Thank you

Grief is the price we pay for love.
Queen Elizabeth II


(Town and Country)

Indulge me please, if you will, as I look backwards a bit—to a different year,
a different day, a different funeral…but yet…a funeral that harkens forward
to today’s global family’s funeral.

There were, no doubt, countless numbers of funerals today around our world.
Hearts that are broken.
Lives that are now turned upside down…all as good-byes have been somberly said.
Good-byes that we mere mortals find most difficult to comprehend.

Death.

We as a collective group of humankind do not “do” death very well.
We find it very difficult to wrap our heads, let alone our hearts, around
such a notion.

We often feel anger, resentment, unbearable sorrow and for some, yet for a
fortunate few, we might even feel a sense of relief and yes,
eventually if we are fortunate…we feel that ping of hope.

There has been lots of global news as of late…sorrows, tragedies,
storms, pain, suffering…
yet the majority of the news, along with a good bit of the the world, stopped
today to say their farewells to a well known woman.

All as a family grieves and a nation grieves and as a global world family
grieves…

Yet in all the well televised grief, one thought came galloping into my mind—
the simple thought of gratitude.
That of a simple, “thank you.”

For I believe a soul’s example of simply living out one’s life day to day,
is the best example, the best teacher, any of us will ever or can ever receive.

And so we look back to April 2021….
knowing in our now hindsight that the gentleman in the photograph at the
end of the post who is tipping his hat, undoubtedly extended his hand to
the lady we bid farewell to today…

more and more alone…
but we all know we are never alone…and she knows too!

“What you are to do without me I cannot imagine.”
George Bernard Shaw

“The strongest men are the most alone.”
Ibsen


(BBC)

Anyone who might have watched the funeral Saturday for Prince Philip,
or even caught a passing news story regarding his service,
undoubtedly saw the painful image of an elderly woman clad in black, stooped
with age, sitting alone in a cavernous and seemingly empty sanctuary.

Donning a black mask–attempting to breath, shedding tears, mouthing
the ancient words to an ancient faith…muffled and hindered–all adding
to the heaviness of grief.

It matters not that she just happens to be the current sitting Queen
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland along with
other realms, as well as head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith…

On Saturday, Elizabeth that elderly woman, was very much alone.

Elizabeth is the only ruling leader, from around this great big world of ours,
who is a part of that Greatest Generation…
She is the only remaining active leader who can personally remember the
time when a world was torn a part and a time when she,
along with the rest of her generation rolled up their sleeves,
doing what it took to fight tyranny and defend Western Civilization’s
democratic freedom.

I was deeply struck by that thought…
the only remaining currently active leader…

Awed by such a thought and yet I also was left feeling rather empty.

We are losing members of our Greatest Generation daily…
actually quite rapidly.

“According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574
of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020.”
nationalww2museum.org

Those who I have known and loved, those who served either in war or
at home, are now gone…all but my one remaining aunt who will be 96
later this year.

Before they were wed, Prince Philip served active duty in HMRN
(His Majesty’s Royal Navy) and while as a young princess, Elizabeth,
upon turning 18 in 1944, insisted on joining the women’s branch
of the Royal Army–the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

Despite royal lineage, they each chose the path of service.
It mattered not that their service would be precarious and even dangerous…
doing one’s part for the betterment of the whole was the only thing
that mattered.

And that is what troubles me.

Elizabeth is now alone—as in having lost those who lived that
previous time with her.
Those who knew peril yet persevered none the less.
They were stalwart.
They didn’t complain, they simply pressed on…ever forward.

No limelight, no self seeking attention, no apology tours, no
tell all books, no interviews of self complaints…
no “look, woe is me” placards worn around one’s neck…
there was nothing about self because there was no time to
think about self–there were too many others to worry over.

More or less, it was a stoic approach to a foreboding and
unrelenting storm.

And by the way, you and I, and all the generations behind us,
are the better for their generation.

But the thing that truly saddens me is that the following generations
don’t get it…they have no idea as to the sacrifice or lessons that
are to be gleaned.

I can only imagine the grief this woman feels in her heart.
Her family are all a rather fractured lot and now she has lost her
only remaining stalwart companion–
a man who had been by her side for 73 years.
That companion, that husband, that “stay” is now gone–leaving
a woman lost in her solitude.

Her grief, as witnessed in that picture of a lone figure bidding
her husband good-bye, is palpable…but I also know that Elizabeth
has a strong faith.

