reward

“True happiness is not found in any other reward than that of being united with God.
If I seek some other reward besides God Himself,
I may get my reward but I cannot be happy.”

Thomas Merton

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(changing colors / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 65:12-13

no distinction

“There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything
and feels as if all one does is wrong,
and there maybe some truth in it-
do you think this is a feeling one must try to forget and to banish,
or is it ‘the longing for God,’ which one must not fear,
but cherish to see if it may bring us some good?
Is it ‘the longing for God’ which leads us to make a choice which we never regret?
Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle.
And not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil.”

Vincent van Gogh

“No people is fully civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office
and stealing a purse”

Theodore Roosevelt

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(turban squash / Julie Cook / 2016)

God does not draw a distinction between the beautiful verses the plain
The haughty verses the lowly…
the well to do verses the insufficient…

We are the ones who have drawn the line between inviting verses common
extravagant verses meek…
slick verse slow,
powerful verses humble…

Preferring always the greater verses the lesser
the influential to the simple
the rich to the poor…

As we are left to wonder who is the better for this distinction of choice….

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:3

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tenacity

“Courage is not having the strength to go on;
it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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(Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, wearing her mother’s curtains)

Think Scarlet O’Hara, Julia Sugarbaker and Steel Magnolias all rolled into one.
Who else would think to turn their mother’s prized curtains into
a matter of getting what they need…but a Southerner.

That’s because we in the South understand the significance of
desperate times requiring drastic measures…

For we are a resourceful lot when we need be,
especially during the thick of battle..
We are kudzu and honey all rolled into one..
Barbed wire and sugar spun together…

Because that’s just what we are down here in the South,
tenacious as a bulldog when needed,
soft as a cotton ball when called for….

We are also sweet and charming.
We are cordial.
We are warm.
We are hospitable.
We are not dumb, deplorable or rednecks…contrary to what some would have you believe.
We are educated.
Well educated.
We have great schools, colleges and universities.
People like our weather, well, maybe not in August…
I don’t like our weather in August, or even now, but I digress…

People like our food..think fired this or that, as in chicken and okra.
People like our drinks…think bourbon.
We are mannerly…for if we are not, our grandmothers are obviously not watching.
We believe in morality, decorum and being polite.

But none of that should never lead you to believe that we are
pushovers,
ignorant,
easy,
or lazy.

We are a strong kind people.

And I keep finding that I have to continually remind myself of such…

I have seen more of my poor father than any daughter should ever see of her father
and it is enough to last me a life time.
Bless him.
He can’t help it.
And sadly I can’t avoid it.

We got the water balloon dad unclogged today.
Mr nonchalant doctor was his typical rude, arrogant and non southern self during our visit…
He didn’t want to initially believe, let alone admit,
that there was any scar tissue from August’s surgery…
Well guess what…
there was.

No wonder poor dad was becoming a human water balloon,
a toxic human water balloon.
But mr nonchalant doctor assumed it was the tumor growing; the one we had opted not,
against his suggestion, to spend 8 weeks radiating on a daily basis.

“Has he looked at dad in that wheelchair of his” I wonder…

Quickly and without fanfare or even words, Mr nonchalant doctor performs a little procedure
then quickly leaves the room with us eventually leaving
with now a new sort of water balloon,
a catheter.
And thankfully free-flowing once again!!
No spreading cancer as dad was fearing…
just a little scar tissue fouling up the works…

Dad was having to get up literally 18 times a day and 9 times throughout the night living
like a human water balloon…filling up, but not flowing out.

The doctor walked out with nary a word….
No words of kindness, no words of encouragement,
no words of care nor words of what we might need to do…

Kind of like a wham bam thank you mam sort of moment.

Leaving me with the young nurse to attach everything…
getting everything in, on, up and poor dad back into his chair.

Where I come from a gentleman assesses the situation and lends a hand where
he sees the need.
We call that being a man…patient, kind, gallant and thoughtful.

When we finally walked out, me walking, dad rolling…
Mr nonchalant doctor was sitting at his computer in his office, directly across from us,
as we exited the exam room.

I was sincere and gracious in my thanks and gratitude for helping dad.
As I was always taught to offer thanks for a service rendered and I was genuinely
grateful that dad would now be functioning and flowing.
Plus there I was wheeling my cancer ridden, feeble, 88 year old father
who has just bared everything to everyone…did he not deserve a word?

There was a very long pause of silence before acknowledging that I had spoken…
without glancing from the computer came an “ah huh”…
and with that, dad and I were on our way.

