defeating the octopus…

“To be defeated and not submit, is victory;
to be victorious and rest on one’s laurels,
is defeat.”

Józef Piłsudski

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste,
and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

Matthew 12:25


(detail from the Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

Is it just me or is this how many of us are feeling these days?

All wrapped up by something menacing, trying its best to not only entangle us but to
consume us and suck us down to the depths of the sea?

Yet in actuality, this is a statue of Neptune trying to spear an entangling octopus.

However, it might as well be a statue of any one of us…an image of any average American
who is working frantically and desperately to fend off the current craziness consuming our Nation.


(Fontana dei Calderari, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

The fountain is within the enclosed piazza, or what we Americans call a plaza,
perched in the heart of Rome.
It’s the piazza where we will find the statue of the sea god Neptune perpetually at battle
with an aggravating octopus.

There is a massive fountain in the center of this piazza by the famous artist Bernini flanked
by two lesser fountains on either end of the piazza, each by different artists.

The Neptune fountain as it is known is The Fountain of Neptune
(Italian: Fontana del Nettuno) and is located at the north end of the Piazza Navona.
It was once called “Fontana dei Calderari” because it was located close to a small
alley with blacksmith’s workshops, makers of pots and pans and of other metal-based
businesses, all of them generating heat.

(Wikipedia)

I saw this statue of Neptune and immediately felt the connection.

Entangled, enraged and working fiercely to be set free.

Free from the ills of our culture.
Free from the depths of our sins.

I think of Satan being much like the octopus…he wraps his arms and
tentacles around us, squeezing us, squeezing out our very breath while attempting
to pull us down and under.

But rather than the fictitious Neptune left to fend off this ravenous enemy,
we have Jesus who, rather than a spear, used a cross to permanently defeat this
ancient nemesis.

Being eternally defeated, this ancient foe, however, continues fighting while we are left
to wander this, his realm.

He is working fast and furious, as time is not on his side, to steal as many
of us he can with his unrelenting grasp.

He is frantically pitting us all…one against another.
Driving dividing wedges deep within the heart of our nation and deep into the hearts of us,
her people.
And sadly, each night the news seems to triumphantly share how well his efforts are
actually working.

Groups like Antifa blindly follow his call.
Anarchy being a demon’s delight.

Disrespect, defiance, lawlessness, violence, disregard, anger, hate…are key actions
each taken from an ancient playbook used as a manual for humankind’s defeat.

Yet God has sounded the warning.

The war, He reminds us, is actually long won…
Yet He also reminds us that this defeated menace will not surrender while the sun still
rises and sets over his domain..not until the very end…
not until he has done his best to snare us as his prey.

To divide, to separate and to conquer, taking who and what he can.

As choices continue to remain.

For if we turn our backs on the Lord our God and on all that He has done,
as so it seems that our nation has, there will be consequences.
This much we have been told.

Just look around at this country and this world in which we live.
Is what we see right?
Is what we see just?
Is what we see as it should be?

Or have we allowed the arms of hate and evil to reach too far while ignoring
the consuming strength of a beast that will not stop until he pulls us all under.

So pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath
Matthew 24:20

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom,
that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation,
concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil,
I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice,
then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.

Jeremiah 18:6-10

fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

Palm Sunday and the Copts

“In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt,
and a pillar to the LORD at its border.

Isaiah 19:19


(a Coptic Cross…it reads, Jesus Christ, the son of God)

While Christians gathered around the world to pray, worship and celebrate the
beginning of the most revered and holiest season’s of the Church’s calendar,
two Coptic Churches and their members in Egypt were attacked.

Despite being outfitted with metal detectors, two suicide bombers joined the Palm Sunday
worshipers detonating their explosive packs near the altars of the two crowded churches.
In their wake two holy and sacred places were transformed into grisly crime scenes comprised
of splintered woods, crumbled stone, blood and body parts while lives and families were
transformed forever.

Coptic Christianity is regarded as the oldest sect of the Christian Church.
It is a church that was established by the apostle and evangelist St Mark in Egypt during the
reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the 1st century.

