The world says that we are either bad or mad…perhaps we are both

“The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for
you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength
to bear it.
Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Francis de Sales


(a gardenia after the rain / Julie Cook / 2018)

A Reading from the 2nd Sunday following The Trinity
Mark 3:20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul!
By the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up.
Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;
they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

When I’m away, playing grandmother my time is, well, not my time…
and that is as so it should be…time, not, mine.

So returning home today, after being gone to and fro for the better part of the
last two weeks…
I played a bit of catch up with my favorite across the pond rouge Anglican Bishop…
The Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden.

I caught both an edition of Anglican Unscripted as well as the latest clip from a
homily offered for the 2nd Sunday after the Trinity…
a homily in which we hear of both the opposition of those who knew Jesus…those
who turned on him…as well as the message of casting out demons and an unpardonable sin.

First, we hear of how those who had known Jesus had accused him of being pretty much
out of his mind, having totally lost his senses…
meaning he must simply be either crazy or demonic, or both.
A bad or mad sort of scenario.

And do we not hear today that same echoed sentiment being hurled against the
Orthodox Christian?
“Those Christians are bad, mad and certainly evil in their thinking…”

Next, we hear Jesus explain that Satan cannot cast out himself…
So, therefore, how could Jesus, who is casting out demons, not be demonic himself?
Answer—
He can’t.

He explains to the crowd that man is being held captive by a heavy-handed strongman,
a strongman who is of the world.
A strongman who, when all the confusion and bluster of this world is swept aside,
is exposed for who he is—Satan.

And thankfully for us, it is Jesus, who has come to cast out Satan.
To set us free, renew us and to ultimately heal us.

In both the homily, as well as the interview on Anglican Unscripted, the good bishop
touches on a single thought…
“There are two great enemies of Christianity…those being both Homosexuality and Islam”

In his interview on Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden shares the thought that we are
currently witnessing the Chruch being lost…
she has lost her way of knowing who is a friend or who is a foe.
This 21st century Christian Chruch has opted to embrace both of her enemies
while turning a blind eye to the illness these enemies possess.

Rather than sharing the importance of Jesus’ teaching about man and sin…
that being of the good news of forgiveness, hope, healing, and renewal…
the Chruch is now teaching her own ideas.

She is totally disregarding the critical ailment besieging man…the ailment of man’s
choosing to stand in direct opposition to God’s teaching and Word…
particularly with regard to the teaching of human sexual relationships.
And in turn, she, the Chruch now stands in opposition.

The Chruch of the 21st century is instead hoping to simply embrace both her enemies…
Opening her arms to embrace a religion that is also a political ideology of violence
and oppression..an ideology in direct opposition to Christianity–
while She, the Chruch, continues to totally ignore the fallen sinful nature of man
as she daringly decides to override God’s very own directive.

Some would loudly question why embracing the enemy would be wrong or a bad thing.
Are we not told to love those who hate us?
Why shouldn’t the Chruch, the embodiment of love and healing, not want to embrace?
Offering the demonstrative of her words?

But the problem in that thinking is that the Chruch has begun to lead and teach by her
own thoughts and actions over those of the spoken Word of God’s directive to man.
We should love yes, but we should not alter, change or rewrite His commands.

This is a precarious situation in that it is both dangerous and undermining as it’s base
is rooted in the ignorance of the embracing enemies..an action that
The Chruch obviously and so naively hopes will aid in simply making these enemies go away…
all after a good hug.

The Bishop notes that as far as Islam is concerned, contrary to what many Christians want to
believe, Islam is not the “symmetrical opposite of our Judaeo/ Chrisitan heritage
and belief system.”

With Isalm we know that it is either all or nothing, there is no picking or choosing.
The Quran is very specific…those who oppose the teachings of Islam are in turn the enemy
of Islam and all enemies, in turn, must be killed.
End of sentence.

There is no forgiveness nor is there any offer of hope of redemption and salvation as is
taught in Christianity, but rather those in opposition must die.
Plain and simple.

Bishop Ashenden keenly notes that whereas “a Chrisitan will die for his faith,
a Muslim, who abides by Sharia Law, will kill for his.”

So it is pure folly that recently a Cathedral,
a place that is the outward symbol of Apostolic teaching, in England opened it’s door to offer the
neighboring Muslims a meal following the fast of Ramadan.
(link to story provided below)

Harmless hospitality most folks responded but the Bishop asks,
how many Mosques opened their doors following
Lent and Easter, offering the Christians a meal of celebration?

