what matters most…

“In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal,
hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.”

St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

“Listen with the ear of your heart.”
– St. Benedict of Nursia

(the Gulf of Mexico as seen from Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s so much we could be chatting about.
So much to be talking about…
So much I’ve been thinking about.
Because if we just check in on the world, just the mere checking in swings wide the doors
of conversation both vast and far…

Yet today that all seems to be of little consequence.

However we do continue to get caught up in all of that, don’t we?

The ‘he said, she said’ of all things political, entertainment or merely worldly.
As we allow it to fuel our wrath, our angst, our sick perversions as we jump
on the neighboring soap boxes of others, prepared to pick up a sword and duel it out.

Such duels are done publically each and every day on the news just as duels are
done here in the blogosphere.
We trade jabs back and forth, parlaying a thrust here and an attack there to those we perceive
to be our enemies…

I’ve not watched much news this week–it’s been kind of nice missing out…
Yet I did catch a snippet of the breaking news out of Kentucky and of the high school shooting
which took place this past week—
a shooting that took the lives of two teenagers—while 12 others, I think, are now
suffering from their wounds…
All the while, a teenage gunman has been taken into custody—
As no motive has yet been shared.

I taught high school for over half my adult life…
After Columbine, I knew what it was like to always hold in the back of my mind the notion
that one day ‘one of ours’ could go off the deep end, or worse, someone from outside could go off
the deep end, coming inside to our world with that empty lostness,
that personification of evil, bringing that unseemingly senseless havoc into our world.

There is an utter helplessness when such happens.
Life stands still for the never-ending seconds while lives change forever.

And now that those seconds of change have passed, as lives are once again lost and changed,
the rest of us prepare to jump up on those boxes of ours with swords held high,
as we once again prepare to go to battle over mental health, gun control, safety,
security… on and on goes the list of ills…

But the bottom line is that lives are gone and lives are changed and people are hurting.

That’s the bottom line.

I was moved reading the tale today of the dad whose son was one of the two victims who lost
their young lives in that high school in Kentucky…

That dad raced to the high school and knew that the body on the stretcher being rushed from
the building was that of his son’s because he recognized the socks on the feet of the body
on the stretcher—because they were the socks he’d laid out the night before for his son
to put on the following morning.

I always made certain my son had his clothes laid out too—all through high school,
as I’d remind him, as he’d found himself too old for me to continue laying them out for him,
all so he wouldn’t have to rush around figuring out what to wear the next morning.

I wept for this father who was miraculously given the time to tell his dying son how much
he loved him.

I wept for the first responder mom who made her way to the school only to discover that her’s
was the son who was the shooter.

I wept for the family of the young lady also killed, just as I weep for the other victims in the
various hospitals.

I weep for all those who no longer have a sense of innocence or a sense of safety
or a sense of faith–as those things become victims as well.

I weep for all of us, for humankind, as we forget and are jolted back to reality as we
grapple with the understanding that we live in a broken and fallen world.

I weep because we have become so jaded by such stories that we can no longer weep but prefer rather
to immediately jump on the soapbox of battle.

Never mind the necessary mourning.
Never mind our pain, our sorrow, our brokenness…
For we have long decided that to deal with our mourning is to ignore our pain,
to ignore the hurt…

And maybe it will just go away.

There will be those rallying cries from those soapboxes,
that is if they haven’t already started crying—
that if we could just gather up every gun, identify every person before they are pushed one
step too far, if we could just do this or just do that…

But what we fail to grasp, is that life will always remain precarious.
Trgeday and Death will never leave us alone.
And none of us are exempt from the tears of sorrow…

I can only hope that in all of the sorrow, in all of the tragedies,
in all of the loss, be it public or private, that we will remember to find our compassion
at such times and not our hate.
That we can find our prayers and not our accusations and that we can remember to be the
the tangible and physical embodiment of God’s love offered freely to those who now hurt…

Since all our love for God is ultimately a response to His love for us, we can never love Him,
in the same way, He loves us, namely, gratuitously.
Since we are fundamentally dependent on God and in His debt for our creation and redemption,
our love is always owed to Him, a duty,
a response to His love. But we can love our neighbor in the same way that He loves us,
gratuitously—not because of anything the neighbor has done for us or because of anything
that we owe him, but simply because love has been freely given to us.
We thereby greatly please the Father.
God the Father tells Catherine [of Siena]: This is why I have put you among your neighbors:
so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me—that is,
love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself.
And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.”

