spam

“Suffering, gracefully accepted, refines the human heart,
and the experience of darkness sharpens the vision of the spirit.”

Paul Glynn, A Song for Nagasaki:
The Story of Takashi Nagai:
Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb

According to Wikipedia Spam is (stylized SPAM) is a brand of canned cooked meat made
by Hormel Foods Corporation.
It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II.
By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries
(not including the Middle East and North Africa).

According to its label, Spam’s basic ingredients are pork, with ham meat added, salt,
water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative.
Natural gelatin is formed during cooking in its tins on the production line.
Many have raised concerns over Spam’s nutritional attributes,
in large part due to its high content of fat, sodium, and preservatives.

I also understand it’s the “national” food of Hawaii as “Hawaiians sometimes call it
“Portagee Steak” oddly my money was always on the pineapple.

And also according to Wikipedia Spam or rather Spamming is:
Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send an
unsolicited message (spam), especially advertising, as well as sending messages repeatedly
on the same site. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam,
the term is applied to similar abuses in other media:
instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam,
Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam,
mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions,
social spam, spam mobile apps, television advertising and file sharing spam.
It is named after Spam, a luncheon meat, by way of a Monty Python sketch about a
restaurant that has Spam in every dish and where patrons annoyingly chant “Spam!”
over and over again.

I must confess that I have never tried Spam.

I never cared for bologna so I kind of figured I wouldn’t care for Spam.
I’ll just stick to ham.

However that other kind of Spam…
well let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of that unappetizing mess.

We all get the e-mails, the phising (not fishing), the viruses (electronic and not physical),
the phone scams etc…
and yet we must admit it happens here in blogland as well.

Ever so often I’ll go into the comment section on my admin page in order to see if anyone
has been earmarked as spam.

I know that some of my blogland friends will make comments on posts and I will receive
an email notification along with the regular WP notification.
Yet every once in a while a friend’s comment is deemed spam by good ol AT&T.

WP is also prone to throwing friends into the black abyss of either ‘awaiting moderation’
or simply delightfully chunking them to spam. I too have been the victim of being chunked.

So yesterday I went into my site in order to check the spam allotment while
trashing what was indeed a bunch of junk as I sought to rescue anyone who had been
sorely misplaced.

Yet I stopped long enough to skim over one offering in particular that was about as vulgar
as it gets…and to think they were targeting poor ol Taylor Swift.
Not being one who stays up with the music scene…I don’t know why Ms. Swift should be so
grossly vilified, but gross it was.

My knee-jerk reaction, before pushing delete, was to simply bemoan the level of sickness
and vileness that runs rampant across our senses.

But then my thoughts shifted to the evil that is actually at work…
Evil found in something such as mind-numbing as the prevalent swarth of spam
on a simple little blog…

And so I was struck by the contrast of such thoughts of spam..thoughts for its reasons,
its uselessness and its dark and evil agendas countered by the thoughts of one who
lived to survive chaos and evil and came to know both peace and worth…
hope and salvation…

All of us will have to render an account of our lives when we die.
God will not be interested in who or what we were.
No, only in this: how did we live?
That will be the sole matter for judgment.
A company director won’t be able to pull rank on a waiter,
and a fisherman’s wife will be on a par with a millionaire’s wife.
Ships’ officers will receive no preference over ships’ cooks.
All will be judged by exactly the same measure:
did we use our talents well and for his glory?

Takashi Nagi
from A Song for Nagasaki
(Takashi Nagai, a survivor of the atomic bomb and convert to the Catholic faith
who lived a life of heroic virtue in the face of great tragedy)

The words of Takashi Nagai pointedly reminds us that we must consciously choose how it is we
wish to use our ‘talents’…those abilities bestowed upon us long before our birth…
gifts, abilities, and talents endowed upon, and found within, each of us—
given to us all by grace form the Father and the Creator to His created and children.

Will we opt to use them for the betterment of others and to God’s glory or will we use them
for the detriment of others and of self?…
Detriments much like the annoying spam folks are wasting their precious time over by creating and
sending to tiny little blogs like mine?

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

1 Peter 4:10

berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16

good fruit, bad fruit

“Beautiful, enticing, forbidden fruit will be offered to you when your “hunger” is greatest.
If you are foolish enough to reach for it,
your fingers will sink into the rotten mush on the back side.
That’s the way sin operates in our lives. It promises everything.
It delivers nothing but disgust and heartache.”

