interesting musings—both good and bad…

“If you take temptations into account,
who is to say that he is better than his neighbour?
A comfortable career of prosperity,
if it does not make people honest, at least keeps them so.”

William Makepeace Thackeray


(Eco Canada header)

Okay—I’m back home from having watched over a sickly Mayor for the past couple of days.
The Sheriff shared his viral infection with his sister and these sort of sharings preclude
anyone from attending daycare while mom and dad attempt to work…thus—
in walks “mom”

“mom” is now tired and has some of that “cold” floating around in her head shared
by both the Mayor and Sherrif…
Yet before much more time passed us by,
I wanted to share a few observations that I’ve taken in
over the past couple of days…

Firstly, I saw this today on a Catholic site which got me thinking…

There’s good news and bad news.

In 1964, a Benedictine monk named Hubert
van Zeller wrote that “the prevailing weakness
among Christians of today” is the fact that we
see the apparent hopelessness of the situation
in our world…think we can’t do anything to
change it…and lose our effectiveness as
witnesses of Christ and His Church.

So that’s the bad news.

But here’s the good news.

We can do something to change the
current situation, and it starts at home.

“starts at home”…haven’t we heard that before?!

The other thing that caught my eye was on Sunday.

I was on my way to Atlanta, leaving town when I passed by a little country
church headed my way to the interstate…
the church had a sign that read “Beware Marananta”

Now I know that I was not raised in the Baptist fold and from all I know, Maranatha simply
referred to a choir, thus this little foreboding warning piqued my interst.

And so I tucked away this little obscure warning into the back of my mind, with the intent of
investigating such once I had a bit of quiet time to delve further.

And so this is what I discovered.

Maranatha
(1 Corinthians 16:22 ) consists of two Aramean words, Maran’athah, meaning,
“our Lord comes,” or is “coming.”
If the latter interpretation is adopted, the meaning of the phrase is,
“Our Lord is coming, and he will judge those who have set him at naught.”
(Compare Phil 4:5; James 5:8 James 5:9 .)

And according to Wikipedia:
Maranatha (Aramaic: מרנאתא‎; Koinē Greek: Μαρανα θα, romanized: marana-tha, lit.
‘come, our lord!’; Latin: Maran-Atha) is an Aramaic phrase.
It occurs once in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:22).
It also appears in Didache 10:14, which is part of the Apostolic Fathers’ collection.
It is transliterated into Greek letters rather than translated and,
given the nature of early manuscripts, the lexical difficulty rests in determining
just which two Aramaic words constitute the single Greek expression,
found at the end of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (16:22).

So I take that this might mean that we should be careful about what ask for…
and that asking, as I keep reading from various folks, being, Come, Lord Jesus.
Because the aksing of the coming of the Lord…in turn comes with judgment.
And the question which remains, are we ready for that judgment for which we are
therefore calling upon?

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else,
for at whatever point you judge another,
you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Romans 2:1 NIV

the power of color

The problem with racism as the new thought-crime is that it’s not really about race,
or skin colour, it’s about power using colour.
When I look at someone, I see character not colour.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden


A page from Moses Harris’s The Natural System of Colors. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

As a high school art teacher, I always taught a color theory unit to my Art I classes
before letting everyone jump right into using color…be it colored pencils, pastels, paints, etc.
Color was much more complicated than just grabbing some paint and a brush…
and my anxious charges needed to understand such.

We would explore the whole physiology of how our eyes and brain see color and perceive color.
We talked about prisms, refraction and the bending of light.

We would talk about what it meant to be color blind…as several of my students were color
blind and how’d we’d work with that.
We even had blind students come to talk to those of us who could see about
how they actually perceived color.

We studied Joseph Albers, the father of color theory.

We talked about warm /hot colors, cool/cold colors, monochromatic colors,
polychromatic colors.
Even beginning with the simple word, chroma.

We studied the effects that color played in our psychological wellbeing and
how colors could actually affect our emotions.

