ailments, maladies and anomalies

Do you suppose there is any living man so unreasonable that if he found himself
stricken with a dangerous ailment he would not anxiously desire to regain
the blessing of health?

Petrarch

Ailments–illness, typically minor.
Maladies– a disease or ailment.
Anomalies–a deviation from the expected or standard

If we live, we will live to experience all three…
be it an ailment, a malady or even an anomaly…
Perhaps we will experience all three.

Some of us will have more than others.
And if fortunate, some of us will have them less and very few.

Ailments are more or less just aggravating…
a sore shoulder, a bruised knee, a cut, a slight headache…
things that don’t bring us to our knees but rather just slow us down.

Maladies, however, usually show up at some point or other, unannounced and
tend to be a bit fierce.

They may sneak up on us in the middle of the night or while on vacation.

They most often cause a disruption to our life’s flow and rhythm…
They come in as a cold, the chickenpox, a sore throat, a broken bone, the flu, a stomach bug…
They are annoyances to health and our time but they are things that are usually
rectified with some attention, a few meds and rest.

At other times, maladies can become a full-blown crisis…

They can come on quickly and out of the blue…
be it something like the physical results from an accident, a case of acute appendicitis,
a heart attack or some ruptured or blocked this or that or the dreaded “C” word…

Perhaps it’s a spiked and dangerously high fever for no apparent reason.
A signal from within that something is terribly wrong.

We tend to worry most when these things happen to children.
Often times their systems just aren’t old enough, immune enough, or tough enough
to fight for themselves.

We tend to go into crisis mode when the malady is within a child.

Yet maladies, be they minute or major, more times than not, happen to all of us
and most need our immediate attention…
or either we may suffer from the consequences of the ‘or elses’ in life.

Some maladies are things we have to learn to live with as it seems that our bodies
and/ or our systems are just the lucky bodies and systems that have inherited something
via DNA or just because we’ve become the lucky recipient of whatever has come our way.

Various long term maladies come to mind such as diabetes, chronic pain issues,
glaucoma, arthritis, and even some cancers…

They are annoying, somewhat debilitating, but we learn to carry on.
That is when many of these issues move from being a malady to the
category of an anomaly.

I know about all of these issues…but no more so than that of anomalies.

I have written before about having to live with IBS…
Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
When I was young, they told my mom I had a nervous stomach.

Today it’s more of a case that I hate my guts because my guts hate me.
It’s a great relationship.

I’ve also written about living with a bum thyroid as I have Hashimoto’s disease–
It steals your eyebrows along with your energy and gives you weight,
whether you wanted the weight or not…
and just as suddenly, it takes that weight away but it will not give back eyebrows.
It is a living yo-yo.

I’ve also written about living with hemochromatosis—living with a body
and a liver that absorbs iron and seems to store it as if the Apocolypse is coming…
as in holding on to it till it builds up to a dangerous level and then
you become known as Ironman or Ironwoman—not so bad if you’re into Marvel comics.

All of which are maladies, but if the truth be told, they are seemingly more like odd
anomalies…deviations from the expected and venturing off into the surreal.

Yet be they maladies or anomalies, they are most often things one learns to live with—
because as we age, we seem to acquire more and more anomalies—
anomalies that we just learn to live with.
Aggravating but we know the only choice is to carry on.

Remember what Churchill said…”If you’re going through hell, keep going!!!”

Yet within the recent past year, my anomalies have spiked.
I was left feeling simply bad, all the time.
Achy, tired and just almost flu-like constantly.
But who had time for such?
If you looked at me, you knew no difference…but I did…hence the anomaly.

I am the type of person who likes to have definitive answers in my neat and
tidy little world.
I like to know why certain things are and if I don’t like those certain things,
I want to know what can I do, on my end, to fix them or at least alleviate them.
I’m a doer and a fixer.
I was simply prewired as such.

It seems that my general practitioner, internal med doctor, feels much the same.

Let’s get all the answers and then determine what we need to do.
What is our plan of attack?
I like that, it’s like a good general in battle.

So with a spike in anomalies, which has only lead to exacerbating the current maladies,
I’ve had a bunch of blood work.
I’ve had a few ultrasounds as well.
And the call for a few other tests that I just let pass as time has not been on my side.

My doctor was left with more questions rather than conclusions…

So what does a doctor do when they have more questions than answers???
They send you to another doctor.

I was referred to a rheumatologist.
I was pretty certain I had Lupus.
I just knew it!
I was sure of my answer because finally, I would have some vindication.
I could look a few former doctors, who thought that I was nuts, in the face
and let then know I was not nuts after all!

I’ve thought I’ve had Lupus for most of my adult life.
Too many quirks that couldn’t be readily answered and many of those quirks were
immune-deficient related.

It made perfect sense in my non-medical practicing brain.
Heck, I was adopted, I had no history markers.
I was pulling rabbits out of hats!

It took me two months to get into see this new doctor.
She was backed up that long.
Two months of waiting and feeling like crap but living on…

Then it took almost as long to get the labs and bloodwork back…
One round would come back sketchy so she’d call for more and more vials of blood—
I was beginning to wonder if I wasn’t visiting a vampire or the good old fashion
leech loving doctor.
Heck, why don’t we just chop a hole in my head and let the bad vapors pour on out!

