deeply rooted

Reading the Bible should be a form of prayer.
The Bible should be read in God’s presence and as the unfolding of His mind.
It is not just a book, but God’s love letter to you.
It is God’s revelation, God’s mind, operating through your mind and your reading,
so your reading is your response to His mind and will.

Peter Kreeft
from You Can Understand the Bible


(Julie Cook / 2019)

We were out walking deep in some obscure woods when we came upon this precarious
tilting tree.
It’s a tree that has been obviously almost uprooted.

This area has seen its fair share of tornados, tropical storms, even category 2 hurricanes.
Throw in the life of a tree in the woods and things such as illness, rotting, strong winds,
and the sheer matter of time can each take a toll on a tree.

Yet I was amazed that this tree appears to continue to thrive albeit at an almost
45-degree angle as it literally hangs on by the tips of its roots—
but it matters not to the tree that it grows perhaps more laterally than vertically,
it still lives, and it grows.

I looked at this tree with amazement but then I thought of things such as tenacity and
that of being firmly rooted…rooted with deep roots rather than shallow roots.

I thought of my own life.

Those times that I have been nearly toppled.
Thoughts of the moments when life had thrown all it had at me and nearly
knocked me over…for good.

Yet through Grace, I persevered.

Had I not had my faith rooted deeply in that Grace, most likely, I would have
been knocked over and would not have been able to get back up…
Even if getting back up meant I might remain somewhat skewed, I would still
be rooted, I would still be growing.

So today’s quote about reading the Bible as a form of prayer was
enlightening…as in it added to the deepening of roots.

It’s not merely about reading for reading’s sake or to read in order to seek out
some sort of information or to add to one’s verse recall,
but rather it about reading as a simple desire to pray.

To come humbly to in order to communicate with rather than to simply digest.

I confess that I don’t read the Bible as much as I once did when I was younger.
Life has a way of consuming time just like a black hole consumes all the energy
in its path.

It also didn’t help that I was raised in the Episcopal Chruch as our Sunday Schools
and youth groups were not entirely based on Bible studies.

It wasn’t until I joined Young Life in High School that I finally began
to read and study.

And that reading and studying would ebb and flow over the years.

Bibles would be highlighted, underlined, filled with momentoes and so worn
that they were ‘retired’ while I’d seek out a new translation.

Over the years, in the midst of some crisis, I would often find myself reaching for
a Bible, almost as an afterthought, as I would sit empty and lost.
Oddly a random page would suddenly speak directly to the situation…
speaking directly to me.

Funny how that is.

And as Professor Kreeft reminds us that in both prayer, as well as in reading
the Bible, God speaks.

I am reminded of the practice of Lectio Divina…
the practice of reading a particular verse then ruminating over that verse.
Focusing on what word or words seem to reach out to us.
Repeating the words, praying over the words, listening to what the word or words
have to say to us…personally.

Going deeper.

As in growing deeper roots.

As life grows only more precarious…being deeply rooted in
the Word of God will prove instrumental in the survival of our souls.

May we be willing to go deeper.

Both prayer and Bible reading are ways of listening to God.
They should blend: our prayer should be biblical and our Bible reading prayerful.

Peter Kreeft
from You Can Understand the Bible

don’t mess with Texas….cheerleaders


(image courtesy Click 2 Houston News)

They say that everything is bigger in Texas…
and that also might mean badder…that is, if badder was an actually correct word.

Texas and Texans are known for being tenacious.
As in they can take a ‘licken’ and keep on ‘ticken’ sort of tenaciousness.

As in tumbleweed tenacious.

As in nothing much gets in their way to stop them from doing those Texas things
that they do.

I know this because I have a dear friend in Texas, a tumbleweed of sorts,
who has been fighting the good fight with cancer treatment.

It has not been an easy road, nor a peaceful road, but fight she has.

Unfortunately, life has been such that I have not been the active cheerleader for her as
I wish I could have been or really should have been.

