fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

it’s time again…to share

“When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief.
Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry;
the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it;
the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes;
the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

Basil the Great


(a freshly watered monarch butterfly caterpillar, who happens to be eating the
new baby parsley / Julie Cook / 2017)

In the waning days of summer, as the humidity races skyward to meet the relentless
midday sun, those once ever hopeful potted plants and herbs…
those once oh so spry, succulent green and promising beauties, are one by one,
beginning to loose the will to survive.

A southern sun will do that to you.

The dill has long gone to seed as have the parsley and the basil.
Drooping, drying out and dying is the current game of the summer garden party.
As it’s really just time to cut things back, pull things up and simply
hang on for a couple of more months until the heat just might slowly begin
to retreat.

This tiny new parsley plant hasn’t got nary a chance now that the monarch caterpillars
have found it.

Despite my watering, they remain unfazed…
eating and constantly devouring around the clock until everything is gone…
as they fatten themselves up, preparing for the time of transformation…

Because who can complain about the birth of a butterfly….


(all images of both the Monarch and or Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16

not for sissies

“Walking the streets of Charleston in the late afternoons of August
was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.”

Pat Conroy

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(yellow sulphur butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

Summer in the deep South is not for the faint of heart…

98 degree days coupled with 98% humidity…
Clothes cling to bodies like wet toilet paper dangling from a tree limb after a rain.
Hair doos are non-existent.
And sweat becomes an accessory rather than an unsightly bodily function

Then there are the…

98 degree days with low humidity which equals no rain, no moisture whatsoever…
for days and days and days and days…
Everything dries up…
the grass crunches,
green things all turn brown
and earthworms shrivel into brown sticks…

Yet there are a few among us who remain unfazed…
who actually seem to thrive, coming into their own.
The higher the temperature, the more excited they become….

And you just thought butterflies were for sissies….

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(clouded skipper on the butterfly bush / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(gulf fritillary butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

I’m just asking for this one thing. . .

Praying, we usually ask too much. I know I do. Sometimes we even demand. I think I am learning to ask enough for the moment–not for the whole year, utterly veiled in mystery; not even for the week, the month ahead; but just for today.

Jesus said it all when He told us to pray: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

That bread is not only material, it is spiritual; in asking for it, we ask for a sufficiency of strength, courage, hope and light. Enough courage for the step ahead–not for the further miles. Enough strength for the immediate task or ordeal. Enough material gain to enable us to meet our daily obligations. Enough light to see the path–right before our feet.”
― Faith Baldwin

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(tiger swallowtail feasting on the butterfly bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both of my grandmothers always had a good response when any of the grandkids began rambling off a list of wants—to what must have seemed like a never ending and ever growing list of wants.
And as the children, as in me, my brother and cousins grew, the “wants” exponentially became grander and more expensive–

The response from my mother’s mother was her dry “your wants never hurt you” with the response from my dad’s mother being her famous and very flippant singsongy “too bad, too bad”.

Now it’s not as if these two ladies were not doting grandmothers—they certainly were as they lavished their grandkids with a great deal–it’s just that some of those lavished items were indeed wanted and giddily accepted while some things were certainly not wanted nor had they even been a thought on the list.

New clothes and affording an education to a private school, if and when the need arose, was gracious and welcomed no doubt in the eyes of parents, but in the mind of a growing grandchild, the more pressing issues were for more fadish items or candy, ice-cream, the circus, concert tickets, bikes, horses, etc. . .these were the real items to the list of wants just waiting to be filled.

Both of these ladies were born at the onset of a new century–one in rural middle Georgia the other in rural Texas. They each lived through two world wars, a great depression and a myriad of other wars, police actions and the ebbing and flowing of the security of the world. They each knew difficulties and suffered loss while growing up. They each worked hard for what they had albeit in very different fashions.

To this day, I can hear my grandmother’s “too bad, too bad” ringing in my head every time I hear myself lamenting “I wish I had a [new] _________________________.
Filling in the blank with anything that is not necessarily essential to survival.