Absolutely none…because to do so would have been to blaspheme Mohammad.
And no Muslim is to ever blaspheme Mohammad.
Because to blaspheme Mohammad is to be killed.
The Quran is that specific.

Never mind that the Chruch blasphemes the Word of God by embracing and teaching
that homosexuality is suddenly now sanctioned and even embraced by God.
Never mind that the Chruch capitulates and waffles with her appeasement of an ideology
that states its sole goal and focus is the total eradication of Christians and Jews…
as all must convert to the faith of Islam or die.
Plain and simple.

So now is the Church not therfore engaged in a dangerous dance?

In her keen desire to play culturally nice, appearing to be the place
of total acceptance and of all things feel good, she is actually turning
on herself while turning from the word of God.

For in her mad rush to embrace, accept and tolerate, the Chruch,
this bride of Christ, has forgotten that she places the one thing that she has been
entrusted with to always defend and uphold…that being the sole word of Jesus Christ.

“Celebrating Ramadan in Southwark Cathedral; mission, meals and infidelity”.

it takes more than a resolution, it takes a tenacious faith

There is nothing wrong with bringing resolution and courage to the new year,
but life is precarious. And dealing with the death of friends,
tragedy striking unexpectedly and bits of one’s body giving up,
needs more than just well-gritted teeth.

Gavin Ashenden


(a Norwegian wolverine demonstrates tenacity, grit and a fearsomeness)

Life is indeed precarious.
None of us know where it will take us next.
I dare say we all have some sort of notion of where we’d like to go,
even as to how we’d like to get there…but again, there are no guarantees.

Bishop Ashenden, in his wanderings and wonderings over the notion about new years
and their resolutions, has a bit of a lesson for each of us.

Now first we must note that we are a number liking people—-
just consider the fact that we are all about stats and numbers,
especially if we are wanting to justify or clearly define that with is unjust or undefinable.

Statistics show that they, being stats, are stacked against resolutions.
This we know.
Numbers don’t lie right?

Just yesterday I read some headline stating that by February, 80% of every New Year’s
resolution, is simply scattered by the wayside…
discarded and forgotten.

I don’t even bother.
I learned years ago that resolutions are simply short lived—
somewhat feeble attempts of being a better/ healthier person.
It takes more than just a resolution for those two things to take hold.
And when push comes to shove—the resolutions get shoved.
And it is that very reason, the good bishop notes,
a resolution will simply die…
Because Life simply has a different plan.

Life will put up a brick wall and all resolutions not to mention stamina, mindset
and determination quickly head out the back door.

Yet for many of us, a new year becomes some sort of giant reset button.
A time to review, remove, rewrite, renew….
And that certainly has its merit….
that is, up to a point.

Yet what the good Bishop is reminding us of is that as life has a way of
steamrolling over our best of intentions and plans, so much so that when that happens
as it eventually will, it’s going to take a lot more from within to survive
the steamrolling…
much more than a resolution or even gritted teeth that are grinning and bearing
can endure.

Life is hard.

It is not fair nor is it often kind…

And yet….we always seem to think that with some sort of twisted finagling,
we can beat it and actually win.
And we might actually do so but only for a while…for eventually,
Life in the end will have its way and that is when we in turn call it calamity,
sickness and even death.

And so the good Bishop looks to one who has gone on long before us but yet lives
on in her writings….
St Julian of Norwich (1373).

Julian had a tenacious belief in God.
She was what was known as an Anchoress….or one who literally attached
or anchored themselves to a church.

She was literally sealed up into a cell attached to the church of St Julian’s
there in Norwich, hence her name—as we really don’t know her actual name.
(here’s a bit of history lesson concerning this dear woman:
http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/norfolk/norwich/st-julian.htm)

Julian spent a lifetime devoted to God and ministering to those who would come
to the window of her cell seeking solace, prayer or wisdom.

Julian experienced visions and wrote these visions down—
as the writings eventually became a book, Revelations of Divine Love.

Tenacious and unrelenting—the only way Julian would extol that one should or could
best live…and that was to be anchored to the Divinity of the Creator and to the Love
He offered as in the tangible being of His Son…..