Our ages are slightly different and we happen to currently find ourselves
at different life junctures.

Isn’t that always the way?

Just when she was getting bad news of diagnoses,
I found myself consumed in the care of a new grandbaby.

We were headed in opposite life directions…each going 90 to nothing…

Yet it never left my mind nor heart that she was in the throes of a battle.

I found that prayer was my best recourse because in the end, when all is said and done,
prayer was and is so much better than anything I could have or could continue to offer.

And at last word, she’s hanging tough…

Because that’s how they are in Texas, they are tough.

So just know that I’ve not forgotten you, Natalie.

And so as we speak of Texas and tenacity…I caught a story a few weeks back
about a group of real cheerleaders in Texas.
A group of high school cheerleaders to be exact from the small town of Kountze.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a high school football game but where I come
from, and obviously down in Texas, it is customary for the cheerleaders to paint
a giant run-through banner on a weekly basis as a pre-game ritual.

The banner is usually a sort of visual battle cry that is held aloft just prior to
the team running onto the field.
It’s a banner the cheerleaders hold up, standing on either side holding it taut,
so at just the right moment when the football team comes running onto the field,
they burst through the sign all to the sounds of a roaring enthusiastic crowd.

At this particular school in Texas, the cheerleaders decided they wanted to paint
words of encouragement for their team…Scripturally based words of encouragement…
as in words from the Bible.

The short of this 5-year long story is exactly as you’d think…
the cheerleaders were told by the principal and superintendent that they could not paint
those signs.
Maybe someone complained to the school authorities about a
violation of Church and state…as we all know public schools are state goods.
Or maybe the school administrators were fearful of complaints and they were the ones
to nix the signs.

And as a former teacher, I know first hand that if there is one thing that can strike fear
into a school administration, it is the fear of a lawsuit being filed…in particular
lawsuits that have the potential to be high profile.

And yet this school district’s administration actually decided to fight the girls and their
continued desire to make the Scripturally based run-throughs in court.

I’ve provided the link below to the story as the ending is not what I or you might have expected…
I was actually pleasantly surprised in this story’s end.

Five years have passed.

The girls have all since moved on…only to leave other cheerleaders to carry their torch.

There were filings and hearings in state courts which lead all the way to the Supreme Court,
who actually, just the other week, ruled in favor of the girls.

Ruling that yes the cheerleaders could continue painting Bible verses on the run-throughs
for the football team.

And as Todd Starnes, the author of the article so aptly notes…
“I reckon the Kountze cheerleaders have learned a very important lesson about perseverance
over the past five years. You really can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”

Just as I know my friend Natalie is demonstrating better than most of us!

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/08/31/todd-starnes-texas-cheerleaders-win-victory-for-freedom-religious-expression-praise-lord.html

sanity remains despite insanity’s fight for dominance

For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important.
We tend to forget how huge a part of a man’s life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate,
under Nero or St. Louis.
Daybreak is a never-ending glory,
getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance;
food and friends will be welcomed;
work and strangers must be accepted and endured;
birds will go bedwards and children won’t,
to the end of the last evening.

—G.K. Chesterton
from the essay What’s Right with the World,
found in In Defense of Sanity

Two things…well maybe even more but two things first.

First…I saw this shelf fungus, or full blown mushroom, growing directly out of the side
of a tree…and at first glance, I asked my husband…
“is that thing real???”
with his woodsy savvy response, “of course it’s real”

“Huh….who knew?!” is all I could muster in reply.


(a fungus among us / The Great Smokey Mts National Park / Julie Cook / 2018

Secondly…what about G.K.???

Is Mr. Chesterton not hitting the proverbial nail on the head with his very current
words???

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Chesterton…Gilbert Keith to be exact,
Mr. Chesterton came into this world in 1874 in London and died in 1936 at his home
in Buckinghamshire, England.

