an adventure is afoot

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him,
the greatest human achievement.”

St. Augustine of Hippo

(a good book, a camera and a backpack…hummmm)

Remember me telling you that my husband retired as of July 1 after 50 years of running
his own business?

Well, my quandary was–what does a wife do to commemorate such a milestone??
…or rather…
what does a wife do to commemorate the removal of a millstone from around one’s neck??

I’ve been working behind the scenes now for a year.

There was always one thing on the proverbial bucket list that he has always said he’d
like to really see in person.
A place he’s mentioned many times.
But not being one to want to leave the confines of our 50 united states would make such an
adventure rather impossible.

Now my bucket list, on the other hand, is pretty much endless….
as I tend to think more broadly while my husband ponders life with more of a
narrowed laser focus.

I want to see St Catherine’s Monastery in the south of the Sinai Penninsula.
I want to visit Krakow.
I want to visit Jerusalem.
I want to see Auschwitz and Dachau.
I want to be invited into the labyrinth of the Vatican’s library.
I want to go to Chartwell to visit my dear friend Winston…
I want to see Istanbul (aka Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia
I want to sit in Lambeau Feild, in the dead of winter, watching the Packers dominate
all the while wearing my cheese hat on my head,
freezing my a*$ off, as I cheer on Aaron Roger and company.

My husband, on the other hand, well, he could care less about any of that.

He does taunt me however with his wanting to moose hunt knowing that I
have emphatically stated that we will not ever bear nor moose hunt in this house.

Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Just find him a good fishing hole and he’s happy.

So I told him if he really wanted to see this one particular rather sacred and hallowed site,
I would make it happen.

He agreed.

And so today is the day we depart for this bottom of his bucket adventure…
the only adventure really in the bucket.

I have opted not to bring anything electronic with me but my phone.
No computer.
No Ipad.
Only a camera and a phone…

A phone in order to touch base with “the Mayor” of course!
…as in I hope she can get through this temporary separation from her chief aide
as she continues to resort to that continued foot in mouth miscue of hers…
Or rather…can this aide survive without the weekly fix of the Mayor…
for you see, this adventure was set in motion long before the Mayor came into our lives…

(the Mayor has a problem with always putting her foot in her mouth /
Julie Cook (aka cheif aide)/ 2018)

So how will you write your “blob” my husband asks…

“I won’t” I reply.

This is your adventure…

And so just know that I’ll be back in a couple of weeks–or three.

it’s that kind of adventure.

Prayers that his trepidation for this sort of travel will remain at bay
while I try to survive without the Mayor!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Bucket list

“I got a theory a person ought to do everything it’s possible to do before he dies,
and maybe die trying to do something that’s really impossible.”

Patricia Highsmith

I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays,
no just for tomorrow, but in the here and now.
Keep moving and forget the post mortems; and remember,
no one can get the jump on the future.

Carl Sandburg

(antique water bucket / Julie Cook / 2016)

We all have them…
Those very public or very private wishes, dreams desires…
otherwise known as a bucket list.
You know, those things we want to do, see or accomplish before kicking the proverbial bucket.

Some of those desires are grandiose,
While some are demur and simple.

Many of them include travel, going, doing, seeing…
Be it….
The Great Wall of China
Climbing Machu Picchu
Riding a camel to see the Pyramids of Giza
Climbing Mt. Everest…or maybe just any mountain will do.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
Going on Safari
Visiting a rainforest…

Maybe it’s meeting a president, a famous sports figure, a celebrity.
Maybe it’s writing the next great American novel
or maybe it’s doing something to be remembered by…

I suspect a bucket list should be somewhat special, even monumental.

Not so much a trite list for bragging rights to be ticked off one by one…
But rather something that will be life altering awesome…
Life transforming…

A list, that I believe, should consist of only one primary event…
For there is truly only one such event in one’s life that is worthy,
dare I say necessary, of doing…

That being…
a meeting,
a befriending,
with the subsequent relinquishing of self…

The opening of ones heart…
The giving up of all that is which weighs one down…

The meeting of ones Savior…
Ones lifeline.
Ones Hope.
Ones Salvation.

And allowing Him to help carry any remaining buckets….

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Psalm 55:22

A bucket list, the Wailing Wall and the question of the Jews

The Sages prophesied that even after the Temple’s destruction, the Divine Presence would never leave the Western Wall, and that the Wall will never be destroyed. The Wall is endowed with everlasting sanctity, as the Talmud says: “And I will make your sanctuaries desolate” (Leviticus 26:31) – this means that the sanctuaries retain their sanctity even when they are desolate.
excerpt taken from ‘Six Reasons why the Wall is Holy’

“Dispersed as the Jews are, they still form one nation, foreign to the land they live in.”
Thomas Jefferson

“It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

(woodblock print “Shalom” / Julie Cook, 1981)

I suppose everyone has a bucket list, or perhaps for some, it is simply known as a “wish list”.
It is a list of the things one would like to do or of the places one would like to see before kicking the proverbial bucket.

