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

Broken and in need

“If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart,
then why not thank Him for breaking yours?”

Oswald Chambers


(The Spectatror)

So yesterday I wrote a bit of a confession.

I confessed that whereas I had proclaimed, just a few days prior, that there would
be absolutely no tree this year—suddenly on Sunday, there was a tree.

And thus Tricia, over on Freedom Through Empowerment, in her vast wisdom,
made a most profound observation…one that I just had to share.

The backstory as to why I had I opted on no tree was that
no one was coming home this year.
It would just be me and my husband and that would be a tremendous amount of work for
just the two of us.

Another reason as to why I was not going to put up a Christmas tree was
the fact that one of the tubs that housed my porcelain angels
and age-old nutcrackers fell off of a shelf back in June when I was moving
the older Christmas ornaments out of the deathly hot Georgia attic
to a spare closet.

In the midst of moving, I heard the crash and the ensuing breaking of both
angel and nutcracker alike…
and in turn, the breaking of a piece of my own personal keeping of Christmas.

I immediately told myself that I’d deal with it all in October as it was just more
then I could bear.
At the time—October was far enough away and just seemed like a good time to
think about putting the pieces back together.

Yet October came and went…came and went without any sort of attempted repair.
It was a burden I just wanted to ignore.

I was getting too old for the meticulously gluing back together of the pieces
of so many Christmases past—it was simply more then I what I felt up to doing.
It seems that everything I own or hold precious, in this little corner of life,
has been pieced back together and glued at some point or other.

Knowing that so many of the treasures of my past were now in a thousand shards
and pieces was frankly overwhelming…does everything have to break?!

I knew the work that it was going to take to laboriously sort then attempt to
glue all those broken angels and nutcrackers back together.
Tiny little arms, noses, bases, wings, ornamentation…
Many I had long before I married….going all the way back to high school.

Not expensive really, but just threads of what it is that has helped to make me.

They are the tangible pieces of those who I have loved and who are no longer here.
Those now broken bits being the physical links…the memories of gifts given,
of tiny “treasures”, gathered together.
Each one having a face and a specific memory behind it.

And so I finally dug in on Sunday.
I sorted and started gluing.
Following which, I put up and trimmed the tree…piecemeal angels and all.

Yet my friend Tricia made a very keen observation:

Beautiful tree Julie!
And really, the broken pieces glued together make it all the more glorious.
Kind of like our savior piecing our broken selves together to a more magnificent product.
Merry Christmas Julie!

And what a revelation!

Here I had what I thought to be a total disaster but in actuality, it was
a telling reminder.

It was a reminder, as well as a lesson, of my very own being.

More than me having come from the memories of trinkets given, past down over the years…
It was actually me being something and someone who was and is so much more.

It is the story of a Savior, who has come to put back together my very own brokenness.
Piecing me back together in order that I might be made whole once again.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

A Son, a Savior, who is given as a gift for all mankind?
The bridge that spans the chasm of divide, uniting once again both God Creator
and man created.

He had to come in order to put together that which was broken…broken
that day in a garden so very long ago.
As the breaking has continued down through the ages of time with no hope of repair…
not until the gift of a baby found laying in a manager on a lonely night
in the outreaches of a desert town…it was the Savior who born man that was
the hope of repair.

And so I thanked Tricia for reminding me that now, each year when I go to
decorate a tree, not only will I think of the stories behind each ornament…
of those I have loved and lost…of those whos and wheres of how each ornament
came to my tree…but from now on I will look at a handful of glued together bisque angels
and I will see their glue marks, their faults, and fractures and I will be reminded
of the absolute reason as to why I have a tree in the first place…

I will stop and remember that God sent His only son into the world to repair
the brokenness of someone like me.
And what profound joy is found in that revelation.

So thank you Tricia…thank you for reminding me of what this tree and these ornaments are
really all about…and a very Merry Christmas to you as well my friend!!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising
God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:11-14

Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

I’ll wait until October….


(Scrooge played by Alistair Sim and the Ghost of Christmas past play by Michael Dolan / 1951)

For all intense purposes…the calendar date reads December 6th—well past October.
But this was my lament and statement back in say, June…

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

At the end of spring and the start of summer, we had finally decided to “makeover” two
of the three bedrooms upstairs that were long in need of redoing.

The third room that was already up to speed, is our guest bedroom.
A room that we had lovingly dubbed “Martha’s room”
as it was where my aunt would stay when she’d come to visit.

