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

fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

always optimistic

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank


(my new tomatoes in my “containers” / Julie Cook / 2017)

All my life, I’ve tried to be optimistic.
Yet at the same time….
I am fully aware that there is a difference between being optimistic
verses being a perpetual optimist.

I am optimistic but I also know, as I expect, that the positive will be met by the negative—
as in…for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction…
kind of like a tug of war…..

I have always been fully aware of the notion that if it can go wrong, it most likely will…
It’s like Newton’s Law but more like Murphy’s…

Yet at the same time, I honestly believe that the final outcome can and will be good.
It’s just that it most likely won’t be a bed of roses getting there.

I call that being a realist.

For I can see the trials and tribulations,
the “what if” scenarios,
the “if it can go wrong, it will” sort of life’s moments….
Because I firmly believe in a great battle that is constantly raging all around us…
as in a deeply troubling spiritual battle….

Yet in the end I believe, as I know, that “all things work together for good to
them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)…
As in the Good guy not only doesn’t finish last but in reality He wins,
And not only does He win, He actually triumphs…
In turn, making those of us who have believed,
the real winners…

So on the one hand, I try very hard to be optimistic and always ever hopeful….
yet as a realist, I know that the end result will not come readily nor easily…
but I know, without a doubt, it will come….

I think we call that perseverance…

So therefore during these day’s of doubt and despair,
in this uncertain time of anger and hate,
in these days of trepidation, mistrust and missteps…
may we each remain ever hopeful…for in the end…
there will always be the winning Love and Grace of God…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

how far are we to go?

“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”
Albert Camus

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(Betsie, Corrie and Nollie Ten Boom)

Survival of the fittest.
We’ve all heard of it…
that notion that the strong, cunning, stealthy and fortuitous among us usually come out
on the other side..
Whereas the weak, sickly, naive and unlucky, more often than not,
will succumb to those more trying events of life.

Many a survivor of all sorts of traumas and events are often heard to opine as to “why me?”
“why did I survive, making it to the other side, when the other’s did not??”—
those others who seemed to be perhaps better people, more kind, more gracious, more giving,
seemingly to have more to live for or even greater purpose…
why didn’t they live, while the now living survivor laments to still be breathing….

I think it is called survivor’s remorse…
a natural reaction…

Yet perhaps there is a deeper purpose for those who survive…
something that reaches to a place far greater than any mere mortal can comprehend….

Ravensbrück Concentration Camp…
A “death” camp north of Berlin constructed in 1938 in order to house female prisoners.
It was a camp initially built to hold roughly 900 women…
but by the end of its first operational year, it had far exceeded its maximum number,
swelling to 10,000 women.
A reasons for the Germans to continue with construction.

Mostly Poles, but there were prisoners from every Nazi occupied nation.
Many of these women came with children and many more gave birth while being held
in Ravensbrück.
There were unspeakable medical trials and tests carried out on many of Ravensbrück’s women,
leaving many to die agonizing deaths while others toiled through 14 hour days of
extreme manual labor.

During its operation from 1939 to 1945, it is estimated that 132,000 women came and
went from Ravensbrück…most of whom went out by way of death.

Betsie Ten Boom, Corrie Ten Boom’s older sister, was one of the thousands of victims
of Ravensbrück.
She was humiliated and worn down physically from months of being treated more
like a hated animal than a humanbeing..
Gravely sick and malnourished, her body simply gave out while her spirit
never wavered.

Betsie saw it as her Christian duty to minister to the other women–
both believers and non believers…
even compelling her fellow prisoners to pray for their monstrous
and sadistic guards.

For it was in those guards who beat, tortured, belittled, mocked,
demeaned and ridiculed their captives, who Betsie saw as people in need.
Betsie knew that Christ died not only for her but for those guards as well…
and if Christ would give his life for these Nazis,
then why should she not be willing to do the same….

“Let any one of you who is without sin…”
Betsie knew that no one on this earth was without sin and therefore…
all, both captive and captor, were in need of Christ’s saving Grace.

