what lengths are you willing to go so that no one will ever forget?

Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.
Malcolm Muggeridge


(Photo: Getty Images/Ellen van Bodegom)

Maybe you’ve fantasized about living out your days in a Mediterranean villa.
You might have even gone so far as to check listings before the reality of your
bank account forced you to give up on the dream.
Well, despair no longer.
One town on the Italian island of Sardinia is offering the real estate deal of a
lifetime, as long as you’re willing to stick around for the long haul.
In Ollolai, one of several hundred historic homes could be yours for just $1.25 (€1).
Yes, really.
Mayor Efisio Arbau successfully petitioned local residents to turn over their
abandoned homes in the town,
which then put them on the market for the attention-grabbing low price.

The aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known for its
successful resistance to the Roman Empire from fading into obscurity.
The village’s population has shrunk from 2,250 to 1,300 over the years,
and the migration of its younger people to larger cities has led to a declining birthrate.
“My crusade is to rescue our unique traditions from falling into oblivion,”
Arbau told CNN.
“We’ve always been tough people and won’t allow our town to die.”

as seen on Conde Nast Traveler / CNN Travel

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/ollolai-italy-one-euro-homes/index.html

I always love these stories—the ones about the small tranquil village that has witnessed
a tremendous decline in its inhabitants and in turn makes almost outlandish sales offers
in hopes of luring would-be occupants and potential citizens to come own, inhabit and live,
all at very little expense, for a piece of paradise.

And we know that the reasons for these villages slow deaths are for all sorts of troubles…
families move, youth…when grown…move-out and away,
and the Old…well they have simply died…

And so now all these small communities, all over the globe, begin to slowly shrivel up and die…

The young see no growth, no fun, no potential, no reason to stay.
Young families have no real choice in schooling or sound medical care.
Those trying to make a living and livelihood discover that such is nearly nonexistent…
while the Old have hung on for as long as they can, yet are now dying off in large numbers…

It is the visual death knell sounding for small communities worldwide.

And yet there is a real desire that these communities remain for they have existed for eons…
they have been the underpinning, the lynchpins, of our greater society as a whole…

And of course, the catch for the potential buyer is always the caveat of remodeling
and pouring copious amounts of cash into the refurbishing of said piece of paradise.

But I’ll admit, the allure of buying a piece of paradise for all of a buck is pretty darn
appealing…however it’s the copious amounts of cash needed for the remodeling, modernizing
and upkeep that is the killer of the dream.

And so I bring all of this up as I’m still making my way through Andreas Knapp’s book
The Last Christians…Stories of Persecution, Flight, Resilience in the Middle East.

You may remember it was the book that my publishing friend from Plough Publishing House
sent out for my perusal back around Christmas.

It’s not a long book and you’d think I would have finished it ages ago,
but it is a book that demands my full attention—
especially since I take highlighter in hand as I read, along with a notepad
as I make notes while reading.
I cover only a few pages or a chapter a day here and there as time allows…

For meatier stories demand our utmost attention…and this is such a tale because the
subjects of this story deserve nothing less.

And it is not an easy read—it is not easy reading about persecution, murders, terror,
and insanity.

I was struck by what Mayor Efisio Arbauin said in the Conde Nast / CNN article
about why he wants to maintain his dying village in Sardinia.
“the aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known
for its successful resistance to the Roman Empire from fading into obscurity.”

Advertise like crazy as we want to maintain an ancient town that stood up against
an aggressive, mighty, powerful and brutal empire…

And yet I marvel at how the world at large will allow the last remaining true
Aramaic Christians, who trace their lineage, which in turn is our lineage,
back to Jesus himself–a world that will allow, nay is allowing,
these Aramaic Christians to be tortured, murdered,
disbanded, scattered and ultimately totally destroyed and wiped from the face of the Earth.

