When buzzards come calling…

When vultures surround you, try not to die.
African proverb


(close up of a turkey buzzard / Lifescience.com)

Look at that face would you?
Look how the nostril just opens through to the other side…
I’ve always heard that, as the garbage men of the bird world, buzzards
can’t smell…well I would certainly hope not!

It is supposedly by their keen eyesight that they are able to scope out and zoom in on the
latest roadkill.

So over the past weekend, since it has been so miserably hot and while we are still
supposedly in some sort of social distancing lockdown…
just don’t tell everyone out on the roadways that, we opted for some idyllic countryside driving.

I don’t know about you but I’ve come to realize that I feel very heavyily burdened.

Be it this ongoing Pandemic mess…total civil unrest across the nation and world…
political persecution should you support the sitting president…
Christian persecution…

All the while questions loom heavy overhead…
Will there be school, will there not be school…
will there be a second wave…did we ever finish the first wave…
will they open Chruch…will we just succumb to Marxist ideology and the church will be
rendered dead…should we don a mask or not…

And so pray tell, how much longer will all of this mess go on!?

So as we started driving and I was looking out the window, with the weight of so much
heaviness on my mind, I focused my eyes on something a bit odd…
I noticed a black image sitting atop the steeple of a small country church.


(youtube)

“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed to my husband, “do they not have any sense of reverence?”
“Who?” my husband surprised by my question responds a bit bewildered.

“Buzzards!”
“There’s a buzzard sitting on top of that church’s cross on its steeple.

“No respect” my husband chuckles.

I wish I had been able to get out my phone to take a picture but the one I found
on-line gives you some idea of what I’m talking about.

I went back to staring out the window while musing the symbology of a specter of death
perched on a cross atop a steeple.

And so wouldn’t you know it, when we were out driving around the following day,
I saw the same thing…but this was another church with another buzzard perched up top.

What are those odds?

Coincidence?

Who knows…but what I do know is that there’s got to be a heavy dose of irony
buried somewhere in two different visions of death birds perching on top of a cross,
an image of life.

Yesterday, Tricia, over on Freedom Through Empowerment,
and I were chatting back and forth about the implications of the news over Hagia Sophia
becoming a “working” mosque again mirrored by the Marxist push to attack
Christianity here at home.

We both noted that whatever is to come from any of these latest digs at
the global body of Believers was not going to be good.

For many weeks now a thought has been nagging at the back recesses of my thoughts.
It’s a thought that I believe is being slowly fine-tuned.

This was my response to Tricia—a response I cleaned up when re-reading
my initial reply because there is just something about pecking out a deeply
thoughtful response on a phone while using a thumb.

“Tricia—as a kid, I was always mesmerized by the stories of the early saints and martyrs of the church.
I often imagined living life in early Rome,
sneaking about and worshiping in secret, in the cover of darkness or hidden in catacombs.
I imagine my defiance if ever discovered and arrested.
I would face the torture with fortitude.

Or so thought my youthful bravado self.

Even over the past decade, as we’ve seen more and more about the persecution of Christians worldwide,
I’d like to think I would be courageous.
But here, at home, we have something much more sinister and insidious.
No less full of persecution with the end goal being Christian eradication—
yet am I courageous in our oh so woke society?

Do I take to the streets in defense of my faith?

Churches are being attacked..both here and in Europe and it is not by Muslim extremists…
but by extremists none the less.

I can’t help but think God has prepared you, me, Tom, Kathy, IB, Wally, CS et al,
(just a few of the blogging community of Fatih)
to be those who dare to meet in the catacombs albeit the catacombs of today…
those of our neighborhoods and cities.
Am I willing to risk everything for my faith??
I hope I will be able to answer yes.
Is this a preparation of an ending, a clash of both Good and Evil—–
of course, we can’t answer that…but it sure does feel like it.”

And so I’ve come to view my buzzard friends as both a symbol as well as a reminder.

Death has always smugly desired to sit upon that which has always promised life.
Yet those of us who are true Believers, and trust me, there are many today
who call themselves “believers” but who are not…are here for a reason.

Do I think “the end is near?”

I asked this same question just the other day…and like the other day, I couldn’t say,
I can’t say… but what I do know is that it sure does feel like it.