Egypt and the Coptic Church is also home to the inception of Christian monasticism.
History notes that it was in Egypt that both the Desert Fathers and later, the Desert Mothers,
sought the solitude of the desert to pray and in turn build monasteries that have been
in continuous operation for the past 1900 years.

And since 2010, the Islamic State has made the life of Coptic Christians a
living nightmare.

The latest two murderous attacks taking place yesterday during Palm Sunday.
Egypt’s Copts, who have suffered repeated deadly jihadist attacks,
say they feel abandoned and discriminated against by the authorities in the
predominantly Muslim country.

But despite their fears, the Christians of Tanta said they are determined to defend
their faith.

“We’re Christian and we will stay Christian,” one woman said in a defiant tone.
AFP News

As we solemnly enter this holiest of weeks of our Christian faith,
may those of us who are privileged to worship openly and free,
be mindful of our brothers and sisters across the globe who continue to worship
under the black cloud of persecution and terrorism.

Let us pray for the victims, the wounded and the collective Christian families of these two
Egyptian churches.
Knowing that what we take for granted, that of our freedom to worship in relative
safety and security, is not the standard for many worshipers around this fractured world.
May we stand in solidarity as the family of Believers as we continue to
proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord…

Alleluia….

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

worry, what me?

“The same has happened on this side of the pond when Christians
think that their views on Brexit are essential to the maintenance of the gospel.
Do we not realise how puny and pathetic it is that we play power politics with
our limited knowledge and abilities?
Does it not display a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God?
We are certainly entitled and encouraged as free citizens in a democracy
to have our own political views–
but we are not to make the Kingdom of God dependent on them.
Sometimes the Lord will use a pagan king, like Cyrus,
to fulfill his will.
Sometimes he will convert the Emperor.
But at all times those who are his people need to rely on him to open the door.”

David Robertson

d4c6ea0e2d387adadf284ac846b05090
(Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman)

For some odd reason, mainstream media, most political leaders, liberal Hollywood…
the list only grows daily,
are all feeling as if the world, as we know it,
will be coming to an end by week’s end.

And then on the other hand, we have a growing number of the faithful
who believe that the ‘end of time’, once again as we know it,
is to take place,
as well,
by week’s end…
as in Jesus will be trumping, no true pun intended, Friday’s inauguration.

And if you’re anything like me, you may actually be hoping for the latter as
I’ve had just about all of the naysaying, whining, grousing, fussing, cussing
and downright vile vitriol sputum flowing out of the mouths of most of this
angst ridden nation of ours that I can stomach.

We have governmental elected officials and leaders who are threatening to boycott
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have entertainers who are encouraging defiance and protest before and during
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have colleges, state funded mind you, providing “safe places” on their campuses
for their dismayed students to be able to cry and be comforted because
of a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have fellow Americans threatening other fellow Americans because of a presidential
inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have other country’s warning and threatening us with reprisals, retribution or retaliation
over a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have the birth of fake news taking place because of a presidential inauguration…

Shame on us all…

It beats all I have ever known in this lifetime of mine.

News flash.

I don’t think the end will be ending on Friday.
Pretty certain you can take that to the bank.

It’s all just a shame.

A shame that educated adults are behaving so badly
as we wonder why the kids are behaving so badly.

Adults setting examples of immaturity, pettiness, ugliness, hate, tit for tat,
alarmism, rudeness, disrespectfulness…
everything accusatory that was shouted at the president elect for what was claimed that he
was displaying and demonstrating
is now being demonstrated and carried out by those very accusers—

So now it appears that no one is acting any better than the other…
and there’s nary a soul in this Nation who has decided to demonstrate real character by
taking the high road…

A few weeks back I read a wonderful article by a Scottish pastor, David Roberts, reflecting on
a bit of this current obsessing over the idea of the end times…
as it seems everyone on either side of the fence, faithful and not,
are in some sort of rising state of panic….

I offer a link here for the faithful and the non faithful alike….

Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying about the End Times – (Revelation no.7)

compliance

“All I want is compliance with my wishes, after reasonable discussion.”
Winston S. Churchill

IMG_1931
(the dammit doll is ready for action / Julie Cook / 2016)

I’ve been in my car, driving back and forth to Atlanta a lot lately.

I’ve spent a great deal of time as of late in, out and around the ER.

The most recent being over the course of the weekend.
And no I’m not talking about working at the Emergency Room or being there on my own behalf.
I’m actually talking about my stepmother.
During the course of the past three months there have been:
4 emergency trips to the ER
2 via ambulance at 1300 bucks a pop
1 four day hospital stay
2 black eyes
5 staples in the crown of the head
stitches in one arm
a bruised shoulder….
Just think Yul Brynner in The King and I, when as the King of Siam, he would extol the goings on of things with a rousing round of
Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera……
Add in countless x-rays, CT scans, colonoscopies, EEGs, EKGs,
and any other scan, test or emergency procedure one can imagine….
And the thing is…. each and every last visit, test, stitch, staple, black and blue bruise…
were all entirely preventable.

A single word stands between her, good health and the well being of all concerned…

Compliance

For you see we have set in place a care system for her wellbeing that if followed would result in health, happiness and longevity for not only her, but all of included in and around her as well.

Now mind you that this time last year, she actually asked for everything that is now in place….
With Dad having been the initially reluctant one of this twosome…
yet having seen the logic to the madness, is now happily on board.

Not so for my stepmother.

Rather than being compliant, cooperative, pro-active, she has opted to be contrary and defiant to each and every service, help and assistance offered.

She refuses to use the walker…end of sentence…
Preferring to weave and wobble, fall and bleed.
She refuses to allow the caregivers to assist her with any and all physical needs.
She refuses to take what meds have been prescribed.
She refuses to eat foods prepared.
She refuses to go out and about with each opportunity offered…preferring her self imposed imprisonment.
There have been proposals, insistence, pleading and demanding…yet she remains contrary as well as living with self-imposed misery.

Resulting in exploding medical bills due to accident after accident after accident…
As each new accident grows in damage and ferocity.
Yesterday’s trauma could have and near did kill her.
The collective summarizing is that the next one could be THE one…

We will meet Tuesday to put heads together one more time to formulate some sort of action plan…
before it’s all too late.

If she would just cooperate…. it wouldn’t have to be so hard on her and on everyone near and dear…
Nor would it be so scary or so miserable…

if only she would….

and that’s when it hits me….
the similarities with my stepmother’s defiance mirroring our own defiance with God as Father.

All of our own refusals along with our stubborn dug in heels as we ignore or refuse to adhere the protocols and procedures that He has put in place…
All for our well being and hoped for happiness of living…
If only we would cooperate following his plan… we just might not have so much suffering, trials and misery.

If only we could understand that being compliant with the commands, the directives for living, that God has put into place and just get with the program…life could be so much easier…for us all….

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

The conundrum

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”
Leo Tolstoy

“He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension preternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.”
Edgar Allen Poe

DSCN0342
(an ancient wall to St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“We live in dangerous times…”

And yet what individual, throughout the course of humankind, has not waxed the same morose sentiment?
Has not our history on this planet been steeped in danger…albeit it primarily of our own making?

Today is no different than of perilous ages past.

Having read several articles in recent weeks, with the latest being today while perusing the BBC, as well as The Guardian, I have noted with rising alarm the palpable fear amongst many French Jews, most recently of those living in the southern port city of Marseille—France’s 2nd largest city that has the second largest French Jewish population after Paris.

In recent years many of France’s cities have seen a wave of rising violence, with many of the incidents directed toward French Jews. Marseille is the latest city in a long list of cities to witness attacks directed at her Jewish population with the most recent being carried out by a machete wielding 15 year old Kurdish Muslim boy against a male Jewish teacher. The boy, who succeeded in slashing the man’s back and arms, when apprehended lamented his shame in having failed at killing the teacher but was proud of his attempt. A student with good grades and a stable family who had come to France 5 years ago with his family from Turkey proclaimed that he had acted in the name of Allah and IS.

