what is prayer

“Why must people kneel down to pray?
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do.
I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep,
deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if
there was no end to its blueness.
And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

L.M. Montgomery


(the quince are slowly forthcoming / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to Merriam Webster prayer is:

1. a (1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought said a prayer
for the success of the voyage

2. a: set order of words used in praying
b: an earnest request or wish
2: the act or practice of praying to God or a god kneeling in prayer
3: a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers —often used in plural
4: something prayed for
5: a slight chance haven’t got a prayer

Books have been written, lectures have been given and the search engines are endless…
Everyone has an idea, a thought, a notion…
as to what prayer is…
Both personally and publically

For you see prayer can be both.

There are the: ‘what types’, ‘which ways’ and ‘how-tos’…

Gandhi, a Hindu, offers one nice thought on prayer…
“Prayer is not asking.
It is a longing of the soul.
It is the daily admission of one’s weakness.
It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

While Mother Teresa, a modern day saint, offers another thought —
“Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition,
and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Yet both saint and Hindu offer similar thoughts along a similar line…

Asking or not asking
Longing yet nothingness
Listening versus hearing
Words or silence.
Knees or standing
Thoughts or shouting
Loud versus quiet
Individual versus group
Need or praise
Hope or hopelessness…

We know that Jesus both wept and prayed..much as many of us do to this day.
He also implored…as in an earnestness that almost borders on begging.

Moses prayed and implored
Abraham prayed and implored
Just as every prophet, every apostle and every saint on down the line has done since.

I saw a sign outside of a church not long ago that read ‘to worry is an annoyance to God
As in God tells us not to worry…and yet our prayers are so often overflowing with
the very worry that this sign tells us is an annoyance to God–for it is a manifestation
of our doubt…our lack of faith…
and to some, it is even considered sinful…as in a lack of trust….and did not God state
to us to pray without ceasing, and to trust.

So I suppose I’ve annoyed God considerably over the years.
Sometimes more than others.

Sometimes I’ve known Him to listen, other times I’ve been left to wonder.

This is where the nonbeliever loves to pounce…taking hold of that latter notion with a
sneering “see, I told you so”…”for there is no God.”

But none the less, I pray.

Because none the less,
I believe.

Silence and frustration
Sound or emptiness
Annoy or implore
Wordless or shout
Anger or sorrow…

I pray.

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa

what do we learn

Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.
Mahatma Gandhi

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended –
civilizations are built up –
excellent institutions devised;
but each time something goes wrong.
Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top
and it all slides back into misery and ruin.”

C.S. Lewis

“It is not often that nations learn from the past,
even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”

Henry Kissinger

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( WWI German soldiers, in gas masks, ready to throw a potato masher grenade at the French troops in the opposite trenches)

It is said that if left unchecked, the past is but doomed to repeat itself.

Learning from one’s mistakes is always the best teacher,
always providing the best sorts of lessons to be learned…that is,
as long as one actually learns.

It seems that human beings are simply hell bent on pushing that proverbial envelope.
Yet we are smart enough to push just far enough without plunging ourselves over the cliff into the great abyss of no return.

Our global relationships are fickle at best.
Allies, turned foes, turned allies, turned foes…
as the never ending merry go round runs around and around.
It just seems to be a part of our nature as trust and distrust dance a dangerous waltz.

Ever since that fateful day when brother killed brother,
the children of Adam have never been able to wash the blood of the innocents off of their hands.

Over this past weekend, we Americans marked Memorial Day.
A day set aside to honor our Military Personnel.
It was a day created following the Civil War, the bloodiest war fought on American soil—
the war that pitted brother against brother.

It was a day in which we told ourselves we would never forget the lives lost during the fighting and during the battles. A day set aside yearly to remind us of the sacrifices made as well as of those gallant ideals and principles that divided a Nation—
And we told ourselves that no matter the reasons nor the victors…it was to be a day we would pay tribute to the lives lost, on both sides…a day in which we would pay our respects…

As our time as a Nation has continued, we have continually found ourselves entangled in countless other clashes, conflicts and wars.
Each time as the dust settles and the bombs cease, this Nation is called upon to remember…

Yet with all our celebrations, our cookouts, our ballgames
and our quiet solemn observations over this past long weekend,
we probably failed to notice that there was another tribute taking place…

This “other” day of remembrance was held in Verdun, France.
A poignant ceremony was held to mark a long ago and now mostly forgotten battle.
A battle that is simply kept deep within the books of global conflicts.

