the year of the bull….crap

“What’s broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best
than mend it and see the broken places as long as I live…
I’m too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and starting all over.”

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind


(the running of the bulls in Spain)

I have just about reached my breaking point with this year.
For all sorts of reasons…
And my heart is heavy and is now slightly broken if not totally broken.

But a story has come to my heart…
and I know it is from God…

Long ago there was a young boy who lived in a small Spanish village.
This young boy had come to live with his grandparents when he was but an infant.
This was due to the fact that his parents had both been killed during the civil war.
He’s known no other family but his grandparents.

His grandfather, who was a man larger than life—was a man who this young boy adored.
Each year this grandfather would participate in the local running of the bulls.
It was a long-standing tradition in his village.
It was a rite of passage and a rite of position within the hierarchy of the village.
The grandfather was legendary for his exploits.

Tourists have since begun flocking to participate, but it has been to the local men
who this tradition has truly mattered.

The young boy looked to his grandfather, the only man he’d known in his life
as a father, was the closest thing to a superhero.

Each year in the spring, the grandfather would join the other men of the village
in the annual running of the bulls.
The young boy’s grandmother would simply roll her eyes and dismiss her husband’s foolishness.
She would fuss and cuss her husband’s folly.
But to the man, it spoke of his position in his village.
And yet to the boy, it was not foolishness, it was pure exhilaration and wonderment.
He longed for the day that he could join his grandfather.

The grandfather would tell his grandson of the single strategy for staying one
step ahead of the massive wild animal…
“The bull, the toro,” he would tell his grandson, “runs with fear…
you, you must run with confidence and vision.”

After many more years, the day joyously arrived, the boy would finally be allowed to
join his grandfather and the elders of the village.
He was joining the man he loved, the man who had known many years of wear and tear.
The years of both life and living had taken their toll on the old man…
however, as with every year, he was undeterred, he would run.
And the boy, now a young man, would finally run with his grandfather.

The old man coached his grandson…
“if you hear the pounding hooves, listen for the vibrating sound…
listen with your heart…listen with your ears.
If you hear and feel the sound upon either your left or your right.
If you hear or feel the pounding in your left ear, lean right…if you hear or feel it
from the right, lean toward the left.
If you feel the hot breath on your back, you must run faster, then jump either left or right
because by this time, it matters not, it could be too late.”

When the day finally arrived and the old men and young men were all assembled,
the nervous bulls were brought toward the crowd.
The bulls were always local bulls–well known by the local villagers.
Many were tended by the local farmers.

This year, however, there was a new and different bull brought into the fold of the local animals.
He was unfamiliar and even the local bulls were cautious.
He had a different look in his eye.
There was no familiarity.
He was massive for his size.
His muscles involuntarily reflexed across his back.
He was pure black, almost blue in the light of day but the magic
within this bull was not pure…he was very nervous.

There was an empty coldness found in his eyes.
He had not been nurtured by this village.
He had not been tended to by the local farmers…

He was what was known as a rouge bull.

The city’s bell tower sounded, the signal for the participants to start running
as the animals were released.

In the teeming melee of hundreds of participants, the boy lost track of his grandfather.
The throng of runners moved in a unified mass until the bulls began to penetrate the
mass one by one.
The mass began to diverge.

Bodies peeled to the left while other bodies peeled to the right…
many bodies simply fell upon one another…falling into a heap upon the ancient cobblestone pavers
as tons of massive sinew, muscle and hooves rumbled mercifulness over the mass of lost humanity.

Yet the boy ran.
He was listening, hard.
He sensed.
Bodies would suddenly fall by his side with a sickening thud.
Yet he couldn’t stop to assess the damage, his grandfather had taught him to run.

Suddenly, the boy heard the hooves but he couldn’t determine…
were they left or were they right?

He was running as the sweat poured from his brow.
The salt stung his eyes.
He blinked and inadvertently wiped his face.
He dared not turn his head lest he trip.

Suddenly, there was the sensation of a strange hot steam wafting into his nostrils.
It was both suffocating as well as acridly putrid.

And that is when he felt the jolt.

