it isn’t worth disappointing your grandmother


(Nany’s passport photo circa 1960)

Back in October, I penned a post that began with a look at our seemingly
“Royal” obsession.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/10/21/we-are-a-coveting-people-yearning-for-royalty/

The post touched on our coveting and yearning for a sense of royalty…
At the beginning of the post, I mused over the US obsession with all things Royal, as I
wondered where that may have come from.

A few weeks later I wrote a post about the Queen and her quintessential purse…

So many folks wonder as to why a Queen would constantly be seen carrying a handbag
hanging from her arm.
The post also touched on the boorish behavior displayed by some of the guests she
entertained during a dinner for the NATO leaders

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/12/05/the-purse-never-lies/

So should we think it odd that the Royal family is not even “ours” and yet they are
practically all over every news outlet we have?

We are Royal watchers even if we don’t mean to be as their faces, names,
and stories, especially in recent months, have been all we see.

They are there when we flip on our televisions.
They are there when we are standing at the check-out line at the grocery store staring out at
us from every tabloid stacked on the shelves.
They are there when we click on our computers.

I wonder, are our across the pond cousins equally as intrigued with their Royals as we are?

Elizabeth was crowned Queen on June 2, 1953.
My parents were married on June 16, 1953.

With those two events each taking place within days of one another, my parents
actually received several Royal pieces of china commemorating the coronation
as wedding presents.
Items I still have today.

As long as I’ve been alive, the Queen has always been…a constant during my 60 years of life.
Just as it should be as she is the longest-reigning monarch surpassing
her great grandmother Victoria and her namesake predecessor, Elizabeth I.


Sean Gallup Getty Images

When I was a 21-year-old college kid, I had spent my college summers up in
North Carolina as a camp counselor at a Christian girl’s summer camp.

Our home, when I was growing up, as many of you well know if you have read any
of my posts, was quite dysfunctional.

It was my saving grace being able to transition from my 9 months away at school
to my 3 month summers up in North Carolina.
Meaning, I was home only sparingly.

The last summer that I was working at camp prior to my senior year in college,
when the two sessions had each ended, I came home for a few weeks before I was to head
back to school.
I had several older friends who actually lived year-round on the grounds of the camp
or near the camp and I was already missing them terribly.
Despite being home for only a few days, I was homesick for my home-away-from-home.

If, following graduation, I could have made a full-time job working at camp year-round,
I would have done it.
At that time in my life, it was about the only place I actually felt God’s presence
deep in my being.

So one mid-August night when I was back home,
I’d come in from an evening out with friends finding my brother still up watching TV.
If you’ve ever read any of my posts about my brother, you know he was the lynchpin
of our family’s dysfunction having been diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic
several years later.

Our relationship was fraught, erratic and tenuous.
Yet that particular night we were actually having a civil conversation.
I remember lamenting aloud about how much I missed being back at camp.
I debated about just getting in my car and driving the 4 hours back for the
weekend.
My brother then offered that he’d go with me to see it if I’d like.

Whoa.
Really?

A road trip with my 16-year-old brother allowing me to share with him
something that I cherished…could this be a breakthrough for us???

Ode to the mind of a wistful 21-year-old.
Forget consequences, let’s just throw caution to the proverbial wind, shall we…

He had to work at the grocery store, where he’d gotten a part-time summer job,
the following afternoon so I calculated that we could drive up, getting there
in the wee hours of the morning, hang out with my friends having breakfast,
show him the camp and in turn, get him back in time for work.

But wait…. what about our parents?

They were fast asleep.
They were not ones to embrace such impulsive acts.
Nor was I ever the type of kid to do something so daring.
And in hindsight, something so selfish.

Yet throwing caution to the wind, I scribbled a quick note, leaving it on
the kitchen table.
The note promised we’d be back in time for my brother to be at work…
And with that, in the middle of the night, we headed out the door.

The drive and time we spent at camp were quick but truly nice.
And nice was a very rare experience that he and I ever shared.

I found that I actually enjoyed the civil time we shared on the ride.
I explained how I wished it was light enough for him to see the mountains
cresting over the horizon.
It was as if we had bonded over the thrill of the clandestine.