So I think we need to get ready.
Catacombs and buzzards seem to be waiting!

Yearn to be small

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience –
that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”

Elizabeth Taylor (née Coles)


(full moon / 2018 / Julie Cook)

Sorrowful at dusk, I wandered outside to mindlessly water the plants.
The sun had set and the moon was rising in the evening sky.

There was a quiet to this little world of mine.

A stark contrast to those teeming cities across this reeling nation caught in turmoil.

It was not yet night but rater twilight…and the rising moon caught my eye…

It wasn’t yet a full moon, but the light cast was illuminated through a humid and hazy sky–
casting an ethereal thin glowing shimmer…all veiled through a typical southern night sky.

I looked up, and despite not yet being a full moon, I suddenly felt very small.

Overwhelmed by a seemingly small glowing skewed orb in a steamy southern night’s sky,
oddly, I found a peace in the sense of being small.

I suddenly yearned to be small…
I relished in feeling minute.

For to be small meant that I was not the center of this, or better yet,
I was not, am not, the proverbial center of the universe or even my universe.

And maybe that is really my hope…my hope, my wish, my prayer…
that my fellow countrymen would and could see that they too should yearn to be small.

That the terrorists, the rioters, the looters, the arsonists, the criminals could see
that they are not as big as they imagine nor as grand as their egos dictate.

And so I say to one and all, yearn to be small.

Egos, our egos, are not small.
They vie for power and control.
They vie to be front and center.

An ego is much like a black hole in that it gobbles up everything in its path.
It feeds upon everything and everyone that happens within its sights.

Death, the loss of life, the destruction of property are all of little consequence–
as the ego fails to acknowledge the reality.

The ego lies.
Satan lies.
He is the father of all lies.

The ego is too self-absorbed to see anything other than itself or of its wants and needs.
The ego yearns to be fed.
It must be fed in order to survive and thrive.

Our lives are being consumed by egos.
Ravenous egos.
And they don’t care who stands in the way.

We can either succumb to the lies of an ego, or we can be bold while
daring to be small.

May we yearn, nay dare, to be small.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;
believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.

John 14:1-4

somewhere past Orion’s Belt

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

Job 38:31-33


(Orin’s belt constelation)

Stepping out into a mild early April night…
Knowing that the world has gone mad,
I look up, wondering where you are.

Craziness awaits inside and out while I search the night sky.

Orion’s belt.

I quickly search through the vast darkness.
Are you there…somewhere beyond those stars?

Orion’s belt…
those three aligned stars that have always guided those who
have journeyed through the night.

Desperately and viscerally filled with pain, I long to see your face…just one more time.
to hear your voice…
to relish in your wisdom…
to rest in your embrace.

Can you look down, seeing me, looking up?

Oh for the comfort found in the cadence of your melodious voice…
Your soothing words as I wade my way through this mindfield that is now our world.

A strange new world that I do not care for.
I did not ask for this…but I know you did not ask for your own path.

We share a common bond…adoption.
Lost before we felt found.

Each struggling to make our own way.
You painfully watched my own struggle, knowing that I had to go on my own.

I still struggle and somehow there is comfort in that struggle because
I know you know.

Your had your own battles.
You fought through a world war.
Your heart broke watching your own children fall…
and you unselfishly added me to that fold.

You helped to guide a major southern city through her Civil Rights angst.
You met dignitaries along with the homeless, treating each one as the same.

And despite all the power players and demands, you remained my polestar…my guiding light.
Always pointing me toward which direction I should go.

And yet oddly now, I too have become a Polestar…
A signpost pointing others to their own direction.

Yet in all of this, I wonder… how am I to know which way is right?
How did you know?

You trusted in something, in someone, so much greater than yourself.

You always knew.

You listened and you fought your way through the brambles and vines
that vied to entangle you.

You knew I would and could do the same.

The world is now so odd.
So strange.

Not like anything we’ve ever known.

And yet there remains the signpost…pointing the way.
I hear your confidence and clarity.

Just as I see it when glancing in the night sky..
It’s somewhere just past Orion’s belt…


(Julie and her Godpoppa August 1983)

“He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring,
comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies,
moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations,
and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown.
In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume,
lighted like a lamp in the center of the starry night,
expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation,
he could not himself perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind;
he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him,
mysterious interchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe.”

