Death and taxes…

“I earnestly admonish you, therefore, my brothers,
to look after your spiritual well-being
with judicious concern.
Death is certain; life is short and vanishes like smoke.
Fix your minds, then, on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Inflamed with love for us, he came down from heaven to redeem us.
For our sake he endured every torment of body and soul and shrank from no bodily pain.
He himself gave us an example of perfect patience and love.
We, then, are to be patient in adversity.”

St. Francis of Paola

Death and taxes…
nothing is certain in life but those two unpleasantries.

April 15th—the dreaded day of taxes.
(or actually the 17th due to the 15th falling on a weekend)

A day that accountants have longed for while regular citizens have dreaded.
To pay or to be refunded, that is the question…

Yet taxes are nothing new.

We might recall that it was while traveling to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home,
Mary gave birth to Jesus.
It was a requirement of Roman law that all citizens take part in the counting for the census
in order to meet the tax requirements…
thus the reason why this young couple, with a very pregnant Mary,
was out and about traveling at a rather critical time.

And so history teaches us that taxes are nothing new…
nor is death…
for death is as old as life itself…
As they actually go hand in hand…

Death and taxes—the two givens in life.

St Francis of Paola—
the humble 15th-century monk who founded the equally humble order
of Minim Friars, reminds us, in this morning’s quote, that death is indeed certain.

Yet the notion of death being inevitable… is really nothing more than a given.
If you’ve been born, you will inevitably die.
That’s just how that works.

Yet most of us don’t like being reminded of such.
Just like we don’t like being reminded about taxes,
forms, payments and the deadline for submitting such.

Our humble monk also reminds us of something else equally as important…
that life, as fleeting as it is…. is simply like vanishing smoke.

And just like taxes and death, none of us like to think about fleeting…
those unpleasant things such as taxes, death coupled with our fleeting lives.

However, our friend reassures us that because our time is just that, vanishing as the smoke…
and death is, for better or worse, inevitable…
it is to be our task to fix our sights, our minds and even
our passions upon Jesus and on Jesus alone…
because it is only in Jesus that things such as death and taxes,
and that of pain, sorrow, and suffering…
those earthly fleeting instances which will vanish as the smoke,
are nothing compared to a life with Jesus—of which is truly everlasting…

They seldom reflect on the days of their life,
because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:20

speaking of fragile….

“Man is harder than iron,
stronger than stone
and more fragile than a rose.”

Turkish Proverb


(an exhausted hummingbird / Julie Cook / 2017)

You may recall that yesterday’s post was born from finding a dead butterfly
in the yard.
Perhaps an odd starting point, but who am I to question inspiration.

It was a post based on the idea of fragility…
and of how our lives are laced with such a delicate underpinning…
despite our living life to the contrary.

This was not to imply that we are to live life by walking around as if we were
inside of some sort of delicate glass bubble…encouraging us to be oh so careful
and walk around as if at any moment the sky would be falling on our heads.

Rather it was a post to remind us all that life on this earth is fleeting.

For some of us this life is longer than it is for others…

Yet no matter the time,
none of us know nor have we been given any sort of guarantee as to how long
or how short or to how fragile our life is to be.

And my concern in yesterday’s post, for all of us, was how exactly were we or
are we planning on living under this said umbrella of fragile’s time.

With our limited time, health and energy….how are we opting to spend such…

And with any quick glance around…not only around our own country but rather by
viewing the world at large…
It just seems as if the choices being made are simply not choices that seem to
appreciate the sheer fleeting fragility….of any of our lives.

And it also seems that this notion, for me at least, was not to easily come and go…

For the subject matter of posts is simply not always a neat, orderly or tidy
sort of affair…not a one and done sort of thing.

And as I’ve said before, I do not believe in randomness–everything under the heavens
is interwoven and interconnected.

For the very words I write today may be intended for someone who stumbles upon them
in 5 years…in some far off land….
or even words I myself might need to reread and reconsider at some unseen time…

So yesterday, late afternoon…our heat index had quickly shot up as
mid July is now in full swing here in west Georgia.

