spam, scams or is God calling?

“The Divine Voice is not always expressed in words.
It is made known as a heart-consciousness”

A.J. Russell


(Robokiller symbol)

About a year or so ago, tired of the constant phone calls coming in from places like Belize,
California, Mexico, the Ukraine…places where I knew no one and no one knew me,
I decided to nip the madness in the bud.

I had seen an article about an app called Robokiller.
It’s an app that will filter out those mysterious and annoying calls…
as in it actually filters most all of your calls.

The only calls readily allowed are those numbers you have listed in your favorites…
any other call will face the scrutiny of the app.

When setting up the app you get to pick a type of voicemail message that you’d like to use.
Prerecorded silly messages or what I chose…a typical auto-recorded message that
states “the number you have dialed is currently no longer in service…”

The app works sometimes a little too well as it has dumped calls coming in from
various doctors or other offices that are attempting to get in touch with me–
all because it does not recognize the incoming numbers.

Of course, you can check the messages that are left, as well as the call numbers,
and choose whether you want to allow them to trickle through or not.

Overall, I am very pleased with the app and opted to renew my service.

I get an alert each time a call comes in and has been earmarked as spam…
allowing me to check it.

However, for the past several months, I’ve been getting the strangest call…
over and over, despite the spam net, of which this call does fall into on
an almost daily basis, the call persists.

It is immediately earmarked as spam but it keeps calling me.
And since it is earmarked as spam, it merely falls into the spam bucket—
yet I can still listen to the message.

When this “caller” first began calling me, I listened to the message only briefly
as it actually scared me.
Visions of some Russian downloading all my vital information that was encrypted
on my phone, while I was listening, raced around my vivid imagination.

But as the calls have continued, I opted to let my daughter-n-law listen
to the recording.

It is a foreign-sounding male’s voice.
Loud, forceful and angry.
The voice reminds me of some sort of nutty tel-evangelist who has his hand on my head
screaming, “BE HEALED”—think of a real-life scammer type Earnest Angely…with a
foreign accent.

It is a man who is vehemently and definitely stating that
“someone has spoken your name, leaving your name in my mouth.
There is a blessing that you are to receive.
Quick, you only have 5 seconds to receive it…”

During other calls, the messenger speaks of gifts and blessings.

What I’m to do within the 5 seconds continues to elude me…
Hence why I quickly click to end the recording.

I checked the area code…it’s listed as a middle Georgia number.

It never has asked for money and that’s probably why I fear Russia is downloading my
life as we speak, but then I’m left wondering…why.

Why is some sort of psycho “preacher” almost demanding that I act within 5 seconds time???
And as to how I am to be acting is uncertain but I get the distinct message that I am to act none
the less all in order to receive some sort of blessing…and if I don’t…well…
bad juju seems to be in the air.

An overactive imagination continues to wonder why this one particular call continues to come
through despite always reaching a pre-recorded message of a number out of commission.

A fleeting thought crosses my thinking…wonder if God is really trying
to tell me something??
Wonder if these calls are persisting for a deeper reason…??

But then I am quickly pulled back to reality…
I am reminded…God is a gentleman…forever and always.

He is persistent but He is not angry nor forceful.

He is not demanding…nor is His intent to frighten or coerce me into something strange.
God never coerces His children…He prefers to woo those He loves.

This particular caller, on the other hand, demands that I listen and then act.
It’s as if some unseen gun is being held to my head or to the head of a loved one..
act now or bad things will happen.

God has long stated the deal…
if one opts to follow, wonderful…if not, then that is the loss of the individual.
No pushing, not threats..it is what it is—

We are told that even Satan and his demons can recite scripture.
And so we must often test what comes our way.
Is it from God or not…

Robokiller helps, but nothing works like simply calling upon the name of Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has
come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
This is the spirit of the antichrist,
which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

1 John 4:1-6

lessons from a difficult sister

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
for myself, I have chosen your altars,
my King and my God.