Such recent attacks have prompted French Jewish leaders to issue warnings to those men who choose to wear the traditional kippa, otherwise known as a skullcap. A telltale distinct indication of a more devout Jew.

France lives with the painful memory of the dark days of WWII when a compliant French government agreed to the Nazi “request” of rounding up and deporting her Jewish population–who were to be “interred” at “detention centers” (aka death camps) in Germany and Poland. More than 75,000 Jews were shipped out of France.
Victims of Hitler’s final solution.

It is with both troubled hearts and minds that leading Rabbis are making the request of the hiding of one’s identity as a means of safety and actual survival… as such warnings bring back the traumatic memories of events from those terribly troubling days of the Holocaust.
With insanity seemingly having returned, as once again Jews must hide being jewish.

see the full articles here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35445025

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/13/teenager-to-appear-in-court-over-marseille-jewish-teacher-attack

I don’t know whether to be mad and angry or simply resigned and sad.

I know that at times, throughout some of my travels within this world of ours, I have found myself dropping the cross that I wear around my neck, never one to take it off, down into my shirt as to discreetly conceal the fact that I am a Christian as the area I may be finding myself is known for being “hostile” towards Christians.

Yet I question myself as to why do I find it necessary to hide the fact that I am a Christian.
Just as the Marseille Jews now believe it is a matter of safety and survival to hide the fact that they are indeed Jews.

Do I want to live in a world where I have to hide those small things of my faith that speak to my devotion…?
Be it a necklace, a head covering, a skullcap, a prayer rope…

I find it a bit ironic that Muslim women, who by French Law have been banned from wearing the burqa, the full head and face covering, are currently being defiant by wearing them anyway.
When in Paris just shortly after this law went into effect, I can remember almost coming unglued passing Muslim women on the street who were defying the law by blatantly wearing the full covering. Being a stickler for the law, I was mad at the blatant show of defiance and disrespect for the law, as well as the country of France, with the thought that if you want to live by Muslim law, live in a Muslim country.
It should be noted that the law is indeed a safety issue as terrorists, even males, have been known to hide underneath the cloak hiding suicide bombs.

In our western society we are accustomed to seeing the faces of those people who we pass on the street, sit alongside on the tram as well as conduct daily business with. Those who hide their entire face could be hiding so much more than simply adhering to strict Muslim law by not being visible in public.
Muslim women may still cover their heads and bodies, all but their faces.
Yet many continue to take a defiant stance to the law, with oddly little to no repercussions.

Muslim defiance verses Jewish and Christian fear….hummmmm

As a Christian I am keenly aware of my historical relationship to the Jewish people.
My Savior just so happens to have been a very devout Jew who some historians even believe to have been of the more Orthodox branch, a Hasidic Jew.
I for one have never blamed Jews, as some throughout history erroneously have, for having been complicit in Jesus’s death. I find that to be a ridiculous thought as such is clearly steeped in ignorance of the history and time period.

I am also very aware of God’s special bond with the Jewish people. The Jews are indeed God’s chosen as is the land of Israel.
I am merely a child by adoption and Grace.

I am also an ardent believer that God has stated that He will show no favor to those who do not honor his children or the land of their ancestors.

All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:11-13

I am therefore torn with this whole idea of being bold in one’s faith as opposed to being safe by hiding any visible signs or identification…
Should not my life be a reflection and witness to that very faith?
Wearing a cross around my neck, small and not large and gaudy as has become sadly the fashion trend in the hiphop culture, but rather a small tangible bond, as well as a symbol, of being marked as Christ’s…

Yet I can understand parents worries as they send their children off to school or simply out in public wondering whether or not they will be targeted for wearing the kippa or a cross? Will they be victimized for praying the rosary or reading a bible?

Here in the States there has been the occasional story of the business or governmental agencies that have banned all employees from wearing any religious symbols…a cross or star of David…
Sadly as this country of mine wrestles with itself over separating itself from any reminder of faith…
Where is the honoring in that I wonder…..

Yes, we are sadly living in troubling times and those of us who wish to profess or save our faith are indeed in a bit of a conundrum….

“The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded.”
C.S. Lewis