Most people might list wanting to climb some famous mountain, or running in a grueling marathon or competing in an arduous triathlon. Others may yearn to travel to foreign lands seeing such things as the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal or diving in the ocean to see the Great Barrier Reef. Some may wish to meet famous and influential people, witness a monumental sporting event or attempt some death defying feat. . .no matter what, where or who. . .there is no doubt, for all of us, some sort of check list stored in the recesses of our minds.

Most of the items on the list remain just that, an item on an unseen and non-tangible sheet of paper perched in ones inner being–wistful thoughts of fancy that come and go as quickly as one cares to daydream.

Most of my thoughts are not the typical items on a do or die list, as I’ve never been very typical. I have always wanted to travel to the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula, traveling to the ancient monastery of St Catherine’s, in order to view the world’s oldest Icons. Within the collection at this monastery, which is almost as old as the Christian religion, are some of the earliest known “painted” images (or as the Orthodox explain, “written” images) of Jesus.

Sadly given the tensions and unrest in Egypt, travel to the Sinai is highly discouraged for Americans, particularly Christian and Jewish Americans.

I’d also like to learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic as these ancient languages are lynch pins to clearly understanding the inception of and growth of Christianity. Yet, sadly, learning languages does not come easy to this brain of mine.

I would also like to visit the Wailing Wall. As in Israel, as in Jerusalem.
As in WHAT you say?!”
Yes you read correctly, the Wailing Wall.

Now why would a nice southern girl, who was raised under the hand of the Church of England as my father use to liken the Episcopal church to, want to travel to a tumultuous area of the world in order to see a crumbling holy Jewish site? Wishing, no doubt, to shove some little folded piece of paper into one of the myriad of nooks along the ancient Temple wall.

It should be noted that to have faith and to believe in something that is not tangible is never easy.
To have faith and to believe in an unseen God and of His unseen Son and of His unseen Spirit, is not for the faint of heart. Such faith often yields to the gnashing of teeth and in deed to true wailing. So often we want so desperately to have some sort of sign or acknowledgement that the things we claim, proclaim and praise are rock solid REAL.

We all have pieces of the doubting apostle Thomas running about in our minds and hearts:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

So yes, I confess, I have a yearning to reach out in order to hold and be held. Who hasn’t ever imagined the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reaching out for us, to envelope us in His arms. Who has never imagined themselves as that woman who, in the crowd, reached out to touch merely the hem of Jesus’ tunic–falling at His feet and clinging to his legs as a lost child!?

How many people in the midst of anguish and tearful prayers have not wanted to see the Lord their God running down the walkway in order to take them in His arms, soothing and comforting the pain, suffering and sorrow?

Somehow I feel as if standing before the Wall, stretching my arms out as possibly wide as I could, while leaning my forehead against the rough stone would be a kin to hugging God. As the Wall is considered to be Holy–as in Holy that within the walls of the Temple once rested the Holy of Holies. Other than the burning bush, other than the tomb, other than Golgotha, how more tangible is there on this earth?

Which brings me to my last posed question or thought—that being the question of the Jews.
Christianity has wrestled with this question since the day of the Crucifixion.
There has been a love hate relationship between God’s chosen people and the followers of Christ for over 2000 years.
So much alike and yet so very different.
We have blamed one another and yet defended one another.
One is the child by Divine Proclamation—while the other one is the child by adopted Grace

I for one have never had a difficult time sorting out our relationship—that between Jew and Christian.
I do not feel as if I am better than, wiser than, holier than my Jewish brethren because I made the conscious decision of following Jesus. To believe in His divinity as God’s Son–the resurrected Messiah, has made me an adopted Child by Grace.
I am not Jewish yet my Savior lived for 33 years as a very devout Jew. I have a deep respect for that very fact and for Jews to this day.

I do not blame the Jews, as unfortunately many Christians have throughout the history of Christianity, for the death of Christ. We, humankind, Jew and non Jew, all had a hand at that fateful day—just as we still do on a continuing day in and day out basis of sin. And yet, it is to the very death and Resurrection that we, humankind, are offered true life.

The life the followers of Christ are promised is not of this world—as this world, with its sorrow, difficulties, anguish, pain, suffering, unfairness, injustice, so forth and so on, is not our true home. All of us, Jew and non Jew, are freely offered this life, yet it comes down to merely a matter of choice.
To follow, or not to follow.

The price of following is our very life–as we must surrender the life of self, picking up our cross and following the Commandants of the Almighty God and the teachings of His Son.
The offer remains open to all humankind.
Those who choose to follow are no better than any of the others to whom this “gift” is offered, they are saved but no better than–as we all fall short.

No, I do not find blame in the Jews.
I do not profess to be a theologian nor Biblical scholar. I do not claim to have the nuance of a deeply studied knowledge. I do not claim to have had the opportunity of lofty study nor have I dissected ancient text or had miraculous visions.
Mine is a simple faith and a simple following.