– Ralph Martin, p. 261
An Excerpt From
Fulfillment of all Desire

“Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God.
A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so.
As soon as it turns away, it stops praying.
The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all
that is not God.
That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement.
Prayer is essentially a ‘raising up’, an elevation.
We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise
ourselves up to the Creator.”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, p. 91
An Excerpt From
The Prayer of the Presence of God

“We find rest in those we love,
and we provide a resting place for those who love us.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

ode to a fig

“To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning,
when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite
pleasures of the Mediterranean.”

Elizabeth David

(this past summer’s plucking–a fig resting on a bed of fresh herbs / Julie Cook / 2017)

There’s eating figs, figs stuffed with blue cheese, fig preserves
and then there’s “giving the fig”….
I liken the latter to our shooting of birds….but this is not about that

But according to Wikipedia, to give someone the fig means:
The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture used in Turkish and Slavic cultures
and some other cultures that uses two fingers and a thumb.
This gesture is most commonly used to deny a request.

In Brazil, use of this gesture wards off evil eye, jealousy, etc.
Often worn as a good luck charm.

In ancient Rome, the fig sign, or mano fico, was made by the pater familias
to ward off the evil spirits of the dead as a part of the Lemuria ritual.

The hand gesture may have originated in ancient Hindu culture to depict
the lingam and yoni.

Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or “obscene hand”.

Recently, a Ukrainian word for this gesture “дуля” (dulya) has also become
a jargon to refer to Control-Alt-Delete. (“…you need three fingers to
press the buttons. So it’s like telling somebody (a computer in this case)
to get lost.”)

So you should know that this little tale is not exactly a story about
offending gestures—
yet the notion of a fig, even cursing a fig, does play a dominate role…..

This morning when I left the house at 9AM, headed back to my dentist—
I had a full set of teeth.
Well actually I am minus one back upper right molar that was pulled
years ago due to it causing chronic sinus problems—-and as I was born without
wisdom teeth, other than that, I’ve had a nice head full of teeth.

About 4 weeks ago one morning, I had grabbed a couple of fig newtons to act
as my breakfast of champions.
Whereas I’m not keen on eating fresh figs, I do did enjoy Fig Newtons—-you know,
that whole debate of is it a cookie or a cake—-
potato, potaaato sort of thing.

When I took a bite of one of the Newtons, I bit down on something chunky and
hard—it wasn’t one of those pesky tiny seeds but rather a piece of stem.
And when I did, I immediately felt as if I’d broken my tooth.
I raced to the bathroom grabbing a mirror for a closer inspection.

Nope, the tooth was intact and looked ok.
Even the filling was still intact.

Yet there remained a nagging pain.
I figured I’d probably just bruised the area around the tooth.

I have had several teeth with root canals and crowns but this was still an active
tooth that happened to have a filling.

And as you may remember I am adopted.
I learned a few years back that my biological mother,
despite being a nurse, hid the pregnancy as long as possible.
No prenatal care there.

Of course this was the 1950’s and she was not married and that is a long story
for another day…but I was born premature.

Years later our family dentist explained to both me and my (adopted) mom
that in utero, my teeth had not properly fused—-leaving them prone to cavities,
and even cracking, etc.
Thus I have have treasured my teeth, working hard and being fastidious
in their care—-yet…..

The next day following the stem incident, there was a good deal of pain
when I drank anything hot or cold….as in sensitivity.

“Crap” I groused cause I knew what that would entail.
I called the dentist.
I went in and she did an X-ray.
“Nope Julie, I don’t see any cracks…it’s probably just really bruised.”

Whew—a dodged bullet!

Another week passed and still the sensitivity persisted.