Of the other two rooms–one had been out son’s room.
A room he vacated, for all intent purposes, in say…2007…upon high school
graduation.

He occasionally returned throughout college for a few extended stints
before heading off to a fraternity house and later various apartments…and blessedly
basically forever upon graduation.

He is now married for almost 6 years, with two kids…
I think we were safe and in the clear for changing out the room.

However, that’s not to say that the door doesn’t always remain open should a need ever arise…
but it’s just that the content is now drastically and delightfully altered
as the room has been brought up to speed.

The other room had been pretty much a catch-all for things such as a
weight machine (something our son never seemed to think much of in order
to take it with him when he finally moved out–sigh),
along with boxes and boxes of files that had been dad’s world, of which I inherited
when he was no longer able to care for himself.

So my husband and I discarded, sorted, thrashed, regrouped all the stuff that was to
stay and all the stuff that was to go, turning that last room into a lovely home office of sorts.

However, it now irks my husband to no end that I went to a great deal of trouble,
not to mention expense, decorating and arranging with some wonderful old pieces
I’d found, just to simply continue using the kitchen table for my “workspace.”

He, on the other hand, uses the office religiously.

When he retired, he was accustomed to having had an office.
A place where he kept his files, bills, notices and where he sat down
to pay bills and do paperwork.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I was used to simply grabbing space at a clean table.
Hence, my affinity for the kitchen table.
I also like the wall of windows in the kitchen which provides ample light.
Much like my classroom use to provide.

I did have an “office” but “the office” consisted of a computer table with the bulk of the
room being, more or less, storage space and where we housed the kiln.
I, therefore, preferred the open space of the classroom.

For a while, following dad’s slow demise, my home “workspace” was moved to the dining room
table as the papers and boxes were growing exponentially and the kitchen was simply not the place.
Following dad’s death and the gutting of the two rooms, I moved dad and my
“stuff” to the new office.

Since the closets in those two made-over rooms were now basically gutted,
I thought I would store a few of my more cherished and ancient family Christmas ornament
boxes in the two vacated closets.

“Get them out of the attic,” I told myself.
The summer heat, in a house’s attic in Georgia, is deathly.
The winter is equally as harsh.
Not the place to store things of “treasure” but sometimes
that’s all one has.

The boxes contained much loved and long passed down ornaments.
With each ornament telling a story.

One box contained the porcelain Christmas angels and tiny nutcrackers I’d been
collecting since I was in high school.
Gifts along with those offered by long-gone family members.
Boxes that always quickened my heart each Christmas when I brought
them out to the tree.

I thought the move out of the attic would help their survival.

HA!

Do we call that the best-laid plans…????

Almost as soon as I moved the boxes to the closet, I placed one on a shelf
in order to come back when I’d next move in a few more, allowing for me to
rearrange my sorting.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

Sure enough, the porcelain angel box was on its side as pieces of angels were
strewn across a closet floor.

I opted to play Scarlett–for tomorrow would be another day…


(Scarlett following Rhett’s departure / Gone With The Wind / 1939)

I uprighted the box, scooped up all the pieces, dumping them back in the box,
all willy nilly, and closed the top…
I stopped long enough to announce aloud to no one but myself,
I’ll worry about this little disaster in October.

The small disaster was more than I could deal with or bear that day.
Or seemingly any day thereafter.
I dreaded what I would find and I dreaded the meticulous gluing that would ensue.

Well as time past, I kept reminding myself about October.

July came and went.
August came and went.
September came and went.
October…came and went.
November came and went.
December is here.

I have decided there will be no tree this year.
The first treeless Christmas in 60 years of my life.

Nor is the manger scene box unpacked or moved from the closet.

It’s not so much over the broken bits and pieces of my Christmases past but
really because the kids won’t be able to come home before
Christmas comes and goes as both work and other demands of time will keep them away.

The plan is that we will go up on Christmas Eve to spend the night.
And I’ll go up in about a week to get the kids and help out at home.

The tree is a pain to haul up from the basement–it’s large and cumbersome.
The decorating requires various ladders.
Not to mention the hauling of the ornament boxes down from upstairs.

The fluffing of the tree, the sorting, and unpacking of the ornaments—
only to turn around and pack it all right back up.

A friend of my husband’s had offered to help him haul up the tree but I told him
not to worry.