She and Billy Graham had a chance encounter decades ago.
A documented encounter that appears to have had a lasting effect
on Elizabeth’s faith.
So whereas Elizabeth is certainly feeling most alone today,
she actually knows that she really is not alone…not ever really.

She knows who her Savior is.

So whereas I am not worried that Elizabeth will succumb
to her grief–because she is a woman of duty and service who knows where
her true Hope lies—rather—I worry for us…
I worry for both you and I.

We are rapidly losing the leadership who understood what it meant to serve.
To put others ahead of self…putting others before their own self-centered
wants or needs.

No talk of self or selfish agendas…
No dalliance in to false ideologies.

Simply the defenders of both freedom and faith.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,
I give you this charge:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,
rebuke and encourage—-
with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

what remains eternal

“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. Antony Of The Desert


(Klyemore Abbey /Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Beauty and every charm of this life passes….
The only thing that remains eternal is love,
the cause of every good work, which outlives us,
which is our hope and our religion, because God is love.

St. Giuseppe Moscati
from the book St. Giuseppe Moscati:
Doctor of the Poor by Antonio Tripodoro, SJ

believe in order to understand

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury


(Stained glass of Saint Anselm in Chester Cathedral cloister | photo by Mum’s taxi)

“I was striving unto God but
collided with myself. I was seeking rest in my inner recesses but
found tribulation and grief in my inmost being.”

Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion

“Lord, give me what you have made me want;
I praise and thank you for the desire that you have inspired;
perfect what you have begun, and grant me what you have made me long for.”

Anselm of Canterbury

Warriors and gaurdians

So I walk up on high and I step to the edge
To see my world below
And I laugh at myself while the tears roll down
‘Cause it’s the world I know, it’s the world I know

Lyrics Collective Soul


(St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough / Co. Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

Some years are harder than others.
Some months are harder than others.
Some weeks are harder than others.
Some days are harder than others.
Some nights are harder than others
Some hours are harder than others.

We often feel as if we are traversing life alone.

Within as well as outward, we hear and see a myriad of attacks
hurled in our direction…

Voices whispering…
naysaying, lying, undermining…

We dip, dodge and stumble as we attempt to miss being blindsided.

These attacks come from the external world yet even more precariously
and dare we day dangerously,
these attacks come from our own individual internal worlds.

And so we spend our days tiptoeing through a minefield,
fearful that the next step might just be the last.

As that is exactly what our ancient nemesis would have us believe.

The lies, the emptiness, the loneliness, the deception…

Until a guardian, a warrior arrives by our side…

“Christians long ago concluded that each individual human being
has his or her own particular guardian angel.
Though the Church has never defined the teaching about
individual guardian angels, the Catechism of the Catholic Church
sums up the matter this way,
quoting St. Basil:
‘From infancy to death human life is surrounded by [the angels’]
watchful care and intercession.
Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd
leading him to life’.
In this light, we can turn to our guardian angels for help in spiritual warfare,
especially to resist the temptations of the Enemy.
Yet angels are more than guardians; they are also warriors.”

Paul Thigpen, p. 30
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare, p30

Veni, Veni Emanuel–mourning mixed with hope

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their music reflected such.
Mystery and awe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark night triggers

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
St. John of the Cross

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
St. John of the Cross

So a few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted–or maybe that should read,
I needed to revisit a dear old friend…St. John of the Cross.

I felt St. John’s own ‘dark night of the soul’ calling my own lonely
darkened soul.

For a quick bit of background on my ancient friend…according to Wikipedia
John of the Cross (born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez;
Spanish: Juan de la Cruz; 24 June 1542 – 14 December 1591),
venerated as Saint John of the Cross, was a Spanish Catholic priest,
mystic, and a Carmelite friar of converso origin.
He is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain,
and he is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.

John of the Cross is known especially for his writings.
He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Ávila.
Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul
are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and among
the greatest works of all Spanish literature.
He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.
In 1926 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI,
and is commonly known as the “Mystical Doctor”.

And thus I went searching for my own copy of St. John’s book
as I find that sometimes…I simply desperately
need a Christian mystic in the worst of ways!

So I began to search…
Where was it???
Where was my book?

Was it on a bookshelf?
Was it in a box that might have been overlooked in the move?
Was it in this stack or that stack??

I scoured every book I owned.
I scanned every shelf in the house.
I tore every drawer in the house apart.
I rummaged through every box and tub that remains squirreled away in a
new basement.