Bishop Ashenden notes that “it’s this belief in God that offers the kind of
affirmation for us that equips us best to deal with uncertainty,
and even tragedy, as we face the future remembering the disturbing
uncertainty of the past.”

The good Bishop relays a story of one of the many visions that Julian
was so famous for having–visions of God as Divine Creator.

Delusions of a mad or even physically ill woman some would claim….
but a gift of visions is what the faithful know….

So when Julian witnessed God taking the planet Earth and holding it in
His hand she responds by asking Him about its now seemingly smallness…..

‘It is all that is made.’ (God replied) I marvelled how it might last,
for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding: “It lasts and ever shall,
for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian of Norwich

Throughout her visions she was taught that God could and would bring good out
of evil and because of that there was no need for anxiety.
Her motto and mantra became,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

and perhaps Julian gives us the best of resolutions…to know that all shall indeed be
well when we rest in the Divine Love of God which is found incarnate in Christ, Jesus.

Belief in Christ brings the affirmation needed to strengthen our resolution.

worry, what me?

“The same has happened on this side of the pond when Christians
think that their views on Brexit are essential to the maintenance of the gospel.
Do we not realise how puny and pathetic it is that we play power politics with
our limited knowledge and abilities?
Does it not display a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God?
We are certainly entitled and encouraged as free citizens in a democracy
to have our own political views–
but we are not to make the Kingdom of God dependent on them.
Sometimes the Lord will use a pagan king, like Cyrus,
to fulfill his will.
Sometimes he will convert the Emperor.
But at all times those who are his people need to rely on him to open the door.”

David Robertson

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(Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman)

For some odd reason, mainstream media, most political leaders, liberal Hollywood…
the list only grows daily,
are all feeling as if the world, as we know it,
will be coming to an end by week’s end.

And then on the other hand, we have a growing number of the faithful
who believe that the ‘end of time’, once again as we know it,
is to take place,
as well,
by week’s end…
as in Jesus will be trumping, no true pun intended, Friday’s inauguration.

And if you’re anything like me, you may actually be hoping for the latter as
I’ve had just about all of the naysaying, whining, grousing, fussing, cussing
and downright vile vitriol sputum flowing out of the mouths of most of this
angst ridden nation of ours that I can stomach.

We have governmental elected officials and leaders who are threatening to boycott
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have entertainers who are encouraging defiance and protest before and during
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have colleges, state funded mind you, providing “safe places” on their campuses
for their dismayed students to be able to cry and be comforted because
of a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have fellow Americans threatening other fellow Americans because of a presidential
inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have other country’s warning and threatening us with reprisals, retribution or retaliation
over a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have the birth of fake news taking place because of a presidential inauguration…

Shame on us all…

It beats all I have ever known in this lifetime of mine.

News flash.

I don’t think the end will be ending on Friday.
Pretty certain you can take that to the bank.

It’s all just a shame.

A shame that educated adults are behaving so badly
as we wonder why the kids are behaving so badly.

Adults setting examples of immaturity, pettiness, ugliness, hate, tit for tat,
alarmism, rudeness, disrespectfulness…
everything accusatory that was shouted at the president elect for what was claimed that he
was displaying and demonstrating
is now being demonstrated and carried out by those very accusers—

So now it appears that no one is acting any better than the other…
and there’s nary a soul in this Nation who has decided to demonstrate real character by
taking the high road…

A few weeks back I read a wonderful article by a Scottish pastor, David Roberts, reflecting on
a bit of this current obsessing over the idea of the end times…
as it seems everyone on either side of the fence, faithful and not,
are in some sort of rising state of panic….

I offer a link here for the faithful and the non faithful alike….

Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying about the End Times – (Revelation no.7)

Expecting the unexpected

“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.”
― Mary Renault

“The expected always happens”
― Benjamin Disraeli

IMG_1336
(an unexpected visitor rising up from the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was early Sunday morning. . .my husband was outside as I was still in, cleaning up the kitchen.
Suddenly. . .out of nowhere, there is a voracious, deep engulfing sound reverberating from some place out and up.
“What in the world is he doing” I wondered as the cat flew past me racing into the house in a pure panic.