So it is on this once again hot and overtly humid day, which is just another day in a long and never ending string of hot and humid days, that I am heard to lament. . .
“I wish it was cooler.
I wish it was Fall.
I wish the weather would change.
I wish it wasn’t so hot.
I wish it wasn’t so humid. . .”
on and on ad infinitum

And somewhere in the back of my brain, I can now hear one of those two ladies amusingly replying, “be careful what you wish for missy, you might just get it. . .”

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Change is gonna do me good

“It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will”

Sam Cooke

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(the new fall crop of pumpkins and gourds / Julie Cook / 2014)

September 22, 2014
A new day to a new week and the first day of a new season.
Happy Fall!!
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the thermometer.
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the temperature.
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the sun.
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the humidity.

Probably shouldn’t be putting out new pumpkins to sit and bake in 87ᵒ heat.
Did I not read somewhere that this week is going to “cool” down?
Cool down.
Upper 70s.
Oooooo. . .ahhhhhhh

Cool is a relative word is it not?
A state of mind really.
And it is a state that I’m very ready to experience.

Change.
Yes change is good.
Of course any sort of change can be difficult, as well as dreaded- – –
or – – –
It can be anticipated and welcomed.

And in this case I think it is certainly welcome.
So yes, change is a coming and it’s gonna do me good.

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Waning and Waxing

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the Creator.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(the waxing crescent moon of the end of August / Julie Cook / 2014)

A waning summer is soon to be written down in the annuals of time as just another volume known simply as the memories of a summer come and gone. . .

First it was June who offered her sheer joy of freedom and the simple recklessness of abandon which was to be found lurking in the heart of both young and old. Freedom whispered as Summer offered her enticing and welcoming warmth, coaxing all winter weary souls back into the light of day. The Days grew long and luscious as bare feet relished the cool tall grass. Soft laughter was heard across the evening skies as we gave ourselves permission to sit out just a little bit longer and a little bit later while savoring the perfume of gardenia and jasmine on a summer’s night breeze as we watched the fireflies dance with the stars.

Next came July, marching forth wearing her Red, White and Blue. Her night skies lit bright with the colorful displays of triumph and freedom. Reminding us of who we are and why we are and why any of that really matters. Children squealed with delight as the juice of watermelons and ice cold popsicles trickled down cheeks and chins. We packed our baskets full of fried chicken and potato salad. We gathered by lakes and ponds, casting our lines and pulling our skis–donning lotions and potions keeping sun and insect both at bay. Happiness and joy mingled sweetly together with the myriad of pitchers of lemonade, the bottomless bowls of homemade ice-cream while the smoke of a thousand grills and cookouts wafted heavenward.

Finally August arrived on a long hot summer wind. The sun bore down as a brilliant flame ready to bake a silent earth. The grass withered, the creeks dried as air quality alerts were sounding the alarm. Triple digits danced across the meters as we darted and dashed from house to car, from car to work in the maddening avoidance of the furnace blast of an unforgiving month. Our clothes clung to sweat soaked bodies as each breath labored under the thick stagnant humid air. Energies were drained as the heat of the day took its toll. Joy and pleasure took a nap along with the brilliant colors of flowers and blooms which gave way to dried crunchy browns. The cicadas sang their endless song under the blanket of a hazy heavy night.

And here we are again, preparing one last time, ready to offer up one more final “Hooray”–one last chance to capture the elusive siren known as Summer. One more opportunity to grab with gusto a little summertime enjoyment before the page turns, waxing toward a hopeful new season and time. A refreshing Fall is waiting in the wings, ready to offer her brilliance of color, intoxicating warm woody scents, and rich full heady flavors—but until that time comes, we must give Summer her due and pay her homage one last hot and humid time. . .

knowing when is when and when enough is enough

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
Lao Tzu

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
William Blake

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(the image of a dying tomato bush with a leafleg bug ready to take the remains / Julie Cook / 2014)

The air is sticky thick with humidity, it is as if the waning weeks of Summer are doing their best to suffocate the life out of every living creature before she is vanquished from the calendar.
Can we hold on until Autumn?
Until the air changes with a lightness, with coolness, with crispness?
Can we muster the strength to head out into the relentless heat of the final blasts of August’s furnace one more time to water a parched lawn, to walk an exhausted dog, to practice the quintessential game of Fall? Are we ready yet to throw in Summer’s beach towel in exchange for Autumn’s brilliant blanket of color?