And so yes, color is much more nuanced than simply consisting of primary and secondary colors.

I would place three cups of clear water on a desk.
Next, I would use food coloring and drop in enough drops to have a solid red cup
of water, a solid blue cup of water, and a solid yellow cup of water—our primary colors.
I would then put three empty cups on the table.
I would pour equal proportions of yellow and red into a cup to make orange,
blue and red to make purple, then blue, and yellow to make green–our secondary colors

I’d next pull out a new empty cup and pour a bit of each of the second set of colored water cups
into the last empty cup—coming up with a muddy brown yucky color what is known
as tertiary.
Something that happens when a bunch of colors are blended into one.

I’d explain that sometimes when we’d paint and mess up a color we were going for,
we would unintentionally make things worse when we kept trying to add more and more
different colors thinking we could ‘fix it’…less is more I would implore…

And so when I was reading Dr. Gavin Ashenden’s latest post, Resisting Group Think,
this whole business of color theory came racing back to my thoughts.

Our dear friend from across the pond is just about as baffled as I am
with the new intense obsession, our culture is now having with color.
But rather than paint, our culture is obsessed with skin…
and the color of that skin.
And that obsession with skin color has a dubious name…Racism.

Dr. Ashenden notes that…“racism morphed.
It moved from doing something to thinking something, and then much much worse,
it became someone thinking you thought something.
This summer everyone is guilty, if the new anti-racist posters are true:
“silence is violence.”

But I have three reasons for not believing in racism as people now accuse one another.
It’s not easy to tell what race someone is; there is a sliding scale of skin colour;
and there is a better, healthier way of describing why some people don’t like some other people.

The races are mixed for most of us. Last year I was bought a DNA kit for a birthday present.
It turns out I am roughly 30% Anglo-Saxon’ 30% Celt; and 20% Jewish
(with a bit of Russian thrown in -!) God forbid one racial bit of me should ever fall out
with one of the other bits. Does the Celt in me deserve reparations from my Anglo-Saxon
invader bit?
Don’t even start with the Jewish persecution stuff, the massacre in York in 1190,
the mass expulsion in 1290 by Edward 1st. Luther? Hitler?

And I’m white. But I have never thought of myself as white. This skin tone stuff is
equally confusing and on a sliding scale of pigment.
Megan Markle looks white to me. My more remote Aryan ancestors came from India.
When I look at someone, I see character not colour.

The problem with racism as the new thought-crime is that it’s not really about race,
or skin colour, it’s about power using colour.
It’s the imposing of the American cultural crisis on the rest of the world,
which has different cultural issues. It seems to be about transferring power
from ‘white’ (whatever that is) to black (whatever that is).

The worst thing about the new racism is that it uses a prism through which everything
and everyone are assessed through the lens of power.
This new language of power-relations replaces one moral world with another.
It changes our worth from what we do, and replaces it with what group we belong to.

We face a crossroads in morals and culture, and the new racism is
the tool used to shift the direction.

We are losing a simple and direct morality which invited you to love your neighbour
as yourself, and held you accountable if you failed or refused; we are replacing it
with thought-crime, collective guilt, censorship and the re-writing of history.

Resisting ‘group-think.’

And so we see that today’s culture indeed uses a prism in which to see…
but rather than bending light waves to see color…this prism bends peoples perceptions
to that of power and control.

I’m beginning to wonder if being color blind might not be the way we need to proceed…
yet we know that we have tied so much baggage to our ideas of societal color that we will
never be able to offload such a burden that we have created.

Unfortunately, I will never look at a color wheel the same, ever again.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,
with palm branches in their hands,

Revelation 7:9

21st century iconoclasm… it’s all about color

To [Shuan] King, the only proper response to any fossil of racism or
oppression is to destroy it.
As any depictions of Christ or the Virgin Mary with light skin represent
“white supremacy,” according to King they’ve all got to go.