He was a prolific writer, being considered by many, the greatest writer of the 20th century.
He never attended college however but rather opted to attend art school,
earning a degree in illustration.
Yet it was after being asked to contribute an essay on art criticism to a magazine that
his lifelong passion for writing and his career as a writer, would not stop until
his death at age of 62…
and yet it never really has stopped as his words live on most enthusiastically
to this day.

And it is due to his prolific writing that Mr. Chesterton remains as current and
as relevant as he did at the turn of the century…that being the turn of the 19th
to the 20th century.

It was actually from the writings of Chesterton that lead a young atheist by the name
of C.S. Lewis to conversion to Christianity…
but Chesterton first would have to come to conversion himself.

Born of Unitarian parents, as a young man Chesterton and his brother veered toward a
fascination with the occult and that of Qujia Boards…as this was a time of a cultural
interest in such…a time when seances were all the rage and much in vogue with most of
cultured society.

Intellectualism and science were both coming into their own as Christianity was
being seen as the stuff of fables and fairy tales as well as too stringent for
those seeking to dabble in all things ‘other than’…
for this was an age of enlightenment.

Chesterton credits his wife Frances, who he married in 1901, with actually leading
him back to the fold of believers.
They became members of the Anglican Church…yet Chesterton would refer to
Anglicanism as a “pale imitation” and eventually joined the Catholic Church in 1922.

It was at this point that Chesterton became what many consider to be one of the
staunchest of all times apologists for the Christian Faith.

Chesterton was equally blessed with the gift of gab and debated the likes of
H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow and not only
lived to tell about it but was considered to be the victor of each debate leading
George Bernard Shaw to proclaim that “the world is not thankful enough for Chesterton.”

And so as I read today’s quote, I found it amazingly instep and even quite timely.

In fact, reading the quote and not knowing it was from Chesterton,
I would have thought any ardent
Christian living today might have said such.

And so it was on our recent trip to the mountains–Cades Cove to be exact, that we
found ourselves wandering into an old creaking white clappered church…
This small mountain Methodist church’s original log hewn structure, built in 1820,
is long gone …leaving in its place the current surviving structure which dates to 1902.


(a pic of the church I took several years back during the fall of the year / Cades Cove /
Julie Cook)

I find that there is something not only peaceful about this long empty church but
actually inviting…

The setting which surrounds this bastion of faith beckons to my soul.


(a view looking back to the right of the Chruch / Julie Cook / 2018)

As we walked inside this glimpse of days gone by, breathing in the stale dusty old air,
feeling the ancient wooden planks gently give and squeak underfoot,
I immediately saw the same simple altar with the same simple wooden cross
hung on the wall…of which was still standing after 25 years when I first took a picture
of our son standing at that very same altar as he once thought seminary was in his future,
I felt an immediate sense of coming home.

Yet on this particular visit, splayed open in reverent fashion on the ancient plain
wooden altar, sat a Bible.
A worn open Bible…
And whenever I find a lonely open Bible,
I am always intrigued as to where might this bible be opened…
what passage did a previous visitor find important to leave for
those who followed after…

The Bible was opened to the Book of Lamentations…
with one section of verse shining like a blinding light…
Lamentations 3:20-24

My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

So given Mr. Chesterton’s words regarding our tendency to take politics
(and our current state of events) way too seriously,
of which is oh so easy to do with one click of a button, it is a deep comfort
to see those long-standing words still there, still consistant, still constant…
a reminder that despite our dire current state of affairs,
the Lord remains my portion as my hope rests only in Him…

do all roads lead home


(just a little road off our walk one morning…it’s a dead end–as in it dead ends
into the ocean / Julie Cook / 2018)

It was said that at one point in the history of time that all roads lead to Rome.
More accurately that should have stated that all roads radiated out and away from Rome.
Such being that if one found themselves heading back to the city,
one could have said that any road would get them there.

Rome was the epicenter of “modern” civilization and the zenith of all that was
during the height of its day.
It only made sense that an empire as mighty as Rome would build a network of roads
leading out of the city–in turn, connecting Rome to and with other various places of
necessity and importance.