A searing sharp pain pierced his left flank.
In what seemed to be a moment of slow motion, his chest seemed to simply deflate
as his body was lifted almost magically into the sky.

He was floating, effortlessly.
It seemed like a lifetime…floating, flying, no effort.

And yet the crash was heavy.
There was a shattering thump.
Searing pain flooded his consciousness.
A broken torso.
Disrespected by hundreds of thousands of pounds of hooves…
hooves disregarding what lay underfoot.

The boy lay upon the dirty but cool ancient pavers.
His body now a twisted and contorted mass–unnatural in position.
A dark black liquid pooled against his cheek.

At some point, he remembers not when, he was lifted upon a litter and carried
to the local hospital.

His grandfather, what of his grandfather, he implores with barely an
audible breath.

“Your grandfather is gone.” the medic replied stoicaly.
The toro pierced his heart, in one fell blow…
but it was not before the locals shot the bull to stop his rampage.
It is why you are still here, your grandfather diverted the bull at the
the very moment he attempted to gore you.

The moral of the tale…

Remember, the enemy runs with fear.
We, on the other hand, must run with confidence and vision.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

rousing a deaf world… do you hear Him?

“Pain insists upon being attended to.
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences,
but shouts in our pains.
It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.S. Lewis


(a prematurely warm February has lead to early blooms…ornamental quince / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Life is hard.

The world around us only helps to make it even harder.
Our current political turmoil, with Socialists actually becoming viable presidential candidates,
hangs like a suffocating wet blanket over our heads.

There are days we all feel beaten, defeated and even worse—
days when we feel as if we have sorely lost our way.

Depression weighs heavy like a thick fog, making it difficult to feel our way
through the murky mist.

Yet oddly, on various recent days…days which really felt heavy, burdensome and nearly unbearable,
a voice spoke through the fog…
Words were spoken that were far more than coincidence.
Words that pierced through the thick heavy shadows with shining clarity…

I wanted to share these words with you and hope that they
might perhaps lighten your spirits just as they lifted mine…
at the very moment I needed to hear them…

Reminders that yes, there is still a great and loving God the Father…
God the Redeemer, God the Savior—
The Great I AM

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13

Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you,
LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

1 Kings 18:37

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine
and champions at mixing drinks,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty
and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 5:20-24

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

reparations vs Grace

“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself,
‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’
I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.”

St. Josephine Bakhita

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped, she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church

Catholic.org


(St Josephine Bakhita)

Firstly this business about paying reparations for slavery is about the dumbest thing our
legislators have ever opted to take up and pursue…let alone conduct a three ring circus
of unbridled idiocy over.

Now whereas I’ve written about this notion before…as in will we pay those free blacks who
were also slave owners. Will we pay the Native American Indians…and of course will the
Egyptians pay the Jews, will the various African tribes pay the other tribes, will the
Chinese pay the Koreans, will the Russians pay the Russians…yada, yada, yada.

No nation is exempt from this sinful crime.

But this is not so much a post about reparations as it more about Grace.

The following story is about a woman who was born in Darfur in 1869.
As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery to the Arabs.

Her’s is a harrowing tale of slavery, torture, and cruelty that lead to
serving not man, but instead, Jesus Christ.

How could one begin to pay reparations for Josephine’s life of servitude to man?
How could one begin to remove the 114 lasting stripes across her back?

Josephine would never expect nor accept such…her greatest gift,
coming to know Jesus Christ.

If ever there was one who should have quit, given up all the while begging to simply die…
It would have been Josephine Margaret Bakhita.

But she did not…
What can money do in the place of everlasting Grace?
Nothing.

May we all come to know that Grace…

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born around 1869 in the village of
Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was a member of the Daju people and
her uncle was a tribal chief.
Due to her family lineage, she grew up happy and relatively prosperous,
saying that as a child, she did not know suffering.

Historians believe that sometime in February 1877,
Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders.
Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles
to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice
during the grueling journey.

For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times.
She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

As a slave, her experiences varied from fair treatment to cruel.
Her first owner, a wealthy Arab, gave her to his daughters as a maid.
The assignment was easy until she offended her owner’s son,
possibly for the crime of breaking a vase.
As punishment, she was beaten so severely she was incapacitated for a month.
After that, she was sold.