Corrie had seen the dead bodies of prisoners stacked up like cord wood…
those who had lost their battle to survive,
staked inside one of the bathrooms of the infirmary…
the same room where she would eventually see Betsie’s body,
discarded and waiting to be incinerated…

And yet without hate for their captors, Corrie returned to the barracks,
determined to carry on Betsie’s mission of love in a place that knew no love.

Shortly following Betsie’s death, Corrie was, as it was later discovered,
mistakingly discharged from Ravensbrück.

However before she could be released, she had to be “healthy” enough to leave.
Corrie was currently suffering from staggering edema in her legs and feet…
So as in a case of deep irony, she was sent to the infirmary to heal,
the very infirmary where women were merely sent to die,
in order that she might pass the physical exam necessary for release.

In the dank and dirty infirmary she was placed with those who were dying
from all manner of disease. The air was putrid with rotting flesh.
Yet she was thankful to have a wooden platform in which to lie down,
while being able to prop up her grotesquely swollen legs against the wall.

As she later reflected in her book The Hiding Place,
Corrie knew that living in such a place as Ravensbrück made the retreating of self,
that of one turning deeply within self to a place that normal humanbeings
dared not tread,
a necessity of simple survival.

It was a place of survival by any and all means…
a place that she would later recall as being Satan’s ploy….
“this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display
such blatant evil that one could almost believe one’s own secret sins didn’t matter.”

A place where morality, kindness and decorum were strangers.
She found herself fighting hard to continue loving and offering hope where
none was to be found.

At night in the infirmary she would be unable to sleep due to the constant wailing
of women pleading for the guards to bring a bed pan as the women were all too ill to
make their own way to the latrine.
Knowing what she must do, Corrie painfully dropped her heavy swollen legs from their
elevated position and climbing down from the platform, found the bed pans as she would
carry them from patient to patient.
Serving her fellow “woman” as only she knew Christ would…

On one of the aisles full of the sick and dying were a couple of Hungarian gypsies
who were suffering with severe gangrene.
Sadisticly they enjoyed waving their pus covered black dying limbs in Corrie’s face,
shrieking and laughing at her…taunting her efforts of simple kindness.
As these women had tragically become the animals they were assumed to be.

One night, Corrie couldn’t find the bed pans.
The other patients told Corrie that the Hungarian women had taken the pans and were hiding
them in their cots so they wouldn’t have to get up.
Suddenly Corrie felt the sensation of a wet piece of cloth, which had a wretchedly
foul odor, land on her face.
The gypsies were laughing as they had flung their diseased soaked bandages on her face.
Terrified and demoralized, Corrie ran sobbing to the latrine to wash her face under
the lone working spigot…vowing never to offer aid again….

and yet….
the one prayer that she would say over and over throughout her life came to her lips..
“Jesus, I cannot forgive them/ him/ her. Give me your forgiveness.”

She marched back into the ward, heading directly toward the Hungarian women,
when she heard the bed pans crashing down on the floor.

The thing is that Corrie could have, and by world standards should have,
selfishly thought of her own health and legs,
not bothering to sacrifice her health and potential release,
for the sake of others who openly mocked and ridiculed her selfless acts…
but as a Christian, who was actually living her faith…
Corrie knew there was no option

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than
on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.
When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command,
the love itself…”

And so as we now find ourselves marching forward into this new strange and hate
filled world of this 21st century,
may we recall that same command to love… as well as to forgive…
knowing that we have been given the love necessary…
a love that far exceeds the depths or capacity
of the human heart….

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:7

love itself….

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places;
but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief,
it grows perhaps the greater.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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

“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me,
I saw the sin of them.
Jesus Christ had died for this man;
was I going to ask for more?
Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….
Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than
on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges,
but on His.
When He tells us to love our enemies,
He gives along with the command,
the love itself.”

― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

vigil

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

1st verse to an ancient Welsh folksong

“And, in the end
The love you take
is equal to the love you make.”