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Captain’s log—has it been almost a week????

“The Divine Heart is an ocean full of all good things,
wherein poor souls can cast all their needs;
it is an ocean full of joy to drown all our sadness,
an ocean of humility to drown our folly,
an ocean of mercy to those in distress,
an ocean of love in which to submerge our poverty.”

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

I went back to the grocery store yesterday…
The sign reads, ‘meat custom cut the way you like”
I ask, what meat???

We’re all hunkered in and down in the house…all together.

And right now, we’re all having to make sacrifices…

Consider changing the Sheriff’s big messy diapers…
they have now become a massive joint effort…

I actually took my chances today and in a moment of desperation, I went to Target.
I walked in carrying my own Lysol wipes.
I bought the Mayor a dart shark board.

Plus some sidewalk chalk…but it’s now supposed to rain for the next three days…
of course it is…

Luckily we can play darts sharks and fish
in the house.
Or fill an empty water bottle full of dried rice, screw the cap on tight and shake it
till our heart’s content, or I’m crazy.

And in the middle of all of this new craziness that we’re each finding ourselves
living in, I really don’t know what should be considered new, normal or merely insane.

I have a dear friend in Florence, Italy…I’ve tried getting in touch with her now
for over a week…not a word.

Each day there is a new tally of loss.
Italy has not experienced losses like this since WWII

And what about Spain?
Iran?
France?
The US?
My state of Georgia.
My county?
My city?

I walked outside this afternoon and I heard the birds.
This is such a wonderful time of year to hear the melodic symphony of singing.

I can actually see Spring rounding the corner and I think life is oh so normal.
Oh so rhythmic.

But yet I know it is anything but normal and our ‘oh so taken for granted’
rhythm has been broken.

We only think that we are living with inconveniences.

We grumble.
We grouse.

But what we are seeing, experiencing goes far beyond inconvenience.
This goes beyond our grumbling and complaining.

And I think it is slowly dawning of those who had thrown caution to the wind and went on
living life as if nothing was different…I think maybe, just maybe, they might finally
be getting the memo…life is now very different.

I had read a friend’s post today and she said in all of this craziness she had actually forgotten
it was Lent—and it dawned on me that I too had forgotten Lent as well.

But then I considered the thought that I hadn’t actually forgotten Lent…but rather
I am living Lent.
We are all living Lent.

In this desert wasteland that we now find ourselves wandering,
I am assured that both good news and Hope remain.

Victory is waiting for us on the other side of this desert.
We just need to keep making our way through the barren wasteland because when we do,
we will find Christ waiting with open arms…in part because he walked this desert long
before we ever took the first step.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

The answer is as plain as black and white—Persecutions? Yes.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Pope Francis (L) prays as a Jewish Rabbi looks on at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 26, 2014. Pope Francis faces a diplomatic high-wire act as he visits sacred Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem on the final day of his Middle East tour AFP PHOTO/ VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Late last evening, while watching Clemson finishing out on top over Ohio State
in a battle in the Fiesta Bowl, a breaking news alert popped up on my phone…

The initial report was that there had been a stabbing outside of a synagogue
in New York.

“Oh Lord,” I thought out loud, “not again!”

As the facts started to come in more clearly, the attack had actually happened
inside the home of a Rabbi who lived next door to a Synagogue in Monsey, New York.

Reports were that a man had entered the home, where Hasidic members of a synagogue
had gathered prior to going to celebrate the 7th night of Hanukkah,
and began hacking people with a machete.

The news headline read:
New York Jews continue Hanukkah celebrations after stabbing at
rabbi’s home that left 5 wounded

The story explained that
Five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in New York during a Hanukkah celebration
on Saturday night —
but that didn’t stop worshippers from continuing their prayers at a synagogue next door.

Soon after the attack in the suburb of Monsey, located just 35 miles north of New York City
in Rockland County, Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and his followers gathered at the adjacent synagogue,
which the rabbi leads, and sang together in prayer.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley tweeted a video of Rottenberg
and his followers continuing their celebration of the seventh night of Hannukah.
“The grace of God did not end and his mercy did not leave us,”
they sang, according to a translation of their song posted online.