It was known as The Battle of Verdun.

The tale of this battle is as black and monstrous as they come.
It was a battle that pitted modern day allies against one another, fighting until the very death.

The Battle of Verdun, fought throughout the entire year of 1916, is known as the longest battle waged. Deadly, frustrating, endless trench warfare.
It is a battle with some of the most staggering numbers of casutalites and fatalities for any single battle.
700,000 soldiers from both France and Germany were either killed, wounded or never found as the fighting wore on for eleven long months–
The battlefield covered not even 6 square miles of land.

As the fighting wore on, it no longer remained a strategically feasible fight but became a battle of nationalistic pride. Who could outlast the other…

During the course of fighting, 9 surrounding villages were destroyed as a nation’s landscape was forever altered. It is said that the villages died for France.
Historians note that the battle was eventually wrested from Germany,
giving France the bittersweet victory.

Two years later, in 1918, Germany was finally defeated, offically ending WWI…
Yet silently a stage was now set as a foreboding darkness sat ominously upon a not too distant horizon…as lessons would quickly be forgotten…

This past weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined France’s president, Francois Hollande, marking the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Verdun.
These once sworn enemies, on more than one occasion, came together on May 29, 2016 in solidarity, now as allies and friends, in order to remember what once was a very dark time in both their shared history.

Days such as Memorial Day, VE Day, VJ day, Decoration Day, Armistice Day, the 4th of July…specific days set aside yearly, or even those spontaneous moments, results of humanity’s gratitude…
serve to teach us…
they remind us of our past struggles and sacrifices as well as of our past differences…differences in ideologies and goals.
They teach us that the freedom to live and to do, a freedom we often take for granted, more often than not comes at a tremendous cost…a cost, that as a generation passes, is likely to be quickly forgotten.
These days serve to teach the surviving generations that working hard as well as together—that the deadly mistakes of the past do not always have to be repeated, as long as we are willing to learn….

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

Please click on the link in order to see more regarding the past weekend’s ceremony.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36407564

The work in becoming

I have but shadowed forth my intense longing to lose myself in the Eternal and become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God
meant you to be when He thought of you first.”

― George MacDonald

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8

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(an area of bog being dug…peat bogs, the spongy base which makes up so much of Ireland is dug up, cut or formed into bricks, dried and used for fuel, it is also becoming a medium for artists who sculpt and carve beautiful images from the intense black bog / somewhere along Gleann Cholm Cille / County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Any potter, ceramist, or sculptor will tell you that before there is a mug, a plate, a bowl, a vase, a statue, a figurine, a sculpture…
there is a lot of digging, mixing, processing, rolling, watering, wedging, pushing, shoving, beating, slapping, pinching, moulding, slamming, overlapping, smashing, smushing, forming, pulling, prying, poking, smoothing, burning, cooking, heating, coloring, glazing….

Clay…before it becomes something of beauty or of purpose, or even both, must first go through a complete overhaul–both physically as well as molecularly. It is considered to be a perfect medium in the minds of many an artist as it is forgiving, up to a point, and can be transformed into almost anything…

A naturally occurring raw product taken directly from the earth, add in a little refinement, then placed in just the right hands, a seemingly magical if not mystical transformation from mere dirt and a little water, emerges into something of both practical use and amazing beauty. A new creation emerging from something initially so simple, mostly overlooked and certainly taken for granted… with just the needed and necessary work, results in an amazing metamorphosis.

Is it then any wonder that man is so often compared to clay which has been given over the hands of the master Creator?
That which was formed from dust and ash…
In the heavenly eyes of the One True Creator, a raw natural product, incomplete and in great need of forming, shaping, prodding, moulding, firing and finishing…

That when eventually transformed, becomes a thing of beauty that is both strong and fragile all rolled into one.