When we got back home, with time to spare for my brother to go to work,
our parents were so incensed, they did not speak to me.
Not a word.

So with no one speaking that afternoon, I opted to go see my grandmother, Nany.
Nany and I were very close.
She had afforded me a great deal all my growing up and I adored her
and our times spent together.

When I walked into her condo, she was sitting in her usual spot in her den
watching the television.
When I entered the room, she turned her back on me.

Whoa.

Never had my grandmother ever shown anything other than generosity, kindness, and love.
Anger and disappointment were each relegated only to parents and not grandparents right?!

All she said was “you should have seen how sad they were when they came
by here after church.”

Under the weight of a very heavy silence, I showed myself out the door.

Yet as it is with life, both time and my actually growing up worked to heal all gaping wounds.
Soon forgotten were both my youthful stupidity and folly as life pressed us all forward.

However, I have never forgotten my grandmother turning her back to me.
That image has remained in the recesses of my memories.

I was crestfallen back then and it still pains me to this day.

It hurts knowing that I hurt her like that.
That I was capable of hurting her so much.
Funny how hurting her was more troubling than how much I had hurt my parents.

I had been thoughtless and selfish—yet are we not so during our youth
as we often learn the hard way by surviving our many mistakes?

We can only pray that we learn and survive those youthful errors and
often self-destructive ways, hoping to go forward, carrying with us the gift of wisdom
rather than the burden of selfishness and recklessness.

I was but 21—Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is a 35-year-old man.
And yet it appears as if Harry is acting more like a selfish child
than that of a grown man. Putting his wants before responsibility.
He continues to hurt his “Granny,” as she is affectionately known by
her grandchildren, with his on-going selfish and reckless actions.

It has been reported that The Queen had asked Harry to wait before making a
public statement regarding his desire for life’s role reversal,
but he ignored her request– going forward anyway.

I cannot presume to understand the complexities of their tangled
relationships but if I could offer one word to Harry, it would be the word of caution.
I would caution Harry to never put his wants above his relationship with his grandmother–
Of which, if we have ever read much about their lives, is one of
closeness and caring.

One day, sooner than later, she will no longer be here as a tangible and physical
part of his life.
I know all too well that he does not want to look back, with her no longer in his life,
with either sorrow or regret for how his actions may have pained her.

And so perhaps there is a lesson here for all of us…

The lesson being that we need to stop before we act.
Stopping to think while considering the lives of those closet to us…
Thinking about them before we boldly opt to march triumphantly forth—
So bold and headstrong that we go marching gallantly forward carrying those
wants and desires of our hearts on silver platters without ever considerating the
thoughts and feelings of those who are dear to us.
Those who are hurt the most by our misguided and self-centered actions.

Selfishness can be a heavy burden.

Be very careful, then, how you live—-
not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is

Ephesians 5:15-17

consequences…the decisions we make

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest.
That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.
The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which,
a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.
An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge
or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(a willet makes off with a crab for breakfast /Julie Cook / 2019)

Scanning a local Atlanta’s news feed Sunday, I noted the storyline about a local Army Master Sgt.
passing away ten years after he was initially wounded in Afghanistan.

I stopped to read the story.

It seems that this soldier’s tale is a bit more complicated than that of a soldier being wounded
in the line of duty.

This particular soldier, Master Sargent Mark Allen of Georgia, was shot in the head 10 years ago
after he went out on a search mission for a fellow soldier who had deserted the unit.

The AWOL soldier was Sgt Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl deserted his unit and was eventually captured by the Taliban.
He was in captivity from 2009 until 2014, when then-President Barak Obama
traded 5 Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl.

Master Sargent Mark Allen’s now recent widow Shannon,
did not know that her husband was actually shot while searching for Bergdahl,
not until several years later when President Obama ordered the prisoner exchange.
All she had known was that her husband had been shot in the line of duty and had
suffered a debilitating traumatic brain injury.

Allen was to spend the next 10 years of his life in a wheelchair and unable to
communicate, requiring constant around the clock care.