“I don’t think we’ll put up the tree this year.”
“But why?” he implored.
“Because no one will be coming home, it’ll be just us.”
“Well, the two of you can enjoy it”
“Well, it’s an awful lot of work for just two people to stare at.”

Maybe it’s the melancholy of the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that the house will be quiet.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both a little older.
Maybe it’s the lunacy griping our Nation.
The country is being railroaded and no one seems able to stop the madness.
Maybe I’m simply tired.

The jury is still out, but I’m pretty certain there will be no tree…

One day, some cold rainy day, I’ll pull out that box of
debris and start gluing things back together…

But for now…I did at least manage to get the lights and decorations up outside…
so no one passing by the house is any the wiser that on the inside,
only the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Oh and by the way, my son stole the stockings I had made for his little crew…
they’ve been spirited off to Atlanta only to hang on the same mantle
my stocking once hung…
So the stockings I’ve hung are quite the hodgepodge.

Hummmmm…
maybe Ebenezer was right, “wouldn’t it be better if I just
went home to bed?”


(Alistair Sim

Ebenezer : [to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come]
I am standing in the presence of the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come?
And you’re going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen?
Spirit of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have met tonight! But even in my fear,
I must say that I am too old! I cannot change! I cannot! It’s not that I’m inpenitent,
it’s just… Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?

“Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life,
events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference,
but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love,
loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness.
It does not confer the power to change everything,
but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things;
and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives,
but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them.
Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love,
abandonment, trust, hope, and offering.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 58
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

saints and sinners

Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also
for the less admirable qualities that also appear.
Holiness is a gift of God to us as human beings.
Life is a process.
We respond to God’s gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging.
If Cyril had been more patient and diplomatic,
the Nestorian church might not have risen and maintained power so long.
But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness, and selfishness.
It is because they—and we—do grow, that we are truly saints,
persons who live the life of God.

(Franciscan Media)


(icon of St Cyril of Alexandria)

I will readily admit that there are many folks out there who ardently dismiss the notion
of saints, sainthood and what all that sort of thinking entails…
With the dismissal of thought coming from both sides of the aisle…the aisle of
Believers and non-believers alike.

Non-believers just love hitting up Believers with arguments around the whole concept of
saints and sainthood…

As in who merits being let into the special club of sainthood and who doesn’t?
Who sets the determining standards and factors?
Who gets the right to say yay or nay?
Can you de-saint someone if you determine they were more screwup than up and up?
With the kicker remark being…” and so, these saints of yours, are they suppose to have
some sort of superpowers which makes them saint worthy?”

And if anyone really studies much history then the actions of many of these so-called
“saints” comes flying into question.
As in…was this person more rouge or saint or both?

We go through life hearing phrases about living a saintly or Godly life.
We hear stories of those selfless good deeds matched often with some sort of
other-worldly gifts.

There are even various denominations which are more prone to recognize the lives of saints…
those being mainly both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths…along with
Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Anglicans…
Denominations that have long been looked at sideways for this saint fascination of theirs.

Yet there are many a Protestant who will refer to Peter and Paul,
as well as a handful of others, as “Saints”

And remember… many a denomination recognizes All Saints Day on the Christian calendar.

But this isn’t a post about whether or not Saints are real or not.
Meaning the person may have been real, but should they be classified in a particular
category of Godliness?

It’s not a post about miracles or the lack thereof.
It’s not a post about virtue or perfection.
And it’s not a post about what is or what isn’t the proper Chrisitan doctrine regarding
this whole to be or not to be saint business.

Far from it.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are well known “saints” and not so well known saints.
There are saints who are recognized by both the Latin West (think Catholic) and Eastern Orthodox
faiths… while some saints are not recognized hardly at all.

There are even saints which all denominations will claim while others are claimed by
a mere handful.

All of which can make this saint business even more confusing for a Believer…and let’s
not even go over to the nonbelieving side as there is simply not enough time nor energy…

Suffice it in knowing that things can be fuzzy at best when trying to figure out
who is whom and what is what.

Yesterday I caught a posting on “the saint of the day” by the Felician Sisters CSSF blog
that gave me considerable pause to ponder…
https://cssfinternational.wordpress.com

Being a lover of history and always fascinated by those who blazed the various trails of
long ago…
those scoundrels, scallywags, and glorified who each fought the good fight while
affording all of us more or less today the freedom to worship, or not, as we please…
I was most interested in learning about this early 4th century Patriarch of Alexandria
who was later known as “Saint and Doctor of the Chruch.”