Here’s a link to the initial story
https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-hanukkah-stabbings-five-wounded-synagogue-celebrations

The following day, I ran across a post shared by a fellow blogger…
The post seemed more than ironically timely as it addressed an alarming concern…

The concern being that there is a troubling rise in growing antisemitism while being
mirrored by a simultaneous decline in Holocaust memory.

Meaning—attacks on Jews is on the rise while the history of the Holocaust
is fading.

Fading as many young people have little to no grasp of the darker side of
20th-century history.
Just considering the almost rabid fascination by youthful generations with socialism
then this should not be terribly surprising—but terrible it is.

Here is the post along with a link to the full article.

A Growing Monster
December 29, 2019
by Anna Waldherr

A Europe-wide CNN poll in November 2018 found a rise in anti-Semitism and a
decline in Holocaust memory [1].
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by almost 10% in 2018, to a 10 year high [2][3].
In December 2018, a Greek Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the fourth time [4].
In January 2019 a synagogue was vandalized in the Bulgarian capitol Sofia [5].
In June 2019 planned construction on the site of mass graves dating to the
Holocaust came to light in the Ukraine [6].
By July 2019 anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom had spiked [7].
A video showing West Ham soccer fans singing an anti-Semitic fight song about
rival club Tottenham Hotspur (which has a largely Jewish fan base) was posted to Twitter.
There is a monster growing in Europe. Anti-Semitism has increased substantially since
the 2015 immigration crisis [8].
France reported a 74% increase in violence against Jews.

“An alarming pattern of anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe,
from France to Germany to Sweden and elsewhere on the continent…
Antisemitism is not, and cannot, remain just a Jewish problem.
This is an issue that affects all Europeans, and Western society as a whole.”

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

[1] CNN, “A Shadow over Europe” by Richard Allen Greene, 11/27/18, https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/.

[2] France 24, “Anti-Semitic attacks rose sharply in Germany in 2018, report says”, 2/13,19, https://www.france24.com/en/20190213-anti-semitism-hate-crime-jews-germany-afd.

[3] New York Times, “The New German Anti-Semitism” James Angelos,
5/21/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/magazine/anti-semitism-germany.html.

[4] Times of Israel, “Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year”, 12/17/18, https://www.timesofisrael.com/greek-holocaust-memorial-vandalized-for-4th-time-this-year/.

[5] The Jerusalem Post, “Synagogue in Bulgarian Capitol of Sofia Vandalized by
Stone-Throwing Incident” by Zachary Keyser, 1/22/19,
https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Synagogue-in-Bulgarian-capital-of-Sofia-vandalized-by-stone-throwing-incident-578217.

[6] Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7),
“Ukraine plans construction atop Holocaust-era mass graves” by Cnaan Lipshiz, 6/18/19, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/264735.

[7] CNN, “New report shows spike in British anti-Semitism” by Ivana Kottasova, 8/1/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/europe/antisemitism-incidents-rising-gbr-intl/index.html.

[8] The Guardian, “Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe,
figures show” by Jon Henley, 2/15/19,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/15/antisemitism-rising-sharply-across-europe-latest-figures-show.

A Growing Monster

Then if things weren’t troubling enough, a story broke Sunday morning about a
gunman walking into a church outside of Fort Worth, Texas and killing parishioners.
The gunman entered the church during communion and opened fire with a shotgun,
killing two and critically wounding another before being fatally shot by
quick-acting parishioners.

Texas church shooting leaves 2 dead, witness says gunman opened fire during communion

https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-church-shooting-texas-injured-active

When Evil attacks our Spiritual foundation, we have always struggled to understand.

Yet here’s the thing, Evil is not something to be analyzed or neatly understood.
It does not play by the rules.
The fallen light-bearer is now the father of darkness.
Rules do not apply to Satan or to the Evils he relishes upon this realm we call home.

And yet the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, went on a news talk show Sunday
morning and tried to blame life in Washington and the hate that is seemingly
generated there, on the latest spate of attacks on Jews in his city and state.

Because we all know that when we have no answers, we blame Trump.

But Trump is not Satan…contrary to popular belief.

Persecution against both Christians and Jews has been with us throughout the ages,
yet there is an alarming uptick taking place across the globe.
Physical persecution to emotional and psychological persecution.

