay constantly in the shadow of one thing
and that one thing is that of Death.

With this birth comes grave consequence for both me and you…
and yet, as with all births, there is tremendous Hope of what will be.

And as with the anticipation of any birth comes a sense of urgency.
The urgency here is of the coming of the one who is referred to as Emmanuel,
as it is He who is come to ransom the captive Israel,
which in turn refers to all of us today.

He is to come and is to set the captives free.
To free you and me from the prison of our sin and of our death.
As we mourn throughout our “exile” or separation from our Father.

The Immanuel, Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל, which has been Romanized to Emmanuel–
meaning God with Us, is invoked…rather meaning, He is to come,
coming to us all…but yet is acknowledged as already being here with us–
the Omnipotent one.

We sing to the God who is with us and yet who is to come,
and who is to come quickly.
We are then told to Rejoice,
Rejoice because He will come, as He has come and as He will come again.

On this first Tuesday in this new season of Advent,
may we all be mindful of our continual need for this Holy Coming–
of the One who will set free and make things right—
who will, in turn, free both you and me from the constant presence of
the shadow of Death—-
who will bridge the gap of separation, as this Emmanuel is the only one who
can and will and has done all of this!
So may we Rejoice and Rejoice continually as He shall come to us indeed—
Amen. Amen.

A short story

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren
is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life,
but rather a legacy of character and faith.

Billy Graham


(early 19th century tombstone / Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2014)

****Once again I’ve found myself looking back and re-reading previous posts–
posts that might need to be re-shared…this little story popped out from
all those posts and asked to be re-shared as I’ve gone back and tweaked it a bit.)

Hushed voices whispered across the back porch…whispering from under a
sweltering blanket of an oppressive late August evening.

It was almost 10 PM and the old galvanized thermometer was reading 86—-
It was a most welcomed drop from the triple digits which had only added
insult to injury earlier that day, as a grieving family gathered in a tiny
crowded church.

Her thinning frail hand was now working harder than it should,
waving the paper program back and forth as she hoped to stir up the
stifling night air…or were her hands simply nervous and in need of some
sort of distraction?

The screen door creaked to life, breaking the unbearable silence as
familiar steps began tp echo cross the well-worn wooden planks.

“I thought I told you to oil that door last week”
her words now taking more effort than she had strength to offer.

“Has anyone seen Ellington?”

“Not since lunch” was the whispered response.
Ellington was named for the legendary Duke Ellington.

He had always loved listening to the Big Band orchestras.
This love began during that most surreal time, back in ’44,
when he and the others waited on their orders.
Orders for when the offensive assault would begin.
Orders that would mark that fateful June day for all of eternity and
perhaps change the lives of his small world forever.

The days leading up to the invasion were passed nervously while everyone
just sat fidgeting, waiting and wondering.
Like the darkening clouds of an impending storm,
the cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air.

There were the endless games of cards, letters written and rewritten home
all the while those same familiar bands were playing over and over..
playing on the only record player aboard ship.
If he ever made it back home, he promised himself,
he’d get himself a dog and name it Ellington.

“I haven’t seen him since we got back from the Church.”
“You know how that dog loved your daddy.”
“How old is he now, 12?
“Yeah, I bet he’s sitting down by the gate still waiting on Daddy to
come driving up the road in that stupid old pick up.

“It isn’t a stupid pick-up!” she shot over her shoulder
at her brother– sounding angrier then she had intended.

“Mama, can I get you some more tea?” she asks as she stands
and stretches muscles now stiff from sitting in the ‘old man’s’ rocking chair.

“It’s not as comfortable as your Daddy would have made you think, is it?”
“No mam, it’s not.
How in the world did Daddy sit out here every night reading that paper of his?
I’d rather sit on a fence post. . .”

Catherine mutters the statement as she gently rubs a weary behind.

“Your Daddy had a bit more padding back there than you do sweetie.”

At 92 she was a woman still full of warmth and grace.
They had been married almost 70 years.
He had actually asked her to marry him in a letter, written from France,
once he knew he had survived the worst part of the war.

It took the letter 6 weeks to make it home.
Six weeks of her not knowing if he was dead or alive.
When her father brought the mail in the house that evening
and once everyone had sat down to supper…
he silently slipped the letter across the dinning room table.

She looked nervously at both her mother and father, and then slowly
opened the thin airmail post, hands trembling over what
this long awaited letter might say.

