life and death never cease to amaze me…

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood
becomes a matter of life and death to you.”

C.S. Lewis

“I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die.
The world will keep on turning without me, I can’t do anything to change events anyway.”

Anne Frank


(dried hydranga blooms / Julie Cook / 2018)

I had a couple of posts that I had been working on that were waiting in the wings.
Posts I was all geared up to finish writing and excited about sharing today.

I had just watched the latest offering by Bishop Ashenden–of which makes for excellent sharing…
And of course, there’s our friend the Wee Flea…and his latest observations…
of which it seems, often needs to be our own observations…as he is always spot on.

Then there’s the story of the animal folks out there and stories of the types of animals that
they’re trying to pass off as “service animals” as they try their darndest to get these
service creatures on planes.
It actually makes for a humorous, ridiculous and rather captivating tale that is now sadly
an indication as to the nuttiness of our society…

And of course, there is the on again off again notion of the Russians coming, going
and not coming or going…

I mean just open any newspaper or click on any news feed or watch ‘the news’—
and the supply of material for the offering of reflection is endless…

Or maybe it is simply a sign that we need to be more earnest with our prayers…as in
never ceasing….of which I believe is actually the case…never ceasing.

But as luck would have it today,
both life and death decided they each needed to intervene in my life.

If I haven’t mentioned it lately, we are officially in baby watch mode.
This first granddaughter of ours is due any day now.
There are however a few glitches that have popped up…but the doctors are assuring us that
we are not to be worrying…for what we see as a glitch, they see as nothing new.

And so as we now hold our breath as we prepare for a new life…today,
which is yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday, is/was Aunt Maaaatthhhaaaa’s birthday.
She would have been 79.
Remember we lost Martha suddenly and unexpectedly in July.

And so whereas she and I had already had an adventure planned which we should have
lived out this past fall,
as I should have been sharing the tales of our latest exploits…
rather than exploits, I am offering the bittersweet remembrance of her passing.

And to add insult to injury…this morning, which is yesterday morning to you,
just as I was thinking about how much I was missing my aunt,
this accomplice in all things of adventure…
her daughter–that being my cousin….well her fiancee called me, totally out of the blue,
to inform me that she, my cousin, had actually died suddenly while out walking the dog.
On her mom’s birthday.
She was just 48.

She had had a nagging cough and had been tested for the flu but they were treating it as
chronic asthma. I think they are suspecting blood clots in the lungs but I also suspect
that as was very much overweight, I think her heart simply gave out.
She leaves behind a 26-year-old daughter who struggles with autism and a totally shocked
and bereft fiancee who had just proposed on New Year’s Eve.

Both my mother and her sister, Aunt Martha, clung to the old-school
wive’s tales and adamantly held to the notion that bad things always happened in threes…

I say this family has had its three.

And so now no one remains on my mother’s side of the family but for the daughter of
this cousin and me.

And so I am poignantly reminded that we human beings are a people who mark our
days by the significance of the calendar…the passing of time marked by events.
As there will always be ironies found in both our births and in our passings.

I was all ready to be heading off in one direction today when life saw that I should
head in a totally different sort of direction…one that is much more deeply reflective.
And just when I thought we couldn’t get any more reflective then perusing the thoughts of
Bishop Ashenden or the Wee Flea, David Roberston…life teaches us otherwise.

It seems that there will always be joy and sorrow constantly rolled into one another…
Some would call that a ying and yang of living or simply karma—the coming and going around
of the good and bad in the universe…

I simply call it life.

The ebb and flow of this gift we have been given.
Nothing on earth is a guarantee…all but for the love, God has for His children.

And whereas none of us know or are guaranteed another day, let alone another hour…
Knowing that our lives, as precarious and fragile as they are,
are at all times found safely in the hand of the Father, is comfort enough for me…
May it be comfort enough for you…

For despite the markings of the calendar, none of us know the day nor time
our earthly life will come to a close…I pray to be in the hands of the Father
when that day should come for me…

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.
What is your life?
For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14

comings and goings

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
Deuteronomy 28:6


(the road leading Tremont Great Smokey Mt Institute, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

During this season of holiday travel may we all remain safe during the
journey to and from our various destinations….

“The love and affection of the angels be to you,

The love and affection of the saints be to you,

The love and affection of heaven be to you,

To guard and to cherish you.

May God shield you on every step,

May He aid you on every path,

And may He hold you safe on every slope,

On every hill and on every plain;

On earth and on sea until you are home again.”
Irish Blessing

the collision of patriotism and xenophobia

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith
becomes an American and assimilates himself to us,
he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else,
for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed,
or birthplace, or origin.
But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American,
and nothing but an American…
There can be no divided allegiance here.
Any man who says he is an American, but something else also,
isn’t an American at all.
We have room for but one flag, the American flag…
We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…
and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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( part of the health screening for those passing through Ellis Island)

Immigration, the coming and going of peoples from one country to another…
freely…
as in, it’s ok because there is a working process of passage in place…

It is a process for those possessing the desire of becoming something other…
hopefully better, thankfully freer, happier, safer, more prosperous…
and in the end,
American.

It worked in ages past when it was done openly and legally,
as in going through the proper steps and stages.
Remember Ellis Island–

However today, that is no longer the case–as in it is now a harry carry mess…
often a covert process at best…
clandestine, and even sinister, at worst…

A process that has existed unchecked and unabashedly out of control for decades…
And maybe that’s because none of that had really mattered during those previous decades.
Maybe it was believed that the Nation could keep up and absorb the flow.
Provide for, house, educate, keep healthy and well, defend and protect and afford…
the flow….

Yet, in time, as the world shifted,
we began to not only witness, but rather experience that very shift.
No longer could the flow be absorbed…
Financial affordability and responsibility was maxed…
The original intent was no longer the same…
English was not wanting to be learned.
Assimilation became a bad word.
It was a flow wanting perks without dues…

New words crept into our vocabulary….
Undocumented
Alien
Drug lords
Border control
Terrorism
Islamic extremists
Al Qaeda,
Taliban
ISIS

Tunnels were dug…
As planes flew into buildings…
all with a grave purpose….
And we were learning that things had to change…
there had to be new safety steps put in place….

Yet no one cared to recognize the folly or the negligence in allowing things to continue…
They preferred to rally….
vehemently angry while trying to counter any means possible to corral
and bring some semblance of order to a broken process.

They march while holding signs.
They quit work to protest.
Yet they refuse to do those necessary things that should be done, must be done…
properly…
legally…
correct….
inorder to make it all work…

And so those who say such words as…
proper
broken
assimilate
learn
legal…

are taunted, jeered, cursed and ignored…

Time and resources are passing away…
making it all too late to make things right….

confusion
apathy
ignorance
greed
loss
now replace what once was…
loyalty,
patriotism,
and National honor…
rendering a once strong nation….neutered.

“A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.”
Ronald Reagan

a vision of Lent

“Contrary to what might be expected,
I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful,
with particular satisfaction.
Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in
my seventy-five years in this world,
everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence,
has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained…
This, of course, is what the Cross signifies.
And it is the Cross, more than anything else,
that has called me inexorably to Christ.”
Malcolm Muggeridge

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(Bonaventure Cemetery /Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook 2016)

Lent…
giving up
sacrificing
doing without
fasting
denial
hard
difficult
arduous
abstinence…

But what is it about this Lent…this entering into the desert…
this time of isolation and self denial….
What brings us here?
Why are we here at this cross roads…
Where is it that we are now bound…
What will be the point of this…
longing,
introspection
and intent of focus…

As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs.
We see his blood as he dies.
We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.
He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were,
in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you.
His whole body is displayed for your redemption.
Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind:
as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you,
so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.

St. Augustine

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(detail/ painting by Julie Cook)

Bucket list

“I got a theory a person ought to do everything it’s possible to do before he dies,
and maybe die trying to do something that’s really impossible.”

Patricia Highsmith

I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays,
no just for tomorrow, but in the here and now.
Keep moving and forget the post mortems; and remember,
no one can get the jump on the future.

Carl Sandburg

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(antique water bucket / Julie Cook / 2016)

We all have them…
Those very public or very private wishes, dreams desires…
otherwise known as a bucket list.
You know, those things we want to do, see or accomplish before kicking the proverbial bucket.

Some of those desires are grandiose,
While some are demur and simple.

Many of them include travel, going, doing, seeing…
Be it….
The Great Wall of China
Climbing Machu Picchu
Riding a camel to see the Pyramids of Giza
Climbing Mt. Everest…or maybe just any mountain will do.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
Going on Safari
Visiting a rainforest…

Maybe it’s meeting a president, a famous sports figure, a celebrity.
Maybe it’s writing the next great American novel
or maybe it’s doing something to be remembered by…

I suspect a bucket list should be somewhat special, even monumental.

Not so much a trite list for bragging rights to be ticked off one by one…
But rather something that will be life altering awesome…
Life transforming…

A list, that I believe, should consist of only one primary event…
For there is truly only one such event in one’s life that is worthy,
dare I say necessary, of doing…

That being…
a meeting,
a befriending,
with the subsequent relinquishing of self…

The opening of ones heart…
The giving up of all that is which weighs one down…

The meeting of ones Savior…
Ones lifeline.
Ones Hope.
Ones Salvation.

And allowing Him to help carry any remaining buckets….

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Psalm 55:22

Should I go or should I stay…

Darlin’ you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

Lyrics by the Clash

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(springtime visitor / Julie Cook / 2016)

“The call goes out,
and without any further ado the obedient deed of the one called follows.
The disciple’s answer is not a spoken confession of faith in Jesus.
Instead, it is the obedient deed.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Discipleship

They were busy…
preoccupied with the business of the day.
Counting, looking, figuring, chatting, organizing and arranging.
This day was like any other day…
just like the day before…
And it was safely assumed to be pretty much the same tomorrow.
Life innocently being life.

Friends, customers, coworkers were all coming and going…
each equally busy with the business of the day.
No one sensed that change was in the air…

Was the sun shining or was it overcast…?

It was most likely warm, dry and sunny…
Yet it appears the weather was not to be a factor…
Change was to come with or without the shining sun.

He was accustomed to folks passing by his booth.
Some would stop, having a need of his services, others would pass taking no notice.
Maybe that’s why he looked twice when the stranger approached him.

Was he tired of his business?
Had life dealt him one hand too many?
Or was it something else.
What could it have been about this stranger to have made him simply walk away.

He was a Jew who was accustomed to working with Greek speaking Romans…
yet took the money of the Hebrew Jews.
Why was this stranger, who was also a Jew,
who obviously had no businesses with taxes or a collector of such,
now stopping by his booth?

They had all observed a conversation between the two men.
No exchange of money passed hands…
Just what appeared to be a causal conversation…
Yet what could this stranger have said,
causing Levi to get up, leaving his money and his papers to simply walk away?

He walked away from everything he had known.
His business, his associates, his income, his dealings, his family…
He left it all behind, at his booth, in order to go with this stranger.
“Was that not the Galilean?” one was heard to ask…

We know there was an encounter…as well as a request…

Come…leave…follow…

That simple.
There was no haggling, no convincing, no defending, no arrangements.
Just a simple agreement and in turn, a walking away from the known…
while now entering into the unknown…

It is one thing when asked to simply respond with a causal “Yes. I believe.”
Or even a “yes I can” or “yes I will…”
It takes far greater courage to actually get up, leave, go and do…

The question we must all ask ourselves today–are we willing to get up, leave, go and do?

As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Mark 2:14

Watch your step

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Johnny Cash

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(star fish / Perdido Key / Julie Cook / 2015)

Despite the fact that you always think you know where you’re going. . .chances are, life will intervene—-
Thought for the day. . .always watch your step. . .