consider the lowly

Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:141-144


(the lowly sea cucumber, aka the lollyfish / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

In the pecking order of the sea, I would imagine that a sea cucumber would be pretty much the lowest
of the low.
More slug than fish.
More bottom dweller than swimmer.
Living life on the ocean floor filtering out all the residue from one’s fellow creatures…

Wash up on the beach and you might be mistaken as the excrement from something else.

Not a glamours creature by any means.

We would never consider ourselves to be anything like a sea cucumber.
Lowly and ugly.
A bottom dweller.

But the introduction of sin has made man much lower than that of even a poor sea cucumber.

Pride may cloud the eye of man but sin clouds the sight of man from the eye of God …

“…the hyphenated sins of the human spirit.
They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their
subtlety and their power. To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity,
self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them.
They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention
till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism,
exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of
impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people,
to become identified with the gospel.
I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for
popularity in some sections of the Church visible.
Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common
as to excite little notice.”

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Sinfulness masking itself as self-promotion… or even worse…
masking itself as the seemingly self-righteous promoting of Christ when in actuality it is
an act that is merely self-serving…
an act that consists of self-promotion at the expense of Christ himself.
Merely using Christ as a tool for our own sense of selfishness, ego, and pride.

A sinful nature that makes us lowly…

And yet, it is in that lowliness where our hope is to be found and where it rests. …
hope in the lowliness of an open and admited humility…

Only in God is my soul at rest
In Him comes my salvation
He only is my Rock
My strength and my salvation

My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be afraid at all
My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be moved

Only in God is found safety
When the enemy pursues me
Only in God is found glory
When I am found meek and found lowly

My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be afraid at all
My stronghold my Savior
I shall not be moved

Only in God is my soul at rest
In Him comes my salvation

Lyrics by John Michael Talbot based upon Psalm 62

principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

Day is done, gone the sun…

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

(lyrics from In My Life
attributed to John Lennon)

DSCN2988
(my father-n-law, 1942–An enlisted man who eventually was charged with the care of B-52s / stationed in England during much of the war)

I don’t know if you have ever attended the funeral service for either a current or perhaps long passed member of our armed forces….

I had not.

Oh I had seen the countless individual tributes as well as the way too soon and excruciatingly painful farewells endured by families across this great Nation of ours…those funerals and services caught in the headlines or in the papers, or in the news…victims of the countless wars and conflicts which have plagued this land of ours…
or perhaps they were merely the victims of the ambiguous passage of time…

Those solomon yet heart wrenching ceremonies where the smartly dressed and impeccably precise service members slowly and resolutely perform the age old necessary, yet painfully dreaded, task—
the final task afforded all members of the service…

That being the final overseeing and demonstrative act of respect freely given to one of their own.

It matters not whether these current young men and woman of service know the person for whom they have come as acting military representatives.
It matters not if they know the grieving families.
What matters is that they come…

As the two young Airmen waited, at full attention and salute, that already hot Spring Sunday afternoon..
waiting at the freshly dug deep hole, in the heavy red Georgia clay…
waiting with a fixed anticipation for the approaching casket of their comrade…
the silence was palpable, broken only by the muffled sniffles offered by those falling tears.

Slowly and painstakingly borne on the shoulders of grandsons, who are now the same age if not older of this once proud soldier, is a man who was simply known to them as “Papa.”
They knew he fought, but that was all.
His generation was not one to dwell on what had been…
There were not the stories of exploits or adventure..
merely that a job had been done…
that was all.

Many volunteered long before our Nation was involved.
Perhaps they sensed it would not be long…
that the all-call would soon be sounded.
The choice had not been for a career of service..
Life simply had worked out that way.

They went with no expectations…
They had learned from the prior war, the war touted to end all wars,
that glamour was not to be found in the battles of man.
Men had returned home, if they returned at all, broken.

They simply knew that now, at this crossroads of time,
that it was merely a matter of right verses wrong, good verses bad.
They went to make things right.