I will leave you today with the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The young German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was murdered by hanging on direct order of Adolf Hitler at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp April 9, 1945:

The Open Question Of Christ
God’s yes and God’s no to history, as they are known in the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, bring into every historical moment an eternal, unrelenting tension. History does not become the transitory bearer of eternal values. It is instead through the life and death of Jesus Christ that history first becomes temporal. It is precisely in its temporality that history is affirmed by God. The quest for a historical heritage is thus not the timeless quest for the eternally valid values of the past. Rather human beings placed in history are themselves accountable here for the present, as it is accepted by God in Christ. . . .The Historical Jesus is the continuity of our history. But because Jesus Christ was the promised messiah of the Israelite-Jewish people, the line of our ancestors goes back beyond the appearance of Jesus Christ and into the people of Israel. Western history is, in accordance with God’s will, indissolubly bound to the people of Israel, not only genetically but in genuine, constant encounter. The Jew Keeps the Christ question open. . . .An expulsion of the Jews from the West must bring with it the expulsion of Christ, for Jesus Christ was a Jew.

Taken form the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Barcelona, Berlin, Amerika 1928-1927

Presents of purpose

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child


I’m so excited!!
Do you want to know what my son and his bride to be presented me Christmas morning?! It was a basket–but just not any ol’ basket. This basket full of Christmas cheer was actually full of fun little knick knacks–knick knacks especially for the kitchen–or rather, knick knacks to use while in the kitchen–as that is the place in which I spend the majority of my time on this earth.

Julia Child, who I have written about before, was one of my hero figures while growing up. I won’t rehash the stories from the previous posts (“Butter to my Bread” 10/4/13 and “Feast and Fellowship 3/19/13) but suffice knowing that it was tops on my bucket list to meet Julia—but alas, Julia finished her bucket list before I began ticking off mine.

To say that she was an inspiration would be putting it mildly. My generation grew up, watching with our mothers, the original episodes of the French Chef. She became a mainstay in my world as she was the user friendly chef. She was not pompous or arrogant but very real and she very much wanted real women, real American woman, to learn how to really cook really good food. Food that to mom’s such as mine, which had only been seen in magazines or dreamt about but not something ever thought attainable, was now possible due to Julia coming on the scene in the early 60s.

Most mom’s such as my mother were not world travelers who wined and dined in fancy restaurants in such worldly places as New York, Paris or Rome. My mom was a stay-at-home mom in the late 50’s and early 60’s who was busy raising her kids. Sadly I remember the day when my mom discovered the cooking bag, minute rice and hamburger helper. May we just say right here and now my mom was not meant to be nor did she care to be a culinary wizard by any stretch of the imagination.

And maybe that is why I gravitated to the kitchen. Maybe it was the art teacher in me wanting to try the hand of creativity at an early age. Maybe it was the adoption thing (remember, it all comes back to the adoption–as in I am pretty certain that I am the missing love child of Sophia Loren–despite the fact she does not know she has a missing secret love child, but then I digress)—maybe it was simply my being named Julia too—but only after my grandmother, not the grandame of cooking.

Whatever the reason, I found my way to the kitchen and have enjoyed being there ever since. But it must be stated, for the record books however, that I am not some blingy accomplished little food blogger. I just love to cook–cooking for friends and family. . . and as Julia so aptly reminds us, for people who love to eat, as they are indeed the best kind of people. Indeed!!

And so it was on Christmas morning, to my delight, digging through the basket of kitchen knick knacks, that I pulled out the box for the DYI butter kit. OOoooooooo butter!! (do see that previous post won’t you regarding Butter to my Bread).

Now it should be noted that simple things, such as butter, are the mainstays, as well as success, to many a recipe and that any recipe is only as good as the ingredients involved–just as butter is as good as it’s ingredients—which is pretty much a good grade of organic, grass fed, cow’s milk / cream. Throw in a little sea salt and life just doesn’t get much better.

I couldn’t wait to try my hand at this marvel of transformation in a box. The taking of simple dairy cream, pouring it into the special little jar, and for this recipe, waiting 8 hours then proceeding to shake, shake, shake– pouring off the remaining “butter milk”, which leaves behind a ball of “fresh butter”—or so that is how it works in theory.

Now I did try something similar last year–a similar kit from William Sonoma. The WS kit, however called for non pasteurized cream–a commodity that I simple could not locate in my community without having to track down a dairy farmer. Something about the pasteurized cream not being able to totally transform from the liquid to the solid as readily as the non-pasteurized.

Maybe the sitting out at room temperature for the specified 6 to 8 hours helps this store bought pasteurized cream do its thing. Only time will tell.

First, however, I must go meet my aunt who has hitched a ride north from South Florida with a friend who is going to visit her daughter north of Atlanta. I’m driving a ways south to the interstate in order to find my aunt sitting on the side of the road with suitcase in hand. . . or so that’s what she fearfully thinks–(remember this is the aunt who is my world wide travel partner so a little jaunt 10 hours up the interstate for a rendezvous should be a piece of cake!) We are actually meeting at a service station at a specified exit. So as I journey south, then back north, my cream will have plenty of time to “sit”. I’ll shake this evening upon my return.

Stay tuned for Butter part II. . .