The full news story is below…followed by a bit of personal reflection…

Georgia soldier injured while searching for Bowe Bergdahl dies 10 years later
By: Chelsea Prince, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A retired Army National Guard officer from metro Atlanta died Saturday,
10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
in Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Mark Allen was injured in a June 2009 search mission for Bergdahl,
who walked off a U.S. military outpost and was captured by the Taliban.
Military prosecutors said Allen was shot during a firefight that erupted when U.S. forces
and about 50 members of the Afghan National Army were attacked by enemy fighters.

Allen suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a wheelchair and
unable to communicate.
His wife, Shannon Allen, told WSB Radio that she did not learn about the circumstances surrounding
her husband’s injuries until 2014, after former President Barack Obama negotiated Bergdahl’s release
in a swap for five Taliban members detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Shannon Allen typically declined interviews,
but she was in the courtroom in October 2017 when Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges of desertion
and misbehavior before the enemy, The Associated Press reported.
He was later sentenced to a dishonorable discharge from the Army but avoided prison time.

When Allen returned home, after being treated for three years at a military hospital in Florida,
he was honored as a hero.
The father of two was a frequent recipient of local accolades in his Walton County hometown.

According to an obituary printed in the Walton Tribune,
Allen spent 21 years in the Army and the Army National Guard.
He retired in 2013 upon receiving a Purple Heart.
He is survived by his wife, his son, Cody, and a daughter, Journey.

Services are planned for this week.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Tim Stewart Funeral Home in Loganville.
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Snellville with a burial to follow.

This story was written by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Stories such as these are hard for all sorts of reasons.
Lives are shattered and forever changed all because of one person’s choice,
action or decision.

Two children lost their dad this past weekend… and if the truth be told,
they actually lost the dad they had known as small children, ten years ago
when he was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.
There are conflicting reports that upwards of 8 other soldiers were shot and killed
as a direct result of that particular search mission.

The story behind Bergdahl is cloudy.

When President Obama exchanged 5 military prisoners for Bergdahl’s release,
some of the truth behind Bergdahl’s story began to emerge.
Details causing some in our Government’s leadership to question the legality of
President Obama’s prisoner exchange.

Bergdahl was eventually tried in a Military court and pled guilty to desertion.

He was given a dishonorable discharge, demoted in rank and was fined $1000 from his
monthly pay.
He did not face any prison time.

Since then, some have wondered aloud whether or not Bergdahl was actually
an enemy sympathizer.
A disillusioned soldier who decided to take his chances by deserting the Army
and country he served, opting to seek asylum with the enemy…or did he merely desert,
hoping to elude capture and simply “run away” to whatever it is was that he thought
might be a better life.

Bergdahl, however, does not deny deserting.

In a letter to his parents just prior to his desertion, Bergdahl paints
the picture of a young man who was very much disillusioned.
He was angry and had decided that he must wash his hands of any part of the mission and war.
He spoke of “being ashamed to be an American”
He noted that “the US Army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at”
He points to the fact that America and her military are arrogant and even cruel in their actions
against the Taliban and the local people.

His father’s response was for his son to follow his conscience.

Yet one thing history has taught us is that war is not pretty nor is it ever fair.
Wars are bad and bad things happen during such.
Rules of engagement, the Geneva Convention, the UN, all have
been put in place to aid man in fighting his wars fairly…
yet what of any war is ever fair?

But those who are the committed members of our military understand
the mission and in turn work to that end.

And yet in all of this, I am reminded about the matter of consequence.

A man who was once proclaimed as ‘The Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, once noted that
“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.”

Ingersoll was not a Christian man however both Christian and nonbeliever can each agree
that from all actions comes consequence.

No matter Bergdahl’s claims as to what took place following his departure from his Unit,
the fact of the matter was, and remains, that the consequences from his decision
and actions that fateful day in 2009 has forever changed a myriad of lives.

Bergdahl made a conscious decision, that many say to this day, was purely selfish.
I happen to be one of those who find Bergdahl’s actions self-absorbed…
and according to Military protocol, even criminal.

His choice to walk away, for whatever reason, set in motion a chain reaction of
life-altering events…perhaps none so great as experienced by the Allen family.