This time of year, without fail, the hummingbirds will zip into our garage and for
reasons beyond my soul, will not be able to zip out…
they just can’t seem to figure out how they got in to turn around to get out.

They will spend hours circling the ceiling of the garage.
Something to do with the white ceiling and a presumption of depth and space.
They will exhaust themselves if I don’t find them first.

All of which then has me scrambling for an expansion pole that is used to clean
ceiling fans…
With the pole extended, walking around the garage in circles, with my neck creened precariously back and upward, all the while as I’m balancing said long pole…
I attempt coaxing a tired and confused hummingbird to light upon the end of the pole…
In turn allowing me to dip the pole low enough to ease the bird outside…
where the tired bird flits back from whence it came—the clear blue yonder.

This ritual happens every summer and often on multiple occasions.

Sometimes the bird will tire and simply land on the windowsill…
allowing me step up on the brick ledge where I can gently put my hand around
the exhuasted bird, carrying it back outside, setting it free.

Yesterday however was different.

For whatever reason, while on the phone with my cousin, I looked out the back door
into the garage.
I had to look twice to make certain I wasn’t seeing what I hoped to be just a leaf
and not what I thought…

A hummingbird was laying on the garage floor, wings spread wide.

I went out to inspect the bird.

It was alive and either hurt or exhausted or both.

Gently and gingerly I picked up the tiny little bird as it was simply listless.

The sun was glaring into the garage and the temperature was in the mid 90’s.
I carried the bird outside where usually they will take off once they figure
they are free to fly….

But not this bird.

I gently placed the bird in the empty robin’s nest I knew was still in the
bush by the garage. I thought it would be safe while it cooled down and
gathered back its strength.

My husband and I left to grab a quick bite to eat while I assumed the bird would be
long gone upon our return.

But again, I was wrong.

The bird was in the nest with wings spread wide as I feared it had died.

Reaching in the nest I gently lifted the bird to see that it was still alive but
still listless and exhausted.

Next I actually carried the bird into the house and then back out to the back deck
where I placed it in a small little woven ‘nest’…
I filled a syringe with hummingbird nectar, placing it
along the edge of the nest…just incase it needed a little sustenance for strength.
I then went inside for the night and hoped for the best.

Getting up early the next morning, as I was headed over to Atlanta to met with Dad’s lawyer, I immediately headed out on to the back deck expecting to find my little
friend having perished during the night.

But that is not what I found.

I found an empty nest.

Ours is a covered deck that sits high off the ground so no animals or birds make
their way to this space.
I checked all around and did not see any signs of my wee friend…
So I’m going with the happy ending here…

As life is just too fleeting and oh so fragile,
is there not then room to find just a little tiny bit of happy!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

absolute

“In passing we should note this curious mark of our age:
The only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute”

Francis A. Schaeffer


(the upside down gills of a spent mushroom / Julie Cook / 2017)

Death…
the one true absolute…
and yet,
there are those who would even argue the definitive nature of death….

What is it about man and absolutes??

On the one hand man riles against those who espouse in absolutes…
“be damned you fools” he will shout, “for I will not live by such pronouncements…”

While on the other hand he will test and retest in order to hold triumphantly
a handful of litmus papers of absolute proof…
that being the definitive definer…
as he will now forever hold those stained papers sacred.

Thou, oh ancient man, shall have no other gods but the Lord your God…

Absolute…

Yet man hordes a thousand other gods.
Clinging and clutching tightly to the fading fancies of his whims.

Thou shall take one woman as your wife and have no others besides her…

Absolute…

Yet man will alter and amend each law and sacrament in order to appease his current
fickled and twisted lust.

Thou shall honor and cherish your wife just as Christ honors and cherishes his own bride…

Absolute.

Yet man will opt not to have and to hold until death do part as he will grow weary
and seek that which is constantly fresh and new as he opts for the easier throwaway
mindset of the fleeting.

Thou shall cherish and love life and thou shall honor and love one unto another just
as you would wish to be cherished, honored and loved.

Absolute

Yet man will prefer to fight, hurt, murder, slander, defile, maim and destroy not
only others, but himself as well, as life and the living have lost all holiness…

For man has proclaimed himself his own god…

And thus it is man who extols that which is right and that which is wrong.