Had it ended up in the yard sale by accident?
Had it errantly gone to the Goodwill?
Or worse—had it been borrowed???

St. John and his dark night were no where to be found.
All of which seemed to be adding to my own oppressively growing darkness.

However, I actually think that oppressive darkness of mine was probably due
to too much digested news…but I digress.

And thus, I knew my only recourse…order another book!
Of which I did.

When the package arrived in the mail, I was so excited to greet my
dear old friend.

And for those of you who know me, you know that I treasure my books!

I was so excited opening the package and pulling out the small new treasure
tucked neatly within.

Excitedly, I opened the book…
savoring the newness and crispness of each fresh page.

I looked excitedly and expectantly at those first few pages…
all with great anticipation.
And that is when I first saw it…
It was the moment I felt the collision of both then and now.
An odd yet sickening juxtaposition of time and space.

This was when I first saw something I found almost repugnant given who it was that
I was reading—reading the deep personal struggle of one who had the courage
and the gift to write about what we all have each struggled over…
that very depth of wondering…”God are you there? Do you hear me?”

Immediately I stopped dead in my tracks…
did I just catch an odd out of place “warning” of all things????

A trigger warning for St. John of the Cross.
I felt a bit of heat rising up into my cheeks.

This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as
it would if it were written today. Parents night wish to discuss with
their children how views on race have changed before
allowing them to read this classic work.”

“Oh really–does not reflect the same values??”–
I found myself speaking aloud for anyone present to hear.

Despite what one might think, I will opt not to jump on my soapbox today…
for I have done so often here in this little corner of mine in
this blogosphere of ours.

I just fret that when I see what we are allowing in our schools as now,
we feel threatened by a 16th century mystic monk.

It amazes me what we are allowing our children to exposed to and yet
we opt to censor a Christian mystic.

I just don’t seem to know us anymore and that is what i think troubles me most.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on,
he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

St. John of the Cross

When you lose one of the good ones…

We all have our likes and our dislikes.
But… when we’re doing news – when we’re doing the front-page news,
not the back page, not the op-ed pages,
but when we’re doing the daily news, covering politics –
it is our duty to be sure that we do not permit our prejudices to show.
That is simply basic journalism.

Walter Cronkite


(Jovita Moore, WSB new anchor, reporter, journalist)

It was a chilly, grey, rainy Friday morning.
Not exactly a conducive day nor conducive weather for traversing the maze
of interstates leading into the massive city of Atlanta.

However, as oddly as it seemed, the knotted network of roadways actually
flowed better than they normally should.

The weather, however, pretty much reflected the somber news
Atlanta had woken up to earlier that morning.

One of the few remaining good ones had passed away Thursday night.

It had been the heavy responsibility of Channel 2’s news anchor
Justin Farmer to share the heartbreaking news Friday morning
that his friend and colleague Jovita Moore had lost her battle with cancer.

Perhaps you think it might seem like an odd thing for me write a
post about…that of a news anchor’s death from cancer….
but what I want folks to know is that Jovita Moore was not just any
old news anchor, reporter or journalist.
She was one of the good guys…or is that good gals?

We are currently living in a culture that is rife with fake news, lying
journalists and overtly biased reporters.
Foaming at the mouth is more apparent than at any other time
in the history of the industry.

Journalism is now considered a caustic profession.
Scoops and stories are spewed out at the cost of any and all facts.
Skewed is the name of the game.

Truth is one of the first casualties these days from
both liberal and conservative journalists.
Neutrality no longer exists.

However it did with Jovita.

Truth mattered to Jovita.
As did an always upbeat and positive demeanor, when she’d take
to her desk each evening in order to report Atlanta’s and the nation’s news.

She was well worth turning on the evening news for as she delivered the facts
and the climate of the times, with a professionalism that is now as rare
as an extinct species.

Kindness marked her delivery yet she could be tough when the need
called for it.

That toughness was called upon back in the Spring, back
one day in April.

Jovita had run to a local grocery store one evening following
her newscast. Suddenly she realized that she was about to pass out
in the parking lot.

Her head was swimming.
And she had noted that she’d been a bit foggy as of late.

A trip to the ER offered some telling news.
There were two small tumors in her brain.

There was surgery and she offered her own update.
Positive and even cheerful as always.