Today we have lost that sense of right verses wrong, good verses bad…
as we so often find ourselves drowning in the details.
The lines are blurred as the sides are skewed.
The distinctions between the good verses the bad have been lost.
We no longer seem to know our direction nor purpose or of that which is of
right or wrong.

This is not to say that war and fighting are just or right.
No war is just.
Yet it is in the end goal in which justice lies.
Freedom verses tyranny
Democracy verses oppression

They were not perfect individuals.
They were young, energetic yet flawed…
but they were ready and equally willing…
To do what was not particularly wanted or desired,
but rather to do that which was needed and necessary.

This was a time before the knowledge of PTSD or of the aftermath of trauma to the psyche.
These men and woman saw things, smelled things, heard things, did things…
that would haunt them for a lifetime.
Just as those who who have gone on since…have equally suffered,
Yet it was with this generation that those secrets were to remain..
to be held silently close and not to be freely divulged.

It was rarely spoken of once it was all over.
A job had to be done,
it was done,
and now it was over…
that was that….

They came home, often broken within,
but went on with life without looking back.
Lives grew, families grew…
as lessons were lost with time…

The two young Airmen this warm April Sunday afternoon had come to do their job,
their duty.
After the final Amen was breathlessly whispered…
Silently, yet in precise mirrored rhythm,
a flag was removed from a lone casket.

Over and over, tightly folded,
pure white gloves meticulously went about their task.
Creases were reverently straightened as a final salute was offered.
A lone solider turns then kneels with flag held tightly to his chest.

He kneels before my husband, a living mirror of the man now in the casket.
“On behalf of the President of the Untied States…”

It matters not of ones political affiliation.
It matters not whether one voted for said president…
What matters is that a timeless act is playing out…
That others may see and know of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before.

War is now mocked while our soldiers belittled.
Respect is withheld…
As a Nation now turns upon itself.

The number of the grateful who can understand are shrinking
as the number of those who served shrinks ever still.
Selflessly, patriotically, willingly…
they gave, he gave,
they served, he served.

There are those who will now say that patriotism is a lie
There is no justice in defense.
And there are no answers to be found in aggression.

But had this generation not acted as they had…
Had this generation, this greatest of all generations, not risen to
an anticipated need…
Our lives, both yours and mine, would be vastly different today…

With trembling heart, yet resolute acceptance, a son’s hands receives the flag
so lovingly offered.
Received and accepted on behalf of a man who had not been perfect,
who had not been proud but
who simply did what he thought was right for those of us who
he had no idea would reap the reward of his “gift”
A gift he never considered to be a gift.

His gift, his legacy, his memory will continue on…
through the lives of both his children as well as grandchildren.
Whereas the life of a once breathing and living human being…
that of a soldier, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a businessman, is now silenced…
His gift to all us continues on…

It is to be found not only in the aching hearts of a family
who remains broken, picking up the pieces…
yet rather it remains, as it is found, in a meticulously folded piece of cloth.
A piece of cloth he was so very proud to fly.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

Pride, greatness, nothingness

“if we cannot resemble God in his sovereign independence,
he wishes to resemble us in our humility.”

Meditations for Lent
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

RSCN2827
(lavender blooming / Julie Cook / 2016)

Promises of greatness
Blinded by pride….
Fall now endlessly into the abyss of nothingness…

Independence caught by humility
Rescued by Grace
Fall into the hands of a Sovereign heart

Man has made himself god through his pride.
God makes himself man through his humility.
Man falsely credits himself with God’s greatness,
and God truly takes on man’s nothingness

Meditations for Lent
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

DSCN1339
(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

the tale of the ever-present invisible gentleman

A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.
George Bernard Shaw

“Gentlemen, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color.”
― Louisa May Alcott

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(Rene Magritte /L’Ami de l’ordre 1963 / oil on canvas )

We are a fickle lot, you and I.
One moment we are as fresh as a downy feather loosed from a newly hatched chick, caught drifting along the tempestuous winds, bourn aloft without thought or care.
Other times we are cunning and conniving as we stealthily crouch in the shadows, hoping the darkness will hide our secrets.

