“wash your spirit clean”

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir


(a close up of a persimmon / Julie Cook / 2019)

Every now and then, we all need to go take a walk in the woods.

Walking away from the crowds, the city, the traffic, the noise, the stress…
Sometimes we even need to take a brief walk away from life…
and the best place to go to…is to the woods.

Allowing ourselves to marvel in the tiniest details of the Master’s hand…


(a small fallen dogwood seed / Julie Cook/ 2019)


(the last blooming “weeds” /Julie Cook / 2019)


(a lovely shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(deer moss /Julie Cook / 2019)


(more deer moss / Julie Cook / 2019)


(hidden shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(a fallen acorn / Julie Cook / 2019)

“I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land
so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

Ezekiel 34:25

consequences…the decisions we make

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest.
That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.
The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which,
a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.
An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge
or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(a willet makes off with a crab for breakfast /Julie Cook / 2019)

Scanning a local Atlanta’s news feed Sunday, I noted the storyline about a local Army Master Sgt.
passing away ten years after he was initially wounded in Afghanistan.

I stopped to read the story.

It seems that this soldier’s tale is a bit more complicated than that of a soldier being wounded
in the line of duty.

This particular soldier, Master Sargent Mark Allen of Georgia, was shot in the head 10 years ago
after he went out on a search mission for a fellow soldier who had deserted the unit.

The AWOL soldier was Sgt Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl deserted his unit and was eventually captured by the Taliban.
He was in captivity from 2009 until 2014, when then-President Barak Obama
traded 5 Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl.

Master Sargent Mark Allen’s now recent widow Shannon,
did not know that her husband was actually shot while searching for Bergdahl,
not until several years later when President Obama ordered the prisoner exchange.
All she had known was that her husband had been shot in the line of duty and had
suffered a debilitating traumatic brain injury.

Allen was to spend the next 10 years of his life in a wheelchair and unable to
communicate, requiring constant around the clock care.

The full news story is below…followed by a bit of personal reflection…

Georgia soldier injured while searching for Bowe Bergdahl dies 10 years later
By: Chelsea Prince, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A retired Army National Guard officer from metro Atlanta died Saturday,
10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
in Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Mark Allen was injured in a June 2009 search mission for Bergdahl,
who walked off a U.S. military outpost and was captured by the Taliban.
Military prosecutors said Allen was shot during a firefight that erupted when U.S. forces
and about 50 members of the Afghan National Army were attacked by enemy fighters.

Allen suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a wheelchair and
unable to communicate.
His wife, Shannon Allen, told WSB Radio that she did not learn about the circumstances surrounding
her husband’s injuries until 2014, after former President Barack Obama negotiated Bergdahl’s release
in a swap for five Taliban members detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Shannon Allen typically declined interviews,
but she was in the courtroom in October 2017 when Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges of desertion
and misbehavior before the enemy, The Associated Press reported.
He was later sentenced to a dishonorable discharge from the Army but avoided prison time.

When Allen returned home, after being treated for three years at a military hospital in Florida,
he was honored as a hero.
The father of two was a frequent recipient of local accolades in his Walton County hometown.

According to an obituary printed in the Walton Tribune,
Allen spent 21 years in the Army and the Army National Guard.
He retired in 2013 upon receiving a Purple Heart.
He is survived by his wife, his son, Cody, and a daughter, Journey.

Services are planned for this week.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Tim Stewart Funeral Home in Loganville.
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Snellville with a burial to follow.

This story was written by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Stories such as these are hard for all sorts of reasons.
Lives are shattered and forever changed all because of one person’s choice,
action or decision.

Two children lost their dad this past weekend… and if the truth be told,
they actually lost the dad they had known as small children, ten years ago
when he was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.
There are conflicting reports that upwards of 8 other soldiers were shot and killed
as a direct result of that particular search mission.

The story behind Bergdahl is cloudy.

When President Obama exchanged 5 military prisoners for Bergdahl’s release,
some of the truth behind Bergdahl’s story began to emerge.
Details causing some in our Government’s leadership to question the legality of
President Obama’s prisoner exchange.

Bergdahl was eventually tried in a Military court and pled guilty to desertion.

He was given a dishonorable discharge, demoted in rank and was fined $1000 from his
monthly pay.
He did not face any prison time.

Since then, some have wondered aloud whether or not Bergdahl was actually
an enemy sympathizer.
A disillusioned soldier who decided to take his chances by deserting the Army
and country he served, opting to seek asylum with the enemy…or did he merely desert,
hoping to elude capture and simply “run away” to whatever it is was that he thought
might be a better life.

Bergdahl, however, does not deny deserting.

In a letter to his parents just prior to his desertion, Bergdahl paints
the picture of a young man who was very much disillusioned.
He was angry and had decided that he must wash his hands of any part of the mission and war.
He spoke of “being ashamed to be an American”
He noted that “the US Army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at”
He points to the fact that America and her military are arrogant and even cruel in their actions
against the Taliban and the local people.

His father’s response was for his son to follow his conscience.

Yet one thing history has taught us is that war is not pretty nor is it ever fair.
Wars are bad and bad things happen during such.
Rules of engagement, the Geneva Convention, the UN, all have
been put in place to aid man in fighting his wars fairly…
yet what of any war is ever fair?

But those who are the committed members of our military understand
the mission and in turn work to that end.

And yet in all of this, I am reminded about the matter of consequence.

A man who was once proclaimed as ‘The Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, once noted that
“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.”

Ingersoll was not a Christian man however both Christian and nonbeliever can each agree
that from all actions comes consequence.