The Bergdahl case remains somewhat fluid as his legal team continues to push that he
be awarded various medals from that of POW survivor to a Purpleheart…
as well that his “Court Martial” be overturned.

Despite whichever side of this case you find yourself, the fact of the matter is
that decisions, actions, and choices all hold weight.

And often that weight is a balance between life and death.
As they directly affect other people…whether we see or not the effect.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8

no shame…but where are we really?

“the age of self-afflicted shame, is over…”
Mike Pompeo

Our (latest) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was in Cairo this past week.
And depending on your choice of news coverage, you may or may not have heard much about his trip
or of the speech he made.

And depending on that news outlet you tend to watch, read or listen to…you might have
gotten some mixed signals.

And to be honest, I’d like to be able to say huzzah to his speech…but does Pompeo’s speech mirror
the full policy of the US?

That, I’m not sure.

Our President tells us we’re pulling out of Syria.
His Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, has resigned.
Word is that they are at odds over such a decision.

I have really appreciated what I have read about General Mattis’ leadership—I even wrote
a post about the character behind General Mattis…the type of military leader you’d want
having charge over your own son or daughter.

Last evening I heard that Trump is the most popular Republican president, in well, ever.
And as I am a huge Reaganite, I had to go double check out that latest factoid and there does some
to be some validity to such a boast.

Not that I don’t support our President, I do…it’s just that I feel that we, as a Nation,
have entered a new era of something other than…other than who and what we use to be.
An era that I’m not fond of.

Socialistic Democrat is an oxymoron that I don’t think I care to wrap my brain around.

When the likes of Joe Lieberman is publically mocked and disrespected by a  new up and coming
young Democrat, we’ve got trouble worse than most millennials will sadly ever understand.

But one thing I can appreciate is the speech that Mike Pompeo offered in Cairo.

America is not a nation that apologizes for supporting various nations.
With Israel being one of those nations—the elephant in the room when it comes
to the United States and the Middle East.

Nor shall America excuse the Muslim world for its culpability for those
who, in the name of Islam, commit heinous crimes against humanity.

We did not excuse a fallen Nazi regime.
In fact, there was an allied trial holding those who remained, accountable for their actions…
despite the argument that they were merely the following orders of others.

Here is an excerpt of Secretary Pompeo’s speech.

I found it powerful and reminiscent of an America I once knew…
I suppose we’ll see what will follow…

“It was here, in this city, another American stood before you” and, “told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology.”

Pompeo’s view is unequivocal and crystal clear: “America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
He didn’t even add the usual qualifiers about our historic imperfections.
Expect our adversaries abroad and snowflakes at home to be mighty upset at this moral clarity and self-confidence
from the greatest, freest country on Earth. Our real allies will love it.

Pompeo’s speech had three watershed components:

First, Pompeo made it clear that the chief focus of U.S. policy in the Middle East is thwarting Iran’s
dangerous and tyrannical ambitions.
While violent jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda still exist and deserve our attention,
they are now a lesser threat.
Also, by condemning Obama’s decision to do nothing in 2009 and 2010 when Iranians took to the streets
to protest their oppressive regime, Pompeo opened the door to supporting Iran’s internal opposition.

Second, Pompeo specifically called out “radical Islamism” and condemned Obama for not doing so.
This is a refinement and extension of President Trump’s condemnation of “radical Islamic terrorism,”
which is the tactic that Islamists use when they go violent.

Far from semantics, this change from “Islamic terrorism” to “radical Islamism” means that finally,
40 years after Islamists took over Iran, 36 years after Islamists blew up our Marine barracks in Beirut,
and nearly 18 years after Islamists attacked us on 9/11,
we can clearly name the ideology that animates most of the problem actors in the Middle East.

In contrast to failed efforts to either spread American democracy or apologize for it,
this means we can rally all of those opposed to radical Islamism,
including monarchies and imperfect republics across the Middle East that oppose Islamist theocracy.
It means we can be clear about opposing not only terrorists like Al Qaeda,
but Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s rigorous efforts at diplomacy across the Middle East,
which have contributed to radical change and unprecedented cooperation.
Pompeo disclosed that “Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s
efforts to evade sanctions,” and lauded assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He added that “private companies in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere have calculated
that enriching themselves through work with the regime is bad for business” –
a gentle and much-deserved slap at the governments of those fading allies
that have actively opposed getting tough on Iran.