When does the knowledge begin?
Early on I suspect, beginning more upon the surface and being of a rote nature.
The real knowledge, the real recognition, comes along say, around age 10 or so.
The time of life which is perched between single digits and the long litany of double digits, possibly pushing triple digits if one is so blessed. . . or cursed.

And when the knowledge actually does take hold, with the time of decisions and choices seeping into the cognizant away from the involuntary, the dance of life and death gingerly begins its most elegant and macabre promenade.

Yet in what seems to be the blink of an eye, a time arrives when we decide we’ve outgrown our need of the seemingly simple knowledge.
We relegate those thoughts of such assumed mediocrity to the recesses of the heart and mind, deeming it nothing more than that of a child’s fancy. We have moved on, growing sophisticated and worldly.
We come to take greater stock in our own puffed up sense of importance.
Our depth for and scope of knowledge now borders on self proclaimed greatness, pushing aside the old for the new and imagined.

Yet Time is no kind taskmaster, events and moments transpire together and against, leaving us lacking, wanting, needing.
We stand, simply staring, alone.
What has happened?
What was that?
What.
And just as quickly, rage fills in the gaps
We rile with fists raised.
We scream into the air.
Why?
How?
No!
We are helpless.
Nothing we can think,
nothing we can do,
nothing we can be or will be can change things,
fix things,
move things,
stop things.

The self importance, no longer remains important.
The money can’t change it.
The need of the money can’t change it.
The status can’t change it.
The success can’t change it.
The failings can’t change it.
The secrets can’t change it.
The new greater knowledge of self can’t change it.

The decisions were ours.
We had been taught otherwise yet we no longer cared for that simple early knowledge.
It was just that, too simple, and we were certainly no longer those simpletons–
we were important.

And yet this seemingly invisible, ever present, ever near gentleman has watched all of this unfold.
He was there in the early simple knowledge, happy to run and jump, frolic and play.
Nurturing and steadfast, always present.
Joyous alongside our gleefulness.
Brave in our fear.
Strong in our weakness.
Quiet and unassuming.

Yet as we grew in stature of both mind and body, we were no longer needful nor carefree
We were busy.
We were smart.
We knew far too much for the gentleman’s seemingly simplistic ways.
And yet he stood aside, allowing us to pass upon our very important way.
He watched us march off.
Some of us looked back, a bit wistful, a bit sorrowful, a bit hesitant.
Yet we went forward anyway.

Our gentleman friend was left to wait as if he had not choice. . .
and yet it was his choice to wait.
He chose to wait, to wait upon both you and I.

He busied himself with other matters.
He waited with patience and even, dare it be said, love.
Ever knowledgeable in that first simple knowledge, he waited.

He saw the choices, the mistakes, the miscues, the purposeful destruction.
He saw the self righteous new knowledge and the indignation of
pride
lust
greed
hypocrisy
and the notion of needing nothing other than ourselves.

But as a gentleman, he remains just that, a gentleman
One who is there when needed, stepping back when not.
Called upon, he drops everything.
The lone raised hand, the signal to go, he goes without a word.
Coming in and out of the circumstance of lives full of knowledge,
He comes and goes as gently as a downy feather on the tempestuous wind.

The mistake will be to continue the weaving dance with the ever present, invisible gentleman.
Summoning him in and out of our lives, all on the whims and needs of the
beating of hearts.
As a gentleman, he never balks or steps in before being asked.
He sees things that he could do,
could stop,
could fix,
could remedy–
but a gentleman never jumps in without being asked, requested, acknowledged as needed.

He waits off to the side, out of sight.
He waits until we realize that it really is as simple as it once was.
He waits with that knowledge of long ago.
The knowledge we grew too important to claim.

The knowledge didn’t change, we changed.
He didn’t leave.
We left.

And so it is, ever present, yet ever hidden, he continues to wait–
for both you and I.

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Solomon 5:16