Suddenly, sending her chair crashing on the floor as she jumped to her feet..
she shouted, apparently to no one present in the room,
“Yes, Yes Yes. . .”

That was August 1944.

It would be two more years before they would marry,
once the war was finally over and he made his way home with several citations,
a silver star and an honorable discharge.

It had not always been an easy life, but it had been a good life.
They had raised 4 decent and caring children on that small farm–
managing to always pay the bills while keeping everyone feed,
especially the three boys.
They even made certain that the kids would have the option of going to college
if they so chose.
And choose they did.

As Catherine made her way inside to the familiar kitchen, pulling open the faded door
to the old Frigidaire, relishing the blast of fresh cool air,
she hunted for the pitcher of tea.

“I thought we were all going in together to buy them a new one
of these last Christmas?!”
–Catherine mumbles while lingering in the
coolness of the refrigerator’s contents.

She knew her younger brother had followed her inside.

Gathering the courage to speak his mind, with her back now sufficiently turned
in his direction, her younger brother boldly begins to blurt out his
quasi-rehearsed speech.

“I think you ought to take mom back with you and I’ll take Ellington back with me.
It’s not like she. . .”

This younger brother doesn’t even have time to finish his first thought
before Catherine slams the door to the refrigerator and whips around so fast
that it catches James off guard.

“WHAT?!” she hisses through clenched teeth as she fights back the
angry stinging tears.

She always did have Daddy’s quick temper.

“Are you crazy!? she practically screams as she proceeds to unleash
the full wrath of fury laced with the pain and frustration built from
the past few days..
unleashed all upon an unsuspecting yet well meaning,
if not clueless, younger brother.

“I’m not taking her anywhere and you’re certainly not taking that dog back to Boston.
You want to just kill both of them right now?
Taking them from here, especially now, would certainly do it.”

James, now a bit frightened, doesn’t recognize the ranting woman
standing across from him.

“Oh I get it”…Catherine continues.
“Robert knew you were coming in here didn’t he?

James nervously twists his wedding band.

“I bet you both have been planning all of this when Daddy first got sick.”
“He’s out there right now ready to tell Mama ya’ll’s plan isn’t he?”
“And Paul???”
“What about Paul?”
“He’s not even here for Christ’s sake.”
“He can’t even get a plane out of Venezuela for the funeral and you two
have already moved her and that dog!
How dare you James!”

Catherine is now seething in a mix of anger, pain and sorrow.

And just as quickly as the furious storm is unleashed upon a hapless younger sibling,
the rage thankfully subsides.

Catherine suddenly feels as if all the energy, all the anger,
all that once was is now mingled with a terrible heaviness of  immense sorrow.
Any remaining energy has now simply evaporated from her very tired body—all the while
a tempest wind has suddenly and thankfully vanished…
taking all of the energy from the raging storm with it.

Her brother, her younger brother,
is no longer looking at her but rather standing with both hands stretched
out on the counter, his arms are painfully straining to hold up his now
very weary lanky frame–with his head cast downward, he mumbles
“I just thought the boys would like having the dog.”

Catherine, reading the pain in his words, reaches her hand to cover her brother’s.
She’s amazed by how much James looks like a much younger version of the man
she lost only yesterday.

She begins slowly…
“It’s not like Daddy owed any money on this place.
He paid it off 10 years back when he sold off the cows.
Mr. Johnson has been paying them for the hay—
and Randal and Wilton pay Daddy for renting the fields,
plus they’re giving them a percentage of the corn.
They can now simply pay Mama.”

Catherine is now looking at James with the compassion that can only be found in that
of a protective older sister while she begins her stance of conviction.

“I know you think Richard and I never can agree on much…
but the one thing we do agree on is Mama and Daddy.
I know how much Richard loved Daddy and he in turn has only wanted the best
for both of them.”

We’ve talked about it.
I’ve got enough years in at work.
I sent in my letter of resignation last month.
I’m going to stay with Mama for as long as she needs me or wants me.”

“With the girls now gone, the house is really more than Richard and I need.
We’ve talked about letting Robert list the house and we’ll just come back
here to the farm until we find something smaller.”

“Richard can commute to the college.
I can stay a month, six months, a year…”

“And you can go back to Alice and the boys…
buy the boys a dog, but Ellington has got to stay here with Mama!”

“Robert is less than two hours away in Des Moines,
he can be here when and if I need him.”