Psalm 84:3


(Léonie Martin, known as Sister Françoise-Thérèse)

Since I was adopted as a baby I’ve never known whether I had a sister or not.
I did not have a sister in my adoptive family.
However, I do know what it means to have been a bit of a difficult child.

I was rather headstrong growing up.

I wouldn’t say I was difficult, but that label might need to be addressed by my mom and dad,
and since neither of them is here to add to or refute such a claim, we’ll just keep it as headstrong.

I was often willful, somewhat defiant and had a mind of my own.

I knew what I liked and what I wanted despite those wants and ideas not always being the
wisest of thoughts.

After reading the following story about a rather obscure woman and nun,
I found that I could actually relate to her story.

She is what I call a shadow dweller—a person who lives in the shadows of a more prominent sibling.
A girl who wrestled with her own standing in life and what hand she had been dealt.

That’s the thing…isn’t life just merely a matter of what we make of it…
or on the other hand, it’s what Life makes of us?

Either of which makes us, in turn, who we will become

Will we choose to rise above or will we simply succumb?

Will we allow all of the negative to swallow us whole or will we learn to stand up and out
of the negative, rising up to our true potential?

We can either give in and up or we can purposely and willfully fight our demons in order
to be who we are truly called to be.

And who we are called to be might just be a person who is content living in the shadow
of a more famous sibling…

“Léonie Martin is arguably the least known and admired member of her entire family,
but I doubt she minds.
She’s used to being in that position.”

I’ve written often about one of her sisters.
A now well know sister, who despite having lived a very short life, dying from TB at the age of 24,
made a tremendous impact on the world.

Her parents were just recently recognized by the Pope as exceptional.

All of her sisters sought the vocation of serving Christ.

One sister, however, had a more difficult path to walk than that of her siblings.

And the thing is that once she found her way…Grace prevailed over a lifetime of trial,
willfulness, and difficulty.

Here is the link to Léonie Martin’s story…the sister of The Little Flower.

What We Can Learn From the Forgotten Sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

ideologues verses heros

“In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.”

Czesław Miłosz


(image of Alejandro Villanueva, the lone Steeler player who opted to stand and
acknowledge the National Anthem prior to the Steeler / Bear game / courtesy Miami Herald)

This was not the post I intended to write today.
This was not the post I wanted to write today…
but this is the post that I felt necessary to write today.

Alejandro Villanueva is a professional football player who plays left tackle for
the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He is also a former US Army veteran.
Add to those facts that he was the only player…. the only player…
let that resonate in your head for a minute…the only player who emerged from
the shadows of the Steelers locker room to stand for Sunday’s pregame
National Anthem.

Coach Mike Tomlin had decided to keep his players in the locker during the National
Anthem so as not to join in the latest political ruckus.
But what message did Tomlin send by hiding in the locker room…?

And if you’re wondering why any of this is of any significance to a football game,
well then you have most likely missed out on the latest minutia brouhaha percolating
to the surface between America’s favorite pastime…
that being her sporting events, verses the President of the United States.

Now let that little notion sink in…slowly.
Professional sports verses, not an opposing team, but rather the
President of the United States of America.

Really.

For there seems to be a war of words escalating beyond average comprehension.

Yet tomorrow morning’s headlines won’t consist of Alejandro Villanueva’s image
and name…
And you most likely won’t be reading the columns of sportswriters touting the
story of a lone act of patriotism….

You won’t see the National news explaining what’s wrong with grown men being paid
millions of dollars to simply play games yet who insist on using their various playing
fields to make political commentary….
their choosing to be ideologues rather than what they’re paid to do, and that is to simply play ball.

No you won’t see or hear any of that.

What you will see are the images of player after player locked arm in arm, across the league, kneeling in disrespectful protest.
You will hear the angry defiant words spewed from the mouths of players, coaches
and even the Commissioner himself, Roger Goodell.

You will hear NBA greats like LaBron James calling the President of the
United States of America a “bum”.
You will read how Stephen Curry has said that it once was an honor to visit the
White House…that was until Trump got in……

All of this latest mess coming on the heels of a speech delivered Friday evening in Alabama, when President Trump responded to the the current trend of professional
football players who are opting not to stand for the National Anthem,
preferring rather to kneel or raise a defiant fist….
his comments were swiftly met with some rather harsh criticism.

