Mean, the new black

“You’re nasty and you’re loud,
you’re mean enough for two,
If I could be a cloud,
I’d rain all day on you.”

― Jack Prelutsky

“Women think of all colors except the absence of color.
I have said that black has it all.
White too.
Their beauty is absolute.
It is the perfect harmony.”

― Coco Chanel

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

― Mother Teresa

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(red spotted purple butterfly enjoys the blueberry blossoms / Julie Cook / 2016)

Remember when black was all the rage?
The glamorous ones like Audrey Hepburn and Coco Channel made it chic.

It was touted as being…
Slimming
Elegant
Vogue
Classic

Yet eventually there were those who found it…
Boring
Passe
Drab
Dull

New colors vied for Black’s coveted spot at the top
Orange
Green
Brown
Neons

Yet black aways managed to have staying power..
Just ask the French…
For it is….
Timeless
Powerful
Dignified
Stylish

Black is now…
The standard
The benchmark
The gauge
The arcehtype

So imagine how…
Kindness,
Compassion,
Empathy,
Charity,
Mercy,
Each are now feeling as they see how Mean and Meanness are vying for the top…

As in the constant barage of headlines around the globe…
Beaten
Shot
Stabbed
Tasered
Robbed
Humiliated
Tortured
Raged
Cursed
Sprayed
Belittled
Bullied
Maligned
Hated

It matters not the color…
As all colors are now victims of the new black…
Mean…

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:1-3

Mastery

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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(evening clouds / Julie Cook / 2015)

A swarth of dry-brushed color is swept across a simple canvas
No hesitation
No forethought or plan
Just a joyous sweeping arc from an out stretched arm
A wealth of color and texture.
Soft yet profound
Vibrant yet subtle
Purposeful yet delightfully random
Mere dust particles, ice crystals and fading light. . .?
or. . .
Exuberance catapulted outward by a simple expression of love. . .?

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For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10

(a progression of late summer Georgia clouds / Julie cook / 2015)

Unblemished

“It is far more important to me to preserve an unblemished conscience than to compass any object however great.”
William Ellery Channing

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(new beauties snapped on the IPhone at the local garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

A trip to the garden shop, especially this time of year, is nothing short of mesmerizing topped off with a color filled overload of spectacular.
Rows upon rows of picture perfect annuals, perennials, biennials and any other ennial you can imagine. . .
Talk about things that sell themselves.
Who wouldn’t want to walk away with a cart, or two, filled to the brim with the likes of such beauties. . .large, tall, spiky, showy, red, blue, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, lavender, green, black, two tones, monotone, sweet, sassy, demure, austere, even those of the exotic bordering on the erotic. . .

These flowers and plants are perfect.
Nary a blemish to be found.
Perfectly watered.
Fertilized to perfection.
Protected from wind, rain, and the relentless burn of the sun
Picture perfect and gorgeous.

But just get them home. . .
Get them repotted and replanted,
Add your own special TLC, step back and bask in the glory. . .
That is until the blooms begin to fade, eventually dying–oh did you forget to deadhead?
The leaves curl or turn yellow.
Wooops, you forgot to water when you went away for the weekend. .
Talk about drying out.
Looks like you over watered. . .
And it actually died from root rot.
Applied too little or too much fertilizer. . .
Wait, whoa. . .what about those Japanese beetles, aphids, white flies. . .
and the birds—who knew they liked to eat those flowers or was that the deer, or chipmunks,
or rabbits, or armadillos or. . . .

Things always look better in the store as there is an army in place to ensure such.
As in it obviously takes a massive village of caregivers
to keep everything prime for the shopping public. . .

For those of us who are Christian believers. . .
do you remember how it felt when you first made that conscious decision to be a follower of Christ?
That moment in time when you were brought to you knees. . .
Do you remember those first couple of days of the giddy excitement?
You felt clean and no longer bruised or full of blemishes
You basked in the warm glow of joy, peace, acceptance.
Your burdens had been reduced and you actually felt good for the first time in a long time.
You felt strong and bold, unafraid.
You felt like the teflon king or queen, as in nothing any one threw your way would stick or hurt.
You were walking on cloud nine.

And then, without your cognizant acknowledgement, life crept back into the picture.
What once seemed like a life of endless joy and energy gave way to frustration and irritability.
You quickly discovered you weren’t exactly indefensible or indestructible.
Your significant other decided to leave.
Your boss gave you your walking papers.
Your kids got in really bad trouble.
You got sick.
You got in a wreck.
You got robbed.
That joyous high that you had been riding seemed to crash right down on top of you. . .

“Oh where is your God now” they whisper?
What?
Does Mr / Ms religious have a temper?
Did you just curse?
Are you feeling guilty for thinking all those bad things about those who have hurt you?
What happened to all that forgiveness and pie in the sky loving of yours. . .
All of this as the bitterness creeps slowly back in.
You’re heard to murmur sarcastically “thanks a lot God”
A slick voice is heard encouraging you that you’ll be better off without Him.
“Forget about Him, see how He deserted you, let you down. . .He wasn’t really real. . .”
“Come back to your old ways, your old friends, your old life. . .you were comfortable there, accepted. . .”
As in. . . all the current misery is loving all the present company. . .