Paul McCartney

img_0898
(the little Ga Tech bear that sits vigil at the foot of Dad’s bed)

There’s a lady in our town who makes teddy bears.
The premise is that you can bring her an old blanket, shirt or some other piece
of clothing, from either a growing child or even a departed loved one,
and she will make a bear using the blanket or fabric of said loved one…
she calls them “remembrance bears”…

Just before Christmas, when I was picking up a prescription at my pharmacy,
I saw this Ga Tech bear sitting on a small stool at the end of an aisle.
I asked the pharmacist if this particular bear was for sale or merely a display.
She informed that it was indeed for sale as her mom was now making collegiate bears.

“Well”, I excalimed,
“I know just the perfect person for this particular bear”…

And ever since this little black and gold bear has been sitting at the foot of dad’s bed,
or in the nearby chair…
keeping a steadfast silent vigil throughout these days and nights
of both waxing and waning….

and right now the days and nights are waning.

I was meet this morning by both nurses…hospice and the care service.
Dad had had a bad night, throwing up repeatedly, resulting in them having to administer
an anti nausea drug from the “emergency” hospice kit.

This emergency kit was provided when Dad was first placed on hospice care.
It’s a little brown box that was to stay in the refrigerator
as it had the emergency morphine for when pain got really bad…
as there may not be time to quickly order new meds.

It’s a little brown box I pushed way in the back of the fridge…
hiding it behind the eggs and milk…
as I didn’t want my stepmother to mistakenly throw it out,
and I didn’t want to see it,
I didn’t want to be reminded of it,
and I prayed we wouldn’t have to use it.

They started using it about three weeks ago.

The hospice nurse was also giving him a good going over….
from head to toe…checking the catheter, his vitals, etc…
When one is terminally ill, dignity is the first casualty.

Later my nurse friend came into the kitchen where I was waiting
and told me that she really didn’t think it would be much longer…
Maybe a week at best.

I reminded her that we said that two weeks ago…
yet I was very aware that we both knew the deal…
that no one can ever predict time in these sorts of matters…
however I also knew that she’s ridden in this little rodeo before…
her knowledge and intuitive skills certainly surpass mine in these sorts of situations…

And so after running to the grocery store and doing some errands for the
maintaining of their household…
I went back to sit with dad.

His speech was slurred, his eyes fluttered open and shut…
but he did have his cable news turned on and was attempting to go through
the motions of reading over the newspaper.
It is from Dad that I get my keen interest in all things news, political, football and history.

His legs were twitching back and forth,
As he told me that a former caregiver had died.

She had not died and is actually alive and quite well.
His mind is working hard to sort reality from that of dreams.

And as I sat with dad, watching news story after news story concerning the complete
idiocy of this nation of ours, I was suddenly and tragically aware that there were countless
other families doing exactly what I was doing…
and that is keeping vigil over a loved one.

The furtherest thing of importance that should be on our radars are these
ridiculous demonstrations, protests and marches.

When you cut away all the minutia of life…
all of the pettiness,
the bitterness,
the anger,
the tantrums,
the selfishness,
the lies,
the hate,
the lunacy…
you will see what is truly important…

And that is simply living,
as well as dying,
and most importantly the love that it to be found in each of those human functions.

Damn to pink hats, to rock stars, to actresses all performing for the mania…
those who now only live for the “will he or won’t he” that is gripping the minds of the hysterical,
It all matters not one iota when you find yourself slowly losing either your own life
or slowly losing the life of one you love…

It is the love found in that life that really only matters.
The love given, the love demonstrated, the love received…

May you open your heart not to the maelstrom of the mania that is currently
roaring past you…
but rather may you seek and find the love in life…
that one lasting piece of each of us that really truly only matters…

because in the end…it is only the love that will remain…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height
nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-38

heed thy words

img_0891
(the front window pane smashed)

The majority of the posts I write are written the day before they are posted.
Yesterday and the day before that were no exception.