So Wednesday, when we finally met again face to face, she was very apologetic about the length
for which we’ve had to wait…the bloodwork was sent to both California and Michigan.
Am I sure I want to trust what conclusions come out of California and Michigan?!

“Good news,” she tells me, “it is not lupus.”

“Hummmmm” I muse in my head.

“But it is Sjögren’s,” she announces—“another type of immune disease but
the better of the two out of Lupus.”

“Yes well, at least I could pronounce Lupus” I inwardly grumble.

“Sjögren’s can accompany Lupus or stand on its own—
for now; it seems yours is standing on its own.”

“It does much the same as Lupus…it affects your joints, your muscles,
it causes fatigue, causes Reynauds in your fingers and it can affect your organs—
but it primarily attacks your salivary glands and tear ducts as in it affects
the teeth, gums, swallowing, and the eyes.
Oh, and it can lead to Lymphoma so we will need to do regular labs”

I’m going to prescribe an immunosuppressant drug that has been around since WWII.
It was a drug used to treat Malaria in soldiers but then the disease grew resistant so they
discovered that it aided in joint pain…so…

Huh???
I thought she said this was the better of the two autoimmune diseases???!!!
And so now I am a mosquito repellant…sigh.

However, she added, your liver enzymes are just way too high and your
ferritin is way too high plus your kidney functions are way off…
so…..”

And so now it’s off to the Gastrointeroligist for a liver biopsy and to the
Urologists to check on perhaps kidney stones or something else.

I’m the type of person who is a one-stop-shop kind of person.
I don’t like a hodgepodge of the unknown nor a hodgepodge of doctors.
Yet hence the life of an anomaly.

So I’ll keep you posted on this life of an anomaly, malady, and ailment.
Sorting out the three and figuring out which is what.

But in the long run of all of this random mess, I know that God
is well aware of what is what, which is which and why it all is.
It is that knowledge that helps to lead a malady to a mere anomaly…
something perhaps aggravating, yet tolerable…
because all things are used for His glory…
sometimes we don’t see or understand that glory…
but never the less, that Glory remains…

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1 ESV

And today’s irony…
the Verse of the Day:
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you,
even as your soul is getting along well.

3 John 1:2

The push for victory

“Do not be anxious:
go straight on, forgetful of self, letting the spirit of God act instead of your own.”

St. Julie Billiart


(vintage WWII rally flag / Julie Cook / 2018)

This year, back in May for Mother’s day, my daughter-n-law, son,
and new little granddaughter all gave me a most unique and oh so fitting gift.

Those of you who know me, know that such a gift, for me, could be none better.

My daughter-n-law scoured places and sites in search of something that she knew
I’d truly appreciate.
She pondered, compared and searched high and low.

Whereas my poor husband gave up years ago under the weight of the knowing how difficult
I am to buy a gift for, my daughter-law-remains true to the challenge.

This little fact alone is gift enough.

The simple act of exerting the time, thought and study all on my behalf…
the fact that to give a cursory expected gift, that proverbial tie for dad mentality
was and is not to be had—
her efforts have not been lost on my deep sense of appreciation.

But this gift…this gift was special and unexpected.

Anyone who knows me knows of my affinity over, for and with
Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

I won’t reiterate all of that here as I’ve written a myriad of posts previously
on the man.

Vision, tenacity, and valor, coupled with a hardy dose of vanity and ego,
all aided in what we in Western Civilization enjoy today…
the bashing and abusing of our various democracies.

Had it not been for Churchill, my life and yours would most likely be very
different today.

But enough history for today, back to the gift.

My daughter-n-law found a vintage WWII rally flag located somewhere in the UK
that someone was selling.
It is very obvious that it was homemade as the single stitched black thread silhouette of
Churchill is plainly sown on a piece of now mildewed muslin cloth.
In addition, there is a small sewn sleeve opening on one side for the addition of the
long lost stick.
The flag is out of square and finished quite simply…
It’s not a fancy piece of highly polished embroidery but rather something made in a bit
of haste.

V is for Victory is stitched below the silhouette.

This is the type of flag someone would have used during a morale-boosting parade,
something to wave on the streets had the Prime minister come to inspect damage after a bombing
or even waved following the celebration for Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945.

It was a perfect gift.

And now this tiny piece of history proudly graces the wall in my den…
a wall that is more what some might call a shrine.

All in tribute to one man who made a difference for our freedom.

And so with all of this talk of Churchill, I’m reminded that we must always be
prepared to fight the good fight no matter what the cost to self.

And we also must know what it is that is truly worthy and lasting in which to fight for.

And so it is, in his latest offering, that our friend the Wee Flea reminds us of
this same very mindset and of the importance of maintaining a steadfast and focused
clarity in what we are fighting for.

In an observation, that at first glance seems mundane, something that would be
a mere blip on the news, of which the good Pastor actually acknowledges…
this latest puff of smoke rising on the horizon is something that David actually
sees as far more troubling than what most folks would imagine.

I am reminded of the years that Churchill rang the clarion bell to the rising concern
of what was taking place in Germany in the early 1930’s yet no one wanted to hear
or acknowledge what he had to say.
Instead, they ignored him or simply thought him daft…
he had been out of public service for nearly 10 years and here he was still trying to
make waves.

There is a small story happening in the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway
which tells us a great deal about what is happening in the UK today
https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/968942/bibles-bedside-hospital-christian-leaders-galloway-royal-infirmary

At first glance it just appears like a minor spat that is hardly newsworthy at all.
But the story and how it is reported is revealing of the current state of the culture
and the church in the UK.