Read the following excerpt offered by the book’s author Fr Knapp along with a
priest and Bishop Petros Mouche who is the leading prelate of a
dispersed and disparaged people:

“Many people in Western countries, he points out, campaign for the protection of
animal species threatened with extinction.
And yet all appeals to halt the loss of the oldest Christian
Culture and its people and language have been ignored by the Western World”

(Bishop Petros Mouche displaced Syriac Catholic)

A young priest along with the Bishop both relate their tales of horror to the author
Fr. Knapp

“He who says nothing implies consent”
Latin Proverb

“How can we rebuild our trust?”
We can’t simply forget what happened.
And how can there be reconciliation with our Muslim neighbors when they haven’t expressed
the slightest regret?
Indeed will Muslims ever be capable of acknowledging any guilt toward us Christians?
Bishop Petros intervenes quietly at this point: “In times like these, we ourselves
can experience feelings of aggression.
We must overcome them.
It is God’s will that we should love our enemies.

I am silent, left speechless by his stance in the face of such a brutal reality.
He shakes his head thoughtfully.
“We can’t just forget what has happened.
But we will ask God to forgive the offenders
and lead them to think differently.”

Still, the white-haired bishop’s face betrays a deep anguish.
With this last oasis of Iraqi Christianity now under IS control,
and a nearly two-thousand-year-old
local church reduced to rubble, Qaraqosh is like a ghost town.
Bishop Petros is especially troubled by the fate of a three-year-old girl and some
young women abducted from the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain who–
like the Yazidi women-face sexual abuse, forced marriages with
Islamic fighters and slavery.

Bishop Petros told me of one eighty-year-old man who asked the terrorists why there wouldn’t
spare his family any food for the children;
their response was to hack off his hands and feet.

And yet the Bishop states that “they may have lost everything else,
but they have never lost their faith.”

What will the world be willing to offer in order to save these last Christians?
What will Christians be willing to offer in order to save these ancient brothers and sisters?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,
who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

some days are just harder than others

Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.
Winston Churchil

DSCN1725
(a lone hiker makes his way to the top of a mountain in the Slieve League area of County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

With shoulders slumped and arms hanging limply by her side, a solitary figure stands underneath the shower-head as hot water beats down on weariness washing over sadness…while empty eyes stare blankly at the swirling water disappearing down the drain.

Grateful that no one is there to discern between the water and tears—
her gentle sobs are muffled by the rushing water…
A momentary respite of sanctuary and safety found underneath the running water.

The hour has grown late as she readies for bed,
knowing that yet another respite awaits in the darkness.
The comforting release of laying down ones head is gratefully awaited…
As she longs for a few hours of reprieve from all that is….

Darkness seems to work harder during this time of joyous Light
while changing winds lap hungerliy at the flickering candle.
The captives who mourn in exile’s sorrow, now long to freely rejoice…
While Death hides in the shadows, preparing his miserable path.
Glad tidings now laced with words of caution,
As visiting messengers will soon take flight.

Some days are just harder than others…

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13

tuppence

“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”

― J.M. Barrie

RSCN8867
(Black capped chickadee / Julie Cook / 2014)

Each day, joy and merriment meet at the feeders.
Skiddering and teetering
Hopping and flittering
Precariously maneuvering from atop a tiny high wire act without worry or care.

Oh that life could be so seemingly carefree. . .
Flying, darting and dashing about, entertaining one and all.
Yet it is to the readily available food they come.
Hurrying to gather succulent morsels one by one.

Fragile yet intricate they fascinate and marvel
Envious of their flight, humankind has been drawn to them since the beginning of time.
Yet it is to the cry of the human heart. . .
Oh but to be a bird, to take wing and fly away. . .

Heavenward I world soar, past stars and moon
Upward past sun and clouds, I would race.
For there, waiting with hand outstretched I would find you.
You, the Creator of all of life, waiting.
Waiting to cup me gently in your warm hands,
Longing to find joy in my final return flight home. . .