Pompeo reminded the audience that last year,
“the Israeli national anthem played as an Israeli judo champion was crowned the winner
of a tournament in the UAE.”
This story and scores like it have been missed by our mainstream media.
American strength and moral clarity and fear about the threat from Iran are dissolving
old animosities and creating new alliances. We may actually see new Arab embassies in Israel.

Finally but crucially, Pompeo included a cautionary principle regarding what the U.S.
is willing to do in the Middle East.
Remarking about U.S. support he said: “But ‘assist’ is the key word.
We ask every peace-loving nation of the Middle East to shoulder new responsibilities for
defeating Islamist extremism.”

This is the fundamental essence of “America First.”
We will not apologize for America, we will stand up for our interests,
and we will cooperate with our allies as long as they are willing to share the burden
of preserving freedom.

Adding an additional touch of pragmatism, Pompeo condemned the Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad,
but cracked open the door to aiding postwar reconstruction if Assad kicks the
Iranian military out of Syria.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pompeo-at-site-of-obamas-address-to-muslim-world-rebukes-his-legacy-age-of-self-inflicted-american-shame-is-over

This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem:
Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets,
and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic.

Zechariah 14: 12-13

spam

“Suffering, gracefully accepted, refines the human heart,
and the experience of darkness sharpens the vision of the spirit.”

Paul Glynn, A Song for Nagasaki:
The Story of Takashi Nagai:
Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb

According to Wikipedia Spam is (stylized SPAM) is a brand of canned cooked meat made
by Hormel Foods Corporation.
It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II.
By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries
(not including the Middle East and North Africa).

According to its label, Spam’s basic ingredients are pork, with ham meat added, salt,
water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative.
Natural gelatin is formed during cooking in its tins on the production line.
Many have raised concerns over Spam’s nutritional attributes,
in large part due to its high content of fat, sodium, and preservatives.

I also understand it’s the “national” food of Hawaii as “Hawaiians sometimes call it
“Portagee Steak” oddly my money was always on the pineapple.

And also according to Wikipedia Spam or rather Spamming is:
Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send an
unsolicited message (spam), especially advertising, as well as sending messages repeatedly
on the same site. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam,
the term is applied to similar abuses in other media:
instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam,
Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam,
mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions,
social spam, spam mobile apps, television advertising and file sharing spam.
It is named after Spam, a luncheon meat, by way of a Monty Python sketch about a
restaurant that has Spam in every dish and where patrons annoyingly chant “Spam!”
over and over again.

I must confess that I have never tried Spam.

I never cared for bologna so I kind of figured I wouldn’t care for Spam.
I’ll just stick to ham.

However that other kind of Spam…
well let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of that unappetizing mess.

We all get the e-mails, the phising (not fishing), the viruses (electronic and not physical),
the phone scams etc…
and yet we must admit it happens here in blogland as well.

Ever so often I’ll go into the comment section on my admin page in order to see if anyone
has been earmarked as spam.

I know that some of my blogland friends will make comments on posts and I will receive
an email notification along with the regular WP notification.
Yet every once in a while a friend’s comment is deemed spam by good ol AT&T.

WP is also prone to throwing friends into the black abyss of either ‘awaiting moderation’
or simply delightfully chunking them to spam. I too have been the victim of being chunked.

So yesterday I went into my site in order to check the spam allotment while
trashing what was indeed a bunch of junk as I sought to rescue anyone who had been
sorely misplaced.

Yet I stopped long enough to skim over one offering in particular that was about as vulgar
as it gets…and to think they were targeting poor ol Taylor Swift.
Not being one who stays up with the music scene…I don’t know why Ms. Swift should be so
grossly vilified, but gross it was.

My knee-jerk reaction, before pushing delete, was to simply bemoan the level of sickness
and vileness that runs rampant across our senses.

But then my thoughts shifted to the evil that is actually at work…
Evil found in something such as mind-numbing as the prevalent swarth of spam
on a simple little blog…

And so I was struck by the contrast of such thoughts of spam..thoughts for its reasons,
its uselessness and its dark and evil agendas countered by the thoughts of one who
lived to survive chaos and evil and came to know both peace and worth…
hope and salvation…

All of us will have to render an account of our lives when we die.
God will not be interested in who or what we were.
No, only in this: how did we live?
That will be the sole matter for judgment.
A company director won’t be able to pull rank on a waiter,
and a fisherman’s wife will be on a par with a millionaire’s wife.
Ships’ officers will receive no preference over ships’ cooks.
All will be judged by exactly the same measure:
did we use our talents well and for his glory?

Takashi Nagi
from A Song for Nagasaki
(Takashi Nagai, a survivor of the atomic bomb and convert to the Catholic faith
who lived a life of heroic virtue in the face of great tragedy)

The words of Takashi Nagai pointedly reminds us that we must consciously choose how it is we
wish to use our ‘talents’…those abilities bestowed upon us long before our birth…
gifts, abilities, and talents endowed upon, and found within, each of us—
given to us all by grace form the Father and the Creator to His created and children.

Will we opt to use them for the betterment of others and to God’s glory or will we use them
for the detriment of others and of self?…
Detriments much like the annoying spam folks are wasting their precious time over by creating and
sending to tiny little blogs like mine?

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

1 Peter 4:10

I wish….

“Without free will we cannot have moral responsibility.
And without moral responsibility we cannot have justice, law and indeed society.
Human beings cease to be human and instead become just a collection of chemicals
living out the pre-determined paths of our meaningless existence.”

David Robertson


(a small remaining cluster of American Beautyberries—probably what my mockingbird got
drunk off of / Julie Cook / 2017)

During the course of one’s life, it is hoped that at some point, one will actually understand—as in comprehend with inward knowing….
where exactly one has been,
where one currently is,
and where one still needs to go….

I can say that with a great deal of certainty that I have, in the course of figuring
out where it is I have been, along with where I currently am, as well as where
I need to be…. that I have in turn done things, said things, thought things…
all of which would have been best never to have done,
never to have said, and never to have been thought.

Some of these things were said, done and thought most willingly—
While others were said, done and thought more reactionary or as fleeting bits of thoughtlessness or even innate quirks of randomness…
None the less, having caused pain, sorrow and suffering to others while often being
totally unbeknownst to myself, as they were done with mere flippant thoughtlessness.

Some of which, over the years, have been most grievous—
and in hindsight, grievous to both others as well as to myself…

I have done, said and thought things with mean intent, ill intent, selfish intent,
hurtful intent, harmful intent, malicious intent, prideful intent, sinful intent…
as the intents are ad infinitum.

And I wish, in this place of life’s hindsight, that I could go back in time
undoing each action, word and thought that was wrong, hurtful, mean, boastful,
selfish and or egregiously sinful.

But I cannot.

I can perhaps apologize, if such an apology would be appropriate, yet there have
actually been instances that I was simply unaware of…
instances that I was clueless to and unaware that I even needed to make some sort
of amends.

Plus time has a way of removing us so far away physically from those first moments
of error that the opportunity to “make things right” or even simply to offer a
sincere word of remorse have closed for the duration of life on this earth.

People come and go…and lives each come to an end.
Actually making it is impossible to extend a conscious heartfelt ownership
of wrongfulness in some instances…

There is however, one thing certain…
we have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others.

That is a fact of being a human being.

It’s something that is part and parcel with being a part of the human race.
And yet we most often forget that simple fact…and it is in that forgetfulness
where most of our errors come to surface.

Just as it is part and parcel of being human that we will make poor choices in
our actions, words and thoughts against both ourselves as well as others.
But what never changes is that each poor choice of action, word or thought has a consequence.

It’s just that some are more noticeable then others.

And when we have nothing but hindsight to remind us, it is then and there, in the
solitude of our remembrances, that we must seek the Grace that God so freely offers.

The act of contrition and true repentance.

As our remorse and sorrow over these mis-actions, words and thoughts weigh heavy on the burden of a soul.
And if they do not, then the checking of a pulse just might be in order.