The basic facts are that Gideon Bibles were due to be placed in every room in
the new state of the art Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.
But one person complained that this was giving Christianity preferential treatment
and therefore should be stopped.
The NHS board agreed and so the Bibles will not be placed –
although patients are free to request them if they wish.

So what does this tell us?

Atheist secularists are able to impose their views on the whole of society because those
who are the decision makers in our culture lack both reason and courage.

In what possible world can it do any harm merely to have a bible placed in a room?

It is not reasonable to claim that it gives one religion an advantage.
The vast majority in that area of Scotland profess some kind of Christianity or
are non-religious.
It is offensive to other religions to imply that they would be offended at bibles
being made available.

When I am in a Muslim country I am not offended at the Koran being available.
When I fly Malaysian airways I don’t get upset when the TV unit tells me where Mecca is
so that I can face the right direction when I pray.

It’s called tolerance.

The trouble is that our militant secularists have no concept of tolerance and cannot
conceive of a world in which their every diktak is not followed.
They use the excuse of multi-faith to ban any expression of faith
(and especially Christian faith) in the public sphere

And ‘civic society’ permits this pettiness.

The article continues and you may read the full article by clicking on the link
I provide below, but David closes out the article leaving us, his reader,
with more of a warning than a closing…

“The hospital bible ban demonstrates that we are well on our way to becoming
a Godless culture,
policed by militant secularists and opposed by a gutless Christianity.
It’s sad that those lying in hospital sick and fearful,
won’t be able to read about the great healer,
the one who calls all to come to him and receive rest.
The words of Christ as he wept over Jerusalem are surely apposite for the UK today.
We share in his tears.

And in a final aside at the end of the article,
David notes that this blog posting was actually an article he had written for
Christian Today…a publication in which he’s been writing twice-weekly article for
now going on over a year…yet suddenly the magazine had informed him that due to
financial restraints, they are no longer going to be able to continue needing his
services nor will be publishing his column…

An odd happening that…

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said,
“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—
but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

(Luke 19:41-42)

Banning the Bible in the NHS

the Russians are coming…

Russia is a riddle
wrapped in a mystery
inside an enigma.

Winston Churchill

The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming….
is the title of a 1966 comedic spoof based on the accidental beaching of a Russian sub
off the coast of a small fictional New England island town during the midst
of the Cold War.
The film stared Alan Arkin and Carl Reiner so you can only imagine the off the chain humor.

Fast forwarding all these many years later and history oddly seems to be repeating itself,
but this time it’s not over a comedic movie yet we can still hear that familiar war cry…
that the Russians are coming…

I’ve really tried, really really I have tried, to ignore the latest brouhaha concerning
Mother Russia and all things Russian…
all the latest “did they, didn’t they” sort of mumbo jumbo that is currently consuming all
things political and newsy.

I’ve really tried to tune out all things ‘news’ related since hysterical pandemonium
hit the airwaves following the election…

All because global news media are still having apoplexies following the US election,
all because the US simply elected another new president….
as in its something we’ve gotten pretty good at doing every 4 years…
Yet oddly this time, this process, this election…
although it was one that seemed to follow the same standard procedure of every other
election since General Washington’s election, has been anything but standard…
and I for one have grown weary of the now ensuing melee.

The conspiracy theorists on both sides of “this trouble” have whipped themselves
into such a frenzy that I’ve sadly found it all so very exhausting.

While the question remains, exhausting for what?

Has all this focus, frenzy and fuss made the world a better place?

Has world hunger been eradicated?
Are children no longer dying due to starvation or from treatable diseases?
Have we discovered the cure for cancer?
Have all the global conflicts and wars finally ended peacefully?

No?

No, I didin’t think so…

But rather than focusing on doing things to make living better for people…
easier, happier….
we’ve all decided to lose our minds and go nuts over a president half the population hates
and the notion of invading Russians from within the highest ranks of government.
Forget that kids are dying from starvation in the Sudan as I type.
Forget that airstrikes are raging in Syria as I type.
Forget the growing opiate addictions in this country.
Forget the widening global human sex trafficking nightmare….
Forget global terrorism.
Forget escalating violence.
Forget that half the United States now hates the other half….
Forget anything regarding the relevance of improving the suffering of humanity…
but rather, focus on collusion and intrigue….

Obviously according to the news, none of that humanity stuff matters and actually pales
in comparison to all things Trump and Russian.

The Russians, bless their hearts, all they have to do each morning is to wake up and
stare in bewilderment at their televisions because the Americans have pumped them back up to
being Enemy Number 1 without their ever having to lift a finger.

Putin doesn’t even have to act like his typical jerky egotistical, megalomania, tyrannical
self because we’re doing a fine enough job inflating his depraved ego
without his even trying…

During the Cold War, we were afraid of being blown off the map…
just as the Russians, aka Soviets, were afraid of the same fate.
It was literally a game of Russian Roulette with global annihilation at stake.

Churchill, way back in the 1940’s, first alerted the world that the slumbering Eastern Bear
would awake, making its presence known in a way that would cause grave troubles for all.

He was right.

Stalin proved him right….
As a long and dangerous “cold” war ensued.