A now never ending tit for tat stemming from the poor decision made last season by Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick opted to use his very public platform as the QB of the San Francisco 49ers
to express his thoughts that the National Anthem was not an anthem of equality.

Oh really?

Trump told the crowded arena Friday night that such behavior is a “total disrespect
of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”
He went on to say that those “Sons of a Bitch” who persist with such defiance
should be fired.

I happen to agree with the President.

However do I think the President of the United States needs to jump in this fray?

I don’t know.
But when we have blatant disrespect for our very National Anthem, who better then the
President to say, “hey wait a minute, something is wrong here….”

But at the same time I am now absolutely sick over our professional athletes using
their various sport as one more link in an increasingly brittle chain of
toxic politics.

I don’t watch football or any other sport because I want to deal with politics
or because I want to be reminded that our country is swirling down the tubes of
self absorption, ignorance and hate.

I watch sports to forget all of that.

I quit watching long ago any other sort of entertainment because it all had
become nothing but overtly violent, immoral and political while reeking of utter disrespect.

When I was still in the classroom, I can remember a growing sneering mantra offered
by one too many a defiant high school kid who butted heads with a teacher or administrator…
“I don’t give respect unless I get respect.”

Oh Really?

Here were kids claiming that if a teacher got on to them for their behavior
that they in turn could respond with vehemence and defiance.
A gross lack of respect for an adult who in the mind of the student had actually “disrespected” them and therefore deserved no respect–a twisted thought process.
And sadly many a parent and even a growing number of administrators
found themselves, albeit for some begrudgingly, in agreement.

The writing was then on the wall….the inmates were running the asylum.
And where might these inmates be getting their life examples….??

It takes little men to stay back in a locker room trying to avoid a glaring issue.
It takes little men, who make millions of dollars for simply playing games, to act like
disrespectful selfish and childish ideologues.
But it takes a real man who will go the journey alone in order to stand up for what
is right when no one else will….

—we call those kinds of men, heroes……

Honour all men.
Love the brotherhood.
Fear God.
Honour the king.

1 Peter 2:17

altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

dscn0509
(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

Apostasy

“There is no broader way to apostasy than to reject God’s sovereignty
in all things concerning the revelation of himself and our obedience…”

John Owen

dscn2502
(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

Apostasy, from the Greek word apostasia, means “a defiance of an established system or authority; a rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith.” In the first-century world, apostasy was a technical term for political revolt or defection. And just like in the first century, apostasy threatens the Body of Christ today.

To fully identify and combat apostasy, it is important that Christians understand its various forms and the traits that characterize its doctrines and teachers. As to the forms of apostasy, there are two main types: (1) a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be “the real” Christian doctrine, and (2) a complete renunciation of the Christian faith, which results in a full abandonment of Christ.
gotquestions.org

“Woe to the obstinate children,”
declares the Lord,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
heaping sin upon sin

Isaiah 30:1

Rights and Responsibility–somewhere in there, should be compassion

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Bob Dylan

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
Helen Keller

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

― Albert Einstein

DSCN8284
(emerging fall color / Julie Cook / 2014)

The news as of late, has been rife with the stories of the growing cases of Ebola emerging outside of the so called West African “hot zones”—With most cases occurring in individuals who have traveled to and from theses specific hot zone— such as doctors, healthcare providers, aid workers, with a few emerging cases from average citizens who simply wanted to “get away.”

After reading the headlines and watching the latest breaking news concerning this growing global worry, I have become a bit troubled by one story in particular, which has been capturing a great deal of attention. It is the story of nurse Kaci Hickox from Maine, who after returning from Seirra Leone, has refused to be quarantined against, what she claims, to be her will. She was initially detained in Newark, NJ as soon as she disembarked from the plane. Eventually leaving the hospital in New Jersey, heading home to Maine, where the state of Maine has asked that she at least “self quarantine” at home, avoiding contact with anyone and to not leave her home for the requested (note requested) 21 days.