However, we should note that it wasn’t until many centuries later that Cyril actually
made the cut in both the Latin West and Eastern branches of faith…
becoming recognized by the Chruch as a saint and Doctor of the faith in 1882.

I will confess that St Cyril of Alexandria, despite his deep roots in the early Church,
was not top on my radar.

And so it wasn’t so much his teachings, his biography, his fight against heresy or even his
rush to those knee-jerk responses to that said heresy of which has left some of his actions
somewhat questionable–actions and teachings best sorted out by historians…
rather it was what the Franciscan media noted in regard to Cyril and that of his slightly
off-putting and less than saintly ways, that made the greatest impression on my reading
of the day.

The idea that both Holiness is a gift from God and that life is a process.
And that it is our response to the gift, of which comes with a great deal of “zig-zagging,”
is what this is all really about.

Hindsight, time and clarity so often provides those of us more modern-day folks
with a better vision as to what once was…
But with that hindsight, time and clarity comes a certain level of smugness and arrogance.
A smugness and arrogance that falsely allows us to think we are better than,
smarter than and wiser than those who trod before us…and in that lies a danger.

A danger in thinking that we need no longer grow.
A false sense that we are above our own immaturity and flaws.
And in turn, we become narrow in our thinking.

May Cryil, along with the host of sinners now saints,
those who have all gone before us having seen the glory of both mercy and grace,
continue to teach us that God can take that which seems hopeless, broken and
lost and turn it all around…
as in a sinner to a saint…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-cyril-of-alexandria/

my whole world could shatter


(Autumn / Julie Cook / 2018)

I had another post written for today but there was a nagging urge to put it on hold.
I kept trying to push through the writing, trying hard to ignore the unseen force
moving me in a different direction, but I couldn’t push it down,
keeping it from consuming my thoughts.
So somewhat reluctantly, I put the post on hold and started writing what seemed to be
pouring from my heart and thoughts.

Groovy Kind Of Love
It was a song that I first remembered hearing back in 1988…
although it had first been a hit in 1965.

The lyrics were written by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager, both teens at the time.
It was first recorded by Diane and Annita then later by The Mindbenders.
Eventually, it was covered by The Turtles and finally Phil Collins

And it was Phil Collins’ rendition that left the most lasting impression on my heart.

My mom had died in 1986 at the ripe ol age of 53.
It was lung cancer…
and whether it was just odd or rather just an odd blessing, the entire ordeal only lasted
from July 25th until September 6th.
However, I suspect Mother had been sick much longer than any of us had realized.

In hindsight, I was very much crushed and even broken.
I was 26.
I had been teaching for 3 years plus I had been married for 3 years.
And if the truth be told, it was not the smoothest sailing marriage.
And now I suddenly found myself having to care for my distraught and very inept father
who lived in another city over an hour away.

My plate was now overtly full while my heart was undeniably broken.
And I was very much alone.

When I first heard Phil Collins sing the song in 1988–with that near hypnotic rhythmic
tempatic resonance, I would always catch myself singing softly along.
And every time I got to the line, “my whole world could shatter…”
the words would catch in my throat like a choking rock…
for despite it now having been two years since my mom had died,
my world was still shattered…yet no one knew it but me…
and even I didn’t actually realize how broken I truly was.

The song reminded me of my loss.

My world was shattered…

But…
I knew that I still loved my mom and she, despite being gone, still loved me.
Although it was now in a different dimension with a love that transcended time.
A thing I suppose I now felt was, as the song said, a groovy kind of love.

And so all these many years later…that song has come flooding once again to mind.
Not because I’ve recently heard it playing but rather because the Spirit brings
it to my mind.

So now as I look down upon this tiny granddaughter… I am reminded that
yes, a world could shatter, just as a rock still catches in my throat…
but there will always be that groovy kind of love that transcends time…

When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue
When you’re close to me, I can feel your heart beat
I can hear you breathing near my ear
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love

Anytime you want to you can turn me onto
Anything you want to, anytime at all
When I kiss your lips, ooh I start to shiver
Can’t control the quivering inside
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love, oh

When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue
When I’m in your arms, nothing seems to matter
My whole world could shatter, I don’t care
Wouldn’t you agree, baby you and me got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love
We got a groovy kind of love, oh
We got a groovy kind of love

ode to a fig

“To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning,
when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite
pleasures of the Mediterranean.”