Might time be of the essence for both Light and Dark?

Faith, belief, God, Jesus, love, kindness, forgiveness, the family, honor,
righteousness…these are all components of our true essence…the piece
of the Divine which continues to reside in our souls.

And each and every one of those components is an enemy of the Darkness.

I read today that many Jews are now afraid to wear anything that
symbolizes their faith in fear of being attacked.

This while many Christians are being told that, at places such as work and
school, they are not allowed to have a Bible on their desk or to wear
a cross or other religious symbols.

As the shadows grow long, remain steadfast…
for your God will not be moved by man nor darkness.

You will be hated by everyone because of me,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

what comes from the Spirit

“The adorable Heart of Jesus is our comfort, our way, our life.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(a winter treat blooms / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The experience of the Church and the saints demonstrates a general law:
what comes from the Spirit of God brings with it joy, peace, tranquility of spirit,
gentleness, simplicity, and light.
On the other hand, what comes from the spirit of evil brings sadness, trouble, agitation,
worry, confusion, and darkness.
These marks of the good and the evil spirit are unmistakable signs in themselves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe

deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

my highlighter dried up

“Despite the violence of the attacks that she may suffer,
the Chruch will not die. This is the Lord’s promise,
and His word is infallible.”
…theologians amuse themselves by deconstructing dogmas and emptying morality
of its profound meaning
Relativism is the mask Judas disguised as an intellectual.

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(morning skies / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Here are a few more gems gleaned from Cardinal Sarah and his latest book,
The Day Is Now Far Spent.

I shared with you the other day that I had practically highlighted the entire first
two pages of his introduction and since then, the highlighter I was using has run dry.

The following snippets offer some very powerful words…words offered to
to the collective body of Christian believers who are finding themselves bewildered by the
attacks taking place on the bride of Christ, that being his Church.

Cardinal Sarah shares…
This book is the cry of my soul!
It is a cry of love for God and for my brethren.
I owe to you, to you Christians, the only truth that saves.
The Chruch is dying because her pastors are afraid to speak in all truth and clarity.
We are afraid of the media,
afraid of public opinion,
afraid of our own brethren!
The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.

Today, in these pages, I offer you what is at the heart of my life:
faith in God.

In a little while, I will appear before the eternal Judge.
If I do not hand on to you the truth that I received, what will I say to him then?
We bishops ought to tremble at the thought of our guilty silences,
our complicit silences, our over-indulging silences in dealing with the world.

Christians are trembling, wavering, doubting.
I want this book to be for them.
To tell them: do not doubt!
Hold fast to doctrine.
Hold fast to prayer!
I want this book to strengthen faithful Christians and priests.

Cardinal Sarah has likened our current time to the mystery of Judas.
The mystery of betrayal.
He tells us that “The mystery of Judas, the mystery of betrayal, is a subtle poison.
The devil seeks to make us doubt the Church.
He wants us to regard her as a human organization in crisis.
However, she is so much more
than that: she is the continuation of Christ.
The devil drives us to division and schism.
He wants to make us believe that the Chruch has betrayed us.
But the Church does not betray.
The Chruch, full of sinners, is herself without sin!
There will always be enough light in her for those who seek God.

Judas is for all of eternity the traitor’s name, and his shadow hangs over us today.
Yes, like him, we have betrayed!
We have abandoned prayer.
The evil of efficient activism has infiltrated everywhere.
We seek to imitate the organization of big businesses.
We forget that prayer alone is the blood that can course through the heart of the Chruch.
We say that we have no time to waste.
We want to use this time for useful social works.
Someone who no longer prays has already betrayed.
Already he is willing to make all sorts of compromises with the world.
He is walking on the path of Judas.

I will leave us today with one last thought offered by Cardinal Sarah.
One last thought that we must all ruminate over…that of our purpose as believes in Christ.

