who you gonna call????

Most Christians don’t hear God’s voice because we’ve already decided
we aren’t going to do what He says.

Aiden Wilson Tozer

I had the best of intentions this morning, during fevered delirium, of writing a funny post
about honeybuns, aka formaldehyde wrapped in plastic…but my enthusiasm and energy have both waned.

Long story…my husband and I have had what we’ve figured to be the crud…
receiving said crud from time spent with a croupy Mayor.

Mine went to my sinuses, which is my typical MO…
But last night, at 3:20 AM, our home security alarm began blaring.
My husband who normally wears hearing aids, can’t hear squat without them…
not even a blaring siren…WOOOOOO WOOOOOO WOOOOOO

We have said system because my husband was in the jewelry business and we live in
the middle of nowhere on 5 acres off the road…
so call it a bit of peace of mind…or not.

So at 3:20 with a blaring alarm, I immediately jumped from the bed,
screaming at my husband that the alarm was going off as I flipped on the lights and ran
to check where the “breach” was located.

In the meantime, my husband scrambles to cut off his alarm clock because,
in his sleepy deaf state, he thinks I’m fussing because his alarm clock is going off.

I ran to the alarm pad—it read that the breach was at the windows in our closet…
the one just off our bedroom.

At that point the phone rings—it’s the alarm company.
The gal states that they have an alarm code breach coming from our home.

Naturally at 3:20 in the morning, when I’m in the middle of a possible break-in, I tend to
be a tad frantic.

My husband grabs his gun (yes he has a license and has had both hunting guns and a gun he
kept at the jewelry store. He was actually shot during an armed robbery a couple of years
before we met, so let’s just say he’s been cautious ever since.)

He proceeds to scope out the closet then walks through the house.
All the while, the girl on the phone asks “do you want me to dispatch the police?”

I practically scream to my husband “SHOULD SHE SEND THE POLICE!?”

See, I’m the kind of person who, when trouble comes calling,
I want the cavalry to come running.
But what with all this defund the police crap, it’s like Charles Barkley said,
“who you gonna call, Ghostbusters???”

But my husband said no…he thinks it was just glitchy wires.
Glitchy wires??!!
And yet I will say that Percy the cat was still nestled in his bed…
had someone been in the house, Percy would have been the first to hide.

We got back into bed and my husband falls readily to sleep.
Who does that?
I, on the other hand, lay there in the dark…listening.
Waiting for a chainsaw massacre psycho to come busting into our bedroom.
Like a little kid, I feel safer if I bury myself in the covers…like
no one can tell I’m in the bed…
eye-rolling obviously.

I keep listening.

Was someone outside?
Were they going to try another window or door?
The dark has a bad way of playing with our fears.
I pray while my ears play tricks on me.

Suddenly, I notice how very cold I am, and how achy I feel.
Great, I was running a fever.
I never run a fever unless it’s serious.

I laid there until daylight.
Balled up in a shivering clump hidden under the covers…just
waiting for daylight to know I was safe…sick, but safe.

At daybreak, I stutter from under the covers, “I think I’m dying.”
“What? says my deaf husband.
I ask my husband if he could please go get me the thermometer…
“And please make certain it’s ours and not the rectal one for the kids!!!”
I didn’t have on my glasses so I took my chances.

101.4

My husband showers and goes to make coffee…forgetting to feed the cats…
Who both proceed to jump on and off the bed until I stumble from bed, feeling like death,
in order to feed them.
He complains I never let him help enough around the house and yet the one morning of
death and dying, when his help would have been so greatly appreciated,
…well, he was sitting in his chair with his warm cup of coffee…
oblivious to 8 legs of bedlam.

I ask him rather indignantly why did he not feed the cats…
“I never saw them” he lazily responds.
“That’s because they were jumping all over me!!!”
Sigh…

I call the ENT’s office at 8.
Telling them of my ailments but would I need a COVID test first?
Oh no, the nurse tells me, we’ll do that here.