Elizabeth David


(this past summer’s plucking–a fig resting on a bed of fresh herbs / Julie Cook / 2017)

There’s eating figs, figs stuffed with blue cheese, fig preserves
and then there’s “giving the fig”….
I liken the latter to our shooting of birds….but this is not about that

But according to Wikipedia, to give someone the fig means:
The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture used in Turkish and Slavic cultures
and some other cultures that uses two fingers and a thumb.
This gesture is most commonly used to deny a request.

In Brazil, use of this gesture wards off evil eye, jealousy, etc.
Often worn as a good luck charm.

In ancient Rome, the fig sign, or mano fico, was made by the pater familias
to ward off the evil spirits of the dead as a part of the Lemuria ritual.

The hand gesture may have originated in ancient Hindu culture to depict
the lingam and yoni.

Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or “obscene hand”.

Recently, a Ukrainian word for this gesture “дуля” (dulya) has also become
a jargon to refer to Control-Alt-Delete. (“…you need three fingers to
press the buttons. So it’s like telling somebody (a computer in this case)
to get lost.”)

So you should know that this little tale is not exactly a story about
offending gestures—
yet the notion of a fig, even cursing a fig, does play a dominate role…..

This morning when I left the house at 9AM, headed back to my dentist—
I had a full set of teeth.
Well actually I am minus one back upper right molar that was pulled
years ago due to it causing chronic sinus problems—-and as I was born without
wisdom teeth, other than that, I’ve had a nice head full of teeth.

About 4 weeks ago one morning, I had grabbed a couple of fig newtons to act
as my breakfast of champions.
Whereas I’m not keen on eating fresh figs, I do did enjoy Fig Newtons—-you know,
that whole debate of is it a cookie or a cake—-
potato, potaaato sort of thing.

When I took a bite of one of the Newtons, I bit down on something chunky and
hard—it wasn’t one of those pesky tiny seeds but rather a piece of stem.
And when I did, I immediately felt as if I’d broken my tooth.
I raced to the bathroom grabbing a mirror for a closer inspection.

Nope, the tooth was intact and looked ok.
Even the filling was still intact.
Whew…..

Yet there remained a nagging pain.
I figured I’d probably just bruised the area around the tooth.

I have had several teeth with root canals and crowns but this was still an active
tooth that happened to have a filling.

And as you may remember I am adopted.
I learned a few years back that my biological mother,
despite being a nurse, hid the pregnancy as long as possible.
No prenatal care there.

Of course this was the 1950’s and she was not married and that is a long story
for another day…but I was born premature.

Years later our family dentist explained to both me and my (adopted) mom
that in utero, my teeth had not properly fused—-leaving them prone to cavities,
and even cracking, etc.
Thus I have have treasured my teeth, working hard and being fastidious
in their care—-yet…..

The next day following the stem incident, there was a good deal of pain
when I drank anything hot or cold….as in sensitivity.

“Crap” I groused cause I knew what that would entail.
I called the dentist.
I went in and she did an X-ray.
“Nope Julie, I don’t see any cracks…it’s probably just really bruised.”

Whew—a dodged bullet!

Another week passed and still the sensitivity persisted.

Another anomaly fact about me is that many of the roots of my teeth run up into
my sinus cavity. Hence may age old conundrum—-
is it the sinuses infected or is it the teeth being aggravating??
I’ve had two sinus surgeries, with one having done wonders, the other not so much…
so my doctors and dentists pretty much roll their eyes when they see me coming…
as in here comes the oddity—-they would deny that but I know better…

So a week later I went back to the dentist who did another X-ray.
This dentist didn’t see a crack but wanted me to go see an endodontist.
This particular endodontist has seen me before, having done a couple of root canals.

He x-rayed as well but didn’t see much within the tooth, but the sinus cavity
on the other hand showed a cloudiness, indicating infection or swelling.
He did the cold test which definitely caused pain.
He removed the old filling and found the interior of the tooth to be what
he called inflamed.
How the inside of a tooth is inflamed I’m not sure, but I believed him.

This was Thursday before Christmas.
He did a root canal right then and there and sent me off with an antibiotic
and pain pills with an appointment to come back in January to have the
tooth permanently sealed.

Well I still felt terrible.