Do we Christians, priests, bishops have some reason for existing other than to stand before
God and to lead others to him?
It is time to teach this!
It is time to put it into practice!
The one who prays is saved, the one who does not pray is damned, St Alphonsus said.
I want to insist on this point,
because a church that does not have a prayer as its most precious treasure is headed for ruin.
If we do not rediscover the meaning of long, patient vigils with the Lord, we will betray him.
The apostles did this: Do we think we are better than they were?

we live in both dark and light

“The true diversity of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark.
To diminish the number of dark, to increase the number of luminous,
that is the aim.
That is why we cry: education, knowledge!
To learn to read is to kindle a fire; every syllable spelled sparkles.
But whoever says light does not necessarily say joy.
There is suffering in the light; an excess burns.
Flame is hostile to the wing.
To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius.
When you know and when you love you will suffer.
The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, be it only for the dark ones.”

― Victor Hugo


(prematurely fallen muscadine / Julie Cook / 2019)

See the picture above?

Look closely.

At first glance, you see some sort of greenish greyish orb perched in the middle,
amongst the debris of what must be some sort of woodsy ground.

However, upon further inspection, you will note that the right half of the green orb,
or rather a prematurely fallen muscadine, is the side with actual color,
as is the surrounding area.
The color of life and growth.

The left side appears to be rotting or rotten while the surrounding debris around the
muscadine is equally ashen and grey…as in decaying, rotting and dark.

It is a prime example of contrasting imagery between light and dark, life and death…
With the poor muscadine being caught in the middle.

And if the truth be told, that muscadine, my friends, is more representational of both you
and I then either of us can even begin to imagine.

Light vs dark…
life vs death…
While we are constantly suspended between the two.

It’s as if each one vies for our very being.
The endless struggle for mankind.

That struggle is much more active and much more real than most of us care to admit,
let alone contemplate…as the forces of both light and dark, life and death, continuously
wage battle over our very existence.

Metaphors, yes…yet also very much a reality.

I started an interesting book the other day, The Shadow Party
How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and the Sixties Radicals seized control of
the Democratic Party

by David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

“Ahhh”, you say rather knowingly…” one of ‘those’ types of books.”
A book that speaks of conspiracy and paranoia.
And so now you’re assuming that I am one of those paranoid loons or deplorables
we hear so much about—oh so lovingly nicknamed by Hillary Clinton…
all because I am a conservative individual reading a book that reads like
a Hollywood spy thriller.

Yet the book is much more than a tale of political upheaval, speculation and
finger-pointing.
The book actually, and perhaps unbeknownst to the authors themselves, speaks to this very
battle of both light and dark, life and death, that I previously referenced…
it’s just that they speak on a level that hits much closer to home than anyone might imagine
as it addresses our life here in America.

There is a great darkness growing in our Nation.
And it is both you and I who hang in the balance.

It is a life that is growing ever more precarious while we are perched between
both light or dark, life or death…
For we are living in some terribly strange times.

This book reminds me of a wonderful post I read the other day by one of my favorite bloggers—
Robert, Bobby, Kloska from Thoughts from the Side of the House.
Bobby is a former professor at Notre Dame who doesn’t
post as often as I or others would wish due to some tremendous health struggles
that get terribly in his way.

His struggles with cancer and the devastating outreaching effects have been an
amazing witness unto themselves.

I, for one, am most grateful that he continues to share both ups and downs.

This past week, for the fourth of July, Bobby wrote about what it is that is
at the root of what many of us believe to be a “crisis” in this Nation of ours.

“Life in America has never been perfect.
In every age, there have been injustices, conspiracies, and controversies.
This is not unique to America; it is part of the human condition.
Yet in America, because we had inherited these noble institutional mechanisms, hope remained.
So long as the republic contained within itself a critical mass of virtuous citizens
committed more to the common good than to privileging any particular sect, group,
or class, then the structures through which we grapple with self-governance could
still yield improvement.”

Today, I have my doubts.

We live in a country that in the span of only a few generations has suddenly lost
any kind of right understanding of objective truth –
as the founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence, “…
of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Today, the prevailing understanding of truth is that it is something purely subjective.
This is no small matter.

Today, there has emerged this new idea that you and I supposedly have some kind of
power to create whatever truth we want.
This, of course, not only opens the door to logical self-contradictions,
it very clearly contradicts objective reality itself.
You’re not George Washington even if you think you’re George Washington and
“claim this as your truth.” Simple people see this.
Grounded people see this.
People connected to the earth and nature really see this.

Sophisticates, distracted people, and afflicted people often do not.

What we have is a crisis of truth.