Stalin’s crimes against humanity have rivaled, if not surpassed those of Adolph Hitler,
yet due to the silent steel curtain that has blanketed Russia since Lenin’s death and Stalin’s
rise to leadership in 1924, those facts have been buried in an eastern murky mire.

The world, following WWII, lived precariously and dangerously from day to day.
that was until 1989 when a dividing wall came tumbling down and a massive thaw took place….

However oddly it appears that both the leaders of the US and Russia seem to be more than
happy to return, turning the clock back to such frigid and frightening times.,..
as our news media readies the way….

Or maybe the truth of the matter is that we never really left those precariously
uncertain times….

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles
in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.
Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ,
but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Romans 16:17-18

I ain’t no saint….

If God sends you many sufferings,
it is a sign that He has great plans for you and
certainly wants to make you a saint.

St. Ignatius Loyola

dscn1901
(stained glass St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

First of all,
let’s make this perfectly clear,
I am not in any way,
nor have I ever been,
a saint…

I have never professed to be…
nor have I lived what would be considered a
very saintly life.

But that is not to say that I am a wanton miscreant either…

I’m very much like the next person, full of foibles, warts and all…

I have, rather, during this life of mine found much wisdom,
and even grace, in the words written and shared
by those individuals who have, by no campaigning of their own, found themselves
named to that more sacred list of the who’s who….

It is during the more trying times in life that I tend to seek much
needed wisdom and clarity.
Certainly more so than during those more quiet and calmer days of living.

This time, here and now….is no bed of roses….
In fact it reminds me of the Churchill quote…
“If you’re going through hell, by all means keep going…”

Between Dad and me, I think I’ve seen just about every ologist out there.
Then with my poor husband,
who is up to his eye balls trying to settle his late dad’s estate,
we have been busy with the esquires….

I suppose you know it’s bad when the latest doctor you’ve seen,
who has known you for the past 25 years,
looks at you with his hand literally on your pulse and asks

“when is the last time you slept?!”

With my response being…

“you tell me?!”

as he soothingly comes back with a…

“Well I’m going to prescribe you a little something to help…”

With me sardonically quipping…

“well I hope its a sledge hammer”

It helps if you’ve known one another over the years—
through things like surgeries, colonoscopies, childbirth…..

Hopefully tomorrow with one more ologist and pedic doctor on the list, there will be some
relief…

And so I thought I’d share a few wise words of comfort by a few of
our past sisteren and brethren out there who have known a thing or two about
hardships, hardtimes, suffering, pain, loss and illness…

Cause you see….
that’s the thing often about these sacred who’s who members…
their words are not mere flippant off the cuff comments meant to sugar coat anything.
Many of them lived pain filled lives both physically as well as mentally and emotionally…

And yet…they allowed their hurting, their sorrows, their struggles…
to act as beckons of light…
focused upward rather than inward and downward….

One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying.
He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much
more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off,
and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer.

St. Teresa of Avila
(lost her mother when she was just 14. She suffered grievously from migraines
and prolonged illness–during which she experienced many divine encounters)

It is You Jesus, stretched out on the cross,
who gives me strength and are always close to the suffering soul.
Creatures will abandon a person in his suffering, but You, O Lord, are faithful…

(1508)
St. Faustina
(lived most of her life in poverty–even being turned down from several Cloisters
due to her low status in life.
She developed TB and died at the age of 33—
only after having established the devotion of Divine Mercy)

Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission?
They pay our fare in the bargain.
What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well
in order to win as many souls as possible.

St Maximilian Kolbe
[Said when he was first arrested.]
(sent to Auschwitz Nazi death camp where he sacrificed himself in order
for a fellow prisoner to be spared
and was sent to a starvation cell where he sang and prayed with the
other prisoners as they died one by one. He survived two weeks before the guards
entered the cell and ended his life with a deadly injection)

A storm is gathering…

You start out giving your hat, then you give your coat,
then your shirt,
then your skin and finally…
your soul.

Charles de Gaulle

DSCN3552
(the gathering storm on a southern summer’s night / Julie Cook / 2015)

Our prayers, once again, are offered up to our ally and friend…to the nation of France.
To the French people, especially the citizens of Nice, we offer our hearts in solidarity.

It is apparent that there is a war raging.
A war that is being waged and carried out by a hostile and ever morphing Islamic state.
A war that is apparently one-sided.

For you see, the Western World has yet to acknowledge it is being attacked, relentlessly.

Once upon a time…

In a different time and place…
there was a lone voice…
A lone voice that was relentless in sounding an alarm to the gathering storm clouds.

Yet no one wanted to listen.
No one wanted to hear the hard truth being offered by this lone voice…
And so the voice was ignored.

By the time the storm had come, raged and then passed…
Well over 60 million people had lost their lives.

It appears that today, we continue not to listen.

DSCN3622

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

harmony

“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves,
words that other men could not hear,
and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.”

Gustave Flaubert

DSCN3458
(evening Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2016)

The debate will rage on no doubt until the end of time…
that Science and Religion cannot and will not ever mix…
particularly with the religion of the Christian faith.

As there are indeed many entrenched and ardent supporters in both camps, on both sides of the fence, who cautiously eye their enemy—that enemy being one another.

There are those who say that there is neither room nor space for one another.
As some have gone so far as to attempt to disprove and discount each opposing team.
Calling one another names and simply dismissing the other as being less than.