The picture I’ve thrown in today was taken during a recent morning walk while in Florida.
It’s a shot of a small side road that apparently is a dead end…
Just looking at the road one might not be able to see that the little road is indeed
a dead end but the sign on the right of the road is the first clue.

The sign indicating that there is no way for a car to circle out or around or on
to someplace else.
The road simply stops.

The road stops at a small walkover bridge. Thus that being the second clue…
the pavement ends.
That’s a pretty good clue as to a dead end—no more pavement, no more road.
The pavement ran out directly at a small wooden bridge.
There was a little patch of “wetlands” and a dune that the bridge skirted over…
leading those on foot over the small pond area and the dune–out and over to the beach
and eventually to the ocean.
So, in essence, the road basically stops at the sea…or actually at the beach in front
of the ocean.

No going to Rome via this little road…and no going anywhere really but to a few houses
scattered about.

And speaking of home, I am back…at home that is.
As my aunt would often say, it was a “quick and dirty” sort of trip.

Not that I exactly ever really ‘got’ what she would mean by that little euphemism of hers
but I assume it was just her odd way saying quick and easy…, and we’ll leave it at that.

After taking a myriad of roads down and a multitude of paths back to get home.
As there is no easy direct route— instead of there is a weaving in and out from
significant to minor roads…
all in hopes of finding the quickest, easiest and least congestive route home.
A direct route is not to be had, and if it were, it would be so busy,
we’d be in search again for some other direction.
Because that’s what we do as humans—
We look for the easiest and quickest routes to our destinations.

I use to pour over maps.
You may remember those now long antiquated folding road maps you could never
fold back to their original folds…

I’d spread out a map and with a trusty highlighter in hand, highlighting the passage of
least resistance…or even a passage of the most scenery and quietude…
just all depended on the urgency of the travel.

Nowadays, I try to input a point of destination, and in turn,
I depend on the car’s GPS or that of the phone’s to weave me in and out of the
current life’s journeys.
Yet I’ve gotten where I don’t exactly trust either the car or the phone with directions
anywhere anymore as we, meaning me, my car and my phone, are not always on the same page.

Their idea, as in the car’s and the phone’s, for quick and trouble-free, is not always
or exactly a guarantee of quick and trouble-free.

So whereas maps, GPS, coordinates, addresses are all great and grand, I find that a
good dose of intuition is still a vital component when traveling.
Knowing how to use a compass and knowing the position of the sun is also still
extremely important…or so says my husband the boy scout.

So if we worry, bother and fret about getting from point A to point B in a relatively quick,
easy and safe fashion–
why don’t we put in the same amount of effort or concern when it comes to living our lives.

Are we not concerned about where this thing called life is taking us?
And as to how we will get to that final point of destination…?

If we happen to be Believers, then we pretty much keep our eyes focused on being Heaven bound.
Right?
And in turn, we pretty much know the steps to getting there.
Right?

But what of the countless others out there who don’t consider themselves Believers or believe
in Heaven…what then…what in the heck then do you think this whole life’s journey
has been all about???
All for naught??

So no, not all roads will lead you Home.
Some are simply dead ends.

First, you’ll need to figure out what exactly is Home and as to where it just might
happen to be…
Next, you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to be getting there.
Waze?
GPS?
Mapquest?

There is only one roadmap and it was written about 2000 years ago…
It’s pretty precise, specific and never needs recalculating.

It still likes to be opened, spread out on a table and highlighted…just saying

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

when the sacred becomes the forgotten

Those who love desire to share with the beloved.
They want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great
love story of God for his people which
culminated in Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate.
Let them not be quite forgotten at the throne of God when the simple
come into their kingdom.

Evelyn Waugh


(detail of the face of an antique french crucifix I bought several years ago at
an antique show / Julie Cook / 2017)

The other day when I was listening to the latest segment of Anglican Unscripted
featuring my favorite man of the cloth and rebel with a Cause, Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
I was struck by something the good bishop said—
yet it wasn’t something you would have thought would have or should have
made any sort of profound impact on me or on anyone else for that matter—
but it did.