We live our entire lives in the hands of the One who works tirelessly and lovingly forming, shaping, reshaping, heating and coaxing out that which is within.
Forever patient, as is any potter, He tenderly yet persistently works and reworks His clay into a thing of wonder.

It is however a life long process, one not always realized—this forming, moulding, making and becoming….
At times it is most painful and difficult, trying and even excruciating… yet when all is said and done, the final result is indeed a treasure to behold…

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:15-16

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands;
so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me.
He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Jeremiah 8:2-6

Elusive or certain

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(sign seen somewhere along a road in County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

Isaiah 45:3

Achilles heel

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

I like the fact that in ancient Chinese art the great painters always included a deliberate flaw in their work: human creation is never perfect.
Madeleine L’Engle

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(our resident mockingbird / Julie Cook / 2015)

Achilles had his heel.
Hercules was tripped up by a lack of common sense.
Samson was lost without his hair.
David faltered over lust.

Many a great hero, real or imagined, throughout history have each possessed one foible, one glaring flaw, one true weakness or ailment that. . . more often than not. . .proves to be, if not the ultimate downfall, a true precursor to an often catastrophic stumble or hinderance.

And even if these said flaws of either body or character do not topple said hero, they can certainly allow others, those mere mortals, to see that even the greatest among us, on occasion, stumble and fall or at the very least struggle. Yet it is the mark of a truly great individual who can get back up, admit a frailty, battle on often publicly, all the while moving forward.

My achilles heel has always been my “gut”. . .
At 10 the doctors told my mom I had a “nervous” stomach.
Spending many an outing that should have been full of adventure and fun,
I sought the refuge of a bathroom while “dying” from sheer stomach cramps and the ensuring
disaster which usually followed suit.

Later it was called a spastic colon—a true medical term if ever I heard one, wink, wink.

By the time I went to college, it was given a fancier name, IBS.
A catchall phrase used by the medical community to tag patients who suffer from the unexplained and often debilitating bouts of the gut. My southern genteel ways prevent me from offering overt descriptions which border on the periphery of TMI, but trust me, it is not pleasant and can truly, for some, be life altering—in a not so good way.

My pediatrician sent me off to college with a bottle of Paregoric, a foul tasting liquid of the opiate family which, when I was young, was the go-to treatment for colicky babies and childhood stomach viruses. A most unpalatable teaspoon of Paregoric nipped the debilitating cramps, pain and subsequent visits to the loo, rapidly in the bud.

Sadly the FDA took Paregoric off the market years ago.
Funny that. . .the one drug that seemed to provide the best relief for suffers also was a most abused drug by those not exactly needing the drug for medicinal purposes. . .
Today there are a handful of prescriptions out there but they pale in comparison and 9 times out of 10 don’t always work for sufferers as each sufferer is not the same as the next with symptoms swinging and varying in opposite directions—this is not a one size fits all ailment.

However this post is not about guts, IBS or drugs. . .rather it is an observation concerning the flaws, weaknesses and “issues” all of us face on a daily basis, while, to the best of our abilities, putting all aside, in order to trudge forward in our lives attempting to make our worlds a better place.

For some of us it is the battle of addictions. . .for others it is the daily turmoil of physical impairments and handicaps. Others of us struggle with life altering medical conditions while others fight an endless war of weight. Some of us are hampered by mood swings and temperamental demeanors, while others find leaving the safety of home almost unbearable. The list is ad infinitum.

Each of us has an Achilles heel, an ailment, a weakness, a struggle– with some of us suffering from multiple ailments, weaknesses and flaws, which simply put, is our cross to bear throughout life.
Each “cross” is every bit aggravating, debilitating, painful, life altering, socially unacceptable, destructive, draining, exhausting, never-ending, frustrating as the next. . .yet for the most part we all work to get through them, one step at a time, one day at a time- – – just to make the most of our lives as well as for those lives that have been entrusted to us.