As we are now left with the same nagging question. . .when is enough yet enough–when is when when?

Back when I was preparing to throw in the towel to my career in education, deciding it was time to walk away from the classroom I had called home for 31 years, there were those who clamored for me to stay. I dare say there were also those who clamored more quietly for me to “go, please go. . .” but the question more often than not asked was “how did / do you know it’s time?”
How does one know when when is when and enough is enough?

I’m not sure if my answer would be the right answer for someone else wrestling with a decision of knowing when is when but it was one that worked for me. My decision was certainly expedited by my Dad’s failing memory, but it was also hurried along by my oh so very stress ridden and tired body. I had spent a lifetime shoring up my physical self, patching here and there, swallowing this and that just so I could keep going. You know the old saying, a sick teacher is better than a substitute any day.

It helped to some degree that I had also witnessed first hand other individuals who had stayed longer than they should— those who had long lost their charisma, their passion, their vitality, their stamina, their enthusiasm, their enjoyment, their patience, their “love”. I did not want to be that person.
I needed, wanted, to go out on top—not just for my own sake, but for the sake of the program I had spent a lifetime forging.
So, after 31 years, the time had come, when enough was truly enough.

I say all of this as I find myself sitting on the cusp of one season slowly waning, soon to give way, thankfully, to another season. I forged a valiant fight in the garden this year. I documented the journey starting back just shortly after Easter, when the soil was still cold from a lingering winter.

We journeyed, you and I, throughout the early harrowing attacks of wandering and maundering deer, armadillos and raccoons. You read of my battles to stave off a keen and cunning enemy armed with nothing more than Irish Spring soap. You read of my frustrations and wonderment as you shared the images of the emerging fruits of my labors, as well as the later heavy laden baskets of the plethora of the harvest, along with a recipe or two.

Yet I must say, that the time draws nigh as it is soon time to cut and till under the dregs of this season’s work. It is soon time to put away the trappings of this year’s garden, as we will merely wait until the time arrives for next year’s garden—the very garden my husband says, once again, will not be happening.

I know it’s time when the weeds outnumber the plants. When the ants threaten to make off with me as their mounds could possibly swallow me whole, when the maypops sprout, when the tomatoes “fire up” as a slow drying and dying begins to take place. . . and when, most surely, the leaf legged bugs arrive.
And yes that is their common name. . .

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They are the Coreidae–members of the hemipteran, suborder Heteroptera—kin to the stinkbugs but thankfully, do not seem to emit an odor or perhaps it is overcome by the decaying stench of rotting tomatoes wafting heavenward.

Each year, late August, these alien looking insects descend upon my remaining tomatoes with a vengeance—with this, more or less, being a direct result of my having allowed them to move in. Days may pass before I venture out to what is now an overgrown and overrun patch of land that once held great promise. The heavy heat and humidity, and the endless battle against weed and insect, all by late Summer, has witnessed my having thrown in the towel, allowing Mother Nature to take back what is rightfully hers.

As I pick through the dried and dying vines, seeking the dregs of remaining ripening tomatoes—those spared black rot or still intact and not bursting on the vine from the ill effects of late rains, I am nearly knocked over by the ariel assault of leaflegs fleeing my encroaching presence.

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The official end of Summer is upon us next weekend with the annual return of the long Labor Day weekend’s last hooray. This is our signal, our beacon, our cue that change is forthcoming.
I for one do not need a calendar to be reminded. I have the leaflegs. These alien like insects who act as either harbinger or hearalder of the change of things to come.

The time for when is now as it is more than time that I’ve had enough—

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“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.”
― John Adams