love for 1000 years, the Bread Doctor, the happiest nations and Jesus wept…

“What it’s like to be a parent:
It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches
you the meaning of unconditional love.”

Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding

Sometimes our attitude towards people with physical handicaps can be
both patronising and harmful.
Who are we to determine that someone’s life is not worth living?

David Robertson

A few years back I’d written a post…
and it just so happened that that particular post in question was written
in order to coincide with the International Day of Downs Syndrome Awareness…
that being March 21st.

Well, I’m a few day’s early of this year’s awareness day yet I’ve felt compelled
none the less to revisit that post and share a new story…

(click the link for that year’s full post)

for a thousand years….I have loved you for a thousand years

That previous post was not simply a story about kids living with Downs Syndrome but
rather it was a post about the need to look deeper into how our world actually looks
at such kids and their families—how they all live life with such a “disability.”

That previous post piggybacked off of an article that was written by our friend
the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson.
The article had first appeared in Christian Today and later, David included
it in his blog.

David pointed out that “In the UK 90 per cent of babies in the womb who are diagnosed with Down’s are aborted. In Iceland it is 100 per cent and Denmark is getting close to that as well. These countries boast that they will have got rid of Down’s – what they mean is that they will have got rid of any human beings who have Down’s.

The Definition of Happiness

Iceland and Denmark were recently listed as two of the top 10 happiest countries in the world. But it does depend on how you define happiness. The criteria used were ‘income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity’. Perhaps other criteria could also be used? I would put a parent’s as pretty well near the top of the list. Watching this video there may not be some of the other ‘happiness’ factors, but the love is clearly there. Maybe our experts need to rethink how they define happiness?”

Fast forward to this week.

While recently flipping through a magazine, an interesting article jumped out at me.
It was a story entitled
The Bread Doctor: Why a small-town doctor opened a bakery for his daughter
with Down syndrome

As I read the story, I was immediately reminded of that previous post, David’s article
and of those nations who are proud to have “eradicated” Downs.
…and at what a cost that eradication has extracted…happiness? Really?!

I knew I needed to head over to the world wide web
in search of a sharable version of the story and low and behold I found one.

https://www.ldsliving.com/the-bread-doctor-why-a-small-town-doctor-opened-a-bakery-for-his-daughter-with-down-syndrome/s/93004

I also found a lovely YouTube video about this doctor from Wyoming, the baker from Oregon
and the daughter with Downs…

David’s final paragraph from that original article still pricks the soul.

Have not previous leaders and those who seem to know what is best for all
not thought they had “solutions” for a utopian society, a “happily perfect” society??
Eradication always seems to be the answer…quick, neat and emotionless…
and yet those of us who prefer to choose life, I believe, know otherwise.

Jesus wept…

I sometimes wonder what Jesus would think of a society which is so
determined to get rid of what it perceives as the weak,
the disabled and those who don’t quite fit the ‘perfect’ mould.
But then I don’t need to wonder.
Jesus wept – and he still does.

David Roberston

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas (a re-boot)

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would
if it could walk up and down in the garden,
swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

St. Nicholas of Myra


(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied
for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

(a little timely history lesson for this season of giving/ originally posted
in 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”
Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .

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