At the elevator dad leans his head back in my direction as I push the button for down…
“he doesn’t have much personality does he?”
“I think he’s a jerk dad.”
“I just think he doesn’t have a beside manner” dad counters…

And that my friends is the response of a gentleman.

A man who just bore his feeble sickly body for violation and he merely chalks up
being ignored to a lack of personality.
Where I see a sorry SOB…

Had I not been wheeling dad, who was now hurting and asked for something for pain,
as mr nonchalant non caring doctor quips over his shoulder, “take some tylenol'”…
I think I would have marched in that office of his, slaping my hands down on his desk,
asking or rather telling him to do the polite thing by
looking me in the face when I’m speaking
and to acknowledge my father as an elder as well as a hurting human being….

Because that’s what we do here in the South, we acknowledge our fellow human beings as
what they are, fellow human beings….

And don’t forget, we also came up with iced tea…..
thank you very much…

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

the kindred spirit of a chicken

“To love is easy and therefore common –
but to understand –
how rare it is!”

― L.M. Montgomery

What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul,
which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?

Saint Teresa of Avila

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(one of dad’s urban neighbors / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve written about Henny Penny before.
And no, Henny Penny is not the chicken in the picture above…
that’s just a neighbor.

The real Henry Penny is the heroine of a classic and timeless sweet children’s tale.
The story of a rather hapless and clueless chicken
who gets her knickers in twist when she’s out and about minding her own business,
when suddenly out of the blue, something falls from above knocking her in the head…

This falling object unleashes pandemonium in poor ol Henny Penny.

Convinced that the sky is now falling,
Henny Penny proceeds to run about chaotically alerting all her neighbors
that the time to panic has arrived…
while proclaiming that everyone must immediately seek shelter…
because the sky is…
falling…

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(Henny Penny / art work by Thao Lam)

As it turns out the sky was never falling, as the sweet illustration above indicates,
yet try telling Henny Penny and her now distraught neighbors that it was
just a pesky little acorn falling onto poor Henny Penny’s head.

And not that I’ve become some sort of nervous nelly dashing about
in a frantic panic over a falling sky…
but it does feel as if the sky, or actually life rather, is indeed falling…
and that familiar primordial feeling of panic
is desperately attempting to rear its ugly head…

As I’ve just spent the past three days running around in circles over…
dad…

Add to that some other rather pressing issues of life and we have
our very own Henny Penny running around clucking like a nut.

If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who may have spotted a black car,
early this morning, out on the four lane driving in big circles…
about 3 different times back and forth…

As in driving out toward the interstate then turning back around,
then driving back out toward the interstate, then truning back around…
again…and again…
Not so much a panicky Henny Penny but more like a crazy moron…

Either way I’m feeling a bit Henny Pennyish as of late as I’ve been
twirling about in circles flapping my wings arms trying to make sense of things…

It’s a long story…as are all my stories as of late.
And I’ve promised myself that I will not be overtly verbose today,
for your sake as I wish to spare you the agonizing details…

However…is it not the details which make things all that more interesting??
as in the devil is in the details—
as in really, yes,
he is frighteningly in my details….

It all has to do with a catheter, a nurse, dad, a blockage, the caregivers, the ER
and a urologist that I had hoped to never see again…as I’m not a fan.
Add multiple calls beckoning me to come then don’t come,
come, don’t come… and you’ve got circles on the four lane…

Throw upon that not gas but confusion…adding all the other nuttiness in my life,
throw in the shenanigans of this county of ours just for kicks,
fan the fumes…
and you get me, driving around in big circles
while dad is blowing up like a water balloon refusing to be treated.

So I will take the water balloon dad back to the Urologist today, whether he wants to go or not while taking our chances that
a) the water balloon weren’t burst and
b) that mr nonchalant will figure out the problem
allowing us to get back to our regular business of falling sky….

I think I like Henny Penny…
I think we must be kindred spirits…

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:12

the lull

“By removing the Bible from schools we would be wasting so much time and money
in punishing criminals and so little pains to prevent crime.
Take the Bible out of our schools and there would be an explosion in crime.”

Benjamin Rush,
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

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(hay bales wait in a pasture / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

I know I’m sitting in a time of in-between.
A lull as it were in the frenetic business of life…
both mine and dads.

I’ve been down this road before…
diagnosis, swallowing hard, then waiting…

There is a nervousness in the normalcy to each day’s routine…
as the air is heavily pregnant with an unspoken inevitability.

But to what exactly that inevitable is..is yet to be seen.
For each day has a hidden dread waiting silently behind the averageness of the apparent.