Grace will not erase our actions, words or thoughts, once so arrogantly, vainly or ignorantly displayed, but it will always change our perception of such actions, words and thoughts just as it will change us…
ever so slightly back to that image our Creator had of us all along…

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

Titus 2:11-12

There are no accidents

“In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”
Pope John Paul II


(a two legged okra? / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tuesday I spent the day doing something that needed doing.
It needed doing ages ago.

I pulled out two step ladders along with a box of dusting clothes and proceeded
to take everything off my bookshelves—

These bookshelves were builtin cabinetry, on either side of the fireplace,
and it was the thing about the house that I loved most when we moved in
20 years ago…
Because I always wanted a place to properly put my books.
And did I mention my book collection, within that twenty year time, has
only grown.

But it wasn’t just books that had since found homes on the shelves.
Maybe it’s the art teacher in me but these where mini display shelves of
design and creativity….they held my “treasures” from trips,
they held memories.

However to the causal observer, I feared, they held chaos.
Hopefully organized chaos, but chaos none the less.
And as I age, I think I’m finally understanding…less is more.

I took down every last book, picture, knick knack, souvenir, treasure…
emptying all shelves as if preparing to pack up, box up and move…
which mind you I do consider constantly as I hear the ocean often call
my name..but then I’ll hear the mountains call out as well…
so to keep things quiet…
I just ignore them and stay put….

I climbed up and down, balancing precariously on the cabinet edge, in order to get
everything moved, off and down.

I next proceeded to dust.

Finally I had a clean slate.

I spent the remainder of the day sorting.

What should be boxed for Goodwill.
What should be boxed and stored.
What should be moved elsewhere.
What should be allowed to stay.

We had brought back 9 very old decoy ducks that had been Martha’s.
Beautifully old decoys of various species, sizes, shapes, ages and colors…
with one being a giant rustic fish and one being a giant sitting turkey hen.
All now having come home to roost with the 4 I already had.
My flock of 4 sits on the fireplace—
what would I now do with Martha’s flock of 9???

It all started for me when I inherited my grandmother’s very old wood carved decoy
of a male canvas back duck named Henry…Henry is now nearing 100.
In her last years of life, as the dementia set in, Mimi named the decoy Henry
and he sat at the foot of the bed as if it were a pet…and I believe
in Mimi’s mind, Henry was real and was indeed her pet….

Eventually I decided to strategically place the decoys up on my shelves—
sitting a couple on top of books, while others were flanked by a few books.
I threw in few antique plates, a framed photo or two…
Poked and placed until I got something that I think to be tastefully presentable…
rather than stuffed to the gills full.

But all of this rearranging is not the point of this post.
Nor are the ducks or books or dust or junk…

As I was sorting through the wealth of books that I’ve acquired over the years–
with the bulk being based on Christianity, the Saints, Monasticism, Prayer,
the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, European history and lots of Art history…
one little book literally fell out amongst the hoard…
resting at my feet on the floor.

Most of my books are hardback, some are large and lovely, some are old and rare..
but this little paperback book simply seemed to fall out of nowhere….

It’s a book I remember ordering years ago.

There Are No Accidents
In All Things Trust God

by Fr Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R
with John Bishop

I remember that I never finished reading the book for whatever reason,
which I do remember starting while I was still teaching.
Time then was never on my side…not that it is now,
but these days I try to be more diligent with both my time and reading.

The book is based on an interview with Fr. Benedict..
as he was known by his first name and not his last.
He was a Franciscan monk, teacher and retreat leader who died in 2014.

He was also a monk who was hit by a car while crossing the street at the
busy Orlando Airport in 2004.
His survival was very questionable.
He was an older gentleman who sustained some very serious injuries.
Both broken bones and severe head trauma.

There were surgeries, long stints in ICU, ventilators, physical therapy….
He never walked again without assistance nor could he raise his right arm
but yet he survived and he persevered.
For he had a mission.
And that was to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The doctors warned that if he lived, he’d never talk again,
never think again as he most likely would be severely brain damaged.
They also said he wouldn’t walk let alone dance…
but he was ok with not dancing
because he never liked to dance anyway.

I’m beginning the book anew.