And since he is never satisfied with his choices for very long,
he will just as quickly turn each proclamation upside down,
in order to suit the latest craving or longing…
because nothing remains scared,
nothing remains holy
and nothing remains true…

for the only absolute in the mind of man is that there are no absolutes….

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven,
with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth,
to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
and he said with a loud voice,
“Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come;
and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water.”

Revelation 14:6-7

time is fleeting

“Your poor heart, in which God put appreciation for everlastingness, will not take electronic gadgets in lieu of eternal life. Something inside of you is too big for that, too terrible, too wonderful. God has set everlastingness in your heart. All the things of this world are here for but a moment and then are gone. None can satisfy the longing for that eternal ragging in the soul of every man.”
― A.W. Tozer

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(a fleeting tiger swallowtail / Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015 )

Time is not mine this week. . .
Yet I wonder. . . is time ever really our own?
There are no guarantees, just all assumptions on our part.
I think we’re all actually just a bunch of gamblers who play the odds. . .
We bet that our days, our weeks, our months and our years will always play out
neatly and conveniently. . .that is. . .up until the moment both Time and Life intervene. . .

So while Life and Time have their way with me this week, I will grab hold, riding the waves come what may. . .clinging to the one Truism in my world—that no matter what life, time, the world may throw my way, God already knows how this week will pay out and in that I find my Peace. . .

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short That it cannot save;
Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear.

Isaiah 59:1

Win, Place, Show

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(bottle stopper / Julie Cook / 2015)

Are you a betting man or woman?
Have you studied the odds?
What are the bookies and odd makers saying?
Who’s the trainer?
Who’s the owner?
Have there been other races, any wins?
What’s the story?

50 / 50 chance really.
Be there two in the field or 100
Either it does or it doesn’t.
Either it is or it isn’t.
On any given day, it’s anyones game
It’s a. . .
Yes
or
No

Take the chance?
Or
Play it safe?
Go with the favorite, the sure thing
Or
Take your chances on the long-shot?

Risk taker?
Gambler?
Safe?
or
Risky?

Does it ever really matter who comes in 2nd or 3rd?
Any one other than the winner might as well have been last.
As the only one anyone ever remembers is the winner. . .
And once another race rolls around, most often than not,
All previous winners go out the window as the new winner is crowned.

We all like a winner, that’s for certain.
We cheer for winners.
We pay money for winners.
We follow winners.
We celebrate winners.
We want to surround ourselves by winners
We even seem to buy into the notion that winning should come at any and all costs. . .
And we are devastated when a winner loses. . .

That is until we find a new winner to cheer. . .

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8

Fading beauty? I think not!

Smiling always with a never fading serenity of countenance,
and flourishing in an immortal youth.

Isaac Barrow

DSCN7896
(decaying stump topped by shelf fungus / Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

I made mention the other day that I will soon be turning 55.
Whereas I don’t put a lot of stock in numbers but rather in just a good ol dose of “get up and go,” I suppose advancing age does give one pause for reflection.
However I promise not to heavily reflect today. . .not about myself anyway.

I have also made mention in previous posts, pontificating my aversion of our culture’s refusal in allowing any of us to age. I’ve also added my 2¢ in various posts concerning the millions of dollars needlessly spent on lotions, potions, chemical this and thats, surgical augmentations—all for the perpetual quest our society seems to have for the elusive fountain of youth.

It troubles me watching what people do, particularly woman, in the name of acquiring ageless beauty.
I suppose it doesn’t help when woman are inundated by advertising, television and Hollywood as to what is considered “good looking,” drop dead gorgeous and sheer beauty. You’re considered a washed up prune if you don’t color your hair, don’t botox your wrinkles, don’t lift your lids, your breasts or your butt and survive off of kale and green smoothies.

Let’s not talk about our culture’s current obsession with weight. I’m all for health—healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, healthy weight. I’m NOT all for the current chronic obsession for pencil thin, 0 fat BMIs, and what the Marketing world deems to be the “perfect” body.

Whatever happened with striking a balance? A happy medium?