Witnessing the surreal angst raging across this nation, Saint Velimirovich’s quote
seemed to best capture the correct Christian response…

“the world is a sick man whom sin has made sick…

as this pious cleric reminds us that…

“sin is the sickness and to scorn sinners is to scorn the sick.”

And therefore a healer is needed and we are to pray for the sinner…

Little did I realize how much those words were to resonate in
my own heart on a very personal level….

Saturday night we had been out to eat with friends…
It was just before midnight when we finally climbed into bed, ready to call it a day…
that the phone rang.

Calls in the night are never good.

It was the security monitoring system alerting us that the alarm at my husband’s store was going off.
Quickly dressing we raced to town hoping this was just some sort of false alarm.
Pulling into the shopping center we were met by the Georgia State Patrol and 4 Carrollton Police vehicles…it was no false alarm.

Glass littered the sidewalk like a million sparkling diamonds, scattering out into the parking lot…
this was the ominous welcome mat for what we would find inside.

img_0888
(the front corner that was smashed and the Pandora case…I am not showing the rest of
the damage in the store…that of the the broken cases as the investigation is on going)

I can’t describe the sicking feeling that grips one’s gut when walking upon
and seeing an extended part of yourself shattered and violated…
A flock of shadows eerily wandered in the fractured light with flashlights in hand,
searching for any information as a carpet of broken glass crunched underfoot.
The police surmised it all took place within 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds and thousands of dollars later…..

My husband’s father had returned home after spending fours years in Europe fighting
in a world war.
With no training or connections and little money in hand,
he opened a small town jewelry store with a legacy now 70 years old.

My husband took up the torch 40 years ago.
His store, his business, is all he has ever known.
He’s poured his entire existence into this small-town business with a
sense of selflessness rarely seen in today’s business market.
His integrity, diligence and sheer honesty has been the greatest example of
living and working that he could ever offer to our son.

Seeing a portion of this self-effacing work ethic of the man I’ve been fortunate to
share the last 34 years with…
broken and scattered along the sidewalk and parking lot late on a stormy Saturday night,
left a part of my own heart shattered and mixed within the glass.

Over the past several weeks,
I’ve sat perplexed as I’ve watched a swarth of this country act disgracefully and unbecomingly.
I’ve seen protesters marching, burning, and smashing store fronts.
Women enjoying profane laced rants.
Young people with masked faces torching that which is not theirs.
Vandalism for the sake of vandalism.
while hate percolates up to the surface…
As a percentage of this country decides every time we have transition and change,
it is a rallying cry for destruction.

There has been a call to destroy.
To destroy that which belongs to someone else…
that which was sweated over to create,
that which was labored over to build
of that which has witnessed the loss of sleep and great sacrifice…
coupled with the tender nurturing while praying as it all ebbed, flowed and growed…
pouring out a life to and for…
While others now selfishly and hatefully decide,
in the blink of an eye,
that none of that matters.

I cannot abide by those who steal or blatantly vandalize.
I do not make excuses that such individuals are disenfranchised, impoverished,
or uneducated…
that such individual’s behavior is due to the fact that they have not
benefited as others have…
so therefore such behavior is not to be seen as wrong…
just merely misunderstood.

Such is the liberal mantra echoed by those who make excuses for those who knowingly
choose to do wrong.

There are no excuses for choosing to do wrong.

Rich or poor
Educated or illiterate
have or have not
black or white
brown or yellow
Believer or not…

Wrong is wrong…
and it matters not your position in life nor
of your opportunities or lack there of…

So now I am finding myself hearing the same words of St Velimirovich that I typed
and shared yesterday…
“Make your heart prayerful, together with your soul and your mind,…
feel pity and compassion for every creature…
Do not scorn sinners, but pray for them…”

And so now…
I pray…
I pray for sinners as I pray for myself…
Sinners who have decided to turn their sins of selfish choices which
have been pointed in my direction…
I am called to pray for sinners to turn their hearts and their ways just
as I am to pray for my own ability to be able to forgive…

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47