Another anomaly fact about me is that many of the roots of my teeth run up into
my sinus cavity. Hence may age old conundrum—-
is it the sinuses infected or is it the teeth being aggravating??
I’ve had two sinus surgeries, with one having done wonders, the other not so much…
so my doctors and dentists pretty much roll their eyes when they see me coming…
as in here comes the oddity—-they would deny that but I know better…

So a week later I went back to the dentist who did another X-ray.
This dentist didn’t see a crack but wanted me to go see an endodontist.
This particular endodontist has seen me before, having done a couple of root canals.

He x-rayed as well but didn’t see much within the tooth, but the sinus cavity
on the other hand showed a cloudiness, indicating infection or swelling.
He did the cold test which definitely caused pain.
He removed the old filling and found the interior of the tooth to be what
he called inflamed.
How the inside of a tooth is inflamed I’m not sure, but I believed him.

This was Thursday before Christmas.
He did a root canal right then and there and sent me off with an antibiotic
and pain pills with an appointment to come back in January to have the
tooth permanently sealed.

Well I still felt terrible.

So the day following Christmas, I was in the ENT’s office.
He x-rayed my head, saw inflammation and changed the antibiotic to something
stronger plus gave me a shot.

The following day I was feeling better and found I could actually chew
without pain.


Fast forward to this Thursday night— I had roasted a nice turkey breast.
I lay bacon over the breast to help keep it moist and self basting as it cooks.
Once the turkey was done, I took it out to allow it to “rest”
Roasted things need time to rest so their juice fill back up keeping the meat
nice and moist.

And as I happen to adore bacon, I grabbed one of the pieces and took a bite.
I tend to chew on my left side where the culprit tooth is located.
Not a wise choice.
Biting into the bacon, I immediately felt as if something had pieced my gum,
then all of a sudden out came a part of my tooth….


Again I race to the bathroom for a mirror….what to my wandering eyes did appear—
the culprit tooth spilt totally in half…


The interior split half was piecing into the gum in the roof of my mouth.

I called the endodontist.
He calls my dentist.
The plan, be ready by 7AM to be seen by the one or the other.

I get a text the following morning at 6:30AM—be at dentist at 9AM

The dentist is here in town.
The endodontist is in a neighboring town about 20 minutes away.

The dentist takes one look at the split tooth and tells me that since it is Friday
and their office closes early, as well as the local oral surgeon’s office—he opts
to send me to another town, about 30 minutes away, to a different oral surgeon
who he knows works all day on Fridays.

Post haste I drive.

Long story short….3 shots in the roof of the mouth, one on the other side….
a lot of pulling, twisting, and odd noises emanating from my head,
while someone is holding my head and another is suctioning
tooth bits, all the while my eyes are tightly shut as I keep saying the
Jesus Prayer over and over and over…
then just as quickly, #13, what they call a pre molar, is gone.

Replaced by a wad of gauze….and later a tea bag whose tannin helps
to control bleeding, or so they say.

My husband was a bit taken aback when he walked in the door this evening only
to be greeted by a wife with a wet tea bag stuffed in her mouth complete with
both tag and string blowing in the wind.
Tetley tea anyone…..

And you should know that if I was telling you this tale in person–
the word tooth would sound like ‘poof’ as in the novocaine and cheek full of
gauze are doing a number on my speech….
did I mention the uncontrollable drool???

Following the pulling of the tooth, the oral surgeon did a bone graft as we will be
going the route of an implant…much as I hope that it will work but just
as much to my chagrin.
My husband has had an implant—it was a year long process and a small fortune.

So the moral of this long and wending tale,
besides the fact that I now have a hole in my head, copious amounts of drool,
and tea bags stuffed in my face….

Always be careful when opting to give any one the fig and be even more careful
when biting down on a Fig Newton!!!
You never know what might bite back..

And oh…be good to your teeth!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God?
You are not your own;
you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Sun, moon and the love of a grandfather

“There are fathers who do not love their children;
there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.”

Victor Hugo

(an older moon shot I’ve used before / Julie Cook / 2016)

I know that yesterday I had given us, or perhaps actually issued is a better word,
a laundry list of “issues” that we were going to need to play catch up with….
all sorts of pressing issues that had come down the pike while I was busy
with all things snow….