In all human communities, freedom is built upon personal and collective
responsibilities.
These responsibilities always rely upon truth.
Our greatest problem today is not simply that we have lost any meaningful concept of truth.
No, it’s worse than that.
Our greatest problem is that 1) we don’t know that truth is something objective to be discovered;
and 2) we no longer have adequate tools to do the work of discovery.

Let that sink in.

We don’t understand that truth needs to be discovered…
and yet everything of consequence depends on this one thing!

The discovery of truth does not come cheaply.
It requires diligence, patience, nuance, thoughtful consideration, and intellectual
humility.
To actually discover truth and not merely “win” an argument,
it is enormously helpful to be able to presume the good will and sincerity of one’s
discussion partner. But today our public discourse is largely carried out on Twitter.
News and opinion media have become reactionary and overly polemical.
Even our so-called presidential debates take on the form of a cheap tv game show.
How helpful is that?
Complex questions cannot be answered in one minute sound bytes.
It is folly to even try.

A crisis of truth leads to a crisis of love.

The loss of truth has led to the particularly harmful notion that your disagreement
with one of my ideas is somehow disrespectful of me as a human being.
Tragically, in 2019 America, “disagreement” equals “hate” to a lot of people.

But what if you truly love me?

To love is to will the good of another person.
If I hold an opinion that is not rooted in truth,
then that opinion can be quite harmful to me and to the people I influence.
Isn’t the most loving act to help me discover the truth?
Yes, this might require a discussion, debate, or argument.
Prudence dictates that such discussions occur at the right time,
in the right place, and with appropriate people.
But the premise of these kinds of honest disagreements and discussions is love.
To neglect such conversations with people you supposedly love
(or even with the culture at large)
is to not really love and care about them at all.

At the end of this sobering and somewhat frightening discourse,
Bobby is quick to remind us that not all is lost.
This is not a hopeless situation…

Not hopeless because it is in our hopelessness that our real Hope is to be found.
For in that Hope, resides the One true Everlasting Truth.

The Main Crisis on American Independence Day in 2019

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Back to prayer…

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing,
to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised.
It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door,
and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness,
when all around and above is trouble.”

Andrew Murray


(side chapel in Saint Sulpice / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Now that it’s Monday, it’s time we get back to work as we figure out
our specific prayer that this little blog family of ours shall need to concentrate on.
Prayers for our ailing world.

We’ve had some great thoughts…such as the latest from
our dear friend Salvageable who offered this suggestion for our collective prayer…

Last night some thoughts came to may as I was lying in bed.
Not to hijack your project,
but just to make a modest suggestion, building on Kathy’s thought of using the
Lord’s Prayer/Our Father/Jesus’ Sample prayer to guide our praying.
On a certain time every Sunday we could all pray that God and his name would be
honored and respected in our lives,
in our nation, and especially in our churches (which are His Church).

On Monday we could all pray that his kingdom would come–
that the missionaries of the Church would faithfully bring his message to all the world,
and that we also would faithfully share his forgiveness with those near us.

On Tuesday, that his will be done by the leaders of our country,
by the leaders of his Church, and by each of us,
and that he would reveal his will to us as much as is good for us to know.

On Wednesday, that we would receive daily bread–and not just our small group,
but the poor and homeless among us, the victims of abuse and neglect and addictions,
the children born or unborn who are not wanted and loved–that they would
be granted what they need to live and to have better lives, whether that be bread,
advocacy, or strength to persevere.

On Thursday, that we be forgiven our sins, both known and unknown to us.
Also that we be channels of forgiveness to others,
even to our enemies with whom we disagree.

On Friday, that we, along with the leaders of our nation and those of his Church,
be led on proper paths pleasing to the Lord and kept safe from temptation.

And on Saturday, that we, our nation, and his Church be protected from every kind of evil.
Just a thought. J.