Oooo, a one-stop-shop—great!

Long story short…
I had a strep test, a flu test, and a COVID test.
While we waited on those tests to process, they took x-rays…“well you definitely have
a sinus infection”
the PA tells me—
and then blessedly the other tests came back negative.
YAY, I guess, because she said there are both false negatives and false positives…
And I still felt like crap.

Two shots and a prescription later…we still wonder.

And so now when you think you might have a cold, flu, virus…what was once simple and ordinary…
well, it is not so ordinary anymore…rather it is now very complicated.

How could I have gotten it?
I wear my mask at the grocery store…I really don’t go to many other places.

And then it hit me.

My husband’s hunting buddy jokingly handed me a honeybun the other day as my
birthday gift.
He knows I hate those things.
I think they could survive a nuclear bomb.
My dad loved them.
My husband’s buddy thought it was an appropriate and funny gift.
And yet I actually got him something nice and real.

And then two days later, this friend calls to tell us his wife, daughter, son in law, and two little
grandkids have tested positive.

And then it dawns on me…
It was the handoff of the honey bun!

So I’m to the point now that no one seems to know which is what.
Gather, don’t gather…mask, don’t mask…Thanksgiving, no Thanksgiving, false positives,
false negatives…vaccines, no vaccines

So maybe Charles is right…who ya gonna call??? Ghostbusters…??

Nahhh…

My Refuge and My Fortress
Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

it’s never too late, but it might be getting close….

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life, or how bad you’ve sinned.
I rejected God, but he still knew that I was redeemable.
I was worth saving.
There is no soul anywhere on this earth that is beyond the reach of God.
It’s never too late.

Deborah Lipsky
from Confessions of an Ex-Satanist: A Message of Hope


(mushroom in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The story of Christ’s life and ministry cannot be told without giving due space to Satan’s activity.
The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between cases of mere physical ailments and cases
of a demonic character (both of which Jesus cures).
Jesus frequently refers to the devil in his parables and other teachings,
and the devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert and returns again later to engineer Judas’ betrayal
(cf. Jn 13:2).
This Gospel motif teaches us an undeniable, if uncomfortable lesson: the devil is real,
and he is interested in counteracting the work of grace.
In one sense, accepting this fundamental truth, and keeping it always in the back of our minds,
can comfort us tremendously:
it helps us make sense of all the unpleasant influences at work in and around us.
We are not crazy; we are not failures; we are simply engaged in a spiritual battle.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also believe in the devil—-doomed as he is,
he would love to take as many souls as he can along with him.”

Fr. John Bartunek, p. 350
An Excerpt From
The Better Part

time keeps on slipping into the future…

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future

Lyrics by Steven Haworth Miller


(Fire in Rome by Hubert Robert, 1778 / MuMa – Musée d’art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre, France)

In 64 AD, Rome burned.
And supposedly the Emporer Nero fiddled with abandoned glee.

Now whether or not there was any fiddling on a fiddle taking place, there was no doubt
some fiddling of the facts taking place.

Once the fire had been contained and finally extinguished,
over two-thirds of the city lay in ruins.

The Emperor blamed the Christians.
That subversive religious “cult.”

However, historians actually believe that Nero himself had the fires set because he wanted
to create a grandiose “golden house” that would be a massive endeavor, a tribute
to his reign, and cover an expansive portion of Rome…
so long story short, Nero needed the space.

As the ever gracious Emperor, he immediately began offering food and aid to the
masses of his people whose lives were now decimated.

How kind.

Fast forward to Berlin, 1933.

The German Chancellory, The Reichstag…the home to the German Parliament, burns.
Hitler blames a known Communist sympathizer, however historians are in agreement,
Hitler had the Reichstag burned.


(Burning of the Reichstag 1933, Berlin, Germany)

The burning was the excuse Hitler needed in order to round up all the Communists,
allowing his Nazi party to finally fill in the gap;
the party could take the majority of seats in parliament, and in turn,
take control of the Nation.