By now a wealth of tears has finally come to both weary faces.

Whoever would have thought this pair of once rough and tough siblings
would be standing at the counter of the kitchen,
the same kitchen that had once witnessed a myriad of mud covered frogs
swimming in the brand new porcelain sink.
Or a lethargic lizard placed in the freezer for safe keeping.
Or one too many missing cherry pies from a lone windowsill
And what of those late night secret ins and outs of restless teens,
teens who were now sadly finding themselves, all these many years later,
deciding the fate of an aging mother and dog.

“Look at it this way” Catherine interjects attempting to put a much
needed smile back on her younger brother’s face..
“this will finally give Mama the chance to teach me how to make that
famous gooseberry jam of hers.
You know how much she always resented Daddy for turning her only daughter
into a 4th farm hand, dashing all her hopes for a little feminism
on this male dominated farm.”

James lifts his tear-streaked face to meet his sister’s glance.

“You know how I hated that crap” he sheepishly replies.
“Yeah, I know, just as much as Daddy did.”
Catherine now gently squeezes her brother’s hand.

James is now wide eyed as he stares in disbelief at his sister.

“Yep”, Catherine states matter of factly, “he hated it”

Catherine continues, “he said it reminded him of eyeballs covered in sugar,
but he’d eat it any way cause he knew how hard she had worked on it”

By now that captivating yet distinctive boyish grin was slowly returning
the face of a man whose heart was breaking.

“I suppose that’s what happens when you love someone for 70 years”
sighs a very tired Catherine who is now smiling back at her equally
tired kid brother.
“You’d eat anything they cooked and in turn love an
old hound dog named Ellington.”

grey

“It is by no means an irrational fancy that,
in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our
present existence, as a dream.”

Edgar Allan Poe

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

“When you strip away all the layers one by one, not much remains to “discover.”
You will never find real meaning among your selfish interests,
feelings, and aspirations.
The answers do not lie within you.”

James C. Dobson, Life on the Edge:
The Next Generation’s Guide to a Meaningful Future


(Colonial Cemetery Savannah, GA / Julie Cook/ 2021)

(the current photograph needed some sort of introspection from the past, my past–
so I found a post I’d written in 2017— and with a bit or re-working,
we have a new post)

Death…
the one true absolute…

Absolute.

Dictionary.com tells us that as a noun, absolute is
something that is not dependent upon external conditions for existence
or for its specific nature, size—
the absolute,
something that is free from any restriction or condition.
something that is independent of some or all relations.
something that is perfect or complete./em>

And so what is it about man and his need for absolutes??
The need for that which is..and that which is without exception?

Black or white.

Black the absence of light.
White the excess of all light.

Light.
Dark.

Definitive.

And yet many still cling to the nature of grey…
a space somewhere in between all that we know of absolutes.

Grey being the equal mix of both black and white—a place
of somewhere other than an absolute.

A blend of known and unknown.

There are those skeptics among us who would dare to argue
over the definitive nature of, say, death…

Is it or is it not a definitive end?

Some say yes..while others say no–there must be more.

So on one hand, these grey individuals can be heard to rile against those others,
those who espouse in absolutes…
“be damned you fools” those who relish in grey will shout,
“for we will not live by such pronouncements…”

And yet man continues to test and retest in order to
hold triumphantly a handful of litmus papers of absolute proof…
that being the definitive definer…
man will fiercely hold up those stained papers as sacred proof of his
needs and wants.

All the while ancient voices remind us…
Thou shall have no other gods but the Lord your God…

Absolute…

Yet we know that man hordes a thousand other gods.
Clinging and clutching tightly to the fading fancies of his whims.

Thou shall cherish and love life and thou shall honor and love one
unto another just as you would wish to be cherished,
honored and loved.

Absolute.

Yet man will prefer to fight, hurt, murder, slander, defile,
maim and destroy not only others, but himself as well,
as life and the living have lost all holiness…

For man has proclaimed himself his own god…

And thus it is man who extols that which is right and that which is wrong.
No litmus papers needed for that proclamation.
No black nor white…merely a triumph of grey.

And since man is never satisfied with his choices for very long,
he will just as quickly turn each proclamation upside down,
in order to suit the latest craving or longing…
because nothing remains scared,
nothing remains holy
and nothing remains true…
So dare we say nothing remains absolute.

And thus the only absolute in the mind of man is that there
are no absolutes…only grey.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2