I would bet that it wasn’t even something that the good bishop would probably
have thought anyone really even noticed he had said.

Bishop Ashenden was offering a bit of an aside about a recent trip to Normandy…
just idle chatter really with the host—
as it seems Normandy is a place where he and his wife often enjoy visiting
as it seems they have a “retreat” there in Northern France.
And it just so happens to be a place where they seem to enjoy visiting various
antique / flea markets…

The good bishop made mention that during such shopping adventures,
he’s always on the hunt for all things nautical.
A nod to his father who had severed in the Royal Navy during the war and had taken his young son on many a sailing adventures.

But it wasn’t to sailing or to all things nautical that caught my attention but rather
the single one line he offered just following his explanation of his antique quests…
and that being “and to rescue crucifixes”

Seems the good bishop also keeps an eye out for the antique and vintage crucifix.

Funny….I do too.

And I have for most of my life.

When I was maybe 11 or maybe 12, my dad took us on a “vacation” as we drove
from Atlanta to Lake Charles, Louisiana to attend the wedding of my oldest cousin.

Dad thought he’d be smart and kill two birds with a couple of stones by
turning our having to attend a wedding into a family vacation—
as well as marking his and mom’s anniversary which was to take place while
on the road.

We stopped in Mobile on the way out and toured a submarine.
We went to Vicksburg and Natchez to visit old stately plantations and now silent battlefields.
We visited with cousins and family in both Lake Charles and Monroe as I even found
a first young love in our cousin’s neighbor—a boy about my age.

On our return home, we stopped in the Big Easy to get a youthful education on
the more profane side of life…
Bourbon Street, to a preteen and her 6 year old brother, was truly an eye opening
life lesson.

While in New Orleans, we visited The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France,
otherwise known to most folks as St Louis Cathedral.
It was in the bookstore that dad bought a small marble replica of Michelangelo’s
Pieta. He also bought something for me…a small black wood and silver crucifix.

That crucifix sat by my bedside, resting on the bedside table for the remainder
of my growing up…a symbolic and tangible link to the words
spoken in Matthew–“Lo, I am with you always, until the end of time…”
this was the hand reaching out to literally hold my hand–
especially over the years when I would find myself scared, sad or upset…
He was always there.
It even went with me to college as well as beyond.

And it seems that I’ve had an affinity for such ever since.

Now this is not a post to defend or deny the image of a crucifix,
I’ve done that.
Nor is this a post to defend or deny the Christian’s undeniable link to the image
of the cross,
I’ve done that.
Nor is this a post about the notion of the cross becoming a trendy fashion object
rather than a sacred religious symbol,
I’ve done that one as well.

But I do want to look a little further into this notion of “rescuing crucifixes.”

I’ve obviously been doing just that since as long as I can remember—
Often times in my purchasing history, these crosses have started out as new.
Yet as I grew and aged, finding myself visiting various flea markets and
antique shops, first with my mother then later with my aunt and friends,
I found myself unconsciously gravitating to antique Christian religious items.

My gathering has not been relegated only to crosses but there are small figurines
of the saints, Orthodox Icons, very old ‘finger’ bibles or the Book of Common Prayer
and even very old rosaries….

With the largest rescue being about a 3 foot tall, badly damaged,
very old, antique French plaster crucifix.
A crucifix that I would imagine to have once been a part of a local parish
church somewhere in France.

I’ve written about this cross before…and it is an interesting post about the
cross and its known history…a tale that, now having finished The Book Thieves,
makes me even more keenly aware of European religious items and books that have
been long lost, destroyed and or misplaced…all the victims of two world wars.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-relic-the-mystery-and-theres-just-something-about-those-eyes/

But it wasn’t until I heard Bishop Ashenden actually verbalize the notion of
‘rescuing crucifixes’ that the thought dawned on me—

Why are we having to rescue them?