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded everyone in attendance, who had decided to establish or reestablish their relationship with Jesus, not to be surprised if they actually lost their job the following day. . .
Hummmm. . .

Was that what you signed up for?

Be mindful. . .
Where the Sprit works, there also dwells Satan.
A power struggle ensues for each and every heart and soul.
The faithful will be battered and hit with all manner of harm.
For ours is a fallen world.
We cannot change that fact.

We are like the pretty plants and flowers we bring home,. . .those that are so full of hope.
Yet we get a hold of ourselves and things don’t go so well—either by our own devices and ignorance, or at the hands of Life which is beyond our control, delivering a one two punch.

Doubt
Despair
Hate
Resentment
Pride
All of which rapidly creep in whispering into our ears the endless lies. . .

But all is not lost.
For God has never walked away despite those lies we are told.
He has never left, never given up. . .
on you or I. . .

Yet let us be reminded once again, we live in a fallen world.
A battle zone of Good and Evil
Yet thankfully we live with a God who Loves without ceasing.
He tells us to get back up, again and agin. . .and to simply follow Him
Never mind the bruises, blemishes, cuts and scrapes. . .
He tells us to gird ourselves with the armor of Truth.
His armor, His Truth.

However, for any of that to be true, to be real. . .
You’d have to believe in Good and Evil
You’d need to admit that there is indeed a God in Heaven
Or that there is evan a Heaven
Or a Hell
Or a Satan. . .

You’d have to admit that the soul of man hangs in the balance
You’d have admit that there is a Divine Design and not a random design
You’d have to let go of self, ego and pride
You’d have to be willing to become less in order to get more. . .

Many may scoff that unlike those unblemished flowers in the garden shops, ours is a life
full of imperfection, struggles and challenges, falls and scrapes, bruises and blemishes. . .
Yet just like those well tended and pampered flowers,
We too have an arsenal, a team waiting in the wings offering aid, assistance, defense from the struggles and trials of life. . .

We have a Master Gardener who has given us His all,
In order to afford each of us the chance to not merely survive,
but rather the gift to thrive . . .

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. . .
Psalm 92:12-13

Embrace

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

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(the lingering colors of fall / Julie Cook / 2014)

Flavors of the season,
orange sherbet
lemon custard
and
cinnamon–
envelop us dripping lusciously down trees like ice-cream from a cone on a warm sunny afternoon.
Dazzling displays of color,
tantalize
tempt
and
tease–
whetting appetites and visual tastebuds.
The warm yet vibrant hues of the Master Artist’s palette sweeps across the season’s canvas as a jewel toned curtain descends on yet another delicious November day.

Waning and Waxing

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the Creator.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(the waxing crescent moon of the end of August / Julie Cook / 2014)

A waning summer is soon to be written down in the annuals of time as just another volume known simply as the memories of a summer come and gone. . .

First it was June who offered her sheer joy of freedom and the simple recklessness of abandon which was to be found lurking in the heart of both young and old. Freedom whispered as Summer offered her enticing and welcoming warmth, coaxing all winter weary souls back into the light of day. The Days grew long and luscious as bare feet relished the cool tall grass. Soft laughter was heard across the evening skies as we gave ourselves permission to sit out just a little bit longer and a little bit later while savoring the perfume of gardenia and jasmine on a summer’s night breeze as we watched the fireflies dance with the stars.

Next came July, marching forth wearing her Red, White and Blue. Her night skies lit bright with the colorful displays of triumph and freedom. Reminding us of who we are and why we are and why any of that really matters. Children squealed with delight as the juice of watermelons and ice cold popsicles trickled down cheeks and chins. We packed our baskets full of fried chicken and potato salad. We gathered by lakes and ponds, casting our lines and pulling our skis–donning lotions and potions keeping sun and insect both at bay. Happiness and joy mingled sweetly together with the myriad of pitchers of lemonade, the bottomless bowls of homemade ice-cream while the smoke of a thousand grills and cookouts wafted heavenward.

Finally August arrived on a long hot summer wind. The sun bore down as a brilliant flame ready to bake a silent earth. The grass withered, the creeks dried as air quality alerts were sounding the alarm. Triple digits danced across the meters as we darted and dashed from house to car, from car to work in the maddening avoidance of the furnace blast of an unforgiving month. Our clothes clung to sweat soaked bodies as each breath labored under the thick stagnant humid air. Energies were drained as the heat of the day took its toll. Joy and pleasure took a nap along with the brilliant colors of flowers and blooms which gave way to dried crunchy browns. The cicadas sang their endless song under the blanket of a hazy heavy night.

And here we are again, preparing one last time, ready to offer up one more final “Hooray”–one last chance to capture the elusive siren known as Summer. One more opportunity to grab with gusto a little summertime enjoyment before the page turns, waxing toward a hopeful new season and time. A refreshing Fall is waiting in the wings, ready to offer her brilliance of color, intoxicating warm woody scents, and rich full heady flavors—but until that time comes, we must give Summer her due and pay her homage one last hot and humid time. . .