If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter
of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal
likewise with their fellow men.
St. Francis of Assisi
(a snail seeking relief from the sun / Julie Cook / 2021)
Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians,
but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren,
God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ.
For if he is the head, we are the members;
he and we together are the whole man…
the fullness of Christ then is the head and the members.
But what does ‘head and members’ mean? Christ and the Church.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
An odd thing happened two nights ago.
Now you need to remember that I was taken off my HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
about 7 weeks ago.
Hormones, I’d been on nearly 30 years.
Sleep has never been great, but take away the hormones and things immediately went
from bad to really really bad in literally a single night’s time.
However two nights ago, despite battling the need to breathe while living
with a sinus infection along with poison ivy, I was actually asleep.
How do I know?
I was flat on my back.
I’m usually a side to stomach sleeper yet at some point or other,
when I’m really asleep, asleep—
I’m always mysteriously flat on my back.
At 1:30 in the morning, I became aware that I was itching.
Groggily I started scratching at my poison ivy now spreading across my torso.
Suddenly in my head, I was hearing a song that I know I had not heard playing that day
as some sort of background music in a store.
Clear as day, playing lyrically in my head.
It was a song I’ve always liked..a 90’s sort of song…Why I’ve always liked it,
I don’t know, but it has always made me feel a bit heavy-hearted and melancholy.
Again, I’m not sure as to why.
Although it’s an older song, it seems to still be quite relevant.
Rousing my brain to full awake mode, I opted to get up and head into the bathroom
in order to slather on some more anti-itch medicine— all the
while that song kept ringing in my head…
“And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in…”
I crawled back into bed now restless as my thoughts were racing.
All the while still itching and listening to non-existent music playing.
Why was this song stuck in my head—especially when I was good and asleep??
The following morning, after grabbing my coffee, I googled the song.
According to Wikipedia , The lyrics are based on Dylan’s (Jakob Dylan)
own experiences while living in New York City, in particular, the story of a homeless man
who would sit outside Dylan’s window and play the same songs every day.
One day, the man was gone, but his things were still there,
until gradually people started taking them.
Well, that seemed to make it all feel even worse…doubly more sad than before.
So I kept digging a bit further.
What did the Bible have to say about a black line??
As I kept looking, I was constantly being redirected to the mark of Cain.
Remember, being raised a poor illiterate Episcoplain kid, the breadth and depth
of Bible study was never my forte.
But I was now intrigued.
I knew Cain and Abel…really the very first tale of humankind’s lowest moments.
Or actually, that might have been their parents…but either way, we humans weren’t off
to the best of starts.
Choice…we never seem to have mastered choice…but I digress.
Why would God want me to think about all of this at 1:30 in the morning?
I know, I know…time to God is irrelevant but to a woman who hardly ever has deep
sleep, as in REM, I was just a tad frustrated.
There were (are) a lot of articles on the web about the mark of Cain
and many of them have some sort of racist connotation.
Naturally…it always goes back to race.
It seems race has been with us since the beginning of time and we still don’t know how to
deal with it—- gees…!
But again, I digress.
So after reading, I managed to find an interesting article on Bibleodyssey.com
written by Eva Mroxzek, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University.
She hit on the whole good mark, bad mark thinking…
Cain killed his brother and God marked him for life.
The question…was or is…. was or is the mark a mark of shame or a mark of protection?
Was it leprosy?
A ‘keep your distance’ sort of mark?
Did God turn his skin a darker color?
Did God have a horn grow out of Cain’s head?
Did it have to do with circumcision?
Did God give Cain a dog?
Did God have mercy on Cain and forgive him for having killed his brother…the first
recorded murder in human history only to followed by the greatest act of forgiveness??
But wait…was that the greatest act of forgiveness or was that actually
during Good Friday…
So, was the mark a mark of forgiveness…
On and on the so-called wise ones have debated this issue for eons.
And yet oddly here it comes visiting me at 1:30 in the morning by way of a 1996 song.
Ms, Mroczek notes at the end of her article… “But the most striking interpretations rely on a later meaning of the Hebrew word oth:
a letter of the alphabet.
A midrashic text suggests that God inscribed a letter on Cain’s arm as a mark of protection
(Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 21).
Thus, the mark of Cain becomes a sacred sign.
In another midrash (Tanhuma Genesis 10),
it is the word Sabbath that is inscribed on Cain’s face—after the personified Sabbath day
itself begged God to forgive Cain’s sin.
And a targum—an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—
identifies the mark as the holiest sign of all: God inscribes on Cain
“the great and honorable name of the LORD,” namely the tetragrammaton,
the four-letter name of God (YHWH).
Why the song?
Why the direction toward Cain?
And is this a message of foreboding or passage of forgiveness.
I’ll let you know what happens when the next hot flash rouses me from
what little precious sleep there is…I’m sure God will have His say…
I just wish I was wise enough to figure out where He was taking me.
But if I knew that…there’d be so many answers to so many questions…
Heartbreak does seem to be happeing on all sorts of 6th Avenues across this Nation…
Sirens ring, the shots ring out
A stranger cries, screams out loud
I had my world strapped against my back
I held my hands, never knew how to act
And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in
6th Avenue heartache
Below me was a homeless man
I’m singin’ songs I knew complete
On the steps alone, his guitar in hand
It’s fifty years, stood where he stands
Now walkin’ home on those streets
The river winds move my feet
Subway steam, like silhouettes in dreams
They stood by me, just like moonbeams
Look out the window, down upon that street
And gone like a midnight was that man
But I see his six strings laid against that wall
And all his things, they all look so small
I got my fingers crossed on a shooting star
Just like me just moved on
If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.