For a fortunate few, there maybe a remission, a cure, a healing, a conquering of these “afflictions”. . .yet for the majority, it is a life long struggle of adapting, praying, dealing, suffering, accepting, fighting. . .

The task is never easy. . .
often fraught with pain, lethargy, impairment, discomfort, embarrassment. . .
but we press on, always with our sights resting just on the horizon of possibilities. Maybe it is our nature as we are hardwired to move ever forward despite any chain or weight we carry shackled to our bodies.

It is hard.
It is exhausting.
It is lonely.
Yet we mere mortals, who are all heroes hidden in disguise, press forward. . .
it’s just what heroes do. . .


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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 12:9-10

Will it or won’t it ?? Oh, and a happy anniversary to us. . .

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(the ominous forming of icicles / Julie Cook / 2015)

Perhaps it derives from a sense of solidarity with our northern kinsmen—
Those hearty New Englanders who are currently burdened, as well as heavy ladened, by the 9 foot and growing mountain of snow which has beset misery and woe upon our northern brethren in oh so many weeks.

Perhaps it is because of the still painful memory of the debacle of Atlanta’s SnowJam 2014 with
visions of the interstates as frozen parking lots and children camping out in their frozen-in-place school buses. . .

Perhaps it is because we are simply tired of the abundance of cold dreary rain and are, by sheer force, willing this miserable liquid to be something different. . .

Today marks the 3rd day in recent weeks that our school systems, at the behest of the Governor, have canceled school due to snow. . .might I add that there has been no snow.

This being a cancellation of anticipation.
Hummmmm. . .
Have you ever had a snow day without any snow?

Our weather woes and worries have become a much ado about nothing sort of affair. . .as in we have been warned for days and days in advance that calamity is soon to be riding in on the snow packed Northerly winds as the southern streaming Gulf moisture rides up to meet it. . .a scenario for the perfect Winter Snowstorm meeting in the middle—it’s just that nothing really seems to ever meet in order to materialize. . . other than up in the north Georgia Mountains where such happenings are expected.

As mere mortals, we are constantly trying our utmost best to corral the fickled wiles of Mother Nature. We study radar and charts, we compare highs and lows, we listen, we watch, we probe, we dig, we explore, we enlist the myriad of satellites circling the earth like lonely buzzards over head in search of calamity and catastrophe. We pat ourselves on the back when, by chance, we actually hit the forecasting nail on the head and then are quick to point fingers, while casting blame, when we’re caught by surprise.

So on this day of standing on the periphery of will it or won’t it, while I mindlessly join the masses who are making the dutiful pilgrimage to the grocery stores in search of the vastly fleeting and survival necessary bread and milk, as once again we stay glued to the windows in search of the elusive snowflake, I want to take a moment to wish both you and I a warm and loving Happy Anniversary. . .

Anniversary you ask?
Yes, yours and mine, as in ours. . .
Two years ago on the 25th of February 2013 you and I began this little blog journey–together.
Well actually I started the journey relatively alone and by myself–as in I ventured out into the unknown blogoshpere not even knowing what a blogoshpere was. . .

But two blessed years and 859 posts later here we are. . .you and I. . .together!
What a Blessing. . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!

You bring me joy daily as you allow me to wax and wane, grouse and sing, vent and create. . .we support one another and we share. . .
We share the ups and downs of life–of which none of us are exempt. . .
And so it is on this 2nd anniversary of this journey we call Life, as visited via the blogoshpere, I thank you for walking by my side—it always makes a journey so much more meaningful, bearable, fun as well as magical walking side by side don’t you think. . .so thank you for taking this journey with me, by my side. . .

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Numbers 6:24-26

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Ostriches and ducks

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.
Arthur Conan Doyle

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mahatma Gandhi

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duck2
( two images, one ostrich up close and personal and a female mallard both courtesy the web)

“Faith and Christian witness are presently confronted by such great challenges that only by working together will we be able effectively to serve the human family and enable the light of Christ to reach every dark corner of our hearts and of our world. May the journey of reconciliation and peace between our communities continue to draw us closer, so that, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we may bring life to all, and bring it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).