“GET THE CAMERA” I hear reaching up through the closed windows.
Racing outside to the shouts of my husband and the mysterious intermittent dinosauresque blast of sound.
“DO YOU SEE IT??!!” IT’S OVER THERE. . .”
Careening my neck and squinting my eyes I peer toward the woods. . .
Woods. . .
We live on 5 acres of what was once pure pasture surrounded by woods. What is it that is seemingly so large, so massive and so ravenous sounding which is about to come forth from the cover of dense woods to devour us. . .shades of Jurassic Park play through my mind. . .a T Rex, perhaps a wicked little valasoraptor is about to break through the trees, racing toward my direction. . .

When from out of nowhere, the tip of a hot air ballon peeks above the tree tops.

I don’t know. . .I don’t think I want to know. . .how, why. . .where does a hot air ballon come from in the middle of the woods in the middle of the countryside. . .who knew. . .

Which brings us to today and my visit to Dads. . .

I had departed early for Atlanta this morning feeling pretty good about everything. . .the weather was great with a bright beautiful sun rising brilliantly in a deep blue summer-like sky. . .the traffic for a Monday morning was delightfully manageable and heck, I had seen a hot air balloon at my house the morning prior, this was a great day and it was to be a simple easy visit with nothing pressing. . .no major decisions, no crisis. . .

One might say that’s what I get for “assuming” all is well, for being complacent or simply for being lost in the joys of Spring. . .silly me. . .

Too long of a story to express.
There are no words. . .
It was the twilight zone meets a breaking heart
Sad
Frustrating
Exasperating
Hard
Bewildering
Aggravating
A “you’ve got to be kidding me” kind of day. . .

Just know that it was the type of day that left me driving home, in tears, debating
stopping traffic on both sides of I20, climbing on top of my car and simply screaming for the world to stop. . .

I was a girl scout.
I know all about being prepared.
I’m a mother. . .
A career long educator—teenagers for heaven’s sake!
I know all about the plan B’s of life
So why did I not see today coming?
Why do I continue to think things will be predictable, calm, routine. . .
These two people have dementia, as well as a host of maladies besetting
bodies that are betraying the owners. . .

Expect the unexpected.

God prepares us for that.
We are strangers in a strange land.
We are the apparent enemy of the state, as we are the heirs apparent to the glory of the Son.
We are the adopted sons and daughters, not of this world, but of God almighty. .
And yes, we know all about the unexpected and yet it is to the expected, the known promise to which we cling. . .as I look to comfort myself with the notion that I must continue looking for those unexpected balloons of wonderment rising up from the dark woods of my life. . .

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
James 4:13-15

I am as mad as a wet hen!!

Anger is one letter short of danger.
Author Unknown

“The robb’d that smiles, steals something from the thief; He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.”
― William Shakespeare

DSCN3753
(one of the chickens that calls my dad, neighbor / Julie Cook / 2013)

No this hen is not wet and I don’t think it’s exactly mad but it was the best visual I had for this post regarding my being mad.
I’m not just mad, I’m furious!
I’m so mad, I can’t see straight.
As my students would have said, I’m so mad I could dot someone’s eye!
I am so beside myself that if I could, I’d snatch someone up by the collar and clock them one!!

As you know, I tend to lead a rather low key, low profile, low technology sort of life.
Pretty old fashioned.
I don’t do any of that social media business.
I dont TIVO
I don’t HULU.
I don’t do on-line banking.
I have one credit card and one debit card.
My life pretty much consists of the grocery store, Target (pronounced as Targé), the pharmacy, the dry cleaners, a monthly visit or so to the liquor store to procure any necessary medicinal supplies of something nicely fermented and aged plus the occasional Lowes or Home Depot run–and here is where the trouble began. . .

This morning I decided it would be nice to order a new pair of TOMS shoes. I love TOMS—not because the shoes are great by any means but more so because it is a “get one give one” company. A purchased pair of TOMS leads to the giving of a pair of shoes to someone across this planet in need of shoes.

As the purchase was not expensive, I thought I’d just use my debit card.
Well, oddly the purchase wouldn’t go through.
“Strange. . . ” I thought but chalked it up to maybe something to do with using my debit card verses my regular credit card.

Later I made a run around town for a few small items. I ran into a local shop to pick up a few things. As I went to pay for my purchase, using my debit card, something again rather strange took place.
The card wouldn’t go through.
Hummmmm.
Thinking I had put in the wrong pin the clerk told me it wasn’t the pin and it appeared that I needed to go over to the bank to figure out what’s going on.

Writing a check (and yes I still have a check book as some local business still do not have credit / debit machines—which is actually quite refreshing) I paid for my items and made a beeline straight to the bank.

Once at the bank I proceeded to explain to the teller that for some odd reason I couldn’t get my debit card to work, twice. I knew I had money in the account and thought that maybe the magnetic strip was messed up or the pin, or who knows. . .
Looking at her screen of my pulled up account she asks “Did you make a purchase at Sears?”
“Sears???!! No, I haven’t been in a Sears in years”
“How about $500 at a Walmart?
“WHAT???!!!WALLMART???!!! I don’t even go in Walmart!!!”

She proceeds to tell me that my card has been red flagged over some suspicious activity. She gave me a number to the credit protection agency, told me to call them in order to verify the activity and then I’d have to get a new debit card.

Are you kidding me??!!!

I proceeded to sit down in the lobby of the bank, call the agency on my cell phone, confirm that I had not made the purchases, hang up, then move over to a desk with two women who were in the fraud department of the bank.

The nice ladies pull up my account, again.
It appears my card has been to Illinois, Kansas and south Georgia to name but a few locations all on Saturday and Sunday.
By this time I’m feeling the heat rising to my face.
I am feeling sick to my stomach, I am in a panic and I am mad.

Luckily for me the only thing that went through was a $5.42 charge at a Sears in Illinois.
The other big charges, like the $500 charge to Walmart and the charge for some motel in Kansas were all declined.

The nice bank ladies took my card, cut it in half before shredding it, ordered a new debit card and flagged my account as having been compromised—which led me back to Home Depot.

We’ve all heard or read in the news of the identity and credit breach affecting Home Depot as well as Target . . .
Thankfully my Target Red Card was not affected. Which has made me realize my troubles had to be from Home Depot.

It was Easter and I had gone to Home Depot to get a few things in order to put together an Easter basket of goodies for our son’s new house. . . rake, shovel, broom, hedge trimmers, pruning shears, etc—“stuff” a new home and yard owner would certainly be in need of. . .when I recall using my debit card.

AAAGGGGHHHHH—-I am robbed putting together an Easter Basket—go figure.

Months later the news is rife with the latest and egregious data breach affecting millions of shoppers at Home Depot. As I had not noticed anything “fishy” on my bank statement, all these many months following the news of the breach, I breathed a sigh of relief and went merrily on with my rather boring rut filled life.

That is until today.

Luckily for me, I am only out a little over $5.00, of which the bank will be crediting back to my account.
I know those who have had their entire identities stolen— living now a nightmare existence.

The little ladies at the bank were nice, thorough, efficient and full of advice and warnings. However, I already thought I was pretty savvy.
I do not use my debit card in restaurants, or for fast food, or rarely for on-line purchases, or even when I travel to Atlanta to shop. I simply use it here in little ol Carrollton. But even life in little ol Carrollton is not free from predators, thieves, criminals and crooks.

It’s really hard for me to wrap my brain around how other people can so readily, easily, and often time craftily and creatively, steal from others.
Like I say, I could certainly dot someone’s eye right about now. . .yet despite my anger, my panic and my feeling of betrayal or of being somewhat broadsided out of the blue, I am sad.
Sad that we live in a world that grows less and less safe and trusting with each passing day.

The wolves lie in wait, waiting to devour the unsuspecting around each corner. One more signal that I need to regroup and rethink how I live what I thought to be a rather dull, rut filled and routine laced life.
Maybe the less information out there is better?
Maybe cash is the only way?
Maybe there is something to getting off the proverbial “grid”
Maybe I need to find some deserted island out there with my name on it?

A sad sign of the times to be sure.

Here are a couple of things to look for if you suspect any fraudulent activity on a debit card:
—many thieves are patient, usually waiting weeks or even months after a breach–do not relax your vigilance of monitoring your accounts and statements
—It usually starts with a small insignificant transaction –prime example my initial $5.42 which raised the red flag.
—fraudulent transactions often take place over a weekend once banks are closed for several days in a row.
—I was fortunate that my bank did flag that initial fraudulent transaction and consequently declined the ensuing transactions taking place all over the country.
—be smart when and where using a debit card

. . .yet sadly, the times, they are a’changing and it matters not how safe and smart we think we may be— people will still choose to do bad things and bad things will still happen to good people.

So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.
Job 5:16