Why have they come up so randomly and obviously missing in the first place?

These items that someone once held dear and precious–
items instrumental to ones spiritual life and growth that are now simply sitting
forgotten on some dusty old random shelf of some shop or tucked away in some
booth at some sort of flea market…has me actually more sad then vexed.

And so I wonder, when was it exactly, when did we allow the sacred to become the
forgotten…

And in so doing…are we allowing our very faith to fade….

“Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go
into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land;
and I will leave none of them there any longer.

Ezekiel 39:28

people of the book

“We are dealing with a nation of high culture, with ” a people of the book.”
Germany has become a madhouse–mad for books. Say what you will, I fear such
people! Where plunder is based on an ideology, on a world outlook which in essence is spiritual, it cannot be equalled in strength and durability…
The Nazi has robbed us not only of material possessions, but also of our good
name as “the people of the Book.” The Nazi has both book and sword, and this is his strength and might”

Excerpt from the the 1939 diary of Chaim Kaplan, a Jewish teacher in Warsaw


(an old friend’s family Hebrew bible / Julie Cook / 2014)

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the term “people of the book” is Islamic
in nature.

The Quran uses the term in reference to Jews, Christians and Sabians
(those from the land of Sheba) in a variety of contexts, from religious polemics
to passages emphasizing community of faith between those who possess
monotheistic scriptures.
The term was later extended to other religious communities that fell under
Muslim rule, including even polytheistic Indians.
Historically, these communities were subject to the dhimma contract in an
Islamic state.

In Judaism the term “People of the Book” (Hebrew: עם הספר, Am HaSefer)
has come to refer to the Jewish people and the Torah.

Members of some Christian denominations, such as the Baptists, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as Puritans and Shakers, have embraced the term “People of the Book” in reference to themselves.

Growing up in an Episcopal Sunday School, the only year I can remember really
delving into Scripture, other than later in high school during youth group,
was when I was in the 5th grade and the teacher had us memorize Bible verses.

This sweet woman was bound and determined that we would commit various pieces of
scripture to memory if it was to be her last act on this earth.
And unlike learning weekly spelling words for school, learning the verses was both
positive and fun as she made it game-like by “rewarding” us with various little
Christian trinkets.

That was the carrot for the 9 and 10 year old mindset—learn and recite a verse and
“win” a cool glow in the dark little plastic cross.

This was great for warding off vampires in the middle of the night as this was the time that most kids my age raced home from school to watch Dark Shadows—a campy daytime TV drama in the mid 1960’s about what else, vampires, werewolves and witches…
seems television just can’t get enough of the dark side…..

As I type this, I’m shaking my head as there is just so much wrong with that one memory from childhood that it’s almost comical.

Yet I am so appreciative for that 5th grade Sunday School teacher as I believe that
that was the year in which a true spiritual foundation was actually poured and made solid.

Now I’ve always loved singing hymns, even in “children’s church, as those lines,
stanzas and tunes have stayed with me for most of my life but those Bible verses
from 5th grade, with also having memorized the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s prayer,
The 23 Psalm, and the Agnus Dei….they have each played a pivotal role in my
spiritual growth.

I almost find myself laughing out loud over the thought of what if that Sunday School classroom experience was today…can you imagine how some parents would think such
practice would be considered extreme, cruel or perhaps harmful to the psyche
of the child!? They’d proclaim that every child should have a glow in the dark cross
just for showing up and why should it just be a cross, why not a crows foot lest we discriminate against the wickens…
on and on the 21st century dysfunction goes.

Over the years I have read many a harrowing account of those who were imprisoned in
various death camps, as well as accounts of those who have been held as prisoners
of war, who claimed that it was the memory and the ability to recall those once
memorized and recited scriptures and or hymns that they had learned as children which
was the key that helped to keep them not only sane but actually sustained their
will to survive.

For we are indeed a people of the Book.

A Book that is the divinely inspired words of a very real living God.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish
one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Colossians 3:16

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12