One of her owners was a Turkish general who gave her to his wife and mother-in-law
who both beat her daily.
Josephine wrote that as soon as one wound would heal, they would inflict another.

She told about how the general’s wife ordered her to be scarred.
As her mistress watched, ready with a whip, another woman drew patterns on her skin with flour,
then cut into her flesh with a blade. She rubbed the wounds with salt to make the scars permanent.
She would suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

In 1883, the Turkish general sold her to the Italian Vice Consul, Callisto Legani.
He was a much kinder master and he did not beat her.
When it was time for him to return to Italy, she begged to be taken with him, and he agreed.

After a long and dangerous journey across Sudan, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean,
they arrived in Italy.
She was given away to another family as a gift and she served them as a nanny.

Her new family also had dealings in Sudan had when her mistress decided to travel
to Sudan without Josephine,
she placed her in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice.

While she was in the custody of the sisters, she came to learn about God.
According to Josephine, she had always known about God,
who created all things, but she did not know who He was.
The sisters answered her questions.
She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

When her mistress returned from Sudan, Josephine refused to leave.
Her mistress spent three days trying to persuade her to leave the sisters,
but Josephine remained steadfast. This caused the superior of the
Institute for baptismal candidates among the sisters to complain
to Italian authorities on Josephine’s behalf.

The case went to court, and the court found that slavery had been outlawed
in Sudan before Josephine was born, so she could not be lawfully made slave.
She was declared free.

For the first time in her life, Josephine was free and could choose what to do with her life.
She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata.
(Fortunata is the Latin translation for her Arabic name, Bakhita).
She also received the sacraments of her first holy communion and confirmation on the same day.
These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into the Church and were always
given together in the early Church.
The Archbishop who gave her the sacraments was none other than Giusseppe Sarto,
the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, who would later become Pope Pius X.

Josephine became a novice with the CanossianDaughters of Charity religious order on
December 7, 1893, and took her final vows on December 8, 1896.
She was eventually assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza.

For the next 42 years of her life, she worked as a cook and a doorkeeper at the convent.
She also traveled and visited other convents telling her story to other sisters
and preparing them for work in Africa.

She was known for her gentle voice and smile.
She was gentle and charismatic, and was often referred to lovingly as the
“little brown sister” or honorably as the “black mother.”

When speaking of her enslavement, she often professed she would thank her kidnappers.
For had she not been kidnapped,
she might never have come to know Jesus Christ and entered His Church.

During World War II, the people of the village of Schio regarded her as their protector.
And although bombs fell on their village, not one citizen died.

In her later years, she began to suffer physical pain and was forced to use a wheelchair.
But she always remained cheerful.
If anyone asked her how she was, she would reply, “As the master desires.”

On the evening of February 8, 1947, Josephine spoke her last words,
“Our Lady, Our Lady!” She then died.
Her body lay on display for three days afterwards.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII.
On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable.
Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan.
But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly.
He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan and her feast day
is celebrated on February 8.

Catholic.org

After the storm

“He in his madness prays for storms,
and dreams that storms will bring him peace”

― Mikhail Lermontov

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DSCN2287
(images of spider webs that survived the tumultuous flooding rains / Carrollton, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

A deluge…
A torrent…
Wind, hail, lightening, thunder, flooding…
We shudder and we worry,
The waters rise
As the sirens wail…

Tornados
Floods
Downpours…
Pummeled and beaten
On and on it lasts for hours,
Days pass as the assault remains relentless
Washing everything away….

What of the tiny and the minuscule
The delicate and thin
The exposed
The vulnerable
All of which is seemingly fragile…?
Is it possible to hold on, bear up,
remain and survive?

Our life is but a wisp, a flicker of light
Delicate and fragile…
We worry and we fret
Battered and assailed
We can barely hang on…
Yet did we not once think of ourselves as invisible?

Eventually when the storms pass,
the clouds part and the winds are finally still…
When it all is beautifully quiet and calm
We wonder what, if anything,
remains in the wake of the fury…

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you
Isaiah 43:1-28