So the day following Christmas, I was in the ENT’s office.
He x-rayed my head, saw inflammation and changed the antibiotic to something
stronger plus gave me a shot.

The following day I was feeling better and found I could actually chew
without pain.

Ahhhh…..

Fast forward to this Thursday night— I had roasted a nice turkey breast.
I lay bacon over the breast to help keep it moist and self basting as it cooks.
Once the turkey was done, I took it out to allow it to “rest”
Roasted things need time to rest so their juice fill back up keeping the meat
nice and moist.

And as I happen to adore bacon, I grabbed one of the pieces and took a bite.
I tend to chew on my left side where the culprit tooth is located.
Not a wise choice.
Biting into the bacon, I immediately felt as if something had pieced my gum,
then all of a sudden out came a part of my tooth….

AGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Again I race to the bathroom for a mirror….what to my wandering eyes did appear—
the culprit tooth spilt totally in half…

AGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

The interior split half was piecing into the gum in the roof of my mouth.

I called the endodontist.
He calls my dentist.
The plan, be ready by 7AM to be seen by the one or the other.

I get a text the following morning at 6:30AM—be at dentist at 9AM

The dentist is here in town.
The endodontist is in a neighboring town about 20 minutes away.

The dentist takes one look at the split tooth and tells me that since it is Friday
and their office closes early, as well as the local oral surgeon’s office—he opts
to send me to another town, about 30 minutes away, to a different oral surgeon
who he knows works all day on Fridays.

Post haste I drive.

Long story short….3 shots in the roof of the mouth, one on the other side….
a lot of pulling, twisting, and odd noises emanating from my head,
while someone is holding my head and another is suctioning
tooth bits, all the while my eyes are tightly shut as I keep saying the
Jesus Prayer over and over and over…
then just as quickly, #13, what they call a pre molar, is gone.

Replaced by a wad of gauze….and later a tea bag whose tannin helps
to control bleeding, or so they say.

My husband was a bit taken aback when he walked in the door this evening only
to be greeted by a wife with a wet tea bag stuffed in her mouth complete with
both tag and string blowing in the wind.
Tetley tea anyone…..

And you should know that if I was telling you this tale in person–
the word tooth would sound like ‘poof’ as in the novocaine and cheek full of
gauze are doing a number on my speech….
did I mention the uncontrollable drool???

Following the pulling of the tooth, the oral surgeon did a bone graft as we will be
going the route of an implant…much as I hope that it will work but just
as much to my chagrin.
My husband has had an implant—it was a year long process and a small fortune.

So the moral of this long and wending tale,
besides the fact that I now have a hole in my head, copious amounts of drool,
and tea bags stuffed in my face….

Always be careful when opting to give any one the fig and be even more careful
when biting down on a Fig Newton!!!
You never know what might bite back..

And oh…be good to your teeth!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God?
You are not your own;
you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

free and self-determined…such is God

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


(hawthorn berries / Julie Cook / 2017)

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would
least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly,
the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Swinging on a wire

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be,
since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

Thomas à Kempis

Have you ever just sat back and really watched some of the news out there?
And I’m not talking fringe news, I’m talking basic television sort of news.
And it matters not which side of the pond you are on or wether you’re in the US or
even Canada…
madness prevails and is not discriminatory…

Put aside your knee jerks and just take a minute to listen and watch….and you
might just catch yourself actually laughing…

As in the hysteria has really gotten quite comical… pathetic yes,
but comical none the less.

The punctuated adjectives and facial expressions of the
gravely concerned and actually accusatory news anchors has been some of the most
superb acting I’ve noted as of late.

And just to make certain we’ve touched all of our PC bases,
we shall now que the overtly sensitive snowflakes
and progressive liberals who would so wish to accuse me of belittling the
trauma suffered by the recently uncloseted abused or the merely confused.

And my response to you would be to remind you that I began my working career in
the late 70’s—
I know all about lecherous and inappropriate professors, co-workers and bosses—
so much so that my own tales could make your head spin…
So do not attempt to lecture me on being insensitive…
I just prefer to be more real…as in we live in an imperfect and very broken
world.

One again I was listening to and reading two of my most favorite men of the cloth,
Pastor David Robertson and the Rev Gavin Ashenden, and their collective takes
on the latest madness regarding the implosion currently happening
in Hollywood, the Entertainment industry and even our Political circles
regarding the who’s who of the abused.
And I say “our” as a collective sort of Western Civilization ‘ours’…..