For I too believe there are no accidents—
for behind every accident, every incident, be they minor or devastating…
it is there our Omnipotent God resides…

There are blessings to be wrestled over but we do not like nor do we
want to wrestle.

And therein lies our challenge…
our challenge to comprehend, to sort and to accept.

We stand as a lost child feeling overwhelmed and frozen by fear, pain
sorrow, horror, devastation, disbelief, greif.
Our thoughts, our faith, our being… rocked all to the foundation,
as we are left to rile with unbridled anger.

Because this God of ours is not reacting…
this God of ours is not playing the role…
this God of our is not doing things the way we would have Him do…
and therefore we decide we don’t need, don’t want, don’t like this God
as we assume ourselves to be the better god….

And there rests our trouble….

“There are no accidents.
Evil things occur because of bad will or stupidity or fatigue,
yet whatever the cause, God will bring good out of it if we let Him”

Fr Benedict

“even when we do not choose evil, we choose the good so half heartedly
and with so many qualifications that mediocrity becomes our canonized statis quo.”

Fr Benedict

written words from a father…

DSC01114
(an early blog pic / Julie Cook / 2013)

“[you have] demonstrated beyond refutation your slovenly happy-go-lucky harum scraum style of work.
If you cannot prevent yourself from leading the idle useless unprofitable life you have had during your schooldays and later months, you will become a mere social wastrel, one of the hundreds of the public school failures, and you will degenerate into a shabby unhappy and futile existence….”

These words were penned by a distant and aloof man who found no merit or worth in his eldest son.
His son had proved to be a miserable student which was of great embarrassment to the likes of this most well-do-to and one of the day’s most notably recognized politicians.

The boy’s school marks were so low that his father stated that he was “too dimwitted” to peruse a career as a barrister (lawyer), an assumed career path for a boy of his family’s social status, but rather was relegated to following a path towards a military career.
His father hoping for a bit of redemption in the boy, convinced himself that if the boy could succeed as an Infantry officer, all would not be lost.

However the embarrassment and disappointment only continued as the boy scored so low in school and twice failed the entrance exam to the prestigious military academy that his father all but gave up on the boy. On his third and final attempt the boy finally received a passing score, yet it was still considered too low to qualify for the revered infantry training…leaving the boy the only route of choice…. becoming a calvary man, much to the humiliation of his father.

Yet this emotionally harangued young man was undeterred by his father’s lack of affection, obvious disappointment, acknowledgement and support.

The father had always been bigger than life in the eyes of the young boy.
A stranger and hero to be worshiped from afar.

All of this even as the boy pined away homesick in boarding school…
With news that his father had actually come to the same town in which the boarding school was located in order to address a political function, the boy was devastated learning that his father made no attempt to visit or call upon the boy.

Crestfallen the boy wrote immediately to his father—yet rather than showing his very real pain and disappointment as one would expect, the boy merely states that he doesn’t understand why his father couldn’t visit yet in the same breath states that he knows him to be a very important and busy man.

The father, who had become quite sick while the boy was away at boarding school, died rather prematurely at the age of 45.
This sudden death of his father only heightened the boy’s sense of hero worship in a man who had remained distant at best and blatantly detached.

The boy would grow to be a man who always kept his father at the forefront of his thoughts and actions. His life’s goals and ambitions were always focused on following in the footsteps of his father.

One would only think that such words and actions by a man so detached and so vocally dismissive from his son would simply breed a seething loathing within a growing boy…allowing the seeds of resentment and hatred to fester.
Yet within this particular young boy turned man, anything could have been further from the truth.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, the particular boy in question, grew to be one of the West’s greatest men to have lived.
He had a long prolific, heroic and stellar career as a soldier, writer, artist, painter, statesman, historian, cabinet member, Prime Minister, world leader, husband and father.
He never cowered at the painful rebuffs of a man he idolized…never allowing the continued hurt and detachment of Lord Randolph Churchill to deter his quest to succeed at the things in which he tried his hand.
He always wanted to make his father proud…
dare we say, he most assuredly did…

Happy Father’s Day to all the men in my life who have overcome the obstacles in their paths in order to forge a life worthy of praise….