Pity that…
for was it not God who gave both the heavens and the earth to His created…
As well as the stars and the sea?
Did He not provide for man the beasts of the field, the fowl of the sky and the fish in the vast oceans deep?

Yet sadly man, in his exuberance and quest for all things knowledgable, has deemed that he and he alone is to have the final word and it is he who can now, and most certainly should, erase the very presence of the Creator.

We cannot say for certain what happened that fateful day that both Adam and Eve were cast forth from the Garden, as the gate to Eden was slammed shut behind them, sealing it from sight to this very day.

We cannot say what God’s concept of time was nor what it should be…for God is beyond space,
time as well as dimension.

God cannot be placed neatly under a microscope not contemplated by an equation.
For there is no litmus test for God’s being, His nature nor His presence…

for His being is without beginning or end.

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.
During the period when the principles of modern science were under development–revelation and reason were linked. Sir Isaac Newton grasped this connection and “explicitly stated that he was investigating God’s creation, which was a religious duty because nature reflects the creativity of its maker.”
Newton was reaching back into the Middle Ages, a time that has pilloried as anti-science but that actually represents a more highly integrated approach to philosophy, theology, and the study of the workings of nature. In fact it was the “natural philosophers” of the Middle Ages (the term scientist wasn’t coined until 1833) who made modern science possible. Without “their central belief that nature was created by God and so worthy of their attention,” writes James Hannam, “modern science would simply not have happened.”

Excerpt from God & Churchill
Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley
with footnotes from James Hannam, God’s Philosophers

May we as Christians never shut the door on the sciences for they allow us to explore the creation God has put before us….and may those of Science always remain open to that which is beyond their comprehension…not simply dismissing what cannot be seen or fully grasped…and therefore deciding that if it cannot be seen nor measured, it cannot nor does not exist….

Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:16-18

Clowns to the left, jokers to the right…

“Well I don’t know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain’t right,
I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I’m wondering how I’ll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.”

Lyrics from Stuck in the Middle with You
Stealers Wheel

“And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.”

Martin Luther

DSCN2086
(an abandoned gristmill stone, Cables Mill, Cades Cove, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Townsend, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

A two front war…it’s what Churchill longed for and what Hitler loathed.

As soon as the US threw her hat into the ring, following the attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler had set his sights on Russia, Churchill at long last knew that it was now only a matter of time before Hitler would crumble as the result of fighting a two front war.

History tells us that a two front war is a very difficult prospect for any warring nation as it requires a vast wealth of fresh troops, endless resources, new equipment, ample food, unending ammunition and free flowing cash in order to keep the fighting machine well fed.

It is exhausting and vastly draining on multiple national levels.

It is the ultimate squeeze play…a forcing of the hand…with all cards having to be be played at the same time as there is no longer the luxury of hiding anything…it’s now or never.

And that’s exactly how our ancient adversary enjoys plaguing us most…
Squeezing us on multiple fronts, diverting all of our energies, our attentions, our resources, our nerves, our health, all as we battle multiple opponents on multiple levels simultaneously.

It is disheartening, physically and emotionally exhausting, depressing, and very near crushing.
Defeat almost inevitably appears to be galloping toward us on the horizon as the specter of Death raises his scythe for the final blow….

And it is at that exact moment when we gratefully hear the rallying cry…

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God
words and music by Martin Luther

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46: 1-3,7

(****whereas to many Martin Luther’s name cries of derision, division and contempt, these ancient words speak to all Christians…Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant alike as we, the collective followers of Christ, continue finding ourselves pitted against an ancient foe who neither tires nor grows weary of making our lives miserable—it behooves us to always remember that we never go into battle alone)

When I’m feeling blue. . .or pink or purple or green. . .you get the picture

“When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do
Is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue”

Phil Collins – Groovy Kind Of Love Lyrics

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

e. e. cummings

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(a sea of purple at the home improvement store /Julie Cook / 2014)

Maybe it’s the weather.
Maybe it’s the time of year.
Maybe it’s the barometric pressure.
Maybe it’s the boat load of tomatoes staring me in the face, taunting me. . .”cook us, now!”
Maybe it’s my thyroid. . .always the thyroid. . .
Maybe it’s the news. . .most definitely the news . . .
Whatever it is, I found myself feeling a tad bit out of sorts this morning.

More blah maybe than blue really.
We had had quite the storm yesterday afternoon which ran long into the evening.
Which lead to us waking to a thick humid fog.
Grey, be it summer or winter, spring or fall, can cause any spirited individual’s needle to point towards the melancholy.
Churchill had his “black dog”, I have more like a “black puppy”

On those days which find me feeling blah, blue, dispirited, out of sorts, off kilter—even when a good vigorous walk, a soothing cup of tea, a jolting workout or good night’s sleep just can’t seem to work their magic and shake off the relentless hounding of spirit, I have found one solution—Color!
What?
Yep, you heard me— uh, read me, color.
And no it doesn’t have anything to do with my having been an art teacher.

Plus I bet you thought I was going to say cooking, didn’t you?
And whereas I do love a nice trip to a fabulous cooking store, which one might imagine to be a soothing balm to ease any case of the “eh’s and the “ugs” —I find that color is actually more the quick fix—as well as usually the cheapest!
Or so I thought it was. . .

I needed some ant poison–I know, I can hear you, I’m always needing ant poison–but such is life in the South. . .
So I decided I would have to drag myself out of the house, despite a prevailing heaviness which was pressing me to “stay, just stay”. . .
I drove over to our local home improvement center, opting to go to Lowes vs Home Depot as the selection of “color” tends to be typically bigger and better. And as luck would have it the fall colors had arrived.

I mindlessly grabbed a buggy, aka, to northerners..a shopping cart. . .and, yes, I know a can of ant poison does not necessitate a shopping buggy / cart but I felt things were now out of my control.
I found myself mysteriously making a bee line to a beautiful flat of lovely “coralesque” snapdragons
“Oooooooo. . .” (think Homer Simpson in front of a box of doughnuts)

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(snapdragons / Julie Cook / 2014)

Before I realize it, two trays are in the shopping buggy.
“Mums, must have mums. . .
Oh, and they must match the snapdragons. . .” a far away voice begins to dictate directions. . .

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(a pot of mums / Julie Cook / 2014)

Somewhere in my head I’m hearing. . .”there needs to be a corresponding color. We (we, really?) did the mauves and magentas last year, time to mix it up. . .” this as I grab two four gallon pots of the yellow things. . .

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(Yellow things — Olivia Hypericum / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Cow manure, must have manure. . .and of course a sack or two of fresh potting soil. . .” again these voices in my head. . .
This is where it is best my husband is nowhere in sight.
A. he doesn’t get the need to buy flowers which may or may not survive the winter or for any season really. . .
and
B. who in their right mind pays for sacks of cow $h!t manure!?

Lastly the small voice reminds me to run inside to get what I came for, the ant poison.

And before I depart with my cartload of flowers, soil, poop, and of course ant poison. . .
I secretly pull out my phone, lest anyone think me a subversive flower terrorist, in order to snap a few images of the beautiful abounding color throughout the garden center—

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As I finally made my way to the check out lane, I triumphantly handed the sales lady my ant poison.
“This is what I came for” I emphatically announce.
As she warily eyes the remaining items in the burgeoning cart, with wide eye bemusement, she offered a flat “I see” as she proceeded to scan the bulk of goods in the shopping cart.

“Medicinal purposes” I am heard to respond, “purely medicinal . . .”
Feeling better already. . .

Just get me to the church on time. . .

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.
Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.
Gee, I really love you and we’re, gonna get married.
Goin’ to the chapel of love.

the Crystals

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(The fountain in Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2012)

Picture this. . .
This lovely fountain, in just 5 short days, all gussied up with a happy couple standing in front of it.
An assembled group of 100 friends and family, dodging Georgia’s infamous noseeums.
Oh, you’ve never heard of a nosseum? They’re in the dictionary. They’re on the internet. They are vicious, wicked and invisible.
They are a notorious southern hot weather pain in the a$%!!!!

A lovely southern Saturday morning–already hot with heavy humidity (what’s the South without humidity? It’s what keeps us from wrinkling)
Sprinkled with a constant threat of thunderstorms.
And there I’ll be, with my hand out, waiting for someone to slap a mint julep in it.

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It’s finally time I take this show on the road.
After a three year long engagement. . .
After a year long, hit it hard, organizing marathon of a road trip wedding. . .
After months of running my a%$ off on an elliptical— and lest we not forget my discovery of my behind, post exterior, derrière, bum, being not exactly symmetrical. . . and may we all recall my husband’s brilliant solution of duct tape—let’s not go there shall we.
All the while as visions of robbing fort Knox, to help pay for this little fete, are dancing in my head.. .
Yep, it’s definitely time to get this show on the road–as in literally, we need to get on the road, we need to get on the road as in NOW!!!!!!!

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Posts this week may be sporadic.
Posts may be non existent.
Posts may make no sense. . .
–or–
Being the the consummate educator that I am, I may not even miss a beat—at this point, it’s anyone’s guess and depends on the number of juleps people throw my way…medicinal purposes you know, as in nerve tonics. . .
But the show is definitely hitting the road very shortly. . .

But first there are trips to the airport, still figuring out if Dad is up to joining this traveling show, a gazillon things need to be packed in my car, including the Prime minister. . .
You’re taking Winston Churchill? you ask. . .
Wouldn’t you take Winston Churchill?
It’s a long story, but at this point, I think if Winston could stave off the Nazis from invading the great island nation of my ancestors, he can certainly give aid, offer comfort plus render a clear and level head to me and “the cause” this week!!
Unless he gets into the juleps. . .

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I’ll be blazing the trail down the lonely undeveloped, sans any rest areas, I-16, cutting a diagonal line clear across this state, heading for the city of this great state’s inception. You know we’re named for King George and I’m headed to the land of General Oglethorpe, as my peeps will be following along throughout the course of the week.
Kind of like fire ants, traveling along in an erratic line, on a mission, to God knows where.

So with all of this nervous rambling and chatter aside, may it now be known and most official– it’s less than a week to D day and I’ve got to get a move on!!—as in NOW!

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Stay tuned.
Say prayers–not so much for me as I’ve got this, but for Brenton and Abby— as they finally see the culmination of lots of time, blood, sweat and tears coming to fruition—all on a beautiful Saturday in June, during a tender ceremony, and may God’s grace shine forever upon their union . . . and may we all remember. . .

keep-calm-and-carry-on

A City of Roses, a Polish Museum, and Prisoner 16770

Upon our arrival in Zurich (as part of the “Great Retirement Adventure), and after having eaten chocolate for breakfast (see yesterday’s post Feast and Fellowship), we made our way through the old town, past the glorious open- air market that Zurich is so famous for, down to the waterway and docks. Zurich sits on the northern end of Lake Zurich. We wanted to purchase tickets for the ferry for the following morning. There, on the southern end of this large body of water, was the medieval town of Rapperswill—otherwise known as “the City of Roses”.