Now I do love this idea but I worry that some of us (me) could get confused as to what day it is
and what prayer we are to be focusing on for that particular day…

Then Marie offered this thought filled observation:

I have one more observation. We have outlined the basic object of our prayers.
How we ask it differs from one individual to another.
And I am always reminded that there are times when we don’t know what or how to pray
and that’s when the Holy Spirit takes over.
Romans8:26-27 tells us He intercedes for us through wordless groans and that it is
always according to the will of God.
Our hearts are an open book to our Lord.
What a blessing. We must not forget His sovereign will.
Yes, let’s pray as one body asking with all boldness before the throne of grace.
He knows our hearts so if we ask with different words He knows our intentions.
I threw out the 6:00 time only to emphasize that we need the time also.
As said, with all of the time differences here in the US as well as across the pond,
that might be a difficult task.
Would daily be a better option?
I intend to wear something as a reminder that I must not forget this great time of prayer.

I like Marie’s thought about wearing something as a reminder…because once again we (me) might forget
both day and time.

And so one thing I was thinking about—

If we just add it in, say to our already very full prayer plates during our regular
daily “Quiet” prayer time…
it might end up as a bit of a PS…an, ‘oh by the way God’…

I feel very strongly that this should be some sort of “Joan of Arc”, jaw set, sword raised high
sort of prayer…
Meaning a strong and Godly warrior sort of prayer—because things are indeed really that bad.

And yes, as IB reminded us, things have been bad from the get go…from our Fall from
Grace…from the Fall from our God, our Father…

I feel very compelled that the faithful must be focused more than ever
as we continue to stand our Holy ground.

This is because I feel very strongly that what we are currently seeing and witnessing is all
very much a result of Spiritual Warfare—meaning Satan is working fast and furious.
And so what we know when there is a rise in Darkness and a raging Spiritual battle that
is swirling all around us, Satan is feeling the squeeze.
He’s gone into overdrive…because his time of rule on this earth is drawing nigh.

Satan loves a ‘divide and conquer mentality’—separate the troops from one another,
then swoop in for the strike.

So it must be a firm and unified prayer.

And so yesterday as we were driving home from a late breakfast, the words
“The wages of sin is death” just popped into my head…out of nowhere.

So when we got home, I looked up the verse as well as the chapter….
Romans 6:1-23…
and so what was it in that chapter that was speaking to me?

Chapter 6 opens with the words…
“What shall we say then?”
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!
Because we know that in sinning, grace cannot increase…as in it actually decreases.

We are told not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies.
We are told that we are baptized in Christ, we are buried with Him, and…
we have risen with Him–as our old self is now crucified, dead and buried.
A new self has risen…one that has been cleansed and made whole.

We are now, in turn, instruments of righteousness.
Sin is no longer our master…for we are not under the law but under that of Grace.

“What then?” we are asked as the chapter continues.

We have been set free from sin and from our old selves…only to become ‘slaves to righteousness’.

Slaves to righteousness??!!

Odd thinking to most reading such—how is it that one can be set free only to become a slave?

We know that to be a slave means to be under the ownership of, under the authority of–
literally yoked, bound or tethered to something or someone.

So from this, we know that we are no longer to be a part of the sinfulness we once knew
nor are we to be a part of the sinfulness that we are currently witnessing each and every
day in this culture of ous—
because we are now products of Righteousness as well as Grace.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations.
Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,
so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death!
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So I find myself coming back around to the notion of a prayer that stands against Darkness…
A prayer that proclaims Light.
A prayer in which we, the Believers, proclaim our humility—proclaiming our role as the instruments of
God’s Grace, Peace as well as the reflections of His light—
A prayer in which we denounce Satan’s darkness cast over humankind…
standing in our place of Light–as Christian warriors…

Maybe it’s the memory of singing the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers as a child in children’s chapel.
The imagery of what a Christian Soldier would look like in the mind of a 7-year-old girl.

That having been a Joan of Arc or a Martin of Tours.

Defiant and focused soldiers.

Brave and unwavering in the face of Evil.

However that image today, in my more developed and “healed” mind and heart,
is a much different image…

It is the image of a Maximilian Kolbe—

The Catholic priest who died in Auschwitz in the place of a fellow prisoner who was not
a Christian but rather a Jew.

It is a seemingly meek and emaciated prisoner in Auschwitz who is now the image that comes to
my mind when I think of Christian Warriors…

Quiet, humble, focused, compassionate, sustained by a love of God and determined to live out The Fatih
unto death…

https://history.info/on-this-day/1941-nazis-execute-maximilian-kolbe-via-lethal-injection/

And so now we need to think of a time…