No matter Bergdahl’s claims as to what took place following his departure from his Unit,
the fact of the matter was, and remains, that the consequences from his decision
and actions that fateful day in 2009 has forever changed a myriad of lives.

Bergdahl made a conscious decision, that many say to this day, was purely selfish.
I happen to be one of those who find Bergdahl’s actions self-absorbed…
and according to Military protocol, even criminal.

His choice to walk away, for whatever reason, set in motion a chain reaction of
life-altering events…perhaps none so great as experienced by the Allen family.

The Bergdahl case remains somewhat fluid as his legal team continues to push that he
be awarded various medals from that of POW survivor to a Purpleheart…
as well that his “Court Martial” be overturned.

Despite whichever side of this case you find yourself, the fact of the matter is
that decisions, actions, and choices all hold weight.

And often that weight is a balance between life and death.
As they directly affect other people…whether we see or not the effect.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8

respect the gifted who are hidden

“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.”

Seth Godin


(Green Lynx spider hiding amongst the chives / Julie Cook / 2019)

Those of you who know me, know I have an inordinate fear of spiders.
Yet…
that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a healthy respect for them
nor does that mean that I don’t give them credit where credit is due…

And so I was poking around in the yard yesterday…
Poking is about all I’ve done all summer because it’s just been too miserably hot
to do anything else.

We’ve had 78 days of temperatures on or above 90 degrees…
add to that very little to no rain.

Things are both dry and hot.
Normally this time of year our high temps are in the low 80’s…
But we seem to now enjoy an average of 95…
who knew?!

Note that the calendar tells us that it is mid-September…

Since it’s hot and dry, everything is sadly shriveling up.
Heck, I am shriveling up!
Air quality is poor, schools are canceling or rescheduling after school practice
times for sports…it’s just pretty much miserable and has been for months.

But this is Georgia, we’re used to hot, right?
Well yes and no.
This time of year we’re usually tasting small snippets of fall.
Yet there have been no snippets thus far this year…

So I’ve pretty much given up the fight for the yard.
The fight to water and keep things alive…
I water when absolutely necessary but I’m no longer fanatical about it…
What’s the point?!

So when I was checking out what was and what wasn’t living, I was inspecting a pot of chives.
The chives are going to seed and upon a closer inspection, I noticed that I was not the
only one checking out the chives.


(green lynx spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

The spider, a green lynx spider, had blended in so well, I barely saw him…or her…

And what a pretty spider it was…
However, I doubt the bee or fly the spider was dining on would agree…

They are amazing are they not…

If I can keep them at a safe distance, I’m good…

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

making the invisible, visible…

Because God is love, and we are made in his image and likeness, our relationships should
reflect him in the world.
This, perhaps, is the greatest form of evangelization:
to make an invisible God visible to the world through our love.

Jason Evert
from Purity 365


(a butterfly at the Butterfly House, Callaway Gardens / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Indeed, the glory to which God raises the soul through grace is so great that even the
natural beauty of the Angels is as nothing compared with it.
The Angels themselves wonder how a soul that was sunk in the desert of this sinful earth
and robbed of all natural beauty can be clothed with such a wonderful splendor.
But this wonder of the Angels will not surprise us when we see and hear that God Himself
considers the beauty of grace with astonishment and rapture.
For how otherwise can we explain what He says in The Canticle of Canticles to the soul:
‘How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou!’

(Cant. 4:1).”
Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, p. 133

the highest form of liberty

Every moment comes to you pregnant with a divine purpose;
time being so precious that God deals it out only second by second.
Once it leaves your hands and your power to do with it as you please,
it plunges into eternity, to remain forever whatever you made it.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
from Go to Heaven


(The Butterfly House / Callaway Gardens / Julie Cook / 2019)

“To the extent that we abandon our personality to Him,
He will take possession of our will and work in us.
We are no longer ruled by commands coming from the outside, as from a cruel master,
but by almost imperceptible suggestions that rise up from within.
We feel as if we had wanted all along to do those things He suggests to us;
we are never conscious of being under command.
Thus our service to Him becomes the highest form of liberty,
for it is always easy to do something for the one we love.”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 182
An Excerpt From
Peace of Soul

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

our neighbors, the warren(s)

“Be cunning, and full of tricks,
and your people will never be destroyed.”

Richard Adams, Watership Down

“Love the animals.
God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled.
Don’t trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness,
don’t work against God’s intent.

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov”
Richard Adams, Watership Down

We have some neighbors…its a family of 5 and they live outback
someplace behind the house.

We believe there were perhaps 6 or even more, but one of their smallest family
members met a tragic demise…
Our older cat, Peaches, might know something about all of this but we won’t talk
about that today…

Rather we’ll just enjoy those who call our yard their own…

The other day, I went to open the front door and this is who greeted me on the walkway
directly at the bottom of the front porch steps.


(julie cook / 2019)

Next, I went out on the back deck to check on what was cooking on the grill when
something down below caught my eye…
That’s when I spotted him, or is it a her, under my blueberry bushes


(julie Cook / 2019)

Definitely munching on the blueberries…


(julie cook / 2019)

This afternoon I went out front to water my plants when suddenly someone darted
out, right in front of me…


(julie cook / 2019)

That’s when I turned around only to see these two youngsters chasing each other around the yard.


(julie cook / 2019)

Without a vegetable garden these days, I certainly don’t mind our neighbors sharing my yard.


(julie cook / 2019)

Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
Proverbs 3:29