Thinking that taking the two-hour Ferry ride would be a delightful way to travel down a beautiful lake with views of the Alps, as well as the surrounding woods and small towns, we purchased 3 tickets. It was to be indeed a perfect way to spend the day but one must be aware of the weather in Zurich. One must know before hand if the weather is to be cooperative, for if the weather is poor, which can often be the case, the 40-minute train ride is the better option (which was going to be our transportation back to Zurich later that afternoon). We were fortunate, as this late September day, was cool but the visibility was good. The ferry has indoor, as well as outdoor seating, an offering of light to heavy refreshments with an extensive menu offering. We opted for the hot chocolate.

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Rapperswill translates to “city of Roses”. The city is known for the various rose gardens located throughout town, with the most poignant being located in the center of town. It is here, in the city center, that a small garden of roses has been planted for blind residents and visitors alike. Throughout this particular garden area of roses, there are plaques “written” in brail offering explanations for each of the various types of roses. I think this is a truly thoughtful garden—a sensory offering to those who may share in the beauty, not necessarily by sight, but rather in a more intimate way, by scent.

We arrived in Rapperswill without any real plan. We thought we’d just wander throughout the old historic city center. We couldn’t help but notice a fortress up on a hill and decided we would make our way to this “castle” not knowing exactly what it was that we were seeing or particularly what we were looking for.

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We climbed our way up to the top of the hill by way of ancient granite steps. Once at the top, we found a beautiful quiet church, which I understand is actually a Capuchin Monastery that dates from the 15th century.
The interior is colorful with a simple beauty. As the church is open for visitors and worshipers alike, it offers a beautifully quiet place for reflection and prayer. Basking in the ancient altarpieces and art work which adorns this medieval church, I sat in awe and found myself wondering about the ones who had created, not only the art work in a time so foreign to our own, but to those who had the vision of erecting a church on this particular bluff. I thank God for their vision, perseverance and desire to share their joy of their deep Faith.

It was, however, what was across the walkway that captured our attention. A castle.

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We made our way through the massive stone arch, following the path up a winding walkway lined with beautiful flowers, plants, and fruit trees (figs in particular). The grounds of this “fortress” are manicured with precision; the greenery of the plants, trees and grass, matching the deep blue sky was a beautiful melding of analogous colors. It is here that visitors are offered beautiful views of the steel blue lake.

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Thinking we would take a little tour of this castle, we made our way through the gate into a graveled courtyard. Still thinking this was a castle, we wandered inside looking for someone who could maybe provide us with some information. We spied a small sign on the wall: Museum Polskie w Rapperswilu. Ahhh, the Polish Museum I had read about, but here in this castle?

The castle dates to the 1300’s. The Museum has been housed here since the late 1800’s. We found the little ticket office. The woman at the desk spoke no English, and we spoke neither German nor Polish but she handed me three tickets as I hand her a few euros. She also gave me a beautiful hardbound book, written in Polish, showcasing the Museum, it’s contents and its history. I made an offer of more euros to pay for the book but she shook her head, seems it was part of the visit.

When I think of Poland, I think of Karol Wojtyla– Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa, these two however were but a very small portion of the massive museum. The “museum” wends its way through the once grand rooms and walkways of this mighty fortress. I imagined what it must have been like living here…the massive stonewalls; the spectacular views of the lake and small town…I bet it would be quite drafty and cold in the winter months. This was however early Autumn; all was still green along with some beautiful tinges of color in the leaves creating the anticipation of how beautiful this place must be when Autumn is in full regalia.

Small windows open up throughout the massive stonewalls, once strategic places for bows and arrows as defense of a town, now offers glimpses of a beautiful church/monastery, lake and surrounding cemetery. The cemetery I must add is probably one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen. It is manicured to perfection. Each grave is adorned with a cross, different from all of the other grave’s crosses.

The individual graves are mini gardens of wonder. Rose trees, moss, living, well maintained, flowers and plants of every description grace each symmetrical grave. There is not space to speak of between the graves. The cemetery sits on a small terrace of land at the base of the castle overlooking the lake. I liken the cemetery to more of a beautiful garden—not a place of sorrow or forgotten loved ones, but rather a nice place to wander.

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As we make our way from room to room within the “museum”, our voices and steps on the wooden floor, echoing throughout the hallways, as we are the only visitors this particular day. There are early historical artifacts, period dress and costumes, tributes to famous Poles such as Madame Curie, who I had forgotten was actually Polish. There is also a good bit of information, photographs and paintings as commemorations to Poland’s strong religious foundation—Christian, Orthodox and Jewish. Antique silver menorahs and Kiddush cups sit on display in shadow boxes. Copies of three of Poland’s most famous images of the Madonna grace a small niche.

As we round a corner, taking a turn into another hallway, we are stopped in our tracks. There standing before us is a gated stone arch leading into what appears to be some sort of tomb, burial chamber, or cell. Two large rock relief angels herald, on trumpets, a sort of greeting or foreboding message to those about to enter into the chamber. There on the far wall of the chamber hangs a bronze sculpted crucified body of Christ, bound in chains, no cross, just hanging on the wall. To the right of the crucified Christ is a barred opening, akin to a small jail cell, into the wall.