And yes, we shall indeed visit those issues…however, I was called into active duty, unbeknownst to my best laid plans, with active duty in my case being
the emergency holiday help at my husband’s store…

So now that I’m finally home, it’s late and I’m trying to prepare some sort of
hot meal of sustenance and get a post ready for tomorrow (which is now today if
you’re reading this), so I think we’ll hold up
on those more pressing topics until I have the proper time to do them justice….

And as life would have it, something interesting arrived in yesterday’s mail
that is now taking precedence.

You may recall that the I have a friend at Plough Publishing House who actually
happened upon my blog about a year ago or so.

That’s how we met.

She has been sending me sample copies of books that she thinks that I will enjoy…
and in turn will perhaps share with others….of which I have as time has allowed.

The small package that arrived in yesterday’s mail was one of those books.

A book that probably has made a bigger impact on my heart than my publisher friend
would have imagined.

Those of you who know me or have been reading this blog since this time last year…
know that I was knee deep in caring for my dad and stepmother.

Dad had an aggressive form of bladder cancer…he was diagnosed in late August and died
in March. Both he and my stepmother had also been diagnosed with varying degrees of
dementia quite sometime before that…
so needless to say we were just all in the middle of a downward spiral is putting it

It was a hard road for us all…with dad being an amazing example
quiet acceptance, perseverance and fortitude.

This time last year we already had 24 hour care as well as Hospice care…
plus I was driving over each and every day.

The last time dad had actually gotten out of the bed was on Christmas day when we
wheeled him to the table to enjoy Christmas dinner.
Naturally he didn’t have much of an appetite but he was most keen for the dessert.
So dessert it was.

Dad and my son had a very special bond.
My son was my dad’s only grandchild and Dad was more kid than dad…
so needless to say, they stayed in cahoots most of my son’s growing up.

(Christmas day 2016, Brenton and Dad)

My dad was always graciously generous to his grandson and to say that my son
was dad’s partner in crime was to have been putting it mildly.

I won’t go on as it seems I’ve written about all of this before and if I do go on,
I’ll simply loose focus over my original intent of this post and
cry more than I already am.

The book my friend sent me is actually a children’s book.
And I imagine it came my way because I will become a grandmother soon.
Yet the tale of the book resonated so much with me, not so much because I am
a soon to be grandparent,
but rather because it is a tale about a grandson and his grandfather.

It is a book written by a German author, Andreas Steinhofel and illustrated by a
German artist Nele Palmtag—and yet the tale is quite universal.

Max’s grandfather is in a nursing home because he has what is surmised to be
Alzheimers or some other form of dementia….’forgetting’ being the key word.
And nine year old Max, who adores his grandfather and misses their life together
before the nursing home, formulates a plan to “spring” his grandfather from the
nursing home…
in essence a plan to kidnap his grandfather.

And in so doing another member of the nursing home escapes by accident.
A long and spindly woman who is in search of the sun…as she dances
behind Max and his grandfather on their misadventure.

The tale is not a long read—-
I read it in less than an hour’s time.
Yet it is a deep read by adult standards.
It is funny, it is cute, it is painful, and it is very very real.

I think my 29 year old son would appreciate the story much more than his 9
year old self would have—as he now has the hindsight of understanding
Max’s deep longing.

I know that if my son could have kidnapped his “Pops” from that hospice bed he
would have….and off on one more adventure they would have gone.

But in this tale of last adventures, Max’s grandfather reassures Max, who is now desperately afraid that his grandfather, in his forgetfulness, will forget
he loves Max…explains to Max that he will always be there, loving Max,
even if it appears he has “forgotten.”

He explains to Max that when we look up into the sky we know the moon is there
because we can see it. Yet during those nights that the sky appears to be moonless,
which is only because of how the sun is shining on the opposite side of the moon—
the moon is indeed still there—just as his love will always be there for Max,
even if Max won’t be able to directly see it….

After finishing the story last night, I could not recount the tale to my husband
without crying…finding myself just having to stop talking as I allowed the tears
to wash down my face.