Nathan Stone


(Michaelangelo’s statue of Moses / Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in 2014, I wrote a post about Pope Paschel I and Iconoclasm…
you may find the link to that post here:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/pope-paschal-i-iconoclasm-and-hospitality/

I went back to read that post today, in part because of a dangerous trend
I see happening these 6 years later…
This trend has been taking place over the past two months or so and it’s been happening
on both a national level as well as a global level.

The trend is that of vandalism—vandalism directed toward Chrisitan Houses of Worship.
As in… that of churches, stained glass windows, and even statuary.
There has been a call to vandalism by Shaun King, the leader of Black Lives Matter.
A call to eradicate any and all depictions of a light-skinned Christ

In yesterday’s post, a post based on an article by Nathan Stone, Stone wrote
extensively about why King would call his “followers” to arms…a call to
bring destruction to Churches, stain glass windows and images of Christ, Mary
and the saints.

Recently, Shaun King, a champion of the Black Lives Matter movement,
called for the destruction of Christian iconography, statues, and stained glass,
if they represent Christ, His mother, or any of the apostles as white.
This, according to King, makes the iconography nothing more than a
“gross form of white supremacy” and “racist propaganda” created
to be “tools of oppression.”

To King, the only proper response to any fossil of racism or oppression is
to destroy it.
As any depictions of Christ or the Virgin Mary with light skin represent
“white supremacy,” according to King they’ve all got to go.

Nathan continues…
True Christianity Was Never About Race

The idea that Christianity is or has been infected with white supremacy
is not new.
Susan Abrahams, the dean of faculty at Pacific School of Religion,
blamed “White Christians” for Charlottesville.
Jeannine Hill Fletcher wrote a book in 2018 that purportedly showed racism was a
natural outgrowth of Christianity, springing from “Christian superiority.”

This premise is wrong, first because of the existence of black saints.
There is a rich tradition of African Christianity.
Many of the earliest fathers of the church hailed from Africa,
including Cyprian and St. Augustine of Hippo.

Furthermore, multiple men and women are recognized by the Catholic Church
as saints who were black, including St. Moses the Black, St. Benedict the Moor,
and St. Martin de Porres.
It is a strange racist and oppressive system that recognizes the sanctity
of people from across the world, regardless of their color,
and bequeaths upon them the title of “saint,” a moniker that designates
all who possess it as attaining ultimate equality before the throne of God.

All this is a reminder that skin color doesn’t make an ounce of difference
in Christianity. As St. Paul wrote in Galatians,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Pigmentation did not matter in Christianity; what mattered was faith in Christ.
This is also why, contrary to the implication in King’s ridiculous tweets,
Christianity often adapted itself to the environment of indigenous peoples.

To buttress this, we even have proof that Africans were accepted in medieval Europe.
There is evidence that Christians from Ethiopia pilgrimaged to Spain and were
present in medieval Rome to the extent that the church of
Santo Stefano degli Abissini was built, and rebuilt,
specifically for Ethiopian Christians.

The Radicals Want to ‘Cancel’ Christianity.

Stained glass and statues do not show Christianity to be racist.
A quick Google search would have shown this to King.
So why King would make a statement that could be so easily refuted?
The answer is that this outrage over white portrayals of Christ and the apostles
is a blind meant to detract us from the real goal: canceling Christianity.

Just a year ago, believing the radical left had such a goal would
have sounded conspiratorial. Within the last four weeks, however,
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was vandalized.
Across from the White House, St. John’s Church was attacked twice.
Neither church nor the statue was involved in any way or form with
the deaths of George Floyd or Rayshard Brooks.

More recently, in the Polish city of Breda, a memorial to World War II Polish
soldiers was vandalized with BLM graffiti. Never mind that the memorial
features a replica of the Virgin Mary as a black woman,
the soldiers the memorial heralds were fighting fascists,
and Poland has no history of colonization anywhere.

Recently “The Catholic Church in the United States experienced a series of
attacks this weekend all over the country.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles saw a fire in an eighteenth-century mission church,
San Gabriel, founded in 1771 by St. Junipero Serra. Firefighters
responded to the call at 4:24 a.m. on Saturday, July 11.