The who–or more like the who, who after 20 years or so, has come forward offering
tales of scandalous proportion.
As we only thought Bill Cosby was bad….
For it now seems as if the flood gates have been
opened and the dam has been released—-as everyone is currently racing as far
away as possible in order to now distance themselves one from another…
tripping over one another in the process as most anyone who is someone is now
considered a Typhoid Mary.

Add to this the latest lunacy over all things sexual….
as in what sex do you wish to be today and well…. we’ve created our own bit of
sideshow entertainment for the modern world.

I do not say any of this to lessen the real and actual traumas experienced by those
who have been sadistically abused at the hands of those they’ve loved, trusted and or admired…as there are many genuine individuals who have been hurt and continue to hurt…but the current onslaught showcased each evening on the nightly news has become something of epic pandemonium.

And maybe that’s the thing…

In Christianity we are not surprised, let alone shocked, by the news and tales of
fallen and sinful man and or woman doing just that—being fallen…or broken
and in turn being very sinful because we know that all of mankind,
and yes that includes womankind for those so obsessed with the use of words,
is all fallen and therefore very broken and in great need of healing.

We also know that there is true evil that runs rampant on this planet.
So whereas we of the Faith may be horrified, sickened and very saddened,
we are not shocked nor are we surprised.

The other thing in all of this is that the world, in the words of Bishop Ashenden,
“doesn’t make use of repentance and reconciliation”—
the world rather involves itself with that of power and position rather than grace
and mercy.
According to the good Bishop, “in the world, the room for grace is dreadfully
minimized.”

For this the current exposed misuse of the powerful as well as this
latest war of genderism does not surprise Christians nearly as much as it seems
to surprise news outlets and secular society because the majority of the
Christian faithful are well aware of both sinfulness and human frailty.

Yet the world would prefer that we “accept” such sinfulness and frailty
as the status quo of living—refusing to acknowledge any of it as sinful living
or living counter to the Word of God—
as the world would simply just rewrite said Word of God to suit her own
struggles, brokeness and sinfulness.

And perhaps the most disconcerting business in all of this is that the Church,
the church with the big C as in the collective Church,
has allowed herself to be modeled on the basis of the world–
as in what the world deems acceptable or not… and not rather on what Christ
himself has stated as acceptable and not….

And in her lack of intervention, when she and her leadership should have
intervened in some of the most grievous areas of abuse, she opted rather not
to do nor say anything when it was obvious that brokeness had made its way into the
both the clergy and the fold. She opted to remain silent…
further distancing herself for the very souls who needed her.
And in turn fueling the ire of an already leery and angry world.

And this has been a severe ‘dereliction of duty’ and most grievous offense to
a world that she had been entrusted to rather lift up her light unto….

So whereas those in the news circles and those power brokers of all things
entertainment and political are now seen to be running around like a bunch of chickens
with their heads cut off, the Faithful have been steadfastly praying for Grace,
Mercy and Salvation….

Because we know that in all of this latest brouhaha and sheer pandemonium of the
dominos falling of those large and powerful, along with the not so large and powerful,
that the only Hope and the only healing is to come from Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

And on that note, I leave you with a link to this week’s posting by the Wee Flea–
the Scottish Pastor David Robertson…as well as the offering from Bishop Ashenden

LED 15 – Scottish Government Trans Madness – Jordan Peterson – The Moral Panic – Expensive Piano Lessons – Walter Magaya – Blame it on Brexit – Jesus and the Jedi in Dundee –

Melanie Phillips writes in the Times: ‘ The Church of England is sowing the seeds of its own destruction’; re- Lorna Ashworth, Gavin Ashenden and Joshua Sutcliffe.

Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.

Jeremiah 17:14

Frankly my dear, I knew it

“Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

(the parting scene between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in the movie
Gone With the Wind)

I knew it was just a matter of time and I suppose the time is finally here.

I read yesterday morning that the movie Gone With The Wind is being pulled from Memphis theaters due to being “racially insensitive.”

Here is where I need to remember to watch my problem with my knees,
that kneejerkitis that often afflicts both of those pesky knees of mine because
I need to choose my thoughts here carefully.

When I was in high school during those heady days of the mid 70’s, I read for
one of my lit classes, J.D. Salinger’s 1951 book Catcher In the Rye.

I was an angst filled teen who longed for understanding so Salinger’s angst
filled tale seemed to be a good choice, right?
Well, not exactly.

Holden Caulfield was a messed up kid.
Spoiled, lost, and empty.
And there I was a lost young girl trying to connect with a lost young male character
in a quintessential tale of the lostness of adolescents.
Sigh…

Not a good combination really.

The language was off putting to me even back then,
as was the heavy black curtain which seemed to hang over me the reader…
heavy like a cloud of suffocating stale cigarette smoke, as
Holden himself seemed to be constantly drowning in the book under the weight
of his own heaviness.

Yet it was considered a classic…a troubled classic much like Holden himself.

In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book
in public schools in the United States

wikipedia

Talk about an internal struggle.

It was a book that was so controversial that it’s bad boy status catapulted
it to being one of the most sought after books of it’s time…
nothing like being told you can’t do, read, see or hear something
that spurs on that endless thirst to do just that…to do, read, see or hear
that which one has been told one can’t….

Catcher in the Rye is not a book I would now want to go back and read,
and perhaps it was a book that I should not have read back in high school.
I don’t like the storyline, I don’t like the graphicness, the lostness, the
angst ridden quest which never seems to find salvation….

I learned a long time ago in my Christian journey that surrounding myself with
that which is edifying is important.
It’s like being a recovering alcoholic and surrounding one’s self with a
room full of drunken sots.
A broken individual can only be strong for other broken individuals,
being strong alone, for just so long….

Which in this case mirrors my connection to the world.
If I continue to fill myself with that of the world, then I stay pretty much
in the world and a part of the world…a broken, lost, messed up, angry world.

It’s when I fill myself with those things of God’s glory and grace, and that alone,
is when I can finally be uplifted…
Yet the world, like a bottle of alcohol to that alcoholic,
keeps calling me back…’come back to being a part of the quagmire…watch the
“moralityless” shows promoting homosexuality, promiscuity, vulgar language,
lawlessness, brokeness… listen to the music that promotes gang violence,
sexual abuse of woman…’because misery is loving some company’
while no one is considering Salvation.

But all of that brokeness and lostness is not my point…
my point is back with Gone With The Wind.

When I was still teaching, I worked with probably the best Media Specialist
on the planet (Hi Phyllis)…
She started her career as a librarian…
but librarians were soon to be rocketed to the stratosphere with the advent of
technology within the schools…So what was the humble school book clerk
transitioned to being something akin to a superman or woman…the Media Specialist.
These are now the all knowing techie gurus in schools who still just so happen to
be the keepers of the books and periodicals.

Part of my friend’s job was to meet with the faculty ever so often in order to
share the latest list of banned books or books that were being challenged by
the outside…be it by parents, community members or whomever felt the need
or calling to challenge.

There would be an announced “hearing” where we the faculty and the community
would be invited to the said hearing forum where the banning arguments
were to be heard.

I never attended such hearings because I preferred laying low.
So I can’t speak first hand to the whole banning process.

But it was just all too much for the American loving freedom fighter in me who
would simply get really riled because the only thing I could picture in my mind
were the Nazi’s and their book burning bonfires.
A sure enough time when the lunatics were indeed running the asylum.

On the US list Mark Twain is a frequent guest.
As is the Bible.
As is George Orwell, Willian Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway…
with the list going on and on and on.

And yes, Gone With The Wind is also on the list.

It seems to me that we will allow current trending movies, television shows
and music to run happily amuck, promoting everything from sexual promiscuity
to violence against woman to disrespect to the glorification of gang violence…

But let us dare to perceive something in our past to be insensitive,
especially what we now consider to be racially insensitive….

Well our overtly culturally correct loving Nation is now the greatest group of
hypocrites since the Victorian aristocracy….
and yet no body seems to get it.

We have bigger fish to fry, like aiding those caught in the middle
of a raging catastrophe along the Gulf….
so therefore all this negative anger needs to be channeled toward helping and caring
for those in the greatest need…
yet everyone is too busy being selfish and too caught up in their own tunnel
vision to get it.

So like Rhett Butler, I want to say to the latest statue disputes,
Berkley protesters, Alt right and Antifa idiots among us…
as well as to the latest book or movie banning squads out there that
this growing madness over “insensitivity” is…well…
Frankly my dear, I just don’t give a damn.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men,
but God knows your hearts.
For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15