The story as read for a child would be fun, poignant as well as mischievous…
As for any adult touched by the stealing effects of memory loss or just the loss of
a loved one in general, will find the tale heartwarming and very poignant.

Just as I now fondly recall a life that once was…

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

I wish….

“Without free will we cannot have moral responsibility.
And without moral responsibility we cannot have justice, law and indeed society.
Human beings cease to be human and instead become just a collection of chemicals
living out the pre-determined paths of our meaningless existence.”

David Robertson

(a small remaining cluster of American Beautyberries—probably what my mockingbird got
drunk off of / Julie Cook / 2017)

During the course of one’s life, it is hoped that at some point, one will actually understand—as in comprehend with inward knowing….
where exactly one has been,
where one currently is,
and where one still needs to go….

I can say that with a great deal of certainty that I have, in the course of figuring
out where it is I have been, along with where I currently am, as well as where
I need to be…. that I have in turn done things, said things, thought things…
all of which would have been best never to have done,
never to have said, and never to have been thought.

Some of these things were said, done and thought most willingly—
While others were said, done and thought more reactionary or as fleeting bits of thoughtlessness or even innate quirks of randomness…
None the less, having caused pain, sorrow and suffering to others while often being
totally unbeknownst to myself, as they were done with mere flippant thoughtlessness.

Some of which, over the years, have been most grievous—
and in hindsight, grievous to both others as well as to myself…

I have done, said and thought things with mean intent, ill intent, selfish intent,
hurtful intent, harmful intent, malicious intent, prideful intent, sinful intent…
as the intents are ad infinitum.

And I wish, in this place of life’s hindsight, that I could go back in time
undoing each action, word and thought that was wrong, hurtful, mean, boastful,
selfish and or egregiously sinful.

But I cannot.

I can perhaps apologize, if such an apology would be appropriate, yet there have
actually been instances that I was simply unaware of…
instances that I was clueless to and unaware that I even needed to make some sort
of amends.

Plus time has a way of removing us so far away physically from those first moments
of error that the opportunity to “make things right” or even simply to offer a
sincere word of remorse have closed for the duration of life on this earth.

People come and go…and lives each come to an end.
Actually making it is impossible to extend a conscious heartfelt ownership
of wrongfulness in some instances…

There is however, one thing certain…
we have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others.

That is a fact of being a human being.

It’s something that is part and parcel with being a part of the human race.
And yet we most often forget that simple fact…and it is in that forgetfulness
where most of our errors come to surface.

Just as it is part and parcel of being human that we will make poor choices in
our actions, words and thoughts against both ourselves as well as others.
But what never changes is that each poor choice of action, word or thought has a consequence.

It’s just that some are more noticeable then others.

And when we have nothing but hindsight to remind us, it is then and there, in the
solitude of our remembrances, that we must seek the Grace that God so freely offers.

The act of contrition and true repentance.

As our remorse and sorrow over these mis-actions, words and thoughts weigh heavy on the burden of a soul.
And if they do not, then the checking of a pulse just might be in order.

Grace will not erase our actions, words or thoughts, once so arrogantly, vainly or ignorantly displayed, but it will always change our perception of such actions, words and thoughts just as it will change us…
ever so slightly back to that image our Creator had of us all along…

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

Titus 2:11-12

Mortal enemy

“You remind us that how you treat somebody defines who we are”
Quote by Col William Percival regarding his meeting with Gunter Grawe
a former German POW who was interred in Washington St at what is now
Joint Base Lewis-McChord— who, some 70 odd years later, returned at age
91 to visit the camp)

(a spotted orb weaver just outside my closet window—too close / Julie Cook / 2017)

He was mad at his ex mother-n-law and that’s why he did it.
Makes sense right?

No, I didn’t think so either….

But more on that in a bit….first the spider…

Those of you who know me know that I am quite terrified of spiders.
And much to the chagrin of my husband and daughter-n-law, my son seems to
have inherited this fanatical fear.
Some call it a phobia, I call it a state of paralyzing terror ….

Dealing with any kind of snake, any sort of reptile…is a piece of cake…..
but let an arachnid show up— and it’s all over but the screaming!