A defiant Hickox has refused, claiming that she is healthy, perfectly fine, and refuses to be a “prisoner” or allow her “rights” to be jeopardized. She claims that not being able to have contact with loved ones, after returning from a stressful situation, is simply too much to ask.

Really?

I certainly do not adhere to the “Henny Penny the sky is falling” school of panic, but I do believe in common sense and responsibility. With any new, scary, unknown factor there is indeed going to be a certain level of concern and even panic on the part of the general population. The thought of a modern day “plague” is very frightening. The unknown itself is simply very frightening to people.
Somehow I don’t think the taking of a defiant stance helps to calm heightened concern.

Modern day science and medicine is indeed a marvel. We have made so many wonderful advancements in the treatments of deadly diseases and viruses, even taking on the so called super bugs as we wage a war of eradication.

Unlike the days of the Middle Ages when those, having contracted leprosy, were required to wear bells around their necks so as to warn those passing near to be cautious and move away as a leper was in the vicinity, we have learned that we cannot contract certain viruses and diseases by mere touch or being in the presence of the “sick.” Yet many individuals are still concerned, cautious and afraid.

It was reported that the local hospital in Ms Hickox’s town has had up to 10 individuals cancel elective surgeries out of concern that Ms Hickox could become symptomatic requiring her to have to go the hospital for treatment. It was reported that she was craving a pizza from the local pizzeria. The restaurant was inundated with calls concerned about her showing up as other patrons did not want to be there when and if she arrived.

Some may consider such behavior in her community as bordering on hysteria, some may see it as merely precautionary. I do believe however that Ms Hickox, especially as a healthcare provider, does indeed have a responsibility to her community—in which she should want to work to ensure calm, reassurance and the bridging of gaps and not create or add to the hype, the rising sense of panic or fear that a belligerent, spiteful and defiant attitude breeds.

I’m not saying that we should give in to hysteria and panic but I am saying that we should be brave enough and smart enough to execute judicious precautionary action. 21 days is said to be the time for the incubation of the virus, should someone having been exposed, contract Ebola. I don’t think 21 days of quarantine is much to ask of anyone coming back from the so called hot zones. We’ve already seen how several healthcare providers, who felt perfectly fine upon leaving the country or having worked with sick patients, eventually came down with the virus.

I find Ms Hickox’s lackadaisical and caviler attitude bordering not on the knowledgeable and scientific and constitutional as she claims, but rather of the selfish. She is hellbent, having already “lawyered up” as it were, on maintaining her “rights” to come and go as she pleases—despite the fact that she has caused contention, consternation and division within her small rural hometown of Maine.

Is it fair to the town, the state, the Nation, or to the Global family at large, to throw caution to the wind and go merrily about one’s individual world while those around are questioning, fretting, arguing, debating, panicking—which gives way to the fact that our lives are not so single and individual as we think but are actually linked inextricably to and with that of our fellow human-beings.

Maybe this all boils down to an inconsistent policy dealing with this new “threat” to humanity as it seems we, our Governments and Medical Communities, are learning on the proverbial fly. Each day and each new case brings with it, its own unique set of circumstances. We’ve seen the quarantining of the pets of victims. Spain opted not to quarantine a beloved dog of a nurse who had come home bearing the virus, but opted rather to put the dog down. Global leaders are grabbling with how best to quell the growing worry of an ever growing weary world. Not everyone is making the most wise of decisions as we continue living in the midst of the learning curve.

Ms Hickox’s responsibility to her fellow human beings, in my opinion, outweighs her so called constitutional rights. To claim one’s individual rights when it is affecting the wellbeing of countless other lives, businesses, decisions. . .particularly when one is supposedly about the business of selflessly caring for others, rings of selfish, self centered egotism.

I’m all for defending our rights and freedoms, but I think we must ask ourselves is it fair to put countless others at risk without a bit of cautious reflection? In this case a time of evaluation and observation of 21 days is the “cost” of being cautious. The responsibility taken to travel to a highly volatile region brings with it obvious risks—those risks don’t simply disappear when one hops in a plane and flies away, leaving it all hopefully behind. There are consequences for all actions, good and bad—if we are willing to jump into a risk filled situation then we must be prepared for the followthrough—in Ms Hickox’s case, that followthrough is a 21 day time period of quarantine. It’s that cut and dry.

Groups such as the ACLU and various civil liberty groups seem to throw common sense out the window just to argue a point. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve allowed “the law” to overshadow reason, compassion and the doing of the right things for and by people. Oh I know what many will say to such, that the law is the law is the law and it is our duty to defend it. . .especially when a body of one, a minority, is concerned. I fear we’ve seen far too often how we now bend over ourselves for the few, often forgetting the whole. . .
As a nurse, Ms Hickox should know that sometimes there are some hard consequences as part of a profession and if a 21 day quarantine is requested, not necessarily required, but merely requested, should not precaution trump the selfish clamoring of violated rights? Could not her self imposed quarantine perhaps not be the best teaching example to help educate and quell fears?

Ms Hickox was selfless in her desire to work with the organization Doctors without Borders–demonstrating a concern and compassion for those afflicted, sick and dying–yet in her having come home, that same sense of concern and compassion no longer seems applicable to her very neighbors as she choses to cause division in her very own community. I’m thankful that she is “free of Ebola” and has returned home, as she continues to claim, very much well and healthy, but the issue here is one of caution, of which she has been asked to observe and of which she is vehemently refusing.

May we be willing to take and bear the responsibilities for our actions. May we work to put the wellbeing of others above our own wants and desires for in so doing we create a more compassionate and kinder global community. May we learn to yield our self governing egos to that of compassion, giving, caring, not demonstrated to but a few, but to all we encounter. . .if I should see that my hellbent desires are causing so much ire, so much pain, so much contention and consternation around me, may I learn to back off, taking on the spirit of gentleness with my responsibilities verses the combativeness of self.

Post Script regarding Malala

Hope is nature’s veil for hiding truth’s nakedness.
Alfred Nobel
Sweden Alfred-Nobel2

***A bit of a disappointing Post Script
The Committee who awards the various Nobel prizes announced this morning form Oslo that a Chemical Weapons watchdog group, who has overseen the chemical weapons search in Syria, has won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately Malala Yousafzai, the young defiant 16 year old Pakistani girl, who was shot in the head last year by the Taliban and left for dead– all for refusing to back down from the hardline edict that girls should not be educated, did not win. She was the youngest contender.

Watchdog groups are important but I always have a hard time when “groups” win such awards verses the individual who has somehow defied the odds, overcome grave adversity, stood up to tremendous obstacles all in the face of grave danger with little to no regard to self in order to be the still small voice for the masses who have no voice. Alone. No group of support. Simply, alone.

I suppose the argument could be that that “Peace” and working towards that as an end to the means, is what the Weapons group is all about—but to me, that is their job, their responsibility. Is there danger involved? Certainly. But Malala is not ordered, asked, contracted, to be the voice for millions of young girls, she did not volunteer for this global platform, but came to it by simply refusing to stay at home and not attend school. It almost cost her her life but she understood the importance of learning and schooling for children world wide, particularly for countless young girls who still find that a deep double standard exists all around this globe.

Malala will still stand her ground against a terroristic group of men who somehow think it’s ok to burn down schools, pour acid on young girls and who even hunt them down as animals shooting them, as they simply attend school, in hopes of silencing “this rebellious act.” She will continue being the advocate for the countless numbers of girls who are mutilated, enslaved, tortured, bought and sold, pimped, who are considered less than all across this globe. She will continue to educate a world that a girl is a person of worth and that an education is the most important gift you can offer to children other than love.

Here is to education, to the hope that knowledge is more powerful than ignorance and that all children, male and female, deserve to be nurtured, loved and educated by the adults who are all entrusted to care for them.