I would now like to turn to my native tongue to express feelings of profound sorrow. Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: “Jesus, help me!”. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”

This is an excerpt, courtesy of Vatican Archives, taken from an address given by Pope Francis earlier this week when meeting with members from the (Reformed) Church of Scotland. The Pope ventured away from the agenda at hand in order to offer his concern, outrage, and prayers regarding the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS.

Before the World could catch its collective breath, ISIS once again carried out another egregious and malicious act of terror and murder this week by publicly taunting then burning alive 45 men from a western town in Iraq—this while the Obama Administration readied themselves to host a summit discussing “extremism”. . .

The definition of extremism, according to Merriam Webster is: advocacy of extreme measures or views : radicalism

The definition of terrorism, according to Merriam Webster is: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal

The White House has, as has other Western European leaders, yet to acknowledge what the Pope so painfully stated Monday, that the killing of the 21 Copts was an act of violence against Christians.
The White House is also having a rather difficult time calling the violent acts of barbarism what they are—sadistic, callous cold murder carried out by the whims of Islamic Terrorists. They are Islamic and they are terrorists and they wage a jihad in the quest of a Caliphate in the name of Mohammed and Allah. . .

Yet this is not to say that the “Islamic terrorists” speak for or are representational of the Islamic Faithful. The concern however is that other Muslim Nations and Muslim leaders and Muslims in general have merely tried to ignore and distance themselves from the “extremists”. . .With some quietly agreeing that Western Society is indeed partly, if not fully, to blame for the current crises. Unfortunately however the insidious ooze of hate and radicalism is seeping into corners thought to be once off limits and even impenetrable. It appears as if it is in bad form for Muslims to rile against their Muslim kin as it is better to ignore and hope the ugliness will simply go away. . .

A holy war—an oxymoron if ever there was such a thing. A word phrase of extreme opposites in one spoken breath.
Is there such a thing as a “holy war?”—
Yes—but it is of a Divine nature, as the Heavenly Host wages war against Satan and all that is evil and full of darkness. It is what transpired as Jesus descended into Hell, only to rise victorious 3 days later. Yet Satan continues to walk this earth and still works to wield his madness as we remain in the crosshairs, as the earth remains under his dominion—the battle wages, yet the war has been won. . .

And yet it sadly becomes ingrained in the twisted minds of modern man that he can carry out such a “holy war”

The White House urges calm, reminding us not to jump to conclusions or God forbid we insult anyone.
We find ourselves drowning in a sea of political correctness as people are having their heads cut off and are burned alive in cages. We preen and strut in our technological 21st century modernism and pinnacle of civility all the while as thousands of people are tortured and murdered by means of medieval madness–all in the name of a radical religion, hate or simply both. . .the question remains seemingly unanswered.

Why do I feel it is just me who finds this all so terribly troubling? Especially the comment made by ISIS following the beheading of the Coptic Christians that they, ISIS, would now carry their “war” all the way to Rome.

We can choose, like many Muslims, to ignore the current actions of a group of marauding thugs, as it is, who are “over there”. . . We can sit around a large table and talk about if we just create jobs then we could nip this extremism in the bud.
Really??
We can choose to ignore the fact that the very Judeo / Christian foundation that has been the basis of our existence for centuries is truly threatened—that there are those who wish to see it destroyed.

It would be one thing if this was what various leaders, early on, considered to be just a rag tag group of thugs rattling sabers. . .Rather what we are witnessing has startlingly emerged to be a large and spreading cohesive, and well orchestrated, growing group of “radicals” hoping to achieve their Caliphate or that which is actually known as a governing body with direct descending political and religions powers from Mohammed himself. The ideas such as creating jobs for disenfranchised youth around the globe and maintaining overt politically correct terminology in hopes that no one will take offense to our growing alarm or concern will sadly not do one single thing to stop this growing threat to our very way of life.

Two things—may we be mindful that if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck–therefore we may conclude that it is indeed a duck. . .

Also. . . may we never be caught with our heads buried in the sand. . .