So when I opened the shutters the other morning in my closet, I was greeted
with the sight of this orb weaver having set up camp right outside my window.
It was all I could do to take the picture without perishing.

Yet don’t they say facing one’s fear is how to best beat it??

Well personally I think stomping, swatting, smashing or simply running away
screaming works just as well.

So you would think that I consider the spider to be my mortal enemy right?

Well, yes and no.

Now whereas a spider can indeed kill a person, chances are that is not going
happen, not unless you live in say Australia where their spiders are truly lethal.

But here in Georgia we have just a couple of “deadly” spiders.
We have the Black widow, the brown widow and the brown recluse—
with each one causing terrible reactions when one is bitten…
and if bitten just in the right spot, a bite could actually lead to death—-
Yet those odds are not as great as just suffering form severe tissue loss
at the site of the wound.

And whereas I do “fear” spiders, they are not my true mortal enemy.

My true mortal enemy however does walk this earth.
He is very much, and for the loss of a better association of words,
alive and well.

I’m talking about that which comprises all evil…

Satan, a dark and sinister ironic bearer of light.

On Sunday our Nation witnessed another unimaginable horror.
The senseless and tragic mass shooting of a church congregation.

Just like most everyone else, a peaceful fall November Sunday was suddenly
punctuated by Breaking News…with word coming out of a tiny town in Texas that
a gunman had gone into an equally tiny Baptist Church shooting, killing and
wounding almost the entire congregation present during that morning’s service.

I sat glued to the television as I kept checking my phone and computer for the latest
updates. Like Newtown’s Sandy Hook…it seemed as if madness had once again,
crossed that imaginary uncrossable line.

Not that each time we have a mass tragedy it isn’t madness…it’s just that we,
as humans, seem to believe that some things are off limits when it comes to
that which is horrible….
yet sadly we are learning that nothing, absolutely nothing, remains “off limits” to
that which is Evil.

I was perplexed, as I was reading the updates, as they were laced with the personal observations of those who immediately began calling for the banning of guns or that
this had somehow been Trump’s fault…
on and on went the litany of blame.

Because that’s how we now seem to be as a people—it’s how we seem to deal with
We don’t even wait for full details.
We don’t allow for shock which gives way to grief and sorrow…
Rather we immediately seek a reason, a rationale, an answer—
because, by God, there has to be an answer…otherwise we have no option but to
acknowledge that there are just some things totally beyond us and beyond our control…
and we just can’t handle that idea…

I posted a comment the other day on a fellow blogger’s site with much the same
sentiment—as person after person kept asking how and why…
I knew how and I knew why.

People were pointing accusatory fingers…”this is the fault of the NRA,
“it’s the fault of the Republicans”,
“this is the fault of those who support the President”
“this is the fault of white America”….on and on went the ugly banter….

Was it President Clinton’s fault for Columbine?
Was it President Obama’s fault for Sandy Hook?
Just like this is not the fault of President Trump.

A man who claimed he had issues with his former in-law’s.
A man who had actually filed legally for the application to possess
a gun license despite having a criminal past.
A man who had been courtmartialed.
A man who had been held in Military detainment for a year.
A man who had beaten his wife and fractured his stepson’s skull.
A man who had assaulted his own dog…
A man who had been dishonorably discharged from the AirForce….
…this man walks into his former in-law’s church and destroyed as much life
as he possibly could….as the in-laws weren’t even present.

There are no reasons…
because anything remotely attempting to be a reason
would merely be an excuse—because simply put, there are no reasons for this.

It would not have mattered if all the guns were gone.

I heard last night some stats to the effect that if all the guns were banned right
this very moment, there would still be 5 million out there.
So then you’d have those folks going door to door collecting—

You can collect all the guns you want but when you have Evil intent on evil,
it matters not if there are guns, or trucks, or bombs, or hatchets, or
planes or poison—
Evil will destroy everything in its wake when it so desires…
that is what Evil does.

And so we now consider the opening quote I chose to use this morning…

I follow a terrific blog—Pacific Paratrooper—a great blog about the history
of WWII with the specifics being confined to the fighting on the Pacific front.
The history lessons are excellent as well as the stories of those brave men
and women who fought and served, yet are leaving us daily due to time and age…

Yesterday’s story was about a former German POW who was interred actually here in the States for three years until the War’s end.
It seems that 4000 or so German prisoners of war were actually held here in the
Their experience here being a far cry from those prisoners who were held in the
Death Camps of Nazi Germany and even later, those held in the Gulags of the USSR.

Herr Grawe, at 91, wanted to come back to visit the US camp,
wanting to see one last time, the place that he has long admitted actually
saved him.

He declared his capture by the Americans at the age of 18 was “his luckiest day,”
“No guard called us nasty names. I had a better life as a prisoner than
my mother and sister back home in Germany.”

On the flip side we have seen those former surviving prisoners who have returned,
albeit reluctantly or be it defiantly, to view the German death camps…
camps they survived but places in which left them permanently damaged.

A contrast of human survival…survival at the hands of fellow human beings.

Col. Percival reminds us that we are defined by how we treat others.

So in the upcoming days, weeks and months we as a Nation will be judged by a world
who looks intently at how we will react to our latest sorrow.

But in all of this, it would behoove each of us to remember who the real enemy is….
and that is Satan…..
the master of all lies and deception, the creator of all hate and division.
Our mortal enemy…..

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.
On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21


an earthly perception of hell

“The Christian is not just to rage against the darkness…
we are to proclaim the light”.

David Robertson

(a lone sanderling at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2017)

In the course of the past two days I have read, in two vastly different places, the
notion of what hell actually is as it is perceived by those still earthly
bound mortals…

And as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence…but rather in the intervention
of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the two views has come from a member of the clergy, one being a former Church of England prelate who now hails as a Reformed Anglican Bishop and the other–
an Eastern Orthodox monk who passed away 24 years ago.

Each man relates a similar thought concerning hell…
that being an absence.
As in a permanent and perpetual void.

I can only think, for us humans, to be able to understand this concept of absence
and void is if, and only if, we have experienced the death of a loved one.
For in death there is a separation…an earthly permanent seperation.
As in a state of no more…as in no more—ever….
at least not on this earth.

If we are Believers, then we know that death is not a permanent situation…
perhaps on this earth yes, but in Heaven no.
And if we are not Believers of the Christian faith…
then there is perhaps even a keener awareness of this state of ‘no more.’

And in that state of emptiness, for both the Believing and unbelieving,
there is an almost unconsolable sorrow of loss.
And this utter cutting off and separation, for some, is often more
than can be borne by both soul and flesh.

Both of these clerics express this notion in very different ways.

Bishop Ashenden recently had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina.
He explained that the healing process is most arduous—
He had to lie very still on his right side, at a 45 degree angle for 10 days—
24 hours a day of laying very still in a particular position
with only a 10 minute break here and there to use the bathroom.

The pain, when using the drops which aggravated his wound, was as if someone was
taking a screwdriver and was constantly digging and twisting it in his eye with no
easing off or letting up.

This reminds me of cancer patients and those with severe nerve damage where the
pain is a constant state of the unbearable.

I saw this with my mother when the cancer had spread to her bones and later with my
dad who had developed a severe Kennedy ulcer the last two weeks of his life.
The wound developed a horrible infection and opened all the way to his bone…
The slightest movement for both my parents was excruciating and yes, unbearable.

Bishop Ashenden said that in his pain he got to the point that the pain was such a
constant persistency, that it was to the point that he could not even pray—
his prayer being simply “help me Lord”—the prayer of suffering and agony.

And in that pain there was a consuming sense of isolation—
For that’s how pain is—it is totally consuming to such an extent that there is
no sense of communion with God—rather there is no sense of God…only agony.

Be that a physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain….

And it is often in such moments that many a Believer and even non-believerer
will actually be to the point where they say “to hell with God”
“If He cannot help me, relieve me, then let Him just be damned.”

That is to the lowest we go as humans.
And it is a tragic state.

Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993) offers us a bit different vision
of a mortal’s interpretation of hell.
He shares what he has learned from those monks who have gone before him…
in the way of what is known as a “custom house”

The customs houses about which the Fathers write are symbols of a reality.
The Fathers understand them as follows: after the fall of man,
the soul is nourished by the body, in other words,
it finds refreshment in material pleasures.
After death, however, these bodily passions that used to divert the soul
no longer exist, because the soul has left the body,
and they choke and stifle the soul.
These are the customs houses and eternal torment.
Abba Dorotheos says that eternal torment is for someone to be shut up
for three days in a room without food, sleep or prayer.
Then he can understand what hell is.

Elder Sophrony of Essex. I Know a Man in Christ

Bishop Ashenden admonishes us all that it would behoove us to be of a constant
state of prayer—during those times in life when we are free to offer up our prayers…
be they of worship and praise, adulation and jubilation, thanksgiving and awe,
or simply intercession—
For we must do so with a fervency…because none of us are exempt from pain.

Just as it would behoove us to understand that hell is very real, very lasting
and it is not the sort of place we should want to or settle on going—
For if we find the early glimpse unbearable, what would eternity be….

For during each our lifetimes we will inevitably be faced with this glimpse of hell,
and when we are, we must know that we are ‘shored up’…
that during those times when all we can do is cry out “help, please” that we may rest
in knowing that He has heard us and we are not as we feel, alone and tormented…
For He has already walked our journey long before we were even conceived.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

crying in need

(baby goat pic found on the web)

There I was on a hot Friday the 13th afternoon in October—
did I mention it was hot?

Mid October and there has yet to be any near sighting of the
long awaited and highly anticipated Fall…

Anywhooo back to our tale….

There I was just coming out of Lowes, one of our big home improvement centers, headed for my car when I first heard it…


Was that a sheep?????

“Must be the heat” I mused as I continued on my journey to my car,
with air filters in tow….


I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the parking lot…listening.


Without skipping a beat, the baying sound filled the entire parking lot.


A woman just getting out of her car stops dead in her own tracks right by me…
“What is that crying? she asks confused.


We both are standing still as statues, listening….


“I think it’s coming from over there” as I point toward a yellow pickup truck
several lanes over.


More people stop…mostly women.
The same question…”what is that crying?”


Finally I discern that indeed it is the yellow pickup truck that happens to have
a large animal carrier in the back of the truck bed.
The truck is one of those that has a full back cover for the bed,
of which was propped up as the animal carrier was wedged between bed and
cover. I could make out something white moving a bit side to side in the carrier.


“Is that a sheep?” another woman walking passed asks bewildered.

“That or a goat” I respond as we all now stare in the direction of the truck.


By now I’m feeling a strong urge to follow the cry, but reason tells me
“take the air filters to the car and drive on home…”…
or maybe that was actually my husband’s admonishement from afar
telling me “do not stop, we do not need nor want a baby lamb or goat…GO HOME!!!”


Inside my car I can still hear the cries….


I roll down my window as I begin to pull out of the parking spot still feeling
a strong urge to go to this crying “baby.”


I notice several other shoppers, all women, making a bee line for the truck.


but this draw was something much more than mere curiosity.


This poor baby goat or lamb was in dire straights as it was wailing for “mother”


Finally pulling far enough away I no longer could hear the cries…
yet in my rear view mirror I could still see various women making their way over
to the truck…

Pondering as I drove….
was it the cries of a child, albeit animal, crying out in desperation that sent
out some sort of distress signal to the maternal instincts in the female
shoppers today??

The draw was strong to go attend to this crying baby…
I know because it was all I could do not to walk over to the truck myself.

And then the thought occurs to me—what of our own cries?…
those cries we utter and offer up to our unseen God and Father…Abba?

Those cries of anguish, despair, pain, desperation, sorrow…
Cries offered, or perhaps actually hurled outward and upward,
most often in distress or resignation…
cries of need and want…

And what of the One who hears those cries…is He not then drawn, even more powerfully
to our cries then we are to the cries of our own crying children….
So much so that He immediately runs to the sound each and every time!
As we rest assured, He runs…

(little lamb found on the web)

In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

Psalm 18:6