How convenient.

Fast forward to 2020.

There is a pandemic along with a quarentine lockdown.

The Speaker of the House brags, while standing in front of her expensive subzero
refidgerators / freezers, that she is ‘enduring’ the lockdown with top shelf ice cream…
all the while small businesses are told they must shutter their livlihood or else.
Houses of worship are closed.

Civil unrest breaks out.

Cities are burned.

Businesses are destroyed.

Lives and livihoods are left in shambles.

Throw in a contentious election with a deeply divided Nation.

The conservative republicans, in particular those “MAGA” supporters,
those who support the President, are the ones who the progressive left
blame for all the woe…

Is there some sort of pattern here, or am I just imagining things…

Ode to the power of the power hungry…

“Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them,
They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it;
For I will bring calamity upon them,
The year of their punishment,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:12

the sweet and the bitter…

“God be praised for His mercy! I have seen a little sunshine–
I have had a happy time.”

Wilkie Collins

For home is where the heart is
And my heart is anywhere you are
Anywhere you are is home

Songwriters: Hal David / Sherman Edwards


(Sometimes referred to as the “kudzu of the north”, oriental bittersweet
(Celastrus orbiculatus)
is a non-native species that continues to grow and spread in Ohio.
The vine is popping up in our woods, fence rows, landscapes, and places in between.

Ohio State University)

This is not a post about invasive vines or that of taste…the bitter and the sweet…
this, on the other hand, is just a brief post about the bittersweet of the heart.

This is a long story, of which I will elaborate upon when time allows,
but in a nutshell, we put our house of 21 years on the market about 3 weeks ago.
The house we built and nurtured all these years.

Out of the blue, we received a quick and sudden offer late last week.
Too good not to accept.

In what appears to be a sudden, somewhat rash decision, we have actually
been ruminating over such for a couple of years…

It is…
our ages
the acreage
the maintenance
the upkeep
the desire for a closer proximity to grandkids…

So…now…
there is nowhere to go— yet.
And there is a lot of work to start doing, NOW.

And so my time here in cookieland will become a hit and miss…
a coming and a going…that is until things are purged, packed, boxed
and eventually found and settled.

A new journey…but…

I don’t like upheaval or uncertainty.
I prefer consistency.
I am a homebody, who is soon to be without a home.
But God’s hand has been way too evident in this latest chapter.

I’ll keep you posted while I ask that you keep us in your prayers!!!

don’t walk around with a bucket on your head

“By slow, thoughtful watching, you can gain much,
as against working up a wild, panicky condition.”

Ernest Vincent Wright, Gadsby

The Mayor thought that putting her toy bucket on her head and walking through the house
was a good idea.

It was fine for a while…

It was all fine and good until she ran into the Sherrif and knocked him over.

So there is indeed a moral to the tale of the Mayor’s haphazard choice…
actually, there are probably several morals.

But the one thing I’m finding as somewhat reflective of the times in which we now live…
is that The Mayor is not the only person walking around with some sort of
a bucket on her head.

The difference is that we just can’t see the buckets on the heads of those
caring little for those they tend to be running into or over whereas we
can clearly see the Mayors.

The Mayor, we hope, would not intentionally plow over her younger brother
when seeing him clear as day.
However, there are so many of our fellow human beings who are not wearing buckets
on their heads, blocking their vision, but who are none the less plowing into
and over their fellow members of humankind…and the thing is they don’t care.

Now granted the Mayor may not have cared too much about running over her
younger brother…that is until she was scolded…then she really cared.

Sadly today our fellow man, or woman, scolded or not, cares not.

We’ve witnessed this plowing into and over one another,
pretty much daily for the past four years, all because we are a deeply divided country.

Our fellow countrymen, and women, show very little care
or concern for those who are on the opposing side of not just politics but
on opposing sides of pretty much everything in life in general.

For example, Mr. Biden has spoken of a mandate given to him by the people…
what with his win of the White House.
Now since that win has not been officially verified by the powers that be, that
kind of talk is slightly premature.
This has been a razor-thin election, once again.

Mandates are not found in near 50 50 votings.
50 50 is a near-perfect split…mandates tend to come
from landslide results.
The masses demanding their will.

We have a split of the masses on two varying sides with each vying for their
own mandate…and they, we, you, me will continue plowing into one another until
that mandate of choice is met.

Something has got to give…

I believe a Divine scolding is in order…

Get ready, because that scolding is coming.

What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

Isaiah 10:3

greater things than this…

“Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still,
when you delight in your vices and sins.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(one of my paintings from back in the day / 2010)

“Now, as he was riding one day over the plain of Assisi he met a leper,
whose sudden appearance filled him with fear and horror;
but forthwith calling to mind the resolution which he had made to follow after perfection,
and remembering that if he would be a soldier of Christ he must first overcome himself,
he dismounted from his horse and went to meet the leper,
that he might embrace him:
and when the poor man stretched out his hand to receive an alms,
he kissed it and filled it with money.
Having again mounted his horse, he looked around him over the wide and open plain,
but nowhere could he see the leper; upon which, being filled with wonder and joy,
he began devoutly to give thanks to God,
purposing within himself to proceed to still greater things than this.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 4
An Excerpt From
The Life of St. Francis

be rich in the next life…

“Since love completes all, makes all hard things soft, and the difficult easy,
let us strive to make all our acts proceed from love.”

St. Arnold Janssen


(a dewy turkey feather /Julie Cook / 2020)

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only.
He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—-
and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves.
No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces,
in courts of justice.
He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives.
So what must we do?
We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him, and hate his flattery.
And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more,
then we should shun him all the more…
We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin.
So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works;
not in mind only, but also in deed.
We must do none of the things that he approves,
for in that way will we do all those things that God approves.
Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give
them to us, but so that he may take away from us.
He promises plunder, so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and
of righteousness.
He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps,
so that he may deprive us both of these and of the treasures in heaven.
He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 152-3
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

without measure

“The true measure of loving God is to love Him without measure.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux


(a spent mushroom in the depths of the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The Spirit of God teaches us how we can live our faith with great generosity of spirit.
There is a vertical dimension to our faith (praising and worshiping God),
but there is also a horizontal dimension to our faith in which we show our love to
our sisters and brothers, God’s beloved children.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, p. 8
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

Have you ever seen such a terrible sight…

“I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.”
Sophocles


(The very unhappy Mayor and Sheriff with a wary poor Santa)

Have you ever seen such a terrible sight…
…as two miserable Christmas tykes?
(think three blind mice tune)

Given that this year is 2020…
and since we’ve now all learned the hard way, all too often, that if it can go wrong, it will…
my daughter in law got on the ball early and found a most wonderful photographer,
along with his trusty sidekick Santa, for both the Mayor and Sherrif to visit.

And given that none of us really know what visiting Santa will look like this year,
she went ahead and booked a time slot a few weeks back.

I think this Santa / photographer duo was smart in getting a jump start on the season…
what with a global pandemic and the perils of social distancing and, Heavens forbid,
a “shut down” of Santa—and so for our small clan, it was full-on HO HO HO time!

It was time to throw caution to the wind…
Forget Halloween.
Forget Thanksgiving.
Forget Black Friday (yes, please forget Black Friday oh ye consumer-driven)
Heck, forget Labor day…

Santa Claus is coming to town…or so we hope!

Yet despite all the best-laid plans…
The Mayor and Sheriff just weren’t having it.
And Santa was feeling the pain.

However, like many of us this year, I think they each finally resigned themselves that
this too shall pass…or so we hope!

Kudos to both this Santa and photographer…
I heard there had been a set of infant triplets just before our
‘oh so happy’ duo that were absolutely horrified over the whole prospect of visiting Santa!

Yep, this too shall pass

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.

Isaiah 65:17

**(all photos copyrighted)