carrying the cross

When the son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:8


(fall persimons / Julie Cook / 2019)

Where confusion reigns, God cannot dwell!
Let us not be afraid!
What more wonderful gift is there to offer to mankind than the truth of the Gospel?
Certainly, Jesus is demanding.
Yes, following him requires carrying his Cross each day!

Robert Cardinal Sarah

staying the course

Father Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J., suggests three purposes for prayer:
1) To recognize God’s presence,
2) To be transformed through surrendering to God’s Lordship, and
3) To experience union with God in an intimate relationship where you receive His love daily.

Karen L. Dwyer, Ph.D. & Lawrence A. Dwyer, JD
from Wrap Yourself in Scripture


(a persimmon hints at the coming change / Julie Cook / 2018)

You don’t know how to pray?
Put yourself in the presence of God,
and as soon as you have said,
‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!”
you can be sure you have already begun.’

St. Josemaria Escriva

taking one last hit for the team in ’17; looking forward to ’18

Keep Calm and Carry On….
words seen on a WWII British motivational poster


(why do I think this sad little persimmon is a reflection of myself? / Julie Cook / 2017)

You didn’t think I could let the year end without having one last ‘hit for the team’
and not share it did you??

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!!!

But first let’s take a wistful look back to last year….
Or more accurately…back to yesterday afternoon.

Remember, I still have a hole in my head, stitches in my mouth and an annoying
space where there once was a tooth…still swollen, still uncomfortable,
still having trouble chewing without dropping things randomly from my mouth.

Kind out like our cat Percy who lost most of his teeth as a kitten….
He drops his food from his mouth all the time, right in mid bite,
but unlike a dog, he just lets it sit and moves on to a new bite.
I just try to be a bit discreet…..

Anywhoo…..

So here it was New Year’s Eve day—we didn’t really have much to do…
my tooth, or lack there of, had put the kibosh on any sort of plans….

It was a day that the coldest temperatures of the year were descending,
yet thankfully the weather folks had backed off of any sort of snow event,
So…. what better way to spend the day than to head out to wander
through the woods?

I was well layered…
turtleneck, sweater, vest, waxed barn coat, jeans, trusty lined LL Bean boots,
gloves, earmuffs and a scarf—I had my trusty camera in tow and was excited
to be out, breathing in fresh air, up off the couch from nursing the hole
in my head and ready to take some lovely pictures in which to share…with you…

The woods are so open this time of year, allowing yearning eyes to take in
a quiet vastness.
And there is such a palpable stillness.
The only sound one hears is the crunch of leaves underneath wandering boots.

I had hoped to find and capture a few little surprises here and there–
for despite most things being long dead, hibernating or in a state of waiting..
the woods still have much to offer.


(drying and dying persimmons linger on the limbs / Julie Cook / 2017)


(lingering ink berries / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a hooked bush…where a buck deer has rubbed its horns / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a large gall on a tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(hidden little deer moss / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was lagging behind my husband, as I kept stopping to take pictures.
We had made our way deep into the woods, finally stopping at the creek.
At this juncture along this meandering creek there happens to be an old fallen
tree bridging both sides of the creek.

I’ve told my husband 100 times, I can’t balance like I use to and I’d rather look for
a different place to cross where I could slide down the edge of the bank,
hop across a more shallow area of the creek, while scooting up the
other bank on the other side….

It made perfect sense.

But he kept insisting that I cross the tree as I’ve done it before…
agitated pondering what in the heck was wrong with me today???

And whereas, yes I have crossed it before, still with trepidation, but that was when
the weather was warmer and I was not layered like a chunky eskimo
with a camera slung over my arm, while being full of codeine.

I had been feeling like a fuzzy slug, so at this particular moment, while staring at a precarious tree spanning a creek in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere,
a little voice said “don’t do it”….

Did I mention it was 36 degrees?

“You’ve done it before, just reach out for that limb…”
my know-it-all husband instructs.
Easy for him to say, that limb is dangling over the water and he is a
bit taller than I am.

Cautiously I step out onto the tree, putting one foot boot in front of another.
Making my way to the middle where the tree narrows.
That dangling branch was no where near my grasp.

Suddenly, and for reasons I know not, I begin to list to the left—
the left is where the tooth is missing, the left is where the camera dangles,
the left is where there is a deep murky water hole.

SPLASH!

Suddenly I am chest deep in a cold creek stuck amongst a maze of gnarly limbs and vines.
Plus my left foot had sunk deep into the muddy bottom all the while as I’m flailing
my arms trying to get to the bank.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, there was a thankfulness that all snakes were
fast asleep.

My husband had obviously raced back across without thought and was desperately
trying to yank me up the bank but my left foot, as it’s always the left,
was mired deep in the muddy bottom.

At this exact moment of panic, an image crosses my mind and no, it was not my
life flashing before my eyes, but it might as well have been.

Have you ever watched that show Life Below Zero on NATGEO?
That show about those hearty, perhaps more like fool hearty, souls who live
alone in the middle of nowhere Alaska, totally off the grid???

One sentiment rings true with each of those survivors…
‘if you get your feet wet out here, you’re as good as dead.’

Well, not only were my feet wet, I was immersed up to my chest in dark brown tannin
stained water, a maze of limbs and vines, with my left leg stuck deep in
the silty mud.

What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 2 minutes at best….
I got to the bank while my poor husband was trying to pull up a wet,
stuck, dead weight, mad as hell wife….
suddenly I realized my camera was now totally underwater.

I hear an out of body voice shouting.
“I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T WANT TO CROSS THE TREE!!!!!!”

Finally with my foot free from the mud, I keep telling my husband to let go and quit pulling and yanking cause he was crushing my head.
“LET GO, I’M OUT! I’M UP!!!”

And there I stood along the bank—
dripping like I had just popped up out of a refreshing summer pool…
a soaking wet dog in need of a good shake.

Water was now sloshing in my boots as I took a step.

My husband, now in a panic, just knew pneumonia was instantly setting in.

“Now he worries…gees” as I’m still muttering words I shan’t share here.

It was almost a mile back to the truck.

As he stands there just staring at me, I hear my own commanding voice
“Just start walking to the truck.”

Did I mention is was 36 degrees?

The only thing dry on me, if I may be candid, was my bra and head.

Once back at the truck, my boy scout of a husband thankfully had a towel
in the truck in case of emergencies.

And here was our emergency.

Right there in the woods, I began peeling off the layers of sopping wet and very
cold clothes as I no longer had feeling in my legs.
Bear Grylls voice was now drifting in my head…and thankfully I wasn’t going to
have to eat grubs or drink urine to survive…
but a nice camp fire would have been welcomed.

Boots
socks
pants
coat
underware
vest….
all shed as I wrapped the towel around me like a moo moo.

Did I tell you it was 36 degrees?

My husband is still just helplessly staring and sputtering…certain
I’m about the die immediately from consumption.

“Just get in the truck and drive” I grouse.

It was an hour or so drive home.

“But wonder if something happens or we get stopped and you’re just, just, just
sitting wrapped in a towel….???”

One look from me was enough to spur him back to reality and action.
Into the truck we got… with the heat now blowing just a fast as it could blow.

Thankfully we were not stopped and I got home in one piece to a hot shower with all the
muddy wet clothes going directly into the washer.
The camera, well, it is mostly like DOA

The moral of this little tale you ask?

Well, if you hear a little voice telling you not to cross a log,
don’t cross the log.

If you have a hole in your head and codeine in your system and see a log,
don’t cross the log.

And maybe, just maybe, a certain husband will one day actually listen when
the wise one speaks….

Oh, and always keep a towel in your vehicle, maybe even a change of clothes..
a bottle of bourbon wouldn’t hurt for those emergency and medicinal purposes…
since there was no St Bernard coming to my rescue…

Have a safe, dry, warm and happy New Year’s Day—-
I think I’ll just sit on the couch and watch a few good bowl game….
GO DAWGS!

hedonism

“Men in the vehement pursuit of happiness grasp at the first object which
offers to them any prospect of satisfaction,
but immediately they turn an introspective eye and ask,
‘Am I happy?’
and at once from their innermost being a voice answers distinctly,
‘No, you are as poor and as miserable as before.

‘Then they think it was the object that deceived them and turn precipitately
to another. But the second holds as little satisfaction as the first…
Wandering then through life restless and tormented,
at each successive station they think that happiness dwells at the next,
but when they reach it happiness is no longer there.
In whatever position they may find themselves there is always
another one which they discern from afar, and which but to touch,
they think, is to find the wished delight,
but when the goal is reached discontent has followed on the way stands
in haunting constancy before them.”

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


(ripening persimmons / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wonder where it started…this hedonistic nature of ours.
History certainly speaks of the Roman’s thirst for all things sensual and soothing.
An insatiable appetite of all things of pleasure.
With a never-ending quest for the wanton.

And yet we know of other societies, other cultures that were equally focused on
a hunger for lusty tastes.
So does this mean that this hedonism of ours is an innate quality or
is it rather a learned trait?

Oftentimes we of the present feel a smug sense of superiority to those people
of the past.
We believe ourselves to be more knowledgable, more sophisticated,
better educated…
so therefore we grow overtly confident and even pompous believing ourselves
better than.

And yet current events are appearing to indicate that we may not actually be
better than…as in better educated, better controlled or even a better people…

Take the following observation by our friend the Wee Flea….

“As an international chaplain I find it a source of constant embarrassment that many international students are bemused and offended by the banality and stupidity of a monolithic hedonistic culture, which seems to be encouraged by the University.”

The Rev Robertson offers us his latest observation in a posting concerning the recent
start to Dundee University’s school year with the welcoming of the new freshman class.

University Challenge

Pastor Robertson raises concern over what appears to be an ever increasingly
pleasure seeking college population.
Our western college and university campuses are now rife with a generation of
youthful learners known as snowflakes…meaning they rapidly melt at the
slightest hint of uncomfortableness…all the while the majority busy
themselves imbibing in any and all earthly and sensual pleasure…
with their mantra being “you only live once.”

Pastor Robertson recalls that “I once spoke to some third and fourth year
male students who had returned early for Fresher’s week.
“Why have you returned so early?”
“Fresh meat!” was their sickening reply.
They had come back to see how many new female students they could sleep with.
This is how in our ‘PC’ culture women are treated.”

University officials however, as we have witnessed throughout this country
in most recent weeks, appear not to be in control of their youthful charges
as they turn blind eyes to the raucous and even violent behavior.

Most college educated adults know first hand about the difficulties of balancing
both faith with what is known as “the college experience.”

Newly found freedoms, a plethora of choices, liberal academic thinking,
accented with open sex, alcohol and drugs…makes keeping the faith an often
difficult task for even the most ardent of Believers.

All the while administrations and educators are turning a blind eye, or even worse,
offering words of encouragement for experimentation…coddling and indulging a
growing generation of self indulgent narcissists.

That is until various troubles hit the news circuits…
Think Penn State’s current legal woes over the death of a college freshman at
the hands of his drunken fraternity brothers or the costly destruction to property following the riots at Cal Berkeley and Evergreen College in Washington.

In his most recent post, the good Pastor reflects on the backlash a school
administrator faced when pushing back on the young charges under her leadership.

The former principal of St Andrews University, Louise Richardson (now of Oxford),
has been told to apologise after she upset some students by claiming that they
have no right not to be offended.

Predictably they were offended by her remarks.

She claimed that she had been approached by several students who
are uncomfortable with the views about homosexuality expressed by some professors
and lecturers.
“they don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with these views.
And I say, I’m sorry but my job isn’t to make you feel comfortable.
Education is not about being comfortable.
I’m interested in making you uncomfortable.
If you don’t like his views, you challenge them,
engage with them and figure out how a smart person could have views like that.
Work out how you can persuade him to change his mind.”

Her sensible and mature attitude surely would not in almost any other age in the UK,
have needed to have been said–but in today’s censorious,
dumbed down and intolerant culture they were deemed to be highly controversial.

Oxford University student union president Kate Cole, said
“Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia”.
In other words forget freedom of speech if it is deemed across our absolutist line!

Oxford City Councillor, Tom Hayes added;”
it’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudice tutors who will
propagate hateful views and pass of discrimination as debate”.
Doubtless Mr Hayes will tell us what hateful views are
(presumably anyone who disagrees with him)
and will ensure that no debate takes place at all.

In another sign of the irrationality gripping some sections of academia,
a student Latin course (Reading Latin by Jones and Sidwell)
was outed by an American PhD student because the text featured three goddesses,
each confidently stripping off, determined to win the golden apple from Paris,
and two rapes.
Such ‘offensive’ choices, she said, did not help the cause of Latin,
‘or make the historically racist and classist discipline of
classics more acceptable”.

Meanwhile back on planet earth normal students face their own University Challenge.

Rod Liddle – “The idea that she might subordinate her feelings for the good of
some higher purpose did not sit easily with Diana.
Because according to this new mantra, there is no higher purpose than
simply what one feels”

LED 8 – Yemen – The Proms and the EU Cult- Jacob Rees Mogg – Religious Decline in the UK – Canadian Immigration – Irma, Climate Change and Lovelock’s Change – University Principal takes on Snowflake Students – John Knox’s Transgender Toilets – Don Williams.

And so I will close our look at the new fall term taking place in our Western society
with words both thoughtful and prayerful offered by the good Pastor on behalf or our
students, those Believers amongst them and of the adults charged with their care and education.

Let us pray for, encourage and seek to serve those who have begun the new term this week. Especially those Christians who go against the flow and are prepared to stand up for what they believe in the face of an increasing hostile culture. As our Universities forget their Christian roots and market themselves as monolithic academic businesses.
They are becoming places where a diversity of views is not encouraged.
In such an environment Christians are the real radicals!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

how shall you be known?

“A lie is a delusion of the mind, while evil is a delusion of the will.
The sign by which one is distinguished from the other is the judgement of God Himself…
that which He teaches a man is the truth;
that which He leads a man to will is the good.
But whatever contradicts this is entirely false, entirely evil.”

St. Nicholas Cabasilas

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“Watch out for false prophets.

They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

By their fruit you will recognize them.

Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
(Matthew 7:15-20)

Where it is important that we should be able to recognize what is true, real and pure…
that which is not a falsehood, a lie, an evil…

Is it not equally as important that others should be able to look at us,
both you and me,
and recognize what drives us, guides us, leads us…?

What do they see?

Can they see what we stand for, what directs us, what motivates us…

Are we a mirror, reflecting the Grace, Mercy and determination of Christ

Or do we cast shadows of obscured light…

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(persimmons / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Romans 1:18

on my nerves

Take these broken wings
And learn to fly again
And learn to live so free
And when we hear the voices sing
The book of love will open up
And let us in

(Broken Wings Lyrics by
Mr Mister)

dscn4505
(persimmons from an errant tree in Dad’s backyard / Julie Cook / 2016)

“You are getting on my last nerve!”
“Ahh, where exactly is it so I can get off?”

Such is the tit for tat banter when my husband is on a roll of
purposeful and almost giddy aggravation.

I did a bit of research about the expression…one I’ve always used as I figured it
was some sort of Southern slang…
But as is so much of our speech—it originated in Great Britain,
the south London area to be exact…
being first documented in print during WWII.
Cockney as best as I can gather and originally referencing a male body part…
Hummmm….

I think I prefer the use of the word “nerve”—
as that is usually is what is aggravated when one
is being…aggravated…

And speaking of aggravated nerves…
Today is the long awaited Nerve Block at the Orthopedic Spine clinic!!!
Is it bad that I am almost giddy about having to go have a 45 minute
procedure which includes a horse shot sized needle in the precarious area of one’s spine…?

Prayers that the doctor can successfully find the bulging disc, shoot the shot…
and then prayerfully these oh so aggravated, angry and painful nerves can finally
cease and desist….!!!

And for whatever reason, the “take these broken wings” song
came to mind as I was thinking about
someone taking these broken nerves!!!!!

Here’s to success!!!!!

Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
Save me, and I shall be saved,
For You are my praise.

Jeremiah 17:14

letting go

That old September feeling… of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air…. Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes and failures had been wiped clean by summer.
Wallace Stegner

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mahatma Gandhi

“Detachment, properly understood, means freedom, inner freedom. And, although it is not a word Jesus used, detachment expresses very well an important element in his spirituality: the ability to let go. In the Christian tradition this has been spoken of as “purity of heart” or as the process of becoming “poor in spirit.”
― Albert Nolan

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(a persimmon ripens in a September sun / Julie cook / 2015)

Wandering recently on an off beaten path, I was sweetly reminded that my very soul was gently slipping into a quieting and calming pool of serenity.
I basked in the overwhelming stillness.
Lovingly engulfed, I was warmly embraced as I found myself caught up in the slowing down of one season as it began the transitioning and metamorphosing into something new, different and welcoming.
I exhaled.
And happily felt myself letting go. . .

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(persimmons ripen in a September sun / Julie cook / 2015)

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(persimmons ripen in a September sun / Julie cook / 2015)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9