And not only is this indicative of my own current life’s situation,
this same lull is hanging over most, if not all, of Western Civilization

There is a nervous lull, a quiet before an unknown storm…
hanging heavily over the heads of our Christian family.

But what it is exactly… is yet to be seen…
however the sense that something is off-kilter and hanging a bit skewed…
is very much present.

Life is changing…
daring and rapidly spiraling…
with so much being turned upside down on its head.

Yet we go on living…as if things were normal and good…
all the while knowing that something is looming…

Remembering complacency is not our friend…
we’ve watched a dangerous progression…
while turning our backs..

And now the storm clouds are gathering along the horizon
while we wait anxiously in the lull…

Time is truly of the essence…

It is easy to go along with the crowd,
but the one who is committed to living the crucified life will always lean
hard into the wind of opposition and misunderstanding

A. W. Tozer

He said to the crowd:
“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say,
‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say,
‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky.
How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Luke 12:54

(ps update since writing…rushing to Atlanta…a potential crisis with Dad…
all prayers appreciated…)

It’s all relative

“No culture in history has ever embraced moral relativism and survived.
Our own culture, therefore, will either
(1) be the first, and disprove history’s clearest lesson,
or
(2) persist in its relativism and die,
or
(3) repent of its relativism and live.
There is no other option.”

Peter Kreeft

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(my stepmother is so proud of her pumpkin display…)

Relative or relative…
Hummmm…

They say that learning the english language is one of the hardest languages to learn…
and maybe that’s because of our penchant to use one word in multiple ways,
with each particular way having it’s own meaning and even distinct pronunciation…

Thankfully however we are not like the French what with all their le and la business…
I never could figure out why one thing had to masculine while something else had to be feminine…
why can’t it just be…neutral…as in just a word…..??

But I digress as I am too weary to rattle on about the English language,
or mes amis à travers l’étang,
or that of the Queen’s, the King’s,
or even the colonies now turned states, english….

And while I’m thinking about it, maybe we should have kept that whole colony notion,
having stayed with that crazy King George…
because that way we wouldn’t be living in the current land of sensory deprivation
with all things in life now being only Hillary or the Donald…

But then the fourth of July wouldn’t be nearly as festive and we’d be dealing
with Brexit…

sigh…

But I’m way too weary for all of that garbage today as well…

Today has just been one of those days…
you know the ones…
you wake up after an awful night of fitful sleep with ‘sleep’ being a relative term
as you only got one hour…
let alone the 7 or 8 or whatever is currently being required
for waking perky and refreshed.

I can’t remember when I last felt perky…
maybe its the inflamed nerves…

It was then a day for relatives…
as in Dad and my stepmother and the day’s current caregiver.

There are days I am strong…as I have to be strong for everybody right now…
especially Dad…
But then there are days like today when strength is a relative term…

My stepmother was in a good mood thankfully…but the caregiver was not…
And with my stepmother, each day is a mystery as to who will wake up…
Dr. Jekyll or Mr Hyde…

Upon my arrival, I was happy to see Dr. Jekyll,
who actually wanted me to go buy her a new trashcan…
the kind with the step-on latch to open the top…
And it had to be small and stainless…

After gathering the trashcan, which thankfully she loved…yet tomorrow that could change,
and gathering the groceries and their lunch…
it was time to schlepp things up from the basement all in order for her to
“decorate” for any trick or treaters that may come their way.

My dad is the sole remaining original resident of the cul-de-sac…
as all the other neighbors have sadly faded away.
The quaint neighborhood of 10 houses, that were built in the mid 1950’s, once overflowed with
the sounds of children…
Yet those children, of which I was once one, have all grown up and moved away…
leaving those once joyful sounds of play, sadly now silent.

I am happy however to report that young couples are currently moving back in
with their own band of gleeful little ones who will once again romp up and down
the relatively safe little street…claiming it, just as we had,
as their own tiny little realm of the mighty cul-de-sac.

So today, in giddy anticipation, my stepmother wanted to ready things for a few
hopeful customers for candy come Monday evening…

Yet as is often the case, dealing with those with dementia,
my stepmother was giddy and excited today,
wanting me to buy candy for Halloween….but come Monday,
which in Dad and my stepmom’s limited world, the passage of time is indeed relative,
she may completely forget, by tomorrow, what all the candy is for…

And then there was Dad…
still holding his own but gravely weak and now bleeding a great deal
as the doctors have told us the tumor would ebb and flow.
The tumor is now causing a good bit of pressure so dad feels the urgent urge
to urinate yet with little to nothing to show for the effort…
…and now there is more blood than anything else…
so the constant up and down is taking a toll.