And I best not get started on dress and appearance and the obsession grown, dare I say, older woman have with dressing more like their daughters or as woman in their early 20’s. Trying to put a 40, 50, 60, 70 year old body into something a 25 year old would be wearing is just not appealing, no matter what you may think. It’s great if you can still fit into and rock that look, but there comes a time when it’s really not “cool” doing so, as one comes off looking more silly, even, dare I say pathetic, verses classic, timeless, stylish and chic.

So what if one’s body is not meant to be a size 2?
So what if one’s hair turns gray?
So what if one has wrinkles?
So what if one doesn’t want to live at the gym?
So what if one enjoys something other than a constant combination of soy, tofu, qunioa, kale or spelt?

I’m not saying that I don’t “fix” myself up or care about my appearance. I do care. And I have to work at my weight and health. I fret over my hair as it’s thinning terribly due to a bum thyroid. I like to dress up wearing nice clothes—however, I don’t color my hair, my wrinkles are all present and accounted for, all sorts of things are giving way to gravity, and when I look in the mirror I wonder where my eyebrows have gone and if I ever had eyelids. But what I see is simply me, life and time and how those three things mix together making me, me.

I am however deeply troubled over the message all of this obsession over appearance, weight, youthfulness and anti-aging sends to our youth.

Boys are taught to build up and bulk up as we see countless young men and boys gobbling up protein powders, muscle milk, creatine powders and daring to gamble in the murky and dark world of performance enhancement drugs and steroids. For to be deemed the fastest and strongest, with a better “built” body, is the bottom line of athletic prowess and success, not to mention the envy of others.

Girls are taught at an early age that thin is in and that Victoria Secret’s models are the body’s to ascertain to, as they are “perfect”—-REALLY?
Woe to the young girl who is not slim, trim and svelte and does not possess the long legs of a gazelle.

The news is riddled daily with stories of some sort of cosmetic surgery gone awry, where clients / patients have actually died or been maimed by merely attempting to turn back the hands of time. Hollywood is full of aging actors and actresses who have had so much “work” done to their faces that they are no longer recognizable.

Oh it is all simply so sad.
So empty.
So shallow.
So fleeting.

I am not one to watch much television. I don’t keep up with the rag tag tabloids of who’s who. I don’t read People, I don’t watch talk shows, I don’t watch shows such as the Grammys or the Oscar award shows and I really don’t care about people walking up and down red carpets.
None of that is “real” to me.
It speaks of falsehoods.

I don’t hear or see much about the important matters of life—those things that God would wish for us to be in the business about—those things such as caring for the sick and the poor, ministering to shut-ins and the infirmed, feeding the hungry—none of that in the world of glitz and glamour. . Imagine if all that energy and money spent on fighting aging and chasing youthfulness was turned towards feeding the hungry, clothing the needy and housing the homeless. . .

So imagine my surprise when I caught a brief clip today of an interview which addressed this obsession of ours with ageless beauty by an actress who has refused to give in to the propaganda and hype. I was going in to check my email when the title of the interview caught my eye. Not one to watch folks like Oprah or Katie Couric as their idea of news is more or less gossip or trending fads, I actually stopped long enough to watch the clip and I admit, I was impressed.

Katie Couric was interviewing Frances McDormand concerning the actresses refusal to “augment” her aging process and what that means in the world of acting and Hollywood. She is certainly in the minority but is quite content with her looks, as is her husband of 33 years, as she notes the various lines and wrinkles on her face tell her life’s stories, she even laughed explaining how several “wrinkles” belong to her 20 something son–why would she want to do away with those story telling lines, as those are the lines from the life events which define who she is and what has made her life just that, her life.

The title of the interview is ‘I’m happy with the way I look and how I age’
and here is a link to the Yahoo news interview:

http://news.yahoo.com/katie-couric-interviews-frances-mcdormand-210921583.html

I applaud this woman, who at 57, is happy with her face, her body, her choice, her life—despite her profession’s culture of brainwashing everyone into thinking what should be the perfect body, face, life. . .

Here’s to aging and here’s to real beauty which is so much deeper than surface appearance!

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Ode to a fleeting Summer

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(photograph: butterfly in flight, Troup County, GA/ Julie cook/ 2013)


“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams