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

what is the seed you sow?

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but
by the seeds that you plant.”

― Robert Louis Stevenson

(the tender cap of an emerging toadstool / Julie Cook / 2017)

If you have sown the seeds of discord…
If you have sown the seeds of hate…
If you have sown the seeds of the raging inferno…
If you have sown the seeds of vile speech…
If you have sown the seeds of dissent…
If you have sown the seeds of an ungracious spirit…
If you have sown the seeds of intolerance…
If you have sown the seeds of protest…
If you have sown the seeds of opposition…
If you have sown the seeds of pushing back…
if you have sown the seeds of violence…
If you have sown the seeds of resistance
If you have sown the seeds of revolution
If you have sown the seeds of civil unrest
If you have sown the seeds of contention
If you have sown the seeds of conflict
If you have sown the seeds of hostility
If you have sown the seeds of anarchy
If you have sown the seeds of mistrust
If you have sown the seeds of lawlessness
If you have sown the seeds of collusion
If you have sown the seeds of deceit….

spilt blood is on your hands….

Do not be deceived;
God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption;
but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap,
if we do not lose heart.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:7-9


“I take comfort in the fact that somehow,
in the mysterious resources of the human spirit,
even pain can serve a higher end.”

Dr. Paul Brand

“I don’t pray that you may be delivered from your troubles.
Instead, I pray that God will give you the strength and
patience to bear them.”

Brother Lawrence

(the hands of Mother Teresa / A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

The other evening a visitor to my blog made a comment on a post that I had actually
written 3 years ago…

It was a post about feet.

And the feet in question were not just any pair of feet,
but rather the tired and worn feet of a relentless saint of a woman.

A woman, mind you, Pope Francis most recently declared a saint.


For some, especially my high school students…at the time I had originally shared the photograph,
the image of her feet were hard to look at…
for the image was that of a pair of feet that had not lived a pampered life
but rather a life of back breaking labor, toil and work….

And we are each the better for those feet.

In the commentary of the post, a dear friend of mine lovingly and sweetly reminisced
about the rough and worn hands of her grandmother.
Recalling the vivid details that had been etched on her young heart.

The new visitor added to that very train of thought with her own poignant memories of the rough and worn hands of her aunt…and of the very touching response from her uncle to her aunt’s weary anguish over her “ugly worn out hands”…

There is a post unto itself in her very touching words…

And it was today that I read the most beautiful tale of hands that I thought most appropriate to share with this most current thought of hands…

“What practical effect does Christ’s identification have on the person who actually suffers?
A dramatic example of the effect of this truth was seen in
the ministry of Dr Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.
There he preached a sermon, one of his best known and best loved.
At the time, Brand and his workers were among the few in the area who would
touch or closely approach a person with Hansen’s disease—townspeople quarantined them.
Brand slipped in late to a patients’ gathering,
sitting on the mat at the edge of an open courtyard.
The air was heavy with combined odors of crowding bodies,
poverty, stale spices, treated bandages.

The patients insisted on a few words from Dr Brand,
and he reluctantly agreed.
He stood for a moment, empty of ideas, looking at the patients before him.
His eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them,
most pulled inward in the familiar “leprosy claw-hand,” some with no fingers,
some with a few stumps.
Many patients sat on their hands or otherwise hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he began and waited for the translation into Tamil and Hindi.
“So when I meet people, I can’t help looking at their hands.
The palmist claims he can tell you your future by looking at your hands.
I can tell your past.
For instance I can tell what your trade has been by the position of the
calluses and the condition of the nails.
I can tell a lot about your character,
I love hands.”

He paused and looked at the eager faces.
“How I would love to have had the chance to meet Christ and study his hands!
But knowing what he was like, I can almost picture them, feel them.”

He paused again,
then wondered aloud what it would have been like to meet Christ and study his hands.
He traced the hands of Christ,
beginning with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, futilely grasping.
Then came the hands of the boy Jesus, clumsily holding a brush or stylus,
trying to form letters of the alphabet.
Then the hands of Christ the carpenter—
rough, gnarled, with broken fingernails and bruises from working with saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer.
Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them,
so much so that when he touched people they could feel
something of the divine spirit coming through.
Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

“Then,” continued Dr. Brand,
“there were his crucified hands.
It hurts me to think of a nail being driven through the center of my hand,
because I know what goes on there,
the tremendous complex of tendons, and nerves and blood vessels and muscles.
It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.
The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me
of what Christ was prepared to endure.
In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled
human beings in the world.
Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor,
weariness with the tired,
but–clawed hands with the cripple.”

The effect on the listening patients,
all social outcasts,
was electrifying.
Jesus—a cripple,
with claw hand like theirs?

Brand continued.
“And then there were his resurrected hands.
One of the things I find most astounding is that though we think of the
future life as something perfected,
when Christ appeared to his disciples he said,
“Come look at my hands,’ and he invited Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nail.
Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity?
Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an eternal reminder
of the sufferings of those on earth?
He carried the marks of suffering so he could continue to understand the needs
of this suffering.
He wanted to be forever on with us.”

As he finished, Paul Brand was again conscious of the hands as they were lifted,
all over the courtyard,
palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.
The hands were the same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches.
Yet no one tried to hide them.
They were held high, close to the face, in respect for Brand,
but also with new pride and dignity.
God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

T.S. Elliot wrote in one of his Four Quartets:
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
the questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

The surgery of life hurts. It helps me, though, to know
that the Surgeon himself, the Wounded Surgeon,
has felt every stab of pain and every sorrow.

Philip Yancey
Jesus’ Reminders



A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable,
but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

(Bunratty Folk Museum, demo of making an apple pie / Bunratty Castle, Co Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“What are we going to make of Christ?
There is not question of what we can make of him,
it is entirely a question of what he intends to make of us.”

C.S. Lewis except The Strangest Story of All

Too much energy and time is often spent in the lofty theological defense and discussions of the conundrum of Christ and His place within the sphere of humankind.
Did He?
Didn’t He?
He said…
No, rather He meant….
He is…
He is not…

He desires not our time spent in the endless arguing, fussing and cussing…
with both believers and non believers over those issues He finds both tiny and small…
But rather and more importantly…
He desires much much more…
He desires, longs for and most certainly prefers…
our becoming,
our doing,
our living…
our allowing…
Allowing Him to work through our hands, our heads and our heart…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters…

Colossians 3:23

3 minutes ’til

DSCN0571 (1)
(old wall clock in the Jameson Distillery, Midleton, Co Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Doomsday Clock

A metaphorical clock created in 1947 by a group of scientists who all had a hand in creating the nuclear bomb.

A clock whose hands, when set at midnight, would signify the almost certain and impending demise of all mankind.

Interesting that those who helped to create “the bomb”… the very thing touted as being the be all to end all wars…in turn create a clock marking the end of mankind….hummmmm

The clock is currently set at three minutes ’til midnight.
The only other time, during its 69 year existence that the clock edged closer to the ominous midnight hour was in 1953 when it was set at 2 minutes ’til midnight.

What pray tell, one may ask, could ever be a determining criteria to the fretful moving of the two hands ever closer to or further from the dreaded bewitching midnight hour?

Well the obvious threat would be that of nuclear war or the use of nuclear weapons somewhere across the globe….
think Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan, Israel, India, Russia, the US, ISIS….you get the picture.

Global economic stability…or lack thereof…think IMF, stock markets, world banking, black markets, recessions, depressions….

The precarious health of the environment….think global warming, global cooling, locusts, plagues, floods, erosion, pollution….

Seeing any or all of the latest headlines ringing round the world and you can get some sort of idea to the scope of “criteria” as to what makes the doomsday hands tick closer to the proverbial pumpkin turning, glass slipper seeking, fairytale stroke of midnight turned reality tale type of harbinger of cataclysmic death and destruction.

Yet I’m not really certain as to why we need a group of world renowned scientists, nobel prize winners and leaders in all things academic amassed together in some sort of board room or labortory telling us we’re almost ready to implode. One look at the news and anybody with any sense can plainly see the alarmingly rapidly increasing impending demise of mankind splattered across every news outlet from Sydney to Katmandu, from Spokane, to Liverpool, from Tibilsi to… get the idea.

It all reminds me of those homemade beacons of foreboding doom stuck in the ground along wayward roadsides declaring to one and all… “REPENT! THE END IS NEAR”

And yet, I’ve not noticed a run on the churches…
You know, like when the weathermen start predicting an impending storm and suddenly all of humanity descends upon every grocery store within the bullseye of the storm in order to snatch up every loaf of bread and every gallon of milk as if those two things alone are the only things that can sustain us throughout the duration of hunkering down and battening down the hatches…

One might imagine that when the rallying cry of doom is sounded by those in the know, the average citizen would feel as if he or she may want to get serious with that whole getting right with one’s God concept, as in the time has come….filling the local pews to the brim as everyone jockeys for position while seeking the saving grace before the you know what hits the fan….

Or maybe not…

Maybe everyone is just so jaded, so gloom and doomed out…so hardened of heart…
as in over it…
as in sick and tired of thinking about the dreaded end…
merely preferring to think that destruction and mayhem are either over rated or merely part of the inevitable and that there’s just not avoiding the inevitable.
I actually think one of the networks has a new show, a black comedy, coming out focusing on the very concept of living life in the wake of “the end”….

At any rate, I found the story as well as the fact that the BBC found it necessary to report that the hands are somewhat stuck…as in they aren’t moving, most interesting. It’s three minutes ’til and that seems to be it for now…no moving backwards or forwards—and depending on one’s outlook, maybe that’s a good thing…at least we’re not moving forward, with maybe a chance to go backwards…

However, given the precarious global situation I don’t think backwards is going to be an option anytime soon.
And whereas man may need reminding every once in a while that he’s sitting on the brink of total annihilation, I am reminded of many a biblical passage which addresses this rather interesting position we’ve gotten ourselves into….

…And yet, I am not running about like Henny Penny proclaiming that the sky is falling…rather I am resting in the peace of the knowledge that no matter what may or may not blow at this supposed midnight hour, my life rests in the blood of the lamb, in the saving Grace of the One True Resurrected Savior of Jesus Christ.
Come what may, I am His and He is mine—
and there is a great deal of contentment found in that one small fact…

Here’s a link to the story…

Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

the continuum of New

“In joined hands there is still some token of hope, in the clinched fist none.”
― Victor Hugo


What was—
Long long ago, there in a different time, lived New
And in this New existed,

It was a marvelous time–
A happy time–
For there rested within New,

It was a time for—

In addition, as fate would have it, within this New, there also endured

as well as
and even necessary truth

All of that had to be there–toegether
as that is all a part of how New could and would grow


There was a magical as well as rocky time of growth
sometimes happy
sometimes sad
sometimes fun
sometimes hard

New emerged into–
something else
something older
something wiser
New became Grown

Yet there remained buried deep within New, which was now Grown,
wistful thoughts

Unfortunately it had become a
busy time
a frantic time
a hurried time

Hope ran toward Regret
Dreams turned into Reality
Excitement became Tired
Adventures suddenly Distant
Imagination Disappeared

sigh. . .

Nevertheless, when all seemed stuck in a motionless circle—
Life reappeared
Hope returned
Joy was renewed
Excitement again relished


And so it was, just as it all had begun—
Every last one returned,
They returned to New, who was now Grown
They were all now a part of the newest New

For as New had grown older, all that resided deep down in New had never vanished
it simply—

And just as New, now Grown, had become somewhat weary as well as Cynical
A Miracle
New, now Older and Grown, gave way to another New
This was a smaller New
The same New but different
A brand new New

All the good things that were there in the first New, all came rushing back
as well as some of those troubling things—
but without the good things along with the troubling things, little New could not, would not
giving way, eventually to an entirely different New


Old New, now Grown, watched the little New grow as well
There were bumps and scrapes
laughter and tears
But New, now Grown, was now also Proud

And so it is with New and how it grows—
Inside of New lives–good things and bad
happy and sad
And as New grew, it witnessed the birth of the smaller New
and there, all within the latest New,

But most importantly, New, who was grown, was now also becoming old, looked back happily over the growth of the youngest New and smiled with satisfaction feeling happily Complete.