altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

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(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

Monday’s mania and the tale of a wayward vulture

Since knowledge is but sorrow’s spy,
It is not safe to know.

William Davenant

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(A poor lost griffon vulture, image courtesy the BBC)

What’s a griffon vulture and the high stakes game of espionage and intelligence gathering have to do with one another?
Absolutely nothing.
Yet try telling that to the Lebanese government.

Meet a comedy of errors that had a near disastrous consequence for one hapless griffon vulture.

It seems that this carrion loving bird, who was simply out and about for an innocent lazy ride along the thermals over the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, made the egregious mistake of nonchalantly wandering into Lebanese air space.
He was subsequently captured and “incarcerated” by local Lebanese villagers who mistook him for an Israeli spy.

“A vulture an Israeli spy???!!!” I hear you incredulously howling….

Seems our unsuspecting raptor, who had a tracking device on his tail, was observed flying into Lebanese airspace and was thus assumed to be up to no good…as if eating dead things is a good thing….

But the truth of the matter is that vultures, who have long been absent from this region, were recently reintroduced back into this particular area of the Middle East. Each vulture has a tracking device and a leg tag marking them as a part of Tel Aviv University’s biological research department. Students track these birds in order to monitor their flight patterns, nesting habits, the potential for repopulating the region as well as for their overall wellbeing.

The Lebanese villagers suspecting a “Zionist” plot hatching out right over their heads pegged this lone vulture as a spy most likely complete with a spy cam.
It took the intervention of the UN to broker a deal for the poor vulture’s release and safe return back to the University.

And it should be noted that this is not the first incident of a suspect vulture’s mistaken identity and subsequent “arrest”…..
It seems that even poor vultures are not exempt from the rampant paranoia of high stakes espionage.

So the next time you see a bunch of buzzards circling overhead, eyeing that latest possum roadkill, you might want to think twice about whether or not that’s really a possum and whether or not that’s really a buzzard….

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35446528

Here’s to putting a smile on your face this Monday morning….

May your soul bloom

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

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(blooms in Julie’s yard / Julie Cook / 2014)

To be grateful, this beautiful springtime Saturday in April, for the ones I hold dear.
To be grateful for those who care enough about me to shower my small family with love.
To be grateful that I am blessed with health and my five senses which enable me to drink in the headiness a day such as today.
To be grateful for a father who has been gracious and generous to my small family.
To be grateful for a son who has found a special girl to call his own—forever.
To be grateful for a husband who is a most kindhearted man.
To be grateful for friends who have chosen to honor both my son and his fiancé today with their hearts which are full of kindness, generosity, and love.

These are the moments of life that could easily be taken for granted, or even overlooked in the fray of the craziness of this thing I call my life—but I have been made consciously and palpably aware of the blessings before me.
I am the type of person who is usually hesitant and leery of being overtly grateful as I’m usually the one waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop”. . .don’t be too happy because if you don’t watch out, tragedy is just waiting around the corner to descend and cause pain and sorrow.

Yet this overwhelming sense of wonder, the realization that I am blessed in this life of mine more than I take time to recognize, must be acknowledged and not shunned due to some paranoid sense of fear.

So it is with a grateful heart that I offer my thanks and praise to a God who is my God–
A God who is there through not only the good of my life but through the bad that besets itself upon my world as well. To a God who has been and who will always remain a constant in my life despite my not always acknowledging that He is indeed a constant in my world.

Tomorrow all hell may break loose but for today, I will rejoice and be glad. . .

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 3:16