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We enter slowly, not certain as to what we should expect. The sculptured crucified Christ is very moving. It is large, life size and hauntingly beautiful. As we look to our right of the “cell”, we see a large black and white photograph of a man propped up in the barred opening, along with the immediately recognizable gray stripped pajama like uniform from a concentration camp. There is another smaller black and white photograph of the man in the larger picture, wearing the uniform, looking gaunt and almost ghostly.

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Immediately I know who this person is, even though I do not know as much about him as I should. It is Father Maximilian Kolbe. I knew that Father Kolbe had given his life in place of a fellow prisoner’s life while interned at one of the Death Camps during the War (remember the War is always WWII). Father Kolbe was a victim of the Holocaust, even though he was a Catholic priest. I made a mental pledge that once I returned home, I would spend some time investigating and getting to know Father Kolbe a bit better.

Fast forward to today.

Once home I went on line and did my typical searching for information concerning Father Kolbe. I bought a couple of books. I am a huge history nut when it comes to World War II. I will one day write about one of my many heroes of this time, in particular Sir Winston Spencer Churchill. But it was Father Kolbe who was holding my attention at the time—as he still holds my attention today.

Father Kolbe was a Catholic Priest in Poland. He was a Franciscan. He traveled extensively early in his vocational career, founding monasteries in places as far away as Japan and India. Upon Return to Poland he opened another monastery, operated a radio station and printing facility to better distribute the Word of God.
When the Germans invaded Poland, Father Kolbe opened the monastery doors to any and all in need of a safe haven. He took in hundreds of refugees with a large number being Jewish. The Nazis discovered Father Kolbe’s printing facility and demanded that he stop the printing and distributing of his “religious propaganda”.

Eventually Father Kolbe was arrested. Thousands of Catholic priests were arrested or out right murdered, along with the thousands of Jews, mentally disabled and physically handicapped from Poland. Father Kolbe was eventually sent to Auschwitz. Where he became known as Prisoner 16770. Because he was both Polish and a priest, this made him a prime target for the wrath of the Nazi guards. He was regularly and viscously beaten. He was ordered to carry out physically demanding chores that his frail body found more and more difficult to conduct. He would often collapse from hunger and exhaustion, invoking only more brutal beatings. However Father Kolbe never complained.

In the evenings, when the prisoners would receive whatever food was to be distributed, Father Kolbe would forego his turn, allowing those whom he deemed hungrier then himself, to take his share. At night, Father Kolbe often chose not to lay down and rest, but rather would make his way throughout the barracks offering prayers and consolation to and for his fellow prisoners.

On one particular day that would prove to have historic repercussions in many ways, a prisoner escaped from Father Kolbe’s unit. When the rare incident of an escape took place at Auschwitz, The Nazis retaliated. It was their custom to take 10 lives for each escaped life. It just so happened that this particular escapee had actually died in camp but by the time the Nazis realized, their reprisal taking was too late. And if the truth be known, it would not have mattered, as the Nazis seemed to relish their “eye for an eye”.

The Nazis chose 10 men. One of the men, Francis Gajowniczek, screamed out in painful protest. He became distraught, concerned for his wife and children if he was to be killed. Father Kolbe stepped forward. The Nazi commander asked what “the polish pig” standing before him wanted. Father Kolbe told the commander that he would voluntarily take the place of the other man as the man had a family who needed him and Father Kolbe was a priest who did not have a wife or children. The Commander agreed.

Father Kolbe and the 9 other men were taken to a starvation cell. They were thrown into the cell and left to die. For two weeks the men languished. Many drank their own urine or licked the damp walls. Instead of cries of hunger and death, the guards heard the singing of hymns, the recitation of prayers and the rosary.
Father Kolbe was often seen standing over the other prisoners, offering them his comfort. When he became to weak to stand or pray in earnest, he could be heard whispering prayers.

After the end of two weeks, 4 of the men were still alive. The Nazis needed the cell and had tired of the waiting. They went into the cell to inject the remaining prisoners with deadly carbolic acid. Father Kolbe was the last living prisoner. As the guard approached him, he readily offered his arm for the injection. He died on August 14, 1941. His body was dumped, along with countless others, into the large crematories to be incinerated.

Francis Gajowniczek survived the war. His wife and children did not. He lived the remainder of his life forever grateful to Father Kolbe. His survival and tribute to Father Kolbe is a deeply touching story. I encourage you to read further about this story of sacrifice, death and life. It is simply amazing.

However, it is my fear that those of us living today, in this oh so modern society of excess, will forget the stories of people like Maximilian Kolbe. They will be the old stories of days long gone. Stories whose relevance to our own lives will sound so foreign. We must always remember the sacrifices made for what it is that we all so enjoy to this day and this simply is our freedom.

The freedom we have to take for granted, to have what we want when we want it, to believe or not to believe. Great sacrifices were made for you and I but I doubt many of us even realize that or give such thoughts much concern. But of course the greatest sacrifice is the one we mark during this Lenten period and soon to be Holy week. May we all take time to remember the countless sacrifices made for us, who enjoy a “free” today.

His fellow Pole, Father Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II, canonized Father Kolbe in 1982.