He did however request, that when I went to buy their groceries, that I buy some ice-cream…
and I did…lots and lots of ice-cream.

By the time I was finally on my way home late afternoon,
the caregiver called me,
alarmed that dad is so weak that he almost fell getting in the bathroom…
She wanted to let me know that she was calling the hospice nurse,
who will be out tomorrow morning, sharing the latest worries.

So I will go see what she thinks…

Some days are good,
and some days are not so good…
and that, I suppose, is simply life…
Of which,
I believe,
is simply being relative…

So as I was driving home, with hot stinging tears welling up in my eyes…
wondering where my mom was when I needed her…
an old song I use to love a million years ago came flooding into
the forefront of my brain…
thankfully…
mercifully…
miraculously…
flooding…
and washing…
into my brain…

Reminding me…
swiftly,
quickly
and powerfully
that not all things in this life are merely relative…

That there is one thing and one thing only that is totally separate,
independent and irrespective of this innocuous life..

and that would be…
the Lamb of God…
the blessed lamb of God….

The song is The Lamb of God by Twila Paris
and this is a moving You Tube video clip I found reflecting her beautiful song…

fretful, wearisome, fearful…and the challenge to love and believe

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity
but a spirit of power and love.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

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(the cliffs of Moher / County Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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

Growing up in the United States I have always felt safe and protected.
I have always felt safely blanketed under our laws and judicial process.
The founding fathers, those paternal creators and now guardians of all that
I had known growing up and held dear, had painstakingly paved the way for
future generations of Americans, of which I was one,
to live and to prosper in a harmonious cohesive nation embarked now on her steady course…

Yet unbeknownst to me or to those men who gave birth to this Nation,
that steady course of which was set in 1779 with the swearing in of our first president,
would begin to unravel…with the unraveling beginning around 1970 or so….
(yet I am certain that there are those who, no doubt, would say the unraveling
had actually started much earlier than the 20th century….

What with Roe v Wade, the Woman’s right movement, the demand for birth control, and the seemingly
never ending war in Vietnam….
according to Bod Dylan’s singing proclamation of 1964,
“the times, they are a-changing”…
for they were indeed changing…
just as they were to be changing even more…

According to Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen in their newly
released book, You Will Be Made To Care
a book based on “the war of faith, family and your freedom to believe”…
a wildfire is raging out of control…
with the faithful being caught smack dab in the middle.

Every once in a while, a society succumbs to a cultural wildfire—
and loses its mind.
It does things that future generations look back on and wonder,
‘How could they have possibly throught that was a good idea?’

To most Christians and conservatives, it seems that society has lost its mind,
attempting to play God by redefining gender and abolishing marriage…

Many people of faith have been trying to ignore the signs of smoke from this wildfire
in the hopes that it will just go away.
Others have been trying to avoid the heat by being nice,
hoping that a little compromise would keep the flames at bay.
Still others have thought all that would be required to extinguish the flames
was a kinder, gentler, more winsome voice.
But the accommodation of evil never achieves the desired end;
it only increases the inevitable cost of victory

(page 28)

Reading the latest never ending stories of modern day Christian persecution,
and I am not referring to those ever increasing attacks at the hands of Islamic extremists,
but rather attacks by our own courts, legal system and journalists who now claim
that Christianity and Christians in the United States equate to being enemies to the human race,
I am left both saddened and dazed.

It is more than hard to wrap my head around such language and thoughts
as I never thought I would live to hear fellow Americans espouse that
Christianity and Christians are now the enemy of the state.

It is both wearisome and worrisome to hear such,
as it leaves me terribly fretful and even fearful as to what may yet to be…
For that once protective blanket has now been sufficiently ripped away.

If I did not know the stories behind such language were coming from today’s
news, headlines and court cases involving Christian business and individuals
who are being forced to either pay exorbitant court fees and settlements,
close their businesses or acquiesce and succumb to business practices that run counter
to their religious morals and beliefs,
I would simply think I was hearing and reading tales out of Nazi Germany…

To say that professing to be a Christian in the 21st century of the United States
is now not only looked upon as a negative but in many instances is actually
considered to be downright counter to American values…
that is something my grandparents would never have believed.

Yet in the course of 50 years since my grandfather’s death when he was but 70 years old,
that is exactly what has happened.
And I am left like a deer in headlight, stunned.

And yet we are reminded that for all the angst, the worry, the fretting and even the fear,
we, the faithful are reminded…
to be strong and to let our hearts take courage…for our courage is in the Lord
(Psalm 31:24)

As we join the psalmist’s plea…
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever
(Psalm 12:7)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3