(the Mayor and Sherrif’s summer ride / Julie Cook / 2020)
“You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong.
When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice.
According to bloomsbury-international.com, the idiom “jumping on the bandwagon”
is of US origin—
of course it is:
“This idiom originated in the USA probably in the 18th century when musicians were
carried in a bandwagon ahead of everyone else when going to a parade or a political rally.
The phrase suggests that people will follow any event for the excitement of it rather
than actually knowing if it is true or not.
The transition from the literal to the figurative use we now know was complete by the 1890s.
Meaning…we must be thoughtful rather than impulsive and rash with those things we
feel compelled to join, chase after, or align ourselves to.
We, humans, tend to follow hook, line, and sinker our emotions rather than our brains.
Has history not taught us that these emotions of ours do not make for reliable decision making.
All we have to do is take a quick look around…
The bandwagons are fully loaded and skidding around on just two wheels…
the crash is inevitable.
Be smart, be wise… think twice before jumping on…
the inevitable crash will be catastrophic.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,
for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ
has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.
This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them,
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us;
whoever is not from God does not listen to us.
By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 John 4:1-6
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.
No, rather He meant….
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…
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…
“Hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Samuel Johnson
“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.”
― Thomas A. Edison
(Variegated Fritillary visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)
(Variegated Fritillary visits the heather / Julie Cook / 2015)
Best intentions are not always best—and sometimes it takes a lifetime to finally, sadly, remorsefully understand such wisdom.
What is it that they, those anonymous and innocuous wise sages, say about that proverbial road to hell?
The one I fear I’ve spent a lifetime paving?
Despite the poor choice of yielding to those intended intentions, time and time again we see that it is actually our hearts which often steer us toward the kinder and gentler offering rather than the more difficult.
Which may just prove that it is indeed better to lead with one’s head, rather than one’s heart.
As a people we tend to lean toward wanting to be kind not tough, soft not hard.
And yet it seems that we as a people learn best by the harder knocks in life.
Those lessons in life that spare neither our feelings nor hearts.
As parents we experience all of this first hand do we not? Tueri et provide — to protect and provide is the creed and motto of any parent.
We spend most of our time and energies wanting, and / or doing, just that for our children—
Yet it is not always the better decision, stance or choice.
A child’s hard lesson learned is usually a well lesson learned—it may be painful in the beginning, especially for the observing parent, but a great reward of character for the child in the long run.
And with all this talk of good intentions, one should know that inevitably there’s a whole lot of reaping and a whole lot sowing to be had.
And sadly good intentions don’t always seem to reap a like kind.
Instead they often times reap a whole lot of uncomfortableness, misfortune and misery.
Leaving behind those well intended souls, in the wake of the aftermath, like a deer in headlights wondering what just happened.
Thankfully there is another small thought or motto that has become a bit of a life-line
or actually it’s really more of a short sweet prayer which helps me through those moments when my best intentions get the better of me. . .
God, I blew it so please renew it. . .
And so once again, in this thing called life, as I look back on those intentions that may have, at the time seemed best yet rather turned out to be anything but best—even overflowing with negative repercussions, I once again offer up my prayer— “God, I blew it. . .again. . . and it’s a mess, and only you can “renew” it. . .please help”
Never bend your head. Always hold it high.
Look the world straight in the eye.
(a preening gull /Henderson State Park, Florida / Julie Cook / 2015
We can hang our heads,
cover our heads,
hide our heads
or. . .
we can keep our heads,
raise our heads
and hold our heads high. . .
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
Aiden Wilson Tozer
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1
(howling winds usher in a foreboding change / Julie Cook / 2015)
Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
Who is this strange man, dirty and crazed?
This man who calls the wilderness home?
He is nothing more than a poor homeless clout.
Perhaps a demon possessed spirit,
who has been driven mad by the winds and rain.
Was he not one of us, born here amongst us?
Was he not raised as us, nestled in our safety?
Who is he to proclaim the word of God?
Yet why do we find ourselves unable to meet his eyes, his glance.
A seer, a visionary, a prophet, a fool.
He talks to the birds, the lizards and to anyone who would give him ear.
“Repent” and “prepare” are the tools of his trade
“Yet look not to me” he proclaims, “for there is one who comes, much greater than I. . .”
“I only point the way. . .”
And the people of the land laughed.
They mocked and pointed, hiding behind bravado and ego.
Yet individually, they each wondered.
They squirmed in their shoes.
His words penetrated to a place no one felt comfortable to visit.
His stare made them feel dirty and wrong.
So they laughed harder and made merry with abandon.
Yet some were compelled to listen, even eventually choosing to follow.
His words relentless, his message never faltering.
Day and night he hammers the same message as if hammering a stake penetrating the souls of the masses.
More people turn, they listen, they follow.
However not all heed his words.
Those in authority grow wary, nervous.
They scream amongst themselves, “Silence the madman”
Plots and schemes are formulated.
An arrest is planned.
Betrayal is at hand.
Lust whispers in the darkness.
Greed reaches out its greasy hand.
Pleasure mingles with pain.
Yet his words remain the same.
“I am not the one whom you seek.
I am not the One.
I am but the messenger.
The one who was sent to prepare the way.
You will see, there will be One greater,
One who you cannot silence. . .”
All as a single head rolls, served upon a platter,
As the people resume their dancing and laughter,
Uneasiness reigns and the demons giggle with glee.
“Repent” and “prepare” swrill upon the foreboding winds. . .