Archbishop José Gomez tweeted about the fire,
asking for the intercession of St. Junipero.

St. Junipero has become a point of attack during recent protests
in the United States.
The Spanish Franciscan priest converted thousands of native Californians
to Christianity. Pope Francis canonized him while in the United States in 2015,
recalling how the saint “defended the dignity of the native community.”

Meanwhile, in Ocala, FL, the Marion County Sheriff’s office reported
someone set fire to Queen of Peace church just before Sunday morning Mass on July 12.

The police allegedly found a car crashed into the front of the church.
The suspect then poured gasoline in the narthex and lit it on fire,
before escaping in the same vehicle. No parishioners were wounded.
The suspect was arrested and is in Marion County jail on no bond.

The Boston Police Department is currently investigating an arson of a
statue of the Blessed Mother at St. Peter’s Parish Church in Dorchester
on Saturday, July 11.
They report an unknown suspect lit the plastic flowers in
the Madonna’s hands on fire, resulting in burning on the statue’s
face and upper body.

Another statue of Mary was vandalized on Friday, June 10 at 3:09 a.m.
at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in New York. The statue, which had
been at the entrance of the all-boys school for more than 100 years,
had the word “IDOL” written on its front. It was cleaned Friday morning by staff.
The Diocese of Brooklyn announced that the New York Police Department
is currently investigating the case.

These acts of vandalism come as Catholics are returning to churches
in many states, after the lockdown and closure of parishes due to coronavirus.
The actions also coincide with protests and the removal of various historical
statues across the United States, spurred by the death of George Floyd.

https://www.romereports.com/en/2020/07/13/churches-burned-and-statues-of-mary-vandalized-in-catholic-churches-across-us/

And then there was the fire at the Cathedral of Saint Pierre-et Saint Paul in Nantes, France

A fire at the cathedral in the French city of Nantes is believed to
have been started deliberately, prosecutors say.
Three fires were started at the site and an investigation into suspected arson
is underway, Prosecutor Pierre Sennes said.
The blaze destroyed stained glass windows and the grand organ at
the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul cathedral, which dates from the 15th Century.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53455142

And so finally, it seems that someone in Washington is taking notice…
Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks is demanding federal authorities
at the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate mob attacks on Christian statues
and churches in their continued purge of human history in the name of “social justice.”

“Over the last two months as Americans have seen statues of American heroes
toppled and memorials dedicated to our national memory desecrated,
those responsible for these acts have also in their sights Catholics,
statues of saints and churches,” an email from Banks’ office read Wednesday.

Let us pray for The Chruch, the global Christian family…

One man’s torment is another man’s gift

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Vincent Van Gogh


(a box of absente or absinthe / Julie Cook / 2020)

Let’s talk about art and food and drinks…
let’s talk about torment and gifts…

And so I must share a small revelation.

One that I have discovered during this time of lockdown****.

(**** a lockdown being a state of never-ending sheltering in place—
A state of being, of which, we have all been living now for nearly two solid months…
a state that started back on St. Patrick’s Day…but I digress)

I have learned that throughout this virus imposed social exile…
well, probably there are multiple things that I have learned but for today,
we shall leave it at one thing…
I have learned that we each possess a seemingly innate desire for some sort of
creative outlet!

The desire to find creativity within the mundane has oddly become a most
dire consequence of being ‘confined”.

The choice is either we go bonkers from madness—
or instead, we release the pent up weariness and channel it into something grand.

Yet perhaps that is simply my delirium talking.

Cooking, cleaning and caring for family who are now all living together
under one roof, while some are working from home, leaves one drained
both physically and mentally.
Throw in a 1 and a 2-year-old who are in constant motion, plus who are in constant need,
from sunrise to sunset…thus, the desire for some sort of diversion, any diversion,
becomes critical…critical for all who reside under the same said roof.

For if one blows, they all blow!

Enter the colorful picture of the box shown above.

The portrait should be familiar.
It is a picture of Vincent van Gogh but not exactly a portrait we are familiar seeing.
It is on the packaging for a bottle of absinthe.
A bottle I recently purchased.

Now before you say anything, let me explain.

During this lockdown, I have been cooking three big meals a day.

Those who know me, know that I have always loved to cook.
It was oddly this art teacher’s outlet into the creative.
I was always happier cooking than I was painting.
Go figure.

It was a joy, as well as a foray, into the world of taste, texture, and visual imagination.

But now let’s throw in a pandemic…
of which means cooking has suddenly become both a necessity and a chore.

Gone are the days of excitement and the desire of what might be—gone is the frill and flair…
as that is now replaced by the need for speed, fulfillment, and satiation.

Only to wash the dishes and get ready to do it again.

Enter the l’heure de l’apéritif or the aperitif hour…
aka— the happy hour.

There is an American ex-pat who lives in Paris—he is a cook, author,
as well as food/travel blogger.
His name is David Lebovitz and just before the pandemic hit, he had just released
his latest recipe book for classic Belle Époque French cocktails.

Drinks that harken back to a time of sophistication and elegance

So guess what…
L’heure de l’apéritif has become my new creative outlet.
The moment of the day, other than the bed, that I look most forward to.

For each afternoon, I am offering the adults in this lockdown of mine,
a sample of days gone by…as I concoct libations found in David’s book.

Libations that have me pulling out and dusting off my grandmother’s finest crystal glasses.
Coupes, flutes, sherries, and highballs.

Libations that have sent me to the curbside liquor store in search of liquors and liqueurs
some of which, I can hardly pronounce.

Enter Absinthe.

According to Wikipedia:
Absinthe (/ˈæbsɪnθ, -sæ̃θ/, French: [apsɛ̃t] is historically described as a distilled,
highly alcoholic beverage (45–74% ABV / 90–148 U.S. proof).
It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers
and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise,
sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but may also be colorless.
It is commonly referred to in historical literature as la fée verte (“the green fairy”).
It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur,
but it is not traditionally bottled with added sugar and is,
therefore, classified as a spirit.[6] Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a
high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.

Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century.
It rose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th-
and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers.
The consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists,
partly due to its association with bohemian culture.
From Europe and the Americas, notable absinthe drinkers included Ernest Hemingway,
James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust,
Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, and Alfred Jarry.

Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug
and hallucinogen.
The chemical compound thujone, which is present in the spirit in trace amounts,
was blamed for its alleged harmful effects.
By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe,
including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria–Hungary,
yet it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties
have been exaggerated, apart from that of the alcohol.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s,
following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed
long-standing barriers to its production and sale. By the early 21st century,
nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries,
most notably in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Spain,
and the Czech Republic.

In fact, the 1875 painting below, by Edgar Degas, of a lonely stupified woman is rather reflective
of the effects of what imbibing too much in absinthe could lead to.


(L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas 1875 / Musée d’Orsay)

And thus I have always been leary of absinthe.
It was cloaked in intrigue as well as the forbidden.

That is until I needed a bottle of it for one of my new recipes.

So off I trotted…driving myself to the local curbside liquor store where
I handed the masked and gloved young man, on the curb, my list of needs–
I asked for a mid-range priced bottle of absinthe…
and he returned with the same box you see above in the picture.
Complete with an absinthe spoon.
Ooooo.

I felt a slight thrill and rush as I placed a single toe into the world of the forbidden
as I marched my new bottle into the house.

And so this is the spot where the gist of my post comes into play…
that of both torment and gift.

As an art /art history teacher, I have always had a soft tender spot in my heart for
Vincent van Gogh…the ever tormented, isolated Dutch Impressionism painter…

Vincent never sold a single painting during his short lifetime—except to his loving
brother Theo.

It is true he cut off his ear.

It is true he loved a prostitute.

It is true he originally wanted to enter the priesthood.

It is true that he was sickly much of his life and in turn, ate very poorly.

It is true he lived with and fought physically and vehemently with his friend and fellow
artist Paul Gauguin.

It is true he was mentally troubled…most likely what we today might call bi-polar
or even schizophrenic.
And thus, he spent time in and out of mental hospitals.

It is true he was broke and financially destitute throughout his life.
His brother Theo provided financial assistance throughout most of Van Gogh’s life.

It is also true that he drank—and drank heavily.
Depression has a way of leading the depressed to that which might dull the unending ache.
And for van Gogh, much of the drinking was of absinthe.

Was it the wormwood?
Was it the hallucinations that lead to his vision of beauty, of colors, of texture?

At the age of 37, Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in a cornfield.

It is debated as to what exactly lead to van Gogh’s mental instability.

Was it genetics?

Or was it the effects of a poor diet, artistic frustration, romantic rejection, or
was it just the alcohol?
Or perhaps…it was merely a combination of it all.

There is no doubt that Van Gogh was both troubled and tormented—this much we know.
But we must also know that it was in his death that we, the world, was actually given the
true gift of his talents..that being his art.

His brother Theo made certain, after van Gogh’s death, that the world would
finally, see his brother’s art.

In 1990, one of Van Gogh’s paintings, the portrait of Dr.Paul Gachet,
was sold at auction for $75 million dollars— making it, at the time,
the most expensive painting to have ever been sold.

A tormented soul who would be loved by a different time and a different generation of people—
He would finally be embraced by a world that would fall in love with him and his art.
Yet it is a relationship sadly too late for Van Gogh to have ever known and enjoyed.

And thus, in this vein of thought, I was struck by the notion of both torment and gifts.

A ying and yang of life.
A conundrum.
An anomaly.

My thoughts turned to a different man.
A different time.

A man who was not haunted by personal demons but rather a man who came to quell the demons.
To quell the demons in man.

A man who was loved by some yet hated by others.
A man who is still deeply loved as well as deeply hated.

A man whose gifts healed the souls of those he touched.
A man who was willingly tormented and was, in turn, killed by his tormentors…
killed in order to give others the gift of life.

So yes—it seems that there can be beauty found in torment.
As therein can lie the gift of life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

not of this world

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth.
Let none of us be frightened; our native land is not in this world.”

St. Augustine


(etching of a Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer / 1515 / The Biltmore House/ Julie Cook / 2020)

“Christian life is a retreat.
We are ‘not of this world’,
just as Jesus Christ is ‘not of this world’ (John 17:14).
What is the world? It is, as St. John said, the ‘lust of the flesh’,
that is, sensuality and corruption in our desires and deeds; ‘the lust of the eyes’,
curiosity, avarice, illusion, fascination, error, and folly in the affectation of learning,
and, finally, pride and ambition (1 John 2:16). To these evils of which the world is full,
and which make up its substance, a retreat must be set in opposition.
We need to make ourselves into a desert by a holy detachment.
Christian life is a battle …
We must never cease to fight.
In this battle, St. Paul teaches us to make an eternal abstinence, that is,
to cut ourselves off from the pleasures of the senses and guard our hearts from them…
it was to repair and to expiate the failings of our retreat,
of our battle against temptations, of our abstinence, that Jesus was driven into the desert.
His fast of forty days prefigured the lifelong one that we are to practice by abstaining
from evil deeds and by containing our desires within the limits laid down by the law of God.”

Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, p. 17-18
An Excerpt From
Meditations for Lent

lose not our soul…

“One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life;
but one should say that it is not easy.
Nor do those who have reached it find it easy to maintain.”