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls,
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;
Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
The young ones are hungry
The nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”

Mary Poppins

The flight of the bumblebee

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
― Ray Bradbury

Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 24:13

RSCN4873

DSCN4869

DSCN4871

RSCN4874

RSCN4875
(pollinating bumblebee, complete with pollen puffs on its legs / Julie Cook / 2014)

taking flight

DSC00014

(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

“We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise.”
Plato

As summer is now upon us, my thoughts most always turn to travel—regardless of whether or not I’m set for an adventure or not. Have I ever told you that I am afraid of flying? Afraid of heights? Afraid of driving over tall bridges spanning large bodies of water….? And then there’s that whole flying over water thing…….but travel, yes, I love to…..

As a former art teacher with a penchant for medieval art, illuminated manuscripts and that whole Renaissance cultural movement…Europe was and is always whispering my name…so yes, I have had to fly across the ol’ pond on several occasions.

I tend to be a bit of a fatalist—my plane will be the one with the bomb, the technical troubles, the drunken pilot, the high-jackers sitting next to me, the blown engine…the list of gloom and doom goes on and on. I’ve been known to hold on to my rosary so tight that the beads almost pop off. I recite the Jesus prayer over and over, hoping it will help regulate my breathing, calm my nerves and hopefully get God’s attention that He needs to send all wayward angels over to the plane in the sky making the loudest prayer noise.

Be it flying across the country or across an ocean…it makes for a long journey sitting in a can with wings that, in my opinion, defies the laws the nature. But, and it’s a big but, the results, the arrival at the point of destination is and has always been worth my tremendous anxiety. I decided a long time ago that life was too short to sit by frozen with fear. My dad is that way—frozen with fear. He doesn’t even like for me to make the hour journey to visit him because he’s convinced I’m the next disaster waiting to happen on Atlanta’s 285—which, by the way, I must admit is truly taking one’s life in one’s own hands, but there I go digressing.

So it was a couple of years back—-a trip to Italy. I’d not flown that distance in many years, so my anxiety level was pretty high. My teenage son was traveling with me, but we’d left my husband, his dad, behind. There went the fatalist thoughts…”we’ll never see him again…” I silently suffered as we boarded. “A window seat, I have to have a window seat— I’ll get car sick…wait, car sick on a plane?? Hummm”…taking my seat, I proceed to stare out the window for the next 8.5 hours.

I plugged in my earphones into my little I-Pod and proceeded listening to Third Day’s Offerings II, All I Have to Give—playing it over and over and over….their music does speak to my soul as it were….their songs, like sung prayers, bring comfort to my heart, humility to my heart and tears to my eyes. So there I sat, listening to prayer in song, watching the sun set and eventually rising again over the horizon.

Time is an most interesting entity when traveling…all those time zones, time changes, crossing datelines…quite mind boggling and body draining. But yet being able to watch the sun set from a vantage point that allows it to drop below one’s eyes—not like watching it set when sitting on the beach—this is different–you’re actually above it watching it drop. The sky is black accented with sparkling stars as the occasional passing plane interrupts this solitude. A few hours pass and suddenly the sun begins it’s accent up ward again. Night and day become a bit relative when flying form one country to another…time jumbles up a bit.

I developed a great peace throughout this process. I suddenly felt as if I was hovering between the earth, my world, and the infinite sky, Heaven, God’s world. Sandwiched between His hands—and there was tremendous peace. I was afforded an opportunity that not everyone is fortunate to enjoy. Granted lots of people fly, every day, all over the world. I fly, on average, maybe once a year, possibly twice. Sometimes far, sometimes not so far but it is always exhilarating and always frightening and always adventuresome.

And there’s always that sense that I’m just a little closer to God, which I find wonderfully peaceful.
Here’s to reaching towards Heaven…be it on the ground or in the sky, it is my sincere desire to always reach a little higher, get a little closer, reaching my arms to His glorious embrace….
Happy to take flight…………..

DSC00013
(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

DSC01133
(photograph: decent to Atlanta 6/2012)