However, the biopsy was not what anyone had hoped for.
She had an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The city, and even the state, held a collective breath and began a link
of prayer…a diverse city and state all gathering heart and soul
for the sake of one of their own…just another Atlantan, just another
adopted Georgian.

Jovita lost her brief battle Thursday night.
She was only 53.
She was surrounded by her mother and three children.

The link to her story is below.

The world always seems a bit less bright when one of the good
ones goes home.

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/channel-2s-jovita-moore-passes-away-after-battle-with-brain-cancer/BYZ3I5MHBJC57PTH56PG3IA75E/

living in before

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there,
wondering, fearing, doubting,
dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

Edgar Allan Poe

“Some dreams are best not to wake up from.”
Hiroo Onoda


(before the beaver, there was a tree / on the shores of Mackinac Island, Lake Huorn /
Julie Cook / 2017)

*****What is written below is the offering from a previous post written in 2017.
Since I’ve recently been thinking a great deal about before and afters…
as well as the distance of both space and time within the context of our lives,
I opted to go back in time to some previous posts that spoke of such
particular themes.

We all have a before—-as in a past.
We also have a present—as in the now…
and if lucky, we will have a future.

Before, now, after.

Those befores, nows and to-bes (afters) each intermix with the same before,
nows and to-bes of our fellow man. Colliding together on a myriad of
planes of dimension.

And so when I found this particular post, I found it of great interest
on a variety of levels.
Firstly it offers an amazing story of one man’s commitment to the
service of his nation.
A misguided service most would likely agree, but commitment none the less.
Yet it is a story of both before and after.

The post explores the idea of all of our before and afters…
and our perception of time–as to how that perception effects
both our befores and afters.

And so I offer it to you as a both a bit of a history story but
also as a post that looks at our lives on a deeper level
of what we may or may not care to acknowledge…

—————————-

Following the official unconditional surrender offered by the
Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu,
on behalf of the nation of Japan on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri…
a ceremony presided over by General Douglas MacArthur,
Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific…
life for a handful of soldiers remained unchanged…
their lives, duty and existence continued on as it had before the surrender.

For despite the war having been officially declared over, there remained a smattering
of Japanese soldiers hunkered down and holding on to various small
South Pacific islands…
soldiers, cut off from commanding units and or communication, all unaware
that their nation had surrendered let alone that the war was now
indeed officially over.

Hiroo Onoda was one such soldier.

Onoda had been trained as an intelligence officer…
specifically trained to gather intelligence in order to carry out and conduct
a guerrilla war against the enemy.
He, and a unit of men underneath his command, had been taken to Lubang Island
in the Philippines with direct orders.

On December 26th, 1944, Onoda was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines.
His orders from his commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, were simple:

You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand.
It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens,
we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier,
you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts.
If that’s the case, live on coconuts!
Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.
Daven Hiskey
Feb 9, 2010
‘Today I Found Out’

Following the end of the war Onoda fought on for another 29 years …

Onoda had refused to believe the “propaganda” in the way of dropped leaflets,
villagers pleas or former fellow Japanese soldiers sent to tell Onoda the truth.
He refused to believe any of it but rather was convinced it was all a ploy
by the enemy to take control of the island.

Until 1975 when his former commanding officer,
now an old man working at a bookstore in Japan,
was brought to the island to convince Onoda of the truth.

Reluctantly, yet ever the solider, on March 10, 1975 at the age of 52 an emaciated
Hiroo Onoda put on his 30 plus year old dress uniform and marched
from his jungle hideout to present then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos
his samurai sword.

Over those 30 years Onoda’s small band of fellow soldiers had either
eventually surrendered or died…
but Onoda remained a loyal guerrilla fighter making life miserable for the local
islanders. The islanders did their best to convince Onoda that Japan had
surrendered and that the war was over. During the 30 years Onoda fought his single
war, 30 villagers were killed and 100’s of others were wounded by this
lone guerrilla fighter

The story in itself is fascinating as well as sad.

Yet Onoda’s story is not just a story of survival or of disbelief,
or of skewed conviction but rather his is a tale about living life
in the before verses the after.

There was a single event that had marked the end of the war…
However Onoda had not been privy to that event.
He had not witnessed the surrender.
He knew his Nation’s determination.
He did not actually hear with his own ears the words spoken by his leaders.
He had been given a single command, and until he heard a reversal command
from his commanding officer, he would do his duty and serve his nation to his
utmost ability.

Rarely is such conviction found in men.

I thought of this story yesterday following the news I received regarding
the death of my aunt. Whereas she had been sick and even worsening,
the death from cardiac arrest came suddenly and unexpectedly yet in hindsight,
most likely blessedly.

Had I not answered my phone yesterday morning….
in my small narrow world, my aunt would still be alive.
She would be living on in my perceived reality.

For had I not heard the word, had I not been informed of the factual event
I would have gone on as before…knowing she was sick, fighting cancer, hanging on…
but not having died….not just yet.

The life of living before or the life of living after.

Before is usually what we know, what we’ve come to expect and what we rest in.
After equates to new, different, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

In all of this I think of Thomas, the doubter.
The one disciple who had not been with the others when a risen Jesus
had manifest himself to their broken hearts.

And as Thomas happened to be away from the group, still broken hearted,
still wounded of spirit, still grieving…
he refused to believe the fantastical and or miraculous offered by his friends.

“Not until I see with my own eyes, put my hands in his wounds…I will not believe.”

Oh how we are all so convinced by the acknowledgement of our senses.
Convicted by sense.

For Onoda, the war had actually been over for those 30 years he lived in a
remote jungle fighting a non-existent war.

For my aunt, she died at 12:40 yesterday afternoon had I or had I not
answered the phone.

Jesus rose with or without Thomas having been present to see, touch, hear, feel…..

But because Jesus knew that we would all be so much like Thomas—needing
to be convinced, He offered Thomas, who continues offering each of us
the acknowledgement….
“my Lord, my God….”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them,
“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger
in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.
The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said,
“Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas,
“Put your finger here, and see my hands;
and put out your hand, and place it in my side;
do not be faithless, but believing.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him,
“Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

John 20:24-29

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2541104/Japanese-soldier-Hiroo-Onoda-refused-surrender-WWII-spent-29-years-jungle-died-aged-91.html

What is Grace—I just keep having to ask

I have had to experience so much stupidity,
so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow,
just in order to become a child again and begin anew.
I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths,
to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”

Hermann Hesse

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of
extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”

Matthew Henry


(a tiny bloom of a strawberry to be / Julie Cook /2015)

****Even though this is actually a post that I wrote 6 years ago,
the notion of Grace has never been far from my thoughts.
For you see, I am very much a product of Grace.

Over and over, or so it seems.

Merriam Webster defines grace as:
a:unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

And so here’s the thing about this “unmerited Divine assistance”-
it is a gift that is freely given.

It is neither earned nor bought.
And it pricks the most tender part of one’s soul.

It pricks the hard steely, yet false, façade and bravado we call self.

It breaks down the walls and the hardened heart while it fills
a sea of endless wounds.

A flood washes over us and we find ourselves terrified of letting
go and letting Grace transform us.

So why is it so hard to receive something so welcoming and healing?
The answer is beyond my soul—it is not something I can logically comprehend…
and maybe that’s the thing.

Grace is not logical.

Grace brings us to our knees…because we know we have not earned this
gift called Grace.
Quite the contrary.
We have done everything in our power to shun it and even repel it.
We bristle at such tender warmth while being too cold,
too hard, too lost to see the simple Truth.

For me it’s seems to have come in phases–
throughout this thing I call life.

Maybe it’s just a matter of me needing to be reminded…
reminded that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as accepting
of the initial gift as I needed to be….
For I still have kept a deep part of my wounds hidden.

Too ashamed, too hardened, too wounded to think
Grace would or could ever make me truly whole.

I’ve recently been reminded of this most tenderest of gifts.
It’s broken my heart…broken my façade..
and that’s just what Grace does…
it breaks us and then it heals us and then it makes us whole.

And thus we are each the better for Grace…

And so I want to thank my dearest of friends who recently offered me Grace…
Grace coupled by her own graciousness.
A gracious heart…reaching to a wounded heart.
It is a gift she has freely given me—
a freely given gift that was not nor ever has been deserved nor earned,
yet one that was freely and lovingly given…no strings, no penalties.
And it is within this most generous gift that I have been poignantly reminded me
that God is not yet finished with me and that He continues to want
me make me whole.
Love can and does heal a multiple of sin…

and now the post from 2015–

Do you know Grace?
Have you seen it out and about?
During your comings and your goings?
Have you ever been properly or formerly introduced?

I truly much doubt so…
As Grace is often quiet and demure.
It prefers to go rather unnoticed until it is called upon…
More shy than bold.
It is neither garish or loud.
Nor is it boisterous or showy.

What exactly is Grace you ask…

Grace is the second chance when all other chances have been used up.
Grace is the peace in the midst of the fierce raging storm.
Grace is acceptance when the world screams rejection.
Grace is forgiveness when the act has been intolerable.
Grace is hope when none had been previously offered.
Grace is mercy when judgement should be called for…
Grace is life when one actually deserves death…

It should be noted that Grace is not cheap.
For it cannot be bought nor sold.
It can not be bartered over or traded.
It cannot be taken or stolen…
For it is actually free—free to both you and me.

Yet this free Grace was once actually rather costly.
For that which is free today to both you and me, once cost God a great deal.

Think of this question…
Would you ever hand over your child…
Your only child, to be brutally tortured and murdered before your very eyes…
Just to be able to offer someone else their freedom?
I would think not.
Yet that is exactly what happened.

A price paid for the healing power of Grace.
A tremendous price that cost God so very much–
Yet it was a price He willingly paid out of a tremendous love for both you and me. . .
and it is because of that very Grace that I am here, writing you today…

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.
The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin,
and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.
Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury,
from which she showers blessings with generous hands,
without asking questions or fixing limits.
Grace without price; grace without cost!
The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid
in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.
Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending
it are infinite.
What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,
baptism without church discipline,
Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship,
grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ,
living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field;
for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has.
It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.
It is the kingly rule of Christ,
for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble;
it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves
his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again,
the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear
a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

parents…teach your children well…so there will be no more horse’s asses

And you (Can you hear?) of tender years (And do you care?)
Can’t know the fears (And can you see?)
That your elders grew by (We must be free)
And so, please help (To teach your children)
Them with your youth (What you believe in)
They seek the truth (Make a world)
Before they can die (That we can live in)

song lyrics by Graham Nash


(The Mayor and Sheriff this past summer at the beach / Julie Cook / 2021

So we’ve all probably witnessed or read of the following tale…

And I’m probably already going viral as we speak…

So let me set the scene…

My husband and I ran into a nearby Target today as I needed to pick up
a few items.
This particular Target is larger than the one we had in our previous community.
I think they call it a super Target.

I really don’t always think bigger is better but that’s just me.

So while we were cruising up and down the various aisles, grabbing what we needed,
I heard a loud ruckus heading our way.
Loud laughter and what sounded like a basketball bouncing up and down on the floor.

What the heck???

My gaze was now fixed toward the end of the aisle as I was waiting to see
what this growing crescendo of noise was all about…

And that’s when I saw them…

5 young teens were kicking a soccer ball down, in and out, the various aisles.
Loud, pushing, shoving, laughing with one another while all acting a fool!

And that’s when it happened.

Just like a cat who bristles and puffs up at some approaching adversary,
I felt myself bowing up for a fight.

I turned my gaze toward these boys.
My eyes narrowed with a steely glare…and that’s when I felt that
familiar out of body voice ready to howl from a place from deep within…

I was in full blown honey badger teacher mode, ready to pounce.

And it only quadrupled when I saw the phone in one of the boy’s hand.
He was recording their reckless antics…
all the while, the soccer ball was kicked into a shelf full of
shaving cream cans…all of which came tumbling off the shelf,
loudly crashing to the floor.

Manager???
Can we say “MANAGER”???!!!!
Where in the world is some sort of manager????
What of parents?????
Where are the parents?????

This reminded me of my first year teaching…
it was the last day of school and the kids broke out all the
fire extinguishers while the principal locked himself in his office.
Bedlam…
And this was just that…bedlam.

The inmates were running the asylum.

They saw me seeing them–and my glare was now laser focused and
they knew it…as their laughter only grew.

This “incident” would no doubt hit their insignificant tik tok postings
showcasing just how fun it can be to go into a store and act like complete
immature horse’s ass while others look on in disgust.

So right when I was ready to spring into action, ready to snatch up some hooligans
by the scruff of their necks…
my husband’s voice broke my concentration...”Don’t even think about it!”

I felt his hand grab my shirt, nudging me in the opposite direction of the boys.
“Let’s go check out.”

He knows ‘teacher mode’ all too well.

So my thoughts today turn to parents.
I was a stupid teenager once.
I was also a parent to a teenager
I was also a high school teacher for 31 years.

Parents…please, please….teach your children well…
and if you do, no one will have to be that stupid unruly horse’s ass.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6