St. Anthony of the Desert


(the invasive lionfish composed of found invasive plastics / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2020)

“That which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did and suffered for all men,
He did and suffered for each one in particular;
and He would not have thought it too much to do if it had been a question of saving
only a single soul.
The salvation of a soul is, then, the price of the blood of God,
the price of the death of God, the price of the greatest sacrifice that God,
clothed in our human nature, could possibly make! This is incomprehensible!…
It proves that the dignity of a soul is beyond understanding—for God to abase Himself,
for God to annihilate Himself, for God to sacrifice Himself,
only to save that soul and make it happy forever!…
As for us, who believe humbly and firmly all that God has revealed to us,
let us learn, by the contemplation of God upon a Cross, what is the value of our souls.
Let us not lose our soul; let us not prostitute it to creatures;
and to make sure of our eternal salvation, which cost so much to the Son of God,
let us beg of Jesus Christ Himself to take charge of it,
to lead us in the right way and guide us always.
Such an inestimable treasure runs too great a risk in our own hands.
Let us trust it to God and our Savior. Let us make Him the Master of our liberty,
which we may so easily abuse, and the abuse of which may bring about
such terrible consequences.
Once abandoned to the safe and infallible guidance of His grace,
we have no more to fear.
He loves us too much, He takes too much interest in our salvation,
ever to lose the price of His blood and His sufferings.”

Fr. Jean Nicholas Grou, p. 7-9
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Life

it’s all in the translation–mi vida di por ti

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2


(Christ Crucified, VELÁZQUEZ, DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ DE SILVA Y/ 1632/ Museo Del Prado)

There is an Evangelical Hispanic Chruch that I pass by on almost a daily basis.
There has been a sign in front of the church with the same lettering, sentence, for the better
part of a year.

Now you should know, I love church signs—
they are the quick little lessons I glean during my travels.
Some or cute.
Some are funny.
Some are thought-provoking.
And it matters not the denomination or size of the church—
for God has certainly spoken to me over the years via the signs I’ve passed.

I have found that church signs tend to be found in smaller towns or more rural areas.
Growing up in Atlanta, the churches didn’t really have signs that made statements
or offered tidbits of wisdom…they were more or less signs with simply the name
of the church.

So the signs in these smaller towns and more rural areas really speak in greater ways
than what their congregations may even realize.

The sentence that I’ve passed by now for so very long reads:

mi vida di por ti

So with my limited understanding of foreign languages, I was pretty certain I
was reading it, every day to and fro, with the correct meaning.

I had known enough ‘spanglish’ to get by with my students when I was still teaching,
so I figured I had this.

But those of you who know me or read this site know that I struggle enough with my own
native tongue—throw in another tongue and there’s no telling how that will go.

And to think, I had had French in school from the 4th grade all the way to my sophomore year
in high school–
Yet I think I’m still good with merely ‘Je ne sais pas’—as in ‘I don’t know’–
as in, I really don’t know.

So while driving past this sign, with my infinite wisdom intact, I deduced that ‘por ti’ must mean
door, as in portal.
So I was convinced that the sign read, ‘I am the door’.
Made sense to me.

Yet given my lack of depth with language, I knew it was best to doubt myself.

So I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.

And to say that I was wrong is an understatement.

‘Mi vida di por ti’ translates to ‘I gave my life for you’

Now a well understood and powerful daily reminder that puts a smile on my face each day
I pass this church…
No wonder they’ve left it up so long as that pretty much says it all…

“A dead Christ I must do everything for;
a living Christ does everything for me.”

Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself

deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

honey and locust… or would that be grasshoppers?

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a locust passing by / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes I just think it would be best if I found some hollowed-out tree, ditched
all the trappings of this life and opted to survive off of honey and locust.

Think John the Baptist.

The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness.
The man who lived in the desert eating only honey and locust while preaching about the
repentance of man…

So in my case, maybe we should make those grasshoppers because grasshoppers are more prevalent
in my neck of the woods.
But if the truth be told, I could easily do honey all day long, grasshoppers, however,
are things that I’m just not so certain about.

But this little reflection is not about eating bugs or living in
a hollowed-out tree—
but rather this post is about ridding oneself of all the trappings of a distracting world.

Giving to God all that I am and all that I have…which is simply me and me alone.

Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What we’re supposed to be about?

So maybe this IS a post about living in a hollowed-out tree, or in a cave or in a hut
or in the desert…

It’s about giving all and crying out.

It’s much like having a St. Francis moment.

Stripping down naked in the town square, tossing off all the fine clothing given
by one’s well to do parent and opting instead to offer the only thing one truly has that
is his or her own…that being one’s unclad naked self.


(St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly things / Giotto /1295 /Bascillica of San Francesco Assisi, Italy)

Yet Life gets complicated.

Our culture and society have both grown caustically complicated.

We can get so caught up in the minutia of living.
We tend to worry about things that are totally trivial in the grand scope of what is
truly worthy of concern…

We fret over silly little things like matching appliances, buying name brand purses, shoes, and cars.
We want a house in that oh so special neighborhood while putting our kids in the best of the best schools…
We live on our phones, on Facebook, on twitter on Instagram…
We have become the masters of making nothingness into life-altering concerns and thoughts.

The proverbial mountain verses the molehill.

Throw in the daily constant fixation with our toxic political sludge…
and well, we are all living a life of perpetual distraction— and if the truth be told,
it is a life of heaviness and negativity.

What then do we have left to give God?
What remains?

Maybe having a St. Francis moment is in order for us all.
Throwing off the trappings of this world and giving to God what it is at the heart of the matter—
that being ourselves and ourselves alone…
ourselves with nothing covering us or allowing us to hide behind…no distractions.

Just us.

Just us making Him our focus..the focus of what truly only matters.
Because in the end…nothing else in this world does matter…
Everything and everyone will eventually die and or pass away.

So only Him and us…

Creator and created…

“We live in a fallen world.
We must, therefore, work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth, we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit
in which we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

All the cool cats…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids
Like the cool kids

Echosmith


(a painting as seen in our vet’s exam room / Julie Cook / 2019)

This is a painting in one of our vet’s exam rooms.
Percy and I are still visiting the vets now every other day as there has been one more last-ditch
effort to close up his wound and now he dons a cone daily.

When I asked about the painting/ collage,
they told me that their office manager had picked up most of the art and photographs gracing the walls at
a hobby store.

Meaning that the painting and photographs were not exactly unique but rather products of mass
merchandizing.

And so naturally when I saw this particular image the song The Cool Kids came straight to mind…
but in this case, the word ‘kids’ was replaced with the word ‘cats’…
as in this was obviously a “cool cat” as in a song lyric as
“I wish I could be like the cool cats”

As I read today’s quotes by both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Augustine regarding prayer…
what prayer is…what makes prayer effective, etc…
I thought of this business of unique vs mass marketing;
I thought of mainstream and what our culture considers to be ‘cool’–as in
our current pop world, what it is to be in sync with the culture gods, and that which
is not “cool.”

Prayer, Christian prayer, is not cool.

Prayer, be it said privately and individually or en masse by a gathering in public,
has been under fire now for decades.

As the scrutiny, the irritation, the perceived wrong affected by those
who pray upon those who find it repugnant, is growing by leaps and bounds.

And we should note that this is only directed at Chrisitan prayer as no one is asking
Muslims not to publically call followers to pull out a prayer rug and bow towards Mecca throughout the day.

So what is it about Christian prayer that has the masses up in a dither?

What is it that is so offensive about those who offer the Christian prayer of intercession,
thanksgiving, healing, etc…while no one is finding the same offense when hearing the minnuetes
sounding the call to those who demonstratively stop work or schooling in order to bow
toward Mecca 5 times daily?

This is a most perplexing anomaly?

And thus I like what St Therese notes as “a surge of the heart”

May our hearts continue to surge…despite the ‘culturally cool kids’ who are
saying otherwise

For God hears our prayers…be they en masse or uniquely individual…

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

“Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement.
In this regard each of you must do what you can.
Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker.
You owe your conscience to God.
But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another.”

St. Augustine, p. 143
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day