James C. Dobson

It never seems to fail that at this time, each year, I offer up some thoughts
on the gathering of the harvest.

The notion of fruit and or vegetables–be they good or be they bad…

This as I muse over the idea of the labor of one’s hands as well as the required patience
and persistence of both watching and waiting for that labor to come to fruition.

And that’s because I am usually in the beginning stages of harvesting something
this same time of each and every year…

A few years back I posted a great deal about our vegetable garden.

From the tiling of the soil, to the planting of the seeds, to the nurturing of those
tiny first shoots, to the building of a scarecrow in order to keep pesky critters
from eating me out of house and home.


(our scarecrow 2014/ Julie Cook)

We had actually named the scarecrow Tom… after one of my husband’s lifelong friends.
They did favor just a tad.

There was even the tale of the cutting off of slivers of Irish Spring soap and scattering
said slivers around the outer edges, along the periphery of the garden,
as an “old timer” had told us it was an excellent critter deterrent.

Of which seemed to work…for a while.


(the soap and deterents from 2014 / Julie Cook)

But then my dad got sick and needed me.

And I couldn’t tend to Dad and a garden at the same time.
The garden was big and demanded a great deal of attention and time…two things
I had suddenly found myself without as the time and attention needed for Dad far
outweighed the time and attention needed by the corn and squash.

So the garden was abandoned.
Filled in and covered up about 4 years ago.

Yet happily, I still manage to find a few things in the yard of which I must
gather and harvest.

Be it those first deep purple blueberries fresh off the 4 ever growing blueberry bushes…
or those first blushing shades of color coming from the tomatoes I’ve managed to plant
in a few containers perched in the flower beds,
Or simply the monitoring of the growing apples…
I still find a deep sense of satisfaction when gathering and harvesting.

Those of you who have been with me for a while most likely recall that every year,
around this same time, we have trouble with our apple trees and the peach trees.

You may recall the tales of when the sun goes down in our neck of the woods
and we go off to bed, that there’s a magic signal which goes out to all the deer in the area…
a dinner bell so to speak, clanging in the night, for one and all to come and get it…
come on over to Julie’s house and nibble on her fruit trees.

And let’s not bring up my husband’s pecan orchard that he planted about 3 years back…
those 50 “trees” I lovingly refer to as our green Q-tips planted in long rows out in the yard…

Their plight has been equally perilous.

With our resident deer, it’s more of a mindset of eat, kill and destroy any
and all of Julie’s trees.

Their idea is not to merely eat the fruit but rather to eat all the leaves as well as
the entire tree, limbs and all.

And so it’s a bit of a chess match…
waiting ever so patiently to see who makes the first move—
me or the deer.

So as it was today, with the sun was shining and it being most pleasant out,
I went to inspect the remaining 3 out of the 4 apple trees.
Sadly the deer simply ate up the 4th tree.

That victimized apple tree, plus the nearby equally destroyed peach tree,
are what I refer to as the sacrificial trees…as in the hope is that by eating up two of
my trees…that will be enough—
leaving me with 6 out of the original 8.

And whereas I see plenty of signs of snapped limbs and a few unripened fruit spent
on the ground…blessedly, I also see trees full of goodness.


(a fallen apple without the opportunity to rippen is now food for the ants / Julie Cook / 2018)

And so as I go about my yearly task of surveying, harvesting,
and finally gathering what there is to gather,
I am reminded, once again, about the importance of being known by our fruits.

Good healthy fruit or bad, diseased, soured, unripened and spent fruit?

What do I have to offer to those who come with a need or to those who are in search of
something thoughtful, fulfilling and full of ripened Grace?

Well if the deer don’t get involved, then may it be an offering which is good, plentiful,
abundant and more than filling.

By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:16-20

the darkness shall not overcome….

“In order for the light to shine so brightly,
the darkness must be present.”

Francis Bacon

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism,
but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.

Francis Bacon


(a partial solar eclipse caught in mid eclipse courtesy the web)

See this image of an eclipse?
Even when the moon passes completely between the sun and the Earth,
creating a total solar eclipse…as the day turns into an eerie twilight…the
sun is still seen as if glowing from behind the moon…

It’s as if the moon cannot hide nor contain the Sun’s radiating light
for the sun and all of her all encompassing power and might will not be denied

It is such that her light cannot and will not be hidden, contained, nor denied….

I think of Jesus and of his victory over Death—
His far reaching and everlasting Light, like that of the sun, cannot and will not
be hidden, contained nor denied …nor will the light that shines
upon the heirs of his Glory….for His Light will perpetually shine upon
all those who confess His name….

Epiphany—a shining forth….

Our good friend Bishop Ashenden offered a lovely homily for the Feast of the
Epiphany which was this past Sunday—
And as I keep explaining….my time is not, nor has it been, my own as of late
as it continues getting further and further away from me–
Hence why a past Sunday’s homily is being presently posted on a following Wednesday….

Yet no matter—I’ve added the video clip—it is all of about 15 minutes—
and well worth the time spent as the good Bishop offers a thought provoking look at the Epiphany as he asks us each the question,
‘what gift is it that we will lay before
Jesus as homage to his birth?”

And of course that gift is to be our entire being…especially
that of our complete and uncompromised time….
While at the same time we must remain mindful that our ancient Enemy will do
everything in his power to keep us from offering Jesus much of anything,
especially our time….

The good Bishop explains that what we know of the Magi, who were most likely
kings and if not kings of earthly kingdoms…they were certainly kings of
the realms of theology and science….
And it is clear that they were certainly not Jews….

Yet they came from far away places, converging simultaneously, in order to
see for themselves this baby that the heavens foretold…
A baby that was certainly no ordinary Jewish baby…
but rather a great and mighty future king…

And as they were not Jews, we have the first nod to the fact that this king-to-be
had actually come for all men and not just for the Jews.
As we actually see the leading thinkers and scientists of the day,
kneeling before the Christ.

Men of great, knowledge, thinking and wisdom…
yet humbled by the birth of a seemingly random Jewish child…
in what was considered a far flung dessert outcropping in the middle of
a barren land.
Men of great study and stature being humbled by the birth of a mere foreign child.

An event and scenario that would be highly unlikely to be acknowledged by our
current day’s community of academics and scientists.

For our dear Bishop explains that over time, the age of Enlightenment brought with
it a tremendous sense of hubris. With the current intellectual high priests
of all things scientific and academic possessing their fair share of self importance.

As our current age’s thinkers have been wounded by apostasy, unbelief,
schism and capitulation…
all the while as society is currently being sold a progressive theology
and the selling out to the spirit of the age…

And yet we are reminded of not merely a single birth of a small child
far away and long ago, we are reminded of the emergence of a Great Light…
A Light that called out the brightest and the greatest as well as the smallest
and the least….
for in this Light, not even the darkness itself can nor will contain it….

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5

tis the season…to be giving

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Charles Dickens

Tis the season of gifts…
buying, wrapping, giving…
Yet most of us know that not all gifts are those which can be bought nor wrapped.

By now I suppose most of the country, if not the world, is well aware of the major
power outage that afflicted the Atlanta airport this past Sunday—
an outage that caused a global and near catastrophic ripple effect.

There were hundreds of flights canceled in and out of Atlanta,
the airport touted as the world’s busiest, while other flights simply
had to be rerouted making final destinations more than complicated.
This lone power outage caused severe inconveniences for worldwide holiday and simply
regular travelers.

There were passengers stuck in planes on tarmacs as airport officials scrambled
what to do—deplane folks and shuttle them to the dark airport or what.

Thousands of folks were stuck in that dark and rather scary airport while others
braved walking miles along streets in an unfamiliar area in search of food, shelter or
a rent-a-car…of which there was nary a room to be had at any inn and no
transportation to be found.

The News did pan their camera over to a very busy Waffle House.

The individual stories were and are endless as now hundreds of pieces of luggage are
seen to be sitting in the Atlanta Airport hoping to find their way either
home or to the necessary point of destination…
all much to the chagrin and angst of their owners.

The news reporters were all on scene that night, in the dark, interviewing those
most inconvenienced passangers…with each person, each family,
having an individual tale….yet most of those interviewed seemed to be taking it all
in stride….thank goodness the snow storm had been the previous week.

Some reported that they had witnessed folks trying to “break into” vending machines
and food kiosks within the dark airport as it seems many folks were hungry….
I won’t even speculate about bathrooms.

There were the tales of exit doors being sealed due to no power.
There was a sense of being trapped or simply lost while thousands wrestled with
whether to stay put in the dark and wait, or venture boldly out,
if they could even get out, with or without luggage in tow,
in order to find some sort of plan B.

This is not to mention the thousands across the globe now finding themselves stuck
in airports or cities as their flights were being canceled or rescheduled by the droves.

Schedules and plans were now disastrous around the planet—
all because of a single power outage at a single airport, in a single city,
in a single state, on a single night…..
amazing how there is such a far reaching effect in such a single event…..

There are a lot of different directions a post could be written when something
like this happens…
notions that ‘we don’t need terrorists when we simply have ourselves….’
or perhaps a post about ‘how the tough get going when an inconvenience strikes
while the weaker among us crumble’

or maybe there are just the tales about human resiliency and resolve….

Yet despite the endless possibilities to write about,
I wanted to focus on the simple notion of giving….
wanting to keep our senses within the season of just that…giving.

I’m certain that there were a myriad of tales about the generosity of others during
this “crisis”….from the kind and gracious hotel and motel staffs,
to airport employees offering comfort to the panicked, to the average local citizen who drove toward to airport to see who they could help…..

But one tale in particular caught my eye.

Rather late on this particular Sunday night got, I received a local Atlanta news update
on my phone, alerting everyone that locally founded and headquartered Chick-fil-A was coming to the rescue by trucking in thousands of sandwiches, fries and drinks to those thousands of stranded passengers.

You might not think that such an alert was a big deal until you understand
that there is not a single Chick-fil-A store open nationwide on Sundays.

For you see, the late Truitt Cahty, the founder of Chick-fil-A who first began this
chicken sandwich business in Hapeville, Ga, right near this very airport
way back in 1946, was a very religious man.

Mr Cathy was often asked about his success and he always attributed it to God’s grace.
His go to manual of operation, he would explain, was simple his Bible.

He took God at His word.

If God said to rest and worship, keeping the Sabbath holy, then by gosh that was what
Mr. Cathy was going to do.

I myself am a firm believer that if you honor God,
God will in turn honor and bless you.
Mr. Cahty’s business success is testament to that very fact.

Chick-fil-A has taken a lot of flack in recent months, in part because of the
heavy Christian influence it holds as being a key part of its daily operations.
It has been picketed and protested because it does not condone same sex marriage.

Never mind that they will gladly and happily serve anyone, anytime despite a customer’s
beliefs or sexual orientation, it’s just that as a whole, the organization simply
does not condone the lifestyle choice…and that’s ok but….since we have become a
society that will not allow anyone to hold a view counter
to the madness of culture, places that choose to honor God and keep His word are
often maligned, sued and scorned into submission—but not Chick-fil-A—
it will honor God as it will continue to serve everyone and anyone,
albeit 6 days a week.

So when I read the update that Chick-fil-A would be providing food on this late
Sunday night—
meaning that folks would have to scramble to open restraunts, get employees on site,
fire up fryers and grills in order to quickly transport hot meals out to thousands of hungry and unhappy folks, I for one found tears of gratitude in my eyes.

Truly, it tis the time to be giving…

For the full story—click the attached link….

http://start.att.net/news/read/category/news/article/delish-chickfila_broke_tradition_and_opened_on_sunday_for-rhearst

Righteous among the Nations

“The Righteous Among the Nations, honored by Yad Vashem,
are non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Rescue took many forms and the Righteous came from different nations,
religions and walks of life.
What they had in common was that they protected their Jewish neighbors
at a time when hostility and indifference prevailed.”

Yad Vashem-The World Holocaust Remembrance Center


(96 year old Tibor Biranaski / The Buffalo News / one so honored as Righteous among the Nations )

This time of year there seems to be an overt abundance of stuff and fluff
blanketing our lives.

For we are a people now consumed with all things holiday—
and with what all that entails.
Whether we participate in the madness or not…it doesn’t matter…
because everyone is affected to some level or other and in some capacity or another…

Be it traffic, crowds, travel delays, deadlines, timelines,
weather mishaps, shopping, cooking…there is simply a heightened sense of urgency
racing throughout this month of December.

So when a tiny shining ray of light pierces the chaos, we stop dead in our tracks,
staring as we take notice of this out of place phenomena.

I caught the latest offering by our favorite Wee Flea…his latest mixed bag
of stories highlighting a variety of events and observations–some good, some bad…
with one small story catching my eye.

Saving the Jews –

Tibir Biranaski, was a 22-year-old trainee priest in Budapest who stopped over
3,000 Jews being deported to Auschwitz in 1944.
This lovely video from Channel 4 News shows the 96 year old testifying
to why he did it.

“The Jews were persecuted. I’m a Christian and God created man for freedom.
Everything that is against freedom is devilish”

I clicked the link taking me to a Channel 4 News Facebook video clip featuring a breif
tale of Mr. Biranaski. (link included in the Wee Flea link)
I dug further.
I found a newspaper story about Mr Biranaski’s tale. (link also provided below)

As this is the season of gift giving, we are indeed now given a small gift.
A most timely gift.
A most needed gift.

A single reminder and example of one human being offering himself selflessly
for his fellow human beings.
A story we don’t see or hear much about as such stories are drowned out by the
never-ending din of cultural madness.

A young Catholic priest in training, with great risk to self, worked to keep
3000 Jews from certain death.

How sobering it was stopping long enough to watch the video clip.
How perspective changing to read the Buffalo News story about this now
96 year old man…a former seminarian, husband, father, grandfather, and “savior” to
3000 jews.

And yet his story, those countless stories, now grow only fainter and father away
with each and every passing day as the members of that “greatest” generation…
be they Americans or not, are leaving us at an ever increasing rate.

The irony that such a story surfaces now as thoughts are turning towards a
tiny Jewish family wandering their way toward Bethlehem, is not lost on me or
on my sense of wonder.

A time for gift giving indeed….

LED 20 – Refugees in Scotland; Saving the Jews; Anti-Nazis in Dundee; Banning Franklin Graham; Another Brexit Bus; Feminism; Bermuda and SSM; A Christmas Carol

http://buffalonews.com/2017/08/27/sean-kirst-saving-thousands-holocaust-buffalo-man-honored-sweden/

https://www.yadvashem.org

choosing the the gift wisely…..

“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover
as the love of the giver.”

Thomas à Kempis


(the tiniest treasure found amongst the debris / Julie Cook / 2017)

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King.
Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree.
Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness
to God didn’t have a price.
He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the
greatness of God’s kingdom.
They come in any form of fame, fortune,
or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag.
His services weren’t for sale.
No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission.
He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage;
the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon.
David and Jason Benham

I really do have a great deal of disdain for this time of year.
I’ve written about it before.
Not because it is Christmas mind you, but rather because it is Christmas.

Huh??

Yes, I know, you probably don’t understand that last bit of redundancy.
Yet I would lay money that many of you actually do.

Yesterday a title to a post from a wonderful blog I follow,
jumped out at me from within a computer screen

“Keep your gifts”

Keep Your Gifts

There was a sense of defiance in the title that I found to be almost
exhilarating….
“Exactly!!” I practically shouted as I recalled just how much
I’ve been fretting the ticking of the impending season’s gift giving time clock.

I’m having a really hard time getting “into the spirit of the season….”

Be it this balmy weather, the heaviness of loss, the overwhelming worrisomeness
over this world of ours or the madness that is currently besetting our nation…

Ho hum is apparently beating out Ho, Ho, Ho….

Our family has drastically declined this past year,
leaving more names than I care to actually acknowledge as MIA from our
Christmas list.
Yet there are those who remain who do deserve a little something
under the tree…this as we look forward to a family addition come February.

But within all of that…those who are missing, the list of names, the cards,
the baking, the cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the working, the tree….
which by the way I have no idea when it’ll go up as it seems like it was just
June when my husband and son finally manhandled the thing
down to the basement.
And whereas it takes two to haul the blasted heavy thing
anywhere it must go, I in turn must wait upon strong abled bodies to
happen by my door in order to assist….yet I digress….

So in a nutshell this is a season of tremendous expectation.

And not in the notion of expectant as in the anticipation of waiting but rather
in a societal demand of what is expected.

There are those who fret how they will afford a gift for those they love.
There are those unable to physically seek out a gift for those they love.
There are those who will be away from those they love.
There are those who are simply alone with no one to love,
as they find this time of year so very difficult.
And there are those who go overboard while there are those who take
the path of Scrooge.

It’s just really gotten to be so much more than it was ever meant to be.
And I wonder when it will all finally explode, taking most of society with it.

So it is good, perhaps even life saving, to be reminded that Christmas
is not what the world keeps telling us it is…

As this world and her culture gods and the gods of commercialism and materialism
call out to us like a haunting and enticing siren…
singing a luring and hypnotic call coming from within a television,
or from the myriad of computer popups, from the endless shiny billboards
bedecking the roadways, to the festive sounds from the radio or the
the endless sea of periodicals and catalogs…
all singing the song of falsehood, greed and emptiness.

The quote from the book Living Among Lions, which I must confess I did just order,
sums all of this up so wonderfully—-Daniel offered us the best example—
“keep your gifts or give them to someone else….”
because Daniel neither needed nor wanted these earthly gifts offered by man.

Simply put, Daniel’s gift was God and God alone.

So as you peruse those catalogs and fight the endless throngs at the mall,
or sit glassy eyed and glazed over while staring at the computer as you endlessly
surf and search for that which is to be deemed special and perfect….
all the while as those credit card totals rise and those debit card totals shrink….
be mindful that nothing bought will ever fill the need of both the heart and soul.

For all things bought will eventually break, be outgrown, fade, get lost, or become
quickly outdated.

For the only true “gift” that really matters to any of us is the priceless
gift of Salvation…
Found in a lonely little corner of the world in a forgotten time and place…

In all of my years of service to my Lord,
I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised.
That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability
to out give God.
Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him,
He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles H. Spurgeon

the hustle and bustle of the 4th Sunday in Advent

Just a hurried line…to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly “Xmas” racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, “Oh Lor’! They bring religion into everything. Look – they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”
~ C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Dec. 29, 1958, p80

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(St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As Christmas day draws nigh…
As you busy yourself with all that must be done…
As you hurry here and there…
Checking off your list each item one by one…
As you travel… drive, fly, rail, sail and wander your way to there and yon
As you wonder what will fill your day come Friday…
Who will you see, what will you do, where will you be….
Make certain that you stop, standing very still at some point along the way…
Being ever mindful, taking hold of what is at the very heart, the epicenter of this season of merry and bright, waiting and watching…
What it is that makes this season as exciting as it is…
Not the visit from Santa
Not the gifts all wrapped up under a tree
Not the lights nor all the decorations
Not the visits from family and friends..
but rather the something, or more exactly the someone, who makes this all exactly what it is…and that being…
Yeshua ben Yosef…
The Christ…

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.

(Micha 5:2)

some days are just harder than others

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

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(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

The advent of Advent

The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.
~ C.S. Lewis

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(a golden red carpet / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Advent—the season of waiting, watching and expectancy…

As in waiting and watching with expectant anticipation.

With the anticipation being so wonderful, so indescribable, so over the top…you can barely contain yourself.

This is not the worrisome dreading sort of waiting.
Not the “oh no we’ll never make it” gloom and doom of the negative waiting.
Not the looking constantly over your shoulder with fear rising up from the pit of your stomach while you fret waiting for the other shoe to drop sort of the anxious dreading type of waiting, watching, looking, fretting and worrying…

This is rather the so great and so grand magnificent, I can’t wait, I’m so excited, as this is going to be really really good and really really big…full of sheer giddiness that I’m about to explode sort of joyful waiting and watching…

As in I can’t wait because there is going to be such wonder, relief and good things that all thoughts of bad, negative, dread and woe are simply nonexistent…

Yet is this the season that you’re all excited and giddy over because of the getting and receiving of more stuff? The I can’t wait to go to the mall and bask in the holiday specialness and magic of mega retail savviness sort of excited…??
Is it because this is the season you’ve long waited for because of the gathering and the getting of those gifts and presents and all manner of things that you’ve decided you just can’t live without sort of season…??

Is it the season that you’ve been long waiting and watching for as your calendar will now be filling up with all manner of parties, gatherings, galas and events offering the excuse of buying shiny and sparkly outfits with the expectancy of seeing and being seen while you imagine all the goodies to be sampled and savored…??

Is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over those things of this planet, this world, this generation’s idea of a good time?

Or is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over something else?
Something that is much bigger, more awesome, more unimaginable and more over the top than any of things of this life…those things and events which pale in comparison as they are simply fleeting and merely passing by…

For there is something really big and really monumental that is soon to be taking place
and those of us who wait, who watch, who look, who anticipate, who are full of expectancy, wonder and awe…. are not to be disappointed…

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas